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“Falsely Accused Pastor” Markus Watson | Vault

Can you imagine being falsely accused as a pastor? Then add to that, false charges filed against you where even the FBI gets involved. Markus Watson walks through what he and his family went through at their church, and though months later, exonerated by the Presbytery was voted out of his church. Incredulous. Markus has arisen from that devastating chapter with several new chapters in his life. He is currently the primary podcaster and host for Fuller Seminary “Spiritual Life and Leadership”, the best-selling author of “Beyond Thingification” and the pastor at a new church. Through it all, he is reminded, that no matter what trial he goes through, he knows he is God’s beloved. His story will grip your heart, and change your perspective on so many levels.

Jeremiah 31:3-“The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Topics Shared:

Raised in faith

Aspiring Hollywood actor

A change of plans

Fuller Seminary

 Pastoring his first church

Emergency meeting while on sabbatical

Accused of  porn

Forensic analysis of his laptop 

Turns into a potential criminal investigation

The FBI got involved

How the attorney knew he was innocent

Exonerated by the Presbytery

Voted out of his church

Flourish San Diego

Beyond Thingification

Pastor at Westmorland Community Presbyterian Church


Markus’ Quotes:

 “The FBI had my laptop.”

” ‘Lord, I don’t deserve your love.’ What a terrible message to be telling myself over and over and over again.”

“I spent a lot of time in the Psalms, Psalms of lament.”

“I had this image of myself having lost everything, sitting in a prison cell.”

“We had double our normal attendance that Sunday.  Everyone will show up for a scandal.”

“The thought of being a pastor again felt like being thrown into a snake pit.”

“We can’t love someone if we are judging them.”


Markus Watson’s Website:

Markus’ Book: Beyond Thingification

Books Markus recommends:

  • Surrender to Love by David Benner
  • Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero
  • Leadership on the Line by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky


For more inspiring stories:


Purposely. Your life. God’s purpose. Listen at

Meg Glesener: Wonderful news. Letters from Home has recently joined the CRISTA family in Seattle, Washington, and we are now part of the Purposely podcast network and channel. Thank you for celebrating with me, all of you current listeners, and a special welcome to all of you new listeners to give you a great sample of the stories you can expect or may not have had a chance to hear yet.

We are doing a From the Vault series of some everyday extraordinary faith stories from the past. Here’s Marcus Watson’s story titled Falsely Accused Pastor. I had this image of myself sitting in a prison cell having lost everything, right? My job, my ordination, my reputation, my family just sitting alone in a prison cell.

Markus Watson: And then it was like, I heard God say, yep, you might lose everything, but you will never lose my love for you. And it was like in that moment, God’s love became more real and more clear than it had ever been before. 

Announcer: And now for the next episode of Letters From Home, sending encouragement to your doorstep by capturing the heartbeat of God’s people. One story at a time.

Meg Glesener: Hi, this is Meg Glesener, your host. Have you ever been falsely accused of something really big and have people share about it around the church, the whole church, only to find out that what they thought was wrong, but then you lose your job anyway and the FBI gets involved? That’s what today’s story is about.

Today’s guest takes us through a very dark time in his life, but it doesn’t stay there. You’ll see the spiritual man and leader that our guest is today and how all of that did a deep and lasting work in his life that you’ll want to hear. Here is the everyday extraordinary faith story of Marcus Watson.

Marcus, I am excited to have you on the podcast today. I heard your story on Tracy Wenchel’s podcast Reboots and it so impacted me. And then I got to know you in our Marco Polo podcasting group. And I am excited, I think our listeners are gonna love your story today. You’ve been through a lot.

Markus Watson: Yeah. Yeah. I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me, . 

Meg Glesener: For sure. We are just gonna get right into your story. So bring us into your home. Growing up, Marcus, what was it like to be you and your childhood? 

Markus Watson: So I grew up in a Christian family. My dad. Is a pastor, he’s retired now. Really was serving up until just up until the pandemic , he was up an interim pastor at a church in Pennsylvania, and he was out here in California.

And then they said, oh, you’re stuck over there, so we’ll just end your employment at this time, which was totally fine. I grew up knowing all about Jesus all the stories. In fourth grade I went to a Christian elementary school and was, everybody wanted me on their Bible quiz team because I knew all the answers, , and I felt really good about myself.

Meg Glesener: All eight of our kids have done Bible quizzing. . 

Markus Watson: Yeah. And great family. I never felt pressured to be, the good pastor’s kid. Not that they wanted me to be a bad. And so anyway, so I never felt like I had anything to rebel against. I was a compliant kid. And Somewhat even judgmental in junior high and high school about all those kids who weren’t as Christian as I was.

Meg Glesener: And don’t you think pride is one of those insidious killers in the church? It’s just there and it sits there and people don’t see it and we don’t preach as much on it. 

Markus Watson: Yeah. I, I grew out of it a little bit in college out of that pride but it’s still, I still had a lot for a long time and I, I still do, but I’ll tell you my story, but it broke me of a lot of the pride that I once held onto.

And it’s an ongoing breaking , and it hurts to let go of your pride.

For sure. 

Meg Glesener: So I know, my kids are all raised in a Christian home, but at , at some point your faith either, becomes yours , or it just you drift away a bit. What was your journey like?

Markus Watson: When I was four years old, three or four years old, my mom tells me that, I prayed She was putting me to bed and we had our bedtime devotions and she said, I pray Jesus, I really want to be your child. . So that was step one.

When I was about 12, we went to a Billy Graham crusade and that was cool. And I went forward at that Billy Graham crusade cuz I, I don’t know, in my mind I thought, oh, I wanna do this at an age when I can remember it. I already believed in Jesus. I already bel you know, I would say I was already a follower of Jesus as a, as a 12 year old can be.

But then when it really became my own was in college and I got involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, that’s where I learned to lead a Bible study and disciple other guys and share my….

Meg Glesener: What college?

Markus Watson: You’ll never, you’ve never heard of it. Slippery rock University. 

Meg Glesener: Oh my. Marcus. That’s, 

Markus Watson: It’s real.

Meg Glesener: That’s cute. Wow.

Markus Watson: It’s real how that, it’s in Pennsylvania about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh. Man college was great. Great friends. Grew in my faith tremendously.

Meg Glesener: Yeah. What happened after college? 

Markus Watson: My dream had always been to make it big in Hollywood. I wanted to be, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a movie star.

And then, when I was in fact when I was a kid, I would pray, dear Lord, please help me to become an actor while I’m still a kid. I wanted to be a child star . I didn’t wanna wait. Even though we lived in Pennsylvania, not Hollywood. 

Meg Glesener: This explains so much. Marcus 

Markus Watson: Does it? And then in high school, I was like, no, I wanna be a director actually.

And so in college, I majored in communication video production, and then got an internship in Hollywood and got to work on some really cool projects. Got to work on the 1994 Cleo Awards, which is like the Oscars for commercials. That was cool. Kelsey Grammar was the host, and other celebrity, presenters.

And that was a lot of fun. And I got to work on a Muppets Music video that was cool. Met a bunch of celebrities that, shook hands with a bunch of celebrities cuz you know, Muppets always do stuff with celebrities. Helen Hunt remembered my name, . 

Meg Glesener: She did?

Markus Watson: She’s did, yeah. She’s Marcus, like later in the day I’m like, yeah. Oh cool . So anyway, so that was great. And I did, so I did that internship, finish college, went back to LA, my dad had taken a position in Los Angeles as a pastor, and so the whole family moved out there, so that was great. My, I was like, all right, Lord, I’m on my way, this is what you made me for, and I’m gonna do it now, and so worked on some other TV shows.

Mostly I got pigeonholed into TV specials, , so very short term. And then, but over the course of that I started developing this sort of love, hate relationship with Hollywood. And I had this moment where, I was supposed to deliver a script to the host of this show and it was early email, so they weren’t really quite yet, emailing the scripts and stuff.

I had to hand deliver it. So anyway, delivered it to the wrong address, put it through a mail slot or something and it was the wrong place. And got back to the production office and the producer’s like you delivered it to the wrong place. He hasn’t gotten it. I was like I delivered it. And then he’s, we figured out what happened.

He’s you can’t make mistakes like this. He’s a star. And this guy was like he’s a supporting actor on N Y P D Blue at the time. So anyway he’s, and then he goes he is not a star, but he is a celebrity. And , I’m like, oh, so there’s a difference. Okay. And it just clarified for me this sort of hierarchy in Hollywood.

And I was definitely at the bottom of that hierarchy. And that was the first time I was like, oof. I don’t know if I really liked this. And then, The last thing for me was I was working at a company called Creative Domain, which produced movie trailers. And it was cool. I, it was a temp job for two weeks with sort of the possibility of going full-time.

And after those two weeks, they decided not to keep me. And I said, oh why not? Is there something I could have done? They said you could have offered to stay late meaning stay late for no, no pay, no overtime or anything. And I was like okay. I see how it is . At that point I was just like, I think I’m done.

And there had been other little things along the way that just it’s left a sour taste in my mouth. 

Meg Glesener: Had you done any acting roles or anything? 

Markus Watson: I didn’t do any acting. I wasn’t interested in acting anymore at that point. 

Meg Glesener: Oh, I see. 

Markus Watson: Yeah. So I just, I wanted to do video editing. I loved editing. And then eventually directing. That was my plan. So anyway, so I left Hollywood and I was like I don’t know what to do. But let’s see. I could either go on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. I thought that would be a great fit. Or I’ll get a master’s degree in communication at some Christian university perhaps, or I’ll go to seminary and Campus Crusade or Master’s degree in Communication.

This was the summer of 96. I could get into those by the following January, or I could start at Fuller Seminary in September. And I was like I don’t know what else to do with my time. I’ll just start seminary and if I don’t like it, then I’ll quit. So I started at Fuller Seminary and I loved it.

It was. Like my first class was a class called Patristic Theology, which means theology of the early church fathers. Eight o’clock Monday morning and we opened with prayer and coming from a state university, I was like, whoa, what are we doing? Oh, we’re in seminary. . You can pray at the beginning of class.

And then the professor, John Thompson, he started lecturing and I’m like, oh my gosh. this is awesome. I can’t believe I get to learn this stuff, and so that first week I was like, this is where I need to be. This is the right place for me.

Meg Glesener: How were your parents feeling about that and were they glad that you were out of the Hollywood scene? 

Markus Watson: They were fine with me not doing Hollywood anymore. they were okay with that. They didn’t now they never pressured me into going to seminary or going into the pastorate or anything. In fact, they would say, don’t become a Pastor Marcus. It’s too hard. But they didn’t, of course, keep me from it either. Once I started to feel that calling. 

Meg Glesener: Were you having really good conversations with your dad? Was he, like your patristic theology in different classes? Did it open up a new avenue of conversation with your dad? 

Markus Watson: Oh yeah. Yeah. It definitely, even now, there are things that we can talk about in terms of, challenges of being a pastor that I couldn’t have talked about before, so yeah, totally.

It, it’s a po definitely a point of connection you that we have, and That’s cool. Yeah. And even for my mom who’s a pastor’s wife, and she gets a lot of that too , right? Yeah. But yeah, but the, I had another kind of confirmation that was in the right place. Prior to leaving Hollywood, I had shelled out my own 800 bucks for a three day course on video editing on what was then the new state of the art, computer editing system called an Avid.

And so I took the class. I thought that’s gonna be my next step. I’ll try to get a job as an assistant editor somewhere and start doing that. And then I left Hollywood, and then I was like that was a waste of money, and so then started at Fuller and first week I’m looking for a job on campus.

I see the posting, I’m like, oh, there’s a, a position in their media center. I’ll apply for that, that fits. So I go and I get an interview and I sit down with the director of the media center and he’s in kind of a large cubicle. And on the other corner of the cubicle is, an Avid editing system, and I’m like, Hey, you have an Avid.

He goes, yeah, we just got it. He goes, do you know how to use it? I was like, yeah, I took a class . And so I became the at first just the on-call video editor whenever there was something to do, and then eventually became the video production coordinator for Fuller Seminary, which was fantastic.

And so I was like, all right, I get to study theology, I get to grow in my faith, and I get to do video production. awesome. Without all the pressure and fakeness of Hollywood. So anyway, it was definitely God saying this, you are in the right place. This is where I want you right now. Yeah. I started the ordination process, still wasn’t convinced that I would become a pastor.

It’s a two year process if do it in the shortest amount of time. And a lot of folks do. I did it in four years because I was dragging my feet , and I did not want to, I really just had a hard time thinking of myself as a pastor. Again, I have a great relationship with my dad, but that was his thing, right?

That wasn’t my thing. And I was still, I think in a lot of ways holding onto that Hollywood dream even though I had let go of it, pretty much entirely. There was still a part of me that was like, I can’t see myself doing something else. And so my wife, so I got married the last couple years that I was at seminary.

And my wife during our first year of marriage, she said to me while we were in bed at night one, she’s so are you ever gonna finish this? Or what , and I’m like I know. I need to. Okay. Not long after that we were at a Good Friday service at the church where I was a youth pastor.

We ended the service with a prayer by Saint Augustine that started with the words late, have I loved you. Like those words just hit me. I was like, oh, yep, late have I loved you, Lord, I have been very late in loving you. I’ve been dragging my feet. And so I said, okay, Lord I know you want me to finish this ordination process.

I’ll finish it. I’m all in. And so that summer I did, by the next spring, I was a, an associate pastor at a church in Union Kentucky. Just about 20 minutes south of Cincinnati. And was there for about three and a half years. And then from there came to San Diego, and here I am. 

Meg Glesener: There you are. You’ll get a kick out of this. But we thought, We were available to be sent to plant a church, wherever. And we were in Southern California and we said wherever. And we thought we were gonna be planting a church in the Riverside, which is called the armpit of LA. And the Lord sent us up here to Seattle instead. So yeah. Sometimes you’re willing for whatever and you just don’t know where he is gonna put you. 

Markus Watson: That’s right. 

Meg Glesener: And you to San Diego. 

Markus Watson: Yeah. And that was a, that was when we realized we were gonna go to San Diego. I’d interviewed a few other places, including Texas, and I was like, ah, Texas will be fine.

But when it became clear that this is where we were being called, oh, we were so happy. , San Diego, you can’t beat that. Plus back close to friends and family. And it was just, and we love living here. We do. It’s a beautiful place. 

Meg Glesener: I know it hasn’t always been smooth for you, Marcus.

Markus Watson: Yeah, so came to this church in San Diego. It was a great experience for about seven and a half years, and then that last year was. Awful . It was just horrible. 2015, I went on sabbatical. About two weeks into my sabbatical, I got a call from our executive Presbyter, who is the guy overseeing the presbytery here in San Diego our group of churches.

And he said he needed to meet with me. And I said I’m, that’s fine. I’m gonna be out of town this weekend. He wanted to meet with me that Saturday. He was calling me on a Friday. I was like, no, I’m, I’m gonna be visiting some friends up in LA and my brother and so I won’t be here.

He’s oh and it really pushed to try to meet with me that day. And he is can you reschedule your trip? I’m like, no, I’m on sabbatical. And I’m looking forward to being with my friends. We can meet next week sometime . So anyway, but it was like why is he so anxious to meet with me?

Anyway, so we did end up meeting. that Sunday he came and basically said Marcus someone has accused you of having a problem with pornography. And I said, oh, okay. And we talked a little bit about this and then I said what do you need to do? And he said, we need to do a forensic analysis on your laptop, which was owned by the church.

So that’s why he could claim that, I said okay, that’s fine. Do you want it now? My laptop, he said That would be good. So I gave him my laptop and he left and they did this forensic analysis. Now, full disclosure have I ever looked at pornography in my life? Yes. But I wanna make sure I don’t, and so for years now, I’ve had accountability software and all my devices.

I have an accountability partner, another pastor in the presbytery who plays a big part in what happened in this story. 

Meg Glesener: I know our pastors use covenant eyes and they’re all accountable to each other. And my son also has led a purity group. I think for four years in San Diego with young men. Just to say let’s keep this a conversation and let’s, let’s keep purity part of our…

Markus Watson: Absolutely. Yeah. So it’s important. I use Covenant Eyes too. And it’s great, so anyway, so he took the laptop and he said it would take about two or three days, turned into about three weeks, which was very frustrating because, just, he had my laptop. I wanted my laptop back. , 

Meg Glesener: What all does that mean a forensic analysis? That sounds really fancy. 

Markus Watson: I know I had to ask that too. Basically, it just means that they hired someone who basically went through my entire computer to try to find if there was any, pornography there. After about three weeks, I got a call from our executive president and he said I can’t give your laptop back because your laptop has been handed over to the authorities and it’s now a potential criminal investigation.

And I was like, what? What are you talk, I was like, what are you talking about? And I could not fathom how that could even be possible. I’m like, what in the world did they find now because the accusation was pornography. Of course I’m thinking I know I’ve never looked at child pornography, and but I’m wondering because that’s the kind of thing that would trigger a criminal investigation.

At the same time, I’m wondering, did somebody put bomb instructions or something , on my laptop or terrorist stuff, right? I don’t know. I did know that the. The tech guy at our church who, would fix my laptop now and then had also become a little bit of a nemesis for me in recent months, or in the past year or so.

And so a part of me was like, did he put something on there? And he didn’t, thankfully. But anyway, that just turned into a really dark time for me, the rest of my sabbatical. And I’m about five or six weeks into my sabbatical at this time. And just the rest of my sabbatical was just really dark.

Meg Glesener: Was it shared with the church at this time or is this just something that’s quietly being talked about with you and your wife are like crushed thinking about what we this isn’t, we haven’t done anything. 

Markus Watson: Yes. So it was not shared with the church. And the part of the problem with this is that they weren’t following the process. Our Book of Order right, has a process for if someone makes an accusation, here’s what you do, and you form an investigative committee, and then, they do an investigation, all this, but all this was being done secretly under the table. Don’t tell anyone. And maybe he was trying to protect me, but it was a really bad decision, right?

The process actually, I realize now is designed to protect everybody, the accuser and the accused . So I was, I felt incredibly unprotected in this process. I didn’t know where my, who had my laptop. He wouldn’t tell me. Didn’t find out until, a month and a half later that it was the FBI that had my laptop.

Now, my friend Kevin, who is a pastor here in the presbytery and my accountability partner, he really went to bat for me. During this time he and another pastor actually met with the executive Presbyter on my behalf and said, Hey, you’re doing this wrong. Start over. Just go through the process.

And he’s no. My advisors have told me I’m doing the right or the right thing. But so I was really grateful for everything that he did. He would, take me out to dinner, get some drinks now and then, and check in on me every now and then. How are you doing today? One of the things, or there were some really good things that came out of this that were very painful at the time.

One of those good things was that I realized my, my own insecurity in terms of my sense of worthiness feeling like I deserved to be loved was exposed to me. I was leaving from hanging out with my friend Kevin, one night and I just said, Lord, why is he doing this for me?

He doesn’t have to do this. He doesn’t have to make phone calls on my behalf, or send emails or have meetings on my behalf, or check in on me or take me out, and . And then, and of course I was like of course, because, we’re friends. But I was like, but I don’t feel like I deserve this.

And so the next day I was at the beach and I like to surf though I’m not very good at it, . But I was sitting on my surfboard, not catching any waves and . But I was praying, Lord, 

Meg Glesener: That’s a good title to a movie. Okay. No.

Markus Watson: Oh, that’s good. . That’s true. . I was just like, Lord. It became clear to me that I had this sense that I didn’t deserve to be loved.

In fact, I realized that whenever I would pray, confess a sin or something, I would say, Lord, I’m so sorry. I don’t deserve, I don’t deserve your love. And it just became clear to me, oh my gosh, I’ve been telling myself for, since I was a teenager. I don’t deserve your love, Lord. I don’t deserve your love.

I don’t deserve your love. What a terrible message to be telling myself over and over again. And so then I was like, Lord, I gotta change that. And so I just kept repeating to myself, Lord, I deserve your love. I deserve your love. Not in the sense that I’ve earned it, but in the sense that I’m worthy of it because I’m a child of God, created in the image of God, right?

And then as I was just reciting that in my mind over and over again I realized also that I have this sense that I don’t, I feel like I don’t deserve to be loved by other people. And so then I just said, Lord, I deserve to be loved in general by people, right? I deserve to be loved. I deserve to be loved.

And it took a really painful experience to at least make that clear to me, okay, I am worthy of love. And then another little moment of light for me, moment of grace was when we met with an attorney, a friend of mine my friend Kevin and his wife said, you should go talk to an attorney because you don’t have any protection, cuz they’re not following the process and you have no idea what’s going on.

So I did meet with an attorney and I didn’t know until we met with her that she had experience with child pornography cases. And so I told her, look, I’ve never looked at child pornography. And we don’t know what it is that they found. And so she was, We were talking, and she was painting all kinds of worst case scenarios for me and my wife.

And she’s if they find something they probably aren’t gonna come quietly. They’re gonna come banging on your door at, four or five in the morning and get you outta bed. And all that . And so I’m like, oh my gosh. Holy cow. After about an hour, she finally said I can tell you’re not guilty.

And I was like, oh, great. How can you tell? She said, you’re not asking the right questions. If you were guilty you’d be asking about how much time am I looking at, how, what’s our defense gonna be? And she said, and you’re just asking when can I get my laptop back? ? I was like, oh, wow.

Thank you. And it was like, gosh, somebody understands, somebody can see the truth here, right? And so she, she was wonderful. She never charged me for anything she said. She said, I’m, I’ll send some emails, I’ll make some phone calls. Don’t worry about paying me until it gets more serious.

And so that was fantastic. I was really grateful for her. 

Meg Glesener: That’s so encouraging. Had you said anything to your, anybody else at this point? Like family or your kids or?

Markus Watson: No. 

Meg Glesener: And your kids are young, so they probably still probably don’t know. 

Markus Watson: In fact, I still haven’t said anything but my oldest is 15 now, so I’ll probably tell ’em pretty soon about what all this happened.

Yeah. They, yeah. So they had no, no clue about anything. And then the really, the most meaningful moment during all this was near the, probably about two weeks before my sabbatical ended, I was praying I spent a lot of time in the Psalms of Lament, lots of prayer and silence and solitude.

My wife was working, the kids were I don’t know what the kids were doing during the summer. I guess they were home praying this one morning, and I had finished, just reflecting on one of the Psalms and was sitting quietly, and I started thinking about, all the worst things that could happen.

It was like my mind went into this spiral, I was like, oh my gosh, I could lose my job. And I did eventually I was like, I could lose my ordination, right? I, if it looks like I’m guilty of something here I could lose my reputation, right? People could, I could be remembered as that guy.

Oh, remember Marcus? Yeah. You don’t wanna want to go down that path, I could lose my family. I thought. Now in that worse, in that moment, I don’t think I actually would’ve lost my family. But, your mind goes to these dark places and then I thought, oh my gosh, I could become a registered sex offender.

And everywhere I go, people will think something about me that isn’t even true. And then I thought I could go to prison. And I had this image of myself sitting in a prison cell having lost everything, right? My job, my ordination, my reputation, my family just sitting alone in a prison cell. And then it was like, I heard God say, yep, you might lose everything, but you will never lose my love for you.

And it was like in that moment, God’s love became more real and more clear than it had ever been before. And of course I believed in God’s unconditional love before that. And I taught it and I preached it and I told my kids about it. And I God loves you unconditionally. Yes, God loves you unconditionally, but it’s like I didn’t really understand it until that moment.

And I’m grateful I didn’t actually have to lose all that stuff. I did lose one of those things. My job I’ll tell about, I can tell you that in a sec. But all the emotion of having lost everything. And yet in that moment, God said, the one thing no one can ever take away from you is my love. So that was really a powerful, transformative moment for me. And life changing and life altering. 

Meg Glesener: Doesn’t it make you look at the scriptures in a whole different way? You wonder where all those psalms are, where it says your bones are clinging to your sides and your and you’re going about the day and you’re moaning. And then job and something like that. And then you, it opens up the scriptures, a whole new set of scriptures to you as well. 

Markus Watson: Yeah. It’s yeah, totally. All of a sudden I understand, oh, now I understand what David was feeling, or whichever Psalmist was or Job. Oh maybe not exactly. He actually was like terrified. He was actually like crying out in agony, I get it now. And you know what, this whole experience really made me more compassionate too, I think. , because now I get it when someone is suffering. Not that I hadn’t suffered in the past, but this was the deepest, for me, the deepest kind of suffering I’d experience so far.

It was almost like an inconvenience to me if someone was in the hospital. That sounds awful, but I’m just being honest, , right? It’s oh gosh, gotta go visit somebody in the hospital, but now I, it’s different. Like I, I want people to know that somebody cares, it’s certainly not an imposition the way it felt like when I was younger.

Or maybe it was just the Thursday before I went back to work, I went back the following Monday, I got a text from our executive presbyter. He said I have your laptop. You can come pick it up anytime. So in other words, it had wound down. And in fact, he had told me in earlier, he said they’ve told me they haven’t found anything.

And I was like, of course not. I didn’t say that, but I thought to myself, of course they haven’t . Right? So 

Meg Glesener: But dry like that and not Markus I’m so happy. It was just like some judge was reading something that you didn’t know was reading you some way. 

Markus Watson: Yep. It was very dry and my response was very dry.

I was actually meeting up with him to get some of my work documents so that I could get back to work when I start up again. And that’s when he told me he’s Hey, I just wanna let you know. They’ve told me they haven’t found anything. I was like, okay, good. Thanks. I also didn’t respond by going, woo-hoo, yay.

Oh, I’m so happy. I was like, I was just like, of course they didn’t anyway, so he texted me, he said I could get my laptop. I let my friend Kevin know, and he’s Hey, why don’t you ask your lawyer if you should, ask him anything or if there’s anything you need to do as when you pick it up.

And she was like, you guys should not be interacting with each other. As far as we know, they’re still an open investigation. We have not yet received confirmation. She, by the way, is the one who figured out that it was the FBI that had my laptop. She had to really push and prod to get that information, so then she said, tell him he can drop it off at my office. You can get it from me. He did not do that, and so I didn’t, still didn’t have my laptop for about another three weeks, and he actually left the presbytery and went and took another position. At about that time, about the time that I got off my sabbatical.

I, I did eventually get my laptop. . I was like, okay, good. I think we’re done. I think it’s over . 

Meg Glesener: You wanna just spray it with bleach? 

Markus Watson: Yeah. . Anyway, about a week after that, I got a letter from the presbytery office handed to me like I was being served. And I opened it up and it said that now formal allegations were being brought against me, pornography, and this time, including child pornography.

And so then, and I was just like, oh my gosh. Yeah. I was like, Lord, I thought we were done. I thought this was over what is going on? And just like this awful, horrible, feeling on the inside and like, when is this ever gonna end? And then interestingly, by that night, I was feeling better because I thought you know what, Lord, you got me through it once, you’ll get me through it again.

I had to go stand go sit before a panel of three folks from the presbytery to determine whether or not I needed to be put on administrative leave.

Meg Glesener: Was this a new process? 

Markus Watson: So it was a new process. It was the same person making the a accusation, the allegations. Because the first one was not an official investigation.

She had the option to now form file formal allegations and kick off an actual a formal investigation. So anyway, so they decided not to put me on leave. And this was a moment of grace. When they gave me their determination it spelled out that the fact that she had no evidence of any wrongdoing, of any kind, it was all just guessed, you know what do you call it?

It’s not even hearsay. She was just guessing . And the, basically this person, it was a staff person at our church. I found out later, I didn’t know who it was at the time. She said that since it went to the F B I, then there must be something, even though the FBI decided not to pursue an indictment.

Thankfully these, this panel from the presbytery realized, yeah, there is not there, and so we’re not gonna put you on leave. We do have to do the investigation. About three months later the investigation concluded and they determined that there was no evidence to support the allegations.

And so that wrapped it up as far as the presbytery was concerned. And so that was a huge blessing. 

Meg Glesener: How did you feel at the time, because you’re still involved at the church, and I know as a pastor you care about people, you see all the people in the hallways and you’re interacting and preparing. How did that affect you?

Markus Watson: Yeah. That’s interesting because, so my dad’s a pastor and he went through some hard times and I would wonder the same thing, like how’s he still preaching? And what was interesting was that I was like fired up because of it. I was like, I’m gonna preach the gospel. I’m. And it was most of it was about I read this book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero, which is fantastic.

Did a sermon series on that. Did a sermon series on not a sermon series, but some of the books that I read Surrendered to Love, Life of the Beloved. I read a lot of books Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning, a lot of spiritually formative books during my sabbatical, which I had already planned to do.

And praise the Lord. They were exactly what I needed for that time. And so a lot of stuff just about deep spiritual formation and so that’s what I was preaching on and I was passionate about it. And I think in some ways that’s what helped me stay focused was that I was just like, Lord, I’m gonna, I’m gonna say what you’re telling me to say, and yeah, so it was good. This person was not happy with the investigation results. And so in February, so this had started in May of 2015. By February, she sent the same allegations to our session, which is our board of elders. And so then we had to have a conversation with the elders about it.

The new executive Presbyter who had gotten involved came to that meeting. My friend Kevin came to that meeting, the executive Presbyter, the new one, he said, as far as the presbytery’s concerned, this is a closed matter. Kevin said, look, I’ve got years’ worth of accountability reports if you want to see those.

And so that was great. And then we, Kevin and I recused ourselves for about half an hour. We came back into the meeting and they said, Marcus, we want you to know that you have our trust as our pastor. And I was like, wow. Okay. I thought to myself, praise the Lord, maybe. Yeah, praise the Lord. Maybe now it’s over.

They said, we’re not gonna someone had suggested maybe they need to ask for my resignation. They said, we’re not gonna ask for your resignation, and in fact, we’re going to brace ourselves for potential lawsuit from this staff person. And I was like, Lord, thank you. Maybe now it’s finally over. And maybe it would’ve been except that one of the elders, for whatever reason, believed the allegations.

She started calling people in the congregation saying, pastor Marcus is into child pornography. And when I realized that was happening, I was like, okay, I think it’s over . I think this is pretty much it. So we had a congregational meeting coming up the week prior. We had a town hall where we just addressed all this stuff and talked to the congregation about it.

Man, I tell you what we had double our normal attendance that Sunday because that did . Everyone will show up for a scandal. 

Meg Glesener: Was there ever conversation with you and this person? Who was accusing you and the staff, this elder lady who was, who called and said those things, was there ever like a brother to sister conversation about this?

Markus Watson: I did have one conversation with the staff person, and I had our human resources elder join me for that. And I just told her what I knew and she got very angry. And she said she said, I know what you did. And she said, I’m a mandated reporter. I’m a mandated reporter. Of course, she never man reported to the Child Protective Services, which she would’ve had to do had she had any evidence.

But anyway, and so she stormed off and that, that was the last interaction I ever had with her. The our elders decided let’s, have our human resources serve as her supervisor from now on until we work this out. And then actually it was not long after that she sent the accusation then to the elders.

And then with that elder who was talking to people. I never did get to have a conversation with her. Yeah. 

Meg Glesener: Have you forgiven her? 

Markus Watson: Yeah, that’s a good question. Yes. It’s hard. Forgiveness is hard. But time does make it easier. It’s, so we had this congregational meeting and the motion was made to dissolve the church’s relationship with me.

The congregation approved it by a margin of two votes, but the fact was, it was time for me to go. And what’s really great is the next morning I was on a plane to Little Rock, Arkansas, because I had a pastor’s retreat already scheduled for six months for that particular week. And I was like, Lord, you knew I was gonna need it.

And I was not the only person at that retreat who had been voted out of their congregation that day. 

Meg Glesener: Oh, wow. 

Markus Watson: Yeah. Yeah. So it was it was, anyway, it was a good place to be for me that week. Yeah. Forgiveness is hard. . But I would say that I have, I don’t have any hard feelings. Now there’s still a part of me that’s if I were to hear that something bad , not like murder or anything like that, but oh, they got fired or something, there’s a part of me that would feel like, ah, they got what this got coming to ’em.

Because I’m a human being. I’m not gonna hide that, but I’ve forgiven them. I don’t harbor any ill will. It became clear to me that I needed to, I was listening to, I think it was Pete Scazerro podcast who wrote Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and he asked the question, can you pray for your enemies?

And I was like, Nope. , I cannot do that. And then I was like, okay, but I guess I have to. And so I said, Lord I realize I don’t mean it yet, but I pray that it will. So I’m like, I’m just gonna say, okay, Lord, I pray for and I prayed for the staff person and same thing with the elder, the woman who was talking to the congregation.

And over time I became able to, Mean it. And the other thing is I also recognize that people don’t do this in a vacuum. I knew that she, cuz she had told me that she had a really difficult abusive relationship with her father. She left home and she was like 18 or something and something in me triggered something in her.

I someone told me that they overheard her say, I was telling, so we would have staff meetings, one-on-one sort of staff meetings. And one day she told me about her husband’s pornography problem. And so someone overheard her saying, yeah, I was telling my pastor about my husband’s pornography problem and he just didn’t react the way I thought he would.

I bet he has a problem with that too. And then it was like two or three weeks after that she went to the Presbytery and, made the accusations. So something. So it helps me to forgive when I can remember that. People do this from their own place of pain. And same thing, I think with the woman who was spreading these rumors about me.

I think that she probably had an experience of some kind of abuse in her past. I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised. A anyway, it helps me to, even if I don’t know exactly what’s going on, there are things that, that shape people, and staff person was shaped in such a way that she felt like she needed to do this.

And the elder was shaped in such a way that she needed to do, felt like she needed to do that. And it just helps me to forgive when I can understand that they’re doing it out of their own hurt probably. 

Meg Glesener: And really, to me, one of the hardest parts of that is just saying that it was children. That probably just gutted you being a father. And thinking you, we’re all sinners, but they’re, I’m sure. It’s a place you wouldn’t go. And to think somebody at the congregation. Or everywhere she went from just pornography to that. 

Markus Watson: Yeah. That is one of the worst parts is thinking feeling like people were believing those things about me.

Not everyone believed it. But some of them did. And I think there were probably some people who probably thought I don’t really know. It doesn’t I imagine some thought, I have a hard time believing Pastor Marcus would do that, but I don’t know for sure. And so maybe we should vote him out just to be safe, but just having that question in people’s minds, , it’s yeah it’s frustrating when someone thinks something about you that is not true, but you can’t change their mind in, in, can’t convince them if they don’t want to be convinced or if you don’t have the opportunity.

Meg Glesener: Especially people that know you or the staff that you’ve worked alongside.

, you thought it was transparent, I thought we had here and everyone loved one another and that there was a spirit of openness. I’m committed to that. Is that not being reciprocated? ?

Markus Watson: Yeah. And you know what, it, this experience really affected the way I think about what matters in ministry because so this comes back now to that pride thing that we talked about way, way back.

I was so committed to getting our church to be a bigger church. We’re not a big church, about a hundred people on Sunday, and I, but I wanted to be like a, we didn’t have to be a megachurch, but certainly five or 600 people, maybe a thousand. That’d be great, and I wanted us to I wanted us, I wanted other churches and pastors to look up to me and say, man, Marcus is really doing a great job there at that church.

Look at what he did. That would’ve made me feel really good. That’s the same the same part of me that wanted to be a movie star. , right? . And then all this happened and I was like, what a waste of effort on my part in trying to accomplish something that was meaningless. . Now that doesn’t mean that there was no good ministry that happened during that time.

There was but what if I had spent more time on really helping people love each other and learn what it means to surrender to God, and to hold lightly all the things that we tend to cling to, and anyway, what if I had really focused on deep spiritual formation?

And maybe that would’ve changed things, maybe not but it changed the way that I thought about what really matters in ministry. By the way, this is a cool moment too. After I had been voted out of the church, I was meeting with some of the elders. I just invited some of who were like friends to me.

I invited them over to the house and we were talking about everything that had happened. And I said, I thought I came, I thought this is where I was supposed to be cuz I was questioning my calling. Did I, did I. Did I misunderstand God? Was I not supposed to come to this church because, does, is this an indication what happened that I made the wrong decision or heard God wrongly?

Anyway, so I was sharing these thoughts and one of, one of a young woman who was an elder, she started crying. I was like, whoa, are you okay? What’s going on? She’s but if you hadn’t come, I wouldn’t have become a Christian. I was like, oh, I, okay, thank you. Yes, I understand, but, and so that was really meaningful to me.

Okay. I didn’t misunderstand God. It’s just that people are sinful, and terrible things happen sometimes and I don’t think that God caused this to happen to me, but God certainly works through bad things that happen to us and can use those times to help us become healthier more whole, which I think is what happened to me.

I think I have become healthier and more whole because of that.

Meg Glesener: And one thing that’s amazing I think, is that after going through all that, I think a lot of people would’ve really felt gutted to just continue with that particular calling, and I know you’re a pastor today. 

Markus Watson: Yeah, and I didn’t know if I would go back to being a pastor after that. I ended up going on staff with an organization called Flourish San Diego, which I was on staff for two years. A friend of mine had started that organization maybe a year prior. And he came to me, when he was actually that week that I was away on the pastor’s retreat. He was my guest preacher that Sunday.

And I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want him to go in thinking, oh my gosh, they just fired my friend Marcus. I was just like, let him go, just, and, but he found out there and he texted him. He’s Hey, I just heard what happened. I’m so sorry. And then I met with him and he invited me on staff and it was I loved being on staff with that organization.

We did coaching with pastors basically. And that was where I discovered a love for working with churches, plural, and not just one church. I still love working with one, the one church that I’m currently pastoring, but I love helping others as well. And so at the time, I didn’t know if I’d ever go back to being a pastor because it felt like the thought of becoming a pastor felt like throwing myself into a snake pit, and I’m like, why would I ever do that again? So the, the only reason I left Flourish San Diego was because I had to fundraise my own salary, which was really hard, . And so anyway, I had been guest preaching during that time at lots of different churches. I was, one of the churches was this one in Westmoreland.

And when they heard that I was leaving Flourish, they said, would you consider being our interim pastor? And I said, yeah, let’s talk about it. And so we figured out a way for it to work. And I will say that part of the reason I said yes to that was because they had been so kind and warm towards me.

And I had been, they were without a pastor. I was there about, probably about twice a month or so, and I like them, I had grown to like them. 

Meg Glesener: How far away is it from the other church? 

Markus Watson: Oh, two hours. Yeah. My, my old church is at 10 minutes from where I live and this, my current church is two hours east of San Diego.

So I’m only out there. So it’s a part-time position. Yeah. Under normal circumstances, non-pandemic. I go, I would go out on Sunday morning and then stay overnight, come back Monday night, and then work from home the rest of the week. Right now we just went back to in-person services. We meet outdoors, socially distanced masks on, so right now I just go out on Sunday mornings and then come home afterwards and we have a Bible study on Mondays and we do it via conference call these days.

Meg Glesener: Do you feel that? You can a hundred percent trust your staff and your congregants. Is that the right word? 

Markus Watson: So it’s a small church. I’m the only staff . It’s nice actually. And so my staff really is some of the elders, some of the volunteers. And I do trust them actually.

I’ve grown to, to know them and they know my story. I’ve shared it with the congregation. No secrets as far as that goes, and they have done some really good stuff. One of the things that I love about being there is they’ve got this fantastic food pantry that they started just after I started on staff there.

And I did not do any of the work starting it. When I was just guest preaching I met with some of their elders, and I think it was their elders, their session just to, bounce some ideas around with them. And I said you’ve got this great facility. It’s small, but it’s great. It’s very clean, it’s well, maintained.

What else do you guys do besides church on Sunday mornings? And they’re like, oh yeah, yeah, nope, I can’t think of anything . And so I was like what else could you do with this property that God has given you to be a blessing to the community? And so they tried a few things and eventually tried a food pantry.

And it has just been such a blessing to this town that struggles with a lot of food insecurity actually. There’s no grocery store in town. There’s a Circle K, which is, like a 7-Eleven, and that’s it. And every week, and especially now during the pandemic, 200 people a week family, 200 families are getting food every week through this food pantry in a town of about 800 families. 

Meg Glesener: That’s incredible. 

Markus Watson: I love it. Yeah, it’s awesome. And see for me, I in the past I would’ve been embarrassed to be the pastor of such a small church. We have about during the pandemic, about 25 people on Sunday, 40 to 50 non pre pandemic and but I’m just. , this is where I’ve been called. And so it’s not a matter of how does it look to other people that I’m in a small church. , no, this is it. This is just where God’s called me for now. However long it might be. It might be a few more years. I don’t know. And I’m just grateful to, to serve there. Yeah. 

Meg Glesener: Is there a verse, Marcus, that has meant a lot to you through all that you’ve been through? 

Two, come to 

Markus Watson: mind. One of them, it’s Christmas time, advent. Right now we’re looking ahead towards Christmas, and I’ve been thinking about this, the Angels song. They said they sang Glory to God in the Highest and On Earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests. 

And so peace to those on whom God’s favor rests. And I love to think about that. On whom does God’s favor rest? Is it the Christians? Or is it maybe the Jews of that time on Who are they talking about? On whom does God’s favor rest? And then I one day, at some point in my life, I was like, it’s everybody right on who?

Peace to those on whom God’s favor rest. That’s everybody including me. God’s favor rests on me. And so I’ve been thinking about that one as we’ve been moving towards Christmas, right? God doesn’t just love everybody. He likes everybody too, right? The whole we are his children and he loves us.

Then the other one is Jesus’ baptism, right? Where Jesus comes up out of the water and here’s the voice and says, you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Very similar, right? My favor rests on you. And I think that, of course God said it to Jesus, but I think God, in a lot of ways says that to us too.

You are my beloved child on you. My favor rests. I’m God’s beloved. And that’s my primary identity. I’m not a pastor primarily I’m not even a husband or a dad primarily. I’m God’s beloved and everything else flows out of that. And then the other thing, when I think about ministry now, like that’s what I want people to know.

I just want Henri Nouwen in his book, life of the Beloved, I’m paraphrasing here. He says something like, when you discover yourself to be God’s beloved, you just want everybody else to know that they’re God’s beloved too. And I believe that is true of every single human being. And when a person starts to recognize that, that’s transformative.

Of course, I want people to know about Jesus, but if they can feel an experience that they are God’s beloved man, that changes everything. 

Meg Glesener: Before we see a love the envelope on this story of encouragement, I have prepared bonus material for you that we like to call the PS. Sure to make you smile and be moved within your heart as you see a bit more of the heart and personality of our guest.

Announcer: Here is your PS. 

Meg Glesener: Are you ready for some bonus questions? 

Markus Watson: Let’s do it.

Meg Glesener: So on a lighter note. , did you have any fun family traditions growing up?

Markus Watson: We did. I was thinking about Christmas again. We would always do Christmas on Christmas Eve. My mom’s German and so that, I guess that was more traditional in German families.

So anyway, we’d do Christmas Eve and we’d go to church, Christmas Eve service, then we come home. Then my brother and I would have to go to our rooms, or we could be in the same room, but we had to be out of the living room. And my parents got everything ready and, Once we heard the music, we knew it was time we could come out.

And then we’d walk into the living room and my parents both played the recorder, like the flute kind of recorder, and they would be playing Christmas music each of them in harmony on their recorders while we came in. And the whole house was just lit with candlelight, including the Christmas tree, which may not have been totally safe, but it was beautiful , but candles on the tree, candles, around the room and no other lights.

And anyway, it was just very magical and loved it. Yeah. 

Meg Glesener: So I also have like connections to San Diego. What is your favorite taco? What’s your favorite taco place there? 

Markus Watson: There’s a place not far from where I live here in town where the town that I live in Terra Santa, it’s called Cochijas and they just have great Mexican food.

And every now and then we’ll just, Bring a bunch of rolled tacos and regular tacos and whatever, burritos, taquitos and just bring it all and everybody eats whatever they want out of that, but that’s a great place. Yeah. And it’s funny, so I occasionally drive Lyft on the side and I, one day I gave a ride to the owner of that very small, it’s three locations. I’m like, oh, you he was telling me what he does, and I’m like, oh, we eat that place. That’s cool. I dropped him off at his house and fun. Anyway, . 

Meg Glesener: Oh, how about that? Okay, so Uber, huh? Yeah. Or did you say Lyft?

Markus Watson: Lyft, not Uber. Come on. Kidding. 

Meg Glesener: Yeah. You’re not like a snob or anything. Like a, not like an Uber snob. Okay. Yeah. So Marcus was, A dream movie that you had that you wanted to do or do video for or be in? 

Markus Watson: Oh, yes. If I could have, I would’ve directed the next Star Wars movie. That would’ve been, I would’ve done a much better job than what they did.

Meg Glesener: I think a lot of people feel that way as well. Have you gotten to use your love for movies and theater in, ministry and all? 

Markus Watson: Yeah. Yeah. When, not as much recently, but for a while I was very ambitious, of course I wanted lots of people to really like my church, but I would produce videos for Sundays morning services, occasionally, or for a specials service that we would do, so that was, and that’s a lot of fun, and I do love it. Right now I think the thing that fulfills that creative gene in me is the, is podcasting actually. And Yeah. So that’s a lot of fun.

Meg Glesener: Yeah. And for those out there Marcus’s podcast, Spiritual Life and Leadership, just wherever you’re listening to letters from home right now just search in the little bar and just click subscribe.

He’s got a great podcast and you’ll really benefit. It’s really encourage me as far as leadership and life and things I’m involved with in church. Makes me think he has a great Facebook group too. Is and what’s your website? Do you have a website? 

Markus Watson: Yeah. It’s just But it’s Markus with a K.

You have to remember that it’s not with a C. a K. Yeah, it’s German. That’s right. Marcus with a k And you can find my podcast there. You can find some other resources there. 

Meg Glesener: So Marcus, so you’re a bestselling author also Beyond Thingification. 

Markus Watson: That’s right. Beyond Thingification, which has to do well and also came out of this experience. It has to do with do we objectify or thingify people in our churches when we’re doing ministry, right? And or when we’re starting ministries or programs to reach the community. A lot of times we’re just trying to get people to show up to our stuff, right? But how do we stop thingifying people and communities and actually become aware of who they are and what God is already doing among them, and then just start joining God in what God is already doing. I think that’s the invitation. God isn’t always, God doesn’t want us to try to figure out something brand new. God is already doing things and says, come on, help me out with this.

This is what I want you to do. I’m already at work in this part of town, or, in this family or in this community or this school. Just join me here. And so anyway, so that’s what the book is about. How do we stop just trying to get people to show up, what is the three B’s?

Buildings? Bodies, Buildings and Bucks or something like that, right? And that’s what most churches focus on, but how do we just actually focus on what God is already doing, join God and what he’s doing, and bring healing into the world. Yeah. 

Meg Glesener: I guess along those lines what would you say is the greatest need in the church today?

Markus Watson: I would say, A sense of humility and surrender. I think too often we think we have all the answers and feel like we need to tell everyone what the answers are. And we don’t , first of all. And when we act like we do, I think it turns people off because we can see that. And when other people act that way towards us, it’s oh, you can keep your information to yourself.

So I think a sense of humility, not only for the sake of our witness, but also for the sake of our own connection to God, to Jesus. I think sometimes we’re guilty of trying to correct God and we need a we need to let God be God, and we need to, I think I heard a great, oh man.

I think the church can be very judgmental and regardless of whether you’re a conservative church or more liberal church, , all kinds of churches can be judgmental towards those who are not like them. A friend of mine posted something on Facebook. He was quoting maybe Walt Whitman or something like that.

Some, long time ago author. But the statement was, don’t be judgmental, be curious. And I was like, ah, that’s great, right? Because so often we just prejudge people and assume we know all about them without actually, but if someone is, if you don’t understand or you, or maybe is acting in a way that makes you uncomfortable don’t judge them.

Just be curious. Ask them about it, right? Try to find out what’s going on in their life and you might be able to love them then the way God loves them too, right? I think the reason Jesus was able to love so well is because he understood everyone’s story, right? When you can understand someone’s story, you’re better able to love them.

And that doesn’t mean they have to stay where they are, but. But you can, but they, transformation becomes possible when a person feels like they’re loved and we can’t love someone for judging them. If we’re curious, we might be able to learn to love them. 

Meg Glesener: Would you say that’s one of the great passions on your heart as a pastor?

Markus Watson: Yeah, for sure. I’m still learning to do that. I can’t say I’m perfect when it comes to Judgmentalism , but I’m learning, I’m growing and I want I just want people to know, like I said before, that they’re God’s beloved. And I want them to treat each other like every one of us is God’s beloved.

Imagine, right? If we lived, if our churches, if in our churches, we all treated each other like we were, like the only thing that mattered about us was not what we’ve accomplished. Not how spiritual we are, right? Not how religious or any of that, but just the fact that we’re all God’s beloved, right?

It puts us all on the same level, and then we can, a, when we understand that about ourselves, we’re able to love each other far more fully and deeply, and that, I think, would change the world. 

Meg Glesener: Absolutely. And I know Marcus you read a lot, what would you say is three books that would really help every Christian in ministry?

Markus Watson: So one of the books that I think is fantastic. Okay, three books Surrender to Love by David Benner, which is very short and I love it. It’s just about the fact that you are loved by God and how do you receive God’s love? It’s not by earning it, it’s not by being religious, right?

You can hear the theme in ,the things that matter to me, right? It’s just by surrendering to it. Just surrender. He describes it like a lazy river, right? The way you enjoy a lazy river is not by paddling and trying to get through it as fast as you can. It’s just by laying back and letting the lazy river carry you.

That’s how you experience the love of God. I love that image. 

Meg Glesener: Oh, that, that’s great. 

Markus Watson: Yeah. And then the second one is emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero. That book was transformative for me and in the sense that I learned so much from it and was I able to identify with a lot of it and it gave me tools for becoming more emotionally healthy myself and for spiritual formation talks a lot about the rule of having a rule of life, which is really just a, what’s your structure for spiritual formation? So the third book would be one that’s more kind of leadership related. It’s not a Christian book it’s a leadership book.

It’s called Leadership on the Line, and it’s by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky. And they’re both Harvard Leadership people. But really good. It’s all about adaptive leadership. And it actually fits, like when you read it, you’re like, oh, I could see how. , right? These are just principles for leadership, which are good, healthy life principles for following Jesus , in a way listening to people.

But anyway if you’re trying to adapt in some way, if and leadership is always some change. , that’s a great book. He says for instance, people don’t resist change. What they resist is loss, right? . And so how do you recognize what it is that people feel like they’re losing?

Will you listen to them? You pay attention. This is good. Discipleship stuff too, right? So recognize the loss that people are experiencing. Anyway, lots of great stuff in that book on just leading in general. 

Meg Glesener: In all your studies, is there a character or person in the Bible you most admire or relate to?

Markus Watson: Probably Jonah. I identify with his three days in the belly of the whale. But I also identify with his running away . For a long time I ran away from this. I think that calling to be a pastor was there for longer than I’m probably even aware of. But it became clear over time and I resisted that call even when I was in seminary.

I resisted that call and then I gave into it and it was the, it was, I realized it was my call, but then, going through that really difficult time felt like being in the belly of the whale. And I get it. I can’t remember. He has this prayer in there and I can’t remember it offhand, but boy, I remember identifying with that prayer inside.

And then even after he got out of the belly, like he still was a little bit stubborn with God . He’s like, why don’t you blast them anyway? , , you’re like, Hey, will survey. Anyway, so I, I identify with that still. I’m still learning and growing, but yeah, I kinda, I get Jonah, I think. 

Meg Glesener: What does being a child of God mean to you? What quality of the Lord’s do you find yourself praising him for? 

Markus Watson: It’s the fact so I would say that it’s the fact that, again, that I’m God’s beloved, right? That’s the most important thing that anybody needs to know about me. So what I’ve got this breath prayer that I learned from I think I learned it from Brennan Manning’s book, Abba’s Child.

And it’s just Abba, I belong to you. And so I pray that prayer multiple times. Every day it just comes out. It’s at the point now, I’ve done it so much that just comes out, I’m turning the corner on the street, Abba, I belong to you. And it just comes out.

And sometimes if I’m. Wrestling with something, Abba, I belong to you. And it’s that quality of belonging that God accepts me, that God welcomes me, that God’s arms are always open to me. That’s the thing that I appreciate, I think most about God. I’m God’s beloved and I belong.

Meg Glesener: I trust you enjoyed Marcus’ story as much as I did. Isn’t it remarkable that after going through all that, the thing that he comes away with is that more than anything in life, he knows deep in his heart that he is God’s beloved and nobody wants to go through that kind of public discipline and awful situation.

I am praying for us today that we look on other people with greater sense of compassion, and if we think we see something, that we might get a sense that it’s wrong, that we don’t act on it without facts, right? Such a hard thing. And also, let’s come alongside people at church who have had wrongdoing happen in their lives, or maybe they’ve made bad choices and they’ve repented and come back.

So I’m praying for us all today that we keep growing in our walk of faith. As a podcast listener, do you sometimes struggle with, where should I listen? Which app on my phone was I at? Or where was I? Struggle? No more Letters from Home. Podcast has our own app in the Google Play and Apple App Store. And guess what?

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Second Corinthians 3:3, and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.

Until next time, go in peace.

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