The 25 August 2006 issue of the Gazette Virginian contained yet more fodder for the world to disparage Christians, shame the name of the Lord Jesus, and mock Christian ministry. Bold letters on the front page noted a "Pastor Charged with Stealing from Church."
The article does specify that the pastor was a former native of the area, so fortunately he has done no damage to any existing ministry in our little corner of the world, but certainly disillusioned a few saints and compromised a few folks' trust. He was dismissed from the church he served in our area in 2004 for unknown reasons yet after dismissal, continued to use the church's account to pay personal bills until January 2006. If that does not raise an eyebrow as to the handling of the money bag at this church...
However, my heart breaks for this man because it very easily could have been me. Oswald Chambers said in the June 1st devotional in My Utmost for His Highest that “…there is no criminal who is half so bad in actuality as you know yourself to be in possibility.” Mr. Chambers concurs with the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 17:9; “The heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked, who can know it?” I am not above this fallen pastor in any way because my heart has the same wicked tendencies. Perhaps he had lost hope, perhaps he did not know where the next dollar would come from, perhaps he lost faith that God could provide. Any number of things could have dissuaded this man from trusting God.
The fact of the matter is, I myself can be a closet atheist. I find myself failing to believe God's precious promises everyday. I find myself walking a narrow chalk line between faith and disbelief. I find myself fearful at times. This sinful world we live in can overwhelm a man if he is not careful and lead him trip-tropping down a pretty path of destruction. God can and will forgive Mr. Kelly. The state of Virginia will probably not be so lenient.
May those of us who love the Lord and love serving Him pray for this man and others like him who would throw their ministries, their reputations, and their families away for table scraps. May we also pray that Christian congregations learn to discern the hireling Jesus warned about and be bold enough to dismiss that man before he can bring shame upon himself, his family, Christian ministry, and most importantly, the name of our precious Savior.