In his first blog post since stepping down as lead pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Scott Sauls reflected on the “hard” year his family endured and the importance of prioritizing humility and service over seeking power, fame and success.
“Following Christ includes being less concerned with chasing platform, power, likes, follows, 'influencer' vibes, and winning, and more focused on getting low. The way up is the way down. We ascend by descending. We become more by becoming less,” Sauls wrote in a Dec. 3 blog post titled “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.”
“For Christ, this meant death. For us, it means accepting loss and obscurity if that’s what it takes to be at home with Christ. It means valuing steady, humdrum faithfulness more than shiny, shallow platforms,” he wrote.
“It means becoming at ease with brokenness, contrition, and humility and distancing ourselves from ego, pride, and 'project self.' It means chasing character more than chasing reputation. It means nurturing a kind and curious heart, and moving past our craving to be respected or right. It means thinking about 'success' differently. It means feeling grief about the logs in our own eye versus the specks in another’s. It means treasuring Mary’s son, who is also the Son of God.”
Sauls’ post comes less than a month after he resigned as senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church after subjecting church staff to a pattern of “relational, emotional, and spiritual neglect,” according to The Nashville Presbytery, which also said he broke the ninth commandment “by fostering a culture of mistrust among the staff.”
In May, Sauls, a prolific speaker and author who had led the church for 12 years, was placed on leave from his role as lead pastor following an investigation into his leadership conduct by Christ Presbyterian and the Nashville Presbytery. The investigation was initiated after a group of former church staff members sent a letter raising concerns about the pastor's behavior.
In November, Sauls read aloud a letter to his congregation elaborating on his reasons for stepping down. While assuring his church community that “we had hoped to continue forward and help with CPC,” Sauls indicated that “we now believe the most merciful thing to do is step aside so the church can seek new leadership and we can seek the Lord’s will for whatever comes next as well.”
“It has been an honor serving this community,” Sauls declared. “We’re going to miss you. We wish you the best, and we love you.”
Last week, The Tennessean published a lengthy article alleging that under Sauls’ leadership, a group of staff members secretly circulated the book When Narcissism Comes to Church by Chuck DeGroat, which they felt described the pastor’s behavior, including his focus on projects that brought the church acclaim while neglecting others.
Under Sauls, the church expanded, including launching satellite campuses and ministries, according to The Tennessean, but behind the scenes, Sauls reportedly struggled with insecurity and sharing control, leading to staff turnover and changes in ministry focus.
Sauls' leadership style and the church's direction, the outlet said, led to systemic problems, creating a competitive and unprofessional culture among the staff.
In his latest blog post, Sauls acknowledged that this has been a “hard” year for his family.
“This includes losing two family members and a mentor, etcetera," he wrote. "But none of our losses can compare to the ones Mary and Joseph bore, nor can our virtue compare to theirs. But like them, we do have the constancy of Christ, love in our home, and the kindness of friends who walk with us as we weather, together, our shared human frailty.”
Sauls said that in this current season, he finds strength in the Psalms, the Gospels and the Advent narratives, adding: “By themselves, the harder chapters of life can discourage. But as Mary knew early on, the long view will eventually prevail. With God, future glory will resolve all past regret, present hurt, and future fear.”
“As C.S. Lewis reminds us, Heaven will work backwards and turn agony into glory. Mary once saw this as through a mirror dimly, but now she sees it face to face. How proud she must be of her boy. “Look at you, son, seated over there at the right hand of God as you intercede for us all!”
How small Mary’s humiliation, betrayals, losses, sacrifices, and sins must seem to her, now that she is reunited with Jesus and all generations call her blessed."