(Publisher’s Note: Dear readers, I’m excited about this series, “Forgive Me Father, For I Have Sinned”. It’s written from the painful experience of a true brother who has walked the road of sin, shame, and restoration. When “TheWorshipCommunity.Com” launched, Ben Harrell (aka “el ben”) was one of our most active participants. I had the honor of being in the same church with him, sharing a place on staff with him, and calling him a friend. Though not as closely as I could have been, I’ve walked with him through the last year, always calling him a friend and brother. This series has everything to do with worship, with life, with ministry, and our walk with Christ. My hope and prayer is that the series will bring healing to those who have walked in Ben’s shoes, and will bring a warning to those who are playing with the fire of temptation and sin. If this series resonates with you, please comment and join the discussion. If you need prayer, counsel, accountability, or confidential ministry, please contact us and we’ll do our best to direct you to the best, safe place. For all of us have sinned, and fallen short of God’s glory.)
Part One: The Fall
I braced myself against my car door, the hot May air so thick, I could almost choke on it. I don’t think I had ever felt so disgusted with myself. A sudden realization of just how far I had gone washed over me and I threw up all over the ground next to my car. I wiped my mouth, took a ragged breath, and climbed in my car. I was barely out of the driveway before I texted “911” to my friend, Clint. It was our code, our “you need to call me because I’m about to screw up big time” code. Too late for that, I guess.
He called me less than a minute after I sent the text.
“Clint,” I choked, hot tears running down my cheeks, “I just screwed up bad, man.”
But I should start at the beginning.
This story takes its roots two years and a few months earlier. I was traveling with the worship team that was sent out from the school of ministry I went to, playing keys and helping lead worship with my classmates. We ended up on Saint Simons Island, a beautiful jewel of a place located on the southeastern coast of Georgia. It was a special trip for me because I used to vacation there with my parents when I was a kid. It was there that I first encountered Christian Renewal Church of Saint Simons Island.
CRCSSI was a church plant of a larger mother church in Brunswick, GA, a church that had really pioneered modern worship in the area, and it had some of the most hungry, passionate worshippers I’d come across in a long time. I fell in love with the place immediately. Then I met the pastor, Dan Harris, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever hope to meet. I felt an instant connection with him. Toward the end of the trip, he approached me about coming on staff as the youth pastor, and to say I was excited would be an understatement.
I was a 21-year-old ministry school grad with lots of passion and lots of ideas for shaking things up, and I was being given an opportunity to fulfill the dream I’d had since being called to ministry at 16.
I jumped in with both feet.
Three months into my first year, the worship pastor at CRCSSI, an amazing, talented, wonderful guy named Fred McKinnon (who later founded this website), was led to resign from his position, which left me in the dual role of youth pastor/worship leader, the two-for-one gig occupied by many of you reading these words right now. Truth be told, it was my first time leading worship for an entire church by myself. I honestly didn’t think I was that good those first few Sundays, but everyone was so encouraging, and I could feel myself beginning to grow in my gifting. I was blossoming.
Doors started opening with the local community of musicians and I started being asked to lead worship for local events, and I developed a reputation in the area for being something of a “young gun.” It was all very flattering.
This continued for a year, and then the novelty wore off. I had to face the music (no pun intended): my youth ministry was an afterthought to me and a source of frustration to my pastor, I had grown cocky and arrogant, and worse, my relationship with God had mellowed from a white-hot ache to know Him more to more of a dull throb in the back of my mind. I’d like to re-emphasize that my relationship with God wasn’t non-existent…just mediocre.
That was when the porn started. At first, it was a screw-up here and there, but then it grew until I knew I had to address it. I confessed to Clint, and we both got the accountability software from XXXchurch.com, and I took a deep breath and told myself I was over it. Four months later, I found myself in a totally inappropriate position with a totally inappropriate person, crossing lines that I swore I’d never cross, all for a brief moment of pleasure.
That’s where I ended up losing my lunch on the pavement and calling Clint.
I told him the whole story, sparing none of the embarrassing details. He sat quietly on the other end for a while.
“What am I going to do, Clint?” I asked him, already knowing what I had to do, “if I confess to this, they’ll fire me.”
“Ben, I can’t tell you what to do,” he said with a deep sigh, “you’re going to have to make that decision yourself, but I do know this: what you do now will determine who you’ll be for the rest of your life.”
I won’t lie, I’m a schemer and a dreamer by nature. I already had three or four strategies for making this thing go away, and none of them required me to confess. Then I thought of what it would be like to live with myself.
I didn’t even get through praying for it. That evening in my home, the dialogue between me and God went something like this:
“God, what should I…”
“That’s just my guilty conscience talking. Deep breath. Okay, now really. What should I…”
“Confess your sins one to another so that you may be healed.”
“I know that’s what your word says, but…”
“I don’t want to lose my job.”
“I’m your provider.”
“I don’t want to be hurt.”
“I’m your healer.”
“Okay, Lord. Fine.”
I called Clint with my intentions, and the next morning, I walked into my pastor’s office after staff meeting and spilled my guts about the porn, my struggle with it, the situation the day before, the whole nine. He was very gracious, thanked me for confessing to him, prayed with me, and told me he’d get back with me. I walked out of his office feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Little did I know that the worst was yet to come…
Next Week’s Part 2: Rock Bottom