By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
MADISONVILLE — Morgan Clough would be the first to admit he did not take the traditional path to becoming a Southern Baptist pastor.
In fact, he was well off the path for most of his first 35 or so years of life — having been raped 52 times as a child and later falling into a life of alcohol, addiction, and crime.
Clough, pastor of Outreach Across America Worship Center in Madisonville, recently published his life story entitled Renegade Preacher: From Rape to Recovery.
Clough candidly discusses the rapes he experienced as a 12-year-old and recalls the anger and bitterness that he carried with him for years — even after he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
And he admits that he never fully recovered until after he read Neil Anderson’s book Bondage Breaker and he was able to forgive the man who raped him.
In his book, Clough writes that he was dealing with the issue of bitterness versus forgiveness. “Bitterness will kill us if we allow it to fester. Bitterness is allowing a past hurt to sit in a stage of growth, where it begins to take root, and then we justify our behavior based on that bitterness which eventually turns to rage, anger, and hatred.”
Clough acknowledges that it “took a long time” but he was finally able to say “God, I forgive that man for raping me, molesting me, for stealing my childhood, for robbing me of my life, robbing me of my joy.”
Clough said he finally understood that if he wanted “freedom from the past,” then he had to first “walk through the dark valley of forgiveness.”
He noted people tend to “hold onto our anger as a way to protect ourselves from our hurt. …
“For all these years I had blamed God for not protecting me, but I realized it was not God’s fault. God loves me. It was someone else’s sin that affected my life. We blame God for many things that are not His fault because we just do not understand. I had to come to grips with that.”
After accepting Christ as his Savior Clough devoted several years to ministry as an evangelist through outreach to NASCAR fans at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He and his family moved to Tellico Plains in 2001 and began Outreach Across America Inc., a ministry at racetracks across the South.
In 2008, Clough felt God was calling him to start a church. In his book he wrote, “Now, I really had a good laugh with that, an ex-drunk and my life was still in a mess. I love Jesus but I am a far cry from perfect, and there were already 168 churches in Monroe County. Why God, do you want another church? His answer: be quiet and obey.”
So, in response to God, he and his wife Lynn launched Outreach Across America Worship Center in Madisonville in February of 2008. Fourteen people showed up for that first service, he recalled. The church now has about 90 members and is a member of Knox County Association of Baptists. Over the years the church has baptized about 300 people. Of those, he said about 150 are in church somewhere. “We are measuring the wrong thing,” he observed. “We need to measure discipleship.”
He noted the church has reached people who were like him — hurting and disenfranchised from their families. Clough said he has seen people reunited with their families and have returned home and now go to their churches. “It’s not about my church. It’s about the kingdom.”
While the book primarily was written to help him heal, he is hopeful it will help others who are now on the paths he once walked. His goal is to place copies of the book in jails. He has started with 200 copies at the Morgan County jail as well as facilities in Virginia and Pennsylvania. He encourages people to purchase copies of the book and to place them in jails all across Tennessee. He also is available to speak to church groups about brokenness.
He has seen a broken relationship with his mother that has healed. “We go through life and sometimes we leave things behind that are not good. I am glad I took the time to write this (book) and had the opportunity to share it with my mom, who has been my biggest fan through life, urging me to become the man God desires me to be,” he wrote.