Pastor John Gray revealed that he stepped away from leading Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina, to work on his marriage and family.
“A few months ago I sat down from leading at Relentless. My life wasn’t in order,” Gray wrote on Instagram Friday. “Church isn’t first. My wife is.”
Along with the lengthy post, the minister shared a professional photo of his wife, Aventer, posing in a gown. He then proceeded to honor her as he has done in times past after rumors of affairs circulated in the media claiming the pastor was unfaithful to his wife of eight years.
“This is my wife. She is from God. She is a life giver. She is a kingdom builder. Her name is Aventer. I met her at church. She was worshipping God through dance. Over time, she allowed me in her life and let me dance with her. She took my ring and said yes and we began our forever journey,” Gray said.
He then explained that what his wife did not know at the time of their young love, was that he never knew “consistent discipline, planning, leadership, manhood, or personal holiness in action from a man’s standpoint.” Gray added that he was living a “shadow life” but God was “unwilling” to let him stay in that place of brokenness and allow him to assume that he was whole when he was not.
“I failed to uphold the holy standard of God in my marriage. And I’m sorry. Although you are the only woman I’ve ever slept with, emotional unfaithfulness is just as wrong,” Gray continued. “Sin is sin.”
“People want to minimize one sin over another, when it all can get you sent to hell,” he maintained.
Gray credited marriage in helping him face his flesh.
“Flesh versus spirit. It is every man’s battle. Loving God isn’t enough. Preaching Jesus isn’t enough. Face yourself. Get delivered. Or hurt the ones who actually love you the most,” he said.
The post comes after last week's announcement from Hillsong Church that it fired megachurch Pastor Carl Lentz for a “moral failure” and his refusal to submit to leadership while employed with the global ministry.
Gray said that, in his situation, he's seeking counsel and will continue to do so.
“I started intense counseling (personal and for my marriage) in the summer. Scariest thing ever. Most necessary thing ever. I had no one to blame. My life is my responsibility,” Gray declared.
The father of two said he brought much shame to his family and seeing his wife’s name in the media because of his unfaithfulness “broke” his soul.
“So since I was the cause of public embarrassment, let me be JUST AS LOUD ABOUT PUBLIC HONOR,” Gray added. “Aventer you are a miracle to me. I am sorry for the pain I have caused you. You [sic] name should have NEVER come up in any conversation, in any negative way with anyone ever. I must do the work to earn your trust.”
The preacher ended his post by vowing that he will work to become the husband and “man God intended.”
Gray also promised to be a better leader for his congregation moving forward.
He became pastor of Relentless Church in 2018 after years of preaching at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Since then, he has come under much criticism for gifting his wife with a $200,000 Lamborghini for their eight-year anniversary just months after he confessed to listening to “voices” that lured him away and almost caused the couple to divorce.
Last month, the pastor announced to his congregation that he was going on a “sabbatical” while preaching a message titled, “You Are Here.” Gray confessed that he needed “immediate intervention from the Holy Ghost.”
"I'm going to step away into a time of sabbatical,” he said during the Sunday service, revealing that he was stepping away so that his heart, soul and mind “can be restored.”
Gray shared that he would continue doing the “necessary work” in five different areas of his life.
“Primary among them is my wife, my family, my kids, my physical health, this church, and the leadership and the stewardship of this church,” the Ohio native explained.
“It's important to take a step back to realize that I have been battling, and being a wounded warrior only has so much celebration to it. Sometimes you need to sit still for a moment and allow the Lord to restore your soul; I'm no different,” he added.
Gray noted that he is in a process that's being “overseen by elders who have years of senior pastoral leadership and oversight” that will get him to a place of “wholeness and restoration.”
“I've been needing it for so very long. I'm grateful to God,” he said, explaining to the congregation that he will continue to be their pastor and is doing the work now “in order to run this next 40 years strong. I need to just step back and rest. I don't need judgment, I need prayers.”
The Christian Post reached out to Relentless Church for clarification on Gray’s sabbatical but did not receive a response by press time.
According to the church broadcasts, Gray did not preach for a month but delivered a sermon, this weekend, so it’s unclear whether or not he is still on leave.