Directing TCL – (Denied)

UPDATE (  11/5/08  ) : I have received a response to the email I wrote a while back. I post it here for a few reasons. The first is that it’s a piece of relevant news in my life. The second is that I think it presents some interesting points for dialogue and growth. This acts as a preface to explain why I did not post it. I did not post it so that people can chose a side and then ridicule, judge, bash, demean, or non-constructively criticize viewpoints that they do not side with or understand. To the degree that you are willing to engage in a discussion for the unity of the church I would love to hear your comments and responses. If this is not your intention than reading this and responding is not requested. I am still very much in process about this but my letter of response is true and expresses my true heart for the issue.


Response to my letter (  11/4/08 )

My response Back (  11/4/08  )

I just sent this email to (EDIT: Name and position removed). Seems like kind of a long shot but it’s pretty relieving knowing that I don’t really have anything to prove. For those of you who do not know, TCL stands for Training in Christian Living and is a 4 week program at Lakeside Bible Camp that was very formative for me in my high school years. The camp is historically fairly conservative so I figure the only chance I have is for God to bend some branches because for some reason conservative crowds don’t really consider me to be so…even though all of my liberal friends would probably consider me the most conservative person they know.

Hey (EDIT: Name removed),
I just wanted to send a quick email following up from our conversation during family camp 3. I would love to have the opportunity to direct TCL whether it is this next summer or sometime in the future.  While I have become less and less interested in this for personal interest there is no doubt in my mind that God has directed me in this direction and it is the sole purpose of my inquiry. Just to be clear my sole purpose in directing would be to disciple the TCLers by teaching them to fall in love with God and obey his commands. I feel like I must be fair in warning you up front that I have many weaknesses in regards to fitting into, what I would consider, mainstream evangelical Christianity.  In pursuit of radical discipleship for myself I feel like I am often colliding  with many forces that oppose both from within and outside the “church.”  I feel like part of this is my own character deficiencies that are often being reformed by God and the community he has given me and part of this is the nature of being a radical disciple. Hmmmmm…even though I feel like I’m signing my own death warrant I want to be really upfront about who I am and what I will bring to the table positive and negative.
Anyways, I have quite a long list of TCL history and/or references that I would more than happy to provide if you are interested.  I would also be willing to drive and meet you to talk and discuss anything that you think would be pertinent in making this decision.
Ben Crawford

(EDIT: Links removed)

Today I received this email. I am posting it here anonymously.
Hello Ben:

I saw your recent posting on Facebook. I’m praying for you and your family during this difficult time and hope that you will soon be able to overcome this problem through Christ and His power in you. I encourage you to be careful with the “higher power” leanings that these programs espouse as they usually do not lead to Christianity but more of a self awareness type of gospel which is not really a gospel at all (Galatians 1). You can overcome this through Christ and the Spirit.

Thanks for your interest in working with the TCL here at Lakeside but I must decline. As you have mentioned to me you seek to live your Christian life outside of the standard “box” of the church; Lakeside is a fairly conservative ministry and our philosophy is different than where you seem to be at in this point in your life. In addition your current situation with treatment for the sex addiction would prevent involvement with youth at the camp.

During this time I encourage you to focus on the rich blessings we have in Christ, many of which are mentioned in Ephesians 1. I like to point out that not only do we have tremendous blessings here but also the rich way that they are lavished upon us as new creatures in Christ – every spiritual blessing vs. 3; adoption as sons vs. 5; grace freely bestowed vs. 6; the kind intention of His will vs. 9. Our God is very generous with His children.

Sincerely in Christ,

(EDIT: Name ommited)
My Response 11/4/08
Thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m assuming it would have been much easier not to. I appreciate your honesty, openness, and encouragement.
I totally respect and understand your need to decline my offer at this time. Do you view this as a permanent decision or is it based on variables that you think may change over time? If it is something that you think may change, I have two questions that will help me to understand where you are coming from and how I can serve Lakeside in the future.

What are the main “philosophical differences” as you see them? Which of these will prevent me from serving or leading at camp?

Will my involvement in a Sexaholics group always disqualify me  from working with the youth at camp or is there a point where this can be a possibility? What is that point?

Lakeside has been such a blessing to me and my family and I would love to serve the ministry and the people there. It is a constant goal for me to be dealing with and growing through issues that prevent me from doing this.  Thanks for engaging in this discussion.



19 thoughts

  1. Your upfront and brutally honest methods are impressive. While it isn’t the most politically effective approach, it is certainly one that wins you character points.

    The director would be remiss in his duty, to the impressionable young minds he is entrusted with, as well as their parents and the community as a whole, if he did not seriously consider you for the position.

    Standing apart from the Conservative mob is much less a scarlet letter than a red badge of courage. In this era, even amongst the clergy, there is a deficit of integrity and commitment.

    Therefore, a new generation of youth, infused with indelible convictions and an indefatigable love of God, would be welcome reinforcements in an era beset with misdirected truculence and rampant hypocrisy. If even a tenth of your radical discipleship (or Jeremy’s, for that matter) was to rub off on the TCL pupils, than your appointment to the aforementioned position would be both well earned and deftly performed.

    Don’t give up.

  2. Thanks for updating us, Ben.
    It saddens me that you are not able to serve at LBC in the near future. However, I am excited and have been very blessed to see your overall life as a ministry which has changed me and many others. I can only hope and pray that people may see your heart and the way God has been working through you and the impact that you have and can make.

    I appreciate you being willing to take James 5:16 to heart even though it can and will cost you.

    “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

  3. “Thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m assuming it would have been much easier not to.”

    This is definitely true. Hopefully, their willingness to respond at least once is a sign of a willingness to an ongoing conversation that will be much fruit.

  4. Yeah, that’s disappointing. I can see it from his side, and I think you were both upfront and gracious and that’s really great.

    I think what’s most disappointing for me is how he told you to focus on those scriptural things without any context of relationship. I’m sure you know what I mean. He seems great and gracious, but that end bit about giving you advice, almost, without a shared history feels a touch condescending. I don’t know if you felt that or not.

  5. First off, I would think that a camp director position would likely involve an interview process having to do with your theological beliefs not too unsimilar to that which you would see in a pastor search for a church. While I’m sure there would be some room for differences there, there would also likely be certain things theologically that would be non-negotiables with the camp. I don’t think that’s the reason that he wouldn’t hire you.

    That being said, regardless of what their understanding of SA is, having a public blog and Facebook page where you openly talk about your sexual addiction is a death knell for a job working with kids I think Ben.

    Certainly you’ve done nothing wrong and you’re within your right to post about what you want. But many teachers have been suspended or fired over pics they have posted on their personal Facebook page. If I own and run a camp and I came across the same request that you sent me, all I would be thinking about would be the headline on King 5 with Dennis Bounds saying, “Local children’s church summer camp hired an admitted sex addict as their camp director”.

    I think he’s being very gentle with telling you that there’s no possible way that he could hire you, even if you were the apostle Paul himself. The kind of scandal that would result would likely shut down the camp.

  6. I think Charles nailed the main reason for denial on the head. The potential risk to Lakeside would be too much. I personally believe it is unfortunate. I think your current struggles and the growth you are experiencing from those struggles would make you uniquely equipped to work with the youth at LBC, but the reality is that this would be a liability that the camp will see to be too great. It saddens me that in our current climate we seemed to be punished for wrestling with our demons (at least if you are open and honest about them), but I guess that is part of the cost/pain which will lead to true healing.

  7. I think Charles is right. The legal side of it all could spell trouble. However, I am impressed by both sides. Well done Ben. Honestly, most conservatives I know may publicly confess their sins, but not to the extent with which you’ve done. Perhaps it’s a bit shocking for the LBC folks…not necessarily saying that one is more correct than the other.

    At the same time, from what little I know of you, I think you sold yourself short in that first email! You have so much to offer the kids at LBC! It’s okay to mention that too. 😉

  8. While it’s not a bad thing to be open with this as you have Ben, there is a reason for the Anonymous part of the program and this is actually it. Most people do not understand addiction and I think most people aren’t going to understand the nuance therein.

    I think being open with your struggles can be a very powerful tool for witnessing and encouragement of those around you. However, airing all of your dirty laundry can also be a hindrance to your ministry as well.

    If memory serves, the program doesn’t require you to shout to the world what our issues are. However, it does allow you to be able to admit to those around you that you meet with that you do have struggles that you can relate to each other about.

    So I think you may in the future want to temper your zealousness about your current journey of self-discovery for this very reason. If talking with people about this can be edifying on micro level with individuals. But on a macro level you may want to remain more anonymous so that you don’t give people a reason to pre-judge you and thus be turned off to the possibility of you witnessing to them.

    Something to think about.

  9. Hey Ben, I just wanted ya to know I saw this link posted on your facebook . Hopefully you don’t mind me commenting on it. I’m definately NOT an expert, but yet I felt for you.

    I just wanted to say I think you’re very brave to be so honest. I wish there were more people like you in this world. It’s so frustrating to me how so many struggle with issues, yet walk around in such falsehood. Sadly this seems to be prevalent in the church. Lots of pointing fingers and judgement but very little transparency and truth…real truth! Truth that know one knows because it comes from deep within. Well, thank you for your truth, it’s refreshing!

    You see you could of hid this or lied. But you chose to be real, honest and open. This should mean something. Yes, it could be could be scary to consider hiring someone with a “problem” but I think it’s way worse to hire someone who may be in deneyal about it, hide it or lie.

    Second, I think it’s great you’re actively taking steps to fix this and be acountable to others. Many don’t even move on to this step. This should count for something!

    The only difference between you and others with unspoken “problems” is they haven’t had the guts to speak out. I believe God will truely bless you for this. A man of integrity is a rare thing.

    As I’m sure you’ve heard Matt is going through his share of addictions and 12 step programs. I can’t offer much advise other than being honest and calling like it is, seems to be the toughest part. So good for you, you’re on the right road! I also know it’s a very fitted fix for addiction. In other words, what works for others doesn’t allways work for you. Or lets face it all addictions would be fixed with one right way! Do what’s best for you and how you feel God is telling you to do it. It’s been frustrating for both of us with all the “know it all” people out there.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m proud of you for taking a stand, being honest, doing what is right and trying to serve God. God will use you and all your talents. Give my love to Kami. I still picture her as little, from when Kari and I would hang out in the good old days!

    Much love,

  10. Well said, Charles.

    All this makes me think, every single male counselor at every camp is probably a sex addict or thinks they are or would qualify to be one by some standards. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men??

  11. wow, lots of responses that I have not responded to. first of all, thanks for all of the feedback. the reason why i posted this letter in the first place is that i hoped it would spark some good conversation.

    I have some very mixed feelings about this whole ordeal. Like Charles, I can see the organizational/liability side of this and I could see myself making a similar decision in that position. I would also say that there is a strong part of me that resonates with Kimmie and Anne’s sentiments. I wonder what it looks like to live the NT life of humility and “rejoicing in our weakness” so that Christ may be glorified. I am constantly struggling with is the idea of how the standards for leadership and reputation within the church are so similar to every other context.
    I will say this. When I was deciding whether to go to SA meeting, share about it with other and write about it on my blog I knew that I had 2 very distinct options.
    The first was to tell no one, or a very limited “inner circle”
    The second was to let it all hang loose. I knew with this option that there were endless assumptions tat would be made and that it would would limit my options incredibly in certain circles.
    But then I started to think about that the assumptions that are made in the first option. This context I am very familiar with. Christians who say “no one’s perfect” but by all appearances, are. I felt like it boiled down to one of two option. I could be a misunderstood saint or a misunderstood sinner. I chose the latter because I thought that it would better facilitate the healing of myself and the others around me. I have gone back and forth on the decision but if I had to do it over again I would not change it.

    Shellie, Thanks for your kind encouragement. You are always welcome to read and post.

    Thanks to all who have engaged in this very confusing issue.

  12. I think we need to start a petition listing all of the reasons why Ben is qualified to direct TCL and write all of our signatures down on it and submit to the camp leaders. What a great loss for this camp.

  13. Fascinating discussion. What great insights.

    I’m very encouraged by how this whole discussion has helped me and others talk about the Fall and sin in a much deeper way. But can I focus for a minute on the cons of this discussion (which this post is exploring).

    I’m pondering how he would (if he ever will) respond to your second letter about when you will be free to work with youth at LBC and here’s where I feel the “addiction” label causes long-term problems. Perhaps the first step toward being allowed back into ministry with youth would be a blog post entitled “I’m Ben and I’m NOT a sexaholic” but would you ever post such a thing (don’t 12 step programs tell you that you’re always a sexaholic)?

    The problem here is categorizing sin.

    For example, is the struggle of someone who got drunk at a party once when he was 17 the same as the struggle of someone with 3 DUI’s last month. Should they both be banned from ever driving a school bus? Spiritually these categories aren’t that important. Sin is sin and both people have to deal with the fall in their lives. But society has an obligation to protect itself by limiting the effect the Fall in the second man with DUI’s is having on society by revoking his driver’s license and not allowing him to drive children for a living. We need to be able to categorize certain sins as more dangerous to society than others. This is not a spiritual category but a societal one (Romans 13:1-7).

    You seem to want to mix these categories up to help Christians understand that we are equally fallen. I agree we are equally fallen but putting a societal label (sexaholic) on yourself to make a spiritual point carries with it the long-term consequences of the societal protections that this category was designed for. This was why so few people ever wanted to actually admit that they were alcoholics. They weren’t just saying “I’m a sinner” they were also saying “I’m a sinner that society needs to take specific actions to protect itself against.” It’s because of the protections leveled against the alcoholic that required a place of anonymity so he would be willing to admit his addiction.

    So where does this end? You need to answer the question you are asking the director to answer. You said you might have banned yourself from directing TCL if you were him but is that really true? Then why would you apply at all? What would you have REALLY written if you got a request like that? How would you have responded to the second question about when the ban should be lifted?

    I really want to know.

    And my second question is this – if the consequences of 1) receiving the label “sexaholic” and 2) declaring it publicly on your blog leads to a lifelong restriction on discipling youth will it have been worth doing both? Can we talk about sin just as effectively without invoking the societal language?

  14. jp, thoughtful response.
    As far as your “first question” (which really seems more like 5 questions), I think you do a great job of outlining the very real issue of societies standards and the impact that they do and must have. As I’m processing this I realize that if I were in a position to make a decision of this nature there are 2 criteria I would use. The first I will categorize as “Societal” and the second, “Spiritual”. Of course these are NOT mutually exclusive and I suppose picturing it as a venn diagram may help where there is some overlap but it must also be noted that there are societal standards that are not compatible with the spiritual ones and vice versa.

    In this case the societal questions I would ask are: Will kids be safe? How much of a liability it this? How distracting with this be practically?

    In the case of the spiritual questions I would ask: Is this person seeking/following Christ? Are they able to train others to do the same? Are they humble? are they bearing fruit? etc.

    When I said, there are times that I would have made the same decision I was thinking about it in terms of the practical difficult and the PR difficulties in dealing with someone who is a perceived liability. So, I suppose in that sense they actually become a liability but besides that I do not see myself falling short on the category of society’s standards. Kids are not in danger, I don’t look at porn, don’t masturbate don’t blah, blah, blah.

    I would like to think that in the Spiritual category I really am seeking Christ and also want to train others to do the same.

    So, I would not have banned myself from directing TCL. I too, am interested to receive a response to the letter I wrote because I would like to know what the threshold of transformation is to minister in that context. But herein lies the problem. In most of my experience in the ministry there is a 90/10 ration or at least 80/20 on the emphasis of meeting “societal” (aka christian culture) standards vs “spiritual” standards. I’m not saying that someone doesn’t care about both it’s just that one is so heavily weighted than the other. This is seen by observing the gateway process. Let’s take someone who has the most radical prayer life you know. This person confesses more sin than anyone you know. They walk with and understand the ways of the Father….BUT they swear, or have long hair, or tattoos and piercing son their face, and they listen to rap, and go to AA. By the time you are done reading this list you don’t even remember the first three things on the list. This person does not stand a chance at a mega church, in most mission agencies, at many camps, and in quite a few Bible Colleges.

    As far as your second question…I’ve been thinking about Jesus. I don’t claim to be like him nor do I understand him but enough of this fake humility bullshit. We can call a spade a spade here. Jesus did things in a very specific way. And that very specific way was deemed by the crowds around him as very limiting. In fact, it was limiting in the worst way. It kept Jesus from saving people because he was spending so much time relating and hanging out with the people who really needed saving. “I came to seek and save the lost” he said. In fact, not only did he do this, he did it publicly, he did it blatantly, and he did it offensively. Tax collectors, prostitutes, essentially all law-breakers. And in doing to, he became a law-breaker. I don’t like the tone of this last paragraph but it does get across how strongly I believe in these characteristics of who Jesus was. In trying to follow Jesus I do not think one should try and go around offending people (although he did seem to make quite the sport of it) or just breaking the law but we can’t write him off either. Maybe he was on to something.

    Can we talk about sin without invoking the societal language? Maybe. I do know this though. In the last 3 months since I have been using societal language I feel like my ministry has expanded far greater than any time before. I feel like the opportunities for discipleship have exploded as broken people who need Jesus identify me as a broken person who needs Jesus. As I identify myself, for the first time as a broken person who needs Jesus. In one sense this label has been necessary for me to understand myself and learn what sin really does mean. In that regards, I am comforted by Jesus who chose to spend so much of his time with the same people who wore society’s labels.

    If I had the last 6 months to live over again, I would do it the same. Will I say that in 10 years? maybe.

    long winded.

    thanks for the valuable feedback jp and other.


    1. “Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says.

      This line is pretty interesting. Not a coincidence.

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