It doesn’t matter how you’re brought up or how sheltered the environment: sexual impurity snakes and slithers its way into everybody’s world. I was no exception.

I grew up in a Christian home, with fantastic parents, going to church 3-4 times a week, memorizing Scripture, attending Christian school, and a student leader in my church’s youth group.  Every Sunday it was suit-and-tie-costume-time; I played the part and I played it well.  I looked like I had it all together, and most people in my church assumed I did.

But deep beneath the surface a sickness was growing within me, and it was affecting my relationships, purity, and future.  For me it started when I was a teenager through my love of sports.  I subscribed to Sports Illustrated, and everything was fine until I got that one issue in the mail. I vividly remember that day, and for years have wished I could go back.  It’s funny how one issue of a magazine can so alter your view of women by turning them from image-bearers to be known and protected into objects to be lusted over and used.  Nobody introduced me to pornography or masturbation… I found it on my own.

While everyone thought I was ok, one of my youth leaders continued to build trust and open himself up to me so that someday I would open up to him.  Finally one day I did, and it started me on a journey towards recovery.  Through my teenage years and even into today, he has been a huge source of encouragement and a reminder that this battle is never fought and won alone. 

After high school, I went to Bible College and continued to play the part.  I knew Jesus and longed to serve him with my life, but the sickness still lurked in the background.  I entered pastoral ministry, and while I knew the stakes were even higher now, I just couldn’t fully shake the old habits.  The scariest moment for me was when I realized that the addiction was not getting weaker, but stronger, and that my life was starting to spiral out of control.  In His grace, it was like God gave me a vision for what my life, family, and church would look like if I let this run its course, and it scared the crap out of me.  I still remember one Saturday morning, sitting on my couch with my head in my hands… crying and full of fear.

It was on that day that I finally took decisive action and decided that enough was enough.  Everybody has to get to this point sooner or later if they’ll find lasting change.  I joined an accountability group with XXXChurch and it was the best thing I ever did.  The group provided a place of grace and acceptance that one would expect to find in places with the word “church” in it, and they helped me identify and label the triggers that caused me to turn to temptation.  I developed remedy actions and have them written down – I know exactly what to do when I feel tempted and when I follow them, they work every time.  As I write this today, I don’t just have accountability partners… I have accountability “networks” that I regularly check-in with, and all my internet-capable devices monitor my activity and send to these networks.  Because of where I’ve been, I’m passionate about helping others find hope and healing, especially in the church, and I devote time every week to walking through the mess with others who long for freedom.

Ephesians 4:28 is a powerful verse for me and my recovery. 

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.  

Do you see the progression there? 

For the person who steals (or looks at porn)… don’t try to just STOP the behavior.  So many guys end there, and like a rubber band stretched around a slingshot, they end up right back where they were before. 

The text exhorts us to replace the negative behavior with something positive, and then to go even further and feed back into others caught in the same place we were before. 

If you’re a fellow pastor reading this, the church needs you to get some real accountability and healing.  It’s not enough for you to just stop looking at it!  And if it was that easy you would have stopped it a long time ago.  Because of your position, you have a platform to give hope and healing to others, but until they hear you boldly opening up on your own struggles and victories, they’ll continue to struggle in the shadows. 

Cory Hunneyman is one of the pastors on staff at Lakeshore Community Church