If you would like to read more about Pat Mesiti’s involvement with Hillsong, read here:
A Hillsong History
The Sight Magazine interviewed Pat Mesiti. Below is the interview.
THE INTERVIEW: PAT MESITI
8th May, 2006
By late 2001, Sydney’s Pat Mesiti was one of Australia’s most well-known evangelists and a high-profile corporate speaker. Then came a very public moral fall and Mesiti stepped down from ministry. In February, after an absence of four-and-a-half years, the 46-year-old started preaching once again. He spoke with DAVID ADAMS about what led to him stepping down and his return to public ministry…
Pat, thanks for your time. You’ve just returned to preaching after a considerable absence. What happened that caused you to move out of preaching?
“Basically, about four-and-a-half years ago or so, I was on a speaking tour in America and I received a phone call and had to come home because an area of my life that was out of order was brought to light. I’d fallen morally and it came to light through a series of events and I came home. My (church) leadership confronted me on it and I owned up to it…Probably the hardest day of my life was in telling my children that their father had failed.”
Can you tell us a little bit about what it was – there was nothing illegal involved in what happened?“No, there was nothing illegal. There’s so many rumours out there about what I did and what I was supposed to have done. Someone said something about ‘predatory behaviour’ which I was not (involved in) and someone said I’d been dealing drugs – I’ve never even smoked a drug in my life. I was basically struggling with a sexual addiction and again, I reiterate, I did not do anything that was illegal.”
You’ve mentioned that since you stepped down, you’ve been going through a ‘healing and restoration’ process. What’s that involved?
“I was stood down, and rightfully so, and what I thought was a long sentence in my life was actually something that saved my neck and really got me on track spiritually. The process of restoration was, of course, standing down, and just learning to be a Christian rather than a ‘preacher’…There was a process of counselling – and I can tell people now I never believed in counselling until I needed it. And having good friends – there was not a lot of friends that I could talk to about it because I don’t believe you should talk to everybody about your situation but to good leaders…I kept going to church week in, week out – that was very hard sometimes and very embarrassing at times. But I kept going to the house of God because I knew the church was where I would get healing…”
What prompted you to start preaching again now?
“It wasn’t just me…I tell people that you don’t have the call of God, the call of God’s got you…I certainly would go back and forth on but I couldn’t shake it off. It wasn’t just me – I don’t deserve probably to preach ever again – but there’s obviously some people around me that seriously believe in me and believe in the gift of God – and my family certainly did, my wife and my children – and on that basis, (on that of) my spiritual leadership, Pastor Phil Pringle, and on the green light of other Christian leaders, we felt that it was good, that it was the right time.”
Obviously at the time of your stepping down there was criticism both from within the church and without the church…
“Actually, most of the criticism was from within the church.”
…and, I was going to ask, it is the criticism that comes from within the hardest to bear?
“The media – they weren’t after me, they were really after Brian and Hillsong. You know, Hillsong’s a great church and I tell people ‘Hillsong never hurt me, I hurt them; the body of Christ never hurt me, I hurt them’. But, you know, we’ve had people that have just said terrible things and it’s very hurtful. One of my friends – a successful businessman who’s not a Christian – said to me ‘Let me get this right Pat – you Christians, you’re the forgiven, is that right?’ I said yes. He said ‘Jesus died to cleanse all your sins?’ ‘Yep -He’s thrown them all in the sea of forgetfulness’ . And he said ‘You know what? For a bunch of forgiven people, you’re very unforgiving. Why do you people keep getting the scuba gear out?’. And I thought that was quite funny, I’d never heard anyone really put it that way before.”
You’re now going to Christian City Church in Oxford Falls…What prompted you to move from Hillsong?
“It’s a long story. I just felt that it was very hard for Brian and for the team there…People just didn’t know what to do and I was there and I want to get married now and I want to start again and we just kind of felt that it was time for me maybe to get a clean start and a clean break somewhere.”
When you stepped down from ministry in 2001, you were a best-selling author, presenting a weekly show on the Australian Christian Channel, and travelling the world talking to huge audiences. As a result of what happened, you lost your marriage, your business and you say, your friendships were ‘tested’. How hard is it to come back after such a public fall and was there a time when you were tempted to walk away from the church altogether?
“Well, let me first say that it is a very long walk home. And it’s a very painful walk home. Being such a public figure – you’d walk through airports and you’d hear things that people would say…it was a very hard walk, but a very worthwhile walk. I never once thought of walking away, it didn’t even cross my mind. That was never an option and I think you’ve got to make up your mind whether you really believe in this Christian deal or not. I get so disappointed with leaders that fall and they never go back to the church – they never follow the Lord and they get bitter at everybody rather than owning their own stuff. And I think through God’s grace and mercy, I’ve been able to own my stuff…That’s pretty hard, the blame. You can justify it but it doesn’t heal you, it doesn’t help you. It’s the old story of the serpent and Adam and Eve in the garden where you’re all looking for blame.”
Do you think that now that you’re back in a public forum preaching, the experience you’ve been through will be useful in that?
“It’s very easy to talk to me now about stuff and…On a one-on-one session, I find it very easy…but at my first preaching (session) I couldn’t sleep for a week or so, I was tossing and turning. But it was great and we’re back. I’m taking invitations and so forth – I’m certainly not going to be spending the rest of my life talking about the past but if I can use it to help some people…especially the leaders (I will).”
Do you think your experience helped to bring home to you in a new way, the spiritual condition of man?
“I knew it and I preached it. But, gosh, when you go through something like that…And also, I remember, one of my friends Steve Kelly telling me ‘Pat, you know, everything you’ve preached to others, it all applies to you – all the forgiveness’. I’ve got to tell you, it was very hard to believe that…”
Since your return to preaching, has there a particular message, God’s burning on your heart?
“Oh, how many?…I think one thing that I do believe is that I believe everything I believed before and preached before but I believe it more now. I certainly believe in the message of prosperity more now than I ever did. When I had a big income coming in – and boy, there were a lot of rumours about that as well, what I was earning – it’s easier to believe Jehovah Jireh and He’s the provider and then all of a sudden you’ve got nothing coming in and you still believe that He’s Jehovah Jireh. I think it’s certainly made me a lot softer towards people’s predicaments and I’ve probably realised that everybody has issues. And that’s why we need a Saviour and that’s why I love the Lord so much… I’ve preached in church at the moment and I’ve said, you know, ‘How many of you here think you have disappointed God?’ and 98 per cent of the congregation raise their hand. ‘Well,’ (I say), ‘I’ve got news for you – you can never disappoint the Lord. He has no allusions about you in the first place – He knows exactly what He’s got, He knows what I’ve made of and He’s knows that I’ve got clay feet and that’s why He bids me to come to His mercy seat’…”
The last few years you’ve been working as a motivational speaker and are known as “Mr Motivation”…Your website talks about getting a ‘millionaire mindset’ – what do you mean by that?
“It’s basically a catchy phrase on how to really renew your mind. People live like kings and think like paupers and it doesn’t work. I try and teach people to think differently – to think generously, to think prosperously, to think graciously, to be a bigger person. That’s my message really…”
There’s obviously been considerable debate about prosperity doctrine…
“It’s not a doctrine, it’s a principle…”
…what are your thoughts on that?
“I believe that God gives us prosperity for a purpose in every area of your life – in your relationships, in your faith. People like some of the great charismatic leaders of some of our large churches, they get torn down by the media and yet some New Age guru comes over here, charges $2,000, fleeces everybody and tells a pack of lies and the media have got no problem with that. Yet a man of God will get up and teach something that is Biblically sound…and get shot down in flames, even from some of his own people. It’s never about the money. It’s not about money, it’s about people and helping people live better, think better, act better and be generous and be kind and be fruitful and have a big spirit. I’m kind of going – where is the problem with this message? I don’t know where the problem is, it’s beyond me.”
So the money really is irrelevant in that sense – whether you have a lot or a little?
“You know, the widow’s mites – she gave all she had. She was generous. She wasn’t a millionaire but boy, she had something about her that was different to all the others. The millionaires were broke in their thinking – they gave out of their stinginess, she gave out of her abundance of heart. That’s where people kind of miss it.”
Can you now go a little back further in time and tell us about how you came to be a Christian in the first place?
“I gave my life to Christ when I was a teenager at an Assemblies of God church in Sydney. My grandmother had been in the faith and she would share the Lord with us and, of course, me being an arrogant, smart teenager, I didn’t want to hear it. But then I went to Italy and came back and..went to a youth group and gave my life to Christ. There was a guy there from Youth With A Mission who preached that night and I gave my life to the Lord.”
You went on to become one of the pioneers of Youth Alive in Australia – how did that come about?
“(I)’ve always had this burning desire to help young people and I was involved in a youth group as a youth pastor – a very conservative one at that – and I just felt we needed to do something. I was involved with another gentlemen in starting Youth Alive in Sydney and he kind of fell by the way and I took it on to a state event and got it more, not so much bands orientated, but worship and praise orientated. I really believe that Youth Alive was the instigator for a lot of the modern-day worship that we have in Australia…I think Youth Alive as a whole was very instrumental in what we have now. As a matter of fact, quite a lot of the Youth Alive team were people like Darlene Zschech and Geoff Bullock and…John Waller and Randall Waller – so a lot of the modern-day heroes of praise and worship were members of the Youth Alive band…”
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
“Five years from now?…Let me put it this way: I still think my calling is to come alongside pastors and help build their churches through winning people to Christ. I see myself as doing more of the same – not the negative behaviour, by the way – but more of the same as far as reaching lost people and reaching broken people and helping those that need help. My passion has always been to build the local church. It hasn’t left me and I want to continue to do that. Evangelism, crusades, business functions – any opportunity we can get to really impact people. That’s what I really see myself doing is being a builder of churches and being a builder of people…I can’t undo what I did and I won’t do it either because there is no way you can unravel that. But the best I can do is try by…the Lord’s ability to forget what lies behind and press on to help build what Jesus is building and that’s His church. That’s where I see myself in five years time and hopefully for the rest of my life. I’m very grateful to God that He’s given me a second chance. People say that God’s a God of second chances and I say ‘Well, God’s a God of the seventy times seventh chance’. We must never limit God and His ability to use us – what He can do and what He can’t do – and I think alot of people do that…I’m open to whatever God has for me but it will always be, I think, in the confines of helping to build the local church and winning people to Himself.
Source: THE INTERVIEW: PAT MESITI, Sight Magazine, http://www.sightmagazine.com.au/stories/Features/mesiti8.5.06.php,08/05/2006. (Accessed 08-07-2012.)
NOTE: SCREEN GRAB TAKEN ON THE 08/07/2012.