6. Hunker Down, You’re Gonna Get Smacked – When a pastor falls…his friends are going to get hammered. Seldom did a day go by that I wasn’t confronted by email, Twitter, Facebook, phone call or in person by someone with a beef about Gary (still getting them from time to time). Going to a conference felt like walking through a crowd of assassins with crosshairs on my back. It seemed that half of the church leadership world was pissed at Gary…and because they couldn’t get to Gary…took it out on those that knew him. The greatest pain for me through this whole thing was that people would assume that because of my friendship with Gary that I supported his decisions. Silence isn’t always support…some days silence is just wise. Gary knew what I did…and did not support…I just wasn’t going to share it with the rest of the world. Because I remained silent there were those that thought I had no accountability, thought I had no respect for God’s Word…and thought I was damaging the Church. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut when some guy with fake Twitter accounts kept calling me out publicly because he didn’t think I was holding Gary accountable. Thousands of people saw that…and began to question my leadership and integrity. The absolute lowest point for me was when I got un-invited to speak to group of Florida church planters. The organizers thought it would be best if I didn’t even attend because they didn’t want questions about Gary coming up in the discussions. Getting smacked is part of friendship…it’s what I signed up for when I became friends with Gary (and others)…it’s part of the package. I decided to just hunker down…keep my mouth shut…and deal with it.
7. Patience Is A Virtue – God never works in our timing. He surely didn’t with Gary. In the first few months after Gary stepped down from Revolution he was still being driven by ego…attention…and sin. Finally all of the emails, phone calls and social media messages…good and bad…stopped coming into him. It was in that silence that Gary began to hear from God…and get more humble…and repentant. As a friend it was my job to be patient with God…and Gary…and let it develop in their timing. Had I tried to play the role of the Holy Spirit and speed that process along…I would have screwed things up royally!!! I would talk openly and honestly with Gary…but never tried to force the spiritual development that I knew was already taking place in God’s timing.
8. Talk About Something Else – Gary and I had been friends before he was a “rock star”. He and I would talk about music, football, life, etc. along with talk about leading churches. It was not a friendship based solely on us being pastors. When everything about Gary came out I made a vow to myself I would not let his situation consume every conversation. Some days we talked about it…other days we talked about concerts, college football (still waiting for him to repent of his Georgia Bulldog sin), crazy stuff on the internet, etc. I’d send him jokes and links to hilarious videos on YouTube. Somedays I’d just text I was praying for him. I think what amazed him the most is that I would call for advice about leading a church. Just because Gary took a dive due to moral failure…didn’t mean that his whole ministry and leadership was now irrelevant. His sin didn’t erase his wisdom about reaching people far from God…wisdom that helped my church and me out over the last two years. I don’t know if it helped Gary…but it was confort to me to know that I could still talk to him about stuff other than ministry…as well as ministry.
9. Publicly Acknowledge The Friendship – For most folks Gary was radiation…touch him and you’ll die. I never felt that way. I had publicly responded to tweets and blog posts by Gary before his fall…why would I change that now that the world discovered he wasn’t perfect? Friendship doesn’t denote agreement. There are other guys in ministry and leaders of churches that I don’t agree with or support all of their decisions…but I’m not going to ignore them at a conference, refuse to hang out with them over a meal or turn away when they say “hello”. Why should it be any different for a friend that made some poor decisions? I was not going to come out publicly for or against Gary’s decisions…but it was unfathomable to me to discontinue dialoguing with him in public just because he was in a bad place. That has nothing really to do with friendship…it’s more about authenticity, integrity and good manners.
10. Friendship Is A Lifetime…Act Like It – Gary made a huge life-changing mistake…so have I…and so has anyone reading this. I have a ton of acquaintances…a metric-buttload of people that know who I am…but I can count the number of true lasting friendships I have in ministry on one hand. Those guys will stick with me when I’m making great decisions…and crappy ones. In fact…they have. When they made the conscious decision to be friends with me…they knew it was for life…and vice-versa. Our friendship have…and will…involve laughter and tears…great conversations and hard ones…funs times and bad…amazing highs and devastating lows. No matter the season in life…my friends and I know…that the season will pass. We know that friendship is for life…and we act like it. Gary is one of those friends.