Dear Church: Stop trying to convert wolves

There was a recent article published at The Gospel Coalition titled Beware of Broken Wolves. While I appreciate the notion that we need to beware of wolves, this idea that wolves are broken is something that has permeated the church and has no biblical basis. We have spoken to dozens of churches in recent months and I can assure you that the vast majority of them are sympathetic to the wolves who are child rapists (this is not to suggest that only child rapists are wolves; more about this in the next post). I recently wrote about churches defending child rapists here. “We need to gently restore this brother” is the mantra of the day. It’s become so predictable that we expect this phrase to roll off the lips of church leaders as blood and flesh are dripping from the wolf’s. We have grown weary of churches who want to nurture the wolves back to “health.” The root of the problem is that church leaders don’t really think in terms of sheep and wolves. They are thinking like sheep, so they assume that wolves are really just broken sheep who can repent and come back to the sheep pen. They are not. They are wolves. Genuine wolves. Wolves do not convert into sheep. They disguise themselves as sheep. This is a crucial difference. What church leaders overlook is how wolves are described in Scripture and, most importantly, that Jesus and his disciples never spoke to their conversion or repentance.

Jesus used word pictures to drive his points home. He used parables and metaphors to describe the Gospel. He used images that connected the brain to the heart and moved people to action. When he was on a rural mountain, he told his disciples to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15 ESV). He was in sheep country. It’s likely that there were sheep grazing within eyesight of the disciples as Jesus was preaching this very lesson. No shepherd would have heard these words and thought Jesus was calling them to be gentle, kind, or understanding of a wolf. Shepherds didn’t sit wolves down and say, “What pain is in your life to make you like this?” In fact, in this context Jesus didn’t speak of pain at all. He spoke in terms of fruit! “You will recognize them by their fruit. . . the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” He shifts images from a wolf to a tree. Does God’s justice require the wolves to turn their hearts and become sheep, or the bad trees to become good trees? No! In fact, Jesus’ words are chilling: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:19, 20). There was never a plea to rescue them from the flames, like we find in Jude 1:23. A clear distinction was made between sinners and wolves.

In John 10, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who is the door for the sheep. Those who enter by way of the door will find pasture. What about the wolf? Does Jesus call him a “brother?” Does he speak about his or her pain? Let’s listen to His words, “The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Is Jesus clear enough? This is who they are. Though they deceive and disguise themselves as sheep, they are not sheep. They never were. Their diabolic mission, their very identity is to seek sheep to devour. They have no interest in repentance.

We also have the tendency to apply “wolf” to people in the church who cause division. Not all people who cause division are wolves. Some people are like wrecking balls and they are so ignorant they don’t even know it. Others are well intentioned but still manage to run people off. When the Bible describes wolves, it’s not describing what they do. It’s describing who they are. I grew up in a very conservative church where anybody who taught doctrine that wasn’t in line with our tradition was labeled a “wolf.” I received a letter after guest preaching once where I was described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by a youth minister from one of the extreme right schools in the Churches of Christ. Wolves are not other Christians with whom we disagree. They are not “brothers” or “sisters” who got caught up in sin. They are what they are. They are wolves. They are diabolic. They crave the flesh of innocent lambs. And they will do anything to kill and destroy the souls of people.

Contrast the descriptions and responses that Jon and I hear when we work with churches who have child rapists with the truths of the Bible. Here are the things we hear most often:

He’s a pillar of the community
This man is one of my best friends
I believe he genuinely loves the Lord
We are willing to do whatever it takes to help guide him back to the Lord
We want him to be surrounded with love
The Lord expects us to forgive
The Lord hates the sin and loves the sinner
Everyone has abandoned him, it’s our duty to rally around him
He’s been a member of this church for 30 years
Nobody is beyond redemption
The Lord’s grace is sufficient

Here are some of the things the Bible says about wolves and false prophets who, by the way, are false teachers because their goal is to ultimately destroy the souls of God’s children:

The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (Eph 5:6)
Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim 3:13)
Secretly bring in destructive heresies
Irrational animals, creatures of instinct
Born to be caught and destroyed
They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime
They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you
They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin
They entice unsteady souls
They have hearts trained for greed
Accursed children!
Following the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing
Waterless springs and mists driven by a storm
For them the gloom of utter darkness is reserved
They entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error
The dog returns to its own vomit
The sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire (all the above from 2 Peter 2)

Make no mistake. Genuine wolves derive pleasure in inflicting harm on innocent souls, and the most effective way to do this is to do it in the name of Jesus. Why do we fail to see what’s already clearly laid out in the Bible? I will follow up with a blog post or two giving us practical things that we can actually do to identify who the real wolves are and how we protect the flock from them.

Why Child Rapists are Treated Far Better than Their Victims In the Church

Recently, our friends over at GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) shared a Facebook post asking, “What are reasons why sexual assault survivors don’t feel safe sharing about their abuse to professing Christians?” The responses are all things that we at Church Protect hear often from survivors of abuse. Something about consulting with churches is that we hear the same answers from church leaders too. The difference is that survivors are hurt by these cliches and church leaders think they are helping survivors by using them. I often think how ironic it is that sexual assault survivors have survived their abuse only to be forced to survive churches. It’s akin to someone showing up at a hospital with critical gunshot wounds only to be shamed, lectured, told to forgive the shooter, or turned away by the trauma doctor. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s exactly how spiritual wounds are (mis)treated in many churches. Pastors are spiritual doctors, so why do so many of them verbally assault the wounded and protect the ones who caused the wounds? Here are some of the most common cliches abuse survivors hear from church leaders and other Christians:

You need to forgive and move on
Forgive and forget.
A sin is a sin, so what your abuser did is no worse than any of your sins.
This is too ugly/inappropriate so please don’t discuss it again.
I understand exactly how you feel.
Why didn’t you scream if you didn’t want this to happen?
If you knew that sex was wrong, why didn’t you stop it?
What did you do/wear to “tempt” the perpetrator?

Because I’m a minister, I know many intricacies of church leadership and routinely witness bad theology that breeds bad practices. We consult with many churches and I will say that the majority of the churches we consult with are sympathetic to the abuser and rarely mention victims of abuse. Here are some of the most common questions we get asked by church leaders, in order of frequency:

How do we keep the offender involved in the life of the church?
Please tell us that you believe they (the offenders) can repent.
He was really remorseful, don’t you think asking us to set these boundaries is unfair?
How can we keep the offender here and still keep kids safe?
Do you think the offender was sexually abused as a child?
Isn’t it unfair to ask probing questions about his past?

In addition to the questions (some of them rhetorical) that we get, here are some of the most common statements church leaders give us about the abusers:

He is one of my best friends.
He’s a good, good man and just got caught up in sin.
He did so much good and is well respected by the whole church and community.
He has so many struggles in his own life.
We love this brother and want to restore him gently.

What’s become blatantly obvious to me is that churches are incredibly good at telling survivors what they must do to “get right with God” and are even better at defending offenders who they assume are already right with God. It’s troubling that we go to such great lengths to ensure abusers remain active in the life of the church while their victims are told to just move on. When we place blame on victims of oppression while defending the oppressor, we fail to hate the things God hates and love the things God loves. There is no excuse for leaders who take the above approach. I am a full time minister. I also happen to have turned my own father in when I learned that he had performed sex acts against children. Rather than just get angry with church leaders, though, I want to understand why they almost always defend a child rapist over the very children who’ve been raped by them. If we understand why, perhaps we can give them a more accurate view of God’s position. The very foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice (Psalm 89:14). We cannot understand God’s love unless we understand that God’s core foundation is righteousness (doing what’s right and fair) and justice (doing what is deserved). If we strip away God’s righteousness and justice, love becomes twisted and it ceases to be love. A neighbor once told me her boyfriend was cheating on her and beating her. She was crying and said, “He loves me.” I told her that he, in fact, did not love her. When she asked how I was so certain I said, “Because he’s cheating on you and beating you.” I submit to you that, by very definition, love cannot protect a predator while ignoring or ridiculing the wounded. So why are so many church leaders doing it? I offer some reasons below:

1. Our theology doesn’t allow us to believe that this level of wickedness exists, especially in the church–Most of the time when I’m invited to speak places, I’m asked to ensure that I won’t say anything too graphic or that will offend someone. Christians sanitize the Bible. God doesn’t. Read Judges 19. It’s graphic. Very graphic. A kind woman was thrown out like a piece of trash to be gang raped all night long. Literally. In the morning her fingers were embedded in the threshold of the very house she was thrown from because she was trying to claw her way back to safety as she was being raped and beat. The abuse was so violent that at some point she died. As she lay there lifeless, her master said these chilling words to her corpse, “Get up.” She didn’t move because she was dead. Those of you who’ve been repeatedly raped, molested, and humiliated from the time you were young children don’t want people like me to use “nice” words because what happened to you was not nice. Neither was the person who did those things. I hear the following phrase almost every time a church leader is tiptoeing around telling me that there is a predator in their church: “I don’t want to believe that he is capable of this.” Frankly, I don’t want to believe that church leaders embrace, protect, and harbor felons. But they do. I didn’t want to believe that my dad molested dozens of children in horrible, humiliating ways. But he did. My not wanting to believe it doesn’t make the abuse any less real. Some people we love and respect are capable of secretly and intentionally inflicting harm on God’s most innocent creatures for their own twisted pleasure. If we deny it, we’ll never be able to hear the pleas of victims.

2. Church leaders prefer cardboard testimonies and oftentimes confuse them with reality–Remember the wildly popular cardboard testimonies? People are paraded across the church stage holding a cardboard sign that says what they used to be then they turn it around and it says who they are now in Christ. Soft music is played and, admittedly, like many of you I get teary eyed watching them. As a minister, I sometimes get caught up in the western idea that conversions are quick, easy, and lasting. But then I remember that life is messy. My own life is a mess. Most of the people who attend my church are a mess. We don’t have fairytale endings to our stories. It’s been almost 6 years since I found out that my childhood hero is a serial pedophile. I still have days where I don’t want to get out of bed. And I wasn’t sexually abused. Many survivors are struggling every. Single. Day. Some battle depression. Some have recurring nightmares. Some are medicated for severe anxiety. Some are battling eating disorders. Many have thought of or attempted suicide. The sad reality is that your story doesn’t fit nicely onto a piece of cardboard. For the millions of you who are struggling every day, who wants to see the backside of your cardboard? Your name won’t be selected to write a cardboard testimony. What in the world would you write? Your ending just doesn’t fit. Ministers aren’t comfortable with your story because a messy life to them indicates that either somehow Christ hasn’t transformed you or you’re resistant to his grace. This is a lie, of course, but it’s what they believe. This is why they tell you things like, “Forgive and move on.” Or, “Just have more faith and God will heal you.” What they really mean is, “Your story makes me uncomfortable and makes Jesus look weak.”

And I’ll give you one guess as to who has the perfect cardboard testimony. That’s right…the sex offender who spent time in prison and who now can waltz into the church professing that he had a prison epiphany. Predators give church leaders precisely what survivors can’t. There is no ongoing therapy. There are no relapses with drug addiction. They don’t have to be told to “move on.” The sex offender can be paraded before the church (and sometimes they are)–here is someone who was once lost but is now found, which leads me to my next point.

3. We no longer require evidence of repentance. . . unless you’re a survivor–John the Baptist was clear. “Bear fruit in keeping with your repentance.” All of us who claim to be repentant must bear fruit in keeping with that repentance. What are the deeds that back our words? A repentant alcoholic isn’t found at a bar. A repentant adulterer isn’t found alone in the homes of other people’s spouses. A repentant swindler doesn’t become the church treasurer. And a repentant child molester doesn’t suggest that it’s “unfair, unChristian, or unforgiving” to ask that he or she not be in the mixed company of children. Yet time and time again we witness Christians caving to the offender’s demands who claim that it is unChristian to keep them from being near children. It’s as if God looks at adult-only worship as blasphemous. Yet churches have adult-only Bible studies all the time. It’s only when we ask child rapists to participate in adult-only Bible studies that suddenly we’re being unfair.

So if churches continually cave to the demands of the offender, why do they do the opposite to their victims? At the same time churches cave to the offenders’ demands, they heap their own demands on the shoulders of victims. You need to forgive. Why don’t you move on? Don’t bring this up again.

I think we can do better. I think we must do better. There are 100 reasons why child rapists are treated better than their victims, but it all boils down to bad theology (protecting the oppressor while hurting the oppressed) and the bad theology is exasperated by the charisma of the offenders. They are incredibly convincing and are good at getting others to look anywhere but at the actual sin and crimes they committed. As long as they can divert our focus, the darkness will never be exposed and we will never be able to resist the devil.

Why Jesus was tougher than your church leaders

Before people lose their minds, let me explain–Jesus had very different responses to different sins. If you divorce God’s love from his justice, Jesus becomes a sheepish wuss who never guards his flock, and this is exactly what the church has become. Jesus was anything but sheepish. In fact, he was a fierce warrior when it came to matters of oppression, especially when it was against children. Jesus began name calling the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 15 when they questioned his disciples about not ceremonially washing their hands before eating. Jesus lectured them and called them hypocrites to their faces. The disciples were concerned and quickly came to Jesus saying, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” At this point we would expect Jesus to do the Christian thing and apologize. He is, after all, the Lamb of God. Maybe he was too harsh when he called them hypocrites. Maybe he should clarify and apologize in order to keep the peace. Maybe he should hug his enemies. Nope! Jesus’ response is classic: “Every plant that my heavenly father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides! And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Let’s not forget when Jesus spoke in graphic terms about tying a donkey millstone around the neck of someone who offended a child and drowning the person in the depth of the sea. This suggests that the person’s neck would be snapped as soon as the stone plunged into the water. So why drown someone who is already dead before they even leave the boat? It’s a way to ensure the person is double-dead. Jesus didn’t apologize here either. In fact, after giving this gruesome picture, he says that this scene would be better for that person than for him to have ever sinned against a child in the first place. Let’s not forget about when Jesus became indignant when the disciples blocked the children from coming to him. Or when the oppressive money changers met an angry Jesus who was snapping whips at them and flipping their tables in the Temple. Can you imagine how awkward that was for his disciples? Heck, it would have been awkward for everyone. But Jesus never apologizes for any of these, and John never apologizes for the ugly picture he paints of Jesus in Revelation. I’ve heard plenty people quote Jesus when he tells us to turn the other cheek but have never heard someone quote the Bible passage when Jesus had the chance to practice what he preached after an officer literally struck him on the cheek: “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”

Peter addresses false prophets who were sweet talking young converts into bed. They intentionally targeted vulnerable women, likely ones who had been in abusive relationships before–“For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error” (2 Peter 2:18). Read all of 2 Peter chapter 2. Peter does not say we should work extra hard to help these people out. He doesn’t say we should love them into the church. He does not say that where sin increases grace abounds even more. He does not say these women should forgive them and “move on.” He does not say nobody has the right to question their past. In fact, Peter goes on a rant that would make the church choir blush. He calls them “accursed children,” “waterless springs,” “irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant” and Peter ensures they “will also be destroyed in their destruction.” Should you think I entered in a series of typos, read 2 Peter 2 for yourself. Peter doesn’t back down, he’s just getting warmed up! And here’s the catch–he’s talking about sleazy prophets who find pleasure in enticing vulnerable women for sex. He’s not even talking about those who derive pleasure from raping children.

Yet here’s the problem we routinely encounter–Church leaders think it’s their Christian duty to treat everyone the same and they think it’s unfair inhumane to ask a child predator to explain themselves and even to take a necessary hike. We consult with churches where survivors are terrified and predators are excitedly welcomed. We’ve lost count of the e-mails we receive where victims write us saying, “We told the leaders what this man had done to us and they refuse to even confront him.” It’s breathtaking how many stories we hear where victims of abuse are told to forgive their abuser but those same leaders never ask a thing of the abuser. Jesus became angry with certain people because he understood that some people derive sick pleasure in oppression. We don’t have to convince survivors what these monsters are capable of. Somehow they survived to tell us about the wickedness perpetrated upon them. There is no accidental abuse that happens when a child’s innocence is forever stolen from them. It is intentional and the abuser derives pleasure from it. How do we know? Because they keep doing it over and over and over and over again. We know because in prison they still fantasize about abusing children. They continue to lie, cheat, steal, and pretend in order to cozy up to our children. We consult with so many churches where abusers continue demanding that they be placed in leader positions overseeing. . . . children’s ministries! This is hardly a response from someone who is repentant. And church leaders welcome them into the fold “in the name of Jesus.”

We’re given platitudes: “Jesus wants us to hate the sin and love the sinner.” Then pray tell why we are ignoring the sin and encouraging the deceiver. We acknowledge that this is very problematic and we are working on a better system of training where we empower survivors to be the ones trained to monitor churches and take action. I will write more about this at a later time, but we are excited for what God has in store for us. While we experience a lot of frustration with the current climate, we only see hope. We will not stop fighting for justice and we will never lay down our spiritual swords as long as children are being abused!

The “Furry Party Rapists”: Child Rape Is Never Accidental

Just this week news broke of five men who were arrested for creating a pedophile ring with a young boy, now 14, who was repeatedly raped by them while they dressed up in animal costumes. Here is a blurb from the article:

David Parker (PA Office of Attorney General)
Beginning in 2009, Parker would transport the boy to a house, where, as the victim described, men donned full-body animal costumes. The boy, now 14, noted that Fenske’s fox costume consisted of “full long sleeves and pants, a zipper in the back, paw gloves, and a fox head with pointy ears,” the Associated Press reported. Fenske told others to call him by the name “Lupine” while he was in the fox suit. The child, meanwhile, was made to dress in a Tony the Tiger outfit.

The costumes were fitting for these animals. This boy was raped by them from the time he was 2 or 3. I don’t even want to imagine what hellish nightmares this boy will have for the rest of his life. The more we consult with churches who have child rapists in their pews, the more we are fully convinced that the level of depravity is so deeply rooted that they will never change. Ever. There is a point of certain sexual deviance where there is no coming back. And make no mistake–this plunge into wickedness does not happen accidentally. When you read reports like this one about the pedophile ring, you realize how calculated the plans were to traffic this boy across state lines, set up these “parties,” invite other pedophiles, order the costumes, order a costume for the boy, come up with aliases for the men in costumes, come up with the “games” they would force this child to participate in, and pass the terrified boy around like he was a piece of meat. Keep in mind that it takes a tremendous amount of collaboration and planning to cover this crime up and keep it quiet for as long as they did.

Here’s the catch that we really want you to get–every child rapist we have encountered in churches is just as deviant and committed to their cause as the men in this story. Sure, they may not wear animal costumes, but the amount of creativity and persistence they exercise is right in line with these animals. We hear it all. Lego “parties,” body painting, eating cool whip off the child’s body, drugging kids with alcohol, whipping “games,” locking kids in dog cages with leashes, forcing siblings to perform sex acts on one another, and on it goes. There literally is nothing surprising about this news story. The reason it catches the public’s attention, though, is because (1) there were several abusers and (2) they were wearing costumes. But mark my words, the level of depravity is really no worse than the average pedophile we routinely deal with. And here’s another catch–the vast majority of the abusers in the churches we consult with are either pastors, youth pastors, elders, deacons, or Sunday School teachers.

I will be writing a series of blog posts on how we can identify abusers in our homes and churches, but before I launch that series, I really want our readers to realize how routine stories like this really are. And, more importantly, we want people to realize that pedophiles never abuse children by accident. We cannot compare pedophilia to an addiction. People who are addicted to substances will all say something similar–I kept taking the substance until the urge took over and I felt like I was being controlled by the substance. The reality is, all substances create physical dependency. Ask any addict who has stopped about withdrawal. Now pedophiles will use the same language to garner sympathy, but don’t fall for it. Fist, the children are not brain-altering substances. They are children. They are innocent. They have souls. And, they are terrified. Alcohol doesn’t sob and beg for mercy. It doesn’t quake with fear when the lips approach the bottle. But children do quake with fear. And the tears don’t stop these animals from raping children over and over and over again. Furthermore, pedophilia is not like addiction because each time a child is molested a real victim is produced. It is not a victimless crime. And finally, Dr. Gene Abel estimates that a child molester has less than a 3% chance of getting caught for each actual instance of hands-on abuse. What does this tell us? Either pedophiles are the luckiest people on the planet or they are incredibly skilled at covering their tacks. Trust me when I say that they rarely make mistakes. Abuse is not accidental, else abusers would get caught at at much higher rate.

I end with some words of the apostle Peter who dropped some truth on a group of false teachers who were sexually exploiting groups of new female converts: “Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones. . . But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” (2 Peter 2:10-14). If you read the text, Peter is just getting warmed up. And here’s the catch–he’s not even talking about child rapists. These strong words are for guys who take sexual advantage of “unsteady souls.”

Why Child Pornographers Pose a Huge Risk to Your Kids

3377332163_1b1d0ae3c3_z We hear it all the time. . . “It just happened.” But can this excuse be used for people who were caught looking at child pornography? And more importantly, what risk does a child pornographer pose to children? The penalties are very stiff for people convicted of child porn. Sadly, for those of you who know someone convicted of child porn, you’ve heard the pleas for help, the remorse for what they’ve done, and you’ve likely bought the lie that they have never touched a child. The reality is that people convicted of child porn pose a huge risk to your kids and they should never have access to kids again. It’s a bold statement, I know, but here are some common themes that all child pornographers will tell you and how you can respond to the offender.

“It just happened.” No it didn’t. Child pornography is highly illegal. Highly. Someone has to go through a very tedious process even to find child porn. It’s not just “floating” out there on the internet. Someone who “stumbles” upon child porn has very intentionally looked for it and they also have put extreme measures in place to remain hidden from law enforcement. Saying that it just happened is as convincing as the drug lord who claims the drugs just jumped into his trunk. Don’t buy it. And don’t be afraid to call them on their lies.

“I never hurt anyone.” Yes you did. Actually, you hurt lots of people. Even if the child pornographer didn’t produce the porn, somebody did. And those of us who do not have dark, evil minds cannot fathom what child porn is. Our minds don’t allow us to imagine just how bad it really is. Lest you begin to feel sorry for the person convicted on child porn charges, let us define what child porn is. These are not images of clothed children hugging teddy bears. Child pornography conatains gruesome images of naked, prepubescent children who are forced to pose in sexually suggestive positions, forced to perform sex acts with adults on camera, forced to masturbate or insert objects inside themselves, perform on other children (often their siblings), and they are often locked in dog cages. These children are real children who are placed against their will in front of real cameras and are abused by real evil people. So yes, you did hurt children. And child pornography is unlike mainstream adult pornography. Because it is highly illegal, it is highly sought after. Therefore, images and videos are intentionally shot in series, beginning with more soft core images and moving to horrific ones. The pictures and videos are traded like baseball cards and are traded or sold in series. Each picture or video of an individual child in a series are numbered or given nicknames. The goal for the receiver is to collect each image of a child they like in the entire series. The goal for the sender is to sell each image in the series he or she has created. It is a game to them. Have you ever noticed that when child pornographers are caught in a sting operation, there are usually 30 or 40 who are arrested at once? Now you know why. In 2001, 100 were arrested in a sting operation with a company in Texas owned by a husband-wife team. Landslide Productions, Inc. were distributing child pornography for a huge profit. They grossed $1.4 million just in one month. Yes, real children are hurt.

“I never touched a child.” Yes you did. Research demonstrates that people who claim they only have fantasies of prepubescent children without hands-on victims don’t exist. Others are not willing to go that far and will claim that child pornographers who have no hands-on victims are extremely rare. Dr. Gene Abel in The Stop Child Molestation Book mentions a study he did for a sub group of pedophiles–those who have urges but have never acted upon them. In a massive study with lots of funding in a city of 7 million people, he found zero. There were several who claimed they never touched a child but when he interviewed them, discovered they had all had hands-on victims. They were abusers in denial. They all believed they didn’t have hands-on victims because the children they abused were not victims, but “willing participants.” I’ve mentioned before the Butner Study . It’s well worth a read for those who are interested in this topic. Child pornographers will almost always maintain that they never touched a child. Research demonstrates we should assume the opposite. And let’s assume for a second that a child pornographer has not touched a child sexually. They still went to incredible measures to find pictures of people who did. If they worked this hard to gain images, you can guarantee they are driven and committed to get what they want. If they have not touched a child yet, they will. Remember Jared Fogle who people thought just had images (which he traded, by the way, with his partner)? Turns out he had a bunch of victims as well.

“My intentions were pure.” No they weren’t. There is nothing pure about seeking out, viewing, purchasing, producing, or trading child pornography. Nothing.

“I don’t have these urges anymore.” Yes you do. And you always will. I know of no professionals who maintain that there is a cure for pedophilia. Can the urges be reduced with treatment? Yes. But they will never go away completely, especially in older men and women.

It’s important that people convicted on child pornography charges be kept from children. This may sound cruel, but it is more cruel to view, trade, produce, and sell images of sexually exploited children. It’s evil to look at a child through sexually graphic lenses. It’s irresponsible to place someone who does near children. And it’s cruel to the person who sexualizes children to place them near children.

How You (yes, you!) Can Stop Abuse

The number of children who are abused is breathtaking. Abuse, unfortunately, comes in many forms. But rather than depress you with the reality of the epidemic of abuse, I’d rather encourage you by talking about viable solutions. Quite frankly, our time on this planet is limited. We need to call people to action and do it now. It’s one thing to say, “My, how horrible.” It’s quite another to say, “Alright, how do we step up and stop it?” We can make the solution as complicated or as simple as we’d like. Personally, I like the concept of KISS (keep it simple, stupid!). So I offer five things you can start doing the second you finish reading this article. The problem, in my opinion, is that we often offer complex or inadequate training, overburden people with facts, and give them “performance anxiety.” People with too much information often are too intimidated and don’t know which of the 5,000 pieces of information is the “right” one to use.

Even though I’ve boiled this solution down to 5 steps, it’s not as if you can memorize this list and you’re good to go. Like anything else, you’ve got to practice, practice, practice. Really, you’ve got to turn these 5 steps into an extension of yourself so that it becomes as natural to you as hopping on a bike and riding. At first you will be wobbly, second guess yourself, and wonder if you’re doing it right. But after a couple weeks you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly confident in your ability to help innocent children stay safe. These steps are in progressive order, with each one building on the previous step. Enough rambling, I’ll just get to the point:

#1 Assess your surroundings–You have got to learn to assess your surroundings all of the time. I lived with a pedophile for decades and literally didn’t have a clue. This gives me some degree of authority on this issue. I know what it’s like to take a close relationship for granted and to not properly assess every situation. Most pedophiles (over 90%) are known well by their victims. That means they are abusing their own family members or their friends’ kids. Because pedophiles are either related to us or are close personal friends, we can’t bank on the “creep factor” to tip us off. Trust me on this one. The “creep factor” is very subjective anyway. Think about it. We are creeped out by people we don’t like, not people who are our good friends. We must assess and monitor our surroundings. I’ll talk about asking the right questions later, but the best way to assess is simply to observe with fresh eyes.

I am now in the habit of being incredibly vigilant everywhere I go. You police officers or military folk know exactly what I’m talking about. Once you know what evil people are capable of and what tactics they use, you constantly watch and listen for subtle threats. My eyes are always moving and my ears are always listening. I recently was at a doctor’s office and saw two sisters with their dad. His mannerisms seemed off to me. It’s hard to explain, but his stance was too familiar with his girls. I watched from a distance and noticed that the sisters looked very uncomfortable around him and every time he touched them, they would shrug it off and look at each other behind his back. When the one girl turned to the side, she had tears streaming down her face. All of these signs could be nothing, but they also could be something. After they left, I told the receptionist that the girls seemed very uncomfortable around their dad and I asked that she speak to the physician who had just seen the girls. Perhaps the doctor saw something too. Maybe she didn’t. But when we see something that’s not right, we need to speak up and say something. Remaining silent is what perpetuates abuse. Abusers are counting on people not talking.

#2 Make It Your Business–We are brainwashed into thinking that nothing is our business (though a small number of people falsely believe that everything is their business). I often tell my congregation that what goes on in the privacy of my home is their business. If I’m slapping my wife and kids around, it’s the church’s business. If I’m being verbally abusive, it’s the church’s business. If we see or hear something that is out of line, we must make it our business. Research the bystander effect. It is a very real phenomenon where people can literally walk over or around a corpse lying in the street, or a rape victim, or witness a child abduction and do nothing to stop it. There are a number of psychological principles at play, but basically we subconsciously are passive because we’ve bought the lie that anything that goes on near us is not our business. So we see the world through a different lens and fail to properly assess real threats.

The video below shows people who do properly assess the situation as threatening and make it their business to intervene. While it’s always good to see people overcome the bystander effect, what’s troubling to me is how long it took people to move from assessment to intervention. If you are extra attentive, notice how conflicted they are to intervene even when the girl is blatantly being coerced to leave with the man. You can see the inner conflicting voices saying, “Should I do something or just let it go?” I assure you that when we practice assessing and making bad things our business, we will be much quicker at intervening! It should not take this long for people to intervene.

#3 Ask the right questions–It’s one thing to ask questions. It’s quite another to ask the right questions. Until we get in the habit of assessing situations and make things our business, we will fail every time at asking the right questions. It’s amazing how pedophiles can blatantly post on social media pictures of themselves with kids sitting in their laps or lying in bed together and nobody asks questions. In fact, I read comments of people praising grown men who brag about all the hugs and kisses they get from small children, or how wonderful their sleepover was that they hosted. I see men inviting young children over to their homes for sleepovers and not one person is asking him why! This is not a judgment on others. We didn’t question my dad when he did these things. We didn’t question why he wanted to be a “manny” (male nanny). We didn’t question why he invited children over for sleepovers. We didn’t question why he would drive 2 hours to take a young child to a doctor’s appointment. The reason? We didn’t properly assess his actions and we didn’t feel like it was our business to question him. It sounds strange, but I see it play out time after time with other people now. I don’t recommend asking questions that assume anything. For example, you shouldn’t ask, “Are you attracted to kids?” Rather, ask questions about things that you actually witness. If someone exhibits inappropriate behavior, call them out on it. Don’t be afraid to ask.

When we see something that seems strange to us, we need to ask very pointed questions. For example, “Mr. Smith, why do you keep inviting young children into your home to have unsupervised sleepovers?” “Why are you posting pictures of kids not your own sitting in your lap? Isn’t that incredibly inappropriate?” “Why do you make highly inappropriate comments about little girls starting to ‘bud’?” “Why do you insist on spending alone time with those kids?” “Don’t you think it’s wrong to post pictures of other people’s kids and you lying in bed?” “Why are you texting with a minor?” “Why are you commenting on a minor’s pictures about how sexy they look?”

#4 Invite others into the conversation–We’re very afraid of being labeled a gossip, so we default back to, “It’s none of my business.” Gossip is when we make things up about a person and spread those lies to others. One thing I recommend is to ask other parents and children how a certain person makes them feel. Never assume that people don’t have concerns about someone just because they don’t voice the concerns. I wish we would have invited others into a conversation about my dad years ago. It turns out, most people who knew my dad had major concerns about his behavior with children. But not one person ever spoke up about it. Asking the right questions is not only a powerful tool aimed at a potential child abuser, it’s a powerful tool to use with other people. We need to ask the right questions of people within our social circles.

For example, we could ask other parents, “Do you believe Mr. Smith is crossing physical boundaries with kids?” “Does he make you uneasy?” “What specifically makes you feel uneasy?” “Has he ever made inappropriate comments about children to you?” “Does he seem aggressive in getting children alone?”

And we may ask children, “Does Mr. Smith make you feel uncomfortable?” “Has he ever told you to keep a secret?” “Has he ever done anything to make you feel ashamed?”

#5 Stop letting others control your feelings–Most of us constantly worry about what others think of us. Believe it or not, many people are discouraged to report abuse or intervene by family, co-workers, even spouses. We revert back to our default mechanism that tells us, “It’s not our business.” People often feel like they are going to take an already sensitive situation and make it worse if they intervene. Many people who are “in the moment” lose the ability to empathize with a victim, so our brain does all kinds of strange games like rationalizing the abuse. We think, “Maybe I didn’t really see what I just saw,” or “It was probably just this one time–a fluke.” Believe me, when I found out my dad had sexually abused a child I was terrified at what others would think when I reported him to police. I had a million reasons why I shouldn’t turn him in, but I had one good reason why I should. In cases like this, we can’t weigh options. We simply have to do what is right, even when there are condescending voices telling us not to.

If we practice these 5 steps, we can make a huge impact on innocent lives around us. We need to actively intervene when something’s not right. It’s a mistake to wait until something bad has already happened. We can and we should do better than that.

I Hate “Buts”: How Defeatism Is Ruining Our Chidren’s Lives

DefeatismA way of thinking in which a person expects to lose or fail. My wife and I get really annoyed when our kids use the “B” word. It’s not nice to talk about buts. Imagine in the whiniest kid voice you can think of, “Uuuuh, but I can’t. . . .” Defeatism. But. I. Can’t. Three of the most powerful words in the English language. Is it any wonder there are many people who would rather go through the welfare system than to work a job? And before you go all “Jimmy is self-righteous” on me, hear me out. I’ve personally encountered dozens of people in our small town who have called our church for assistance and have flat-out told me that there’s no incentive to get a job when they are well taken care of by government assistance and churches. It’s not a judgment upon them, it’s just an observation. Defeatism–“Why work 40+ hours a week at a dead-end job when I can make more by staying home with my kids? I’ll never go anywhere in my career anyway.” These are the things we hear regularly from people who call on the church to help.

We happen to live in a county where heroin addiction is rampant. I’ve spoken with several friends who are addicted and they all say the same thing–“But I can’t quit.” Defeatism. It’s sad to see people who feel they have no hope of ever quitting. They’ve resigned themselves to the notion that the only option in front of them is to jam a needle into their arm until one day they are dead. And die they do. We have people losing their lives in large numbers, leaving behind helpless children. It’s sad. All of it is so sad. Yet there are plenty of addicts who have successfully overcome addictions. I know it because I’m friends with them. Conversely, they all have one thing in common–they not only believed that they could overcome the addiction, they were determined to do so! It was always at a great cost, but they did not resign themselves to defeat. They couldn’t, if they truly wanted to get well. We spend $600 billion1 a year in the US battling drug addictions. Our best scientific research on addiction says, “The chronic nature of the disease means that relapsing to drug abuse is not only possible but also likely.”2 Either this is a poor attempt at reverse psychology or our research has bought the spirit of defeatism hook-line-and-sinker. I’ve run this sentence through my head a hundred different ways. Imagine my wife and I telling our now 6 year old, “There’s an early childhood literacy gap and illiteracy among youth is an epidemic. Your inability to learn how to read is not only possible but is also likely.” How well do you think she would learn to read? I have a guess, and I’m probably right.

And the spirit of defeatism is being taught in just about every area, and from a super young age. Our anti-bullying agenda teaches kids that the only option they have is to remain passive and tell an adult after they’ve been violated. Defeatism. Our elementary schools here just had a presentation on “good touch, bad touch.” I asked my daughter about it and, specifically, what she was taught to do if someone actually persisted in touching her privates. “We were told to tell an adult.” “But what if the person insists on touching your privates, what did they tell you do do?,” I asked. “They just told us to say no.” I asked her if it was OK to kick, spit, scream, punch, pull hair, etc. if someone didn’t heed the “No” command. “Oh no, we’re taught it’s never OK to hit. We’re just supposed to tell an adult if it happens.” Defeatism. We literally teach our kids that the only option is to play possum, allow an abuser to molest them, then tell an adult after the fact–something that is nearly impossible for a child to do who has just had his or her life threatened by the abuser. This is unacceptable. We’ve got to do better at teaching our kids that they are not doomed to be groomed. We need to teach them that, when they are isolated and about to be abused, it’s OK to fight back. It’s OK to stand up for other kids who are getting beat on the playground and intervene. It’s OK to believe that they can actually overcome addictions. It’s OK to struggle with a job to support your family. It’s not a “dead-end” job, it’s a job.

We’ve got to shift the language away from the “buts” and start telling our children that they can! Perhaps Eric Church is right–we can learn a lot from 3 year olds!
“Three Year Old”

Use every crayon color that you’ve got
A fishing pole sinks faster than a tackle box
Nothing turns a day around like licking a mixing bowl
I learned that from a three year old

A garbage can is a damn good spot to hide truck keys
Why go inside when you can go behind a tree?
Walking barefoot through the mud will knock the rust right off your soul
I learned that from a three year old

You can be a cowboy on the moon
Dig to China with a spoon
Talk to Jesus on the phone
Say “I love you” all day long
And when you’re wrong, you should just say so
I learned that from a three year old

“Mama is an angel, ” I heard him tell the man upstairs
He went on and on and back and forth like God was laying there
Tonight, I sleep me down to lay and pray to keep my soul
Yeah, I learned that from a three year old

You can be a cowboy on the moon
Dig to China with a spoon
Talk to Jesus on the phone
Say “I love you” all day long
And when you’re wrong, you should just say so
I learned that from a three year old

Sometimes, all you need is a hand to hold
A couple arms to kill the cold
And when you’re wrong, you should just say so
I learned that from a three year old
Yeah, honey, I learned that from our three year old

A Peek Behind the Catholic Veil in the Pennsylvania Sex Abuse Cover-Up

Last week Pennsylvania was in the national spotlight for another big sex abuse scandal. This time it involves over 50 Catholic priests and other leaders who sexually abused hundreds of children in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The investigation began 2 years ago in Johnstown, less than 20 miles from my home. I am currently working my way through the Grand Jury’s 147 page report, which I will post below. I highly recommend reading this report in its entirety after reading my thoughts on how cover-ups of this magnitude still happen regularly. But first, we need to remember that these are real victims with real names, real families, and lasting struggles. Many of the hundreds of victims in this report thought about or attempted suicide, and these hundreds of victims only account for an 8-county radius around my home. This kind of abuse is going on every single day all over the country. There is an estimated 42 million living people just in the US who have suffered sexual assault by an adult when they were a child. This 147 page report is significant.

The late Father Joseph Bender became angry with young boys who refused his advances. “Bender would lash out in anger when the children rebuffed his advances. In a particular incident Bender grabbed a boy by the neck and asked ‘don’t you love me anymore” when the child insisted on wearing underwear to bed. . . The challenge after being Bender’s victims wasn’t to attempt to live well, but to attempt to simply live.” One of Bender’s victims from the 70s wrote an anonymous letter to Bishop Joseph Adamec in 1991 giving details of forced foreplay, masturbation, and oral sex. The victim wrote, “Because I respected his position, and feared the consequences of disobeying him, I would remain silent. I would estimate that I was abused approximately one hundred times.” That letter was stored along with scores of others in the secret archive of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

As I read through this report about priests abusing in the name of God, forcing 8 year old children to perform oral sex on them hundreds of times, forcing them to get drunk, anally raping them, and inflicting unfathomable mental abuse on top of the sexual abuse, I get angry. But my anger is not only reserved for the pedophiles who were relentless in their abuse of helpless children. It’s also aimed at the deadbeat bishops and law enforcement officials who knew about the abuse and chose to shuffle these pedophiles from church to church while remaining silent. But my righteous anger doesn’t stop there. While the Catholics get their share of justified finger pointing, they are not alone–not by a long shot. We at Church Protect regularly hear stories about churches of every stripe who chose to invite pedophiles into their ranks and grant them access to children. In our experience, church leaders routinely allow even convicted pedophiles to waltz back into their churches, “redeemed” by the blood of the lamb and with very few restrictions. One desperate message to me chronicled a group of elders who gave their blessing to a convicted pedophile who had recently been released from prison. The registered sex offender offered to house a struggling youth in his basement under the guise of offering moral support and being a positive role model. Not surprisingly, he attempted to rape the young church girl. Surely an attempted rape of a young troubled youth from their church by a convicted child predator would cause the elders to ban him from that congregation, right? Nope. The girl was told to sit elsewhere if this man made her feel uncomfortable.

I would not experience daily anger if I didn’t daily hear these same stories time and time again. My guess is that people reading this post are getting angry that this kind of thing goes on in churches regularly. I also imagine that anyone who actually takes the time to read the Grand Jury’s report will get angry reading it. But here’s my question–why do people get angry at stories about child predators but turn completely passive when actually interacting with them in real life? All of a sudden we move from the facts of raping young children to shoddy theologies of sin, grace, and assimilation. “Well, they seem genuinely remorseful,” the argument goes, “so I’m sure they’ll never harm a child again.” But they do. Again and again and again. Read the report. It’s full of records of rehab, confessions, promises to change, victim blaming, and minimizing the abuse. The sad thing is that it works and pedophiles know it.

In his book Child Sexual Abuse and the Churches, Patrick Parkinson has a short but excellent section on repentance. Here’s what he says:
Forgiveness can have little meaning if the offender has no intention of stopping the abuse. . . In the area of child sexual abuse, repentance has often been confused with remorse. Remorse is what happens in the back of a police car. Repentance means taking full responsibility for the offending and walking the painful road of lasting change. . . The offender may well feel devastated by the prospect of losing these things. Such deep remorse may well be taken for repentance, but the signs of true repentance are in deeds, not in tears. . . The repentant offender ought to be willing to acknowledge to the police and the courts that he has done wrong, that he has committed criminal offences of the utmost gravity and deserves to be punished.

Parkinson also argues that a repentant abuser will take every step to make reparation. Just as we learned as children that an apology for a broken window must be accompanied with an offer to pay for the window, so there must be reparation as adults. The abuser will at very least voluntarily pay for counseling bills of all of his or her victims. In more significant cases, Parkinson rightly argues that the offender may have “to sell his house, or his car. It is costly, but it is also just.” I have argued, and continue to argue, that a repentant child molester will insist on being removed from the presence of children precisely because they have proved time and time again that they cannot be near children without fondling, massaging, raping, and performing oral sex on them. This response does not mean that the church “has it out” for pedophiles. Rather, they have the safety of children as their top priority. A repentant offender will be more than happy to be part of a church with strong accountability–where he or she is still free to worship with other adults and not be near children.

But sadly, this biblical stance of repentance and accountability is viewed as inhumane, cruel, and unjust. And so, like the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, churches of all denominations in 2016 continue to mistake remorse for repentance and they routinely let pedophiles join their worship, preach, lead children’s programs, all while keeping their congregants in the dark about the abuser’s past. So why do churches enable (and thereby bless) abuse to take place in practice while condemning it in theory?

If we peel back the veil in the Pennsylvania Catholic abuse case, I believe we would find two bishops who covered up the abuse not because they hate children and like to know that they’re being abused, but because they mistook remorse for repentance. In the report, they did confront accused clergy time and time again. But every single time they allowed them to continue in ministry. Why? Unfortunately, the power of persuasion by an offender is a louder voice than the cries of abused children. The best leverage an abuser can get (and they may even request it!) is face time with church authorities. Abusers know how easy it is to use emotion to minimize abuse, explain details away, rewrite children’s memories, and plead for mercy. And it works. This is one reason we recommend churches never investigate allegations of abuse themselves. Church leaders need to remove themselves from the abuser emotionally and look at the facts. They need to listen to the cries of children and vow to lay down their lives to protect them. They need to always report allegations of abuse to authorities and not speak to the accused about it. Trust us that you will always leave those meetings second guessing yourself, having sympathy for the abuser, and wondering how such a good child could be so mistaken as to what happened to them.

Church leaders have a very long way to go. Churches continue to be ripe for abusers. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are naive. My prayer is that, for the sake of our children, we wise up and learn from cases like the PA Catholic scandal.

How Abusers Go Undetected

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. A lot has happened in 7 months. My wife and I had our 3rd child in May and nine days after his birth my oldest brother died very unexpectedly. Two days later I preached for my church then we packed our family in the car, 11 day old baby in tow, and made our 12 hour drive down south. The next day I preached my brother’s funeral. The past 6 months or so have been a complete grief-induced blur. Our family has been rocked on so many levels, but we lean on God and we’ll prevail! Church Protect is growing stronger each day, and we are blessed by the partnerships that are forming nation-wide.

There has been a lot going on in the news lately, and it’s been interesting to quietly watch people’s reactions. From Bill Cosby’s 50 accusers, to Jared Fogle’s 14 known child victims, and the double whammy in the case of Joshua Duggar, many people are starting to get the picture that abusers can be anyone. None of these men are bumbling buffoons. To the contrary, they are highly charismatic, intelligent, and socially skilled productive members of society. But they each carry very dark secrets and all are highly skilled at deception. And many people wonder how they can produce so many victims for so long without getting caught.

Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds (2 Cor. 11:14-15 ESV)

As I travel to and interact with churches, I see just how strong the influence of denial is. Almost always, suspicions of abuse are explained away. In fact, quite often, children are being abused directly in front of adults. I hear it too often, “If abuse was going on here, I’d be the first to know about it. . . ” Or, “We’ve had abuse training so we know what to look for.” Take it from someone who has firsthand experience living with an abuser–those statements assume way too much. I could write volumes on the complexity of this subject. Instead, I choose to demonstrate just how easy it is for all of these abusers to do what they want, when they want, and to whom they want, all without your catching on to them:
 

Here’s the catch, and it’s an important catch–once you know how the “magic” works, it becomes nearly impossible for someone to fool you anymore. This, in essence, is the technique we at Church Protect have developed. It’s what sets our training apart from any other training that’s out there. If you want don’t want to be fooled by Apollo Robbins, you have to know how to pickpocket successfully. Now you don’t have to be able to pickpocket yourself, you just have to know every last intricate detail of how pickpockets operate. You must be able to see the world as they see it, to see people in the audience from their perspective. The same rule applies for pedophiles. Every training on child abuse I’ve seen to date lists “red flag” behaviors for sex offenders. Heck, I used to teach it. Let me demonstrate how I now know that this method is grossly ineffective. Suppose I told you, prior to watching the above video, that master pickpockets exhibit the following “red flag” behaviors:
Talk fast
Are friendly but manipulative
Will likely walk among an audience and target one individual
Use misdirection to distract their victim
Touch their victim often as a method of distraction
Ask a lot of questions

Be honest, would you have still been fooled by his routine? How many of you, even after watching the video several times, were able to identify when and how he ditched the tie and vest and switched shirts? It’s not until you know how he did it that you are able to identify when he did it. And once you learn these techniques, your observational skills become keen and crisp. Our training spoils the magic for pedophiles who regularly gain access to children by teaching people how to spot their techniques, not simply their behaviors. We essentially show people how the magic is performed. This is done through a very powerful assessment tool that lets our audience get behind the eyes of a pedophile. More will be published on this in the future, but we just wanted to introduce the concept of what we believe will revolutionize abuse prevention in the home and the church!

And as an aside, we are selling shirts for a limited time as a fundraiser. It has our theme verse, “Love always protects,” as well as our name and cool logo. Every dollar is going to produce powerful resources to help keep children safe from abuse. If you’re interested, you can order a shirt right here!

Where Has Jimmy Been?

It has been a long time since I’ve graced my own website. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes, from having sick kids to working on some huge projects to still maintaining my full-time ministry where I preach. While I’ve not been writing much here, I’ve been producing a lot of material behind the scenes, and that takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. A few months ago, I co-founded Church Protect, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to offering churches resources that I wish were available at the time I had to turn my own father in. My partner and I offer consultation for churches who are navigating the turbulent waters of abuse within their churches. In addition, we offer several different packages for seminars, and this is where I’m most excited. We’re working on a Protection Plan that doesn’t currently exist. My partner with Church Protect has thousands of hours counseling sex offenders in state penitentiary. He also has decades of experience counseling victims of sex abuse, so he has been on both sides of the fence. He has seminary training. So, we believe we have the best fit for making this meaningful ministry the best resource available that is specifically for churches.

We are working on developing Church Protect’s website, and since we don’t have money to hire a web designer (hint, hint, wink, wink), we are developing our own website, too. I’m no web designer, so the amount of time being pumped into this is painful (no pain, no gain, right?). It has a long way to go, but we are confident that the end result will be invaluable. We are offering online seminars at the same time that we do live seminars (select seminars only), so that anyone anywhere can join us without having to travel to see us. We are very excited about this option! It’s going to be impossible to manage 2 websites, so my blogs from this site will eventually be migrated over to churchprotect.org. It will take time, but it will happen fairly soon.

Church Protect really started based solely on demand. Much to my surprise, when I started this website last fall, I was receiving a super high volume of requests to help churches walk through suspicions/allegations of abuse. That spigot has not turned off. This is a vast problem within churches, no matter the size. We began Church Protect, Inc. as a way for church leaders to reach out to a minister who not only had to deal with allegations of abuse, but the abuser was my own father. I had zero training and had to take a crash course on how to help my congregation navigate this. Some of the questions I wrestled with over the course of 2 or 3 days were–What are the legal implications? What are mandated reporting laws and how do they apply to me? Will dad find out that it was my mom and me who reported him? How do I tell my wife? How do I tell my church? When do I tell them and how much do I reveal? How many victims are there? Will I get fired? Will I have to move my family to another town? Will people think that I knew about his abuse over the years but kept it quiet? Will the media descend upon the church and my family? Will this be national news? Will dad be arrested right away? How and when do I tell my family that dad is a pedophile? How will my congregation be viewed in the public eye in our community? What do we do if dad shows up to church after being turned in? How do we find out who his victims are and how do we help them come to grips with what has been done to them? Will the church, or should the church provide counseling for victims? Where is God in the middle of this? How could God let this evil go on for so many years? How did my family not see this? How will I get up and preach on Sunday? (the abuse was disclosed to me on a Friday). Will we be sued as a church? What do we do about a policy? Is this really happening? Am I going to be OK? How will I provide healing for my family and church when I don’t even know if I can get out of bed myself? Why? Why? Why? Will our family fall apart?

It became apparent really quickly that (1) this is VERY common in churches and (2) hardly anybody is talking about it. Within a month of my dad’s arrest, I was immersed in books from the top professionals in this field. I literally became an expert in the field of child sex abuse within months. My marriage suffered tremendously. At one point my wife asked, “Why are you subjecting yourself (and us) to this?” I wept. The only answer I could muster was, “Because I have to know how I missed it.” She is gracious and as understanding as I think she can be. Without her I would be lost. She is amazingly supportive of this ministry.

I went into ministry because of my dad. As hard as this is to imagine, I am preaching where he preached for 27 years. Every Sunday, my feet literally stand on the same patch of carpet that his did when he preached. He was a hero to me. And within seconds, everything I ever thought I knew about him was instantly dismantled and I didn’t know why or how. Sadly, I’m not alone. Without hesitation, it’s time we step up and do something about it. I speak, consult, and train from expertise, but experience has become the greatest instructor. And the teacher is brutal. I’ve never had a teacher who is more unforgiving than Experience. And so, I pass that on to the many, many people who are struggling to know how to detect and prevent abuse while keeping their churches together. I couldn’t do it without the support of many of you. I receive private messages of encouragement. You have no idea how far that carries me. So, in a nutshell, that’s what I’ve been up to! Stay tuned for more. . .

"Love always protects" (1 Cor. 13:7).