Nate Larkin knows the pressure to live up to a public persona. He knows what it’s like to have a secret that can destroy a career. He knows what it’s like to quit. And He knows what it’s like to find healing, deep friendships, and hope. Nate has a story that unfortunately too many people can relate with.
He was the perfect role model growing up. The son of a Pentecostal preacher, he spent his childhood in storefront missions and rural tabernacles, formed by Sunday School lessons, camp meetings, evangelistic crusades, miracle services and youth rallies. As the oldest of eight kids, Nate was expected to set the example for his siblings and all the other kids in the church. And that’s what he did. “Outwardly I was a model of rectitude—not perfect, of course, but good. Certainly good,” he recalls. And through it all, his idol was Samson. Samson, the strongman. Samson, God’s superhero.
Everything looked great on the outside. Nate received a full academic scholarship to St. Lawrence University, an exclusive liberal arts college in Canton, New York where he served as president of the Campus Christian Fellowship and graduated with a B.A. degree in Religious Studies. With each new accolade, his religious exterior was gaining an enviable glow. But inside Nate, a battle was raging.
He married Allie on his graduation day and soon enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary. He graduated from Princeton with a major in Preaching and was awarded the Preaching Prize. Within two years, Nate was the senior pastor for a new non-denominational church in South Florida. Observers saw a wise and godly man of God, dedicated to church and home. But Nate’s religious persona was crumbling from the inside out. Like Samson, his secret weakness was threatening his public success.
After just five years in the ministry, Nate made the choice to quit. An obsession had developed into a virulent addiction to pornography and commercial sex. His decision to abandon vocational ministry was driven primarily by private despair about his moral failures and the fear of public exposure. He took a job with a construction consultant and redirected his sermon-writing skills to producing technical reports. But even with the change in careers, his addiction continued. His wife Allie was his only friend and confidante. Nate had achieved his childhood ambition—to live like Samson. And like Samson, he found himself living in isolation and futility.
Eventually, Nate and Allie moved to Franklin, TN, to be close to their first grandchild. Within months of moving to Tennessee, a miracle took place. After years of praying, fasting, pleading and repenting in private, Nate finally found help for his sex addiction—in the form of authentic friendship and the safety of a 12-step recovery group. No longer would the deadly cocktail of isolation and temptation rule him.
As he worked through the 12 steps, Nate began to see life differently. He even saw his biblical hero, Samson, with new eyes. Nate came to understand that God-given gifts such as exceptional strength and impressive oratory skills are not enough to sustain the Christian. Eventually, he found a new biblical hero, another moral failure who had recovered: King David. In sharp contrast to Samson, David was a man with friends. The gift of male companionship, which he first experienced through the remarkable courage of Jonathan, became the defining characteristic of his public career and his safeguard when things went wrong. Nate finally understood why a 12-step group had accomplished what solitary prayer and fasting could not. God designed the Christian life as a team sport!
As he began to live in this new model of Christianity, Nate’s circle of friends expanded to include a large group of men with different weaknesses, addicts and potential addicts of every description, united by a common faith and a need for real companionship. Most of these men had not found deep and honest relationships in their churches. “Why?” they asked each other, “did a guy have to end up in a 12-step group to talk honestly with other men?”
So in 2004, several of these friends formed a mutual aid society for Christian men called the Samson Society. Within the safety of the Samson Society, honest friendships have taken root and men are finding new power in their faith. “I guess you could say that we are trying to recover Recovery for the church,” Nate explains with a smile. “The Samson Society is not a church, but we pray together. It’s not AA, but we talk about our failures in the present tense. It’s not a cult, but we are deeply committed to community. We’re trying to live truthfully and together as Christians.”
Nate, who drafted the Society’s charter and designed its first meeting format, has written a book about his experiences entitled Samson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood, which was published by Thomas Nelson in February 2007. (He is also the author, with Darrell Waltrip, of Sundays Will Never Be the Same, published by Simon & Schuster in 2012.)
As of 2012, more than 250 local Samson Society groups are functioning in the United States, and others have started in other countries. A social networking website (https://samsonsociety.com) has been established to connect men who do not have access to a local meeting.
Nate loves talking to men about their need for community and how they can overcome struggles together.