Those of us who have been given the privilege of pastoring get to do what very few people get to do. We have the opportunity to provide leadership, care, direction, correction, teaching, and compassion to God’s church and His people.
Pastors are human, though. We sin just like everyone else. Our pastoral profession does not exempt us from the struggles that the rest of humanity faces.
So what if we wake up one day, like today, living in a world of sin? What if our private lives bear little resemblance to the sermons we preach or the counsel we give? What if, in the absence of accountability, we have allowed pornography and sexual sin to take root in our lives? Due to the fear of losing our jobs, we find ourselves with no other option but trying to manage the sin and attempt to overcome it on our own power.
That was my life.
Fears That Kept Me From Confessing
In addition to the very real fear of losing my family, I battled those exact fears which kept me from confessing the bondage I was in. These fears kept my healing at bay. I had struggled with pornography since I was 8. And contrary to what many believe to be true, it only got worse when I got married. When I stepped into my first vocational pastoral position, I struggled even more.
You might think because I was living with secret sin that my ministry would have been utterly ineffective. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. God was using me like I had never experienced, to lead a fast growing church and reach many people for Christ. My “success” made it easy for me to pretend that this would never blow up in my face.
I was wrong.
“But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23, NIV).
I took a position with Craig Groeschel at LifeChurch.tv in 2002. By this time I had allowed my pornography addiction to get completely out of control, to the point that I had physically acted out and had been unfaithful to my wife multiple times. I was sure that moving to a new city and working with a new church was a way to have a “do-over,” a way to not have to expose my sin.
During one staff meeting six weeks into my job at Lifechurch.tv, Craig shared about being “the real deal.” He challenged us: if we were dealing with some sin issues in our lives, we should confess it to our supervisor and we would find grace. If we got caught, that would be a different story. God completely broke me that day and I confessed everything to my wife, my family, and to Craig. I had been unfaithful and dishonest, and because of that, I resigned my position on staff at LifeChurch.tv.
Receiving Grace from the Church
So what did grace look like at LifeChurch.tv? It wasn’t the preservation of an occupation or a paycheck. It wasn’t a slap on the wrist with a “don’t do that again” lecture.
Grace was a group of leaders who entered into the mess of my life and my marriage with the hopes of God healing and restoring that which was broken, to make it better than new. That is exactly what He did. Over the next couple of years, with intensive and godly counsel, great accountability, and focusing on my family, God began to heal my heart and heal my marriage. I began a journey of learning why I sought out a counterfeit form of affirmation in pornography, and how God felt about me.
My encouragement for those of you who find yourselves in the difficult spot of being a pastor who struggles with pornography and sexual sin is this: Be honest! Confess it. We delude ourselves if we think healing will come from asking God to forgive us and trying to avoid it. Trust me, I did this constantly and conveniently, time after time after time, only to find myself on the dreaded drive home confessing to God: “I’ll never do that again.”
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16, NIV).
We need to be healed from this struggle. Scripture doesn’t call us to confess to God for healing, but to one another. Amazing freedom is found once the secret is out. The power the Enemy had over it has been broken.
As a result of walking away from ministry and getting honest about my sin, God healed me. Today I am nearly nine years free from the addiction of pornography. It is not an easy journey, but I have found that freedom is just as contagious as bondage. I learned that God wanted to do a work in me before He did a work through me.
After being away from ministry for several years, Craig called me up and told me he thought that God wasn’t done with me. I was invited back onto the LifeChurch.tv team and have been pastoring there ever since.
I pray you find freedom and healing. I pray that God would burn in our spirits the desire to become the men and women who live what we preach.