Pastors may be especially vulnerable to online sexual problems because of the demands and loneliness often associated with Christian leadership. Steve Arterburn, co-director of New Life clinics, discussed the roots of addiction in the Pastor-to-Pastor tape, “Overcoming Sexual Addiction” He explained how pressure to perform can contribute to sexual addiction:
One of the common threads that we find in people who end up in a sexual addiction is that in their early childhood there were many problems, especially in the area of tremendously high expectations from their parents but very little affirmation when they did achieve whatever they wanted to achieve. So, good enough was never enough. They were always looking for 25 percent more to satisfy them or to satisfy their parents.
Now that they’re in ministry, they may have a very satisfying ministry, but in their emptiness and in their despair, they’re not able to enjoy their ministry. They are looking for something else, and this hungry soul eventually succumbs to the temptations. Once you’ve tasted this forbidden sex, of course, it is very, very addictive. That’s how they get trapped.
Dr. Harry Schaumberg has counseled sex addicts for over fifteen years, many of whom were Christian leaders. Dr. Schaumberg talks specifically about sexual addiction in the church in his book False Intimacy. In that section, he says, “Statistics don’t begin to capture the countless, agonizing stories of the victims of sexual addiction in the church: wives betrayed by their husbands, husbands betrayed by their wives, congregations paralyzed by scandal, careers ruined, marriages and families destroyed, and the image of Christians smeared.”
Steps Towards Renewal
Moving towards renewal is not a simple process. Recovery requires a combination of accountability, counseling, and spiritual reflection.
We encourage you to find another man with whom you can open up and be vulnerable. If you are married, you really need to talk with your spouse. Many of the pastors who call us concerning this issue tell us that they have not told anyone about their struggles. They may have spent hours praying about it, but they have not shared their need with another person. Psalm 32:3 says, ” When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.” Psychologist Ralph Earle has said, “The secret is the fertile place for an addiction.”
You could also benefit from an ongoing accountability relationship. We have discovered that few pastors have really close friends — folks with whom they can be totally honest and vulnerable. Ask God to help you discern who you should attempt to meet with on a regular basis for prayer, confession and disclosure.
If you feel you have no safe place to turn, please consider calling Focus on the Family’s toll-free Pastoral Care Line at (877) 233-4455. We are available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Our staff has more than 60 years of combined pastoral experience.
You may also call Focus on the Family if you would like to find a Christian counselor in your area who has had experience dealing with compulsive, addictive behavior. You may reach our counselor’s assistant by calling (719) 531-3400 weekdays from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM (MST).
The following organizations can provide more intensive counseling geared towards Christian leaders: