Deceiver Behind Homosexuality
In the summer of 2002, Unchained! ran an article praising the work of Michael Johnston. Little did we know at the time that he had been involved in secret homosexual encounters.
Michael Johnston had been a practicing homosexual for 11 years when, in 1986, he was diagnosed as HIV positive. Over the next two years, he watched as friends began to die around him. Michael soon resigned himself to the reality that he too would eventually succumb to this devastating disease. One night, while attending a gospel concert at the Anchorage Baptist Temple, he committed whatever remained of his life to God.
The next couple of years were a whirlwind! Believing that his time was short, and experiencing the exuberance of his new faith, Johnston immediately began reaching out to other homosexuals. Unfortunately, rather than submitting to a period of discipleship and accountability-or even attending Bible school-he threw himself into his new passion with an evangelistic fervor, but very little spiritual foundation. Thus, while still very young in his walk with the Lord, Kerusso Ministries was founded.
Over the next ten years, Michael poured everything he had into building his ministry. He debated homosexual activists, fought for pro-family legislation and worked closely with national leaders such as Dr. Jerry Falwell, Dr. D. James Kennedy and Don Wildmon. By 2000, he had become a leading national spokesman in the cultural war surrounding homosexuality. Unfortunately, over time, he grew increasingly self-confident and independent of God. As his reputation grew, his walk with the Lord gradually decayed.
"Almost from the beginning of my Christian life I had misconceptions about what it really meant to be a Christian," he recounted later. "I viewed my ministry work as being the most important aspect of my life as a believer. Unfortunately, that attitude catered to my driving self-ambition. Over time, my motives in ministry changed from sincerely trying to help others to promoting myself."
During this time, Michael paid very little attention to his inner life with God. Both his ministry and personal life were increasingly being erected upon the sinking sand of pride and human effort. One day, inevitably, it would all come crashing down.
Michael's moral slide began sometime during 2000 with an occasional dabbling in pornography. Having no real accountability in his personal life, and lacking the kind of spiritual strength that comes from walking in God's presence, he soon gave over to greater temptation. One night in November of 2001, Michael had a sexual liaison with another man. That experience, which he described as "euphoric," initiated his dramatic fall into deep spiritual darkness and depravity.
For the next year and a half, Johnston lived a double life. While deceiving everyone around him into believing that his spiritual life was intact, the truth was that he was growing increasingly hardhearted toward God. Even after his activity on the Internet was discovered by a Kerusso staff member, he defiantly continued on a course of deception-pretending to seek restoration while secretly continuing in his sin. His outright refusal to yield to spiritual correction was setting him up for an even more devastating, and very public, exposure.
In 2003, the inevitable happened: He was recognized by the friend of a young man he was seeing and word quickly spread to gay activists that another "ex-gay" leader had fallen. Almost immediately, homosexual publications began broadcasting the news across the country. Conservative groups found themselves in the unpleasant position of once again having to defend their position that homosexuals can change. Exodus International issued a press release stating in part: "Today a Christian leader was reported as having fallen. The situation is ugly. Michael Johnston stands accused of having unsafe sex with other men while preaching a message that he was not practicing."
Far from repentant however, Michael was actually more upset over the breakup of his homosexual relationship than the loss of his reputation. Knowing nowhere else to turn and nearing an emotional breakdown, he finally called an old friend-Steve Gallagher. Steve had already been apprised of the situation by a member of the Kerusso Board of Directors. Michael accepted Gallagher's invitation to come for a visit. "Mike was very hard when I saw him," he recalls. "He seemed so far gone... so spiritually lost. I had little hope that he would be willing to go through the rigorous steps necessary to truly be restored to the Lord. I told him that the best thing he could do would be to humble himself and enter the Pure Life live-in program. To my amazement, he did it!"
The Death of Michael Johnston
Johnston officially entered the Live-In Program on June 26, 2003. Those early days were very rocky for him. "The truth is that at that point I just didn't care about anything or anyone," he later recalled. "I had no room in my heart for God or His people. I knew I couldn't go back to the gay lifestyle, and I felt completely dead inside. The fact is, I had nowhere else to turn and somehow I knew that if I was ever going to escape the darkness I was in, it was going to have to happen at Pure Life-and God was going to have to do it."
During his six months in the live-in program, Michael mowed lawns and did menial office tasks at the ministry facilities. Over time, his heart began to soften. "It had literally been years since I had felt the Lord's presence," he later stated. "I didn't have the slightest thought of ever being involved in ministry again. I really was just hanging on-looking for some thread of hope that the Lord would have mercy on me and not pass me by." Underneath the surface, unbeknownst even to Michael, a deep work had begun.
One cold, rainy night that November-two years after his initial fall-Michael came to a crossroads with God. That night, standing in a driving rain storm, he felt like God was asking him for a real surrender of his life. "I knew that God was asking me to give up more than just sexual sin. He wanted to do a much deeper work in me-one that would be difficult and at times very painful. What stood before me that night was the Cross of Christ." After many years spent in rebellious self-will, Michael finally had a glimpse of what it was really going to cost to be a follower of Jesus and he made a heart-felt surrender.
Not long after this, a rumor began circulating within the evangelical community that he had been placed in a leadership position at PLM. Criticism followed swiftly from key "ex-gay" leaders. In an attempt to stem the rising tide of misunderstanding, Steve Gallagher issued a public statement. He wrote in part: "Considering the fact that Michael has founded and run his own ministry in the past, he has shown true humility in his response to leadership. Be that as it may, it will be a long time before Michael is given any real leadership in this ministry or allowed to speak publicly. He willfully gave himself over to sin and must prove himself over time to be worthy of people's trust. This will not be afforded to him prematurely in this organization... I will continue to love Michael, minister to him and hold his feet to the fire." Little did Steve know how things would ultimately turn out when he wrote those words.
With Kerusso Ministries fully liquidated and out of the way, Michael was finally falling in love with Jesus-a Jesus he had never really known before. "From my earliest days I had had a very superficial view of Christianity. I saw myself as godly because I was refraining from outward sinful behavior such as homosexuality and because I was working hard to promote a virtuous society. In many ways my life reflected the attitude of the Pharisee pointing to the sins of others rather than the publican who clearly understood his desperate need for grace. What was lacking in my life was a genuine sight of Jesus as He really is. I had never before seen or understood His lowliness and meekness. My heart melted when I came face-to-face with the real Jesus, the Lamb of God...and I knew then that I would never be the same."
The Live-In Program is designed to help men overcome habitual sin and get their lives on-track spiritually. When Michael graduated, he was invited to enter the much more intense intern program where the fire of God increases. By staying on to work for the ministry, he was inviting the seemingly ever-present Holy Spirit to relentlessly deal with him over the deeper issues of his heart.
During one of the monthly staff prayer days, Michael had a powerful revelation about the wickedness of his sin. Previously, he had too often responded to God's grace as if it was a license to sin. He saw how he had repeatedly defied God's authority in his life and counted the blood of Jesus as a common thing. That day, faced with the reality of how much his sin had hurt Jesus and others, he broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. Michael saw clearly how much grace had been extended to him over the years. For the first time, he understood what it meant to truly fear the Lord.
As God continued to take him through a series of spiritual breakings over the next year, a wonderful transformation was taking place. The many masks that he had worn over the years were being systematically stripped off and the heavily fortified walls that had protected his heart from others for so long were crumbling in ruin. Michael Johnston's tenacious self-life was dying and the light of God was beginning to shine into the very darkest recesses of his heart.
One day, Steve Gallagher suggested that he discontinue using the name "Michael," feeling that it helped to keep him locked into an unhealthy self-image tied to his past homosexual life. Mike Johnston, as he is now known, is continuing to seek the Lord in the close-knit environment of Pure Life Ministries. Now, with over two years of purity behind him, God is giving him a fresh vision of helping others find the same freedom; this time not for the purpose of self-promotion but to glorify Christ. Yes, the persona of "Michael" has been put to death and has been replaced by "Mike"-a new creation being formed in Christ to the glory of God.
Steve Gallagher is the founder and president of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
© 2013 purelifeministries.org