Megachurch Pastor Steps Down, Becomes Just Another Member of the Congregation: 'I Will Be a Worshiper Like You'


CORRECTION, June 17, 2024: Tony Evans is 74. An earlier version of this article had a different age.

Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

In 1 Timothy 3:1-2, Paul says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach …”

However, life experience has shown us that this is not always the case.

From Ted Haggart to Jim Bakker and, even more recently, Brian Houston and Carl Lentz of Hillsong Church, there have been more pastors and spiritual leaders who have failed than any Christian would like to admit was possible.

According to People, Tony Evans is the most recent “celebrity” pastor to admit that he has committed a mystery sin.

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Evans is the longtime senior pastor of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas — an author, speaker, radio host and former chaplain for both the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

In a statement posted on the church’s website on June 9, the 74-year-old Evans wrote, “The foundation of our ministry has always been our commitment to the Word of God as the absolute supreme standard of truth to which we are to conform our lives. When we fall short of that standard due to sin, we are required to repent and restore our relationship with God. A number of years ago, I fell short of that standard.”

“I am, therefore, required to apply the same biblical standard of repentance and restoration to myself that I have applied to others,” Evans said, without providing details about the nature of his transgression.

The pastor said he “committed no crime” but “did not use righteous judgment in my actions.” He said he is now submitting himself to a “healing and restoration process” overseen by the church’s elder board, according to the New York Post.

“This will afford me a needed time of spiritual recovery and healing,” Evans said of his decision to step away.

“It has been my glorious joy and privilege to serve as your senior pastor over these last 48 years. I praise God for giving me the opportunity to witness his hand of power and blessing that took 10 people in a house and brought us to where we are today,” he wrote.

The church’s elder board said in a statement that it was “obligated to govern the church in accordance with the scriptures” when a pastor or elder “falls short of the high standards of scripture,” according to the Post.

During Evans’ absence, Associate Pastor Bobby Gibson will guide the church’s ministry.

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“Remember, you serve the Lord Jesus Christ, not a man,” Evans told congregants, urging them to continue worship services.

He said he intended to remain at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship as he goes through the restoration process.

“During this season, I will be a worshiper like you and look forward to seeing all that God is going to continue doing to make his name great as we continue to build kingdom disciples, who function as kingdom servants, in order to make a kingdom impact as He advances His kingdom agenda at OCBF,” he wrote.

Would you travel to visit a megachurch?

The 74-year-old pastor founded Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in 1976 with just 10 members meeting in a living room. It has since grown into one of the largest churches in Texas with over 10,000 congregants, according to WABI-TV.

“This journey has been filled with a multitude of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, mountains and valleys, but God has always been there to see us through,” Evans reflected in his statement.

Evans said he has confided in his wife, children and the church elders, who have surrounded him with “arms of grace.”

“Thank you for your love, prayers, support, and forgiveness as I continue my spiritual healing journey,” he wrote in conclusion. ” As we walk this journey together, keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Longtime church member James Harris Jr. expressed shock at the popular pastor’s resignation, calling Evans “a staple in the community” and “one of the most known pastors in the nation,” according to the Post.

Spiritual leaders are often the glue that holds a congregation together. They are called to be examples and role models for the congregation, upholding the highest standards of moral conduct and faithfully adhering to the teachings of Scripture.

However, it is a sobering reality that even those in positions of leadership within the church are fallible human beings, susceptible to sin and moral failure.

While the specific details of Evans’ “sin” remain undisclosed, his decision to step down from his pastoral duties and submit to a process of “healing and restoration” is an act of accountability.

The apostle John writes in 1 John 2:1 that while God calls us not to sin, “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This verse reminds us that even in the face of sin, there is hope and redemption through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Leaders can and should be held to a higher standard. But, by that same token, leaders are also human — subject to temptation and failure.

Every time we see a leader fall, it should be a reminder that our faith is not in man but in God.

The impact of a prominent leader’s moral failure can be widespread and devastating to the Christian testimony. As such, any process of repentance, accountability and potential restoration must be undertaken with great wisdom and patience. Full reinstatement, if it occurs at all, should not come easily.

We must, however, remember that regardless of the sin, if they have truly repented, they have full forgiveness in Christ, who purchased our salvation by his death on the cross.

Even the most fallen sinner can be redeemed and restored to new life and purpose through genuine repentance.

Unfortunately, the stain left on the testimony of the church every time a well-known leader sins is not so easily washed away.

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Rachel Emmanuel has served as the director of content on a Republican congressional campaign and writes content for a popular conservative book franchise.
Rachel M. Emmanuel has served as the Director of Content on a Republican Congressional campaign and writes for a popular Conservative book franchise.