Chapter 5

I often feel guilty when I am with others who know what kind of person I have been.

Wish this was not true of me, but I have to admit this will happen to me. For years now I have avoided those who knew full well what a jerk I have been. Seems though now that I am easing up on this guiltiness, in fact, in recent sermons I have even mentioned this.

Yes, two weeks ago, last Sunday in April of 2023 I mentioned one of my divorces and how badly I felt about it even to the point of resigning from the church I now pastor and disappear into the world. I was amazed at two people, one man and one woman, who looked intently at me and nodded their heads in agreement. And I knew both of their pasts and I think it was a relief for them to hear this from me, and from the pulpit.

I wonder how many people there are like me who could no longer face a congregation who knew the truth. Okay, I know it may be argued that it is better to keep silence, but then again, maybe not.

Is it not true that all have sinned? And I am not talking about only our pre-Christian lives, but ongoing lives as well.

Right now I am thinking of what happened with those who believed in John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church movement, when toward the close of his life he said it was possible to live a sinless life, which then spawned the holiness movement. It was not long  before some of the ordained leaders of this off-shoot of Methodism failed. Indeed, some of the leaders proved they were not all that holy, and though the history is convoluted and complex, it spooned the Pentecostal movement. So the great gift of the Holy Spirit became speaking in tongues. And in my opinion, this was a step in the right direction.

Some may say, well Philpott, you are given out a license to sin, or you are saying that it is not a big deal if a Christian, especially a Christian leader, sins. Absolutely not, we are called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and flee from sin. And especially for those of us called to the work. Yet, I know that I am not without blame, I know I am vulnerable to attack. Let me say that I face temptation each and every day. Most of the time I am able to turn away from sin, and I am not talking about the big stuff, but little stuff like tooting my own horn, exaggerating something I did not did not do, making excuses to avoid difficulties, failing to follow though on ministry to someone I knew needed encouragement, not pouring myself into the preparation for the Sunday sermon, and on and on I could go.

Do I ever have sexual temptation? Certainly I do, goes with the territory. Such is not sinful, but could be a step in the wrong direction. Porn, hmmm, anyone reading this guilty here? A large percentage of Christian men in particular, but women too, so engage. It is a powerful and twisted impulse. Every so often a man, almost always a male, will feel safe enough with me to tell me of their compulsion. A case of this occurred two and half weeks ago. Porn addiction is probably one of the major stumbling blocks we face today. More are messed up over perverse sexuality than ever before. It stares in the face daily.

1 Peter 5:8 is a verse that has been in mind for a couple of years now. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Based on lots of pastoral experience, I have come to see that the one who insists he or she is not vulnerable is. In fact, most vulnerable.

Indeed, we have to tell ourselves the truth, we have to admit our weaknesses, and be quick to ask our forgiving Lord for forgiveness and also those whom we might have harmed.

It is no simple thing to be a follower of Jesus in this sin scarred world we live in. We are called to be honest with ourselves, with others, and the God to whom we pray.

In Byron, CA

Chapter 6

Byron is still a small farming community in a bend in the road between Brentwood and Tracy off Highway 4 in Contra Costa County. A large subdivision was developed there called Discovery Bay, but that was long after I was gone. In fact, the Excelsior Baptist Church disappeared long ago, although the old building is yet standing that once housed the Excelsior School followed by the church.

Toward the end of my first year as a seminarian, I had a strong urge to pastor a church. Pastoring was what we “young lions” were constantly talking about. We were either going to be missionaries or pastors, one or the other for sure. I wanted to pastor.

The seminary often posted announcements of churches looking for a pastor. Someone called my attention to that, I made a call to Joe Smith, the area missionary for Contra Costa County, which was east of Marin, and he offered me the chance to preach at the Excelsior Baptist Church in Byron. Was I ever excited, and I went right to work on a sermon that I was sure would clinch the deal. I was right, and quickly they “called” me as pastor and gave me a salary of $20 per week.

I think my first day as pastor of the little church was in July of 1966. The congregation was tiny; I remember some of the folks there: Al and Ruby Belah and Hartman Shelton were the deacons. The Belahs had one daughter, and the Sheltons had two, Pam and Rhonda. (When Pam was a senior, she had no one to take her to the senior prom at Liberty High School in Brentwood, although she was a wonderful and attractive person. Hartman asked me to take his daughter to it, since I was only twenty-four.) I came to love this family, and they were faithful to me the whole time. There was also Ruby Bauguss, the Lansfords, and especially Lorraine and Myron Williams. They took special care of their seminary pastor, of which they had had quite a few. I got the chance to preach twice a week and did not have to attend even one business meeting, which is not a small thing.

On October 2, 1966, the church ordained me, and Bob Lewis, my pastor from First Baptist Church of Fairfield, California, preached the ordination sermon. My dad made the trip, but my mother did not. Although a staunch Methodist, my mother was never born again, and this is not a charge against her but something she proclaimed loud and long. I never did figure that out. A few weeks after David’s arrival in Mill Valley, he began to accompany me to Byron. My practice was to travel up on Saturdays and Sundays, 75 miles one-way, meaning 300- plus miles per weekend. My 1956 Ford sedan had already been driven too many miles, and it was forever breaking down. J.C. Penney & Co. allowed me weekends off, and I was incredibly busy with work and classes four days per week.[1] Seminary education was real graduate work. To be accepted as a student one had to have a BA degree from an accredited institution, and the professors loaded their students up with tons of reading and papers. As I think about it now, I had begun a pattern that would excessively take me away from my family. Here were doors opening up, which seemed to me to be by the Hand of God, yet in walking through them I was also harming my family. It is something I have had to live with and wrestle with, never coming to a clear understanding of it.

David and I began to see what inroads we could make in the Byron area. For one thing, we contacted the local juvenile hall. David had practically grown up in state institutions; California had, in a real sense, been his father and mother. He was quite comfortable visiting there, and before long the entire boys’ home was coming to church every other Sunday; the other Sunday they went to the local Methodist Church, the only other church in town.[2]

Oddly, this did not sit well with the deacons, maybe because it took my attention away from them, yet I still visited every single household in the church at least twice a month. Byron was and is so small, that I could park at the church site and walk to most every church member’s house.

The situation deteriorated further when David and I started walk­ing through the local migrant workers’ camp on Hwy 4 between Byron and Brentwood. One particular family of seven quickly responded to the Gospel. They lived in a one-room shack in the migrant settlement, and I baptized all of those over about age ten. Soon other Mexican people were coming as well, and the church got crowded. Soon after this the deacons cut my salary to $10 a week.

Perhaps they knew more than I did, because trouble followed almost immediately. One Saturday morning I arrived at the church building alone without David to find that almost all the windows had been broken. Tomatoes from the fields that surrounded the building on three sides had found their way into the chapel and schoolrooms. It was a huge mess. I put out a call for help, and soon most of the church members arrived to clean up the splattered tomatoes and bro­ken glass.

The next week David was with me, and as we entered the migrant workers’ housing area, two large German shepherd dogs rushed out to attack us. It was a fight for our lives; David and I fought them off, and soon the dogs were whimpering and whining, but David and I were a complete mess—dirty, bloody, and completely scratched up. None of the occupants of the camp, including those who had been attending church, emerged to help us, except one elderly man who told us that the priest at the Catholic Church in Brentwood had put the dogs on us.

We drove to the Excelsior Church, cleaned up, and then headed to Brentwood and the Catholic Church. Both David and I had grown up having to fight and stand up for ourselves. Parking in front of the church, we loudly called the priest out, and when he emerged we verbally let him have it, and in no uncertain terms. He knew we could have made a lot of trouble for him if we had gone to the police.

That was the last time we had any trouble, and the migrant workers continued to come to church while harvesting work was going on.

[1]  An M.Div. degree normally required four years but the government money lasted only three years, so I loaded up to take the maximum units in order to graduate in three years.

[2] As soon as the Methodist pastor heard that the boys were visiting the Baptist Church he demanded equal time and got it.

Beginning Again


The call to love and serve the Lord is still present in those of us who crossed lines. Those called of God to serve Him in His Church, will say like Paul, “woe is me if I preach not the gospel of Christ.” For the genuinely converted, this call to serve God and His Church does not vanish into thin air. However, how do we then return and start again?

Be sure you have recovered.

This takes time and effort; it does not happen as a matter of time passing. Recovery is deliberate, not half-hearted, and it requires considerable courage. It can be a very humbling experience. Some are shocked that a Christian leader could stumble, which indicates their immaturity, having little life experience. Toleration for them is required.

Be sure you have regained your emotional and spiritual balance.

We are likely looking at a number of years here. Indeed, you will never completely get over it. I have not; I carry my failures with me every day of my life. (Is it my thorn in the flesh?)

Perhaps even worse, there are those who actually relish reminding me of what a jerk I have been. (Is this the devil whispering in the ear? He is the accuser of the brethren, you know.)

It has come to my attention that I have harbored ill will toward those who shunned and rejected me during my crisis. Yes, the experience has nourished bitterness in me, even anger at times, towards those who were not able to reach out to me or who even made things worse. This is on me and constitutes an area in my inner being that I must deal with in a Godly and holy manner.

Do not avoid others who know of your failure.

What courage it takes to be in communication with those who know what happened to you, and even more so with those who were emotionally and/or spiritually damaged by your behavior. It may be very slow in coming.

You must even be able to face those who are rather pleased that you made a mess out of your life. And you will be surprised to find that these folks are out there and not only among the non-Christians. Some of those whom you counted as brothers and sisters in Christ will actually rejoice at your failure and adopt the attitude, “Well I could have told you so.”

At some point we will stop running away and face reality.

Ideas on how to help those who do not know what to do or say.

After any misfortune, we often experience how difficult it is for others to know what to say to us. “I am sorry” is about as good as most of us can do. And that is often enough.

However, there are those who will want to stand with you, even though they are troubled at what happened. You can help by direct communication and breaking the ice with a simple, non-blaming, confession or statement of culpability. “Thanks for hanging with me,” is a good starter statement.

Let the other person talk and, without becoming defensive, allow them to express their feelings. Bottled up emotions are painful and prevent fellowship. If you can do so, and it takes some significant recovery, let a person say what they will and without the need to defend, excuse, or explain. Confession works in many different ways, and it is good for us to do and to hear it. 

Guard yourself from making the same mistakes again.

There will more on this in the next chapter, but we must admit to ourselves that we are vulnerable to making the very same mistakes again. Patterns of behavior are learned when we are young and usually stick with us. Even if we have an insight into our own behavior, it may not be enough to avoid going that way again. The word is accountability, especially when you realize the flesh is weak, and having a relationship with someone where there is genuine accountability is a rare thing. I must warn that care must be exercised here, since it is not uncommon for those in whom we confide to later betray us.

Forgive those who have rejected you.

As followers of Jesus we are called to forgive those who despitefully use and abuse us. We may, in our pain and suffering, think that we are the ones to be sought after and confession made to. This cannot be presumed, however, and it may never take place, but it is our responsibility to fulfill the law of Christ to love one another. A large part of this is to forgive those who have hurt us. Jesus took it to the point, as you well know, to admonish that we love our enemies, not oppose them, or even just tolerate them.

Don’t go where you are not wanted.

Look for a spiritual community to be part of and to which you can be accountable, one that is Christ-centered and Bible-believing. (You might be surprised what you will find.) However, avoid going to gatherings or places where you are not wanted or where your presence may cause difficulty.

I have known pastors who served congregations for many years with blood, sweat, and tears, and desired to continue the relationships therein. While continuing relationships may exist, it may not be the responsible thing to do to intrude yourself in a situation where you are not wanted. Indeed, there will be situations where you are not wanted, and you will know when these arise. It is best to let things be, though it may be excruciatingly painful. 

Start small, and in the next chapter I will go into this in greater detail.

I Am All Along and it’s Killing Me

Chapter Four

For reasons I am unaware of, I am mostly alone. I work out of my house, when I can find work, so no co-workers, etc., just alone day after day. Sure, I see some of the folks living around me, but no real contact. Earlier in my life I had family, and some friends. I doubt I will ever marry; no one has really ever been interested in me. I confess that I cry about this a lot. It makes me want to end it all.

The above is a composite of life experience that I have heard from people over the years, and I could go on and on with it, but I think it is plain where I am going.

Being lonely is now recognized as a national pandemic like circumstance. A high percentage of Americans live alone, and this number is climbing. It is noted that all ages are represented too, young, middle aged, and old folks like me.

Some can barely make it out of the places they live in, due often to physical conditions, so time goes rolling along in aloneness. And the thought of ending it all seizes us, and this is not uncommon at all.

As a pastor of a church, gladly a small congregation, I am aware of those who are virtually living alone and without much contact with others. Not too long ago an elderly lady here at Miller Avenue Church went missing and it took several weeks before we found that she had died of a heart attack in her home, and no one knew. Yes, I lay some blame for this on myself as have several others at MAC. In fact, we are spreading her ashes three days from the writing of this piece.

My heart aches, from time to time, when I realize the unhappy conditions some are living with. I think the primary ministry I engage in is phone calling. I have a sheet of paper with 29 names on it, and it is my goal to call each of these at least every other week. (Usually, I get ahold of everyone on the list weekly.) It could be the most important thing I do. There are at least six of those on my list who have never attended a church service and likely never will.

Aloneness then is not one of the factors which has troubled me over the years; actually a little les contact would be fine, but what happens to me, my heart aches for the lonely ones.

“Only the lonely” so the song goes, Roy Orbison I think sang the song, and it is these lonely I so much want to focus on. First things first then, those of us who are lonely have to admit it that we are lonely and figure out ways to deal with it. Wow, what a potent thing to reveal: “Hi my name is Kent and I am lonely.”

Here are some ideas, and I know I am only scratching the surface.

Find a place to meet with other people. Now Katie and I are pastors and so we have our congregation that we spend hours with every week. Seek out a church, a small one is good, and get to know folks. Get involved if at all possible. Sing in a choir, be an usher, volunteer to do janitorial stuff, oh, lots of stuff really. Talk to a pastor, an elder, a deacon, be frank about your situation. Good things could happen.

If not a church, well my wife and I are members of our local Jewish Community Center, and we have lots of friends there, in fact, about half the time we spend there is talking with others. So two good things, working out, and meeting people.

Most communities have things going on that a person could engage in. Look around, go on the internet, check out local newspapers––you will find some groups to be part of. Don’t give up, keep it up, make the calls. Maybe working with animals, a gardener’s guild, a bridge club. Volunteering around, usually lots of needs here.

Another possibility is to contact a social worker by calling your county’s administrative office and explaining your need. Also think about contacting your local school district’s office and find out if there is anything you could volunteer for.

Get involved, do something, and do not give up easily. There will be a place where you are needed.

We simply will not allow loneliness to kill us. No way!

David Comes to Seminary

Chapter 5

David Comes to Seminary

Driving back across the bridge into Marin, now with David Hoyt in the car with all his worldly possessions, I started thinking what I was going to tell my wife Bobbie. David still had on his Hindu religious garments, and he had that look in his eye, expression on his face, and body language of someone who had totally imbibed eastern spirituality. I frankly worried how this would work. Here I am bringing a stranger into the house where my family and I lived, all in a really small two-bedroom apartment with one bathroom and a dinky kitchen, and now this weird looking guy dressed like Mahatma Gandhi takes up residence. I guessed he would have to sleep on the couch.

“Bobbie, this is David. Hey girls, this is David, come and meet him.” It went something like that. No cell phones existed at that time, so our arrival was not pre-announced, and it was a shock for them, especially Bobbie, to lay eyes on David. Bobbie quietly said hello, stepped up and shook hands, then retreated a bit and just looked at the strange house guest. It was quite uncomfortable, and we stumbled about for a bit until we all came in and sat down. The time was 1967 and the place was a Southern Baptist Seminary. Everyone on campus was Caucasian, the professors mostly spoke with Southern accents, and no one looked like I did, with a mustache and slightly longer hair, and certainly no one looked liked David Hoyt. Now he would be living there among them.

What with my wife Bobbie, about as straight an arrow as you could get, plus my two little girls, a first grader and a kindergartner, Dory and Grace, with neighbors on each side, there was no place to hide David.

I was working part time, and Bobbie worked as a salesclerk at the Thrifty drugstore in Corte Madera. We had the G.I. Bill, without which I would not have been able to afford a seminary education, but I was also pastor of Excelsior Baptist Church in Byron and making $10 a week.[1] We barely survived as it was.

David ended up making our tiny front room his bedroom, and we managed as best we could, but the pressure was on Bobbie. My dear, sweet daughters made the best of it and got along with David just fine.

How it all worked out is kind of blurry to me now, but I recall David coming to classes with me, and I would hear stories of his wandering around the campus and talking to students. He spent some time with Timothy Wu, who was living in the men’s dorm. Due to David’s strange appearance and presence in the administration and academic buildings, a ruling was made to the effect that students could not have non-relatives living with them. (This rule is still in force.)

A group of men playing guitars

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My job was to disciple David, and I did the best I could. All my life it seems I have been constantly busy but especially then. Somehow we fit it all in. David and I started from scratch: who is God, what is sin, what was the Fall, and the longish story about what God did about it all. David was nothing else but intense and eager. He was a sponge and grasped complex biblical ideas quickly. After a few weeks he was ready to go with me into the City on what were now routine visits and ministry on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury. It was the “Summer of Love,” which David and three others had actually organized. As I am thinking through these things, I realize David Hoyt was not only one of the first, if not the first, convert in the Jesus People Movement, but he was also one of the chief evangelists for the whole hippie scene in San Francisco. Wherever David went, whatever he did, his impact was outsized.

So our adventures together began. At least once a week we drove into the City, arriving as early as possible and staying as late as possi­ble. We visited David’s old friends at the Krishna Consciousness Tem­ple and others like the Buddhist priest, Robert Sutherland, to whom David did his best to tell about Jesus. Added to them was hippie after hippie by the hundreds. Early on we wrote up and passed out flyers, some of which I still have, and we bought hundreds of Campus Cru­sade’s, The Four Spiritual Laws, and other materials to use in our wit­nessing. Many hippies and others were converted during those days in 1967, but it was only the trickle before the flood that was to come.

One other thing David and I did together: he began coming with me to Byron on Saturdays and Sundays. That story comes up next and may actually be the reason why the deacons of Excelsior Baptist Church declined to restore my money.

[1] It had been $20 a week but the deacons got mad at me for bringing migrant workers to church and baptizing them. All these years later, and I still wonder how it was that my salary did not ever go back to the starting $20 per week, yet our income climbed rapidly and steeply.

Gospel Meditation

Jesus is Mocked & Jesus Before the Council

Luke 22:63­–71

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         Now morning breaks on the final day of Jesus’ earthly life. He is under the custody of Roman soldiers, and members of the Sanhedrin, the council of the 70 headed by the high priest.

2.         For some years the religious leaders of Israel had watched the young Galilean heal the sick, raise the dead, cast demons out of so very many, and do incredible miracles. Since He did not identify with these leaders, they hated Him.

3.         The religious leaders treated Him so horribly, blindfolding Him and striking Him then asking who was it that was hitting Him. And Jesus took it all, He submitted to what was coming, being sacrificed for our sin on the cross.

4.         With daybreak, and it had to be at this time, to make the proceedings legal, Jesus was officially brought before the council, a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

5.         The core of their interest was whether Jesus would claim that He was the Christ. He knew that if He said He was, they would not believe Him. However, He does state clearly that He is the “Son of Man,” meaning the Christ, and that He would be at the right hand of the power of God.           

6.         Then in a very Hebrew way, He does declare that He is indeed the Messiah. And this is enough for the authorities to have Him crucified.

Pilgrims in a Strange Land


If you sail in uncharted waters, during storms, with mutinies underway, large rips in the sails, and sharks circling the craft, the outcome can’t be good. After all, you are made of clay, an earthen vessel.

There are those who apparently sail the seas unscathed. We read their biographies and marvel at their heroics, conquering for Jesus throughout their lives. Are these sanitized accounts? We wonder. Is there a thing or two left out? Was their inner thought life as pure as presented?  Were there not battles with the devil that were lost? Who makes the trip without incident anyway?

The Scripture is not so eager to clean up the lives of the saints; after all, why all the admonitions to live a godly and holy life. Right, it is not automatic. We do have David, and we have Peter. There is John Mark whom Paul refused to take with him on the second missionary journey because of a failure on the first. But this is not about excuse making or an invitation to hid behind the failures of others and thereby diminishes or even out right deny personal culpability.

Does not the devil lurk near the door? (see 1 Peter 5:8) Does not Satan wage war against the ‘woman’? (see Genesis 3:15) Is there really spiritual warfare that Christians engage in? If it is not real then the biblical doctrines around the demonic realm would be nothing more than a hoax. No the devil wins some small skirmishes, even some battles, though the final triumph goes to the Conqueror. Still by means of false signs and wonders, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, the devil is a present and powerful enemy.

Should the wounded be left on the field of battle to groan and suffer? Is it right that the shipwrecked be left to fight the raging elements and the sharks in the storm tossed seas — alone? Certainly they made their decisions; they deliberately rebelled and acted out. Shouldn’t they get what they earned!

The Good News is that there is mercy and grace for the believer as well as the non-believer. The Christian, but more, the Christian leader, is often rejected and ignored, unless of course he or she has a national following.

Where are the first-responders? Where are those who do not fear getting their hands soiled and even scarred? Must we really abandon those who have fallen and so avoid guilt by association?  Are there those who will risk being castigated for not rejecting the beaten and robbed pilgrim?

There are such and I have discovered them. They are brave even fearless; they care more about the enemy not having his way with the victims, who are not without guilt certainly, but see a larger good, a life yet to be lived out. They care not if they are called “liberal” or a “partner in crime” and will risk the scorn directed at them. These good Samaritans — I have encountered some few along the journey who saw a fallen comrade battered and bloody. In their eyes they beheld a snap shot in time, which tells only a fraction of the story; they knew there would be more to be told.

Chapter Three

I am too embarrassed, due to what I have done,

to face the world anymore.

This sensation I have experienced a number of times, but somehow, over the years, it has been fading away. The reality is, So What! It is now not enough to get me to think I need to do myself in.

Forgiveness, the reality is that I do know, not feel really, but know that my sin has been forgiven, past, present, and future. I also know that the enemy of Christ and so of myself, throws this up at me from time to time. And it stinks for sure. But slowly I have been able to ignore this, and say to myself, “Yeah Philpott, you are the worst that has ever been, yet I know of the incredible power of God to wash my sin away. So, get behind me Satan.”

I am thinking though of folks who are saying, “Okay good for Kent, but I am not there yet.” Here is where we need to ignore our feelings and focus and center on the finished work of Christ. We cling to truth not to feelings and emotions.

Of course, there will be times when someone, whether intentional or accidental or unintentional, when someone will bring our sinning. It happened to me three days ago, and at church for that matter. It was unintentional, said jokingly, but I heard it and for a moment made me angry. Yes, there I was, Pastor Kent, and the words were heard. What did I do? I laughed right along with the others. It even went through my mind that I hoped the person who uttered the gaff was going to be okay.

How many of such incidents have I endured? Too many to count.

Am I still embarrassed about some of the things I have done? Yes, I am, but this is not enough to think about killing myself. Yes, years ago this is what hit me, but I am moving away from this now. Thank God for His mercy.