“I was a sleeper cell sinner – an arrogant, legalistic pastor who thought I could read, pray, and learn enough to make up for my lack of dependence on Christ. Eventually, I made an idol out of ministry.”
“I was a fake Christian, preaching to congregations on Sundays, but following Jesus part-time the rest of the week,” said Josh McDonald. “Full of pride, I hid my sin in hopes that others would think I was a good, moral person. I believed the lie that pastors didn’t struggle with sin or have difficulties in marriage. I was content to come to church, dress nicely, preach from the pulpit, and go home.
“I’ve always been interested in history and archeology, so I pursued a biblical studies degree here in Dallas. I studied the apostles and their devotion to Jesus, and their lives were convicting to me. Although I trusted Christ as a child, there was no call to surrender or sacrifice for the Lord. So, I grew into a prideful man who looked at porn and crossed boundaries with girlfriends, at times. Rather than following after Christ, I pursued the approval of man.
“After college, I felt called into full-time ministry, but I wasn’t sure about where. After I married my wife, Erica, I started pastoring a church in Texarkana. I had accountability partners, but we never asked hard questions. So, my sin patterns and pride continued to grow.
“I remember reading 1 John 5 as I prepared a message on how we can know with certainty that we will spend eternity with Christ. That book was so convicting, and I honestly had no idea if I had ever truly surrendered my life to Christ. I was a sleeper cell sinner – an arrogant, legalistic pastor who thought I could read, pray, and learn enough to make up for my lack of dependence on Christ. Eventually, I made an idol out of ministry.
“I talked to my wife, and she encouraged me to make the first priority getting my heart right with the Lord. As I continued reading 1 John, I prayed, fasted, and asked God for help in trusting Him. Then I met with the leaders of the church I was pastoring and confessed my sin and lack of dependence on Christ. I was ready to give it all up if that’s what it took.
“In spite of my reservations about confessing my crisis of faith, the men at that church supported me through it. They encouraged me to fully trust in Christ and be baptized, both of which I did. My concerns about being fully transparent with my doubt, pride, and sin struggles never came to pass. In fact, God used my openness about sin to bring others to faith. That’s something I would never have expected.
“When I look at my life before true dependence on Christ, I realize that I had cheapened salvation – never relying on the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross. I know there are people just like I was in churches around the world – prideful people who don’t want to bend their knees and confess their sin and deep need for Christ. I was one of those guys, and I was so arrogant. Pride is such a dangerous thing.
“The years that followed were full of learning about God’s grace. I read and prayed a lot and learned the value of seeking wisdom and counsel in community with other Christfollowers. I continued serving as a pastor for another three and- a-half years. But as my wife and I started a family, I wanted to find a place to grow spiritually and experience greater accountability with other believers. That is what brought us to Watermark.
“Since we’ve been here, I’ve learned so much from my friend, Scott Miller. When we first arrived, he let me know that this is a place where people will help you in failure and in victory. In fact, the first time I visited Watermark, the speaker mentioned his own sin struggles – something I’d never heard in a church before. I knew I needed someone to come alongside us to help my family excel still further. We have found that here at Watermark.
“Right now, I have great community with the guys walking alongside me at re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry. I’m less focused on being a ‘good person’ and more concerned with glorifying Christ in all I do. Rather than living in fear that someone finds out about my sin, I’m experiencing tremendous freedom. My marriage is stronger, and I’m growing as a father as I learn more about my Heavenly Father.
“I still travel and teach God’s Word, but my preaching is radically different. Before full dependence on Christ, I simply focused on giving a great speech. When I speak about the Lord now, my preaching is done with great conviction. That’s not me, but the power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life. Empty words and dead prayers have been replaced with the freedom and joy I have found in Christ.”