Ed Stetzer on a Pastor’s Restoration Process: Journey to Healing Through the Eyes of Those Closest, Part 1: Darrin

Today, I want to introduce you to some friends.

I’ve known Darrin and Amie Patrick for a couple of decades. And, I’ve known Greg Surratt for a similar amount of time. I’ve preached for both of them at their churches and fellowshipped on many occasions.

Darrin and Amie Patrick planted The Journey Church in St. Louis in 2002. The church grew to thousands of people in six locations. Darrin was a founding leader in the Acts 29 network and has authored several books.

As The Journey Church grew, Darrin’s platform grew faster than his character. (I don’t say that lightly or without his permission.) Over time, Darrin drifted from his relationship with God and forsook basic Christian character and leadership principles.

In March of 2016 the elders of The Journey confronted Darrin about an emotional affair and a variety of leadership failures. This confrontation led the elders to fire Darrin.But the elders placed him in a restoration process.

It’s been over three years since that failure and he has completed that restoration process. It would be a mistake to think that Darrin is now ‘back’ with a great story to tell. There is still pain here. Darrin is now leading with a limp that will be in his life from here forward.

But, in a world of failures, it is good to see what happens when someone accepts their failures and grows from them.

In this three-part series I interview Greg, Darrin, and his wife Amie. Today, we start with Darrin. I’d also encourage you to listen to Darrin’s talk, in his own voice, at Southeastern Seminary.

Darrin is still not perfect, but he is restored to ministry. He and Greg talk about that growth in their new podcast, Pastors Collective, which focuses on being healthy in Christian leaders. Darrin is modeling that health through his pain. Please continue to pray for Darrin, but also pray that restoration (and the processes such restoration involves) might be the norm and not the exception.

Ed: How long was the process, and what did it involve?

Darrin: The process was 26 months long and involved over 200 hours of professional counseling, many of those hours with counselor Rick Pierce, along with meeting consistently with several pastors.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, I met leaders whom I had hurt or wounded during my ministry. I listened to them and apologized to them specifically for things I had done to cause them pain. There was also tons of reading, reflection, and journaling as a part of the process.

The first part process lasted 14 months. The mandate was for me to not perform in ministry for 14 months in order to focus on my sin and repentance, which was such painful, but wonderful counsel.

The focus was on being healed as Christian first. Pastor Greg then lead me through a year of supervised ministry for the final 12 months (which concluded May, 2018). I continued personal and marriage counseling along with participating in limited ministry, the majority of which was sharing my story with small groups of pastors.

Ed: What did the process reveal in you?

Darrin: A lot. There’s much I could say here, but I’ll mention a few of the biggest issues. The first was that I had become a very entitled person. I had gone from being a leader who sought to serve other people to a leader that wanted to be served by everybody. I had many privileges because of God’s great work in our church and network.

Instead of expressing gratitude for these gifts, I expected them because I thought I deserved and earned them. I wasn’t consciously aware that I had developed this mindset of entitlement, but it regularly showed up in my thoughts, words and behavior and was quite apparent and harmful to others.

Second, I had become an absentee dad to my church. The truth is that the role of senior pastor means that you serve as a father to a lot of people. Your friend can hurt you and it’s painful. Your sibling offends you and it stings.

But if your dad wounds you, it is devastating. By being emotionally unavailable, being on the road speaking at conferences and being in my study writing books, I neglected our leaders in view of building my platform. I left them with the burden of a growing, multi-site church instead of bearing that burden appropriately with them. I also learned that I was severely lacking in self-awareness, both with regard to my inner life and also with regard to how others experienced me.

Third, I realized how much deceit I operated in. I constantly blew off meetings with untrue excuses. I regularly lied about how I doing spiritually and emotionally. I used anger and even tears to manipulate our leaders to keep from being accountable. In short, lacked integrity in my leadership in profound and destructive ways.

Ed: Why did you implode?

Darrin: Again, there were several reasons, but one that stands out the most is my lack of healing with regard to my abusive dad. My dad died eight months before my sin was exposed.

In the last several months of his life, I moved him closer to me and took primary responsibility for his health care arrangements. Something broke in me when he died. I should have told our leaders that I needed time off to grieve and gotten more intensive counseling.

Instead, I kept going, skimming over the surface of my grief and rapidly falling apart internally. But even before this trauma with my earthly dad, my relationship with my heavenly dad was waning. Over time, I had slowly stopped prioritizing my relationship with Jesus and made ministry my primary focus.

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Source: Christianity Today