A Baptist pastor who was outed in the hack of the Ashley Madison adultery website has committed suicide less than a week after his name went public. Dr. John Gibson, 56, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Pearlington, Mississippi, and a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Leavell College, died Aug. 24.
His wife, Christi Gibson, discovered her husband’s body, along with a note that mentioned the Ashley Madison site. Christi also said her husband was likely worried he’d lose his job. “It wasn’t so bad that we wouldn’t have forgiven it, and so many people have said that to us, but for John, it carried such a shame,” she said.
Shame kills the heart.
Last weekend was Wholeheart Advance, our first ministry outreach of Worshipper&Warrior, a new men’s ministry. (We don’t have a website yet.) At this weekend boot camp for men we talked openly and honestly about shame. Shame is hiddenness that makes us halfhearted and fearful. Shame is the fear of disconnection. Shame destroys our hearts, even the hearts of pastors and Christian leaders.
I know about shame. Under the unspoken and hidden, in my last church, the church I planted and pastored for twenty years, I was also outed. Outed not for sex, drugs, or rock n roll but for my personality and leadership style. It was shaming. But it was under such circumstances that I discovered a new freedom and joy through choosing a new way, the way of wholeheartedness.
One of the people I admire most is University of Houston sociologist, Brene Brown. Her wildly successful TED talk on Vulnerabilty was catalytic in my growth toward wholehearted love. The result has redefined my calling as a person and pastor.
Time Magazine recently asked Brene Brown just what is the difference between those who have experienced shame and stay in it, and those who go on to live wholehearted lives. Her response is startling, “He or she who is the most uncomfortable rises [out of shame] the fastest. There is a huge correlation between a capacity of discomfort and wholeheartedness. If you cannot manage discomfort, [you barrel] into perfectionism, blame, rationalizing—without taking away key learnings.” She continues, “People who rise strong are curious people. [They ask questions like] ‘What do I need to dig into?’” (Time Magazine interview September 21, 2015). In other words, shame needs to be outed or it will kill your heart.
It is uncomfortable to face our shame. But until we do, we can’t live wholehearted lives. Wholehearted means being open about our fears, failures, and weaknesses. So, if you desire to passionately love God with ALL of your heart, get comfortable with being uncomfortable!
On the Road,
Steve is just getting started on Twitter @pastorsteveholt
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No website for Worshipper&Warrior yet, but it’s coming