Michael Todd Wilson, is the co-author of Soul Virgins(Baker Books, 2006) and Preventing Ministry Failure (IVP, 2007). and a licensed professional counselor and has worked with men struggling in the realm of sexual sin. Unburdened: The Christian Leader’s Path to Sexual Integrity is his new book, designed to help clergy, ministry leaders, and denominational elders work towards sexual wholeness.
A 2009 study conducted by Texas Tech University revealed that out 460 male clergy, twenty percent accessed pornography at least twice a month (12). Earlier studies showed that thirty-five to fifty percent of ministers struggle with pornography (13). Pornography is just one way that the sexuality of Christian leaders goes off the rails; pastors go to strip clubs, visit prostitutes on business trips, masturbate, have affairs, entertain lustful fantasy, etc. Wilson observes, “There is not a one of us who doesn’t face real challengesto our personal integrity” (20). Though this manifests itself in different ways with each of us.
Wilson’s focus is on male sexuality. While he acknowledges that men and women are equally susceptible to sexual temptation, women were historically ‘most vulnerable emotionally and relationally,’ and men ‘tend more toward the visual and the physical’ (34). Wilson sees this changing in recent decades with what he calls “the masculinizing of femininity, and the feminizing of masculinity” (35). However there is nothing practical here for women Christian leaders. Wilson’s insights promote sexual integrity for male Christian leaders.
Wilson observes that men are put on the defensive and further isolated by the question, “Do you you struggle with sexual integrity?” He asks instead, ” How do you struggle with sexual integrity?” (12). Wilson aims at helping men press past their disconnection, isolation, pride and self sufficiency in their struggle with sexual temptation to pursue a grace-based pathway to sexual wholeness.
Wilson explores the disciplines that will help Christian leaders live lives of sexual integrity: the discipline of surrender (commitment to God’s plan for our sexuality and accepting corresponding systems of accountability), the discipline of radical honesty with self, the discipline of ‘non-ministry’ God time, discipline of body maintenance (proper sleep, nutrition and exercise).
Because Wilson emphasizes grace, he advocates small steps in each of these areas and honest disclosure when we fail. Three Appendices at the end of the book provide action steps for the strugglng, advice for mentoring other men along this path, and a bibliography of additional resources for sexual wholeness.
For those stuck in the throes of sexual temptation, Wilson has a good deal of sage advice. He weds practical, psychological insights with biblical convictions. I think this would work well for a men’s group, a male small group, or gathering of male Christian leaders. For these sorts of groups this is a helpful resource. I appreciate Wilson’s strong emphasis on authenticity, relationship and grace. I give this four stars.
Note: I received this book from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.