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The Story

God gives beleaguered pastor new zeal for ministry, family and life

Columbia, TN–Veteran Southern Baptist Pastor Pete Tackett seemed to have it all in mid-2009.

He was the respected and much-loved pastor of the largest church in this town and in the county were the church had been started more than 150 years ago. The bustling congregation had moved from cramped downtown facilities’ to a sprawling facility on 32 acres on the outskirts of town. A state-of-the-art children’s building, which rivals any similar church facility in the country, had just been dedicated.

But, Tackett’s world, and that of his family and many friends, came unglued when he was cited for a crime 45 miles away on a late July night in a crime-riddled section of Nashville. He was cited for patronizing a prostitute.

A long-time friend, and active member of Tackett’s church, said, “If our pastor had robbed a bank and shot a teller, it would have been as surprising as this was. Being involved with the police was bad enough, but the prostitution charge in the citation really blew all of us away.”

The charges against the pastor were eventually dropped…thanks to the efforts of a rising-star lawyer and Sunday school teacher in Tackett’s congregation. His record was expunged.

Tackett, in no-holds-barred interviews, was more than open about the events of the night that forever changed his life. Like other pastors in mega churches, the pastor had allowed himself to come under pressures that few non-pastors understand.

“I had allowed myself to become isolated…attempting to make too many decisions on my own and not having an adequate support group to help me deal with the mounting pressures,” said the preacher, who has walked off more than 100 pounds since the incident.

The day that ended in Tackett’s citation had started like many others. It began early with meetings that lasted most of the day. Following a Wednesday night service, Tackett drove to Nashville to visit a church member in the hospital.

He does not recall what led him to make the short drive to the dismal area of Music City…an area best known for ladies of the night and drug trafficking. Tackett is at a loss, despite many hours of wondering and thinking, to explain why and how he got to that area of Nashville. He had not been there previously. Accompanied by his wife, Lori, Tackett was not able to find the spot where he was stopped by the policeman when he tried months later.

“I drove to that part of Nashville; heard a woman call to me; and slowed to a stop. She jumped in my car and the blue lights of a patrol car flashed on. I received the citation. My mistake was not in trying to meet a prostitute, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Tackett said.

At an earlier period in his life, Tackett was plagued by an interest in computer-based pornography. “But, the Lord’s help – and by installing blocking devices on computers at home and in my church office – that issue is in check.”

The pastor said that he had never previously had any dealings with a prostitute. Tackett said he could not identify the woman in question if she walked into the same room. “She is just a blur in my memory.”

Following his encounter with the police, Tackett returned home and told his wife what happened. He went to his church office the next morning and began the process of alerting his senior staff and members of the deacon body. “My goal was to be as open and honest as possible.”

Many thought that Tackett would survive the embarrassing incident and maintain the senior pastor’s position he had held for four years. However, the deacons voted to accept the resignation he offered. A newspaper article in the local daily newspaper told the story of the citation Tackett received in Nashville and what had been known by a few became public knowledge in the area.

Through what Tackett now considers divine intervention, the story was not picked up by the much broader circulated and viewed media in Nashville. The story, surprisingly, was also not carried by Baptist Press, the news arm of the Southern Baptist Convention based in Nashville. And, the story does not pop up when Tackett’s name is Googled.

Tackett made a number of discoveries after stepping down as pastor. There is little information or guidance in the Baptist or Christian world to help pastors, and other church leaders, who have stumbled.

“I realized early on that Christ was going to be my Savior through this situation…or what I had preached and believed for so many years was not true. Every day, and in more ways than I can number, the Lord has been there for me and for our family.”

Tackett has received counseling, and he has worshipped regularly with a Baptist congregation in a sister community. As would be expected, some people he previously considered as friends, have placed distance between themselves and the pastor in the last year.

Lori, Jonathan, Pete, Sarah“But, there have been so many others who have loved and supported me and my family through this process.” Tackett’s wife, and two college age children, all testify that their family is much stronger and more loving today because of their experiences and the Lord’s grace since Tackett resigned his senior pastor’s position.

The pastor is more than humbled when he talks about the opportunities “the Lord has sent me and my wife” in recent months.

He worked as a courier out of Nashville for several months, helping make up lost income and offering plenty of opportunities for prayer, thinking and planning.

A Web site, with helps and sermons for youth pastors, is being readied. Another Web site, devoted to helping pastors, church workers and other Christians who have stumbled and fallen on hard times, is on the drawing boards.

Several major articles and a book about the pastor and his recovery are being discussed. Invitations to speak and preach are surfacing from many directions.

At the time of his resignation from First Baptist Church, a cadre of church leaders asked the pastor to meet with a four-member restoration team that would help him determine what the Lord wanted him to do for the rest of his life and career.

Made up of a former First Baptist pastor, an associational missionary, the chairman of the church deacon body and an associate pastor, the restoration team asked Tackett to produce a number of documents in the meetings that lasted 10 months. One of the items he submitted was a complete accounting of what happened on the night he received the citation and what Tackett thought led up to that night.

The restoration team, in a letter sent to Tackett, commended him for his willingness to participate in the process. “Bro. Pete graciously and with humility completed each task we asked him to do. We received reports from his physician and counselor that he is capable of resuming ministerial duties, and we confirmed via various other means that he had completed the other tasks as well. More importantly, it became very apparent to us personally that the Pete we interact with today, is vastly different than the man we observed during our first meeting.”

The team said the pastor had made some “very unwise choices” during a dark time in his life. “We do not believe Bro. Pete committed any sin that would disqualify him from serving in the ministry permanently.”

Tackett, preparing with his wife for a nine-week missions trip to Africa, plans to spend a portion of the remainder of his ministry preparing materials that will help other pastors and church workers recovering from life-changing problems and mistakes.

“In the Lord’s timing, I hope and believe he will allow me to be the pastor of a growing and vibrant congregation again,” he said.

The pastor plans to handle his next church assignment differently, benefiting from the lessons he has learned in this period. “Too many times previously I abandoned my family to go deal with a situation that I now realize could have easily waited until the church opened for business on Monday morning.

“Those decisions were unfair to my family; and they placed unnecessary pressures on me.”

Tackett, who considers his resignation from First Baptist Columbia as the low time of his life, glows as he discusses his new zeal for the Lord, his family, his ministry and life in general.

Bracey Campbell, a veteran journalist and former daily newspaper editor, wrote the stories about Pastor Pete Tackett and his family. Campbell interviewed all members of the Tackett family.

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