A week after a video was released showing Venue Church ‘pastor’ Tavner Smith sharing an illicit kiss with his has worship leader Lexi Elisha, confirming a long-rumored affair, Smith announced on Instagram that he is taking a sabbatical from church business in order to take some time to “fill up, spend time with God, and get some counseling” in order to come back “ready, refreshed and ready for the rest of the year.”
Despite the news causing chaos within his church, resulting in 8 staff members quitting, Smith is not going anywhere. This is because his theology is a jumbled mess of prosperity preaching, wretched theology, charismatic mumbo jumbo, vision casting, the pursuit of ‘impossible dreams’, an unsatiable ask for money and seed-sowing, and constantly positioning himself as hearing directly from God and being the conduit to the heavens.
Like most cult of personalities, this led him to escape accountability, with no elders or guardrails, much like Mark Driscoll at his current church. The structure was created to allow him to indulge in his baser passions without anyone being able to call him out on it, resulting in rumors swirling for years that he was a womanizer and engaging in some Very Bad Things, but absent any way to remove him.
In the same vein, there is unlikely to be anyone who is able to oust him and force him to step down, and this is all by design. Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith had an excellent analysis of this here:
Despite cheating on his wife and engaging in clergy sexual misconduct, his fans aren’t going anywhere, writing, among other things:
During his last service, Tavner preached a sermon titled “It’s a season of new beginnings” where he stressed “don’t keep going over old history” while telling his congregants “we need to turn the page as a church” before concluding with a conveniently timed need for a sabbatical that fails to mention anything about the kissing pictures that were spotted weeks earlier.
“I would like to say this: as your pastor I’ve been through a really hard two years. It’s been a lot. Number 1 I just wanted to say to you, I’m sorry for any pain I’ve caused for you.
But I- even through everything, I have been faithful to show up every single week, to the best of my ability. I’m not saying it’s been easy, and I’m not saying it’s always been great but every week I’ve stood here and I’m giving it my best to get a fresh word from God for that week, even in the midst of this.
But if I could be honest with you- I’m not going anywhere. I’m your pastor, I’m here- but can I just be honest with you? I just need a little bit of a break. I’m good. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m not emotionally unhealthy and all of the thing, I’m just tired.
This was not something that was forced on me, this is not something I’ve been made to do. This is something I’ve asked and I’ve spoken enough and said “listen. I just need a few weeks to get filled back up. Cause in the midst of all of this, I’m gonna be honest with you, I’ve poured myself out to almost empty. And I need to get filled back up. I need a few weeks where I can go to church.
So what I’ve asked them, is I said, I want to go and and just give the vision that we’re turning the page, that we’re coming together and concentrating, and that God’s promise still stands and I’m still here and we’re still here and we’re going to do this together. But what I’ve said is, for the rest of January, can we call some friends and get some friends to fill in for me so I could take the next four week and let God fill me back up.”
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