Dealing with messy people

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In November of 1999, I finally submitted to fulltime ministry for Christian men who were trapped in sexual sin. I had become aware of this affliction in the early 90’s while working in a Christ-centered inpatient psychiatric program and witnessing its devastating grip upon Christian men. I had also been involved in Christian sexual addiction workshops for men as well as their wives for several years. At the end of 1998, I felt the Spirit of God convicting me to commit my life full time to addressing this secret plight within the church. I must be a distant relative of Jonah because in a similar fashion I said “thanks but no thanks.” I spent most of 1999 trying to convince God he had the wrong person but finally I submitted. I began doing individual workshops with Christian men who had fallen and were now broken because of their sexual sin. My first workshop was with a former evangelist whose sexual sin had been publicly exposed and who would eventually lose everything including his wife and children. He spent the next few years humbling himself before the Lord, submitting to his restoration and recovery process, painting houses and living in a travel trailer. He eventually was restored to ministry with a new and honest testimony regarding the darkness of his sin and the mightiness of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. I would like to say his story is unique but sadly it is not. When asked “what is the number one occupation or position you deal with?” By far, the largest group I have dealt with through the years is Christian men in leadership with most of those being pastors. I have also found that each one of their stories is just as unique as they are. With the majority of these men I have found they live in constant fear, shame and guilt.

A few years ago, I facilitated a Christian support group for men battling sexual sin. We made every attempt to make the group safe and its participants anonymous. Located across the road was a large conservative evangelical seminary. It was not uncommon to find several students from the seminary in the group. These students each described “sneaking” across the road, giving false names and terrified they would be found out regarding their battle with lust. These men had not progressed to the point of acting out with other people. They wanted help in dealing with and overcoming repeated failures with lust. They knew, however, if this struggle was exposed, they would be dismissed from the seminary and never work in the church again. Instead, they struggled in fear and isolation. They eventually graduated and became ordained ministers who continued to struggle in fear and isolation.

You may not have much compassion for men who struggle with sexual sin. You may even remark “they got what they deserved” when a Christian leader or public figure is exposed. You may have plenty of compassion for their wife and children because clearly, they are the ones victimized by his sin. Some of this compassion void for the sexual addict is due to lack of understanding regarding how he got to this point. Some of it, I believe, is due to the messiness involved in restoration. I just this moment exchanged emails with a Christian leader whose sexual sin was very publically exposed several years ago. His church, however, chose to walk through the messiness of his restoration process. This church received much public criticism from other churches and secular news outlets for not firing, shunning and sending him on his way. Upon, completing his restoration process this critique intensified when the word got out he would be fully restored to ministry work. This church today has become a beacon of hope for those who struggle with all kinds of messy sins.

We don’t like messy things and we want them to go away very quickly. There is nothing more messy than sexual sin. We can’t keep firing, shunning and sending away our messy sexual sinners because statistics show us that close to 70% of men in the church are looking at porn several times a week. The initial age of exposure to graphic sexual material has now dropped into the elementary ages. Females are the fastest growing group of porn users. So, if we “fire, shun and run out of town” all the strugglers then we might as well close the doors because no one will be left. What if we become the church that says “Hey, we are in the people business and people are messy. We are not afraid of your mess because we know the One who bore and paid for them.” Maybe if we did that then we might see true revival break out across this land.

Recently, the Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze resigned under speculation he had contacted escort services using his university issued cell phone. If he had not resigned it is clear he would have been fired. Hugh Freeze has been an outspoken Christian for many years and has received a moderate level of criticism for his stance. For many, upon hearing of his moral failure, promoted the stance of “fire him, shun him and send him on his way”. In the last few days one of his closest friends and fellow believer, Sean Tuohy, publicly voiced his support and love for his friend. He was not validating nor dismissing his friend’s failures but was not afraid to continue to love his friend and wasn’t afraid to let the mess and stink of his brother’s sin get near him. I hope and pray Coach Freeze’s church will respond in a similar fashion and not be afraid of the mess.

1 John 1:9 we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We should never minimize, validate, excuse or enable someone’s sins. We should always deal with them in the light of God’s Truth and Grace. The Truth is we will sin and sometimes that sin is real messy. If we confess our sin and willing to turn away and repent then His Grace is more than sufficient to cover those sins even when it is the messiness of sexual sin. Let us strive to follow the example of Sean Tuohy and be the church of Truth and Grace and not be afraid of messy people.

 Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
 
David Jones, Executive Director Restoration Path Ministries www.restorationpath.org

 

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About David Jones

David Jones is the Executive Director for Restoration Path Ministries. David is a Memphis TN area native and lives with his wife of over 32 years and has two adult children. He is a long-standing deacon, ordained elder and Sunday school teacher. David has a Master’s Degree in Counseling from the University of Memphis. Restoration Path is founded on David’s experiences and teachings. David has over 35 years of counseling, mental health, and ministry experience. In 1998, he began providing intensive workshops for Christian men struggling with sexual addiction. His work has also included workshops for the wives and families of sexual addicts. He has also facilitated numerous training institutes. The teachings that are presented through the ministry workshops and intensives are the result of proven and biblically based techniques. He is also the author of 4 other books Goldfish Devotionals, The Blessing of the Thorn, 10 Truths Wives Need to Know, and The Top 10 Lies Sex Addicts Tell Themselves. He is the author and creator of the 4 and 3-day Restoration Path intensive sexual addiction workshops and workbooks. He is the designer, author, and creator of the Restoration Path video workshops and workbooks for male sexual addicts as well as the video workshop for the wives of addicts. All of David’s books and material can be ordered from the ministry website.

7 Responses to “Dealing with messy people”

  1. Ronald E Hale July 28, 2017 3:07 pm #

    I agree with your stand that we cannot condemn those caught in sexual sin. If they are willing to repent, confess, we must be willing to do as Jesus did with the woman caught is sexual sin. He said, I do not condemn you, go your way and sin no more. We must be there to help them sin no more. This particular sin is like divorce once was in the church. Do ask, don’t tell. If they are willing to repent we must help. Ron

    For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
    Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
    http://bible.com/114/eph.6.12.NKJV

    • Restoration Path July 29, 2017 3:11 am #

      Thanks for the feedback Ron. The journey of restoration is never an easy path for both the struggler and the church. Knowing the proper balance of truth and grace is always difficult.

  2. Brandon July 28, 2017 5:21 pm #

    Great thought and response David. You always know just what to say!

    • Restoration Path July 29, 2017 3:07 am #

      Thanks for the kind words. The words are His so any credit belongs to Him.

  3. Lee Lester July 28, 2017 10:58 pm #

    Fortunately I belong to a church that is scriptural when it comes to dealing with this sin. I was called into a meeting with leadership and confessed my sin. They stood beside me to support me as I walked into restoration. Of course there was limitations on what I could be involved in at church for a couple of years to make sure that I was on the right track. I have never felt “looked down on” by the leadership, but only love and support. I wish all men could sure that their support would be there if their sin comes out in public. Maybe more men would confess and learn to move on.

    • Restoration Path July 29, 2017 3:05 am #

      That is encouraging to hear. Thanks for sharing part of your testimony.

  4. Ronald E Hale July 29, 2017 3:21 am #

    I remember when I was able to
    finally attend the accountability group that you moderated. I was so relieved to find a place where others who were like me would share failures and successes and be an example for me. Especially you! I got so much from all who attended.Nothing like this could have happened if there weren’t men who were willing to come along beside one another with encouragement and solid biblical advice. Thanks for all you do.

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