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Was Love In Action Double Minded?

Monday, February 18th, 2019


Since the film “Boy Erased” has been released I have had many conversations with people who were involved with Love In Action, the ExGay ministry that is the focus of the film. I’ve read quite a few comments that have questioned whether or not the film was an accurate portrayal of the ministry that I led for over 20 years. There are those who are critics, saying that the film maligned the ministry and others who felt the film wasn’t strong enough against the organization.

The film shows a strong, loud leader and many forms of abuse of clients. It’s easy to be angry about the negative portrayal of Love In Action based on the overt extremes of the film. But honestly, this was not Love In Action’s personality, or reality.

I can say, though, that the harm done through Love In action is far more difficult to pin down because it’s much more covert. Love In Action portrayed outcomes and theories that were filled with mixed messages.

Why is there such a disparity? Why are there such a variety of reactions? I’d say because at the core, Love In Action sent mixed messages through its public image, the teaching materials and lectures, and the literature we produced.

I read a comment from someone who has a close loved one who went through the men’s residential program. She had attended some weekend conferences in support of her friend. She said, “Love In Action never portrayed that they were intending on changing someone’s sexual orientation but rather, they offered tools for people who were making the decision to not act upon their homosexual desires.”

Throughout the years I read headlines in newspapers, magazines, and video media saying “Love In Action, Praying away the Gay!” Churches supported Love In Action having the expectation that men and women were finding “freedom from homosexuality.” Financial supporters often asked us what our success rate was. Program clients came to the program with mixed expectations, hopes and dreams that their struggle with homosexuality would be gone through their application of the materials and principles they’d find in their program.

JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1I’ve taken a look at the teachings and messages that may have been conveyed in conferences and lectures. My findings reveal that honestly, Love In Action did convey a double message with little clarity for what the outcomes really were to be.

First of all, it was common to see in our materials the statement, “Finding Freedom From Homosexuality through Jesus Christ.” The word, freedom, itself is nebulous. What does freedom mean? What do people hear when they see it? What did we mean when we made it a mantra? There is room for a wide reaction, everything from total deliverance from homosexual desires to a freedom to make choices on how someone responds to their desires.

Frank Worthen, the ministry’s founder began the ministry with a recorded testimony titled “The Brother Frank Testimony, Let Jesus break the chains of homosexuality.” This would convey that there could be a dramatic change from compulsive homosexuality to something different. But what would that look like? What would ones’ life be like if Jesus broke the chains of homosexuality?

Some of our lecture topics were; The Essence of Change: Obedience; Tools for Overcoming Homosexuality; and Tracking the Change Process. These topics can definitely convey that people will find significant changes in their homosexual orientation.

We had a class topic of “Masculinity and Femininity” where we’d flesh out the differences in traditional roles, manifestations and stereotypes. I remember teaching that there was a spectrum that people would see and experience. I tried hard to negate the potential of shame from a man being more feminine or a woman being more masculine along those lines. And yet, there were clients that would come away with the understanding that we taught people to live within a physical stereotype! Maybe this is because our rules didn’t allow women to wear plaid shirts, or men to wear pink pants! Once again we conveyed a double mind, and a mixed message about these stereotypes.

Many others have said, “I never heard anyone say at Love In Action that our sexual orientation would change. As a matter of fact, I often heard that we would experience homosexual temptations for the rest of our lives.” I remember saying many times that I still had homosexual attractions. I shared my own personal story of how my sexual orientation had not changed. It was my desire to be as authentic as I could be. But I also said that someone could experience an attraction to someone of the opposite sex and that a fulfilling heterosexual marriage was possible. This could easily say that someone could in fact experience a change in his or her sexual orientation. Even though in my own marriage I had no heterosexual attraction for my wife at all!

In the 1990’s, there was an increased emphasis in the network of ExGay ministries on how the child development process impacted sexual development and potentially caused homosexuality. Frank Worthen often taught on how a man’s overt curiosity of his own gender during adolescence could create a same sex attraction. There were leaders within the Exodus ministry network that believed if it was caused by a broken development that God could heal that brokenness and initiate the development process to completion where a heterosexual desire would be the result. If wounds or pain caused it or a disjointed family relationship then the belief was that healing could bring a complete orientation change through prayer, counsel, and obedience to God’s will.

I taught child development theories in almost every program and conference. I believed in those theories. I believed that homosexuality was often caused by a broken development cycle. In this teaching it could easily be accepted that parents could in fact cause their kids to end up being gay if they didn’t raise them in a healthy and balanced family life. And yet, when addressing parents, I’d say emphatically, “Don’t pride yourself too much, you do not have enough power to create a gay child. It’s not your fault that your child is gay.” Talk about mixed messages! This is clearly a double mind. What in fact did I really believe? It’s no surprise that many parents were grief stricken, and wrapped up in shame.

Some ExGay ministries focused much of their energy on “Inner Healing Prayer.” This was a practice based on the belief that God could do a great work inside a person’s soul that would free them from the bondages of homosexuality. Sometimes it included a thorough evaluation of a person’s genogram, a study of their family history. Breaking family curses or patterns of behavior was believed to bring freedom from the negative patterns in a person’s life today. Again, it was believed that through inner healing prayer, God could do the deeper work of changing a person’s sexual orientation.

Most ExGay ministries, Love In Action included, believed that if it was caused by sin, brokenness, or painful experiences then God could heal those experiences and forgiveness would follow. This would then open up the door for a natural growth progression bringing a person to a new healthier sexuality. And yet, throughout the decades of experience with gay men and women, I’ve never heard of one who made that transition from gay to straight! If our theories were correct, I’d think we see not just one, but many who found this kind of transformation. “You can change!!!” but none we know of ever have.

Throughout my experience with Love In Action I avoided the questions on success. I’d say things like, “Well, when people leave our program they are most often closer to God than when they came. I’d say that’s success!” I knew that we had not seen any change in anyone’s sexual orientation. I knew that our success did not lie in eradicating homosexuality from the lives of our program clients. But in my denial, it was very hard for me to truly admit that, or even think it. I continued to hold out hope that we’d see the miracle! We couldn’t lose that hope. Along with our board and staff, we’d most often attribute a lack of personal success in a client’s life to a lack of application of the tools, or a lack of obedience to God. We certainly didn’t accept the limitations of our programs. We did not take responsibility for our double-mindedness or our mixed messages. We did not do a thorough evaluation of the program’s effectiveness. We did not consider that a VERY high number of men and women ended up right back where they started before the program and often times even more wounded.

We made the assumption that personal bitterness and rebellion created a negative reaction to the program in those who spoke negatively about their experience. And yet, we also taught Family Systems theories in our programs and conferences. I remember very often saying, “Listen to the Scape Goat in the family system. They are most often the ones that point out the underlying truth and they draw attention to the Pink Elephant in the middle of the living room.” And yet, we didn’t listen to the program critics for a valid message about the lack of effectiveness of the program’s outcome.

It’s often heard that God cannot love LGBT people and that they may end up in hell if they don’t repent. I’ve personally never believed that anyone would go to hell for his or her actions and during my time at Love In Action, I’d often share my thoughts on that topic. But, there are doctrines and religious denominations that preach that someone could go to hell for being gay. There are many LiA clients who came into the program motivated by their fear of hell if they didn’t change. It was not rare that parents believed their kids would go to hell if they didn’t fully repent of their homosexuality. The disparity that lay within these conflictive doctrines was hard to navigate and no matter what we said in our program lectures about this, there were always some who would be more impacted by their church pastor’s opinion, or their parents fears. It’s a fairly common conservative Christian doctrine that people lose God’s favor if they live an active homosexual life. This is something that we taught.

It was my belief during those years that homosexuality had the power to cause spiritual or even physical death! We truly thought we were fighting for the lives of those who came to us. We took this very seriously and these fears impacted the things we taught. They affected our ability to rationally think through what people heard from our messages.

Personally, I was afraid to hear the truth about the outcomes of our program. I invested most of my adult life into the program. I heard many good things from some participants and put my focus on them. Yes, there were things that people learned that really helped them to discover a healthier life. Personal honestly about their behaviors was very helpful for them. Family Systems theories taught at Family Weekend conferences helped many to find reconciliation and forgiveness for each other. Yes, parents discovered ways for them to love their children who were gay. In the midst of the double messages, there were nuggets of truth and help.

There are men and women who chose to marry the opposite sex. Many of them have children today and say they are living a fulfilled life! I admit that there is also an element of bi-sexuality that can be true for some. This would allow for some to experience satisfying opposite sex marriage. But from my experience this is not a manifestation of change from gay to straight, but rather evidence of a sexual continuum in humanity. I also know those who married with the hope that God would bring about the healing they desired, only to discover that to never occur ending up in a tremendously painful reality to navigate. Many of those who chose to marry the opposite sex ended up in terribly personal conflicts and the marriages ended up on divorce. Frankly, only a very few have appeared to be successful.

Was Love In Action double minded? I’d have to say absolutely, yes. Our double mindedness caused many personal conflicts and a lot of painful outcomes. I’m not sure what would have happened if we’d been able to be completely honest and present a consistent message. No doubt, the program would have been smaller, and we’d not have been nearly as successful in our fund raising efforts! But maybe less harm wound have been done.


Reflection on Conversion Therapy – Former Leaders

Friday, December 7th, 2018

At the request of Wendy VanderWall Gritter for submission to a church denomination, these former ExGay ministry leaders wrote a statement about how they view conversation therapy after having participated in ExGay ministry for many years.

Statements from Former Ex-Gay Leaders Regarding Conversion Therapy:

Darlene Bogle; Former Founder, Paraklete Ministry

I spent 10 years teaching conversion therapy in the 70’s and 80’s as an ExGay leader. These efforts never made any significant difference in changing the direction of sexual attraction in those whom I counseled, or in my own life. The despair and constant failure added shame and isolation to their journey. I found freedom from false expectations when I found a UCC church who accepted me and my wife into fellowship within the congregation! It was an amazing thing to loudly declare that the teaching of conversion therapy does more harm than good.

Alan Chambers; Former President, Exodus International

During my 22-year involvement in Exodus International I never met one person who changed their sexual orientation, including me. While our stated mission wasn’t to convert from gay to straight, for many of those years our motto was “change is possible” and “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ”. I closed Exodus International in 2013 because it failed to represent Jesus Christ and the Church well. It represented shame, marginalization, and the belief that LGBT people were less than, not equal to. Exodus, for most of its years, caused undue shame and grief for parents who were told they played a part in the development of their child’s homosexuality. While I believe in an adult’s right to self-determine their own path, I believe any and all sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) should be banned. No lay person or professional should be allowed to use any methods to try to change someone’s sexual orientation. I believe it is the role of the Church to love and serve all people and not to inflict unnecessary trauma, which is precisely what happens when LGBT people are told they are less acceptable or unacceptable because of their orientation and/or actions.

Jeremy Marks; Former Director, Courage UK

After spending 30 years in Christian ministry to LGBT people, I am not happy with the term conversion therapy – because it implies that something professional is being offered. The truth is that most organisations that purport to offer some sort of “help” to “change” sexual orientation – masquerading under the heading of CT – are religious organisations seeking a way to sublimate their unrecognised and internalised homophobia by offering something that hasn’t the least scientific, anthropological or spiritual foundation. The real and deeply toxic issue that is extremely hard to legislate against is the underlying erroneous belief, so succinctly summarised by the RC church, that declares that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered”. In truth, the term CT somehow needs to cover any kind of anti-gay rhetoric in whatever form it appears. Antigay attitudes would be better recognised as a form of racism – that is equally abhorrent, utterly offensive, deeply damaging to those undergoing CT, and totally anachronistic in any civilised society today.

John Smid; Former Executive Director, Love in Action; Former Board Member, Exodus International

As I take an honest look back over the two decades I led a conversion therapy ministry, I realize how many individuals and families whose lives were shredded. Many lost hope for their lives, some to the point of suicide.

Teaching the insidious theories that a person’s homosexuality was caused by life events, unhealthy family relationships, or developed from sexual wounds, caused horrible destruction. Most were left in despair and debilitating confusion.
I know; I have spent tremendous energy and time following up with the hundreds of people I worked with over the years. Their stories are the proof.

As my own daughter told me several years ago, “Dad, I’m sorry you spent so much time trying to fix something that never needed to be fixed in the first place. Think about how much you lost along the way. I hope you stop hurting people.”

Wendy VanderWal Gritter; Former Executive Director, New Direction Ministries

Regardless of the terms used: ex-gay, conversion therapy, reorientation, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE); or the method: talk therapy, electro-shock, Bible study, prayer, or exorcism; the practice of attempting to alter someone’s sexual orientation has proven ineffective and profoundly harmful. Most conversion therapy efforts are motivated by religious expectation. It is therefore crucial that the church speak with a strong and united voice in the effort to ban the practice. LGBTQ+ individuals are beloved of God as they are. The way they love and the families they form are gifts to the church. This unequivocal message must be declared consistently and clearly to protect the vulnerable.


Texas GOP and Reparative Therapy

Monday, June 9th, 2014

TexasHaving spent 22 years of my life working with counselors, leaders, and clients who have been subjected to “Reparative Therapy”, as well as having utilized forms of it in counseling individuals and being subjected to this myself, I think this is inexcusable for a government platform to include this in their agenda.

Reparative Therapy is a specific model of treatment that is based on theories that it is the family system. parental relationships and childhood damage that causes one to become homosexual. This model teaches that with repentance, healing damaged childhood abuse and realigning one’s social experiences to their birth gender norms, there will be a change in the sexual orientation. There has not been any evidence that this model of therapy has changed anyones sexual orientation. The therapy causes damage to the client as well as never ending guilt for parents and family members as they live underneath the idea that they have caused their child to “suffer” from homosexuality.

There is NO treatment available that provides healing or wholeness from homosexuality. This is deceptive and gives false hope for people who are at their lowest point of hopelessness and despair. Every ExGay leader I’ve known clearly knows they have never seen a person’s orientation change from gay to straight. It is akin to a doctor saying he can cure illness for which there has never been a proven cure and taking in susceptible and naive people to their care while knowing they will never cure their illness.

There are now state laws enacted that have made Reparative Therapy illegal to practice on minors due to the evidence there is harm done by utilizing this inappropriate therapeutic model.

There is, however, hope for gay people to come to accept themselves as they are and to shed the shame of believing that because they are gay, they are broken goods and damaged people. it is only within these realities that gay people find wholeness and healthy relationships. Any message that says they need healing and that they are not whole people is deceptive and harmful. This only exacerbates their sense of being created damaged and broken and the outcome can often be negative choices based on an unhealthy sense of being.

Understand that my statement is not addressing how one choses to live within their sexuality. This is an entirely different matter regarding ones sexual and relational choices. Each individual must have the freedom to make those choices for themselves based on a healthy acceptance of their innate sexual orientation and not be subjected to false theories of change.

Their statement also refers to “healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.” This statement is extremely offensive to people who are gay. What is the homosexual lifestyle? Ironically, no one can effectively define what that means. There are gay people who experience many diverse lifestyles, careers, hobbies, ministries. Gay people are married, single and have families. Vegans, meat eaters, and many of us enjoy ice cream as often as we can have it!

To say there there is healing and wholeness offered for gay people who are lawyers, doctors, dentists, grocery store clerks, is ridiculous! There are no common lifestyles among gay people any more than there are common lifestyles among heterosexual people.

For a GOP platform to make a statement like they have made here is offensive, minimizing of the lives of all gay people as well as those who love them.


“Ex’d Out” Coming Soon!

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

ExdOut cover pic-cropNew Book by John Smid is coming out soon!

Ex’d Out – How I Fired the Shame committee is currently being designed and will be available soon.

The protest in Memphis on June 2005 brought a challenge to John Smid’s heart and to his belief system.  Since that day, there has been a dramatic transition of thought.  John has created a manuscript of the major challenges and his reactions to those challenges that is now in the process of becoming a book.

John Smid at GCN 2012-web flipAfter twenty-three years of faithful service to hundreds, if not thousands of men and women through a formal ministry called “Love In Action,” John resigned in May of 2008.

John has been known worldwide as one of the stable men who fought fearlessly for the truth of God that he believed condemned the practice of homosexuality. His ministry included one of the largest ministries that also included a residential program unparalleled other models of ministry that proclaimed “Freedom from Homosexuality through Jesus Christ.”

His ministry included speaking and leading conferences on three continents and travelling throughout the United States to release thousands of pages of personally written material into the hands of those hurting and desiring to hear that God could and would dramatically change someone’s sexuality so that homosexuality would no longer be a burden.

It was at the time of his resignation after several years of painful stress and personal challenges, that he chose not to make any plans for his future and prayed, “God, I don’t want to contrive my future plans, so surprise me!”

During the next four years, John began to evaluate his years of ministry and realized that there was something new coming directly from God that changed his entire baseline of thought. He also realized that he had made many mistakes. So, John took a deep personal inventory and has chosen to write an extensive weekly web-blog which would later also include a formal acknowledgement of the ways he feels he has been wrong.

Through these pages you will find not only vulnerable and extensive personal process, but also a serious apology unlike any that has been written before by anyone who was in leadership within the culture of what has been known as “Ex-gay” ministry.

John will also share with you the dramatic transition he has gone through that has brought waves of questions and shock to those involved in the communities he served for over two decades.

Morgan Jon FoxMorgan Jon Fox

June 6th, 2005 a major protest occurred at a ministry that John was leading called “Love In Action”. The protests were organized by Morgan Jon Fox, a local Memphis film producer. The protests created an international stir which would have naturally created a field of animosity to sort out. Morgan developed a documentary called “This is What Love In Action Looks Like” that chronicles the two week protest event.  Due to their conflicting positions that drove a wedge between John and Morgan, it was clear that these two were virtual enemies. Amazingly, John and Morgan developed a respectful friendship stemming from honesty, and being open with each other.

John  asked Morgan to write his thoughts on the book. This excerpt from what Morgan wrote gives some insights as to how Morgan saw these tools work in his relationship with John.

“Over time as me and John began to meet more and more we had long conversations about what was going on in our lives. We both shared deeply personal things about our families and friends. We didn’t debate, or argue about our differences. What this allowed was a chance for two people to find out they had plenty in common without dwelling on what made them opposites. It created a mutual respect that would lay the foundation for growth and trust. It opened the door for something I never could have seen coming…a friendship.”

Morgan Jon Fox, Love In Action Protestor; Filmmaker – Sawed Off Productions



A Letter of Apology

Thursday, March 4th, 2010


For many years I have contemplated the times I have heard that some people have said they were harmed or wounded from their experience with Love In Action or Exodus International. More often than not my reactions have not been favorable. In my own mind I didn’t feel there was any merit to the accusations. After all, “I have given 22 years of my life sacrificially just to hear how we harmed you!”

Well I certainly know the sound of a defensive reaction when I hear one! I was it! I didn’t want to hear anything that was critical or negative. But, I believe in listening to the heart of others no matter how critical it may sound. I needed to check in on my own heart to see if there was any validation to their comments. Of course, there was.

Since I was in leadership with both organizations I have certainly have been at the center of many of the criticisms. The scripture challenges us to be careful with what we say and do as leaders because of the higher standard that is expected and deserved from those whom we care for.

In the last two years I have had a lot of time to ponder, pray, and sort through many facets of my vocational ministry history. Since I have had a lot of alone time my searching has been easier to handle.

I was recently contacted by David Roberts from the “Ex-gay Watch” and online blog for those following the ex-gay movement. David had seen a recent announcement of the new Grace Group that is being started by Grace Rivers and wanted me to write something. In our discussion we both felt it would be good for me to address some of the criticisms out there concerning my leadership in “ex-gay” ministry. I have taken the last week to write a letter and to that end, here it is.

It’s Time for Honesty!

From John J. Smid to the readers of Ex-gay Watch,

Just a little bit of history here. I became a Christian in 1982. My new faith created conflicts in my homosexual relationship and eventually we broke up. It was at that point and I decided to pursue my relationship with Jesus instead of looking for a new relationship right away.

When I had been celibate for several years I felt that I wanted be married to a woman. I had been married previously and in my heart wanted to give that a try again.

I met my wife Vileen in 1985 and we married in 1988. We have had a good, faithful marriage just as I had hoped. I told her about my homosexuality right after we had met. She has walked alongside me knowing that I have chosen her rather than to pursue a homosexual relationship. She is aware that my attractions haven’t changed in general towards men but that I love her deeply and make choices daily to remain faithful to our marriage and have not regretted that decision.

In 1986 I moved to San Rafael California to work as a volunteer for Love In Action. I am passionate about people and spent 22 years with Love In Action. Since Exodus International was in our same office most of those years I also became involved with them right away.

By 1995 I had been involved in Love In Action and Exodus for nine years and was asked to give a talk in a general session at the Exodus national conference. God had brought me to a point where I was willing to admit to myself that I still had homosexual attractions. As a result of my own internal process of disclosure I decided to give my talk on the topic of honesty. I spoke of my current homosexual attractions and challenged the audience to be honest with themselves. I have always been as intentional as I could to share freely about those things whenever I speak or meet with someone who can relate to homosexuality.

The Famous Protest

On June 6th of 2005, when the protestors showed up on the sidewalks in front of Love In Action to speak against the Refuge Program, my world was rocked. But within just a couple of days my heart was humbled by the gracious words coming from those who were outside such as “God Loves You”. The truth spoken from them caused me to think and began to soften my heart.

A lot has changed since then. God does love me and He loved me enough to continue to shave off some things in my life that have been wrong, offensive, calloused and judgmental. Through the humility of Morgan Fox, one of the leaders of the protest, I was humbled once again. His pursuit of a relationship with me, though I did not deserve it, has been another tool that God has used to break through parts of my heart that needed to be touched.

Morgan asked me to interview for a documentary he is producing about the protests. I resisted for a long time. After many meetings with Morgan I began to see his godly character and agreed to an interview because I trusted him. During our camera time the discussions involved things from the past that have been said about Love In Action or about me as the former leader. I had spent many hours and in some cases years, pondering these things and wondered how I could make amends for the things that had hurt or wounded others during my 22 years of leadership with Love In Action. Certainly there were many.

Please Forgive Me

In 1994 an article was written that said that I told a young man it would be better for him to commit suicide than for him to go into the gay lifestyle. I have been haunted by that article all through the years. I have felt defensive, reactionary and frustrated every time I have read it not knowing how I could in any way, clear it away. Maybe this will help.

I want to publically say to the young man, “I am very sorry for the conversation that I had with you that fateful day. I loved you very much as a brother and feel deeply grieved for the way that my words hurt you.” If I could, I would erase the conversation and start all over with ” I love you, and as you move on I will pray for God’s very best for you in your life. No matter what you do, Jesus deeply loves you.” “Please forgive me.”

Some people have spoken out about being wounded through their experience with Love In Action. ” I want to say I am very sorry for the things that have wounded you or hurt you by my hands of leadership at Love In Action or anything I have done personally that has harmed you.” “Please forgive me.”

Exodus International

I was a member of the board of directors of Exodus International for eleven years. I spoke on many occasions in general sessions and in workshops at the national conferences for most of the 22 years I was involved in Love In Action and Exodus. Thousands of men and women came to Exodus ministries and conferences looking for a hand, seeking hope, or for someone to hear their heart and understand.

I am a very verbal person and can speak at times without thoroughly thinking through what I might say before it comes out of my mouth. Without question I know I have said things that may have hurt someone or caused confusion or discouragement. Please forgive me for the things I have said that were not helpful or were further damaging of your tender heart.

As a board member of Exodus International I felt a strong sense of stewardship for the lives we hoped we would impact with the love of Jesus. I have learned a lot more over the last couple of years about how unconditional His love really is. I believe I could have done a better job of letting people know that Jesus loves them purely because He does, unconditionally. I am sorry for not being a better vessel of the Love of Christ to those who deeply need to know of His love. I realize I was often more concerned with telling people how to live than I was with imparting God’s grace so that they would want to live!

Refuge Program

Now, regarding the most highly publicized” Refuge Program” for teens that was held through Love In Action. If I could go back and do anything differently based on what I know today – it would be the Refuge Program. I have a hard time admitting it but the protests did bring about a season for me to reevaluate my life, my heart, and the Refuge Program. God did an amazing work in me through the challenges that resulted from the people who came to the streets in front of our ministry, morning and night, for two weeks.

I really wanted to help the young men in our program but in some cases the design of our program caused more harm for some of these kids that it did good. I am very sorry for the ways that Refuge further wounded teens that were already in a very delicate place in life. I am grateful for the way that God lovingly called us to revamp the methods for dealing with families with teens so that more teens weren’t hurt.

I have been a Christian for almost 30 years. There are myriads of things that I do or that go through my mind that aren’t biblically appropriate. There are many things that God wants me to change in my own life so that I can be a better person, love Him more and love others better.  I do not want a judgmental heart to separate me from people that I love dearly.

Leaving Love In Action

It has been almost two years since I left the ministry of Love In Action in May of 2008. I have had many days and hours alone to think and ponder the last 22 years. God has dug deep into my heart and caused me to see something very important that he wanted me to know. He loves me unconditionally. His grace is sufficient for me. I cannot do anything that He hasn’t forgiven, isn’t forgiving, and won’t forgive and it is up to Him to restore my soul, I can’t do that myself.

I am not the judge and jury of other people. I can’t see another person’s heart like He can. I cannot redeem anyone, only He can. I don’t know what someone might need today but he does.

If you have been wounded by me or harmed through the hands of my leadership; please come to me and allow an opportunity for me to personally apologize with the hope that we can both be released from the bondage of unforgiveness.

Grace Rivers

I am leading a new ministry called Grace Rivers. It’s primary focus isn’t to be an ex-gay ministry but within the context of offering grace and the Love of Jesus to our world we are starting grace groups for people impacted by homosexuality.

As a brand new start, Grace Rivers is an outpouring of the many of the changes in my own heart. I have based this work on nine core values starting with honesty, moving on to listening to others effectively, and in the end giving respect because God does. I have attempted to pursue these values in my own life to the best of my ability. God is still working on restoring me so I know He is doing the same with others. We are all on a road of life that is hopefully improving day by day. He says He will complete the work He has started so I trust Him fully with my life and with the lives of others who know Him.


John J. Smid


I’m not in church anymore!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

I’m through with church.

Have you felt the way I have recently?  Has church become a drag instead of a joy?  Does it seem that going to church is just something you do because you have always done it?

Have you experienced painful church splits, arguments, division like I have?  Are there questions you have been afraid to ask like: what am I supposed to do with all of this?  What is the purpose of going to church? Do I have to agree with my pastor?


Just kidding!

 Actually I am in church everytime the doors are open.  Whenever the restaurant table gathers believers or each Saturday night when our fellowship comes together I am in church.  When I skype my friend in Perth Australia for over an hour or gather each day in discipleship meetings with other brothers, I am in church. When I sit with friends in a worship service enjoying a teaching or a time of celebration, I am in church. When my close friend and I spend three hours grappling over passages of Scripture, we are in church.  Wherever two or three have gathered, we are in church.

But, I found myself asking, “What is this all about?”  “Why am I here?” “Where does all of this lead”? “Why are we getting together?”  I began a new journey in life.

I have spent the last several years writing The Journey of Thomas and I hope it will be published soon.  I was reading through the introductory section of the book and wanted to share this heartfelt, God inspired journey of my own with you all.

It is my hope that each person who reads this book will be more motivated and more equipped to share with others the hope they have experienced through their relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are reading this and don’t seem to feel that hope today, it is my prayer that through reading this book, God will show you His awesome love that never leaves us or forsakes us. At the end of this book, you will find my own story of hope that began in my life many years ago.

It is my personal belief that one of the most effective models of sharing the Love of Christ with others is through authentic relationships. This kind of love comes out naturally as we hear one another’s hearts and value one another’s created purpose for life.

How I Started on the Journey

The Dream

In 2005, God began to work in my heart in a new way. He gave me a vision of a church building. This church was a square block style building with a foyer outside of its double entrance doors that was simple and more of a breezeway than a formal foyer.

As the doors opened up I saw people inside that were very busy. They were sitting in a variety of places. There were pews in the room but they were not connected to the floor and scattered about. They weren’t randomly scattered however. They were specifically placed for unique purposes.

There were people praying alone; bowing, walking, sitting. There were small groups of people praying together. There were people laughing in joyous fellowship. It was clear that the image I saw was that the pews were flexible and this room was designed for multipurpose use.

On the walls were stunning abstract sculptures. They were made of hand blown glass in ultra luminescent colors and so beautiful to look at. There was a cross hanging on the front wall that was made of the same hand blown glass. The blues, greens, oranges, reds, and whites were incredible and glistening with swirling brightness.

A man stood up front on a short stool. He was chanting out loud as if he were practicing for something. He had a black cleric’s robe on and there was a tailor that was hemming his sleeves while he stood there.

When I prayed about this vision, the Lord seemed to give me its meaning. He said that he wanted the pews loosened so that we would be free from a habitual existence within our gatherings. He wanted us to be free in our worship, our prayer, and our fellowship with each other. He made it clear that these people in their various activities were a pleasure to Him.

He said that the sculptures hanging on the walls of this room were works of art that exemplified the gifts He had given His people. These were callings, gifts, natural talents, spiritual gifts that were so special to Him that He wanted them displayed. It was to Him like a parent hanging a picture their children painted on the front of the refrigerator for everyone to see. He made mention that too many of His children had their gifts hidden away and that we were not celebrating each other the way He would like us to.

The Cross was the gift of His son to all of us and that it was similar to the others in that all of the gifts were given from the Father to be displayed, that was His gift to us.

Now to the chanting robe bearing man, God said he was representative of the history of the Body of Christ. There are traditions that we had lost as a Body and needed to try them on again and to be refit for them. He wanted us to reconnect to some of the traditions that represent our history and our family. He didn’t want us to forget them. This represented the stories, the lives and the accomplishments of others that brought us to where we are today.

My Response

After pondering that vision for many years now, I am more excited about being a Christian than I have been for some time. I finally felt that God was freeing me to be myself, to experience Him uniquely. I breathed a sigh joy thinking that my Father in heaven was really excited about my gifts and others as well. I have wondered if the dream was more for me than anything! God wants me to be free from the shackles of my own fears.

I spent many years of my Christian life sitting in pews and church buildings. I was relieved to think that there were many ways for us to celebrate our God with each other and it didn’t all have to be in straight rows facing the front or in buildings organized to facilitate church programs.

But something even more profound happened in my heart. For the first time in many years God inspired me to a renewed desire to reach the lost, the brokenhearted for Him.

I began to pray seeking Him for a plan. What did He want me to do with what He had shown me? So, for four years I prayed. I sorted through my varied responses some not so pretty to talk about. I began to wrestle with my vocational life. I had been in the same ministry for over 20 years and felt called to it. It was tremendously satisfying for most of those years but something started to change.

I’ve read through some books on “missional” churches, “organic” churches “house churches” and found some great inspiration through them but there seemed to be something still missing. Some of these books were tremendous and liberating in my heart but at times they left me feeling frustrated and critical. I had to continue working through that too. It seemed they were just another kind of church program that didn’t look that much different from where I had been.

God began to rock my world through adversity and relational challenges. I began to experience shifting in every area of my life. I had no idea how tough things were going to get for me and thankful that the Lord took me through it all gradually.

The Splitting Church

I was a part of a great organized church that went through a horrible and wounding internal breakdown where two thirds of the congregation left along with the majority of the staff including the Senior Pastor. Then I began to visit other churches sporadically almost feeling relieved that I didn’t attend an organized church every Sunday morning. I remember one Sunday sitting on my cool breezy front porch wondering if this pleased the Lord for me to just be quiet before him instead of going out to a church that day. I thought this surely was liberation from being bound to some church habits that had brought so much pain anyway.

I settled into a small Bible study group of about 16 people that were fast becoming really close friends. I started to ask the question about whether this would replace the larger organized church for me and others. Most of the time this weekly Saturday night gathering meant more to me than a majority of formal organized church services I had been to in the recent years. We met together every week, ate a meal and studied the Bible together, supported and encouraged each other with prayer and counsel. We surrounded each other at weddings, funerals, and hospitals. We ate meals together sometimes; I had spontaneous lunches with the men. I affectionately called it my church of 16 members and 12 regular attenders. What is the church anyway? I began to ask questions that I never felt the liberty to ask. I found it challenging to answer the question so often asked, “Where do you go to church”. I would squeamishly say, “Oh, my main fellowship is with our small group that meets on Saturday nights.”

As I looked around my city I found that our organized church wasn’t the only one going through splitting and internal breakdowns. God reminded me of a huge storm that occurred in Memphis where within twenty minutes trees had fallen all around town, telephone poles laying in the streets and electricity out for weeks for some. The word I received from our locals was that the majority of the trees that fell were rotten inside but we just didn’t see it. I began to ponder what had happened.

God spoke to me in response to this event. “I had to clean the garden from the rottenness that was inside the trees. I am sorry it was inconvenient for you all but it had to be done”.

I saw how this event was similar to what I saw was happening within our local organized churches. It became apparent that through the adversity of internal battles for control, God was cleaning my heart, challenging me to new growth and direction. He was also challenging others in the same say. Yes, it is inconvenient, but it has to be done. I also had to get honest about the fact that I had not really experienced true relationship with the majority of those I knew. I had however, experienced the habit of going to church and smiling with a hole in my heart longing for connection that was meaningful.

But there was still something aching in me. I found another organized church that seemed to have something special and I knew some friends who had been going there and said they enjoyed it. So, I happened to meet a couple at a home cookout who went there and they invited us to attend so we went the next day.

I resigned myself that maybe this might become what we needed and would enjoy. The new fellowship of Christians very quickly embraced us. I was invited to speak and share my gifts with the body there. The pastor was very supportive of me personally and spoke into my life with great encouragement. So we joined this church with the hope in our hearts that we would find a special ministry there and fellowship that was fulfilling.

I was invited to share a teaching series with a small group there. I called it “The Tributaries of Grace”. I started out the series inviting the participants to focus this series on a person or people that they wanted to reach with the grace of God. This could have been a friend, a family member or someone they were having a difficult time with.

Something new came alive in my heart. I realized that through the years of ministry experience I mostly responded to healing and recovery for those who came to us. This had changed to looking outwardly into the lives of those who haven’t begun their own journey yet or were stuck along the road. So, there was a glimpse of a major change in my heart at that point.

During this season another very deeply invested part of my life became a huge challenge. The internal workings of the ministry I had led for over 20 years became broken, confusing and wounding. I tried every way I knew how to correct the wrongs. I prayed, sought intercession and counsel but things continued to worsen. The conflicts and distractions increased and I felt trapped in a place I had celebrated for so many years. I hated leaving my home every day to go to a place that was such a personal and corporate challenge for everyone. What was God doing? How could it be like this? It seemed no matter which way I turned I couldn’t find a solution.

I began to search God’s heart for some answers. This time I began to ask different questions than before. I pondered questions that would take me deeper than just asking what organized church to attend. God, what is Your church? Where is Your church? What does it mean to serve You? How do I fit into Your church? Who is Your church? God, where do you want me to be?

After a couple of years of tremendous heartache I left my position with that ministry in faith that God had something He was leading me to. One of the first answers He gave me was to free me from the ministry I led. It became very clear that God was allowing me to close the door on that season of my life and begin anew. I felt strongly that he wanted me to take all I had learned and experienced there and use it in a new way.

I began to adjust to being away from that ministry I finally let my guarded heart open to some extent within the church I had discovered. I began to feel released to step further into ministry there. But as I got further into the workings of this church there were rumblings of discontent and elder / pastor problems that seemed to have been developing over a period of months. One Sunday, we went through a painful confusing combustion from these problems within the organizational leadership. That day, there was a split and the elders and staff resigned leaving the pastor and about one half of the original congregation. I left on that overwhelming Sunday feeling lost and hurt realizing that many of my new friends were going different directions. It had happened again, now what. How many more times will we see this happen?

A New Beginning

Needless to say, I was swimming in discouragement and hopelessness. What will I do now? What is God doing? I surely didn’t want to attend any organized church the next week and decided to attach to our home group even more. I began to accept things as they were and received a peace from the Lord.

I became encouraged and freer than I had been in a long time. After a few months, I felt Him answer me in another very unique way. He said, “Watch for the Springs of Living Water to come up out of the streets and sidewalks of the city. Get prepared! This water is the Living Water as unto salvation. I am inspiring my people to come to me and I want my Body to be prepared to receive them but they will not be coming to the front doors of the organized church buildings, they will need you to go to them, to listen for their voices, to know them and care about them. Go out into the streets”.

Whoa! These many years of confusion and pain has brutally moved me to go outside the walls of the organized churches! Building by building God has seemingly jack hammered me loose from my own traditions, religious practice and patterns of habit! He changed my entire world.

I began to see His “church” was everywhere I met or gathered with followers of Jesus Christ. I saw that I was having church every day! My new church didn’t have membership other than to believe in Jesus Christ. I enjoyed lunches, spontaneous meetings in the market places of my life which became encouraging connections with the Body of Christ. I found that when I took my eyes off of the Sunday ritual I had allowed to become a habit and hallowed ground, I saw the Body of Christ everywhere I went.

I have seen a new thing develop in my life. I am, more than any time in my life, excited to see someone come to a relationship with Jesus Christ that is authentic, life changing and invigorating! I have felt my eyes perk up in a watchful manner to see if I can see what He sees. There are lost children out there, Lord? Where are they? Do you want me to go to them? Where will I find them?

I felt him saying, “You won’t find them inside the walls of the churches.” “Walk as Jesus did, in the highways and byways, in the world around you.” “You will find them there.”

Living Outside the Walls

Well, this past six months I have found myself in some really strange places. I have entered the world with weak knees, curiosity, and timidity. I am not prepared for this! I am uncomfortable in the world. It is too strange for me. I want to be comfortable, safe, and this isn’t a safe place.

I was reminded that we don’t live in a “G” rated world. This world is not my home! But, I am asked to enter it with my whole heart so as to be in it, but carefully so as not to become “of” it.

Wow, this is really exciting – and dangerous. I have been around people and involved in circumstances that were similar to my sin filled past but I had forgotten my old life long ago. I have heard language, seen behavior and gone places that many told me in the organized church I should not be around. I have lived in a white washed world sanitized in such a way that was to keep us safe from the world. What about the real grit of this world? What about getting our hands really dirty – for the Kingdom?

As I have gone through this journey of change, God has inspired me to write the Journey of Thomas. I have lived out the principles that laid the foundation for this series for many years in a very different setting. Now they seem to have become applicable in other settings that I am not sure I understood at the time. I certainly didn’t see this as I began to write the Journey.

Now that I have written the last session on Honor, I can say with excitement that it is my greatest hope that this will inspire the Body of Christ to turn their eyes outside the walls of the church to see what God is doing. It would be awesome if this material would prepare many for the harvest that God is preparing for His Church to receive.

I believe that one of the greatest tools of evangelism for our world today is our own story, our own life. We live in a world that hungers for connection. So many are living lives of aloneness, fear and shame that for some the only way they will come out of their prisons will be holding the hand of someone they trust though knowing they can relate.

The Journey of Thomas begins with honest self evaluation and along the way I hope the inspiring, grace filled, forgiving and restoring voice of the Living God will permeate our souls with desire for His children to come to know Him and to find maturity through authentic fellowship with other followers of Jesus.

Along the Journey, after God deepens our heart for Him, I hope we will have a Well of His Living Water to share with the thirsty souls around us that He reveals to us.

Are there going to be Springs of Living Water as unto salvation coming up from your streets and sidewalks? Are you prepared to receive them? Are your eyes fixed forwardly in rows facing the front of your church experiences? Or, are you beginning to feel the pews coming loose underneath your familiar places? Would you like your Father to celebrate your life on the walls of your fellowship? Do you want to connect to all the saints who have gone before you with wonderful stories of life and traditions?

Get ready for a rocky challenging ride. Be prepared for some things along the way that may confuse you; but God has a plan to move you closer to Him and closer to His heart’s desire for people to come to Him.

I found one of the answers to my question, “What does it mean to serve the Lord” was simple and straight forward. To serve Him is to serve His people with His message of new life, hope, and healing. He wants us to never tire of speaking of the hope that is within us. Will we walk the streets of our lives with our hands outstretched just like His were on the cross? Unafraid, unashamed, and ready to embrace, to hear, to value and honor, those we find in the fields.

Matt. 11: 28-29

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

The Journey of Thomas is designed to answer to Thomas’ question; I don’t know where you are going, Lord. Show me the way. I would venture to say; you may find this question answered for yourself.


I Don’t Trust You!

Monday, November 2nd, 2009



James 5:18-20 (The Message)

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God

A while back a very good friend had confessed that he had gotten himself tangled up in sin. I knew this wasn’t the first time and that he had been ensnared before. He was a part of a family that we had grown to love dearly. We laughed together, cried together, carried moving boxes together and considered each other close as if we were family. Actually, in Christ, we were.

As he spoke of more details concerning the situation I felt as though my skin was as white as a ghost. What would happen now! I asked myself if this meant that I might lose this friendship forever. Would our relationship survive such a repeated devastation? Our lives had become so close I wondered how many other ways we would be affected by this unfortunate circumstance.

Yes, this was all overwhelming to me but I felt compelled to stand by my friend because I knew his heart. He had a heart of love for God, for his wife and for his family. I knew he needed someone to believe in him but I kept thinking, “Can I ever trust him again?” Then I thought about the concept of trust and why I was so determined to have that question answered.

I Don’t Trust You!

We had decided to have coffee to talk like we had so often before. This time I found myself motivated by commitment and obedience rather than to spend time with a friend. I remember speaking from my heart out loud with him saying, “I don’t trust you!” I felt smug about my statement because somehow I felt I needed to take some kind of stand against his sin. I perceived I had to draw some kind line in the sand. I thought my statement would keep this in perspective. After all, I thought I had to be able to trust him in order to be his friend. But what did trust mean? How would it be applied?

Why did I have to trust him? I couldn’t control his behavior. I couldn’t control his repentance or his current or future choices. I could however chose to make healthy personal choices for myself so why was it so important for me to trust him? Sadness came over me again because I felt the potential loss of a good friend and wondered if we could ever be close again.

In my evaluation of the concept of trust I realized that much of my need to “trust” my friend had to do with my own personal needs and had little to do with him. I thought I had to be able to trust him so that I wouldn’t be hurt again. In the end, my need to trust was really a desire to control through my demands that he be trustworthy! It was all about me and I was trying to reach an impossible goal of manipulating my friend to behave so that we could have a relationship. I wanted him to mind his “p’s and q’s” and not repeat this again! I needed something from him as a friend and his behavior had threatened my getting what I needed in this relationship.

When I was sitting with him at a local coffee shop I looked at him and he was weak, sad, needy, and broken. He had always been so positive and encouraging. I was used to sharing my life with him to gain support for my own weakness and life struggles but this day was different. He had nothing to give me, he was empty. I made a decision that day.

I would need to look for others whom I could lean on and decided to give myself to my friend for his needs. I couldn’t share my needs with him because of his weakened state but I could listen to him and bear his burdens. He was doing everything he could to stay alive and make it through this current devastation. He needed me much more than I needed him. I had other friends and places for support. At this time, he had been abandoned by so many due to their responses to his circumstances. There were few available for him to lean on.

I realized that I no longer needed to trust him. This was so freeing for me to accept. I was able to release him to his own choices. I let him go to either succeed or fail but my life was no longer dependent upon him being good, or obedient, or safe. I drew some healthy boundaries around my heart so that he was free to live his life as he chose to.

That day, I chose to enter into his pain and share it with him. I made the decision to listen to his heart and to watch and wait for whatever the Lord wanted to do with him. It was between him and his Savior alone. I would just be his friend and cry with him in his pain, and rejoice in the restoration if that came about. I was hopeful that this would be the case but no longer demanding that it be so.

Well, hallelujah! Today, his life is restored. Our friendship is different. There are scars but there is also more peace and relief overall. We have shared the common bond of a battle for his life and he lived. If I encounter something terribly disheartening I hope there will be someone there for me who releases me to my Savior.

In a recent phone call my friend was deep in the middle of some more growth battles. This time they weren’t from bad choices, but from good ones. He had made further choices to enter into the risks of life to pursue his passions, his family, and his Lord. When he answered the phone he told me how much of a challenge the week had been. He described that he was in the middle of mud up to his knees in a cattle yard trying to get through the day. I let go of my properness and said to him, “it seems you are in a deep pile of sh%$#”. He began to cry then his sobbing turned into laughter.

We both got a good belly laugh out of our short phone call that day. Those tears and that laughter didn’t come from just the current circumstances but from a lifetime of living through terror and joy with Jesus. I don’t need to control  my friend’s behavior anymore because his life is in the Lord’s hands and so is mine.

Gal 6:1-3 (The Message)

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day is out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived


On This Day – 1973

Monday, October 12th, 2009


(John and Best Man, Rex)

36 years ago today it began then six years later, divorce took it away.

October 12, 1973, I got married for the first time. I was just 19 years old and in many ways I was mature for my age. I had worked for many years to provide for most of my own needs. I cooked, cleaned, and did laundry for myself for many years. I had developed a pretty deep level of independence. I felt deeply convicted about living a moral about life and felt that I had made pretty solid personal choices. I was sexually a virgin and marriage seemed to be the next natural step in life.

Upon our wedding week we found that the state of Nebraska had a waiting period for marriage licenses that we had not known about. So our wedding plans were changed a little! We were married early in the morning of our planned wedding day but not where we had planned. We were married instead, in Iowa at a small church there with only a few in attendance. Our planned wedding would come about later that day and it all went off without a hitch from that point on.

I married Kris, a girl that I had dated in high school. I remember one of our times together as we were getting to know each other. We were driving on the interstate in Omaha and through our conversation, I felt deeply connected to her. I remember thinking, “she can really relate to me”. Our lives were so similar considering our family backgrounds and life experiences that I felt valued because it seemed she understood my pain.

Since I was aware of much of the pain in my life, I remember saying to myself, I will never do to my kids what my parents did to me, divorce and separate our family. I held family values and relationship commitment in high esteem. The divorce in my childhood home was a devastating blow to us all and in no way did I want to repeat that tragedy.

So, I moved on with marriage and life. For three years I spent a lot of my energy remodeling our home. We put forth a significant amount of our time with friends and family. It became time to build our own family. Alysha was born in 1976 and Amanda in 1977. Life seemed to be pretty good overall. I had reached all of my own goals by the time I was 24 years old. They were quite materialistic, a new home, new furnishings, a new car, and the proverbial “big wheels” in the driveway for our kids. But soon, the pain I had been feeling all through the years surfaced in a very unsuspecting way. I had never considered that I would break our marriage vows through adultery but on that fateful night in 1979, I was susceptible to the enemy’s schemes and acted upon my own lustful flesh with another outside of my marriage.

Looking back, if it weren’t for the deeply seated brokenness in my life, our marriage might have survived but as the Song of Solomon says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. (2:15)” The little foxes were not readily seen but very present and came to life much to my surprise and that of many others around me.

In 1979 our marriage changed its course forever and my decision of divorce devastated our home.

I don’t ever forget this date. Each year, I ponder what was, what has happened, where I am today and seek God’s forgiveness and grace all the more. I am woefully aware of my own ability to be selfish, to think more highly of myself than others, and to run from pain.

How can I forgive myself for exploding the bomb of divorce with shrapnel flying all over my family, and myself? Only with the forgiveness of Christ can there be a cleaning of the soul. None of this caught our Heavenly Father off guard. He had made a way for me. He searched out my life and introduced me to His forgiveness and gave me a new life.

It doesn’t change what happened 30 years ago. But, it has given me a foundation of grace to build upon that I didn’t have at that time. I can only pray that He will do the same for each one who was devastated by my choices.

He can do that.


The Journey of Thomas – A New Life, John J. Smid’s Story

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009



Printable PDF – John Smid’s Journey Testimony


Psalm 116:1-2
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice, He heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.


“John, you need to know Jesus! We are Christians and we want you to know that you need Him. I know all that you have been involved in and that doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you accept Jesus into your life.”

My head spun around several times while listening to these two girls. I had known them for a long time. We graduated from high school together. It was two o’clock in the morning and I had stopped by the local pancake house with my friends after our night at the bar but I wasn’t ready for what I heard that night.

This was a different experience for me. I had never heard anyone speak about Jesus that way much less from these two girls. What had happened in their life to bring about such a dramatic shift? Well, I didn’t really take the time to find out-I just wanted out of there. I went to a table where my friends were and they had all gone. I felt abandoned and insignificant since they didn’t tell me they were leaving or even to say goodbye! Maybe they heard some of the conversation and were scared too!

This was the first time for me to experience what many call “evangelical Christianity” but it wouldn’t be the last. I guess this was the hammer and chisel that would start the crack in my hardened life to spread. A short time later I changed offices at my job and found myself sitting right behind another lady. She was quite friendly and very energetic about life. It was apparent that she was connected to most of the other people working near us as she laughed with them, talked with them and yes, she was also very excited about something else – Jesus!

Pat took a different approach than I had experienced in the pancake house. She was friendly and interested in other people’s lives. She quickly found out that I was recently divorced from my first wife and was living a pretty active party life. I talked about going to the bars, being out with friends and that I was pretty happy with my new found freedom from my marriage. Oh, I told her about my two children and tried to seem excited about that too but in reality, I didn’t know much about what was happening with my daughters because I had other priorities.

Pat had things all over her desk that were evidence of her priorities. She talked about her own divorce, her past life of alcohol and partying around. She talked of her upbringing in a Catholic family. I related to that quickly as I too had grown up Catholic. We now had common ground. Her experience with the bars and such as well as our religious background became common conversation.

Now, about those things on her desk; magnets, books, pamphlets, and a worn Bible were all very present. A worn Bible? What is that? I thought you needed to protect them because they were special. Pat told me otherwise. I remember her telling me how she wrote in it and used it every day. That seemed so foreign to me that I kept asking her about this Bible she seemed to feel so special about. She gave me answers as she could.

But I mostly remember that Pat didn’t seem to be all that interested in my weekend life. She also didn’t seem shocked by it-seemingly since she had been there herself.

After a few months and our relationship became more comfortable, she said she wanted me to meet a friend of hers. His name was Jerry. I don’t remember where or how we met but it seemed that Jerry was a lot like Pat. He too was friendly and was up front about having been through a lot of stuff in his life like I did. Like Pat, he seemed to be real, and easy to talk with.

“John, there is a group at my church that I’d like you to meet. They are a singles group and this weekend they are having a social time. There will be food and these people aren’t scary. Why don’t you come?”

I was curious by this time. I was also not doing so well myself. I had experienced many painful disappointments in my relationships that I wasn’t really sharing with Pat, or her friend Jerry. I didn’t want to admit that my life wasn’t going so hot. But, in reality, I was looking for something different.

I didn’t go to the group that she was talking about but it remained in my memory as an option if things got worse, which they eventually did. Instead, my first attempt to get help came through an invitation to an al-anon group. My friends said there were “better” people there than I had been hanging around. Well, my lust and pain came together and I was motivated to attend this group.

“Hello, my name is Cindy, John. I can relate to what you just said. I have been there myself and I understand. I found help in praying the Serenity Prayer.”
What? REAL help in praying? Well, I needed real help. Cindy’s expression of common ground once again motivated me. She understood! Maybe I should try her prayer! The next Sunday I was going through the lowest of lows and feeling suicidal. I got out the prayer she mentioned and began to repeat its words. Something grabbed me that day; something very different. I felt relieved of some of the pain I was feeling. Could it have been the prayer? Could God have been listening to me? Is He real?

One particular night on which I was struggling, Pat called to talk with me about something. She heard my struggle and said, “Jerry and I are coming over”. They came to my house and talked with me for a while and offered to pray with me. I remember how accepted and loved I felt that this lady and her friend cared enough to go out of their way to show me their concern and their support.

I started to ponder the events I had experienced concerning God, Jesus, religion and my life. Maybe there is something to this Jesus thing that I heard at the pancake house. These people that I had met seemed energized about their experiences with Jesus. They also have had trouble in their lives and they didn’t seem as afraid to talk about it as I was.

“Pat, maybe I’ll go to one of those “social events” you spoke about. Is there anyone there like us?” She gave me directions and I went to someone’s house and there were lots of people there eating, laughing, and talking. I felt really strange there largely because I didn’t know anyone. But, Pat was right, they were having fun and it was apparent that their life was different than mine and yet, the same.

I went back to my life and friends and tried to make it again. I was determined that I was going to succeed with my plans. After all, I didn’t give up a family, marriage, and my children for nothing. I was invested in my decision – and being right! For a while it went better but not for long. I found more pain, more discouragement, and my pride wouldn’t let me go further in talking about it openly.



Pat had often invited me to her church. She explained that it was different than maybe the ones I had experienced. There was hand clapping, lively music, and it wasn’t like our common Catholic background. She also said that I wouldn’t have to go alone and that she would meet me there and maybe Jerry would be there as well. Well I was up for something new and interesting so I finally decided to go. The day before I had bought some new shoes and clothes for a special “date” with a new friend I had gone on. I got these new clothes out to wear to church. Hum, that sounded weird, church. I am going to church!

I sat on the aisle and before the service, the pastor, John Walker, was walking down the aisle and stopped at my seat. “Hello, I am Pastor John Walker, you have a beautiful yellow sweater on. What is your name?” Oh, if he’d only known what happened in that sweater the night before. But, I enjoyed the compliment and that he took the time to introduce himself.

I wasn’t ready for any more church for a while. I had to process what I had experienced. I enjoyed it; well as much as I could, considering how strange it was for me. At the same time in my life there was another person who was excited about Jesus. She was the sister to someone that I had been involved with. Her name was Jeannie.

My friend told me Jeannie was a “Jesus Freak” and that she lived differently than we did. After all, I was engaged in immoral sex with my friend and Jeannie knew that was the case. She didn’t seem to make that a big deal. We would eat at her house and enjoy her funny sense of humor and friendliness.

One week, Jeannie called me to invite me to her church. She said they were having a revival. What? What in the world is a “revival”? Well, here we go again, something strange to experience. I guess I’ll go. I didn’t die from the last church experience I had. Maybe this will be equally interesting.
I surely wasn’t prepared for what would transpire this night.

I went in, sat down with her and entered into one of the most life changing events I had ever had. I do not know what was said from the front or who I was sitting next to but I clearly heard something in my head. “John, you don’t have to live this way any longer.” What? Who said that? Well, it wasn’t quite that shocking, but it was life changing, no doubt.

The voice continued on, “John, go and ask Laurie to go to dinner with you.” Laurie was a friend from a community theater I as a part of. I didn’t know her very well but she was a nice girl and really friendly. So, that night I went home and called Laurie. She said yes! So, Friday we’re on for dinner.

In our discussion Laurie was as friendly as I had hoped. She was also honest about her life. Well, you guessed it, Laurie was also a Christian. There were other things we had in common. Laurie was also divorced. But there was something even more important that came out that evening. Laurie’s first husband was gay. If you haven’t guessed it already, so was I. I had made quite a deep investment in a decision to leave my family and live out my life as a gay man with other gay men. I was searching for common ground, understanding, and for sure I wanted to feel heard by someone who knew what it was like to have life like mine.

This was quite the shocking experience. God must have known. Did Jesus really see my life from the inside out? Even more significant, did Jesus hear the cry of my heart? I can’t make sense of all of these people who I met with excitement about this Jesus, but is it true? Can something about my life significantly change? The voice said that I had a choice. That voice said I could live life differently and that the deep pain I had been experiencing could go away.

The girls, Pat, Jerry, Jeannie, Laurie, all had something in common. They seemed to have a relationship with Jesus and weren’t afraid to talk about it. But they had something else in common. They freely talked about their life stories. They told me about the mistakes, the pain, the choices, and the freedom they had all experienced. They were all real people with real life issues and seemingly had found a real Jesus that understood and accepted them.

After meeting with Laurie I had experienced enough of this Jesus that I began to look into this phenomenon. Pat gave me a $3 paperback Bible. I began to read it. It was really quite interesting, since I was reading it for the first time like a book, rather than chapter and verse references. I began to understand my life was broken from the beginning and I was in need of someone greater than myself who could rescue me. I found out that the gospel was not a religion, but it was a gift to John Smid from a living Savior to offer me eternity with Him.

My life did in fact begin to change. My priorities were different now. The change was slow and clumsy. One of the first decisions was to find another man that would love me that also was a Christian. That wasn’t hard. I met a man named Paul that fit the bill. On our first time together alone he told me he loved me and that he was a Christian. He taught at Christian school, no less. He was a great guy. But I wasn’t so great. Our relationship became as tumultuous as all of the others because I was so conflicted and torn I didn’t know how to relate to this guy.

The pain continued as if my life were on a pendulum swing. Up, down, up, down, up, down-and I was becoming even more troubled. What should I do now? I had been praying a simple prayer daily. “God, get me out of this.” On February 10, 1984 I made the bests decision of my life. I called my current partner at the time and told him that I was leaving the relationship – for good. We had broken up many times before but this time something was different. I really meant it.

The next week I attended the weekly gathering of those single folks that I had met the year before. I thought maybe they could help me and replace the friends that I was leaving behind. They did. They came through with flying colors. I continued on with their weekly group and I even went to that church every Sunday. It didn’t seem so strange to me anymore. I grew in understanding of their faith, their relationship with each other, and their Jesus. I had become like those girls four years earlier. I was now the excited one about what I had found in Jesus.

That was a long time ago. A lot has changed in my life for sure but it began with a few people who were willing to share their life with me. These folks had something in common that has stuck with me through the years. They were vulnerable, honest from their hearts, and weren’t afraid to tell me about their lives-including their mistakes and shortcomings. I wasn’t a project to be completed; rather I felt like a person they desired to know. Someone they cared about but weren’t trying to control or condemn.

It isn’t so strange that I would feel the burden to write about some core relationship values that might help us reach those that are hurting or lost. The values in The Journey of Thomas reflect what helped me in those trying years of my life. The people who reached out to me practiced them unknowingly. They weren’t using a systematic approach to reaching me. They were just being themselves. With God’s help, they didn’t hide underneath a false religion. They didn’t separate themselves from me as though they had arrived to some higher plane of living.

Each of them knew their shortcomings and they lived in the grace of a loving God. They just wanted me to know the Jesus they had met because He had loved them “while they were yet sinners”.

I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to marry again. I was married to Vileen in 1988. My two daughters have grown into mothers and I have three grandchildren. As I look at my grandkids, I recognize each day that the gifts that were shared with me those many years ago have now transcended into a second generation of life! I certainly wouldn’t have been married to Vileen if it weren’t for those loving people who cared enough about me to share their Jesus with me. I do not believe I would have hardly any relationship with either my daughters or my grandkids if it weren’t for Christ saving my life and changing my path.

I am not sure I really know how to thank each person who has had an effect on my life through their own honesty. The numbers are far too great to share with each one of them. Some of them have gone on to other places and I am not sure I could even locate them. I do have friendships with some of them and I try to often tell them how much their lives have meant to me. I may have some that I haven’t adequately thanked.

This is my new life that remains new every day. His mercies are new every morning for sure. I need Jesus today just like I did all the years before but didn’t know it. The only difference is that I know Him now and can call upon Him freely. I also recognize His grace not so much for the sins I commit every day because I know those were forgiven before I even thought to commit them. I recognize His grace for my humanness! The fact that I was born into a sinful, broken world requires His sacrifice at the cross for my eternity.


In the end, my greatest thanksgiving goes to Jesus Christ for His salvation that came upon our brothers and sisters from the beginning that is passed down generation to generation. This is my story. Well, part of my story. There isn’t enough paper to contain all of it. Each time I think back over my life, there are many more things to say about Jesus and me.



As you can imagine, Jesus drew me to Himself through letting me know that He heard me. He understood my plight and joined with me for life. He forgave me, freed me from bondage, and continues to work with me to change my life one day at a time.


© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183


Printable PDF – John Smid’s Journey Testimony


A Tribute To My Dad

Monday, January 5th, 2009

By John J. Smid

Luke 1:17
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

“Dad, I’m gay and I’m going to divorce my wife.” All I remember from that evening’s discussion were tears, love, and a father that was trying to share wisdom from his own life experience. “John, don’t do this. Leaving your family will not help anything. I don’t want to see you do this to yourself or to your family.” My dad didn’t scold me or get angry. But I was too stubborn. I was stuck and rebellious. At that point in my life, I wasn’t listening to anyone.

My dad had a life of many sorrows and disappointments. There were times when I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through. But one thing was consistent: his active faith never wavered. As long as I knew him, he never left God’s side . . . no matter how tough things got. One of his many sorrows came as he was faced with my homosexual struggles.

I had been married for six years and had two beautiful daughters that I loved very much, but my heart was so confused. When I got married in 1973, I swore that I would never get a divorce. I had been hurt so much by the divorce of my own parents that I didn’t want to ever see my children go through that experience. Yet through pornography, feeding on my deep curiosity about men, I developed a homosexual fantasy life. The final step came through a homosexual friend who led me into acts of adultery.

Ignoring my father’s counsel, I left my wife and family and embraced homosexuality for four years. But through this period of my life, no matter what, there was always a connection with my dad. We didn’t separate from each other. Yet the nature of my sin and the difference in our lifestyles created an invisible barrier between us.

I thought by simply introducing my dad to my partners and friends that he would grow to understand and embrace homosexuality in my life. My dad’s responses continually revealed his relationship with the Lord to me as he exhibited the spirit of Christ. One night I stopped by my dad’s house, testing the waters of acceptance. “Dad, I would like you to meet Jim. He is a good friend of mine.” My dad responded with grace, extending his hand to Jim. He would engage in conversation with my friends, and never pulled away from them.

I invited my dad to my house to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. I still have pictures of my homosexual partner cutting the cake amidst a roomful of friends. My dad was right there, supporting my daughter and relating to the others with grace. He never faltered in his convictions or in his relationship with Christ. He was uncomfortable with my lifestyle and disagreed with my choices, yet he was willing to be uncomfortable in order to love me.

My friends were aware of my dad’s respect for them. They respected him and trusted him, not because he accepted their homosexuality, but rather because he treated them as human beings loved by God.

Through the witness of a friend, I eventually accepted Christ as my Savior. As I found victory over my homosexuality, my dad was still there rooting for me. But my new life in Christ was not yet clear to him. As a result, when I decided to work for Love In Action, a ministry to homosexuals, he was very uncomfortable with the idea. “John, I ‘m not sure about this. You’ve always had a hard time sticking with something. You might change your mind, and be worse off than you are now.”

I stood on my convictions. “Dad,” I said, “that is how I used to be. But Christ is changing me. He’s giving me the strength to be committed to His will.” About a month later my dad came to me. “John, I beli eve this is a good decision and I want you to know I am with you all the way.” With my father’s blessing on my work and calling, nothing could stop me!

When I was scheduled to be on Larry King Live, my dad once more showed me the spirit of Christ. The day before the program was to air he called. “John, I told all my friends this morning at breakfast to watch the show. I told them my son was going to be on TV.” My dad was not ashamed or embarrassed about my life, past or present. He carried no guilt or shame from my choices. He was proud of me and supportive of the message that people can be free from homosexuality. He continued over the years to tell others about me, our life, and Love In Action.

In one newspaper interview regarding my recovery, I stated that during part of my childhood my dad had been emotionally absent. I later asked if it had hurt him to read what I had said. “Sure it hurt,” he responded, “but it was true. During that time in my life, I was under so much stress that I was unavailable for anyone.” His response put healing salve on my wounds. I saw more clearly into my dad and the way our father-son relationship had developed.

Over the last couple years of his life, my dad’s health began to fail due to a lung disease. He hated being attached to an oxygen hose, and became frustrated when he couldn’t go places like he used to. But each time I would call, or he would call me, he would repeat the same message. “Everything with me is just great, I love you, keep up the good work.” During the last two months of his life he was in the hospital hooked to breathing machines and IVs. When we went to see him, he would usually smile and wink. It wasn’t until his last week alive that he became more frustrated with the medical input. He knew he was going to die and was ready to go.

March 21, 1997, my father passed away. He was seventy-five years old. Following my departure from homosexuality, we had spent thirteen years building a deep, rich relationship. His godly faith and humility played an important part in my recovery.

Norman John Smid has left this world for a better place. I still miss him greatly, and would love to hear him say once more that he loves me and I am doing a good job. But I have no regrets about our relationship. During his last bout of illness, he had no dying words or last minute rushed message to tell me or anyone else. He had already shown and told us many times. Likewise, I don’t feel I left out anything. I had shown him my love and respect, and he’d let me know that I had also blessed him in his life and faith.

I received a model from my dad that I share with others as they suffer through the difficulty of having a homosexual loved one.

• Love your kids, and tell them you love them.
• Be willing to be with them even when it may be uncomfortable for you.
• Respect all people no matter how you feel about their behavior.
• When they take steps of growth and healing, bless their steps and show them that you see the changes they are making, even when they don’t have a proven track record.
• Model humility and trust in the ever faithful Jesus Christ.

I am not sure I will ever be able to measure up to my dad’s reputation or his love, but I know he supported me and believed in me. I’ll never measure up to God’s standards either, but I know I am His and He loves me and believes in me.

Rev. John J. Smid is the Executive Director for Grace Rivers Ministry. John is commissioned and licensed as a minister through Germantown Baptist Church in Germantown, TN. He and his wife Vileen live in Germantown, Tennessee.

PDF – A Tribute To My Dad

© 1999 John J. Smid
Permission to reprint may be obtained by contacting:
John J. Smid

Grace Rivers Ministry
PO Box 382277
Germantown, TN 38183