What do you do when you have been abused, betrayed and abandoned by your own church? Pastor Scott Distler is all too familiar with that scenario and talks about his journey in his book, The Cave: When Ministry Becomes Misery. Scott uses examples of Bible heroes, fresh encouragement, and proven practical strategies to help others towards healing. He is passionate about helping pastors, ministry leaders and all those who have been in the cave of depression and despair. Don’t miss this inspiring interview!
Scott Distler is the lead pastor of E free church with campuses in Gaylord and Salt St. Marie, Michigan, as well as vibrant online campus. He is also the Bible teacher on the Folks Listen television broadcast seen weekly in 53 counties throughout Northern Michigan. Scott is a graduate of Liberty University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pastoral Ministries, and a master of Arts degree in religion. Scott has served as a pastor for over 33 years in churches in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and now Michigan. Scott’s passion is leading his local church in saturating northern Michigan with the gospel of Jesus Christ by meeting as many people as possible right where they are, and moving them to where God wants them to be.
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Website: E-Free Church | Gaylord & Sault Ste Mare, MI (miefree.org) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org He is also on Facebook and Twitter
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Scott Distler[00:00:00] Welcome to the Wounds of the Faithful Podcast. Brought to you by DSW Ministries. Your host is singer songwriter, speaker and domestic violence advocate, Diana Winkler. She is passionate about helping survivors in the church heal from domestic violence and abuse and trauma. This podcast is not a substitute for professional counseling or qualified medical help. [00:00:26] Now here is Diana. [00:00:33] Diana Winkler: Welcome friends. Come on in. I consider it a privilege every week that you join me here on the podcast, and we have a guest today, Scott Distler, and I’m going to tell you more about him, but an update for me is that the website is still down. I am still able to [00:01:00] post my episodes for the podcast on the different platforms and YouTube, so that’s the good news. [00:01:08] But I’m still working on getting the website up and running. [00:01:13] And then I think I mentioned last week that I’m going to get a couple surgeries, two of them within a week of each other, and I will be on bedrest for two weeks. So pray for me in recovery and for Brian, who will be waiting on me hand and foot, and the third surgery will be sometime in July. So, uh, things that need to be done, [00:01:42] definitely, definitely need the surgeries. [00:01:46] And it’s probably the only vacation that I’m going to get this year, two weeks of being in bed, doing nothing. So if you wanna talk or, have a zoom call, keep me company. [00:02:00] Wanna send a casserole? If you’re in the neighborhood. [00:02:04] Wanna chat on social media? Hey, I’m all up for it. So appreciate your guys’ prayers.
I am very excited to have this guest on the show because his story I relate to so much as, you know, I have suffered some spiritual abuse from being in the ministry, married to my first husband as a missionary. And Scott Distler also has an experience of being a pastor and suffering great abuse, betrayal, and depression. What Scott calls the cave, which is basically you have hit the wall and you are in this dark place in your life and you can’t get out. And he’s gonna talk about his book,[00:03:00] The cave when ministry becomes misery.[00:03:03] It’s not very large. It’s maybe 140 pages or so, and it’s excellent. He talks about his story of the different churches that he’s been a pastor of and being betrayed, and then trying to deal with that and being in the cave and the mental health issues that go along with that. How did he get out and what is he doing today and what about his family, his wife and his kids. [00:03:40] And I think this is going to be very valuable for anybody who’s done any ministry. Also anybody that’s ever been in the cave, depression, hopelessness, just darkness, a really hard time in your life that you have no way of knowing if you can get [00:04:00] out, you really need some help. I really enjoyed this book. [00:04:08] Well written. Let me read the back of this book for you before we bring him on. God does not comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comforters. Life is full of hurts and betrayals, especially when you are involved in ministry. Talk to any pastor who has been in ministry long enough and you’ll discover that they probably have the scars to show for it. [00:04:39] Often these hurts and betrayals can lead us deep into the cave of despair. Which results in ministry becoming misery. That is the story of pastor and author Scott Distler. In these pages, Distler looks at two heroes of the Old Testament who had similar experiences.[00:05:00] [00:05:00] Elijah found himself in the cave of despair and Joseph in the pit of betrayal using the principle scene in their stories, as well as personal lessons learned during his own experience within the cave. Distler offers hope and help to anyone, especially pastors and those in ministry who have found themselves on the bitter end of hurt and betrayal. [00:05:30] And then I’ll just read his bio here real quick. [00:05:38] Scott Distler is the lead pastor of E free church with campuses in Gaylord and Salt St. Marie, Michigan, as well as vibrant online campus. He is also the Bible teacher on the Folks Listen television broadcast seen weekly in 53 counties [00:06:00] throughout Northern Michigan. Scott is a graduate of Liberty University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pastoral Ministries, and a master of Arts degree in religion. [00:06:13] Scott has served as a pastor for over 33 years in churches in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and now Michigan. [00:06:23] Scott’s passion is leading his local church in saturating northern Michigan with the gospel of Jesus Christ by meeting as many people as possible right where they are, and moving them to where God wants them to be. So this is gonna be a great interview. I hope you enjoy it. My conversation with Scott Distler. [00:06:46] All right. Please welcome Scott Distler to the show. Thanks for coming on today. [00:06:53] Scott Distler: Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. [00:06:56] Diana Winkler: We’re gonna talk about your book, the Cave [00:07:00] When Ministry Becomes Misery. Thank you for sending me a copy. I really, really was blessed by it. As I was saying before we came on live here, that I could relate to a lot of it and some of my pastoral friends related to it. [00:07:18] So, Excellent book. Very easy to read. It didn’t take me too long. And so we’re gonna get into your story as to why you wrote that book, but tell the folks, a little bit about your, your background and where you’re from, your family. [00:07:37] Scott Distler: Sure. I, I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, so that’s where I lived most of my childhood. Until I went off to college and I went to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. And that’s where I got my, um, undergraduate work done. And after that, I married, became a youth pastor in [00:08:00] Southern Ohio. While I was there, I did my graduate work through Liberty’s correspondence, and then I ended up pastoring churches in Indiana. [00:08:09] Pennsylvania and now I’m up here in northern Michigan and, uh, where we, this past winter got about 170 inches of snow. So, um, that’s where we are right now. Uh, I’m, I’m married, been married for 36 years and we have two adult children. One of them lives locally and teaches. The other one lives in Pennsylvania is married, and that’s where our three perfect grandchildren are. [00:08:37] They’re in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Currently, I pastor the E Free Church short for Evangelical Free Church here in Gaylord, Michigan. We also have a campus up in S eight Marie, right on the Canadian border. We have an online campus and we have a TV ministry that is on three times every weekend and covers[00:09:00] [00:09:00] 53 counties in all of northern Michigan. [00:09:03] Diana Winkler: Wow. That’s a incredible ministry there. You mentioned Liberty University and I have to ask you what you thought of the recent unfortunate events on the campus since you and your kids went there. Are you able to speak a little on that? [00:09:23] Scott Distler: Yeah, yeah, sure. I mean, you know, when, when I was there and I graduated back in 1987 from Liberty, and that was back when, of course, Dr. Jerry Falwell was at the helm, and it was the height of the moral majority and, uh, all kinds of things happening. The, the whole PTL debacle all happened during that time. [00:09:45] So there was never a dull moment on campus and, and frankly, Dr. Falwell, he became a spiritual hero of mine in the sense of his boldness. To speak truth and share the gospel and to have [00:10:00] a vision. And, um, and when Dr. Falwell passed away and his two, um, sons took over the ministry, Jonathan at the church and Jerry Jr. [00:10:10] Taking over the school, um, you know, we, we really had high hopes and prayers that they would be able to continue Dr. Falwell’s legacy, which I believe Jonathan has done very, very well there at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Jerry Jr. Of course, some problems came up there. That was very disheartening and disappointing, but I, I’m thankful that the school was able to get beyond that. [00:10:36] And now they have new leadership. I think it’s good leadership and uh, they seem to have even used that to kind of return to their roots a little bit more, which is all about training champions for Christ to go out into all the walks of life. And so it’s as hard as it was to watch Liberty go through that difficult time.[00:11:00] [00:11:00] I’m very encouraged today because I think. Every tragedy that comes into our life, every difficulty makes us bitter or better. And I think this is gonna make Liberty even better. So I pray for them. Still think it’s a great school. [00:11:15] Diana Winkler: Well, thanks for, your thoughts on that cuz you know, there’s so many different opinions and the gossip and it’s great that they’re doing something positive. [00:11:27] And trying to fix the problem that, that came up. Awesome. When, did you actually know the Lord as your savior? When did you get saved? [00:11:38] Scott Distler: Oh, I love that question. I was actually a child. Um, my grandpa was a pastor. In fact, it’s really an interesting story right there because my grandpa was a childhood friend of Al Capone, the one who became the gangster. [00:11:53] And in fact, Al Capone wanted my grandpa to be in his gang. But my grandpa had developed a [00:12:00] liking for a young lady named Daisy. Daisy was the daughter of a pastor, and the only way my grandpa could see Daisy was at church. So he started going to church. And through that he found Christ. He ended up becoming a pastor. [00:12:18] And, uh, so I ended up growing up in a Christian home. And when I was five years old, I was going to a good news club, taught by my aunt every single week. Um, I went primarily for the punch and cookies. That’s why I went. But nonetheless, I heard her tell the gospel every single week. I heard her tell it so many times. [00:12:37] I, I’m sure I could have told it just as well back then. But I can remember that one afternoon sitting in that living room listening to her, tell that story one more time, and it dawned on me. At five years old, I knew the story, but I had never made the decision of faith to receive Jesus. And I made that decision that day, and [00:13:00] I believe that’s the day that the Lord came into my life, forgave me of my sins. [00:13:04] It gave me that free gift of eternal life. [00:13:07] Diana Winkler: Amen. I love it. I love it. After you graduated and you started the ministry, can you set the stage as to, when did the problem start in the ministry? I know there was, a lot of different things that were going on, but if you could maybe start with where it all began. [00:13:26] Scott Distler: Yeah, you know, the first, many years of my ministry was just wonderful. Many kinds of success in youth ministry. Leading the church in Indiana and then when God took me to Pennsylvania, the first five years there were, up until that point, some of the most exciting ministry years I’d ever been part of our church grew in those five years from 500 to 1500. [00:13:51] We had all kinds of vision for what we wanted to do next. And then I can go back to the exact restaurant, the exact [00:14:00] booth in that restaurant. Where the elder chairman met with me, and that’s when I hit a buzz saw that I didn’t know was there, because this guy, up until that moment had been my biggest cheerleader, but something changed. [00:14:15] And to this day, I can’t necessarily pinpoint exactly what it was. I, I think more than anything, he wanted the church back the way it was. I, I really think that’s what it was. And he began to, Lack of better terms. He plotted against me. Uh, I like to call him a well-intentioned dragon, which is a term that Martin Shelly uses in his book, because I really do believe that this man’s, his intentions were good. [00:14:46] I think he really thought he was saving the church, but how he was going about it caused great, great damage. And so that began, A year long [00:15:00] process of my life that I liken to being in a cave, uh, a year long process where ministry, the thing that I love most in life suddenly became misery. [00:15:13] Diana Winkler: What I really like about your book is that you incorporated, saints in the Bible that have gone through mental health issues. I mean, they didn’t have Prozac back then. They didn’t have a psychiatrist or anything. And I love your examples in the book and also can respect, uh, the fact you didn’t, identify anybody in the book. [00:15:36] You were able to tell your story without, dragging people through the mud unnecessarily. And. But it sounded very painful what you went through. [00:15:46] Scott Distler: And I gotta be honest and tell you my, my rough draft of the book was much bigger cuz it included those stories. But I really had to evaluate what was the purpose of the book. [00:15:56] And the purpose of the book wasn’t to get my side of the story out. [00:16:00] That wasn’t the purpose. The purpose was to offer spiritual hope and practical help. To other people, pastors or even people not in ministry who find themselves in a cave-like experience. And you’re right, I, I’m not the first one to find a cave. [00:16:19] Uh, I, I think it goes all the way back to that Old Testament prophet Elijah, uh, who one minute is standing out Mount Carmel, calling down fire from heaven. And the very next chapter, he’s in a cave going, God just kill me. You know? And so here’s a guy who found that cave where ministry became misery. Mm. [00:16:41] Diana Winkler: Yeah. Talk a little more about, Elijah. For those who aren’t familiar with his story, I just, I love his story so much. [00:16:48] Scott Distler: Elijah was a great prophet of God, and during his reign as a prophet, the king in Israel was a man named Ahab. And Ahab married a very wicked [00:17:00] woman named Jezebel. She had Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel. [00:17:06] I kind of call it the good, the bad of the ugly. He had all three of them right there. And Ahab adopted all of the false God mentality that Jezebel brought. And God used Elijah to speak to them and say, Hey, listen, it’s not gonna rain for three and a half years because of what you’re doing. And, uh, and during that time, God used Elijah in miraculous ways. [00:17:31] And that time period ends when there’s a big battle on Mount Carmel. It’s Elijah the lone prophet of God against all the prophets of Baal. And, uh, and God wins the battle. Of course, he sends down fire from heaven, proves he’s God, God, uh, has Elijah kill all the prophets of Baal that day. However, Jezebel. [00:17:54] Went against Elijah and Jezebel basically sends a message to Elijah saying [00:18:00] You will be dead by this time tomorrow. And Elijah gets scared. He runs as far as he can run and still stay in the land of Israel. And he hides out in a cave saying, God just kill me. He found the cave where ministry became misery. [00:18:20] Diana Winkler: Yeah, we, uh, we went to Israel in 2019, went up to Mount Carmel. And you could just imagine that scene going down. It was incredible. [00:18:32] Scott Distler: I’ve been there six times and you might remember the big statue up there of Elijah. It’s a great place to go. [00:18:38] Diana Winkler: Mm-hmm. Beautiful, beautiful place. A convent, I think Carmelite nuns. [00:18:44] Mm-hmm. And, we just did a podcast the last two weeks on Joseph. Mm-hmm. Who is my favorite Bible character besides Jesus, of course. You mentioned him in the book and his betrayal. [00:18:58] Scott Distler: Yeah. Yeah. Elijah [00:19:00] found the cave. Joseph, it was similar, just it was a pit. And he, he’s betrayed by his brothers. [00:19:06] He’s thrown into this pit. He’s sold into Egypt and uh, and for him then it gets even worse. And you know, some people say, well, but Joseph went from the pit to the palace and ends up saving many. Yeah, he did. But before he got there, he’s falsely accused, thrown into prison and forgotten. And what I love about that story is the number of times throughout the story, you see this phrase, but the Lord was with Joseph. [00:19:38] He was with Joseph in the pit, he was with Joseph in the prison. And that right there to me becomes one of the greatest encouraging helps when you’re in the cave of misery or the pit of betrayal, is to know you’re not alone. The Lord is with you. And that is a [00:20:00] powerful truth. [00:20:01] Diana Winkler: Amen. Amen. Now, I am so glad you wrote this book because I feel that [00:20:09] especially the denomination I came from, mental health for, for Christians was mm-hmm. Doesn’t exist. Right. You, you weren’t allowed to take any, mental health drugs. It was frowned upon to go to a shrink or any mm-hmm. Any kind of doctor. You know, just pray more, just read your bible more. [00:20:30] Sure. So I’m glad you wrote this book because it, it’s a real thing, depression and anxiety and, so if you can comment on that. [00:20:41] Scott Distler: Yeah, for sure. Because I, I think you’re right. I know when I first got into ministry, especially in the, the conservative type of, um, denominations I come from, that was also the case there too. [00:20:53] It was, you know, if you just had enough faith, you wouldn’t be depressed. You know, or whatever it [00:21:00] was. And, uh, that’s just simply not true. Um, mental health is an issue, just like you have physical issues. Mm-hmm. And, uh, and yes. Is there a spiritual aspect to it? Absolutely. However, it’s more than just that. [00:21:17] When there’s chemical imbalances and things of that nature, medication can make a huge difference and professional counseling, especially from a Christian perspective, can often be your lifeline. And I know even in my own ministry as a pastor, we have two full-time professional counselors on staff because I can share with you some initial thoughts of here’s what the word of God says, but they’re trained in how to really peel back the layers of the onion. [00:21:49] And to really deal with those other issues that you’re involved with. And, and it is a real thing today. And I think in ministry we, we need to make sure that we’re [00:22:00] looking at a little more holistic approach to ministry where it’s not just the spiritual, yes, that’s important, but there’s also the physical. [00:22:08] And I think we overlook that a lot of times too. Uh, there’s a connection in the Bible about how we should take care of our bodies and the physical rest. One of the first things God does with Elijah is he has him rest his physical body. Mm-hmm. And make sure he’s eating right. The angel even prepares bread for him, and I love that cuz it wasn’t just spiritual, it was also physical, it was also emotional, it was also mental. [00:22:37] God created all those aspects of our life. And so all of it has to come together. [00:22:42] Diana Winkler: I know you stated in your book, there was no way I would get out of that cave without help. [00:22:50] Scott Distler: Exactly. Right. And I think one of the reasons that statistically most pastors who go into that cave [00:23:00] leave ministry is because they try to do it on their own. [00:23:03] Because maybe they’ve always been taught, you gotta tough it out. You just gotta have enough faith, or, Hey, you’re the pastor, you shouldn’t be having this problem. And I realized, I came to a point, especially when I, after I had my first panic attack, and it scared me. I realized at that point I did need help. [00:23:20] And that help for me came in two facets. Number one, it came from my wife. I needed to make, she knew there was problems. She knew I was hurting, but I hadn’t told her everything yet. And I needed her to walk with me through this process. You know, the Bible says in the book of Genesis, when you get married, the two become one flesh. [00:23:41] And I, I kind of like it this way. It, it’s a horrible analogy for a marriage, but it’s like you become a two-headed monster. It’s no longer what do I want? It’s what do we want? It’s no longer what’s my dreams? It’s what are our dreams. It’s not just what is my heartache, it’s our heartache. I needed to [00:24:00] walk through that with my wife, but I also knew that I needed to help with my thinking, and that’s where I was having problems. [00:24:08] All that was going on was affecting my thoughts. And the Bible talks a lot about guarding your mind, guarding your thoughts, taking every thought to captivity. Wrong, thinking leads to wrong behavior, and that’s when I realized I needed a counselor. And God led me to a wonderful professional counselor who had pastoral experience. [00:24:31] He, um, specialized in dealing with people in ministry and military and law enforcement that go through crisis as well. And he really was able to help me to refocus my thinking and when I could refocus my thinking, I could deal with the rest of it more effective. [00:24:51] Diana Winkler: Hmm. Awesome. Your wife sounds amazing, by the way. [00:24:56] Scott Distler: She has 36 years. I don’t know where I’d be without her. You know, when [00:25:00] we went through that, the other thing that God did with my wife and I, and, and it’s in the book as well, and I, is, is he taught us the importance of praying specifically. And so there was a prayer that my wife prayed every day during our experience, and it was this God, Please don’t let us both be down at the same time. [00:25:22] Because when you go through that experience, you have some good days and bad days, good hours and bad hours. And if you’re both down at the same time, it’s tough. And God answered that prayer. If she was down, I was a little more up and I could help her. If I was down, she was a little more up that could help me. [00:25:40] But the other prayer I prayed was this. God, when this is over, no matter where that is, what that is, what it looks like, my prayer is that I’ll be more in love with you than I am today. More in love with my wife than I am today, and even though my hurt has coming from the local [00:26:00] church, that I would be more in love with the local church than I am today. [00:26:05] And now we’re about 12 years removed from that. I can tell you God and His grace answered those prayers, and I’m more in love with God today than I was more in love with my wife, more in love with the local church. And I thought that was an important prayer because I knew many pastors who went into the cave and they abandoned one, two, or all three of those areas. [00:26:28] So we made that a specific matter of prayer while we were in the Cave. [00:26:33] Diana Winkler: I definitely can attest to that when you go through the, abuse and the betrayal and all that misery, you can’t see the forest for the trees. When you come out on the other side after you’ve gone through the healing process. Yes, I can attest that, I love my husband more than ever. [00:26:52] And I love the church. I have a healthy church. In fact, it’s evangelical free. [00:26:58] Oh, wonderful. Wonderful. Yeah. [00:27:00] And, and I am in a really good place with the Lord right now. Amen. Than I ever have. And God has just been so good. So I can definitely attest to that there is, hope on the other side. [00:27:13] Scott Distler: There is, there is life after the cave and there’s still a joy in ministry after the cave. [00:27:20] Diana Winkler: I thought it was really interesting when you talked about spiritual despair happens after a victory. Can you elaborate on that? [00:27:30] Scott Distler: Yeah, and I think I saw that in life of Elijah, here’s Elijah having that great victory on the top of Mount Carmel and then boom. He’s in the cave. [00:27:40] Look at Joseph. He’s, he’s having these dreams that God’s giving him a about the future and he’s being, um, you know, wearing the coat of many colors. He’s having all kinds of success. And then boom. And, and that’s what happened in my life as well. I had about 15 years of successful ministry, could [00:28:00] believe how God was using it. [00:28:02] And then boom. It happens and I, I think the reason that’s often, it’s not always the case, but often the case is, is, is several things. Number one, I’m gonna chalk some of it up to spiritual warfare. Yes. When you are making progress in the kingdom, Satan becomes more active and I think one of his biggest tools is causing dissension and disunity. [00:28:27] I think the second thing is this, when things are going good, Sometimes we let down our guard and uh, and I think anytime we let down our guard, that’s why Paul says in Ephesians, you need to live in your armor, right? Because you’re always on the spiritual battlefield. And I think the third thing is sometimes, We get a little arrogant, a little pride, you know, look what I’m accomplishing. [00:28:53] And scripture says, pride cometh before the what? The fall. Aw. So I think those things [00:29:00] together can do that. And so since that experience, I’ve always become a little more sober and vigilant when there’s success in ministry, because I realize there could be an attack right around the corner. [00:29:16] Diana Winkler: I, always thought that if I’m serving the Lord and doing all the right things, praying and loving the Lord, loving my family, and obeying that I would have an easy life. That everything would go well for me. And, uh, boy, the Lord, showed me that’s not, that’s not the case. [00:29:36] Scott Distler: That’s exactly right. There, there is an enemy and, uh, and we always have to keep that in mind. [00:29:42] Diana Winkler: Yes. And, I, thought it was very funny you talk about flattened bat cakes. Batman, you were referencing in your book, what are flattened bat cakes? [00:29:56] Scott Distler: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I think about the whole thing with, um, with Batman. [00:29:59] [00:30:00] Here’s the, the parallel. In Paul, but he is writing to the Church of Corin. He says, you know, we’re, we’re crushed, but we are not. Giving up. And that word literally describes the walls caving in on you. And I think about when I used to as a kid, watch Batman. And you get to the end of the episode and here’s Batman and Robin, and they’re in this room and the walls are moving in on them and, and then you hear the announcers say, what will happen to the dynamic duo? [00:30:34] Find out tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel. But that’s what Paul’s describing. Sometimes in ministry, it feels like the walls are all caving in on you and crushing you. That can be a reality. But even when that’s a reality, Paul says, we’re not forsaken. Our Lord is still there. And uh, but there is [00:31:00] a reality to the fact. [00:31:01] That ministry can be tough, and I know it’s likened to being a shepherd, and that seems so wonderful, and at times it is. But remember, sheep can bite and sheep can kick. And so we have to remember even on those bad days, and during those tough times when it feels like the ministry pressure is boxing us in, we cannot lose heart. [00:31:27] Diana Winkler: I love it. I love Batman and the old Batman splat! bam! boom! Um, I have to talk about the people in that were around you at that time, because they said what a lot of people said. When you share your struggles, I’ll pray for you, but I’m not gonna do anything to help you. [00:31:52] Scott Distler: Yeah. And you know that, that’s the tough part. [00:31:55] And that’s what you find when you go through times like this. You really do [00:32:00] kind of find out who your true friends are. And I think one of the things that hurt the most was some of the people we thought were our friends who abandoned us, but then we found other people that we didn’t realize were our friends who stayed by our side. [00:32:17] But you’re right, uh, in most cases, They didn’t know what to do, or at least they weren’t even willing to seek out what to do, and that makes it more difficult. And, but yet, I understand to an extent because in second Corinthians one, the Bible says that God comes alongside of us in our trial so that we can then come alongside of others who go through the same trial. [00:32:41] And what I discovered is the person who can come alongside me best is a person who’s gone through what I’m going through. I like to word it this way. God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comforters, [00:33:00] and that was really the whole purpose of the book. When I went through my cave experience, though, I had people who were friends and tried to encourage me. [00:33:08] I really didn’t have anybody in my life who’d been through it and could offer me practical help and spiritual hope. That was why I ended up writing the book. And while the book is applicable for anyone that goes through hurt or Betrayal mm-hmm. It was really written as a hurting pastor to hurting pastors just, and, the purpose I wrote the book, I could care less if I ever selled a copy. [00:33:34] I just wanted to have copies that I could give because God kept leading into my life other hurting pastors. And I needed to have something I could give them and say, I hope this book can help you. I hope it encourages you. I hope it gives you some practical steps that you can take. I’ve been able to speak at pastor’s conferences and retreats sharing on this topic [00:34:00] and pass out a book to each of them because no one can comfort you better than someone who’s been through the similar pain. [00:34:10] Diana Winkler: Mm-hmm. You are very right and I never thought anything good would come out of my abuse and I thought, well, my ministry is over. I’ll never be in ministry again. Yeah. Yeah. And my God had other plans for me as an abuse advocate. I come alongside other people who have been abused here with the podcast and my small groups, and that’s exactly right. [00:34:36] Some of these gals in my small group, they say, I got more out of this small group right. Of other survivors than I did going to a psychiatrist. Yeah, and I understand psychiatrists have their role of course as a professional, but there’s nothing like being in a group of people who have been through what [00:35:00] you have been through. [00:35:01] Yeah. And you think you’re alone. Did you think that’s you were alone? [00:35:05] Scott Distler: Absolutely. I felt all alone. And, part of it is when you’re in the cave, you actually move even more towards isolation. You pull yourself away from everybody. And, uh, and so not only do you feel alone, you actually become alone in that sense. [00:35:23] And so I love what you’re doing because the truth is there is power in your story. And when you share your story, it does help you and others take steps towards healing. But when we keep our story bottled up completely, not only does it not take us towards steps of healing, I think it does an adverse effect on our lives because I truly believe you’re gonna become bitter or better. [00:35:54] And one of the ways you can become better is to tell your story. But I say to [00:36:00] people, this, tell your story to people who need to hear it, not just to anybody who wants to hear it. Right. You know? Yeah. There’s nothing good about just telling your story to get people on your side. [00:36:12] That’s not what we’re talking about. But there are people that I can help with my story and uh, and so when I meet with pastors one-on-one who are going through this, I may tell them more of my story than I put in the book even. Because we’re now doing it not to get someone on my side, not to make someone look bad, but we’re doing it to fulfill Second Corinthians chapter one. [00:36:37] God, you comforted me. Now, please use me to comfort this pastor who’s going through the same thing. [00:36:44] Diana Winkler: Mm-hmm. Now we all know that you are a pastor now. How did you get from coming out of the cave to, I’m going to pastor another church. I’m gonna jump back into the ministry. Yeah. What was that [00:37:00] process? [00:37:00] I mean, that must have been incredible. [00:37:02] Scott Distler: And, it was perhaps the hardest part of the process, to be honest with you. Um, you know, when I finally lost my ministry and, and left that church for the first time in my adult life, I was a pastor without a church. I felt like a failure. And I didn’t even know if I wanted to go back into ministry. [00:37:24] I started working at a state farm insurance office and, uh, almost decided just to do my career there for the rest of my life. But I kept coming back to my calling and I realized something. I realized that just because I’d been wounded and hurt and abused did not change my calling. And um, and I remember [00:37:48] the day we decided we need to keep doing our ministry. And I met with a man an older pastor who had been through some of these same experiences and I had breakfast with him. His name was Luke. I said, Luke, [00:38:00] how will a church ever even want me? I mean, they’re gonna call my former church. [00:38:04] They’re gonna get a story that, you know, I don’t think it’s true, but they’re gonna get it. How will a church ever even take a chance on, and Luke said this to me, he said, Scott, From a human perspective, no church will. That’s why you’ll know it’s the right church because God will give that church a peace about your past. [00:38:25] And I remember when I ended up going through the process here with the church in Northern Michigan and we got down to the final Sunday. I’m going to, I’m candidating. They’re gonna be voting on me. And I had one final meeting with the leadership there and they said, do you have any questions? I said, yeah, I got one big one. [00:38:44] Do you have any reservations about hiring me because of what happened to me at my last church? And here’s what they said to me. They said, Scott, we talked a lot about that. We prayed a lot about that. We called your former church, but [00:39:00] God has given us a perfect peace and we believe what happened to you in Pennsylvania was God preparing you just for us. [00:39:08] And that’s when I knew. God had led me to this church. Now, it was still hard the first couple years. I was always looking over my shoulder, especially at the elder chairman, reading into every word he said. And, it took us several years before we got rid of our moving boxes, just in case, the first couple years I had no joy in ministry. [00:39:30] In fact, as the ministry grew, I became more scared because that’s what happened in Pennsylvania. Was the same thing gonna happen here? Um, but over the 12 years I’ve been here, God has really used this church to bring me through that healing process. And I, I think I can honestly tell you today that the wounds that I had when I came here 12 years ago, they’re now scars. [00:39:56] Um, I, I still have the memories. No doubt. [00:40:00] Sometimes those memories hurt, but the wound’s no longer bleeding, the wound’s no longer infected. And in fact, Actually, scars are actually a tougher skin, and I think God used it to make me a better pastor. And, uh, and I, I have never been more thrilled about what God’s doing. [00:40:19] Uh, in, in the 36 years I’ve been in ministry than I am right now. He restored my joy in ministry like I’ve never experienced. [00:40:29] Diana Winkler: I can just tell from your voice, your excitement and your passion, and how God’s restored you. Was there anything else you wanted to tell the folks today that we didn’t talk about? [00:40:41] Scott Distler: You know, the only thing I would say is when you go through a time like that, you also come face to face with the reality that you’ve made some mistakes. And I remember it took me, I had to get all the way through that process and really look back and evaluate, but God really showed me something that [00:40:59] [00:41:00] that was tough. You see, when I lost that ministry, I lost my significance because I realize now I was putting my sense of significance, not on the fact that I’m a child of living God, but on the fact that I was pastoring a growing and thriving church, and God convicted me, that no matter what happens in my ministry, My source of significance must be who I am in Jesus. [00:41:31] And that doesn’t change, even if I lose my job. And I had to come to grips with this: ministry had become an idol in my life. I loved ministry more than I loved Jesus. And that was a huge turning point in my life. And I think that’s what has ushered in the most successful, amazing ministry I’ve had. You know, when you look at the way Jesus [00:42:00] broke bread, whenever he passed out bread, he always did it the same way he took it. [00:42:05] He blessed it, he broke it, he gave it, and I think that’s how he works with people. He’ll take us, he’ll bless us, but there comes a time in our life that he may break us, but he never allows brokenness for no purpose. If you go through a time of brokenness, it’s because he wants to give you to something afresh and anew. [00:42:28] And that was the greatest lesson I learned in the cave. [00:42:31] Diana Winkler: Amen. Well, I’m gonna FedEx some copies of this book to my pastor friends. Tell the folks how they can get a copy of your book. And are you available for consulting if they need your help? [00:42:45] Scott Distler: Yeah, absolutely. The, book, best way it gets Amazon, that’s probably the best way to grab that book. [00:42:50] One of the things that I love about, where I am now is that I am able to try to help encourage others going through something similar. And so you can [00:43:00] contact me through our church website, which is myefree.org, M ief r e e.org. You can send me an email at sk distler, my last name, gmail.com or whatever way you can find to contact me. [00:43:19] But I love talking with people, going through this type of hurt, praying with them, encouraging ’em, sending ’em a book, and uh, and just being able to come alongside of them. [00:43:30] Diana Winkler: Awesome. It was such an honor to meet you and have you on the show. Please keep in touch and God bless you. [00:43:38] Scott Distler: Thank you so much. A privilege to be here. [00:43:41] Thank you for what you’re doing for the kingdom. [00:43:43] Thank you for listening to the Wounds of the Faithful Podcast. If this episode has been helpful to you, please hit the subscribe button and tell a friend. You could connect with us at DSW Ministries dot org where you’ll find our blog, along with [00:44:00] our Facebook, Twitter, and our YouTube channel links. Hope to see you next week.