Greg Locke, an Internet-famous pastor from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, admitted to his 1.6 million Facebook followers that he had indeed been in the midst of a divorce, after we wrote about the situation here. In the aforementioned video from Locke, he acknowledges the divorce, but claims that he was not in adultery. When I spoke to Locke on the phone, as I stated in this podcast episode, he said that he was “moving on with his life.” When asked if he was “moving on” with the woman (a church staffer) in question, he acknowledged that it was a possibility. When further asked if the female staffer – who is also in the midst of a divorce – had yet finalized the termination of her own marriage (legally), Locke said he did not know.
While claiming to be “innocent” of them all, Locke did not contradict any specific accusation we presented to him. He did, however, place blame upon those in his congregation who had alerted the world to his divorce.
What we can affirm without question is that Locke indeed put his wife on a bus and she currently lives in a shelter for women. We (by that I mean one of my contributors, Seth Dunn) has spoken to the woman who runs that shelter. We discovered where Locke’s wife is living due to a pastor who is familiar with the situation, reaching out to us with a phone call and wanting us to know that Melissa was not – as some had actually wondered – dead somewhere.
He asked us to defend and support Locke’s wife, but also to keep her location confidential. Additionally, she has been ill, and in the hospital. By Locke’s own declaration, which he made on Facebook, he had to arrange the retrieval of some of her belongings due to the abrupt nature of her disappearance.
At least one of the women also living at the shelter has spoken out on Facebook, but we have digitally removed her name to protect the innocent (women’s shelters – quite rightly – require extreme privacy because of the nature of their ministry).
Since we first posted about Locke, and the story was picked up by the Christian Post and other news outlets, current and former church members, including relatives of the staff member with whom Locke has had a relationship, have begun speaking out all over the Internet.
Locke drew the ire of church members for appearing in public, as though on a date, with the female staff member. With his children still living with his mother (some – according to both his mother and Locke himself- have not wanted to be with their father, and some have returned since the story broke), Locke was spending time with the divorced staff member and her children.
We think this picture is worth a thousand words (it was the Facebook profile picture of a close relative, whose identity we are being discreet and sensitive about, because there is no reason for them to be brought into this by us or anybody else).
One person (local to the area) texted Greg to find out why in the world he would be seen in public in such a way within days of putting his wife on a bus. Locke lit into them, claiming his church staff were well aware (a staff that includes the woman in question).
The name obscured below is that of a family member of the staff person, who is reportedly incensed that her loved one is in such a relationship with Locke.
Indeed, his mother does know. What is this time obscured below are comments regarding minors and others whose inclusion is both unnecessary and inappropriate.
Since then, the Facebook page of the staff member under discussion has been made private (or taken down, we are unsure which). Likewise, Locke has taken down his video response to our post in the wake of some in the local community calling foul on its inaccuracies. Again, the obfuscating, red herring video Greg Locke posted in self defense has been removed due to what appears to be local pressure.
These individuals are either former members of Locke’s congregation or locals to the Mt. Juliet area (we have confirmed this). The following is just a sampling of what’s been made public via social media. While we cannot vouch for every testimony of every person – we can vouch for our own.
To reiterate, the staff member’s family has testified to Locke’s relationship with the woman, Greg’s family has testified to Locke’s relationship with the woman, and Locke himself acknowledged to us that he’s “moving on with his life” possibly with this woman.
But even more disturbing is Locke’s treatment of those in the congregation who have spoken out about the whole ordeal. I covered it on yesterday’s webcast. You can pick up at the pertinent portion at the 44.30 mark.
Now, what this sermon review will make perfectly clear (should you choose not to listen) is that at the end of November 2017, Locke had already told his congregation that his marriage was crumbling but had not told his 1.6 million Facebook followers.
By this time some of his church had left (in his now-deleted video, Greg said “lots.” In the sermon I reviewed I believe he said 20 or so, something like that, and so the numbers may have increased) over the divorce. Greg preaches from the end of Acts and Paul’s shipwreck, upon the island of Miletus, when he is bitten by a viper. In this crime of a sermon, Locke makes the Biblical story into an allegory in which he is Paul, and his critics (he has one in particular in mind) is the viper.
He declares his critics “no more saved than a dog,” calls them “stupid” and says “stupid people get [him] lit.” He also tells them “not to let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.” He tells them to leave the church and says he does not want them back. He proclaims himself happy to start the church over again, and to sell the church building to a bowling alley.
It was the most atrocious display of sheep-beating I have ever personally witnessed. He then calls a woman out by name (we have seen her financial giving statement, and she was a solid and regular giver, which might seem impertinent except to demonstrate her commitment to Locke’s church) from the pulpit and threatens that if people keep criticizing him, he’ll call out their name in the pulpit next (1.16.30 mark).
The final irony in all of this is that it really wasn’t his own sermon he was preaching (except for when he turned his guns on his own congregation). As I demonstrated in the program, his message is seemingly derived (at some points line-by-line) from another Tennessee preacher. You can compare Locke’s message on SermonAudio with Jeremy Bollinger’s message on SermonAudio (by the same title, “Shake it Off”)
Gentlemen, do not think about taking them down; they’ve already been saved to the Cloud. Bollinger preached his message years ago. When we contacted Bollinger, he says he got the message from “Kenny Baldwin.” My question is, does anybody in Tennessee write their own sermons, anymore? Making the Acts 28 story about gossip isn’t exactly taken from the text, but forced into it. How many people can come up with that bizarre eisegesis on their own? Seriously, pastors. Write your own sermons.
As I demonstrated in the webcast, the point of all of this is that the Bible has specific standards laid out in the pastoral epistles for qualifications for pastoral service (1 Timothy 3 is a good place to start). Locke said in his now-deleted video that he wasn’t stepping down because his church didn’t want him to.
A few problems with that. First, it’s not up to the church, as the local church cannot override the Word of God and next, after watching Locke metaphorically beat a poor woman from the pulpit, it’s no wonder others are scared to death of him.
Another issue is this; it’s really hard to find time to write your own sermons when your life is clearly out of order and upside down. Most pastors who plagiarize their messages do so because they either feel an (unnecessary) pressure to “perform” well or because they haven’t properly prioritized their time. It’s for this reason that Paul writes, “If a man cannot rule his own household well, how can he rule the household of God?”
Amazingly, at one point in the sermon Locke preached (I dare not say his sermon), he said, “If you can’t trust me in my character how can you trust me to handle God’s word” (that’s a paraphrase, I will not torture myself by listening to it twice). The fact that Locke did not handle God’s Word well in this sermon might indicate the opposite point to the one Locke meant to convey; if you can’t trust his character, you probably can’t trust his handling of the Word.
Third (I’m keeping track even if you aren’t), some might ask why we do this. We’ve been accused of being atheists or homosexuals, but nope. All of our team are Baptists (some of us Southern Baptists, some of us Reformed Baptists, some of us in Bible churches that are Baptist in everything but the name) in right standing with local churches. If we don’t monitor and correct our own hypocrisy, we will have led the world to lift our Savior to shame. Believe it or not, there are a whole host of people who need Jesus who have said, “Well, at least you’re not helping to sweep this under the rug like so many others.” No, we are not trying to sweep this under the rug because of point four below.
Fourthly, we correct ourselves (that is evangelicalism in general), because we have no need to hide our sins. We have a Savior. His name is Jesus. He forgives all sins of all those who by faith are justified before God. That type of justifying, saving faith is the type that leads us to repentance and a turning from sin. If you had no Savior, I suppose it would make sense to hide and cover-up trespasses. But because we have a Savior, we can freely admit our sin, confess it as sin, and be forgiven.
What Greg Locke needs – and what he can freely have – is absolution. He can be forgiven. This doesn’t mean that his qualifications for ministry are automatically (or ever, depending upon your ecclesiological viewpoint) restored. What it does mean is that he can shout Romans 8:1 from the rooftops.
“There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus.”
But, before one is forgiven, they must confess. They must confess contritely. They must cling to Jesus more than their own career or standing in the public eye.
Unlike what Steven Anderson espoused on my program yesterday (with which I disagreed), no one is beyond forgiveness. But please, for the sake of your soul everyone, confess your sin as sin (not “being messy” or “mistakes” or “a weird place,” as Locke called it), own up to it, and be forgiven.
It’s in forgiveness that the running stops. It’s in forgiveness that the spin machine stops turning. It’s in forgiveness that the heart can rest. It’s in forgiveness you can surrender and truly, honestly, and righteously “move on with your life.”
[Contributed by JD Hall]
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