Riva Tims Picks Up The Pieces After It All Falls Apart
A year has passed since New Destiny Christian Center pastor, Zachary Tims, was found dead on the floor of a New York City hotel. The discovery—that sent shockwaves through the Christian community and sparked national headlines— would shatter the lives of his four children and ex-wife Riva Tims, who would identify the body and was, for a time, locked in a battle for the control of the Apocka, Florida–based mega church they founded together in 1996.
For a time, she even began to question whether or not she would live through the pain. In a short time span, she had lost her marriage, the church she had helped found, and the life she had known for nearly fifteen years and her husband.
Today, however, Riva Tims has picked up the pieces and is moving forward as mother, pastor of her own Orlando-based congregation and author of When It All Falls Apart: Finding Healing, Joy and Victory Through Pain. The book, now in its third printing, has surpassed her expectations as a first time author.
She finished it just prior to the death of her ex-husband, though it was revised after his death. The book details the miraculous journey that she and her husband made together for the sake of ministry, how his extramarital affairs led to their divorce, the mysterious circumstances surrounding his sudden death and how she triumphed over the emotional depression that followed.
Response has been positive, mostly she believes because of the spin she put on the book.
“The book didn’t go into the deep dirty stuff,” reports Tims, who has said that the most difficult part for her was the disillusionment.
“I don’t know if I was living in an idealistic world prior, but I believed if you do things a certain way there would always be a good outcome.”
But amidst reports of the extra marital affair her husband would confess to from the pulpit, Tims’ world spiraled out of control just as the pain, humiliation and scandal had already done.
“Looking back, there’s not much I would have changed except for screaming louder,” said Tims, “but the Lord told me to hold my peace. We have to remember that there is an opportunity for people to change and I felt like there would be an opportunity he would get right.”
Church politics, she adds, didn’t help any.
“My goal through the process was wanting him healthy, healed and whole. if that meant sitting down for a longer period of time so be it. But a lot of people are more focused on keeping a church moving and the money coming —the celebrity as opposed to the person. I could not wrap my brain around that.
“But when you have ‘yes people’ around you constantly, you become immune to your own frailties because no one will say, ‘That’s not right’. I believe that’s what happened,” said Tims, who was raised in an upper middle class home and was a virgin when she met Zachary at Bible school. He was a former drug dealer who’d cleaned his life up and pursued ministry with passion.
“In five years we grew from four people to 8,000—then we were on national television and he’s traveling the world with no accountability. It becomes a machine rather than a ministry and people began to worship the person and not God in the person.”
Tims, however, was not about to stay in a situation that wasn’t what it looked like from the outside.
“The going thing in most ministries is you stay, keep a united front, get paid and you are ‘happy.’ I didn’t fit that mold. He was disappointed at first but after awhile he was enjoying being single and I could tell he’d moved on.”
She makes no bones about the fact that she was angry.
“I felt he’d destroyed my entire life. I talked bad—not publicly, but to my inner circle he was the devil. I had a very difficult time, but I had to get the toxic stuff out of me and once we got through it, we were okay.”
Then he passed away and the pain started all over again. The devastation she felt was two-pronged.
“When he passed we were in a good place and had I not walked in the area of forgiveness I would be tormented. When you go through betrayal there is a grieving process and the process feels like death. It’s just an excruciating pain. When he died I had already gone through some of that grieving process because I had already lost my husband, but the finality of it was painful. There were so many questions as to how and what happened and I wanted him around for the children.
“It still hurts,” Tims continues. “You think about it everyday. Even what happened with the legacy for the children with New Destiny Christian Center was like another beating that took place. When everyone was supposed to come together, there was like vultures swooping down—trying to take whatever they could.
For Tims, who co-labored in the church for 14 years, the right thing would have been to be included.
“For them to say ‘Even if we don’t have you to be the pastor, you have the seed of Dr. Zachary Tims, come and help us move forward and pick the next pastor.”
Instead a very public fight ensued for control of the church with Tims filing a lawsuit claiming that the by-laws positioned her as heir apparent to her ex-husband’s legacy. She would later withdraw the case as New Destiny board members moved forward with their highly publicized appointment of Paula White as pastor.
“It hurt because a lot of the members were crying out for me and I was not allowed to be a part of that. What’s so sad is it’s really not doing anything now. So many have left.”
All the pain led to deeper anointing for Tims who established her own church, despite proclamations she would never pastor again.
“I didn’t want to deal with church folks, so I started an evangelistic ministry to teach people how to not get caught up and just do what the Lord would have them to do.”
For as much as she did not want to pastor again, Majestic Life Institute morphed into Majestic Life Ministries, a non-denominational church which, in a little over two years, grew to 400-plus members.
“I thought it was over, but God said I still require you to complete the assignment,” said Tims whose church has become “a social shelter for hurting and ever-healing people.”
All part of the Godly assignment that has brought with it a strength she didn’t know she had.
“Anytime you get promoted there’s always a testing period,” Tims states. “My test came with a vengeance, but you build muscle. Now, I don’t care what people think, I just keep it moving. I feel like the Matrix—I get up, brush my teeth and fight demons as if it’s drinking coffee, because of that strength you can only gain by going through the fire.”