How Walking with Men in Their Sexual Struggles Changed Me
By Rev. Robert Lynn
Part of Harvest USA’s mission is to encourage and equip churches to reach out to individuals struggling with sexual brokenness and sin. Several years ago, two Harvest USA staff members traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to meet with the pastoral staff and present a seminar at Knox Presbyterian Church. Pastor Robert Lynn spearheaded this cooperative effort. He now writes how God has since used him in the lives of strugglers and how he has reaped personal benefits. Hopefully his words will encourage you to step out in faith as well.
Recently, one of the pastors I serve with stopped me as we left a bi-weekly meeting. “I’ve got to tell you,” he said, “that you’ve really changed over the past eight months or so. You seem so much more relaxed and at ease. You’re taking things in stride in ways you didn’t use to…” The conversation went on a few minutes as he articulated the differences he noticed. I was taken by surprise, but it didn’t take long to see the significance of the eight month time frame.
A bit of background might be helpful to understand this small tale of pastoral transformation. It was a difficult season of ministry for me. It was difficult to the point of me thinking, “I don’t want a new church. I want a new career!” I found myself tending to ministry wounds, but then many months later I was no longer focusing on these hurts.
What happened over the course of almost a year that took my healing to new depths? Quite literally, God opened a door one January and one by one a string of men struggling with sexual sin entered my life. Eight months later they’re still coming. I look back now and see that God was preparing for all this over a year ago – understandably, I couldn’t see that then.
What is the result of walking with these men in their sexual struggles? First, there is the opportunity to bring good news to them again and again. I have the privilege of calling them to the only One who has the wisdom and power to make all things new. It seems that I’m always talking about the gospel!
Second, there is growth and strengthening of my own faith – my own understanding of how Jesus is sufficient for the men and me. When I begin to grasp that and stake my life on it, things begin to change. Jesus will meet all my needs; therefore, I do not need to trust in worldly things to find meaning or peace.
Third, there is an overflow of deep, deep joy. As I read the Psalms, David provides words that say it best, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalm 4:7, ESV). How can fellow sinners get together with the Gospel at the center and not see an explosion of joy? If anything brings new vitality and passion for ministry it’s Gospel-promised, cross-purchased, and resurrection-guaranteed joy.
Fourth, I have a new love for my fellow strugglers. In 401 AD, Saint Augustine wrote his friend Pammachius, “I have seen your inner being… Seeing this has made me know you, and knowing you has made me love you.” I have experienced this same truth. These men have all let me into their hearts to see their needs. I have seen Christ at work in them as we engage the Gospel. Seeing has made me know them and knowing them has made me love them.
Finally, I now realize how much a pastor needs strugglers. My personal struggle has been ministry wounds and anger, while theirs has been sex, but we each need Jesus desperately. To my surprise, I find that the one who points them to Jesus needs Jesus as much as any of them.