In this episode we have only one question, but it’s a good one and one that I can very much relate to. The question in this episode focuses on serving in church leadership while struggling ,and how to get help. My guest for this post is Josh Whitney, a pastor at the Rock Church in Draper, Utah. The Rock is a non-denominational church (website) which Josh has been pastoring at since 2006. Josh has served in church leadership while also personally knowing the struggles of sexual temptation. He has found his way through those struggles and has some great perspective for those who walk this line of personal struggle and leadership.
Josh Whitney - Pastor at the Rock Church Draper, Utah Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am in a difficult position. I lead a church and have for years...and I've also battled sexual addition at various levels for years. I was introduced to pornography by my older brother when I was eight years old. Thanks a lot. As is the case in so many stories, I 'win' for a good while, and then 'fall off the wagon'. I know all the right answers -, even Biblical answers. I have accountability software on my computer, but sex addicts 'find ways', and most reading this know what I mean. I've counseled scores of people on scores of Biblical issues -, though I purposefully haven't done much 'counseling' in this area. All said, it's extremely difficult to find a 'community.'..a brotherhood because of my position. I've been burned and betrayed in the ministry before and know the fine line I'm walking. As to becoming part of a '12 Step' type group in the community,
I can't imagine how that would work either. It's possible, of course, that nobody from my church would stumble in and find their pastor there. Maybe this is unfounded paranoia, but it's real for me. That said, I DESPERATELY want to get off this merry-go-round. I'm hoping being a part of a blog like this will at least help me get into a community of other - albeit on line -who can understand my struggle and I theirs. Before I close this out, let me say one more thing. I DEEPLY love Christ and his church. I'm not purposefully and knowingly leading a double life. I know it's dead wrong when I succumb and I deal with it strongly when it happens. I just don't want it to happen anymore.
Josh brought up two major points in answer to this question. First, open up to the right group. You need to be wise on who you open up to. Josh used the analogy of a father dumping all of his adult problems on his children. There does need to be thought in which group you go to for support. Josh talked about two groups here in Utah that are circles of pastors that get together for support (see below).
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”- James 5:16
The second point Josh made was that you have to talk. Josh talked about a pivotal turning point in his recovery, when, in college, his pastor asked the group to anonymously submit if they had any sexual sins going on. This empowered him to confess and opened the door to years of mentorship which help him find lasting healing. Although confessing in an anonymous setting, like a 12-step meeting, is powerful and a great first step, Josh recommended that you have some people in your life who know. These should be some godly brothers who can really support you in your journey through this. Another key person is your wife. You cannot do recovery behind her back. These confession moments are so scary and initially don’t always go well, but Josh said it well, “God is gracious and He will help us in these moments”. The one thing I would add is I have NEVER heard a story of someone who found recovery without confessing to others and being fully seen by those in their life. Never.
Confession and Possible Outcomes
Josh and I discussed that confession could cause a lot of change in your life. It could cost you your marriage, Job, etc. But you have to do it in order to really find healing. I’ve tried it, with the best of them, to not be 100% honest while attempting recovery. It just doesn’t work. Another point we brought up is that you’re not happy. You don’t want to confess because it could cost you this life…that if you’re honest, you’re not happy. Trust God. He will make healing happen for you and those in your life, but you have to confess.
Both Josh and I have had personal experiences and heard many stories where those in the church and in leadership weren’t helpful. It could happen to you, but it will just be a road that leads you to a better place. It goes back to trusting God’s will for your life. The life you are living now is not what he intended for you. You can have better! Go for it! One recommendation I have as a first step is a LDS 12-step meeting. If you are not LDS, it is very unlikely you’ll see anyone from your congregation there. It is very Christian and would be a great first step.
“I’m going to do what’s right, and come what may I’ll deal with it” - Josh
Serving in the Church and Being a Sinner
Josh talked about how the man who mentored him moved to plant a new church and ended up falling into sexual sin and losing his testimony. It doesn’t mean that what he did for Josh was wrong or that he gave Josh bad advice. This is a good example that we all sin. Your leadership and faithful actions to build the church and help your fellow brothers and sisters is awesome. As you know, I started this Blog not being sober and I’m still not. Yet I’ve been able to help a lot of men in their recovery find resources and hope. The adversary would have you believe it’s an all or nothing game. Either you’re perfect and a good leader or you’re not perfect and your leadership is crap. It just isn’t true.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord”. - 1 Cor. 15:58
Self-Disclosure and Leadership
There is often a belief that if you self-disclose as a leader it will discredit your leadership efforts. Josh and I believe the exact opposite. Josh shared how he spoke at a men’s conference a couple of years ago and talked openly about his story of sexual sin and recovery in his congregation and its been used to change lives. It only enhanced his leadership in his church community. Although there have been some who are negative about it, his experience has been overwhelming positive.
“That self disclosure piece as a leader in my mind is foundational. You have to be able to say, ‘I’m a real person like you too, I’ve blown it too, and here is how God is helping’.” – Josh
Brother, I have no doubt that you are a game changer in building God’s kingdom. Both Josh and I can relate to you, seriously. We don’t offer our advice from the bleachers but shoulder to shoulder with you in the trenches. I commend your courage for reaching out here in this place as I know there are many who have the same questions you do, but not the courage to voice them. Thanks for sharing that courage! I asked Josh if you were sitting in front of him, what he would say to you. Here is his answer:
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” - 1 Cor. 10:13
God is going to provide a way out. He wants you to confess it to find healing. That verse is true or it is not. Test your faith against God’s promises. Josh’s recovery road was years, and it is for most men, but he’s seen change, as he has now been sober sexually for 18 years.
Loving Utah Pastor Network
Standing Together Pastor Network
Find a 12-Step Meeting
Unashamed & Unafraid
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