After enduring all the stuff with my church, I was ready to call it quits. Looking back now, I kind of did! After being told I couldn’t attend a ministry school or be a leader and stay away from the youth — twice! — I was deeply hurt. It seemed that if someone else who’d grown up in the church experienced what I’d experienced, they would never recover.

I was so devastated after that youth pastor rebuked me for not listening to the church’s warning, and inside I was a broken man. I couldn’t turn to anyone because most of my friends attended and loved my church! I knew that if I told them, they would either be hurt by the church and leave, or they would deny it and try to explain away what had happened to me.

So, I kept it all a secret, everything I’d experienced, what I’d said and done. I kept it all to myself. From that day on, I went back to what I knew: hooking up with guys.

This time, I killed my conscience. My heart and mind warned me I was doing wrong, and I made sure not to feel that ever again. Almost every day I went back to that certain website to look for my next hookup and have sex with another guy!

As I said in a previous post, I loved sex and never felt ashamed of it. Before my church hurt me, I learned to love God with all my heart and wanted to follow Him daily. Thus, my love of sex diminished — but it would never disappear completely. It was always there, though I was also involved enough with my church that

I’d not have time to bother hooking up with guys.

After going through all the crap my church threw at me, however, my love of the Lord lessened and my love of sex grew again. I crashed and burned.

For years and years, I wouldn’t care if I was sleeping with someone. Even if I was hanging out with one of my church friends, hours later I would go hook up with someone and never feel bad about it.

My thinking was so skewed. I was in a dangerous place in my life, I didn’t care about being responsible for myself or others. Many times I didn’t use protection when having sex, because I wanted to experience the totality of having “fun.”

I grew to distrust people, especially if they were church leaders. If people asked me how I was doing, I’d tell them I was fine and go on with my business — instead of saying that just moments before I’d hooked up with someone I didn’t even know.

I mean, how could they understand? They would just react the same way my pastors did.

All I could see was judgment and condemnation from people who called themselves Christians with these “perfect” lives.

This tainted my view for a long time.

The ironic thing was that after “leaving the church” in my heart, I would still attend there. It was like something inside me kept wanting to come every Sunday and Wednesday. Spiritually, I guess you could say the Holy Spirit was tugging at my heart to keep going. But for me personally, I stayed because my heart still longed to hear the Word of God.

Yes, I could have attended another church. But there was something about my own church that I couldn’t shake. Looking back at it now, I believe it was how the head pastor went through Scripture verse by verse, going into deep theology, yet making it very easy to understand. I mean, that’s what I love about it now!

There was a time after this whole incident that God had to take me out of the church, and I had to deal with all the emotions of anger, bitterness, and shamefulness that my church had bestowed on me. I had to deal with my own emotions from the hauntings of my past.

At the beginning of this series, I explained how I’d experimented with another kid when I was younger, and that that’s how this whole thing started. Let’s just say I put that explanation very lightly. So much stuff happened in my past that I can’t talk about online due to legalities. If you don’t understand, then you’re going to have to trust me on this one. The only way I CAN explain it is in person.

So, I understand why my church had to do what they had to do. I mean, my church is a huge church with thousands of attendees, and there have been people who have made it their mission to destroy the church’s reputation so others can question the validity of the Christian belief.

Yes, you could attend a smaller church, but problems will arise anywhere. People are going to be hurt, unintentionally or intentionally, and there will be consequences for your actions, even if it means catching up to you years later.

I made series of choices growing up. I grew up in the church my whole life and had this mentality that if I was close enough to God, everything would fall into place: the bad choices I made years before would disappear, or I would make good choices all the time when I was “spiritually mature.”

Pride took over, and I grew complacent with my comfort zone.

I believe this was my downfall. I was not prepared to face the reality of bad things happening to godly people. Life is not always going to be fair, and we need to get ready for it. I was not ready to hear all this bad news in my life. I was not ready to make bad decisions even after my downfall with my church because of my “Christianese” mindset.

This is how my pastor put it:

“No matter how close you walk with the Lord, you are still capable of making a series of poor choices.”

That’s something I’ve had to learn in these years, even the years I spent hooking up with different guys.

Another thing I learned most while experiencing all this was that God can call you back to Himself, even in your failure. Whether you’re still hooking up with guys, currently in a gay relationship and think God can’t use you, or left the church entirely, God can still use you mightily.

It’s taking that first step.

Then letting the Holy Spirit work in you.

Though I had a horrible past with my church and still struggle with hooking up with guys, God uses me to spread His Word to others. I’m glad I never left Him.

And He never left me.

Have you let your hurt lead you to “crash and burn” and do sinful things? Have you left the church only to return, or do you still struggle to trust the church?

* Photo courtesy Luigi Menato, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • Hi Matthew. So without having to get into the details you alluded to, do you think that the decisions that were made against any ministerial future for you and the restrictions place upon you back at that time were appropriate and done in grace? Or were they inappropriate and done as punishments? To say it another way, do you think that you were reacting selfishly and immaturely to the situation? Or do you think you were genuinely hurt by unjust decisions? You can approach it however you would like to frame it. I’ll take your word for it. Thanks.

    • I do think the decisions that the pastoral staff were done appropriately and done in grace the best way they could. Now, I can see it from their point of views because there were times I had to make some hard calls with some former friends in the past, and to this day, they still see me as a mean person. This is how I explain it to people, what they did was probably a good call, but I disagree with some stuff of HOW they did it. I did react selfishly and immaturely in that time, because everything wasn’t going my way. As I said before in the post, I had to learn there were consequences for my actions. Many believers today think that once we are saved, our bad choices will not have consequences, or the consequences will disappear. We do reap what we sow, even if it means the reaping comes later in our lives. But hey! If God can take away our consequences once we are saved, then alright! If it’s not God’s will, then we should still prepare ourselves to go through it. People are watching us, us who call ourselves christians, when we go through trails. If we make it to the other side, stronger in our faith, then kudos to you! You showed unbelievers that there is a God, and your willing to go through the hard time and still believe.

  • Yep! The church I went to always came across as God does something there like nowhere else, the pastor frequently claims to have visions of Christ and gifts of the spirit, I even once was enthralled but I wanted simplicity of Christ and I saw church members attitudes and behaviours and it really made me feel an outsider, ironically as i couldn’t get into ‘the fold’ I left. There were other incidences like he told me I couldn’t go to c my friends baptism at another church,and that if anyone misses certain services he doesn’t consider them a member. A lot of spiritual abuse, maybe immaturity and personal struggles on my part but that’s what I went thru

  • ” I grew up in the church my
    whole life and had this mentality that if I was close enough to God,
    everything would fall into place: the bad choices I made years before
    would disappear, or I would make good choices all the time when I was
    “spiritually mature.”
    Matthew, I find it irritating reading your post when you keep mentioning, “My Church this, my church that” as if that Church was the one who bled and died for you and gave their life for you on a deadly cross. As if that “church” can’t do anything for you than all hope is lost. Where is the LORD in all of this?
    I have found that sin and grace work hand in hand with each other. We sin, grace is provided. When I left the “Church” in 2007 by the hand of God Himself, I embarked on a journey that stripped me of everything that I was taught by man, and modified what I did know, which wasn’t much after the other was burned away. But the GRACE of God was the highlight of what God was teaching me and still is teaching.
    I have zero idea as to why I am in a friendship relationship with a gay man today. I ask in prayer daily as to this relationship. I seem to be more “involved” in meeting more gay people than I have had in all my life. Your words in quotes above were my thoughts as well. I had this perfect idea of how things should be if I got close to God. I am close to God but nothing by what I thought being close to God meant. I am close to homosexuality and yet, I am also close to God our Father. When I sin, grace is present, but also a teacher is standing before me (in the spirit), teaching me words of life and righteousness. I mean, right after I just masturbated or something. Any “Church” person looking into my life would say the same thing to the prophet whom the LORD said to take a whore and marry her and have kids. I would be condemned on the spot. But I have also found that if I condemn, I am condemning myself. I feel sorry for the man who said to you that you can’t further your studies in becoming a minister because of your past. He has impending judgments on his life unless someone prays on his behalf that the LORD would spare him because he is going to find himself in the same measure to which he has meted out himself.
    Your life is under the blood Matthew. Peter denied the LORD, Paul imprisoned and seen people killed for the name of Jesus and yet these two men became Apostles that led the Jewish Church and the Gentile Churches. What a “Stain” that would have left on the Church. When Jimmy Swaggart made his error, that was the best thing that that man could have done. He has more enlightenment today than he did back in the day. The only way to find more knowledge is not going up, but going down. Christ went down into the bowels of the Earth, he was brought down low, only to be raised up by God. We must go into the deep dark ditches of hell so we can be brought up from the ashes and given new life giving instructions that no man can give us. “Let NO man teach you, but the Holy Ghost that you will receive in my name, He will teach you all things……” I don’t need a man to tell me the oracles of God. I have the URIM and the THUMMIN deep within me. I can call on Him without fear of touching the altar of the LORD. I can grab it and not let go because of the unction that I have received.
    But, we are on earth right now. We go through things that we have no idea why we go through them.
    I am glad that you “fell” away, I am glad you sinned and went out thinking that you were far from God, when God was right beside you while you were having sex with each and everyone of those guys. That is one thing that I am very much conscience of is the ever presence of God. When I am doing something that I shouldn’t be doing, I feel He is watching me. Not with beady eyes looking to condemn, but just the fact that He is watching. If you had not have so called “fallen away”, how will you ever know the true meaning of grace? Where iniquity abounds, grace much more abounds. Paul says, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”. We know his answer, but look at the question. Why would he ask that question? Because grace abounds to the worst of us. He further says, recognize that you are dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. Many of us do not recognize that we are dead yet. We will, but right now, we do not see that. That verse applies to the ones who CAN recognize they are dead. Peter writes in another place, chastening for the moment is grievous, not joyful, but afterward, it brings forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness. We can right assume that we in a period of training, being horse whipped, and engulfed in all kinds of sins, and then horsewhipped again with depressions, but after awhile, we are going to become like what a verse in the old testament says, “who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her lover?”
    My sex drive is high too brother. I love sex, but I have my boundaries that I can’t cross. I can’t perform intercourse with a man. It’s forbidden for me to go there. I could push my way, but I have prayed years ago that the LORD keep it from me even when I strongly want it. So, I know that I will not cross that bridge, even if the urges are there. His grace is truly sufficient.

  • What I have to do is separate my relationship with Jesus from my relationship with the church. I love His people, but I cannot let my behavior or theirs separate me from Him. I need Him even when I’m not behaving myself. I don’t always need them, though most of the time I do. I always need Him.

  • Hey Matthew, I was struck by your phrase, “Pride took over, and I grew complacent with my comfort zone.”
    That’s happened to me many times- and I feel like that’s what I’m going through right now. I’m looking for solutions that I come up with, instead of waiting on the Lord to sustain me in my emotional/ physical desires for men. Maybe he brings a guy friend into my life to fill some of those needs- and maybe not- but I should wait on the Lord.
    Good post. Good series. Thanks for sharing.

  • My life seems so simple compared to yours Matthew! I mostly just want to say that as you write and share your experiences in such an authentic way I always feel moved. I know that there are a bunch of people who hear you and you touch their experiences through sharing your own life experiences. Thank you!
    Gay pornography has been my addiction and I consider myself in recovery from this, but I continue to slip up from time to time. I have medicated my bad emotions with PMO. (Porn, Masturbation and Orgasm)
    Stress, sadness and loneliness are the three biggest negative emotions that push me to view gay porn! These are the things that I hurt with that cause me to sin (crash and burn). I consider porn to be lust and as Jesus defined it in Matthew 5:38 it is adultery.
    I have had my meltdowns (think Chernobyl) more than once. And once in that cycle of porn addiction, my reactions to my own wrongdoing were pretty much just like what you described. Pride was there. It was idolatry. I didn’t care that what I was doing was wrong. I just hurt and I wanted something to take away the pain. I really get it–acting out sexually won’t take away the pain for more than a few minutes, but hey, sometimes even those few minutes of forgetfulness seems like bliss.

  • Very early on in my walk with Christ, I heard a false message, one that lead me away from the Lord. I was just starting to deal with SSA and came to the Lord because of it. I started going to the church across from my cruddy apartment. I tithed regularly and led two people to Christ. I was on fire for the Lord and wanted to learn everything. Then one evening we had a guest speaker. He was soft spoken and gracious – until he got to the podium and he erupted into a raging torrent! Then halfway through the sermon, he declared that “all gays go to hell!” I was stunned. “What about me?” He did not preach on the promises of Jesus Christ, only on hellfire and damnation for sinners like me.
    I quit going without a word. No one from the church bothered to see why I had quit. I went hardcore into the gay lifestyle for about eighteen months. Even after I got out, I found it difficult not to hook up with another guy. In the meantime, I refused to go to any church. I learned Hebrew, studied all the kings of Israel, and knew many things, but I didn’t have an intimate relationship with God. I thought of Him only loving me from a distance.
    This all changed four years ago when a massive stroke hit. My Father came for me. He erased all of my memory, so much so I didn’t even know my family. It was me and God, and he let me sleep.

  • Thanx Matthew for sharing, and everyone on this site,am Ugandan from Africa where it’s so harsh and can’t find some one to walk the journey so thankful for this website.
    I experience ssa but never acted on it, homosexuality is illegal in my country, church address ssa, I don’t know if they think it even exists, Coz they believe people are lured into homosexuality because they want money.I have shared my struggles with just a couple people when it became undeniable I was becoming addicted to gay porn.I covet your prayers guys.

  • Wow, Matthew. This is an incredible chain of blog postings. You should really consider going back through them, and add a new link for each successive posting, at the end of each previous one within the chain. I thought I’d read them all, and then just stumbled across this one today, not realizing that you’d written more about this.
    To get to your questions for this posting, though, I’ve spoken below other YOB blog posts about the deep rejection I experienced from a close friend, within the church that I attend. I won’t attempt to rehash those details now, but instead will focus on how my church also disappointed me, in the middle of that personal crisis.
    You see, when all of that was going on with my friend, I’d gone to my Pastor to seek his advice about a biblical solution and reconciliation with the whole situation, because it had all been communicated to me by way of a very confusing and cold-hearted text from my friend’s wife, who also happenes to be employed as a paid staff member, at our home church.
    This had caused me to feel really anxious and intimidated, as though I needed to avoid certain areas of my own church home of 15 years, in order to avoid my friend and his wife, after getting her text. Because neither of them had plainly told me what it was I had done to provoke such a sudden reaction of abandonment and rejection from her.
    To paraphrase her text, she’d basically communicated that I was to stay away from her family, and that my friendship with her husband was suddenly over after 5 years. So it was all weighing really, really heavy upon my emotions, my anxieties, and causing me a great deal of spiritual confusion. A “church home” should not “feel” like that as a place of Christian worship. So I went to my Pastor about it.
    My Pastor assured me that he was absolutely against the way in which his staff member had handled her obvious grievance toward me, and that he will not allow any of his staff members to treat any other member of our church in such a manner.
    His advice to me was to write a letter to them, expressing a desire for me and my wife to meet with my friend and his wife (again, her being the church staff member), so that they could both clearly communicate what it was I’d done, and that I might have the opportunity to seek their forgiveness over it. Following his advice, I did exactly that, and my wife hand-delivered the letter to her on a Sunday, while we were at church.
    A week later, the letter I got back from my friend, through the US Mail, was even more confusing to me. It basically said that no accusation had been made against me, and that there was no purpose in us meeting together, because it would only do more harm to “rehash the past”—and yet, just days earlier, his wife had clearly accused me of being some sort of a threat “to her family and her marriage,” and had said that I suddenly made my friend of 5 years feel “extremely uncomfortable.”
    Now, as an SSA guy, you can probably all imagine what these kinds of serious yet vague accusations did to my emotional state of mind. Seems to me that such a meeting was imperative, if we were all to continue in any manner of biblical accountability, especially while attending the same church together! But my friend insisted instead that we just go our separate ways, and “walk in Christian love” toward each other. Really?… I mean, Seriously?
    Well, my Pastor never checked back with me, and she has remained a paid staff member ever since… while I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half feeling like an absolute outcast within my own church home, having also made several additional attempts to get my “brother” to stop giving me the cold-shoulder routine, and tell me plainly what I did.
    So, yes… I’m still very hurt, and still very confused. I have precious little trust for my church, for my Pastor’s sermons, or for friendships right now. But I am better today that I was a year ago, after this had all more recently started.
    Rumor has it that my brother and former friend, along with his wife, will all be moving a good distance away next month, as he takes a new job.
    My discouragement now is that he’ll simply leave, never having valued my friendship enough to “clear the air” with me, and plainly tell me what I did, in an honest and Christian manner… and I’m preparing myself for just that, not knowing now exactly how to handle it, once that day arrives.

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