“The pulpit meant the world to Rick Hawkins. But the opportunity to stay in it came at a painful cost. He lost his wife, treasured friends and a legion of members from his church.
Hawkins says his success was masked by trouble.
“After going through some deep soul-searching, a loss of identity, even a loss of purpose,” he says. “The ‘why’ rings ever so clear for the man who has success in every area, and he wakes up one day and looks in the mirror… ‘Who are you?'”
The Louisiana native was leading one of San Antonio’s most influential churches. He had a charter school bearing his name.
His wife and presumed partner in Family Praise Center near Bandera Road and Loop 410 was well-respected. His son and daughter were well-received. He glowed at the thought of his growing group of grandchildren.
Yet, the charismatic preacher in the sanctuary was carrying a heavy cross. His wife had suspicions. Her intuition was true.
“Yes, I was unfaithful to my wife,” he admitted. “There’s always that warning you have to watch out for the gold, the girls and the glory.”
Most couples deal with their problems privately. Hawkins’ affair somehow became public knowledge.
In 2007, he faced his members and fought off rumors as well as media reports about his dark side. Hawkins says he’d always dealt with the inner demon to chase women.
“When you have power and control and you’re in a place of authority, you can get so confused,” he says.
Women sought him out because of his position. He failed to resist.
As a result, church numbers show his flock left in droves. He recalls 700 in one week. Hawkins says the same church had seen 33 percent year-over-year growth for a decade.
In addition, rumors surfaced about hush money to quiet mistresses. There was also an allegation that his counseling sessions were used for sexual gratification. He denies both allegations.
Hawkins took a short break from preaching, but then he continued onward. Bishop Rick Hawkins says purpose would not release him even though he had hit a wall.
“Who can describe the wall most definitely?” he asks. “I can tell you it’s a time where you feel like you’ve lost hope. You’ve lost the will to keep going on.”
Hawkins says some of the same people he aided tried to bring him down.
“Get the book,” he says. That’s his message of recovery. Hawkins has written a 193-page account of his seven-year climb out of despair. It’s called “The Wall.” He believes everybody hits one.
He and his wife divorced. His church is called Place for Life. It has fewer than 1,500 members, but he calls it healthy. His number of grandchildren continue to grow. And most importantly, he says he’s healed and wants to share spiritual advice about destructive behavior.
The San Antonio preacher whose influence once carried his name in national circles says the speaking engagements are back. He wants to offers his apologies to anyone he’s hurt.
“I can accept being humbled, but not humiliated.”