I just finished playing tennis today. I haven’t played for years but I used to play every day when I was younger. I started playing tennis with a guy named Jake Larson when we were in high school; soon we started hanging out more and more and eventually our youth pastor Tom Ramsay started meeting with both of us together before school and taught us what it meant to follow Jesus. Jake and I, close friends by that point, graduated high school and decided we both wanted to be Tom Ramsay, so we left for Bible college and studied youth ministry.
Shortly after starting college, we started a ministry called “Craig and Jake LIVE.” That took off, and when we were able to go full-time with, it we started Fireproof Ministries (which is the nonprofit organization that now oversees XXXchurch). Jake and I traveled the country for eight years together, speaking in front of over 500,000 young people and seeing many lives changed.
Jake and I wrote a talk about pornography and started sharing it at youth conferences; then my other friend Mike and I began to work on XXXchurch.com. Jake went on to be a senior pastor at the church in Sacramento where we grew up, while also staying involved in Fireproof over the years. He has served on our staff and on our board in the past, though he dialed back his involvement and most recently was only a part of our speaking team. Still, Jake but has been a friend to our ministry and has been my longest-standing friend in life.
Jake was the best man in my wedding, and my wife and I introduced Jake to his wife. Though we have lived in different cities and been involved in different ministries, we have always been connected, but recently not as close as we have been in the past. Even so, I would do anything for Jake, and I knew he would do the same for me.
About a year ago, Jake left local church ministry and started his own nonprofit and a ministry called Live Church. Then, this past February, I had a conversation with Jake and asked a series of questions which led me to believe he and his marriage were in trouble. As a friend, I agreed to do whatever he needed, but as the director and founder of this ministry, I told him if he wanted to continue to represent XXXchurch as a speaker in any capacity, then he and his wife would have to attend a weeklong intensive to work on their marriage. I offered to pay for the intensive, as I knew it would do wonders for them.
He declined the offer so that week, I cancelled the three events that were on the schedule for him and removed him from our speaking team. We didn’t speak for months until recently a mutual friend called me and told me Jake had been caught in the middle of an eight-month-long extramarital affair and was in trouble. I called Jake and we talked. It all made sense to me now why he didn’t want to go to the intensive back in February.
In the days following, Jake shut down Live Church and wrote a letter to his supporters letting them know that he is working on his marriage. I can’t honestly say I am convinced he is truly fighting for his marriage. He has not allowed me and others who were close to him back into his life. All I can do is pray for God to restore all things.
The reason I am writing this….
If you know me, you know I shoot straight. You know I tell it like it is and feel like I owe the XXXchurch community the honest truth on this. I have sat in way too many church services where people have hidden behind statements and stances, and most of those times, they were actually lies to make everyone look good. I’m not going to do that.
This stuff sucks, but it’s real and it can happen to anyone. This can happen to the best friend of the founder of XXXchurch, and it could easily happen to me if I ran away from people who care for me and tried to do things on my own.
While these developments can be disappointing, they don’t discredit the work that we do—or even the work Jake himself has done. Rather, it shines a brighter light on our work when you see that even people who are really close to us still can fall. No one is immune. These issues become more and more real each day.
The churches Jake worked for were quick to remove all his sermons and all his blog posts from their websites, but that is not how we will handle this. The messages Jake preached or blogs he wrote have not suddenly become void. God could have very well spoken through these things to help lead people out of some dark places, so we shouldn’t rush to delete everything.
There is someone who is connected to the woman Jake was having an affair with, and this person is quite upset. Their anger or disappointment has led them to contact the press, our supporters, and many of our supporting churches to not only discredit Jake but also to discredit the work that we do at XXXchurch.
This person has stated that I turned a blind eye to this and continue to let Jake speak because he was my friend. I need you to know that any speaker who gets up on a stage for XXXchurch, or even any person who puts on a Jesus Loves Porn Stars shirt and works an adult expo for us—that’s a responsibility I take very seriously and a person I hold to a higher standard.
The moment I knew Jake was in a little bit of trouble, I tried to step in to get him help and immediately removed him from speaking. As a friend, I have tried to encourage and help him, but he chose a different path. One of the many things we’ve learned over the years of helping people through this ministry is that when someone is not honest with you, there’s just not much you can do.
The things that are being said about Jake are true. I wish I could tell you they are not, but I can’t. But I wanted you to hear directly from me how we handled this situation, so you can know the truth instead of hearing (and possibly believing) rumors. This story is a lot more sensational if it can get linked to XXXchurch, but that’s just not the case.
I’m just trying to be as up front as we can, because this story hits me in the heart. Not because of the ministry implications—those can’t stick and will eventually go away—but because my friend is lost and hurting. I hate that he’s put himself in this position and hope and pray for the best for him.
So what can you do? Pray for Jake. Pray for his marriage, for his family, and for all the other families that are involved. Pray for restoration, for healing, and for grace.
In the end, I believe God is bigger than all our sin put together, and He’ll be bigger than any of these situations. He is in the redemption business, after all, and He is why we do what we do.