Pastor John Gray, leader of Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina, is the subject of controversy once again. After a tumultuous 2019, in which the pastor fought two lawsuits, denied rumors of an affair, pushed back against an eviction, faced pushback for meeting with President Trump, and came under public scrutiny for his lavish spending, 2020 doesn’t seem to be going any better for Gray. New allegations of an inappropriate relationship with another woman surfaced last week. On Sunday, a somewhat deflated-looking Gray addressed the ongoing controversy and apologized to his wife and his congregation.
“I am sorry,” Gray said, addressing the congregation watching online. “You’ve gone through enough, from cars to meetings with leaders that have caused great pain and deep division amongst political ideologies, to one thing after another. I want to tell you I’m sorry. The standard has not changed. Holiness is still right.”
Some of the Rumors Are Accurate, Pastor John Gray Says
While not mentioning any details, Gray said there were “bloggers” who were determined to see him fall and who have been publishing all kinds of things about him, including more rumors of an inappropriate relationship. Last year, Gray admitted to participating in an emotional affair with a woman who was not his wife. Gray said there have been things posted online about him recently, “some of it accurate, some of it not, but all of it my responsibility.” The pastor admitted to putting “the name of God in harm’s way.”
He also said he had left areas of his life “unattended” and said there were areas “where I have treated the calling of God, the grace of God, and the hand of God casually in my life.” He also admitted to failing to deal with some of the issues that came to a head last year in a proper way. Gray said he failed when he didn’t submit to “process”, didn’t stay accountable, didn’t utilize the voices available “to teach me the tools.” These failures caused Gray to “make bad decisions.”
Speaking to his wife, Aventer Gray, Gray said he hadn’t honored her as he should have. “Aventer, I am sorry for the pain I have caused you, and my prayer is that the life from this moment will be worthy of the love that you have extended that our family receives from,” he said.
A common theme throughout Gray’s 45-minute message is that he’s a broken person in need of healing. While addressing Aventer, the pastor said, “You know more than anyone else the areas of pain I have carried around for years, the horrific self-fulfilling prophecies that you told me, ‘stop confessing those things.’”
Not Speaking as Pastor John Gray…
At one point, Gray said he wanted to stop speaking as a pastor and switch to speaking “as a man.” He then talked about how he was working through a “consistent pattern of self-sabotage rooted in a lack of identity and a shame that I can’t shake” with the help of a therapist. Therapy has been “critically, profoundly impacting” for him. He’s been making “radical changes, leaving old patterns and old habits.”
Gray said one of the reasons he didn’t address his brokenness sooner is because “I assumed that if I left this seat that the church would fall apart,” adding, “What pride, to assume that a holy God needed an unholy, unsubmitted vessel to do his work.”
Defending the preaching he’s done, even while in this pattern, Gray said “I have never preached a sermon, in my conscious mind, that was self-serving. I have always tried to lift Jesus up. I’ve never preached a judgmental sermon because I know the myriad areas of brokenness in my own life.”
Gray then said that God had “whooped” him publicly after he failed to address his issues on his own. “What I’ve learned about God is he will always address you privately before he addresses you publicly.” So now, Gray says, he is submitting to the Lord’s chastening, not out of shame, but out of thanksgiving.
“I’m so grateful that God has whooped me publicly because the Bible says we endure chastening as sons. When your father loves you, he corrects you,” Gray explained.
The pastor shared he had friends who confronted him in love and told him “John, I’m distancing myself because I don’t like how you handle your money and I don’t like how you live your personal life. It’s unsafe and it’s unbecoming of a man of God.”
“If God needed someone who was stuck in sin to help him, then I ain’t read the Bible,” Gray said after informing the congregation he would be in and out of the church as he seeks the help he needs and “deserves.”
Bloggers Are Like Delilah
During his message, Gray talked about Samson and the failures that led to his demise. Delilah was paid to sabotage Samson, Gray noted. In the same way, there are people who have “made brokenness a commodity, seeking the worst about people to monetize their pain and vulnerable moments.” Here, he was addressing the “bloggers” who are publishing rumors about him. To these people, Gray said, “May the Lord heal whatever broken places in you that needs to see someone fall for you to feel better about yourself. I’m a man. I’m not a god. I serve God and I’m God’s man and my failures will not be the final chapter of my life.”
Concluding his message, Gray said he hoped the Church would move past its hang ups over failure. “May the body of Christ grow up and may we reflect the restorative power of Jesus on the beach instead of trying to kill our wounded,” he said, referencing John 21.
Gray also asked members not to abandon the church but to “fight for me like I would fight for you right now.” He asked them to “maintain your commitment to tithe and offering so we can serve this present age.”