The Redemption and Reentry of a Predator

10 09 2018

I had this question posed from last week’s blog, Signs of a Predator in Your Church, (and I’ll paraphrase here), “What about the reentry of a ‘predator’ to the church after experiencing redemption?”  It was a great question and calls for a follow-up answer because a major role of pastors/leadership in the local church is to protect its members.

Redemption means to be bought, paid for by another.  To redeem is to atone for a fault or mistake.  When one is redeemed by the cross they are repurchased, made right through Christ.  However, that redemption does not remove the consequences of one’s sin.  If someone is guilty of murder, goes to jail and then experiences true redemption, they will still be incarcerated and rightfully so. Salvation does not stop the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Keep in mind all of us needed redemption; none of us is or was without sin.

With that, what would be our response to this repentant one?  It is said that it takes a lifetime to create a sexual predator. What that means is they perhaps have a history of being abused and abusing.  There is most certainly a not so good background preceding the life of a predator.  And there are a lot of factors to consider, but through the love of Christ we are welcoming to the saint and the sinner.  We do not judge their heart, but hope for the ongoing completing work of salvation to wholly change a life.  First Corinthians six is very clear and concise when it says, “And that is what some of you were (the sexually immoral).  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  It does not get any clearer than that.

Please remember not all abuse is the same, however.  Some is accomplished without ever touching the victim through exhibitionism or voyeurism. There are presently over 550,000 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.

Does this mean as the church we have an open arms policy and immediate access to our teens and children’s ministries?  Does this mean we pose no boundaries or period of caution for the one that struggled with this sin?  It clearly does not.  So, here are some suggestions when dealing with this person and their reentry into the local church. (Note: By the way, there are 600,000 persons who leave prison every year.  A reentry program for your church is something to consider.)

A few considerations

  1. You are not looking to enable an abuser in any way or further traumatize a victim. So we err on the side of caution and not on the side of mercy.
  2. At the risk of sounding harsh, if you are dealing with a registered sex offender, then in all humility and an attitude of, “If not for the grace of God there go I,” the congregation needs to be aware and the former offender should give permission to make this known. It does not need to be a public announcement, but every family should receive an email or some form of communication.  In this effort, you are protecting the whole and not just the one or two.
  3. Often the one who has been incarcerated enters a “reentry program” before reentry into society at large. Create a reentry program with clear boundaries, e.g., counseling, close accountability, Internet watch programs, close supervision in church activities and certainly no access to minors (which means no activities, no transportation and no children’s church functions unless it involves their biological children). Create boundaries in the spirit of love and not in a spirit of retribution.  (Suggestion: Designate a reentry person and assign them to this member.)
  4. Be clear on these person’s probation boundaries/terms. If this individual was arrested for their crimes and convicted, they will have probation/parole guidelines to follow and will most assuredly be on Megan’s List.  They will have a public record of criminal convictions.  Obtain this record and be informed.  Discuss their attendance to your church with their parole officer to be sure it falls within allowable guidelines.  (It’s not a bad idea to receive written permission from the PO that this person can attend your church.)
  5. This person normally spent years learning how to “groom” and “grooming” victims in that it became a lifestyle of action and thought. Time to heal, time to rebuild foundations and time to learn another way of thinking and acting is crucial.  Be aware of the propensity of the offender to be a reoffender.
  6. Be assured of ongoing counseling and one-on-one accountability in this person’s life. Depending on the level of their crime, it is not too far-reaching to have their designate reentry person with them at all times when on your church property.
  7. A violation of these guidelines will result in immediate action taken to remove this person from the fellowship.
  8. Know your states laws when it comes to sex offenders. For example, in Iowa it is illegal for a convicted sex offender to be on any school premises or public libraries.

Clinical psychologist, Anna Salter, wrote a helpful book titled, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders.  In that book she said, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying.  Many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachel Denhollander, the attorney who summoned her personal faith in her trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar said, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.”

Jesus set a man free from his bondage and then that same man begged Jesus to get into the boat with Him and His disciples. Our Lord’s response to him was, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…” (Mark 5: 19). Jesus might have been creating a boundary for further healing for this man as he left his sin-filled life and reentered his community.

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Signs of a Predator in Your Church

4 09 2018

In light of recent news articles about sexual abuse coming out of Pennsylvania, I thought it appropriate to consider this subject in brief.

I sat in my counseling office with a counselee and her mentor (on more than one occasion) who was telling me about her years of growing up in a conservative church environment and how she was repeatedly sexually molested.  Some of the stories made my stomach ache and with others I found myself getting angry: angry at parents who didn’t believe their son or daughter, angry at youth leaders who did not address the danger, angry at church pastors and leaders that kept secrets and provided cover-up and, of course, angry at abusers.

Sex offenders will take years to infiltrate a place to carry out their sociopathic behavior.  They will slowly and methodically work on building relationships so they are trusted and believed.  Sex offenders’ scope out their victims, finding the one(s) whom they believe they can dominate.  They feel entitled to do what they do because they see their victims as persons who desire to be dominated, need to be dominated.  They take their time to target persons who need them for some reason, making them even more vulnerable.

Here are some signs to look for:

  1. They do not make themselves stand out or act creepy. They work hard at looking and exhibiting “normal.”  They work a normal job and live in a normal neighborhood.
  2. They are giving extra, special, generous and consistent attention to a victim they have targeted. They are charmers and gift givers.
  3. They will create an environment of need. They desire the victim to need them for some specific reasons.  This gives them power and control to manipulate.
  4. They play on emotions and will sulk, become “depressed,” express words of rejection, play the victim and could even threaten self harm all in an effort to take advantage of their victim and receive their pity.
  5. They lie a lot.They lie about where they have been, what they have been doing, what they’re thinking and almost everything else in an attempt to give their victims what they think they desire to hear or need.
  6. They will be steadily pushing boundaries. There will be suggestions of behavior that crosses boundaries that will lead to unwanted actions.
  7. They will disempower their victim by expressing love in an attempt to isolate and move away from other trusted relationships.
  8. Eventually, as the victim becomes more uncomfortable, the predator becomes more aggressive and even violent because they are feeling desperate.

We don’t spot them because they blend in and we’re not naturally looking for a predator.  In fact, most of us can’t even relate to such evil.  With the signs above you can watch out for your children within your extended family, your neighborhood, your child’s school, sports activities and yes, your local church.

 

Psalm 55: 21 says, “His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.”





Have You Been Noticed Lately?

27 08 2018

My grandson often repeats, “Papaw, did you see me…” or, “Watch me…” You can fill in the blank with almost anything he does or desires to be noticed doing.  It can be a really small thing, however he still longs to be observed.  He lives for that voice of approval and praise.  It’s a child thing, right

 

Actually it’s a people thing.  Do you desire your spouse to notice you?  How about your boss?  Do you like it when your teacher notices your extra effort or when your neighbor compliments you on your landscaping?

 

Here is the troubling thing in longing to be noticed.  If it’s simply all about me, then I can’t be noticed enough. If being noticed connects to my personal need for security or affirmation, I can’t get enough.  In my desire to build some level of esteem, my need becomes insatiable.  

 

Did you know that God notices you?  Why wouldn’t He, He created you.  He longed for your time to be born.  He has always had a plan and a desire for your life.  He has never given up on you and He is continually watching you, noticing you and delighting in you.  All other approval can become lost and we can become deeply discouraged in our self-effort to be noticed, but He waits to show you His love and His approval.

 

No spouse, no child and no parent can satisfy your longing to be noticed. However, God knew you before you were even found in your mother’s womb. (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:4) You have His eye!





How Often Are You Phubbing?

20 08 2018

There’s a new word in town. Have you heard of it?  That word is a combination of two words: phone + snubbing = phubbing.  Do you know a “phubber?”  How would one know if this describes them?  You can start by asking your friends.  Ask your spouse or even better, ask your children.  If people in your life are trying to get your attention while you’re looking down at a small hand-held screen all too frequently, you just might have a phubbing problem.

 

The actual definition goes like this: the habit of snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone. I’m not kidding. Google it. Seems odd to be writing about this subject, but it is a reality in our technology crazed world today.  Airport travelers run into me while walking and looking down at their phone.  It’s tough getting someone’s attention that actually works in a service department while they’re glued to their mobile screen.  We can forever notice how face-to-face relationships have taken a back seat to an email, a text message or a Facebook prompt.  It’s not unusual to hear bells, whistles, buzzes and other such prompts from mobile devices while in a meeting.

 

But here’s who I really feel for.  I am genuinely concerned for the children of the phubber.  These children are pulling on their parents’ arms, legs, saying “Mommy/Daddy” repeatedly, asking questions, trying to converse and the adults are either not responding or saying, “Wait a minute would you?  I have to finish this text message.”  I just want to scream, “PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN AND LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD!”  You brought them into the world to teach, train, listen to, care for, play with and love. PLEASE put your device aside and interact with your child.

 

Not too long ago I was watching the parents on the sidelines of a younger children’s sporting event. Parents, not too far back in the history of parents attending their child’s sports activity, would actually watch their kids on the playing field, yell and scream words of motivation and affirmation. Today, they’re looking down, addicted to a device that is causing them to miss watching their children grow up. And when that child asks, “Daddy did you see me…?” You can fill in the blank. That parent will lie and say, “Yea buddy, you were great!”

 

One day those same children will have their own device and then the snubbing of a parent will quickly and sometimes, most deservedly take place.





A Life Too Young To Leave This Earth

6 08 2018

Recently Mary and I, along with an auditorium full of people, attended a memorial service for a 19-year-old woman.  She lost her earthly life in the recent Lancaster County, PA flooding.

The service was worshipful and honoring to her, albeit extremely emotional.  There is that mixture of sorrow and joy surrounding a time of tragedy like this one, but she and her family loved Jesus and that love was passionately evident during the service.

No one would have thought this beautiful, vibrant and loving teen would have gone to her eternal home this early, too early.  No one was prepared for the loss of a life full of joy, love and caring for others. Even her Italian restaurant owners where she found employment shared through tears that her love and care for the other staff was like no employee they’ve ever employed.  She was a light to all who knew her.

Besides honoring this lovely young lady, what’s my point?  Imagine if this family would have not prepared their daughter for her eternal home.  Imagine if they just never got around to sharing and living the truth of the gospel. Imagine if she never heard the life-giving Scriptures and applied them to her walk on earth.  And, imagine if she would have chosen to walk a different way than her family taught her.

The greatest gift that you can give your children, a child or those around you is Jesus.





Parenting? Try Being a Grandparent

9 07 2018

I absolutely love being a grandparent.  I have been named, “Papaw.”  What an honor to hold, to love and to care for these little ones.  To hear the words, “Papaw’s home” is music to my ears as it reminds me of when my children were small.  I wrote a former blog that called, “Grandparenting a Lost Art” and it is, but it is as well, a second chance.

 

It’s a second chance at being calm, filled with peace and less anxious in my parenting.  It’s a second chance at having time dedicated to my three grandsons for what THEY desire to do.  It’s a second chance at being less concerned about provision and work and more concerned about making them laugh and taking rides on “Mr. John Deere.”  It’s a second chance at saying ‘yes’ rather than saying ‘no’ all too often for my personal convenience.  And it’s a second chance to read to them and to listen to them or just to sit and have conversation at their level about the stuff on their mind.

 

Are you a young parent today?  Can you look at the above paragraph and then ask yourself, “How can I make all of these happen today in my parenting, not waiting until I’m a grandparent?”

 

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. Psalms 103: 17





A Car Stolen or a Gift?

29 06 2018

They say to, “drive it like you stole it.”  Little did I know he actually would!

 

I have given several cars away in my lifetime, but this one…it didn’t go as planned. Having a car business on the side since 1996, I’ve had the opportunity to purchase a lot of cars for a lot of people in need of updated vehicles.  Initially this one was no different, or so I thought.

 

The purchaser was one of our former foster children.  I sold his high mileage, worn out car for him and then purchased a newer used model. When we signed the paperwork he gave me a check for the sales tax, but failed to pay me for the car.  He told me he was in dire straits and needed to use the money I gave him for his trade-in for past due bills.  And then he asked me to be his bank, by providing a loan for the new purchase.  Because I knew him, loved him and trusted him, I said I would, even handing the title of the car over to him. (That last part re: the title? Not a good move by the way.)

 

A year later not one single payment was made.  I realized none were forthcoming.  I tried contacting him, but his phone number was changed.  Feeling very taken advantaged of, I prayed and asked God what I should do.  He told me to forgive the debt and to write him a letter expressing those words.  I obeyed, but never heard from him again.

 

Over a year later I received a letter from his biological mother.  She wrote that her son committed suicide and when going through his possessions she found my letter of forgiveness to him.  In her grief, she took the time to thank someone who loved and cared for her boy.  While certainly not a happy ending, I was so thankful for obeying the voice of God.  I hoped that somehow it made a difference in his life for eternity.

 

I suppose too often we can look at how life affects only us and forget how it’s affecting others. Who is God daring you to love today without expectation of return?








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