Pornography: Destroyer of Families, Marriages & Ministries

The lust the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life are destroying marriages and ministries. In the last 20 years as a certified pastoral counselor, I've counseled numerous wives who are devastated because of the pornography addiction of their husbands. (Women can become addicted to porn also, but my subject today is on husbands and fathers).

Viewing porn and sexually satisfying self at the same time causes pornography addiction. This combined action creates a self-induced chemical addiction/adultery in the brain/body that cries out for more and more. The experts say this self-induced addition is harder to break than any other drug or alcohol addiction. The pictures of porn are indelibly branded in the brain/memory of the person. There is no respecter of person when it comes to addiction. If you become involved in porn, you will become addicted no matter what position in life you hold.

This is a major secret problem within the church.  I'm thankful for those that I have counseled who were willing to admit the addiction and sincerely seek help. But sadly, many addicts feel totally helpless and hopeless for the following reasons.

Men who are addicted to porn will verbally abuse their wives with threats. “If you tell, our lives will be ruined. Our family will be crushed. If you expose me, our children will turn against you.”  Some wives have been threatened by murder. This addiction ruins husband/wife and father/child relationships.

Some addicted husbands have been caught taking pictures of their young daughters or sexually abusing them. Some try to get their wives do the 'acts of sex' they view on the pornography. A wife who has the nerve to expose her husband will very likely dramatically change her life through divorce if her husband is not willing to repent and seek godly counsel. Her family will more than likely experience extreme emotional pain because their father sinned against God, self, wife and children/grandchildren.

Pornography addiction is a sin just as adultery is a sin. The Bible teaches if a man looks on a woman and lusts he has already committed adultery in his heart.  So when a husband uses porn continually, he has sin in his heart.  I encourage the wives to go to her husband's leaders in ministry and expose the problem, but too many of them live in fear of the fallout and choose to live with the sin. In their hearts they feel shame and a deadened love toward their husbands. Some of these husbands misuse the factor of submission and demand their wives 'submit' to them and never disclose the porn addiction.

If the addicted refuses to confess his sin, his life will crumble eventually.  Porn addiction leads to adultery, sexual abuse, same sex temptation, etc. The man does not realize it, but his body language - especially his eyes roving from woman to woman - reveals to others his problem and how he flirts with other women even in the church. Some women respond to this because they are emotionally wounded and seek attention.  The Bible says be sure your sins will find you out.

Submission in scripture is based on the principle of the wife and husband submitting one to another in the fear of the Lord (Ephesians 5:21). The wife is to keep herself only to her own husband. If the husband is obeying this command - husband love your wife as Christ loves the Church - he will not be using porn and forcing her to accept it.

If the addicted person wants help sincerely, it can happen by the help of the Lord. First, there must be a genuine sorrow for the sex addiction. Second, there must be true repentance to God and to others. Third, there must be an accountable person (not the wife) in the daily life of the person in recovery. Fourth, they must eliminate the source of their porn addiction - even if this is the Internet or cell phone. Fifth, they must get involved in God-based counseling. Sixth, they must be willing to read God-based books on the problem and recovery: eveyman's battle by Steve Atterburn, Breaking Free by Russell Willingham, Beneath the Surface by Robert Reccord. Other books can be found

Every pastor around the world should address this problem. It needs to be an ongoing discussion within the church along with sexual purity for all ages and exposure of sexual abuse. I teach seminars on sexual purity for all ages including promiscuity, adultery, porn addiction, homosexuality and sexual abuse.  In the church, we seem to be fearful of discussing healthy sexuality created by God and even more fearful of the sexual sins.

God's Word speaks to these issues: Revelations 21:6-8 NLT, “And he also said, 'It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega--the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the IMMORAL, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars--their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.'”

Those who are immoral and claim to be Christian are living a lie.  Their idol is their sexual addiction. They love themselves more than they love God. Their lust of the flesh becomes their master.

I've challenged the wives of an addicted husband, “If you are covering his sin, you are enabling his sin.”  I pray all wives who read this article and are living with an addicted spouse, please print/copy this article and give it to your husband. Let him know you will be giving a copy of this article to his ministry headship and you will no longer tolerate this addictive sin and allow it to destroy your life. With genuine repentance and confession there is hope for a renewed life in Christ.


© Carol Clemans - November 2012

 Carol Clemans is a Certified Pastoral Counselor/Bible conference speaker/Christian Life Coach. She provides confidential nationwide counsel by phone & Skype (636) 448-0121. Go to: for bio, products & ministry. Rev. Harold & Carol Clemans are part Bishop Jerry Dillon's church in Madison, Mississippi

The Tragedy of A Wounded Spirit (VIDEO)

David Shatwell

Rediscovering Refuge (VIDEO)

Terry Shock

It’s A Shame—Part 2 (ARTICLE)

Rev. Chester Wright said, “Unresolved shame is the most debilitating spiritual condition with which we contend today. It is the root of almost all Christian inconsistency...Giving up hope of being any different drives more to backslide than temptation or sin.”
In Part One, we talked about the differences between healthy and unhealthy shame and between unhealthy shame and grace. We saw that people raised in “shame-based” families are full of unbearable pain and must find ways to cope with it. The two unhealthy avenues of coping are acting out the pain or trying to pass the shame and pain on to others. The healthy option for dealing with the pain of unhealthy shame lies in walking the path of healing.
First, let‟s talk about the unhealthy ways of coping. People who act out their shame do so by focusing only on themselves and their own needs. Their “empathy quotient” is nearly non-existent. They have difficulty relating to how other people feel and how their own behavior affects others. They victimize and abuse others in physical, sexual and emotional ways.
The other unhealthy option is trying to act shameless by passing the unwanted shame on to others. The original occurrence of acting shameless was in the Garden of Eden when the Lord came looking for Adam after the forbidden fruit episode. In Genesis 3:11-12, Adam first tries to hide from the Lord, next he tells God it was Eve‟s fault for giving him the fruit to eat, and then he attacks God for giving him the woman in the first place. We‟ve been using the same damaging strategies ever since.
Ways we‟ve created to pass our shame on to others are: demanding perfection, striving for power and control, raging, arrogance, criticizing and blaming, judging and moralizing, being contemptuous and patronizing, rescuing and enabling others (with strings attached), being envious, and indulging in all kinds of compulsions and addictions.
All of these coping strategies are ways of pretending that we are okay and the problem lies with other people. They are all forms of denial and avoidance of the real issues of the heart.
A third option for dealing with unhealthy shame lies in the healing process. Healing from a childhood of unhealthy shame involves finding out who we really are, as reflected in the eyes of the Lord, rather than through the eyes of shaming parents. It involves looking in the perfect mirror of Christ, rather than the marred mirrors of hurting and hurtful people.
A “healing process” is called a process because it happens over a period of time. It is not a quick fix or instant change; it is a journey. In her book, Hurt People Hurt People, Sandra Wilson says, “The healing process is like trying to package a live octopus. Just about the time we think it‟s all wrapped up, something else pops out! That‟s why it‟s more realistic to talk in terms of „I‟m committed to a changing process‟ rather than „I‟m completely changed.‟”
What is that process? Here are a few steps in a nutshell.
Step 1: Since the “shame-based” hide themselves and their pain in darkness, first we must come out from behind the masks and look toward the light of health and God‟s grace. We were initially hurt in relationships; we are also healed in relationships. But, this time, we must intentionally surround ourselves with safe, nurturing people who will help us on the journey. In this redemptive process, we can process the pain and shame and learn to see ourselves as Christ sees us. His Light and Truth redeem us from the darkness.
Step 2: We must learn to identify long-denied needs. In the shaming process, we learned that our needs were wrong since they conflicted with the needs of shaming caretakers. But, our needs are God-given and cannot be denied for long without significant consequences.
Step 3: We must recognize habits of self-protection, ways we have kept ourselves from being real and honest in our relationships, ways we have tried to control our environment and other people in an attempt to feel safe.
Step 4: We must redirect our faith. Romans 12:3 says that God has given to every man a measure of faith. Through the shaming process, we learned to place our faith in our own self-protective strategies. Through the healing, we learn to place that faith in the God who has been with us and seen us through it all.
Step 5: Apprehending the awesome power of grace and forgiveness allows us to make them a secure and enduring part of our lives in Christ.
Jesus said, in John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. The Lord intends that we learn to live in the joy only He can give rather than constantly yearning and striving for the fleeting, unreliable happiness of a life without Him.

It’s A Shame—Part I (ARTICLE)

“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Romans 10:11
“Shame on you! What’s the matter with you! You’re so clumsy (stupid, ugly, etc.)! Can’t you ever do anything right?”Sound familiar?Families living in a state of dis-grace are bound by an unhealthy kind of shame that blames, labels, wounds and bruises. The young and defenseless are especially vulnerable and the hurts often last a lifetime.
We call these families “shame-based.” They operate with different rules and behaviors than “grace-based” families. It’s a continuum. No family is totally one extreme or the other, but they do tend more toward one end of the spectrum or the other.
There are actually two kinds of shame. One is the healthy shame the Lord intends we feel when we violate His principles. Healthy shame and the resulting feelings of guilt lead us to repentance and a life lived in submission to God.
While healthy shame leads us toward the Lord, unhealthy shame is the kind mentioned in Romans 10:11. It is a result of the fallen state of man and causes great difficulties in relationships. Unhealthy shame turns us away from God. It leads to legalism and attempts to control others and a life falling far short of the abundance Jesus said is possible.
The unhealthy kind of shame and God’s grace are opposites. Unhealthy shame is defined as a painful sense of guilt and feeling unacceptable, a feeling of humiliation and loss of standing. Grace, on the other hand, is undeserved acceptance and love received from another. God shows His grace toward us in providing salvation when we are not worthy of such unmerited favor. We show grace to one another when we love without regard to “worthiness” and don’t require that our love be earned.
The Lord created all humans with three basic needs. We need to be convinced that (1) we are loved and accepted, without any strings attached, (2) that we are capable, valuable, important, special, and worthy, and (3) that we are not alone in facing life. God intended that we be in supportive relationships and share the struggles of life in a fallen world.
A “shame-based” family cannot meet those basic needs adequately. Members are given constant messages that something is wrong with them and love is conditional, based on performance. People are not loved and accepted for who they are. Instead, behavior is the most important factor. Unhealthy shame tells people that they must behave in certain ways to b acceptable. It says that they are defective if they do not perform up to someone else’s standards. It is not, “I made a mistake” which can lead to repentance and forgiveness. It becomes, “I am a mistake” with no true redemption possible.
On the other hand, “grace-based” families strive to operate according to God’s principle of grace that says, “You are loved and accepted for who you are, not just for what you do.” It lets the members know, verbally and non-verbally, that they are not alone. Family members are there to support and encourage each other, even in the midst of hurts and conflicts.
When people come from shame-based families, they are full of an unbearable kind of pain and must find ways to cope with it. Two unhealthy avenues of coping are acting out the pain and trying to pass the shame and pain on to others. The healthy avenue of dealing with the pain of unhealthy shame lies in going through the healing process.
If you would like to explore this topic further, here are a couple of books I recommend: Hurt People Hurt People by Sandra Wilson and Families Where Grace Is In Place by Jeff VanVonderan.

When The Past Hasn’t Passed (ARTICLE)

Rev. Sylvia Clemons, LPC, LCDC

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…(Philippians 3:13).
Have you heard the now “old hat” line…”Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt”? I’ve used it before in speaking to groups. It’s funny and gets a good chuckle, but the fact is it’s not just a joke. It’s also true. Denial is alive and well.
In its proper context, denial is a God-given defense mechanism. It is meant to help protect us for a time from a reality that is too great to comprehend all at once—a death, a tragedy, a shock of some kind. It’s not meant to hang around for a long time. It’s supposed to be only a temporary, initial step in the journey toward acceptance of reality and healing.
However, we can make denial into an art form when we keep it going for decades instead of moving toward resolution. And, let’s face it; some things are not fun to deal with. Healing from a reality we don’t want to admit can be painfully hard.
Here are some of our “art form” variations of denial:
  • Simple denial: Pretending that something doesn’t exist when it really does, as in ignoring physical symptoms that may indicate the presence of problems.
  • Minimizing: Being willing to acknowledge a problem, but unwilling to see its severity. (Yes, my husband does hit me, but he doesn’t do it very often.)
  • Blaming: Placing blame on someone else for causing the problem. The behavior isn’t denied, but its cause is seen to be someone else’s fault.
  • Excusing: Offering excuses, alibis, justifications, and other explanations for our own or someone else’s behavior.
  • Attacking: Becoming angry and irritable when any reference is made to a problem, in order to avoid the issue.
Some folks try to promote continuing in denial by “shaming” others into keeping quiet about their hurts. They say, “What’s the matter with you? You just need to get over that!” “Keep quiet! Don’t you dare talk about that outside our family.”
In churches, we even use scripture to help promote denial. I’ve heard the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians used trying to convince a wounded soul to “forget” past hurts. Here’s how it goes: “Just forgive and give it to God.” “That happened a long time ago. Why are you still going on (whining, wallowing, carping) about it?” “When are you ever going to get over that?” Many sweet, hurting folks have tried to do what they were told, but had to use denial to do it. Others were too overwhelmed by their pain to even make a good pretense of it.
Was Paul telling us to go swimming in that river of denial? No, he spoke truth. I believe the key here is in how we define the past. The past that can be put behind us is the past that has been dealt with and is no longer a source of reactive influence or pain in the present. When we recall it, we don’t “fall into it” again with the emotions intact. On the other hand, when past painful events have caused us to form unhealthy or untrue beliefs or judgments that we continue to act upon each and every day, those hurts are not past; they are still present. That “past” has not “passed.”
For example, an adult who experienced any kind of abuse as a child formed false beliefs and judgments about himself or others. He might believe, “I’m so worthless, I’ll never amount to anything.” She might believe, “Men only want me for my body.” A child may have transferred the untrustworthiness of a parent onto his view of God so he doesn’t believe God can be trusted. Until those judgments are identified and brought into the light of God’s Truth, the wounded adult lives with a past that hasn’t passed. It’s alive and well in their present and isn’t ready to be put behind.
To be able to do what Paul suggests, we must let God’s love and His light of truth shine on the areas previously kept in the darkness of denial. And we must choose to enter the process of healing. It is a journey not without pain, but well worth the effort. A past that is behind us can be a teacher that continues to produce growth and wisdom.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Psalm 51:6

Transformational Leadership and the Art of Renewal (ARTICLE)

Transformational Leadership

In rare times of reflection, nearly every good leader dreams of making a difference:  of changing lives and improving organizations. Transformational leaders, over a span of time, actually change lives and strengthen organizations, through how they live and how they engage their roles.

Such leadership is rare and difficult for a host of reasons.  One reason is that it requires the leader to personally transform, to model growth and renewal for his or her followers.  This kind of leadership is also the most fulfilling, because it facilitates growth and maturity in others.  And seeing people and teams grow before your eyes yields some of the sweetest fruit found in ministry.

The leaders I work with as a Christian leadership coach often yearn to lead in this way.  They want to see real change, to truly please God with their lives.  And, like most Christian leaders, they pour their hearts into their vocation, giving it their all.  Inevitably, they feel pulled to overextend, often downplaying their own needs.  This eventually creates a real struggle:  “How do I honor my own needs for renewal and growth, when there is so much to do?  And some wonder:  “How do I really expect others to grow and mature in the Lord, and for my congregation or organization to grow in maturity, when I struggle with it so much myself?”  These issues need to be successfully addressed to lead in transformational ways.

Introducing Tom

Tom Johnson is a Christian leader, committed to growing professionally and personally.  Tom (his name and personal details have been changed to protect his identity) has successfully led in substantial leadership positions for over 15 years.  Early in our coaching work a few years ago, it became clear that Tom had a chronic history of overextending, rarely taking time for renewal.  His overextending and deep desire to succeed were driving him way past his limit.  This pattern took a real toll on his body and mind.  One day he guardedly admitted to me, “At times I get so exhausted I wish God would take me home early, even if it means a car crash.”  Saying that out loud to another person was a real wake-up call for Tom.  He knew he had to find a better approach to living and leading.          

Tom’s experience raises another weighty issue that nearly every committed Christian leader faces at some point:  “How can I possibly finish well when I’m so exhausted now?”  For more reflective leaders, they can wonder:  “How is my example impacting the lives of those I serve?”

A New Vision

With Tom, the first issue was to reverse the trend toward exhaustion.  Next was to help him develop a compelling vision of himself around retirement, actually flourishing.  That included seeing himself engaged in a rhythm of renewal that strengthened his soul, and modeled transformation for his followers.  Further, seeing himself glowing as he retired (having cared well for his soul), replaced the default image of collapsing in a heap after his retirement dinner!  As Tom savored these new images, his heart began to lighten.

The Vital Role of Renewal

Tom was realizing in a deeper way that to finish well, he would have to embrace renewal.  Taking time consistently to restore and strengthen his soul would be crucial to realizing his leadership dreams. 

In that vein, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, in their book The Power of Full Engagement, underscore the vital role of renewal if long-term effectiveness and fulfillment are to be achieved.  They state:  “Spiritual energy is sustained by balancing a commitment to others with adequate self-care.  Put another way, the capacity to live by our deepest values depends on regularly renewing our spirit—seeking ways to rest and rejuvenate and reconnect with the values we find most inspiring and meaningful.”  p. 11o, (emphasis added)

The Essence of Renewal

The heart of renewal is really about what restores, nourishes and strengthens your soul.  (This includes but goes beyond a daily devotion.)  The particulars of renewal vary across individuals, and it takes reflecting on certain questions to discover your own answers.  I encourage you to reflect on these questions:  “What brings life to your heart, making it feel lighter and hopeful? What makes you feel glad to be alive, and actually allows you to anticipate re-engaging your most important tasks from a place of strength and optimism?”  For most people this include things like rest, solitude, play, retreats, and rich connections with healthy friends.

Enemies of Renewal

As a leader, you likely resonate with these ideas.  You also probably have a nagging thought of, “Yes, I know I need to pursue renewal more.”  At this critical junction, many leaders are defeated by all too familiar demons.  For most of us, the power of fear is at the core of the struggle to honor our needs for renewal and growth.  We worry about disappointing others if we say “no.”  We fear facing conflict if we worked at a more sustainable pace.  ( Andy Stanley’s book Cheat the Church is a great resource for dealing with these fears.)  Yet, these enemies truly are not all-powerful, and to become the leader you’re invited to be, you need strategies to defeat them 

Supporting a Renewal Mindset

Perhaps the most critical issue regarding renewal is how to frame it.  How do we look at renewal, in order to justify honoring our souls?  Once that framework is really clear, we have greater chances of succeeding.  Here are some ideas, drawing on some of today’s top leadership thinkers, and then the ultimate source, God’s Word.

Arthur Friedman, in his classic work Generation to Generation, says it is the leader’s ability to continue to grow and develop (to differentiate) and stay in touch with the followers, that creates the best climate for congregational growth.

Supporting this notion, Peter Senge’s bestseller, The Fifth Discipline, maintains a leader’s most effective way to facilitate growth and transformation in an organization is for the leader to model it. 

Finally, Daniel Goleman, in Primal Leadership, states that the fundamental driver of outstanding organizational performance is the leader’s mood.  In other words, if you are chronically over-extended, even if you aren’t complaining, your mood is leaking, and is a drain and strain to your followers.  However, if you are honoring the needs of others, and your own, (through time for renewal) you are much more likely to authentically convey a mood that somehow provides the vital link to realizing the most important goals of your organization.

These ideas add greater credibility to how important it is for your followers to see you growing and taking care of yourself, and leading from a healthy place spiritually and emotionally.  As is likely very clear by now, the best way for that to happen is by pursuing regular and meaningful “doses of life” for your soul.  Ironically, for Christian leaders, sometimes framing renewal as something we do for others can give us greater permission to do it.

Biblical Inspiration Supporting Renewal

For more foundational support, Paul, God’s primary early Church builder, provides two significant insights on transformational leadership and renewal.  First, he asks his followers several times to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1; 1 Thess. 1:5b), and his practices (Phil. 3:17, 4:9) to become strong disciples.  How you live your life, and in particular how you arrange your life for to grow as a disciple and leader, is crucial to the ultimate effectiveness or fruitfulness of your ministry.

Secondly, Paul highlights the powerful construct of fullness in shaping our ideas of what we are invited to become, and embody for our followers.  In Ephesians 3 and 4, Paul emphasizes fullness twice at peak moments in his writing.  First, when he sees the culmination of us being so completely rooted and transformed in God’s love, that we might “be filled to measure of all the fullness of God. (3:19)  Second, when he states that after all of our faithful efforts of working together to build the Body of Christ, and to grow in him, that we ultimately “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:13). 

To enjoy and embody fullness, where we are overflowing with goodness and grace and strength, means that there needs to be time for renewal, for soaking in God’s love and enjoying the good gifts he has given to us.

Our ultimate inspiration, Jesus, lived and modeled a perfect life (e.g., Hebrews 7:16) and embodied fullness (e.g., Col 1:19, 2:9).  He was led to take time away to receive from God, his Father, to strengthen and renew his soul, (e.g., the Temptation in the Desert, the Mount of Transfiguration, vitalizing night or early morning prayer), to be who he needed to be in order to fulfill his calling.

In short, Jesus, Paul, and leadership gurus are asking you to set appropriate limits and order your life to grow and renew as a transformational leader.  You are invited, perhaps even mandated, to create time for growth and renewal.  I do not believe God is interested in chronically exhausting his servants for his cause; that would be at cross-purposes with love.  Instead, he is invested in his leaders’ transformation, as he cares for their souls, and so they can be a compelling model for others.  So, as Paul says, led and inspired partially by your example, “the whole body…grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (Eph. 4:16b).

Steps Toward Renewal

With some new “ammunition” for pursuing renewal, here are some ways to re-engage or deepen renewal in your life:
  • Write out those things that restore and renew your soul.  Share them with a good friend or spouse to help you incorporate them into your life.
  • Plan your vacations and retreats for the entire next year, before annual planning for ministry activities.  Advance scheduling provides a greater chance of honoring those times and a sense of peace and anticipation throughout the year.
  • Take one day a month (or at least quarterly) for a silent retreat, to be still before God and renew your soul.  (These should be considered work days.)  Leave work agendas behind and simply pursue what restores your connection with God.
  • Take a 10-15 minute break every 90 minutes or so, to give your body and mind a break to rest and renew. 
  • Develop the discipline of deliberately disengaging your mind from work worries on your breaks and time away.  Give those worries to the Lord when they pop up.  (This takes practice!)
  • If the “enemies of renewal” seem insurmountable, work with a good coach to gain the extra support, clarity and accountability you need.
Tom’s Success

Through the course of working on leadership and renewal during our coaching relationship, Tom has made rewarding progress.  He is much more comfortable taking down time after a demanding stretch.  He takes a day of solitude at least quarterly, and fasts weekly (excluding vacations) to reconnect with God, to renew, and strengthen his sense of calling.  He takes three or four day getaways with his wife, to strengthen his marriage.  A significant accomplishment on the renewal front this past year was a long and enjoyable vacation with his wife, which renewed him and provided new perspectives on his demanding role.

Tom readily acknowledges still having ups and downs, and moving in and out of balance; that is how life is.  But, Tom no longer has a dark wish for an early escape.  He is much more focused on how he can develop leaders around him and transform his organization.  He is more grounded in his role, and is modeling transformation.  His staff is now engaging renewal activities, and morale is strong as they make progress toward their most important goals.

Wrapping Up

Leaders who want to facilitate transformation in organizations are required to undergo a rigorous journey of personal transformation.  This a gradual process.  It requires leaders to create time for renewal and growth.  While well-intentioned, ignoring renewal curtails transformation, sells God short, and unwittingly promotes a shallow view of the Christian life.
Foundationally, you are invited to become an expert on renewing and growing your soul.  Undeniably, this is the road less traveled—yet done well, it strengthens and deepens you as a leader, brings greater health to your teams and system, and equips you to be a much-needed model for those seeking fullness of life.     
Transformational Leadership and the Art of Renewal
Nick Howard, Psy.D.


A Closer Look at Christian Leadership Coaching (ARTICLE)

The call to Christian leadership invites individuals into privileged territory:  the chance to carry the torch handed down by Jesus, the Apostles, and others leaders throughout church history.  Fundamentally, the call centers on building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:13, Matt. 28:19-20), and includes growing in gifts that build up the Church (I Cor. 14:12).  Ideally, responding to that call fills our hearts with anticipation, commitment, and gratitude.  However, seasoned leaders know that Christian leadership can be very difficult.  Struggles with overextension, isolation, and personnel problems can create demands and drains that are often  overwhelming, and with that, the hope of fruitful labor ( John 15:2, 6, Phil. 1:22, 25) can honestly seem more and more remote.

As one moves into positions of greater responsibility, the challenges become more complex, and often the solutions that worked in less demanding roles no longer fit.  Leadership books and seminars do have value in helping leaders grow and navigate through difficult times, but they are limited. They aren’t able to provide personalized feedback for a leader’s unique context, nor are they able to speak to a leader’s unique dreams and drains over the span of time.

All of these realities converge in a new avenue for helping leaders bear fruit and grow in their gifts in today’s increasingly complex world.  That new avenue is Christian leadership coaching.

Why Coaching Works

Coaching works because it addresses the biggest hurdles that hinder effectiveness in demanding leadership roles:  overextension, isolation and a lack of clarity.  The combination of these three can put even the best leaders in a reactive, maintenance mode where the vision and mission become mere wishful thinking.

Speaking to these daunting hurdles, there is something profound about the importance of not going through life—or any major challenge—alone.  Those words, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18), speak to our hearts even beyond the gift  marriage.  God addresses this need for sounding boards in leadership through examples like Jethro and Moses (Exodus 18), Ahithophel as a counselor to David (1 Chron. 27:33), and Jesus sending out the disciples two by two (Luke 9:1, 2; 10:1, 2).

On a deeper level, good coaching works because it is patterned after how Christ entered our world and came along side us, filled with grace and truth (John 1:14).  As humans, we thrive when we are relationally connected in healthy ways.  We struggle when we are isolated and overwhelmed.

Christian leadership coaching can be defined as a relational process between a coach and a “coachee” (the one receiving coaching) that creates a unique context for leaders to gain greater clarity about their values and vision, identify priorities, and process obstacles.  It is about coming alongside a leader, and skillfully drawing on grace and truth skills to support God-honoring visions, and help a leader gain greater clarity, confidence and effectiveness in growing God’s Kingdom over time.

In good coaching, the coachee feels connected, safe, honored, and supported.  He or she feels free to talk candidly about struggles and hopes, dreams and drains.  That kind of a relationship, perhaps more than anything else, creates a context for new possiblities, growing gifts, and a greater impact. 

How Coaching Works

The format for Christian leadership coaching is built around a series of regularly scheduled conversations, called sessions.  Depending on the approach of the coach, sessions can last between 30 minutes and an hour.  Talking twice a month is ideal for growth, although sessions can happen once a month as well in light of time or financial realities.  Coaching is done over the phone on most occasions, and sometimes in person.  The conversations are confidential (within limits), which creates a sense of freedom and safety for the coachee, and allows for more authentic sharing.

While there are certainly different styles in the spectrum of coaching, there is significant overlap among most of them.  Early in the coaching process, the leader’s personal values and vision are clarified through a few focused exercises.  These exercises help the leader begin tapping into what matters most to them, and into dreams that bring and energy and hope.  This is vital to the coaching process, as it helps the leader orient around the most important priorities in his or her role.  When this work is done well, it creates a unique kind of energy that enables the leader to increasingly engage his or her work from a place of strength and commitment..

After the values and vision are clarified, the next step typically is for the coachee to set short term goals based on top priorities. This brings greater structure to the coaching conversations and provides an excellent context for future work.

From that point forward, the coaching process unfolds very naturally.  As the coachee feels increasingly comfortable, he or she is able to discuss what is most important to them at the time of the coaching conversation.  Often a conversation will start with a brief review of what has transpired recently, or with some things that have gone well, and then the focus often shifts to a substantial challenge or obstacle that needs to be addressed in order for the coachee to move forward in his or her role, and move closer to his or her vision.  

As time unfolds, the conversations ideally move to deeper levels that strengthen the coachee’s confidence and identity as a leader.  By engaging in the coaching work over a span of time, from six months to a year or more, the gains typically increase as the coachee continues to grow, resulting in greater internal resources that can be drawn upon when pursuing greater challenges.

Three major tenets set Christian leadership coaching apart from other forms of relational ministry:
  • The coachee sets the agenda.  In other words, the coachee decides what to talk about.  The coach spends the bulk of his or her time listening, summarizing, and asking exploratory questions that are designed to help the coachee get to the heart of the issue being tackled.
  • The answers to the coachee’s struggles are found in the coachee.  The coach is not a problem solver or solution provider.  The coach’s role is to help the coachee discover the answers, and to share perspective and perhaps suggestions only after the coachee has really “tilled the soil” in pursuing a deeper understanding of their challenge. 
  • Coaching focuses predominantly on the present and the future. This distinguishes coaching from therapy, which often focuses on the present and the past.  Further, therapy is for individuals who are really struggling, whereas coaching works well for those who are in a good place and motivated to take their life and ministry to a new level.
The Common Flow of a Coaching Conversation
In a typical coaching session, the coachee “thinks out loud” or shares about a complex or challenging problem that they don’t have clarity on—such as a personnel issue. The coach listens, empathizes, and asks questions that help the coachee move further into the heart of the issue.  As the process continues, greater clarity tends to emerge, like a fog gradually lifting.  As the core issue becomes more clear, it is eventually “named,” which is a way of saying the core emotional and logical aspects of the issue are distilled in a manner that creates clarity and often illuminates the wisest course of action.  , Susan Scott, the author of “Fierce Conversations, wisely notes that “a problem named is a problem solved,” which often brings confidence and strength to the coachee.

After the issue is named, action steps are explored and a timeline is usually developed to help hold the leader accountable to the desired steps.  As appropriate, the coach may then share other things to consider about moving forward well, or affirm the coachee in ways that will encourage positive movement.

By continuing in this process, leaders emerge with greater clarity and confidence to tackle tougher issues that are often neglected in their work—issues that can seem insurmountable without a place to process them.  To make this process clearer, let me provide a real example of how this has worked.
A Real Life Illustration
Joe had recently been promoted to an administrative position from the pastorate.  As a pastor, he had found a way to have a healthy rhythm in his role.  He had his day off in place, had developed a strong set of lay leaders, and was bearing fruit in his ministry.  Then came the jump to administration, which was a lot tougher than he expected.  He told me that his new job made pastoring feel easy in comparison!  Now, there were so many more expectations and responsibilities that he was often overwhelmed, not to mention the travel demands that swallowed up hours at a time.  It wasn’t long before he wasn’t exercising, wasn’t having date nights with his wife, and wasn’t maintaining his devotional time.

In the first few sessions of our coaching experience, Joe focused a lot on how over-extended he was and how crazy his schedule felt.  He was stunned by what had happened to his life.  As I followed the coaching process by listening, empathizing and asking questions, it became more clear to him that his pace just wasn’t sustainable, and that his capacity to lead would be truly compromised if he didn’t begin to set better limits on his schedule.  He also expressed clearly that he didn’t want his marriage or wife to suffer over the long term.

Having the chance to talk out loud in our coaching sessions about what was going on, and hearing himself describe how out of balance his life was, helped Joe gain clarity and develop a positive resolve for healthy change.  From there I asked about what steps he could take to change things around.  He decided to schedule his new day off, resolved to communicate that to his boss, and committed to carving out time for his wife, his devotions, and  exercise.

While his schedule can still be crazy at times, since we began the coaching process.  Joe has moved much closer to a more balanced schedule.  He had the conversation with his boss about his new day off, scheduled time to be with his wife, and has taken the other steps he committed to.  In short, he is enjoying his role much more and feeling more grounded and effective as a leader.

In light of the above example, it’s fair to wonder, “Couldn’t Joe have just figured this out on his own?”  It is certainly in the realm of possibility for him to have done so.  It is also fair to say that it would have likely taken him much longer to acknowledge the problem, and develop the resolve to make the necessary changes on his own. In my experience, many leaders do not  find a way to set appropriate limits and grow in effectiveness over time when they do not have an accessible ally to help them talk about their experiences, and finds ways to overcome role or cultural expectations that push so hard for overextension.   You may know people like that. (And you may be one yourself!)

The point is, Christian leadership coaching provides a supportive and challenging context to positively address the kinds of issues that can make a substantial difference one’s effectiveness and fulfillment as a leader.  It creates a chance to be heard and grow in ways that would be much more unlikely without it.

Finding a Coach

If a leader or conference decides to pursue coaching, finding the right coach or group to work with is clearly important.  At this point in the profession, there are no formal requirements that must be met in order for a person to call themselves a “coach.”  Most people who enter the profession of coaching come from the human resources, or mental health field, or have already had successful leadership careers.  Ideally, a coach has at least obtained a certificate in coaching from a reputable coach training institute, or has received extensive training from a skillful coach.  (As coaching skills are increasingly recognized as valuable for leaders to possess, coaches training is becoming more common for leaders as well.)  Please also see the sidebar for providers of Christian leadership coaching.

From my vantage point, a good Christian leadership coach embodies all of the following: is mature emotionally and spiritually; is able to enter a person’s world well; has a rich understanding of leadership, systems thinking, psychology, and spiritual formation; and is skilled at helping people grow.  (See sidebar for solid Christian leadership development firms that offer coaching and/or coaches training.)

After finding a list of qualified coaches, the next step is contact a few of them and set up a brief discussion to learn about their respective approaches.  The goal is to see which of them feels the best, or is the most natural to engage with.  After a coach is decided on, the coach and coachee should discuss expectations and their respective roles. Then the coaching process begins.

It is important to highlight that coaching is not a quick fix for deeply entrenched problems, nor is it a vehicle for growing as a leader overnight.  It is a process that allows a leader to grow over time in gaining stronger skills, deeper insights, and greater maturity, which enables him or her to bear fruit in more powerful ways.

While I do not believe this is commonplace, it is important to watch out for the coach sliding into a problem-solver mode or an advice-giving posture—that effectively stalls the process of helping the coachee grow through the conversations.  It is also important that the coach spends 70 percent or more of their time listening, summarizing, and asking questions.  The session is not a forum for the coach to fill with their stories. 

Ideal Outcomes

When a skillful, insightful coach connects really well with a leader who has a strong thirst to grow, powerful things can happen.  In my experience working with pastors and administrators, substantial growth can take place in as little as six months, and can continue over the span of years.

A leader’s capacity to set better limits in dealing with overextension, to gain skills and insights in confronting personnel issues, and to become more vision and priority focused are common outcomes when the coaching work goes well.  Especially as the work goes past the year or two mark, a deeper level of peace and confidence in one’s leadership often emerges, and the leader is able to engage his top priorities with greater effectiveness, develop his or her key reports with greater skill, and move into a greater awareness of God’s leading in his or her life.

In summary, through the avenue of Christian leadership coaching, some of the main tactics Satan uses to drain and overwhelm leaders are chipped away at, allowing leaders to more faithfully and fruitfully carry his or her torch in growing God’s Kingdom for their generation and beyond.

A Closer Look at Christian Leadership Coaching
Nick Howard, Psy.D.

What is pastoral counseling? (ARTICLE)

Since graduating from the Institute of Christian Counseling in 1992, for 17 years I’ve been providing a pastoral counseling ministry to the church on a local basis, nationwide by phone and now by web cam (the first 10 years for Pastor Kenneth Haney in Stockton, CA). Pastoral counseling ministry is using God’s truth to help people come to healing and growth spiritually, relationally and emotionally.  When we know God’s truth we can be set free.
Each person lives with not only the facts of his/her life, but they also live with their own interpretation about those facts.  If a person comes from an emotionally wounded background, most of the time their interpretation about the facts of their life can be distorted with the lies that the devil wants them to believe to continue to steal their joy in the Lord.
For example, the adult who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse can be saved, but deeply emotionally wounded from that childhood abuse that definitely impacts their adult relationships. Because of the abuse they feel used, dirty, helpless, hopeless, unlovable, damaged goods, etc. Their healing comes by helping them to understand God’s interpretation about the facts of their lives. Through applying God’s truth, they can be “transformed by the renewing of their minds.” Through Godly counsel, they are encouraged to take ownership of the process of the healing by replacing their distorted thinking with God’s truth.My counseling ministry is done in complete confidentiality. I’ve helped hundreds of people over the years. I have cards and letters of sincere appreciation in having a Holy Ghost counselor available. Many ministers have counseled with me regarding personal issues. I give God the glory for allowing me to be an instrument for healing and growth in the lives of others. (Web cam program - free download at 
Contact Carol Clemens:
Phone (636) 448-0121
Email: or temp.
Blog: She teaches Bible seminars nationwide. Pastors Daniel Batchelor & Todd Gaddy are on her Board of Dir. – Life Enrichment Ministries, Inc. (501c3).

© Carol Clemans – March 2008

Healing From The Inside Out (ARTICLE)

As Christians, we are commanded by God to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:31).  However, many Christians do not love themselves; consequently they have a difficult time loving others.  Have you experienced the pain of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse and the resulting core of hurt and shame?  Unhealed hurt can manifest in a myriad of ways such as: controlling others, dependency on others, chemical addictions, relationship addictions, social anxiety, distrust, or acting out.  People with a core of pain or shame often sabotage themselves and their relationships.  However, profound healing is possible.  There are numerous steps to emotional healing but the first is to take the offer of Jesus seriously regarding the healing power of His word.  “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:20).

         First, God’s word will correct distorted thinking so that we can determine true guilt from false guilt or condemnation.  God’s written word—not comparison to other people— is our moral compass to determine right from wrong.    We can accept responsibility for true guilt, which is sin we have personally committed, and let go of shame for something done to us by someone else.  The remedy for true guilt is repentance which is defined as confession (admission) of wrong doing to God followed by a change in behavior which demonstrates a true change of heart.  A clean heart results in a sense of relief and peace.  Moreover, it replaces confusion with vision and direction.

         Pain or trauma can make you feel powerless, like life is out of control.  A backlash of powerlessness is to become a ‘control freak’.  Controlling behavior is an attempt to feel secure but downsides come with it.  Controlling behavior can wreck relationships.   You can also become exhausted from the strain of pushing away the pain, the memories, and the emotions that are covered up by the attempt to control true feelings and outward circumstances.  God’s word provides a paradoxical solution.  Instead of the strain of staying in control, give up control by submitting to God.  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

         Pain can also come from distorted perceptions in relationships.  Who has not experienced rejection at some time in life?  Some people are able to let it roll away like water off a duck’s back.  Others dwell on their experiences and anticipate further rejection.  As a result, they begin to perceive rejection where none exists.  The word of God can renew our minds so that we are healed and free of distorted perceptions.  “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of Go”( Romans 12:2).

         A daily reading of God’s word can wash and cleanse our minds from worldly  views about what makes us worthy or valuable. “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25,26).  We need our minds cleansed from the lies of a perfectionism mindset of ‘never being good enough’.  The truth is we aren’t good enough!  When you realize the goodness of God and His great gift of salvation as truly a gift, then your response to Him is love.  “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  When you truly love the Lord, you will desire to keep His commandments.  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).  As the truth of God’s love for you is revealed to you through His sacrifice and His word, you will find a love like you have never known, a love that flows into your deepest wounds and darkest corners of your heart to bring healing and light.

         If you are hurting or lonely today, I encourage you to pick up your Bible and let God’s word bring healing to your wounded heart—healing from the inside out.