Freedom From Addiction

Featured Story: Paul Leininger

 

“I always thought I didn’t need help. That I could do this on my own. I couldn’t do it on my own.”

As men, we think we are strong enough to handle our issues. The truth remains, no matter how strong a man, there lies an Enemy in the shadows determined to see us fall. But Paul’s story boasts of a God who is stronger than it all. A God who never intended for us to do this on our own.

During his senior year in high school, Paul found God on a golf course. Growing up in a non-Christian family, it was his girlfriend’s dad that walked him through what it meant to know Jesus. It was all he needed to hear. Paul was now a self-proclaimed “Bible-banger.”

After high school, Paul’s relationship with Jesus struggled. He quickly found himself headed down a dark path, addicted to pornography and involved in an ungodly relationship.

Paul’s addiction to pornography became a catalyst for selfishness and anger. As the sin and secret grew, so did the anger. This deep-rooted anger would eventually follow him into marriage.

Paul met his wife Connie in 1995. Marriage and kids would soon follow. From the outside looking in it seemed as if Paul and Connie had it all together. But Paul’s secret remained in the dark.

“Whenever there’s a secret, it’s the enemies biggest weapon. When you get that secret out you disarm the enemy.”

In 2008 Paul and his family started attending Petra Church, in New Holland, PA, where Paul got involved in a men’s ministry called Men’s Fraternity. In his Men’s Fraternity group, a man named Dean shook Paul’s world with one sentence, “I have a porn problem.”

It was this one sentence, this one moment of admission and freedom for Dean that would ultimately break the chains of pornography for Paul. Paul began feeling his life change, and slowly God was taking away his anger.

Paul not only found a best friend in his men’s group, he found accountability. He found a group of men he could be transparent with.

Because of Petra’s experience with Men’s Fraternity, Men of Iron seemed like a natural fit for their church and a great next step for their men. Paul was part of the initial team that got Men of Iron – Strong27™ off the ground at Petra. Today Strong27™ is an integral part of the men’s ministry at Petra Church.

“Through Strong27™ we have seen the effects of accountability. We are seeing marriages change, we are seeing single men change. Men are more intentional about being godly husbands, fathers, friends, and workers. They are more intentional about taking responsibility for their actions and their sins.”

A 2003 Focus on the Family study showed that 70% of men in the church view pornography. A survey done by the Barna Group in 2016 found that only 7% of churches in the United States have programs equipped to deal with someone who comes to them for help with a porn problem.

Pornography is a serious issue that men in the church are struggling with in silence. At Men of Iron we believe that accountability and one-on-one mentoring can change the narrative. Strong27™ provides men with a chance to be open and transparent. To sit across the table from another man and share in each other’s struggles and victories. To challenge each other to grow as a Christ-follower, husband, father, and leader.

Thanks to Dean’s vulnerability and a desire to have another man hold him accountable, it gave Paul the freedom to do the same. It gave Paul the courage to tell his wife and sons. Today Paul and Connie are not afraid to tell their story and to help other couples walk through similar issues. Paul has experienced a substantial change in his own life through mentoring and he sees the impact Strong27™ is having on the men at Petra Church.

“Guys are admitting things, they are saying I have issues and I need a guy walking beside me. They needed something intentional and something strategic. We are seeing guys sow the fruit of it, they are hearing from other men and saying I need that. The change has been so traumatic that it is changing the men in our church. I want to see this grow exponentially.”

Steve Glick

Hit the Shot

I love the game of golf. It has a rich tradition, and the history is fascinating. If you’ve ever played the game, then you understand how challenging it is. Many avid golfers will argue the “perfect round” can never be obtained. While a golfer may never be able to play the “perfect round,” I would argue that a golfer can experience the “perfect finish.”

In 2012, the golf world witnessed Bubba Watson win the 2012 Masters in dramatic fashion. If you don’t know Bubba, then do some research. He’s known for his unorthodox swing and for his long ball off the tee. His style of golf would never be found in any type of swing manual, however, it’s gained so much popularity that it’s been given its own name – BubbaGolf! Furthermore, Bubba is a normal guy – a down to earth, southern boy who loves to joke around and have fun.

Watson’s shot from the trees on the 2nd playoff hole at Augusta National will go down as one of the best shots in Masters history. Jack Nicklaus was even quoted as saying, “That will go down as one of the greatest shots ever played in the game.” The average person doesn’t realize how crazy of a shot it was. Just when it looked like Bubba’s chances were coming to a halt, he shocked the world with his 40-yard hook from the middle of the trees that stopped ever so graciously on the green. To put it simply, it looked like Bubba was down for the count. However, he took a risk, did something that no average man can do, and it paid off for him (See ESPN’s Sport Science Video Here).

While I sat on the edge of my seat, screaming at the television, Bubba took his time to tap in his 8-inch putt. What came next was something that I will never forget. As his caddy embraced Watson with a hug, Bubba wept. It was an uncontrollable sob. As he let go of his caddy, Bubba’s mother approached the green. More hugs and tears transpired. Then, something took place that I have never seen in professional golf. Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Aaron Baddeley and Ben Crane all approached the green and smothered Bubba with hugs.

It wasn’t just the hugging that caught my attention. It was the fact that Bubba had these four men in his corner, and when they each hugged him, I could tell they were genuine hugs – not just “bro hugs.” In all my years of watching golf, I never witnessed four other players celebrate with the champion on the final hole. As I sat and dwelled on that for a bit, tears came to my eyes.

“That’s what it’s all about,” I thought to myself. I knew right then that Bubba had a huge part of life figured out. Golf doesn’t define Bubba Watson. Genuine relationships are what Bubba’s life is all about, and the men fighting with him in his corner proved it that day.

I think Bubba’s experience at Augusta National can be compared to what we face in life on a regular basis. Don’t we often feel beat down? Don’t we get to the point where it seems like we don’t have the energy to keep battling? We may struggle with our marriages, raising our children, battling addictions, living for Christ, etc. In those moments, most of us take the easy route – we give up or give in. If we were in Bubba Watson’s shoes on that Sunday evening, we would have played it safe by punching out to the middle of the fairway, hoping to make bogey, and we would have settled for a runner-up finish.

However, Bubba Watson took a different approach. He did what most of us don’t have the courage to do. He took a risk by trusting in himself and following after his dream. Why?

I believe he took the risk because he knew that his identity wasn’t in the game of golf. He took the risk because he knew whether he won or lost, he still had his team of men in his corner. He knew that no matter what took place, he still had Jesus Christ to lean on.

Men – I encourage each of you to take a risk. Do not fall victim to the “norm.” Follow your dreams. Hit the shot. I know each of you have it in your bag. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Remember, you’ll never play the “perfect round,” but you can certainly experience the perfect finish. Your “caddy” encourages you every day. Are you listening?

Play well today, sir. I’ll be one of the guys hugging you on the 18th green when you win.

Garret Barbush, Executive Director