Two years ago, one of Arkansas' most respected preachers, Bishop Steven Arnold, hit rock bottom - because of an affair with the wife of a young couple he counseled at church.
Why the affair?
“To a certain extent, I felt empty,” Bishop Arnold said. “To a certain extent, I felt drained, and sometimes when you get to a point of feeling drained and empty, you compromise.”
That led the elders at St. Mark Baptist Church to force Bishop Arnold to resign
from arguably the largest African American church in central Arkansas, with 7,500 members at the time - and plans for expansion.
“Two weeks after everything happened, I went straight into counseling,” Bishop Arnold said. “In the midst of depression, discouragement, I knew that I needed help and that I could not pull myself out of that valley, that dungeon, that cave by myself."
Arnold's fall from grace made headlines and divided the congregation
The scandal became a nightmare, causing his marriage to collapse.
“Losing the church I had been at for 21 years, losing so much credibility, [the marriage] was the one thing I was hoping would survive the storm,” Bishop Arnold said. “But it didn't.”
It didn't take long for Bishop Arnold to get back in the pulpit with a following from his former church, moving first to different locations - including the old "Linen and Things" store - to now the former "Rock Creek" church building.
His new church is called Grace Temple.
“I'm determined I'm going to finish strong.”
He is ministering to roughly 500 people, some members from the old church, but some new members too.
How do his parishioners know he will never make the same mistake?
“I have determined that in my heart and my mind. That's one of the reasons for the counseling,” Bishop Arnold said. “I'm at a season in my life now I know whatever I do has to count.”
There are people out there who say, “How dare you stand in the pulpit and preach?”
“Oh, I respect their feelings. But at the same time, I know God has called me to do this.
“Everything that I've always done has been about reaching people, which means its not just about a sermon, a song, a shout.
“But it's about rendering the love of God and touching lives. That's what it's about.
“The worst is behind me, the best is yet to come.”
Bishop Arnold has written a book called I Am Steve, After the Mountaintop
. It tells the story of the affair and his resignation from St. Mark but it also gives biblical life lessons that he says he hopes people can learn from and most importantly lean from his mistakes.