June 28, 2015 will go down as a turning point in my life. I was awakened in the middle of the night with a strong desire to study the true meaning of genuine love. The more I studied it in Scriptures, the more aware and convicted I became of how deeply I had offended many people by my lack of genuine love. 

I understood that genuine love is the greatest and most important topic in the Bible, being mentioned over 500 times. It is even more important than the memorization and meditation of Scripture.

I may speak with eloquence and persuasion, but if my listeners do not discern genuine love, my words are empty and offensive and will appear as manipulation. I can have wisdom and insights from Scripture but if I do not have genuine love, I am of no value. I can also give all my money away and dedicate my whole life to serving others, but if it is not motivated by genuine love, it profits me nothing. 

I am sure we are all aware of the three levels of love described in the Bible: Sensual Love, Friendship Love, and Godly Love. My conscience had been assuring me that notwithstanding the human frailties of my life, the first category did not describe my motives or my life. So I rested in this confidence. Now I understand how wrong I have been for not consistently demonstrating Godly love. 

Godly love does not single out certain people for special attention. Seen through the eyes of genuine love every person is beautiful and necessary to the proper functioning of the body of believers. 

Genuine love does not give to others if they only serve my purposes, no matter how noble these purposes may be. Genuine love is a lifelong commitment to the welfare of all those whom God brings into my life. 

Every offense that I have committed against various people can be traced to a lack of genuine love in my life. The more I have reflected on this painful truth, the more repentant and brokenhearted I have become. I cannot undo my offenses. I can only humbly and sincerely ask each one of you whom I have offended to forgive me for my failure to demonstrate the love of Christ to you. I can also dedicate the rest of my life to living out genuine love and encouraging as many others as possible to do the same. I have now made this my life goal. 

I want to thank every one of you who have held me to the standards that God requires of me. I am praying that He will reward you for your concerns, your patience and your forgiveness.

Through Christ our Lord,

Bill Gothard

About two years ago several former staff members began posting stories about being offended while they were at Headquarters. The initial reports were anonymous and what had happened took place over 20 years earlier. I knew that the basic allegations of being a harasser were totally false. I even had letters of gratefulness from some of those who posted their stories, yet they had been offended and I wanted to understand the deeper causes of my offenses toward them.

Each young person at the Headquarters was there because either their parents had asked me to work with them, or I saw special potential in them to be effective for the Lord. When I would counsel a young lady I would need to find out what her problems were, but I would avoid specific details. In affirming these young ladies a bond was established, that in some cases was different than I had intended.

Many of these young ladies told me that I was their “spiritual father.” I accepted this position with joy and delight. Even today, many remind me of this status with them. However, when I felt that a young lady was spiritually strong I began to work with another one. The first one would feel neglected and in some cases rejected. This was hurtful to them.

Several other problems also developed for which I am fully responsible and deeply repentant. Not only did I cause some ladies to feel rejected, but other fellows and ladies who did not receive that attention saw it as favoritism and felt that they could never measure up. This was very wrong on my part. Others saw it as a double standard.

When people would give me cautions or advice that did not fit in with my thinking, I would dismiss it as not important. This was also very wrong because Scripture states, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Many times when someone talked to me I was easily distracted. Other times I would put working for the Lord before my relationship with the staff. I should have realized that people are more important than projects.

A few years ago, I was accused of having selfish motives for inviting young ladies to the Headquarters. I knew this was not true. However, those who believed these reports relived their Headquarters experience through these presuppositions and were deeply offended. As a result many inaccurate statements have been made that are not true. God is my witness that I have never kissed a girl, nor touched any young lady in a sensual way. However, I do understand in a much deeper way how these young ladies feel and how my insensitivity caused them to feel the way they do. I have deeply repented before the Lord for offending some of the very ones whom I have dedicated my life to serve. I do want to continue pursuing reconciliation in a Biblical way.

This means that when I remember somebody whom I have offended, I will contact them directly and ask for their forgiveness. On the other hand, I am praying that those whom I have offended and I am not aware of, will contact me and allow me to confess my faults and ask for their forgiveness. I do humbly and sincerely ask each one of you whom I have offended and caused to be disillusioned to forgive me.

The Apostle Paul instructs us to follow his example as he followed Christ. He was no stranger to persecution, reviling and defaming. He explains how he responded to each one, “And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat” (I Corianthians 4:12-13).

My purpose in this intreaty is to give honor to the name and reputation of the Lord Jesus Christ for His further work in my life, and to free those whom I deeply care about from the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual damage of a false conclusion about my intentions in working with youth.

The Meaning of My Name

I will never forget the day that my mother said to me, “Billy, do you know what your name means?” I was about 10 years old at the time and I answered “no.” She then said, “Your name means a great protector.”

From that day forward I purposed to live up to the meaning of my name, especially in protecting young ladies.

A Meeting that Impacted My Life

At about 13 years of age, a nationally known youth leader invited me to travel with him to Kansas City for a special meeting with other youth leaders and their wives. During one of the sessions, several of the wives began to weep. They explained that they were bitter at their husbands for being in youth work. They wanted a different lifestyle. When I heard this I purposed to do all I could to train up outstanding young men to be “world changers” and outstanding young ladies to be wise and Godly partners with them in marriage.

The Influence of Two Older Sisters

Shortly after this meeting, I overheard my two older sisters lamenting over the deep hurts that a fellow from a church youth group had caused to one of their lady friends. He had taken her out on a date and given her a kiss. She assumed that he loved her and gave her heart to him.  A few weeks later, he left her and began dating another girl. Upon hearing this I vowed that I would never kiss a girl before marriage. God has given the grace to keep this vow.

The Sadness over a Publication

The scene is still fresh in my mind. I was standing inside the corner drug store and noticed a new magazine in the stand. It featured nudity. I thought about all the young and older men who would be damaged by that magazine. Then the thought came to me, what if some day you were on TV and you were asked if you ever looked at this magazine? I vowed right there that I would never look inside this magazine or other pornographic material. I praise God for His protection over all these years.

The Goal of Godly Character

I will always be thankful for the Godly woman who started me in memorization and meditation of Scripture. Each Sunday she would listen to the verses I memorized that week and then ask me to explain how I was applying them in my life. This was the single most important discipline that took place in my youth. In the years that followed, my success in school and in youth work were directly related to how faithful I was in “day and night” meditation.

A Desire to Follow the Example of Jesus

When I approached my thirtieth birthday, God put in my heart to spend 40 days fasting, praying and studying Scripture. This took place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin during the month of January and into February. This was the highlight of my life. During that time, God gave me the contents of the Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar, He also gave further direction for the rest of my life. For the past fifty years, God has made it possible to spend the month of January in the Northwoods. A shorter repeat of my time at 30 years of age.

Serving the Leaders of Nations

In 1990, the leaders of other states and nations began to come to the Oak Brook Headquarters for training. When they saw our students speak they were so impressed with their maturity, character and joyfulness, that these leaders invited them to come to their nation and train their youth to be like them. This resulted in extending ministries to New Zealand, Russia, Taiwan, Romania, Australia, Mexico and other nations. These leaders were very discerning to see the qualities of the students that we sent to their nations. They wanted only those who were outstanding examples of godly character and dedication to Christ.