4 minute read

What I should have told Bob Coy 29 years ago

Last Updated: June 22, 2021

Nate Larkin

Nate Larkin is the founder of the Samson Society and the author of Samson and the Pirate Monks; Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood.  He and his wife Allie, who have been married for 40 years, live in Franklin, TN.

Back in 1985, when I was an ambitious young church planter in South Florida trying desperately to make a name for myself, I met another young church planter who had just arrived from Las Vegas. I liked the guy right away, and we quickly became friends. His name was Bob Coy.

For a period of several months (I don’t remember exactly how long) Bob would come to my office, a storefront in a decrepit strip mall in North Lauderdale, on Tuesday afternoons, and we would take a walk around a nearby lake, talking the whole time. I enjoyed those walks immensely. I liked advising Bob, and he seemed to value my advice. Naturally, I never told him about my porn problem.

I never told anyone about my porn problem back then. Convinced that a confession would puncture my shiny reputation, I battled that particular temptation alone.

Predictably, porn took me places I never intended to go. I was on my way to a joint Christmas Eve service with Bob’s congregation, in fact, when I found myself picking up my first prostitute. The emotional aftermath of that illicit sexual encounter was awful. Really awful. I didn’t tell Bob about it, though. A few months and several prostitutes later, I quit the ministry in despair. My church folded soon thereafter.

Bob’s church, meanwhile, was thriving. As the years passed, I watched with a mixture of envy and pride as the church he planted outgrew venue after venue. I had failed to become a spiritual superstar, but Bob, it seemed, was succeeding spectacularly. His congregation of dozens became hundreds, then thousands, and soon his church was the largest in South Florida.

Whenever I visited Bob’s church over the years, I would stop by to say hello to my friend, and he was always gracious. Those visits ended in 1998, when my wife and I moved to Tennessee. A few months later, after Allie caught me looking at porn online, I finally admitted the insanity of my behavior and reluctantly entered recovery for sex addiction.

That wrenching experience turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to me. Accepting the full reality of my weakness and finally asking others for help brought freedom from the obsession that had ruled my life since adolescence. The journey of recovery resuscitated my moribund faith, and our marriage miraculously survived.

When I finally went public with my story in 2007, I mailed a copy of my book, Samson and the Pirate Monks, to Bob, along with a handwritten note apologizing for not telling him the truth earlier. I don’t know whether he ever received the book. If he did and simply chose not to respond to me, I don’t blame him. In his position, I would probably have done the same thing.

There are certain struggles the prevailing church culture does not permit a pastor to admit. That’s why I quit the ministry when I did. I knew I couldn’t stop what I was doing on my own, and I didn’t dare ask anyone for help. I left the ministry on my own terms because I could hear the hangman coming. And it was relatively easy for me to walk away back then, because the stakes were still small; I was young and could find employment elsewhere. The church I’d started didn’t even own a building. For Bob, on the other hand, the stakes became enormous. Heck, his church now has 1,000 employees.

Two days ago, I was driving home from a men’s conference when my wife telephoned with the news that Bob had just been fired from his church for “moral failings.” I went online when I got home and found that lurid whispers were already lighting up the blogosphere. My heart sank.

Since the news broke, my inbox has been pounded with messages and inquiries about the unfolding story, and I have watched with dread and fascination as speculation has rolled across the Internet and into the mainstream media. Last night somebody sent me a story link from a major newspaper in London. London!

I’m bracing for more bad news. Juicy details are bound to emerge, and when they do they will doubtless reinforce what has become a well-worn storyline. High-profile American preacher exposed as morally corrupt. As the storm intensifies, I fully expect large numbers of outraged Christians to join the cry to “hang ‘im high!” For the record, we don’t know what Bob’s “moral failure” is—those details have not been made public.

I am sad for my friend, and relieved at the same time. I’m also feeling a little guilty.

I’m sad about the pain that Bob and his family and his church are enduring today.  I’m relieved because the necessary crisis has finally arrived.  Bob may still be hiding some of the details—few of us make a full confession right away—but the dam has broken. The pressure of leading a double life is finally, mercifully, over, and if he can just make it through the next few weeks, he will be able to breathe again.

I know the issue is Bob’s sin, but I still can’t help feeling a measure of responsibility. I keep wondering what might have happened if I had only summoned the nerve, 29 years ago, to share my struggle with my good friend. Could we have started together on the healing road back then, as peers and brothers, and spared ourselves decades of private torment? If I had only dropped my pretenses, would Bob have shared any secrets with me? Perhaps he would have. And that makes me think that my apology to Bob was not enough. I also owe an apology to his wife, his kids, and his whole church.

We never know what hidden benefits revealing our secrets to others will have. This is what the Samson Society is all about: men getting together with other men to get real about their struggles—sexual or otherwise. There’s a tremendous liberty that comes when you can bring your real self and say the real truth to someone else. In my journey of recovery, Christian men have done just that for me. And over the years I’ve found that I can give the same gift to another guy, telling him my story. And even if his battle is different from mine, something about my story will usually resonate with his, and many times, when I finish sharing, he will look at me and say, “Well, you know, I’ve never told anybody this, but…” And he will get a taste of freedom too.


Update (4/30/14): It has since been publicly revealed by a pastor at Bob Coy’s church that “Our pastor, he committed adultery with more than one woman. Our pastor, he committed sexual immorality—habitually—through pornography.”

  • Comments on: What I should have told Bob Coy 29 years ago
    1. Gail on

      Thank you for this post, I think that is what is missing among believers, the fear of being authentic and being torn down by another believer when really we are really all struggling under the same crushing weight of the sin that tries to bring us back under dominion. The reality is there is freedom in acountibilty to one another and confession and repentence to our God. What concerns me most when I hear of Pastors who fall in these ways, with their congregants is that the women are if not often blamed, they are often forgotten in the rush to restore the pastor to his position. The women and often their families are damaged, hurting, devastated that their pastors sought them out, often using manipulation to maneuver their way into the women’s lives and what many are calling an adulterous relationship is really clergy abuse. I am by no means excusing the woman’s sinfulness in her response, she has her own responsibility in the situation, however, because of the pastors position, he holds a higher degree of responsibility, to the flock, and to God. We should pray not only for these pastors who fall, for their families and churches who are devastated but for the women and their families who are equally devastated, many of whol struggle for years, some even questioning their faith for years before climbing out of that mirey pit.

      Reply
    2. james tarring cordrey on

      Thanks for sharing this, Nate. And thanks Covenant Eyes. This underscores how important it is to live transparently and take the risks associated with that. Grace to you, Nate. We all have situations in which we should have opened up and didn’t. Grace.

      Reply
    3. Joe on

      Every believing man who reads this post needs to pray for Bob Coy and his family. Some of have had our sin revealed to the community and some of have revealed it to counselor, pastor or friend. Some may still have hidden things we hope are never known. Therefore, Christian brothers and sisters, pray for this man, his family and his congregation. God restores His own. I have proof of that in my life. Thank God for His amazing grace to His fallen and wounded sheep.

      Reply
      • Sue Jean on

        Beautifully stated Joe.. The Lord sees all and HE is who we answer to. I agree with you and I will pray for him and his family. That is merciful and what we are called to do.

      • G on

        Ever since I heard, I’ve been grieved. I’m in California and listened to him on radio station and learned a lot. Sometimes I move on and forget him for a time and then once again I feel sad and grieved over this tragedy. I continue to pray for Bob that with this tragedy, he will be restored and come back humbler and used even mightier for God.
        Also, for His wife. She must be a remarkable women to be able to continue to minister to other women through this huge trial.

        We should pray for those whom he preached to, that they could keep place their focus on Jesus alone, for He alone is The Rock that is immovable.

      • Michelle on

        Ditto (Joe). To validate God’s saving grace, I shared portions of my dark past because I felt that’s what I was supposed to do. The enemy had me believing that’s why some of the woman no longer want to be around me…if that’s their choice, I can accept that. However I had one who was praising God and sharing my testimony with her family…I was humbled by that. To God be the glory. I feel He’s not done using me in this situation because some now have young adult children living the prodigal life. I will help if leads them to me. But I know how to pray.

      • David Martin on

        Judgement comes on the house of the Lord first then the world. Humility is lost, shame is lost, faith shipwrecked on the false premise that a man can be as evil as he chooses without consequences. Christianity in “Merica” is a cheap and phony manipulation of the sheeple. God is being judgement on his own. Embarrassing to every true believer; the church in “Merica,” Is a joke. Money money money! Gold Glory or Girls a talk given by Bob Jones Kansas City profit. Even though Bob was not a prophet, not in the Old Testament vein, he was a seerer. Truth was shared from his mouth and yet he was flawed. Time for God to spew the lukewarm christian out of his mouth. Humility

    4. Lisa on

      This is quite a thought provoking article. So many lives are being built on foundations that cannot stand. And it seems the enemy sometimes allows us to build for a season…..so the crash is even more damaging when it comes. Praying for pastors to have courage to come clean!

      Reply
      • Asnath Colson on

        Pastors can be very arrogant, above the rest of us churchgoers. Everybody can fall into sin, but, it’s sheer arrogance that if you are practicing a sinful lifestyle to continue in leadership.

    5. Jim Vander Spek on

      Thank you for sharing, Nate. Like you, I wonder about “what might have been” had lust not been such a powerful force in my life. That he is using you now because of it is a witness to his transforming and creative power.

      Jim Vander Spek
      overcoming-lust.com

      Reply
    6. Castimonia on

      Great write-up. I have had a number of pastors and sons of pastors come through my groups. Sexual sin has no boundaries and does not discriminate.

      One thing I would personally say to you, Nate, is that you did what you could and that was mail a copy of your book in 2007 to Bob. Whether or not you should have spoke to him 29 years ago is now irrelevant (although a great reminder of how we need to tell our story to other men). One thing is certain; God has a plan for Bob and this may be just what he needs to get the help God wants him to have.

      Reply
      • Cheri LaBean Burdi on

        I disagree and I wish I could figure out how to write my own comment on this article rather than respond to this comment but I’m grateful for the comment nonetheless as it is the perfect comment to launch my comment from. :)
        There’s something very fishy (no pun intended but pretty funny) about this article.
        First, the author very subtlety lures us into thinking or accepting HIS idea that Pastor Bob even had a problem all those years. No where doesn’t anyone say this is so. The author by way of, “oh woe is me” slips this idea in there!
        Second, I don’t like the constant guilt-sounding tone the author has, drawing attention to himself over another mans story. I mean, it would be different if the author didn’t assume Pastor Bob had this problem all those years! And the “what would have happened if I shared with him…”. ? Too weird.
        Thirdly, if the author has a ministry and hopes to help others along the way, than I pray he does that. But not off the back of one of the greatest preachers ever lived!
        And finally, as a long time member of that church from its humble beginnings right on into Mega church, NO ONE could teach like Bob Coy!! The work this preacher did will never be taken from The Kingdom! Most importantly, if you went there too, you would know that Pastor Bob always said, (not exact quotes) “Don’t put your faith in me! Put it in Jesus! Because if I’m not here tomorrow, you are still the church, the body of Christ. Follow no man” he would say. And we knew he meant it.
        God bless Pastor Bob, his family and his marriage. I believe he will come out of this fire even more affective than before, marching on with the gifts God gave him, to PREACH and TEACH! I thank God for your teaching and I wish to God there were more churches like your’s was! Go brother, go!

      • Asnath Colson on

        Making excuses for those so-called men of God is what embolds them into LYING about their adulteriES, sex addictions, pornography, child molestation.
        There is nothing that says that you have to continue to lead a church when you are practicing immorality.

    7. Terry Liske on

      Thank you for your post! It’s with the help of Covenant Eyes and other supports in my life that this struggle has been beaten down. Only by Grace!

      Reply
    8. Cort Mankin on

      My ex-husband and and I helped start Calvary of Ft. Lauderdale. Bob and Dian were friends. I worked on Christian Coy’s baby quilt. I prayed for a Calvary in Ft. Lauderdale and sent me my favorite pastor, Bob. I was there for 14
      years sitting under his teaching. There were problems with my marriage. When I left my husband and others
      shunned me, Bob lovingly told me he did not approve but that he knew that he would always love me and so did God.

      It gave me the strength to carry on, to find another church after others from the church said horribly hurtful things. If
      I could see Bob and Diane today, I would tell them both that God can heal those hurts and does not desert them. He
      will call them nearer and hold them closer. Commit your ways including your sin to the Lord and He will clean up the
      mess. When I thought there was never any hope for me again…I was driving down the road. I missed the church
      and the Lord so much but I had been told I was through. I cried out to Him. His words were audible. He reminded

      me that He gave me children and when they misbehaved, I still loved them. Therefore, when I misbehaved, He still loved me, having confessed my sin. He is so right. Confession and let him envelope you in His love again. I am praying for all of you. If you need a place to retreat to, we have a second mountain house not of Atlanta…you are welcome here any time . A great place to spend time together and with the Lord. We are in the Ellijay phone book. Just call. You are always welcome. We care.

      Reply
    9. Jeff Fisher on

      Nate – well placed words. We don’t know everything yet and are so quick to fill in the gaps. You did a good job of reminding us of that. It will be a long road of healing for Pastor Bob. But as you know, this side of recovery is a walk toward the true freedom God has for us. Even though it is incredibly painful, and we walk with the limp of our consequences, it is a blessed path.

      Reply
    10. Pastor on

      Good words, but one thing I’m not sure about and feel that you are speculating on is this, “Was he struggling morally 29 years ago?”

      I too failed for a time after 15 years of ministry, but what became my down fall wasn’t in me until about 2 years before hand.

      Just thinking out loud.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        It’s a good question. For sure, Nate is just speculating (as are most people). The purpose of Nate’s article seems to be not that he believes Bob was struggling with something 29 years ago, but that if he had, Nate’s honesty could have opened the door to a mutual confession.

      • Susan L. Sapp on

        Pastor: April 13, 2014 at 3:21 p.m.

        I don’t know whether you have heard Bob Coy’s testimony, but it has been used by me (the recording) to help people to understand what it took for Bob Coy to rise from the mire, study the Lord and become a pastor himself. At the time of his own relationship with God, Bob Coy was running shows in Las Vegas and always admitted that this time in his life was bad.

        Memories rarely fail you, the Lord never does. If there was something left over in Bob’s life from the prior life, this was probably a stumbling block 29 years ago as well. Please pray for him. His teaching methods are phenomenal and he has led many to the Lord (obviously).

    11. Doris on

      Appreciate the grace all extend in these cases. Important notes to stay even keel here: Matt. 7:23 “Judas repented himself” vs Peter who wept bitterly before God; Acts 7:27 Moses dealt unilaterally with an embattled pair and it was the guilty party who presumed penalty; Gen. 33:13 pushing young beyond their limits guarantees “they will die”; Gen. 8:8+10+12 after a full year in the ark, Noah’s dove learned the ark as habit-worthy resource and refuge, unlike the imprisoned raven who after the same year left untaught, unresourced flying to+fro weeks until the ground dried (some say up to 4 months) rejecting the ark’s shelter preferring rather the Gen. 8:9 consequence of finding “no rest for the sole of its foot”; a great counterpoint is reading Ps 91 from the enemy’s (loser’s) perspective; God so much as declares in Gen. 3;11a that satan alleges to humanity an eternal omission by God yet God never curses Eve+Adam (Gen. 3:6:16-17) but fully defines sin’s consequences. Last and important, these two facts: Christ’s propitiation doesn’t make it as tho’ we’ve never sinned, but proves that we did; and in Jer. 23:3-4 teaches a progression of return to God, becoming strong and responsible, then having the capacity to withstand shepherding followed by the critical insight Lk. 2:8 where shepherds are watching over their flocks “by night” – when nocturnal hunt and vulnerabilities peak. It’s interesting that Proverbs’ harlot beckons while God “makes me” rest in Psalm 23:2 else we’d never stop our human “doing” vs human “being”. Three excellent word studies for recovery are the phrases “went down” and “brought up” and “take up”. These three potently profile a character choice and breadth between righteous and unrighteous lives. It is always good to keep in mind God’s caution, “to those who think themselves crafty, God will shew Himself shrewd.” (Ps 18:26, Job 5:12). The idea is hating sin as much as God does…it killed His Son.

      Reply
    12. Ray Carroll on

      Thank you for sharing this. Since I fell from the ministry five years ago I’ve been sharing my story online. Each week brings a new batch of emails from fallen pastors, their wives and women who are having affairs with pastors. The problem is always with us. But by telling our shared stories, we can prevent others from future pain and help those who have fallen be restored back to Christ. God speed you, my brother and keep up the good work.

      Reply
    13. Daniel on

      Nate-
      I need help. I want to get married but I can’t because the sin is strong. I am no pastor but I am a man who wants to be free. Free from this sin that started years ago.

      Reply
    14. Mary on

      The men or women of God who have told their stories come out of hiding, risking all are the brave ones, and God makes us brave. But yet there are hundreds or more still hiding, carrying on like things are normal, carrying on with their congregations like nothing is happening, or has happened. So prayers go out that these will read Nate’s story and free themselves. Also to the wives who live a lie each day to cover up these failures because the Church is their main source of income, may they come to a point to risk all and free themselves through the plan of action God gives them

      Reply
      • Sonja on

        Who says the women “cover up” because of income? I’m not a pastor’s wife and I “covered up” some of my husband’s failures because I thought that’s what love should do. Also, us women don’t always know the depths of deception our husbands are keeping from us. I only knew of husband’s occasional pornography which wounded me to my core, yet I kept seeking God and praying for my husband and loving and forgiving him. I would sense things might not be right, but when I would ask or try to talk, I now know he lied. As a Christian woman, we’re to love, hope, believe. I was actually beating myself up thinking I was wrong for having a twinge of untrusting feelings, so I’d repent and give it to God. My husband let me suffer with his lies, playing the Christian or whatever he was doing. Looking back, it was pure evil. Then after encouraging him, praying for him, forgiving him for what little stuff I would find out…after 27 years he left me for his high school sweetheart. I was in possession of his phone and only then did I learn the true depths of his lying and addictions. He lived a complete lie with me and the kids. I was not a prude wife either!!!! The wives affected by this are facing devastation!!!!! This feels worse than if my husband had died. He’s still alive out there, unrepentant, while the kids and I are left to deal with this. We are all clinging to Christ, continuing to serve the Lord with what little strength we have and praying for our husband/dad. But FYI, this is a horrific trial for us!! It’s been 15 months and new bombs are dropped on us daily. Why don’t others think more about the loved ones affected by this hurtful sin? Believe me, I am a sinner myself and I ask for fresh cleansing daily. But this sexual sin affects many people around the one caught up in it. I’m frankly sick of the way people look at the wife and have all those horrific judgements about her. Sorry for venting, but this is raw.?

    15. Denise on

      Very interesting and thought-provoking blog and comments. So-o-o-o, what would you suggest I do now that I’ve learned 16 years ago that my husband, who will be 80 this year, figured how to access porn on our computer. Not only porn, but gay porn. I now understand that this has been a problem since young adulthood. We had at least 3 serious discussions, and during one I asked him if he was gay (which would explain a lot of things). As I said…..what would I suggest that I do? Please don’t suggest I talk to my pastor–he’s 10 years younger than my own children! I’m not one bit happy about this situation. In my mind, he may as well be picking up a prostitute, and there is no difference.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Denise, thanks for writing in. We tend to think of this as a young person’s issue, but it impacts so many people, regardless of age.

        It makes me sad that we haven’t been able to talk about pornography in any kind of healing way in most churches so far. I think there’s been so much fear and shame around sexuality in general, and pornography in particular. And if your husband did have same-sex attraction, there’s another whole area of sexuality that the church has not dealt with in a very gracious way. The traditional answer for any issue around sexuality has pretty much been, “Stop having that problem!” Which, it turns out, is supremely unhelpful, especially if you happen to have multiple sexual issues you’re trying to deal with. I feel sad for him, I feel sad for you. There’s just a lot of pain here for both of you, it seems to me. And you’re both carrying it by yourselves, all this time.

        I think you need to talk to SOMEBODY. And your pastor may not be the best pick, it’s true. You’d know best! How about a counselor in your area? There are also groups like Celebrate Recovery, and online groups at xxxChurch, where you can talk with others who are also dealing with similar issues.

        I would think that your husband would really benefit from good therapy as well, if he were willing to try it.

        You might also appreciate reading some of what other women have written about their own experiences. Hope After Porn is a free download that might be helpful. And here’s a list of our most popular blog content for women. Have a look at those things and let me know what you think. Blessings, Kay

    16. Benjamin Bennett on

      I was hired by Bob Coy in late 1989 and was on Staff at CCFTL until my own moral failure in 1999. Never knew this blog was here until tonight….was reading Pastor Chuck Smith’s book The Harvest and felt the need to seek an update on Pastor Bob on google…found you Nate. Pastor Jim Coy….I served under him as well. Praying about a trip to Chattanooga this winter!

      Reply
    17. Mary on

      Sonya,
      I’m glad to really know that there are women out there that have suffered fearlessly with their a spouses sexual sins. I worked night shift since 2007 and no matter how tired I felt I stayed up till 1030 am to listen to Bob Coy and so today I was praying for him and his family, then when trying to find out how he is doing in recovery I came across this blog. Thanks to the establishment of this. I want to encourage those devastated wives and particularly Pastor’s wives whose spouses indulge in pon, sexual sins including homosexuality, God will exonolate you from every accusation that inexperienced Christians make against you. My husband is a Seniour Pastor of a church and I’m 100% sure He is struggling with some type of sexual sin but every time I confronted him he dennis it and brought a lot of false accusations against me. I’m not quiet about it cos any benefit I get from the church, I want my husband to repent, I want His Soul to be saved, I choose to respect him despite my family struggles, I choose to let God expose his sin at the time He chooses! This is hard for me and our 4 children. 10 months ago my husband left our home without explanation and when I called to asks the reason, he said I had not redpected his Maternal Unkle and Auntie in a family function in 2015. How do you deal with a guy like that, do people really understand what wives go thro’? My husband has a great following and I sense a lot of accusation towards me when I attend our church from the leaders/ followers, I can’t voice anything. Only one Pastor confronted me once and stated that my Husband stated to the junior pastors that I disrespect him? Please my Christian friends, pray for the family of Bob Coy, the women involved with sex with him and many minister’s wives like me and their children devastated by immorality behind in pulpits in churches all over this land and the world at large. To the Christian Wives affected by this devastation I want to share one fact with you, the Devil does not need your Spouse to have sex with them! Please know that it’s your Soul the devil is seeking, keep pure until God will give you victory! Do not let your un met sexual needs cause you to fall! Don’t let bitterness get hold of you, let the Love of God overwhelm you! Praying for your husband will keep bitterness away from your heart! It works, cos I’m not bitter, I’m hopeful and busy in Christ’s service to my children and the community around me. The other thing that has kept me healing from the hurt of my husband’s betrayal is “grateful prayers to God of the 25yrs of love and marriage that I enjoyed before my husband founded our church and soon same year started the downfall into unrepentant sexual impurity despite canceling

      Reply
    18. Asnath Colson on

      Being an enabler doesn’t make you more Christian. You are just allowing sin to continue without any consequences.

      Reply
    19. Asnath Colson on

      God forgives all types of sin, but, you still have to suffer the consequences.

      Reply

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