The Transparent Pastor
"It was only when I acknowledged my powerlessness and allowed someone else in that I began to truly believe there was hope for change."
Owning the truth comes next. This is the Action phase. A pastor in recovery may need the support of Celebrate Recovery or AA to actively work the recovery plan developed in the Preparation phase.
The power of an accountability group is profound during this phase. Other ministers who are willing to be honest with one another and covenant to keep what is shared confidential are a valuable asset.
This is often the most rewarding stage of change as the individual begins to experience progress in recovery and enjoys newfound relationships that are genuine and honest.
When the Action plan has been consistently employed for an appropriate period, the recovering pastor may enter the Maintenance stage. In many ways, this phase is the most difficult. The newness has worn off. The honeymoon period of recovery, sometimes called a "pink cloud," has ended and now the pastor must live it out in daily life.
This is the phase in which the recovering pastor may be best able to share his or her story publicly. By telling their recovery stories, leaders can have tremendous impact in encouraging parishioners (and other clergy!) to acknowledge their own sins and begin the process of recovery themselves.
For Roger, this turned into a significant portion of his ministry. Roger admitted his porn addiction to his church board within weeks of entering recovery. With their support, he did not go public to the entire congregation for almost a year. It was agreed that Roger needed a period of abstinence before taking this step.
He also used this public confession to announce the church's plan to begin a recovery ministry. He was astounded to discover how many men in his own church were struggling with similar challenges. He has subsequently developed a powerful ministry to recovering sex addicts in his community. Being transparent about his recovery has been a key to his long-term success in recovery.
As Joseph Martin, a clergyman in recovery, writes: "Truly, love is never more precious than when it is regained after it is lost. As they say—love is better the second time around. Passing it on to others then takes on a very special glow. Those who have never felt the curse of addiction cannot comprehend the joy of sobriety. They really don't fully know what it is; they've never lost it."
Today, Dave enjoys ministry once again. He found recovery to be the most difficult work he has ever done, but also something to be treasured. He is open and honest with family, friends, and his congregation.
While some members of his church could not deal with honesty on this level and have moved to other chuches, many others have come forward to acknowledge their own struggles with addiction. He has learned not only the value of being translucent, allowing the light of God in, but also the benefits of being transparent—flaws and all—to those around him.
Jerry L. Law is a certified interventionist and drug, alcohol, and addiction counselor. He serves on the staff of Faith Family Church in Chandler, Arizona. christiancounselingaz.com
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