SOS Alex Absalom

Alex Absalom is part of the Leadership Team at Rivertree Church in Canton, OH with his primary focus on Missional Communities.

In 1998 my wife and I sensed God’s clear call to move from the church plant we’d led in London for four years.  We relocated cities to join the staff of a larger, rapidly growing church, led by a close friend.  Eight months in, however, the dream turned into a nightmare when he admitted to being in a long-term affair with one of our colleagues.

The whole church went into free fall, there was an incredible level of hurt, anger and confusion, with everyone having their own opinion about what should happen next.  Asked to be the interim leader, I experienced vicious backbiting, slander, gossip and character assassination from supporters of the protagonists, which was bewildering in its blatant unfairness.  To add to the downward spiral, under my tremendous leadership hundreds of people left the church in a matter of months!

Through that time I was regularly asking God for permission to leave.  “I didn’t sign up for this” was my refrain – to which came the response, “You’re right, you didn’t sign up – you were drafted!”

As the weeks went by and my prayers became more openhearted, we began to sense a deeper message from God.  We were also far more aware of the many faithful, godly people in the church who were supporting and praying for us.  Through it all, there was one theme that emerged in what God was speaking, which crystallized in a verse from Esther 4:14: “Who knows but that you have come to this position for such a time as this?”  God was giving His comfort, strength and encouragement to tough it out, that in spite of all external signs we were exactly where He wanted us to be.  In turn this led to an awareness that in fact we were called long-term to that church, and in time that was affirmed as I became the Senior Pastor.

Of course, the journey of recovery for the church (and us) took a long time to fully work through, but we ended up staying there for another six years.  Today that church is a holy, Spirit-filled place, with awesome leaders who are leading tremendous missional growth, which gives us great joy!

For those of you who are currently in the middle of the storm, here are a few of the key lessons we learned:

1.  Talk with God.  Tell Him exactly how it feels.  He is not intimidated by our candor!  In fact, I think our healing can only truly begin after we have been totally honest with God.

2.  Allow Him to speak to you prophetically, especially through the Scriptures.   Our tendency can be to run away from God, but this is a time to double-down on those spiritual disciplines, regardless of your mood.  As you step into that place of faith, you will find hope to see you through the toughest of days.  Also be aware of the larger picture, and start to see if there are any overarching words that He might be speaking to you.

3.  You are not alone!  At times I felt like Elijah – “I’m the only servant of yours left, God!” – but, of course, that was not the case.  Ask Him to show you who your praying encouragers are within the church.  Be pro-active in communicating with them and trusted friends and family outside of the situation.

4.  Stand firm.  Four times in four verses in Ephesians 6 Paul tells us to stand against the enemy.  Sometimes we have occasions in ministry when we are charging forward, taking ground quickly for the Kingdom, having great fun!  But other times we are under huge counter-attack and our orders are simply to hold our position, to not retreat, to take our stand and not let the enemy over-run that place.  That is not failure, that is great Kingdom success, however unglamorous it may appear.

5.  The storm WILL pass.  It may not feel like it, and it might take many months or even years, but one day you will be able to look back with equanimity upon the situation and people involved, and give great thanks to God for the tremendous testimony you now have of His faithfulness and goodness to you.

Originally from England, Alex Absalom and his family are missionaries to the States and live in NE Ohio.  He is on the senior team of RiverTree Christian Church, which is planting scores of mid-sized Missional Communities, and coaching church planters and leaders transitioning existing churches into a more missional mode.  Learn more about Alex at

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