Lessons from the Fall


My name is Jeff Hannah, former pastor, now inmate No. K50609. I am currently serving up to nine years in Lincoln Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois, as a result of sexual misconduct. I fully accept the consequences of my actions and want to tell my story in the hope of saving other pastors from failing.

Mine was not an isolated incident; a number of other pastors succumbed to moral failure in my area of the country during the same time I experienced my fall.

I spent eight years in ministry, earned two master’s degrees from a major seminary, had a loving wife and family. In all my strenuous preparations for God’s work, I failed to do the most basic work of all: the work of cultivating purity. I always thought I would have plenty of time to deal with my sinfulness, but I was desperately wrong.

I did not feel free to share my professional and personal struggles as they began to surface. To share with a colleague or a
leader in my church could cost me my job, I thought, so I sought a compassionate ear. Unfortunately, I sought it from someone other than my spouse. That someone was several seventeen-year-old girls in our church–minors.

After my moral failures were discovered, I lost my wife and daughter, my job as youth pastor, and all my friends. I was shunned by other Christians in my area. I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. My subsequent arrest and imprisonment only solidified these feelings.

As I prepared for my time in prison, after having gone through a church discipline process, among many other steps, I was on an
emotional roller coaster. At times I felt close to God, other times, alone and destitute. Coming to prison was a shock beyond any imagining. Hollywood does not lie when it comes to its portrayal of prison life.

The brutality, violence, and corruption is staggering and challenges the mind to redefine the depth of human depravity. I was
overwhelmed to the point of utter despair. My family and friends, like those from Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries, shared my burden, prayed for me and stood as an example to me of the deep, deep love of Jesus.

There is a positive side to my present situation. By God’s grace, I have been involved in a number of ministry opportunities in prison, including leading two Bible studies, teaching a theology class and leading worship every week. Life is still tough, though, and I am paying for my crime.

Let me share with you a number of lessons from my fall.

Do not believe sin’s lie that “it won’t hurt anyone.” Sin put Christ on the cross. Sin put me in prison. Sin hurt many who trusted   in me.

True repentance means change. It has nothing to do with the endless cycle of sin and confession. It means changing your mind and changing your ways.

Only God can truly meet your needs. No human, no matter how special he is, can give me what God gives me.

Never let anything–not a paycheck or your own security–stand in the way of honest accountability.

The only time you can truly experience God’s love and peace is in obedience and brokeness.

Please don’t think, This will never happen to me. I, at one time, thought that way.

I was wrong.

The author is a former evangelical minister. This article first appeared in Focus on the Family (October 1998). It is used here by
permission from the author.