Journey of a Lifetime
An honest look at sexual addiction...
A Pastor's Confession
I am a follower of Christ, a husband, a father, and a pastor. I am also an addict. My “drug” of choice...lust. The primary method of delivery...the Internet.
I am alive and serving Christ today only because of God’s grace. Through complete surrender to the healing agents God brought into my life at a crucial time including Christian counselors, brothers unafraid to ask hard questions, and truth-based recovery programs, I can claim over a year of sobriety, not just from viewing pornography but also from the acting out that almost destroyed my marriage, family, and ministry.
As Free Will Baptists, we’d like to believe that our pastors do not face these struggles. But why would we be any different than the rest of the Church? A survey of 1,351 pastors indicated 54% had viewed Internet pornography within the last year and 30% of these had visited a porn site in the previous month. Among those attending a large Christian men’s conference, 53% admitted to viewing pornography that week. Sixty-eight percent of guys surveyed at five Christian colleges recently said they had intentionally looked for porn online. Ministers and laymen alike, these are the dirty secrets we keep.
Though I had been open with my struggle for more than a decade, involved in Christ-centered recovery groups, and had developed accountability relationships, I failed to maintain long-term, accurately-defined sobriety. With every slip, every relapse, I wounded my wife, damaged our marriage, and heaped shame upon myself.
My greatest stumble came about a year after I had convinced myself that I could permanently hide a sexualized relationship, as well as the illicit online activities the relationship had spawned. I justified my attempts to keep these activities hidden, telling myself that God would allow this cover-up to protect my wife from being hurt. That was a lie. The Holy Spirit had other plans. He led my wife to discover incriminating files on our laptop on the eve of a road trip in which I would have most certainly acted out physically with others for the first time.
“The gig is up,” my wife stated matter-of-factly as I returned home from a hospital visit. That sleepless night began the process of repentance, confession, and seeking counsel to deal with the aftermath of my behaviors. By this time, I had no doubt this was an addiction. I could not fix our marriage or myself apart from God’s power and the resources He would bring into our relationship.
By saying that I’m an addict, I am not downplaying the awfulness of my sin or its physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. Nor am I saying I am not responsible for my actions. When my sins were openly confessed to a small circle of trusted believers and church leaders, they, along with my wife, extended grace to me and agreed to give me another chance to break free—this time, perhaps for the first time—with complete openness and honesty.
Typically, the church as a whole (and our denomination is no exception) has not been a safe place to seek help with addictions of any kind, especially those involving sexuality. Recovering sex addicts often find great misunderstanding, lack of empathy, and much condemnation in the church. In many congregations, sanitized testimonies of God’s deliverance from sin speak of life change only in the extended past tense.
Do we really believe God still changes lives? Do we offer any hope at all to the sex addict, the alcoholic, the drug addict, or homosexual? Whether or not my church or denomination supports me, my life and future ministry depend on the hope God’s grace offers, and His power to break the bondage of sin. I can relate to Paul’s words, “Such were some of you” in 1 Corinthians 6:9.
Now, I have no secrets. My wife and adult children, my counselors, sponsor, accountability partners, and recovery groups, trusted pastors in our association, and even deacons and other leaders in my church support and pray for me in this struggle. Isolation and secrecy allowed my addiction to flourish and sinful behaviors to spiral downward, pulling me—and those I love—toward the very pit of Hell. As they say in recovery circles, I was only as sick as my secrets. Does everyone in our congregation know the details? No, but they know I preach grace and the power of God to deliver from sin and addiction. This is the message I also share within our community.
If you are a pastor or layperson struggling with sexual sin, Internet pornography, or compulsive sexual behavior of any kind, please don’t try to deal with it alone. Even if you believe your local church or association is unlikely to extend grace, find help and healing in the greater body of Christ and among Christians in the recovery community. It may be challenging at first, but God will provide the people and resources to support you and help you live a life free of sexual sin. “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32b).
Read the companion article: His Wife's Response.
Note to pastors/ministry leaders: For information regarding a free book on sex addiction, contact email@example.com (mention this article).
Struggling? Visit www.sainministry.org. This dedicated site for those in ministry dealing with sexual addiction offers information and resources including anonymous teleconference meetings for support and accountability.