What helps men feel safe to open up and heal from trauma? Dr. James Reeves (the pirate pastor) tells the story of facing his childhood wounds, building a hospital church, and creating the Fearless Series—which is fantastic!
The Fearless Series for Men is designed for Christian men to get the conversation started about childhood sexual, physical, or emotional trauma and how it has affected their lives.
Check it out:
Dr. James Reeves has been a pastor for more than 40 years. He nearly resigned, but chose to confront his past, and then used his newfound freedom in Christ to build a "hospital church" based on addressing emotional wounds. James is a regular speaker at conferences across America about how the local church can minister effectively to survivors of sexual trauma.
Interested? Email James at Jamesreeves68@gmail.com.
Welcome to the Husband Material Podcast, where we help Christian men outgrow porn. Why? So you can change your brain, heal your heart and save your relationship. My name is Drew Boa and I'm here to show you how let's go. Hey man, thanks for listening to my interview with Dr James Reeves. If you have ever longed for your local church to be a safe place of healing, a place that is trauma-sensitive, a place that allows you to be real, to be broken, where it's okay not to be okay, this is the episode for you. James actually started the hospital church movement. Basically, the idea is there are hospital churches and there are museum churches. People, churches welcome brokenness and they lead with brokenness and show that, hey, it's okay to be vulnerable, it's okay to be real, we are all sinners, we've all been sinned against and we're here for healing. And then there are other churches which are maybe more of a museum type of church, where people are showing up and they feel this pressure to be perfect or to perform or to have some kind of image. And James is an expert at turning museum churches into hospital churches and he gives us some amazing tools to be able to do that. If you really appreciate the approach that we take at husband material of outgrowing porn through healing childhood trauma and you've thought to yourself, man, I wish there was a place like this at my local church. Then you will love these resources James has put together. He has made it easier than ever to create a culture of vulnerability, curiosity and compassion in the local church, where you can be real, where people can be healed. It's really exciting. Enjoy the episode. Welcome to husband material. Today I'm hanging out with Dr James Reeves, who is sometimes called the pirate pastor because he wears a trademark eyepatch and cowboy hat. He's the author of Refuge how hospital church ministry can change your church forever, and he's appeared on the Conquer series. Some of you might know him from that and most recently he has created an amazing video series called the Fearless Series for Men. Welcome to husband material, james.Speaker 2:
Thank you, drew, excited about being here. I love to tell the story.Speaker 1:
Me too. This is an amazing story. What is the story behind the Fearless Series? Why is it so difficult for men to find healing in local churches?Speaker 2:
Well, it's difficult because the vast majority of churches have no strategic, effective ministry designed for that. So if there's nothing, if the church, if men know that there's nothing, they're available for them, why would they talk about their struggle? Yeah, so when men are struggling with pornography, if the church is not providing some kind of safe and effective ministry, why would a guy talk about it? There's not going to be any help there, and so they're kind of left with this decision of I either just try to white knuckle this thing and just try to live this double life, or I go outside of the church somewhere and if his wife catches him with pornography or something, then obviously to save the marriage. But he can't go to his church because they don't have anything. So he'll go outside of the church or he'll just spend his life just struggling with this. And so most men and most women in my discussions with women all over the country and filming and just my experience with women when they came to our church, they would say I've never talked about this because I've never felt safe to do so in my church. And they believe. Whether it's always true or not, I think often in history they believe that if they do talk about it, they're going to be shamed and they're going to be blamed and they're not going to be believed. That's with women, with sexual abuse With men. It's really the shame issue that keeps men from even talking about it, because they feel such shame within themselves about, maybe, what happened to them when they were a boy or what they're doing now as a result of these dysfunctional behaviors that have come out of that pain and trauma that they would love to get rid of, but they don't know how and they feel such shame here. I am a Christian going to church, I may be teaching Sunday school and I'm doing pornography during the week. Some people can think of me if they know, and so they don't. And so one of the things that we have to do, and one of the things that I do with churches, is teaching them how to create a safe environment for this to happen, and I think that the fearless series, both for men and women. I designed it specifically for the local church, because that's where my heart is. I'm a pastor at local churches for over 40 years, one of them 38 years the same church, and I believe in the local church. I believe the local church has all it needs to do this kind of help, hope and healing work in the local church. They just need some tools of someone who's been there, and so the fearless series provides that both the men and women, provides that safe and effective tool, because it comes out three decades of me actually experiencing this work being done effectively in my local church to help them kind of put their foot in the water, if you will. The churches that are using it are finding tremendous experience of help, hope and healing in their people.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I got a chance to watch the first episode of the fearless series for men and it was so good. It was really opening up the door for people to say this is my story. Even if I don't have the kind of trauma that somebody else has, I have something. I have my own pain, my own wounds, and it's really high quality education for helping guys say oh, maybe I actually do have some things I need to heal, maybe I do need to work through some stuff, and to me it actually seems like a very different approach from the Conquer series. Yes, it is. How would you describe the difference?Speaker 2:
What I've done with the fearless series is to give a soft entry point into the discussion of trauma in general, because we all take hits and with men, a lot of times it results in sexual acting out in various ways any kind of trauma. And so what this does is it gives a church an opportunity to put their foot in the water and start seeing how much woundedness there is, and then they can open the door to those more specific areas of help, hope and healing that some men need. And so what I've done is knowing the fears of pastors because I've been one and I have no hundreds of them all over the nation hearing why they're scared to do this kind of work Then I designed the fearless series for men and women to be a very soft entry point, to just start this conversation. And, of course, once you start the conversation and give them a safe place, they're going to talk. They're going to do it because they want to. So the difference between what I've done with the fearless series and the Conquer series is the Conquer series is designed full bore straight from the beginning. We're dealing with this issue of pornography and sexual sin in men. Well, that scares a lot of churches. So if we can get into this and then some of those men in this process start talking about that, then those people that really like yourself and others that specialize in helping with specific sexual addiction or whatever you want to call it maladaptive behaviors, then they can come in. So that's why I did it the way I did, because I understand pastors' fears and I am one and I know that pastors have to have a way to understand. If we start this conversation, it's not going to be destructive, because I think that's what many of them fear.Speaker 1:
You also take an approach of incredible tenderness and gentleness, which feels refreshing to me because a lot of the material out there can be very tough, very tough guy, very militaristic Right right right. Fight the battle rather than let's come together and heal.Speaker 2:
Yeah, exactly Well, and it's built upon testimony, as you could kind of tell All of these men that are on there and I talk about names a lot of people would know. A lot of the names are men who themselves are survivors of trauma of some kind. Because no one can look at Max Lucchetto and say, well, you don't understand my sexual abuse when I was a boy Because Max is on this and he tells his story at age 12 of being sexually violated. I mean, that's powerful. You got a guy like Max Lucchetto who's willing to get on camera and, without shame, without fear, tell that story. He doesn't have to do that. I told Max after I spent the day with him in the filming. I said, max, you have no idea Maybe you do, maybe you don't how encouraging this is going to be for so many men to hear. You mean, max Cato had a similar experience to mine and look what God's done with his life. That means it's not over for me.Speaker 1:
Yes, that means there's hope for me. I mean, look at this, and and that's what I've heard from men who've seen it they just go gosh. That's so encouraging to me that God can still work in my life.Speaker 1:
When someone like that leads with vulnerability, it gives everyone else permission.Speaker 2:
Sure does.Speaker 1:
To be real, to open up. A lot of the challenge is just getting people into the door.Speaker 2:
So for somebody who's interested in doing the fearless series at their church, maybe bringing this starting something. What are some of the common reasons why people don't start a group?Speaker 2:
There is this mindset, I think, within American Christianity that I don't think really exists anywhere else in the world as much as it does here. I know in third world countries that I've been it doesn't exist which is this feeling of we've got to look good, we've got to look successful to the world, and you know so if we know Jesus, then we, our lives, are supposed to be okay, you know. And so there's this idea in this mindset that we kind of all know we're messed up but let's don't talk about it because we got to look good. And you know, I remember I was saved right in the middle of the Jesus movement. I was a teenager of the late 60s, early 70s, and I did everything that the drug culture had to offer. I was not raised in church. I was raised on a dirt road and a tin roof house in a little ratty west Texas town. My dad was the town drunk and my mother was a waitress in a truck stop. But at 18 the Lord just grabbed me. I mean no church, nothing, and I was radically transformed. It was just one of the you know, the Jesus movement, you know, when the Holy Spirit was just coming through and getting all of us that were musicians and druggies and stuff. And so, you know, I thought, well, you know, I'm gonna go on and win the world for Jesus. And I kind of had heard well, now you have Jesus, james, now you're okay. And I bought into that. I buried my dad six months after I became a Christian. He was 41, died of his alcoholism. He was never there for me and my mother obviously wasn't, because she had to just work in. She had a sophomore in high school education. That's all she could do. So about my middle 30s, after I'd already finished my theological education, I'd already started this church I spiraled into a deep, dark place that I didn't want to live anymore and quite frankly, drew, I didn't know why I had bought into that. That's all the past, don't bring it up, don't need to mess with it, you've got Jesus. Now you know everything's gonna be okay. Well, it wasn't okay and with the pressures of ministry, the pressures of family and children, this started stuff kind of come to the service and literally I had suicidal ideation for several years. But out of that and it's a long story I entered into a healing experience, one-on-one with an old guy that wasn't a trained counselor, he was an AA guy. He was just recovering from his years of alcoholism and everything and he spent time with me and I began to discover there was a lot of unresolved stuff inside of me, mainly the anger toward my father because he cheated me out of childhood. We didn't do Christmas, we didn't do birthdays, it was about survival. I went to school when I wanted to, I didn't go when I didn't want to. So, anyway, I started dealing with that and I just said, you know what, I'm gonna start telling people about that. And I did from the pulpit because at that point I was just excited that man, something was happening inside and people started coming up to me in my church, said, james, thank you for that, let me tell you. And it just started coming to the surface. And we, what do we do about all this stuff? So we just took the little bit that I knew so far and we started that and started with one group. We offer about 30 different types of groups now in this church post-abortion groups for women and guys that are dealing with guilt from, you know, when they were kids, having an abortion or paying for one. I mean all those, because all those things, if we don't deal with them. They're not our past, they're our present and they will be our future. You know, the point is that our people are sitting in our churches Sunday after Sunday, looking good on the outside and hiding addictions, hiding anger, unforgiveness. Like I was, I could preach a great sermon about forgiveness. I just didn't know how to forgive my father. Truth of the matter. So I didn't even know I needed to until I went into this process and that's where you're talking about. We don't know what we don't know until we get into a process that's designed to help us come and touch with it. So we just skim across the top of this thing and we make church very unsafe to talk about anything, because the idea is no, we're God's people, we've got it together. Well, when the senior pastor, the founding pastor of the church, started saying I ain't got it together, I hate my father, I am so angry, I don't know what to do with it and for the last two years I'm not sure I've even wanted to live I went wow, that guy has become safe all of a sudden. You know, they saw me as safe and man, they were longing to talk about this. So here we go, we just got to do this and that's why I've dedicated the rest of my life. Now that I've stepped out of the senior leadership of the church, trained up my replacement and I'm just going and helping churches how to get this process started. Do it slowly. This is not a program. You don't just open a box and you've got this thing. You take first steps and then one leads to the other and you just do the next right thing. And I'm you know I'll be 69 in July. I'm having the time of my life. I really am. I'm just being able to talk to pastors as a pastor who understands and just say look, let me help you here, overcome these fears. And when they see the marriages get healed, when they see men who are covered up with shame because of the secret, when they walk in victory, all of a sudden they step up to the plate. You know it's amazing. So my heart's in the local church. I want to see the local church be healthy.Speaker 1:
And so many of us have given up on the local church as a place of healing. So this is such an inspiring rally cry for those of us who are motivated, who are willing to take a redemptive risk. What are the first steps?Speaker 2:
Well, if you're a layperson, you know just a guy in the church that really would love to see his church become this. What I typically ask them to do, whether it's men or women, is to get two or three others and this is risky. Ok, this is risky to do this and sit down with the pastor and tell their story and help him to understand how prevalent these things are, because for guys that have been involved in doing some work dealing with this, they know how prevalent it is, and for women as well. And here's the great thing about the Fearless Series, pastor, we don't need you to do anything. You can't do this work. We will do this work. What we need is your support and your authorization, if you will, and your encouragement that we will take this, because the kind of work that when you go churchwide, you don't have enough pastors and staff members to do this work. The laypeople have to do this, and the beauty of this is what we say in our church is your malady must become your ministry. So when someone comes in our door with a malady of woundedness and their alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual abuse, whatever it is, we say to them if you will, let us walk you through this process of healing. There will be a day in time when you will be able to take this and turn it around and punch the enemy right between the eyes with it and begin to help other people. I always ask people who's the best person to help a drunk, another drunk yeah, he can't say you don't understand me, but I am you. Okay, I was you. Who is best to help a woman who's struggling with the pain of her sexual abuse as a child than a group of women who have had that same experience, christian sisters in Christ who understand the healing process and can walk her through that? I was spoke at a conference in Montana a couple weeks ago and trying to help them understand why. I always say I'm not against counseling. Okay, thank God for counselors, but I'd like to put them all out of business. I wish the church would do its work. There'd be a whole lot less work for Christian counselors to do. So I give them two scenarios. Here's the first scenario. Someone says to a friend I went to a counselor and they were able to help me work through the pain that was destroying my life. So the other person says well, great, who was that counselor? Give him the name because I want to go see that person. Okay, the other scenario is I went to my church because of the pain in my life and they connected with me, with people who understood me, loved me, cared for me and helped me walk through my pain. That person's response is going to go wow, where is that church? I want to be a part of that. So the question is do we want people to go to a counselor because that's where we got her? Oh, we do. We want them to go to the local church, the body of Christ, so that the gospel gets the glory in the community. So the church is lifted up in the community as a place for help, hope and healing. Wow, think how the gospel could be promoted in that community if all the churches were hospitals. So again, I speak to counselors a lot and sometimes they get their underwear tied up in a knot whenever I talk about that. But truth of the matter is I just would love to them not be needed. I'm thankful to God that they're there, but I just wish the church was doing its job where they weren't even needed and necessary.Speaker 1:
And when we address the root causes of trauma, that provides a foundation for everything else.Speaker 2:
Everything I see sometimes where men and women they focus on the behavior. I have to get rid of this behavior. Let's say, if it's sexual addiction, a guy says I've got to get rid of pornography, I can't have it in my life, whatever else I'm doing, and that's great. We have to deal with behavior. But if they never get down to the root of where that behavior started, which is most often in childhood trauma, early exposure to pornography, which in itself is child abuse they never get down to that, then they may be dealing and free of this, but it's going to pop its head up somewhere else. And to not be crass, this is an old wife that told me of a man in our church years ago that was in recovery from alcohol. And he'd been in recovery a couple of years and I asked one day well, how's he doing? And she said, well, he's not drinking but he's still an asshole. And I thought, wow, you just nailed it right there. So all he did was remove alcohol, but his character hasn't changed to you and his children. So that's when you're dealing with behavior and not really getting to the root of character transformation. And last time I looked, jesus is in the business of character transformation, not just getting rid of behaviors, but because those behaviors are so destructive and so dominating. I think a lot of times we get into recovery and that's all our focus is so. That's why the fear of serious is at trauma. We don't even deal specifically with behavior. If we get to that trauma and that trauma is dealt with, then there's a lot of power for dealing with that behavior and not allowing it to crop up in other areas.Speaker 1:
Amen. So where can we go to learn more about the Fearless Series?Speaker 2:
You can learn about the Men's Series and the Women's Series from the website. The Women's Series website is FS and then the number for womencom and the men's is FS for mencom. They're both designed exactly the same. It's the five week videos, the eight week workbook study and then a 52 week discussion guide for people that want to do the whole thing.Speaker 1:
Awesome. So you can dip your toe in, you can go waist deep or you can cannonball.Speaker 2:
That's right. You can and I am available. I make myself available. Everybody on the planet has my cell phone number, so when someone a church is trying to do this, I'll do the facilitator training for them so that their facilitators or the groups know how to lead a group like this. They'll have my phone. I will be accessible to them. I want churches to succeed at this, because if they try it once and they don't do it right and they go well, that didn't work. Well, it didn't work because you didn't do it right. So let me help you, because we didn't have anybody show us how to do this stuff. We had to learn and we made a lot of mistakes. We had every pothole in the road. I know where all of them are, and so I don't want you to have to hit those potholes. So one of the joys I have is these relationships with churches and lay leaders and pastors around the country that are doing this. They'll call me, they'll email me and say, hey, what do I do about this? And I love that kind of thing because that means they're wanting to do it right.Speaker 1:
Awesome. So you can find more about the Fearless Series for men and for women. In the show notes you can also find James' contact information. James, what is your favorite thing about healing?Speaker 2:
My favorite thing about healing is to see the light go on in God's people's eyes. Believers that thought. You know I'm always going to be a second class believer and you know I hear about peace and I hear about joy, but I just don't understand it. I know I'm saved and no one's going to heaven but man, this joy thing and you know, this freedom, I just don't feel that. And you get to watch that and it's a transformational thing as someone gets into the healing process and once that light starts coming on, then you can't stop them because they've had a taste. I want more and that's the part. As a pastor, a shepherd, I love to see the sheep get healthy. That, to me, is the most important thing. When God's people really get healthy from their woundedness, man, it sets them free to do the work of the kingdom. To me that's the most exciting thing.Speaker 1:
Awesome. Thank you so much.Speaker 2:
Thank you, deir, I appreciate it. Thank you very, very much.Speaker 1:
You're welcome, gentlemen. Always remember you are God's beloved Son. In you he is well-pleased.