What to Do, Pastor, When You Are the Victim of a Rumor

“Why would you rather not be wronged? … For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:7,20).

In 1990, after a preacher had served only seven months and tore the church up twice, I arrived as the new pastor.

I was not the excited new kid on the block as with my previous moves. This was different.

I had endured a brutal three years in my former pastorate and thought perhaps the Lord wanted this broken church (to which I was coming) and this bruised pastor (moi!) to help one another heal.

Some years later, I learned a preacher in our area was telling people that I had torn up this church because of some serious immorality.

I sought him out and asked if he were really saying this.

“Brother Joe, I got this from Pastor Runoff, the guy that preceded me in this church.” His mentor and role model was gossiping.

He gave me the man’s phone number and I caught him at his church in another state.

I said, “My friend, let me tell you what I am hearing. Years ago, after I had survived a difficult three years in a church in another state, God sent me here to help this church recover from a pastor whose immorality had damaged it severely. My first years in this church were some of the most difficult in my life. And now, I hear that you are telling people that I caused this church’s problems, that I tore it up.”

I said, “Is that true? You’re telling people that?!”

He was quiet.

I said,”My brother, I put up with years of harassment in this church trying to get it healthy again. And now you are accusing me of being its problem?”

Finally he said, “Brother Joe, I am as sorry as I can be. I hope you will forgive me.”

I said, “I want you to call everyone you told that to and set them straight on it.”

He assured me he had told only the one pastor, the young man who followed him. I had no reason to doubt that.

One day recently, while going through my journal of the 1990s—I wrote for a half-hour each night for the full decade, eventually filling 46 hard-bound volumes—I found where my next door neighbor, a profane and angry man, had said that I had torn up this church by my immorality. Since it barely registered on my meter at the time, but evidently enough for me to note it in the journal, when that pastor began spreading the lie, I had not made the connection. However, my next door neighbor and that pastor had grown up together as boyhood friends. So I know where it came from.

By this time, the neighbor had died. So, hopefully, that ended this matter.

Most lies and rumors are not that easily run down nor that quickly addressed.

Case in point.

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.