Responding to Israel Houghton (and Other Leaders Who Fall)

by Authentic Manhood
Responding to Israel Houghton (and Other Leaders Who Fall)
Photo by Sipa Press

By: JT McCraw

Transparency doesn’t exude from the mouths of men easily. Unless a man is caught with his hand in the cookie jar, transparency is as rare as a twenty-three year old bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. It’s why I feel it necessary to share a smidgen of my story to set the stage before responding to the public marital failure of Israel Houghton.

I’ll never forget the phone call I received from my wife on Friday, January 16, 2004. While driving with a friend, I answered the phone and heard a low, stern voice say, “You need to get home right now.” My first thought was that something had happened to one of my three children. When I asked, she assured me the kids were fine but we weren’t.

As I topped the steps to enter the kitchen, she was standing with my computer on the granite counter beside her. “What is this?” As she revealed the image on the screen, my first thought was to blame a pop-up and guilt her for not trusting me like I had so many times before. Little did she know, the image on the screen was just the first ripple of a tsunami that would destroy the very foundation of our marriage and change our lives forever. As I fumbled trying to remember which story line to use, it became obvious she wasn’t interested. She was utterly devastated and heartbroken. This would be the second time in our twelve-year marriage I would admit to multiple marital failures.

Just this week, the devastating news that Israel Houghton, the multi Dove and Grammy award winning Worship Leader, and his wife have called it quits after twenty years of marriage due to a past marital failure. You can read his full statement HERE. I’m sure the mud will start slinging and well meaning adolescent “Christians” will start rolling up their sleeves and picking up stones. There will be no shortage of soapbox preaching filled with useless speculation and a plethora of self-righteous opinions “as if they will change anything.”

How we respond will reveal our arrogance and pride or our understanding God’s grace, mercy, and judgment.

What if it was your brother, sister, or a close friend?  Would your response be different?

Well Israel is a son, a father, and friend. The guilt and shame he’s carried has surely been unbearable. The betrayal she’s felt unfathomable. The Houghton family in some form has changed forever.

How should we respond? Should we join the crowd of stone throwers? How we respond will reveal our arrogance and pride or our understanding God’s grace, mercy, and judgment.

Let me suggest, through my own experience, we start with the following:

1.  Pray First

Take a vested interest in their family by praying for them instead of being just interested in talking about them. Luke 18:1 tells us we “ought to always pray and not to lose heart.” We should pray that the Houghton family not lose heart. Pray they would continue to surround themselves with pastors, friends, and family that would love them unconditionally yet firmly. Even though the depth of pain is great, pray they would forgive themselves and each other. Pray for reconciliation, wisdom, peace, healing, and for their children. Pray.

2.  Show Grace

To be gracious toward someone doesn’t make you an accessory to the offense. While the court of public opinion will attempt to be the judge and jury, they will never have the appropriate information to hand down a legitimate verdict. Only God and those in their inner circle have the right vantage point. As indicated in his post, Israel has accepted full responsibility and realizes the sobering reality of consequences. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Sow grace, reap grace.  You’ll need it one day.

3.  Trust God

From the beginning, God’s people have sinned against Him. Israel’s admitted failure is not a sin against humanity but against the creator of the universe. Although we may feel hurt and angry, ultimately we have to trust that God who has the unambiguous right to pass judgment, waits to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18). God still exists and continues to be a father that cares deeply for his children, even those that go astray. He has always proven to be trustworthy. Let’s trust the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding.

Thirteen years has passed since that terrible yet amazing night when my life changed forever. Somehow through the unbearable pain and unfathomable betrayal, my wife chose to stay and be a part of an amazing story of reconciliation. It took true repentance, unbelievable forgiveness, prayer, grace and trusting that God and his word were true.  I hope against hope that the Houghton’s can experience what my wife and I have. I hope you can too.

Fear Not, Fight Well.


JT McCraw is the men’s pastor at Bethel World Outreach in Brentwood, TN and the founder of the BE MEN Movement, where he provides oversight for this multi-ethnic, multi-site men’s ministry, focusing on engaging and equipping men to serve Christ. Presently they have locations in Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Alabama and Arizona. JT lives in Franklin, TN with his wife of twenty-four years and their five children. You can follow JT on Twitter @jtmccraw.

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29 thoughts on “Responding to Israel Houghton (and Other Leaders Who Fall)

  1. Great word!
    Real example of God’s grace and love for someone who did not deserve it and none of us do! I would that we all would respond to the failings of others as God and YOU have.

  2. This is a real jab to the gut for me. I am uterly speechless and gasping for air as this is the first that I’ve heard of this. But as Ps. JT has so eloquently penned what I believe is an accurate and sober response…God Is the only righteous judge, …I have no stone to throw. Let us pray for Israel, his family and all our Christian leaders in every facet and sector of society.

    1. Read the book! Wrote it too! I’ve been there myself. Praying for this family! No condemnation from me, only love! Thank you caring JT

    2. Wow, I must admit my initial thoughts toward another accomplished christian music artist choosing the death of something so sacred made me want to accuse. Without even hearing what happened, I had decided, in a split second, that he was wrong and I was right. Thank you Pastor for helping me reconsider. I pray that the God of peace extends Himself to their family in a miraculous measure. I also pray that if this tragedy were to happen in my home, that others would follow your advice and your wife’s example.

  3. Thank you for your words and insightful thoughts. I agree that it all begins with prayer. We need more prayer than we could ever truly realize!! Prayer is the start of any significant change we hope to achieve.

  4. Great blog! Thank you for sharing this reminder of the appropriate response to this situation for anyone. I will be praying for the Houghton family

  5. Peace to the Houghton Family! May the Lord sustain his heart, and I’m believing for reconciliation, restoration, and redemption of what sin has done. We overcome!! Great post, J.T.

  6. JT,

    I totally agree with you. Like you, I have been through – and still going through – the journey of being up front with my beautiful wife about my past. If it were not for God’s grace; her willingness to forgive me and walk with me through the reconciliation process; and a strong and supportive Men’s ministry my marriage would have ended.

    Your insight is spot on and is definitely opposite of how “the world” will react to a Believer going through any trial or tribulation. Isreal Houghton, I am praying for you and your family . . . I pray for healing and reconcilitation!

    Great post!

  7. JT this is great. I am praying for the Houghton Family. Everytime I hear your story it shows me that God is still in the miracle working business. This should give every man that is going through this hope that God can turn it around.

  8. Thanks so much for yet another reminder of how we all fall short and the grace of God is always a wonderful place to rest! For all of us who have been there, thank you!!

  9. Though it is not easy, above everything else, you CAN come back from this as a man. But you MUST be honest with yourself and your struggles or you’ll never be honest with God or your accountability brothers. Inside every man is a deeper struggle that is the core of why we made the decisions we have. It set me free after almost three decades of living in what I called, “the bitterness prison”. Brother Israel can be restored, just like any man of God who has painfully lived this out and later on his faith became STRONGER because he was determined to FIGHT. But in any situation like this, love, grace and truth MUST be intertwined, just like JT said. Men, THIS IS NOT A GAME, and the devil is hell bent on using anything & everything to try to trip up Godly men. Never ever let your guard down, not even for a second.

  10. Great transparency and wisdom being shared on here. These situations can be hard to swallow but it is imperative to change the focus to Gods grace and mercy on our own lives because we didn’t and don’t deserve it either. By looking through that lens, one is less likely to be so quick to throw stones and cut the person who’s fallen short down.

  11. Thank you Pastor JT, praying for the Houghton family. My father had an affair more than 30yrs ago & a child was born out of that. My parents reconciled & will be celebrating 46yrs of marriage this Oct. Dec of last yr my dad took ill with stage 4 cancer. Now i can truly see God’s grace as my mom stood by my dad back then & how she takes care of him now… staying true to the vows she took… for better or for worse; in sickness & in health. Thank you Lord, for your grace. Mom, I salute you.

  12. Great words and thinking supporting a brother in Christ. We must just be carefull that we do not turn too much on the people who is disappointed in what happen and over emphasize on the people to say that you got no right to judge if they express their disappointment because we do have a responsibility before God and men otherwise we can loose the integrity as chistians and can be called Hippocrates as we are the month piece to speak against wrongs in our communities and governments and society. Let us lay emphasis on our brothers repentance and show the world that what is to acknowledge your wrongdoing and how to continue walk in good faith in God even though our brother needs to deal with his error. Sometimes the world say we are quick to defend our brothers but we quick to speak against others. It is always good to show them that all do sin but how you deal with it. How you turn away from it and how you continue walking in the will of God
    As painfully as it is do I trust that he will regain strength and that his life will be restored. Good to see so many supporting him and his wife. .

  13. Man, with my past history in my relationship and being a leader(Worship Pastor) in a church that had other leaders fall in the same manner, I followed the ministry of Israel with hope for my family and hope for something unbreakable. May have been my last hope…….

    1. I understand M. Moore. The collateral damage caused by men such as Israel can be painful to the souls of many. It’s why we must never put our hope in man. I respect Israel for his many God given talents, but my hope is reserved for the only one who will never leave me nor forsake me.

      Psalms 39:7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

      Keep fighting the fight of faith friend.

  14. Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted

  15. I would love an opportunity to reach out to them. My husband and I are marriage coaches in Winter Haven, FL and are humbled to share that we have an amazing success rate with Christian couples who are struggling in their marriages. As you have shared, reconciliation is possible. I will be praying for their marriage.

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