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Discovering Direction for Men Pulled Off Course

By Dave Thomson

There’s a sense when you walk into that room that the shame you’ve carried with you for many years has been broken, because you recognize right away that you’re not alone. It’s really, really powerful.”

That’s how one of the almost sixty men who attend COMPASS describes the way he feels at the beginning of the group’s Thursday night meetings.

The guys in COMPASS, men with sexual addictions, are serious about pursuing sexual purity within a Christian context.

A Range of Issues

Since COMPASS began four years ago, the group has included men who are dealing with a range of issues. “Some are involved in pornography—they’ve never crossed what we sometimes refer to as the ‘flesh line.’” says Group Leader Dave Allen. “Others have crossed that line and been involved in affairs, gone to massage parlors, or retained the services of a prostitute.

“For some, the addictive forces can be the strongest with pornography,” he adds, “because it’s only a click away on the mouse or a tab on the touch screen. But the men who go beyond pornography can find themselves addicted also, because the relationships and affirmation they get can be overwhelming.”

All these men have core issues that drive their use of pornography, affairs, or prostitution. “The main issue for many is control,” says Dave. “A guy will say to himself, I don’t like what’s happening at work, at home, or in my marriage. I’m going to take control. I will have something that stimulates me. I will look at what I want to look at. And so, a lot of what’s going on underneath is an issue of control. In fact, we often refer to it as the ‘Master of the Universe’ syndrome. Guys think they can do anything and everything and be in control of it, but they really can’t. It controls them.”

The real recovery begins when COMPASS attenders realize that their real issue is a heart issue. 


Why is the group called COMPASS? Dave explains, “The truth is that only Jesus Christ can show us the way to get to our heart issues. He is our true north,” Dave says. “We base everything on that, and everything in COMPASS points to Jesus. He’s our standard. That’s how COMPASS helps men who are lost in pornography or sexual addictions find a way out.”

Who Attends and Why?

COMPASS attracts men from across the region. According to Men’s Pastor Mark Irvin, probably 60 to 65 percent of the guys are not from Wheaton Bible Church, although our church has the largest number of participants.

“It is a ministry to the region,” Mark says of this support group that was inspired by a similar ministry at College Church in Wheaton. “We have men coming up from Joliet, from Lockport—even from Kankakee—and from other suburbs.”

What brings men to COMPASS? What motivates them to attend or even to work on this problem? “Nine times out of ten it’s that they got caught or they felt like they were going to be caught,” Dave responds. “That’s what happened with me. I realized my world was about to fall apart. Everything was going to come out. Could I have lied my way through it? Yes, maybe. But it was a combination of just having grown weary
of the lie and knowing that everything was ready to fall apart.”

Many times, men get “caught” when their wives see what they’re looking at or pick up their husbands’ smartphone and see the history. Others get tripped up by technology—but
no matter how the truth comes out, Dave and others in the group see it as God’s grace that allowed the truth to be known.

By God’s grace,” Dave says, “I got caught. By God’s grace my world was ready to fall apart.”

The Weekly Meeting

Each meeting has two parts and lasts two hours. After a large-group teaching time the first hour, the men break into small groups the second hour. These groups are led by carefully chosen men who have been “clean” for at least one year, who know God’s Word, and who are spiritually mature.

Dave emphasizes three things in COMPASS—three areas, he says, that require hard work: 

  • Recovery—overcoming the habits and addictions that have built up over the years.
  • Marriage—because sexual addiction puts every marriage it touches under great strain. (These addictions abuse and hurt wives, so a lot of work goes into repairing broken marriages.)
  • Spiritual growth—the most important emphasis, includes the things the men need to do to grow closer to God and become more like Jesus.

The large-group time includes a “check-in” by a few guys each week. Each one says something like, “Good evening. My name is Bill Smith. I’m a child of God, but I’ve struggled with sexual sin all my adult life. By His grace and with the help of you brothers around this circle, I’ve been sober since June 20, 2010.”

Specific struggles are taken to the small group of about six or seven guys. That group provides the higher level of accountability and stronger relationships, and in those groups, every man checks in and shares concerns and victories.

“The important dynamic, just like within the church body, is the interaction between the men,” Dave says. “So much of what all of us have done was in secret and alone. One of the things we do to counter that is to encourage fellowship and community among the men. In that environment, the men can talk about the kinds of things that they would, in other circumstances, never want anybody else to hear. COMPASS offers the kind of environment that encourages openness and transparency.”

Bill Brown, Support Ministries Pastor, underlines the value of a group like COMPASS.

“A lot of men think they can overcome this struggle on their own. Either they say, ‘I’m in control. This is no big deal,’ and minimize it,  or they’re very determined and say to themselves, ‘Okay. That will be the last time I mess up. I can beat this.’ And they’ll gut it out for a month, but invariably they’ll mess up again. 

“The value of any recovery group,” Bill adds, “whether it’s COMPASS or Celebrate Recovery or another group, is recognizing that when we are weak—and admit it—we are infused with God’s power. He doesn’t infuse us with power when we’re saying ‘I can do this.’ It’s when we admit our weakness and need for help that God can begin His work in our lives.”

Making a Difference

COMPASS also offers the fellowship and spiritual resources men need, including teaching concepts new to a lot of the men.

“They’ve never heard the idea that a man can actually live without sex,” Dave said, “or that a man can actually live a fulfilling life without giving in to all the stimulation around him. And when they see other men who have actually been sober for six months, a year, or five years, they realize that it can be done.

“Another key factor” Dave adds, “is accountability. COMPASS encourages openness, honesty, and transparency. So if they have a major relapse during the week, they know that one of the tough things they’ve got to do is come back and tell the group the truth.

“We see results in men’s lives,” Dave adds. “In some I see just the improvement in the recovery aspects. They have the sobriety. I’ve also seen many of them grow spiritually. Although I praise God for the two men who came to Christ as a result of the ministry, more often I see men being called back to God.”

Mark adds, “I look at our culture and our churches and see men who are spiritually sidelined—in large part because they’re living this double life. Without a place to be open and honest, those guys fall prey to Satan’s lie that they are the only ones dealing with this thing, and they feel isolated and defeated.

“I think COMPASS has a huge role in helping guys recognize Satan’s lie,” Mark said. “And it also can help them get on a proven path toward recovery—recovery in terms of their lives, their thoughts, their marriages, and most important,
their spiritual lives, regaining intimacy with God, and if they are married, getting on a path of real intimacy. The world offers a false sense of intimacy. Christ is the only one who’s offering real intimacy. ”

“In COMPASS,” Dave says, “we have a group of guys who are committed to Christ and who gather weekly. They encourage each other, pray for each other, and hold each other accountable. They are ruthlessly honest and transparent—frighteningly so sometimes. In that same group we’re studying God’s Word together and praying together. In my sixty-one years of church,  I have never been in another group as close to what church is supposed to be as COMPASS.”


Thursday nights, 7:00–9:00 pm
Lower Level, Wheaton Bible Church
For more information:
Contact Dave Allen,

2 comments on “COMPASS

  1. Castimonia
    September 10, 2012

    Sounds like a great recovery program! I started one in Katy, TX 2+ years ago God has blessed the meeting with growth, having 3 meetings a week and another starting soon.

    The problem of sexual purity/impurity in Christian men is paramount for the church to confront! I commend your group on the work God has done through Compass!

  2. Tom Anderson
    August 10, 2016

    I am wanting to attend the cougar game on August 29th with the rest of the faithful men of compass.I receive the lesson each week and stay current, although my work schedule conflicts with my attending. Compass lessons still have an impact in my recovery walk.I hope to reconnect with some of the thursday night group. Yours in recovery, Tom Anderson

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This entry was posted on September 10, 2012 by in Fall 2012 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

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