Lovingly Restoring the Fallen

Rumors were flying about a friend of mine. Even though married with children, my friend seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time with a college-age girl. She had some personal issues and he evidently wanted to help her.

However, she was also fairly attractive. The time he spent talking to her after church created suspicion. People weren’t necessarily “gossiping” about him but they were “concerned.” Some had seen him at her softball games and commented, “It just didn’t look right.”

Finally, I had heard enough. Galatians 6:1 reads: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

Going to a brother

While I wasn’t sure I qualified as “spiritual,” I was his pastor, as well as his friend. Since no one else had approached him, I decided to do so. Since Matthew 18:15 instructs us to go by ourselves on the first visit to someone who may have a problem, I arranged to talk with him for a few minutes after an evening service.

As we began to talk, my mouth felt dry. I fought to keep my voice from trembling. I knew there was the possibility that he could get angry and storm out. Or remind me of my own failures. Still, I cleared my throat and said, “I think you need to know that there is some discussion circulating about the fact that you seem to be hanging around (her name) a lot. I’m concerned that it’s hurting your Christian testimony, and I thought as your friend you needed to be aware of it.”

His response was much better than I expected: “Oh my! I never thought that it could be seen that way. I am just concerned about the struggles she’s facing at home and felt she needed some encouragement. Goodness! I’ll sure back off. I’m sorry.”

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At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.