During the decade of the 1970’s, a virtual flood of filth invaded the lives of average Americans through the sudden emergence of adult entertainment. By the mid 80’s, this problem had become increasingly widespread even within Christian ranks—a fact that few Church leaders grasped at the time.
During this time, a former Los Angeles deputy sheriff was quietly attending a two-year Assemblies of God Bible school at Capital Christian Center located in Sacramento, CA. One day, in January 1986, the Lord spoke to Steve Gallagher, placing a burden on his heart to minister to men struggling with sexual addiction—the horrid sin that had once held him captive.
With spiritual oversight from his pastor, Glen Cole, Steve launched a local support group which he called Pure Life Ministries. Although there was an astonishing turnout those first few months, God gave him a vision of an even larger ministry with a national scope. Those around him were rather skeptical of his lofty dreams but he knew he had heard from the Lord.
Within the next two years, the Church was rocked by the Bakker and Swaggart scandals. Steve found himself sought after as a guest on Oprah, The 700 Club and many local radio and television shows across the country. He also began to write, publishing the ministry’s flagship book, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry. “It was an exciting time; doors seemed to be opening in every direction,” recalls Steve. “It was obvious that the Lord was beginning to unfold the vision He had given me for Pure Life Ministries.”
In 1989, buried under a landslide of phone calls and national interest, Steve and Kathy Gallagher sold everything they owned, loaded up an 18-foot motor home and embarked on a nine month, cross-country speaking tour. They parked in K-Mart parking lots, used gas station bathrooms and made do with the tiny shower in their RV.
Eventually, the Lord directed them to northern Kentucky, where they purchased a small farmhouse on 12 acres. “We didn’t know what the Lord was going to do with us when we set out,” Kathy recollects. “Everywhere we turned the need was so overwhelming. But I can honestly say that we never imagined He would ask us to relocate the ministry to Kentucky and turn our home into a live-in program!”
A New Beginning
In January 1990, six men moved into the small yellow house the Gallaghers had purchased. The opening of the Pure Life Ministries Live-In Program marked the beginning of a new era for the couple. The focus began to shift away from a ministry to faceless thousands via radio and television, to a work that concentrated on the extreme needs of the individuals coming to them for personal help. They would have to roll up their shirt sleeves and become intimately involved in the overwhelming problems of those who came for help.
“Spiritually grueling,” sighs Steve with half a smile; “those first few years were unlike anything I had ever imagined. For all the passion I had to help people out of their sin, I quickly learned I didn’t have half the love for them I thought I did.”
God began to deal with Steve and Kathy’s hearts, driving them to their knees with one heart-wrenching plea: “God, you must do a deeper work inside us!” Day after day they cried out in anguish for His help.
The Lord quickly answered their cries by sending them to an obscure, old-time Pentecostal work where they came face-to-face with the power and presence of God. “These people knew the Lord in a way that I had only ever read about,” Steve recounted later. “The meetings were so full of Jesus’ presence and rich spiritual truth that I never wanted them to end.”
With a sincere desire to be personally discipled, they began to visit the ministry for weeks at a time, submitting themselves under the spiritual leadership. They were determined to tap into this spiritual powerhouse and get everything they could.
But this new connection was not just for them. Back in Kentucky, a small staff had formed at PLM. With each trip, the Gallaghers began to bring their experiences back to their staff. A fresh sight of the Cross brought deep repentance and a desire to live in the consecration of what Jesus described as “the narrow path.” They also learned how to love others as Jesus did—by meeting their needs.
In all, it was a 10-year period of sitting at the feet of Jesus. As the close of the 90’s drew near, the staff numbered 12, the Live-In Program held 25 men at a new 45-acre location, and a phone counseling program called Overcomers-At-Home (OCAH) was beginning to grow.
It was then that the Lord spoke to Steve and Kathy: It’s time to do more to reach out to those in need in the Church. The staff began to ask the Lord to open the right doors of ministry. Also, Steve began to write with urgency, drawing from the treasures he had received during those years spent primarily seeking God. Intoxicated with Babylon and Out of the Depths of Sexual Sin are two books that came forth. By 2001, new buildings were constructed and the residential program grew to 35.
All of this growth came about just in time to help meet the escalation of sexual sin in the Church due to the Internet. Christian men, now faced with easy access to obscene material, were being caught up in pornography in record numbers. The problem was skyrocketing in the Body of Christ.
During the next 4 years, PLM began to distribute its products to Christian bookstores and a new speaking ministry emerged to begin reaching local churches. Steve had a vision for a magazine as a vehicle to equip pastors and Unchained! magazine was subsequently birthed. In addition, tens of thousands of copies of At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry began to be distributed in prisons. Growth in every phase of the work produced countless changed lives and restored marriages.
Also during this period of time, Steve began to make numerous speaking trips to Europe, South America, Central America and even the Middle East. This increased exposure brought about the publication of a number of Steve’s books into various languages. In Brazil alone, tens of thousands of copies of his books have been sold.
All the while Pure Life Ministries continued to expand. Today, the fulltime staff has grown to 35 and two new dormitories has expanded the residential facility to 75 beds. Additionally, the OCAH program was now regularly ministering to 50 people each week. And yet, with all the change that had occurred over the years of rapid growth, one thing remained the center of this work: the presence of God and the desire to embrace the Cross.
Today, the staff continues to do their utmost to maintain a balance between working tirelessly to help meet this great and growing need in the Church while simultaneously maintaining the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a tightrope act to be sure, and yet the commitment to keep Jesus first remains foremost in the hearts of the ministry leaders. God continues to bless this work as an influential voice and essential resource to the Church in America, and beyond.