LOUISBURG — Jim Real is a man who believes in second chances, as he has had his share of his own — a second chance with his wife, a second chance with his true calling and a second chance with his life.
“I was called to preach when I was 16,” Real said. “I walked away from that call and lived a double life for many years. God and I reconciled some years later.”
Real and his wife, Joni, started the Journey Church of the Nazarene this spring in Louisburg. The church has Sunday morning services in the choir room at Louisburg Middle School. The couple also hosts Bible study on Wednesday nights in their home.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Real started taking the courses required for his master’s degree in counseling.
“I was three classes short when my life fell apart,” Real said. “I was going to church, pretending to be one person, but I had a secret life where I was engaging in behavior that was not appropriate. I stopped going to church. My wife divorced me.”
In the 1990s, with his world crumbled around him, Real attended a service with a charismatic Catholic prayer community, where the congregates laid their hands on him.
“I had a vision of Jesus,” Real said. “He came to me and he healed me emotionally. He took away the guilt and the anger and the shame. He filled a hole that was inside me and changed me. I remember it as if it was yesterday.”
After his vision, Real was able to get his life back on track, returning to church life, and dealing with his depression and addiction. He reconnected with his wife and the couple remarried.
“I’ve had two wives,” Real joked, “both the same woman. God did miraculous work in my life.”
Throughout his childhood Real did not have stability. Between kindergarten and his senior year, he attended 27 different schools.
“My parents moved all the time,” Real said. “We never lived anywhere longer than nine months. In just the four years of high school, I went to 10 different schools. I got to know people through sports, but just as soon as I got to know people, we had to leave. I was getting excited about my senior year and boom, we moved.”
Real has three siblings. In 2002, his brother committed suicide. He has two sisters, but he does not keep in touch with them. The sisters live in the same city, but have no contact with each other. Real has not talked to his parents in 13 years, just recently finding out where they are living now.
“We are really a dysfunctional family,” Real said. “I love my parents and would not change my life because it made me the man I am today. My parents’ love and acceptance was replaced by other sources; I got that from others, my wife and friends.
“People look at my background and wonder how I turned out like this. It is all due to God. I know if it wasn’t for God, I would not be here today. I’d either be dead or in jail,” he said.
Real settled down and lived with his wife for 28 years in Michigan. The couple has been married for a total of 38 years and have a grown daughter, Jamie, who still lives in Michigan.
Dave Anderson, the pastor at Real’s former church in Michigan, took Real out to breakfast and said he should attend seminary. Real prayed about it, but said no. The next year, Anderson took Real out to breakfast again and told him the same thing.
“This time, we put the house up for sale and six weeks later we were in Kansas City,” Real said.
Real and his wife moved to Kansas City in August, 2013, for him to attend the Nazarene Theological Seminary. Joni took the online course of study through Nazarene Bible College, so both are licensed by the Church of the Nazarene.
After he graduated from seminary, Real went to the district superintendent of the Nazarene church and said he would love to stay in the area. The superintendent asked if Real would be interested in starting a new church in Louisburg, a community where the superintendent had been wanting a church for a decade.
The Reals moved to Louisburg in August of last year and met two Louisburg families interested in having a Nazarene church in town, so the planning began. In February, Real started looking for space to have services, but the potential spaces did not work out or proved to be too expensive.
Real substitute taught in the local schools, so he asked Brian Biermann, USD 416 superintendent, if there was space available. Real received a good rate to use the LMS choir room and donated 80 chairs to put in the room, which will remain for the school’s use even once the Nazarene church has outgrown the space. It was a nice win-win for everyone, Real said.
“There are a lot of churches in Louisburg. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we want to be a church that welcomes everybody, especially people that have been hurt by the church in the past or people who want to reconnect with God. Those are some of the people we want to reach,” he said.
The Nazarene church is a “missional” church, Real said, which means that he and his wife will not be waiting for people to come into the building, but will go out into the community to reach them.
“We immerse ourselves in the community,” Real said. “We try to make our community a better place to live however we can.
“My two loves are preaching and helping people with their walk with Christ, to help people live where they love others and forgive others. My other passion is counseling, helping people overcome trauma and to travel to the wholeness in their life,” he said.
Now with a master of divinity degree in spiritual formation, Real also has a post-graduate certificate through Mid-America Nazarene University as a sex addiction treatment provider (SATP). In the fall, he will earn his doctoral degree in pastoral counseling.
Real said he offers counseling services for porn ography and sexual addiction, as well as other addictions, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
“One thing going for me is I’ve experienced trauma and pain, and God has brought me through to where I am proud to be the man I am today and to have a great marriage and relationship with my wife and daughter,” Real said. “I am journeying to wholeness and I can help people who are struggling as well.
“We are wounded in relationships; we are healed in relationships. We heal by the relationships that are secure, safe and trusting. That is the kind of community I want to foster in my church. I don’t want people thinking, ‘We’ve got to go to church,’ but instead, ‘We are going to community.’”
The Journey Church of the Nazarene meets Sundays at 10 a.m. in the LMS choir room.