Vegas Pastor Talks Addictions, Destructive Habits

"What's holding you captive?" asks former substance abuser Jud Wilhite, now the senior pastor of a 17,000-member church in Las Vegas.

Whether it is drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, sex, overeating or behavioural issues such as anger, perfectionism or need for approval, Wilhite insists "no one is immune."

His latest book, Throw It Down, addresses such negative behaviors and dependencies, providing a straightforward, yet deep and thought-provoking step-by-step guide to helping people rid their destructive habits, leading them onto a path of freedom as God intended.

The motivation behind the book stems from the testimonies of the thousands transformed through Central Christian Church's recovery program, which has seen its number of participants grow from 10 to 600 per week over the last three years.

"We started a ministry that would reach out to them and offer hope, encouragement, accountability and healing, and it just exploded; its gone on to become one of the largest ministries in our church," he told the Christian Post.

"I really want to capture some of what we've seen work to help people deal with some of these issues."

In the book, Wilhite highlights the Israelites' desire of crafting new idols, ultimately becoming enslaved again after God had delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh's army by crossing the Red Sea.

"To remain free, we must continually examine our lives and take personal inventory," he wrote. This means pausing to "reflect on what life has become" and "looking below the depths of our own heart."

"[We keep] a lot of our secrets so dark and so buried and these things become problems, and we don't want to acknowledge them … but something as simple as that opens up a door and a pathway to healing," said Wilhite, who detailed his own personal battle with drug addiction and anger in the book.

Central Christian Church has grown and expanded in recent years, starting up several campuses throughout the Las Vegas Valley, as well as an online campus. It is now the city's largest church.

However, Wilhite acknowledged the challenge of ministering to a community where the majority of it has been "broken by life."

"They have 10, 20 or 30 years of brokenness and so it's just a long, long process getting the people help and healing," he noted.

"[But] they can and they do and that's been so rewarding."

After many years of sobriety and graduating from Dallas Christian College and Lincoln Christian Seminary, Wilhite was drawn to Vegas, where he now resides with his wife, Lori, and two children.

"The idea of coming to Sin City, one of the addiction capitals of America, to bring a message of hope and as someone who understands was a real draw for me and a real appeal," he stated.

Wilhite is the author of several books including Eyes Wide Open: See and Live the Real You and Stripped: Uncensored Grace on the Streets of Vegas.

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