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Justin Davis: My First Affair Was with the Church

Did you have any accountability postlaunch?

Justin: Well, yes. I had accountability. I had a church planting coach I met with every Tuesday morning. I had an elder I met with every Wednesday morning for accountability. But accountability is useless; it’s just a Christian term we’ve come up with to make ourselves sound more spiritual than we really are because we offer accountability but not real transparency.

If I’m not transparent with you, if I don’t let you into the dark parts of my heart, we can meet every day as accountability partners, and we’ll both feel good about it because it’s the Christian thing to do. As long as I’m withholding truth, I’m not placing myself under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and I’m not allowing God to work in the areas of my life that I’ve withheld from Him and from everyone else.

That was one of the most painful things for my accountability partners. [They said,] “We got together with you every week for two years! Why didn’t you say anything? Why weren’t you honest with us?”

But I felt like, if I share this with him, I’ll get fired, I’ll lose everything. And in the process of not sharing it, I lost everything.

If you had been honest, would anything have been different?

Justin: I’d have lost the church anyway, but the collateral damage wouldn’t have been so great. I still lost my job, but the loss of the marriage that we had and the friendships we had that to this day have wounds in them—all because I wasn’t completely honest.

Trisha: We’ve come to recognize that people want to focus on the affair, but the affair was a symptom of much greater issues. I definitely had my own junk. I didn’t cause the affair, but our dysfunction fed into each other.

Could anything have been improved on the assessment end that could’ve revealed these issues earlier?

Justin: We’re talking to a couple of organizations about that very thing. Our passion as a couple is to help create a safe place in that qualification process. What if there was a safe place to say things like, “We look good on the outside, but our marriage is dying on the inside,” or “We haven’t been intimate in seven months,” or “We fight like cats and dogs, but we put on a good front when we come to church on Sunday”—the stuff you never want to show.

Trisha: And as the church grows, it’s knowing what questions to ask. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s wise. And I think that’s the biggest missing part of the church planting world, recognizing and addressing, “What are the pieces of your story?” And understanding the pieces of his story—what fills him up, what drains the life out of him, how he’s wired. And asking the same questions to the spouse and even asking some of those questions to their children.

Justin: I don’t think it’s a question thing; I think it’s a relationship thing. It’s more of a “Hey, we believe in you and your wife, and we’re willing to invest money in that belief and in what God has laid on your heart. But we believe in you enough to give you permission to be honest. We’re not going to judge you, and if you have baggage or issues that you need to deal with, it doesn’t disqualify you yet. We’re going to get you help.”

Developing that relationship with a husband and wife would help immensely. We all need someone we can be honest with because they don’t have that person in their church, which is sad. It’s sad that pastors feel the most alone.

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