Gil Jones, the prodigal pastor: Hear him admit that "I messed up"
"I'm way better up here than I am in person," Gil Jones told his congregation from the stage at the Village Church last spring. Many critics of the controversial preacher -- the subject of this week's cover story, "The Prodigal Pastor" -- would agree with that assessment. Jones, who was instrumental in launching what's now the state's largest megachurch, is widely viewed as a powerful messenger in the pulpit, with a strong appeal among young seekers -- but his personal conduct has come under fire at three churches over the past eight years.
As detailed in our article, Jones resigned as lead pastor at Flatirons Community Church in 2005 after an extramarital affair with a woman in the congregation. Since divorced, Jones moved on to Pathways Church in Denver -- where he came under scrutiny for allegedly "inappropriate" relationships with women in the congregration. He stepped down at Pathways last fall and has since launched a new church, the Village. But turmoil over his dating practices -- including a recent breakup with one girlfriend that landed in court, thanks to some alarming text messages -- persists.
Many religious leaders try to keep their personal foibles under wraps. Not so much Jones, who speaks frequently about his own relationship missteps and failures in his weekly message. His supporters praise his honesty and willingness to "own" his mistakes. But others are less impressed with Jones's candor, saying his eager admissions are his way of defusing criticism for a disturbing pattern of misconduct.
Gil Jones with Stephanie Engels, who says the pastor insisted on "dating in the dark."
The first clip, from June 2012, features Jones confessing to his Pathways congregation about the affair he had at Flatirons seven years earlier. He reads some text messages from his ex-wife, discusses repentance and forgiveness, and insists the experience has made him even more qualified to lead a congregation of fellow sinners: "I've got a better story now than I ever had."
Continue for more Gil Jones sound clips.