Paul Coneff’s qualifications for writing about the power of Christ’s suffering are simple: brokenness in his own life led him to his own need to personally experience that power, so he could share it with many others. Before becoming a pastor and marriage family therapist, and earning Masters degrees in both fields, Paul grew up in a home filled with anger and conflict. He became an angry young man who tried unsuccessfully to numb his pain with alcohol, pornography, self-pity, and drugs. Fortunately, God brought him out of this self-sabotaging lifestyle, but as a new pastor, he saw a lot of broken relationships, addictions and abuse, and he did not always know how to help others find similar healing and freedom.
Paul knew the cross of Christ offered everyone forgiveness for their sins but how did it offer healing for those suffering from anger; shame; divorce; physical, sexual and verbal abuse; loneliness; abortion; addictions; cutting/self-harm; un-forgiveness; recurring guilt; and being sinned against? Surprised by how common these problems were, even in the church, he asked God to show him the connection between Christ’s death on the cross and human suffering.
God’s answer to his prayer led Paul to a change his approach to counseling and ministry. On the whiteboard in his office, Paul drew a cross—then he wrote a list of common sins, struggles and sufferings on one side, and a list of Christ’s sufferings on the other. As Christians and non-Christians compared the lists, they realized that Jesus had suffered the same things they had, and their trust and hope in Him increased. When Paul moved from information about the gospel, to application of the gospel as he prayed Jesus’ story into their stories, he saw hearts softening; he saw people finding healing and freedom through personal identification with Christ.
Paul’s further study of Bible authors like Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the apostle Paul, and the writer of Hebrews, provided rock solid biblical support for the theme of suffering as a critically important part of the gospel. In other words, Jesus’ suffering could not be separated from His mission to “preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, and set the captives free” (Luke 4:18). Jesus wanted to give broken humanity a new story, and that included rewriting both their stories of sin and their stories of suffering. This is the message Paul has called “The Hidden Half of the Gospel.”
Seeing The Hidden Half of the Gospel, or Christ’s suffering, change hearts time and again led Paul to begin Straight 2 the Heart Inc., a non-profit prayer and discipleship ministry. In 2010, he left twenty years of pastoral ministry to work full time spreading the Hidden Half message, including teaching, coaching, developing training resources, and writing The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours.
After spending more than 10,000 hours in pastoral and clinical counseling, and training others to apply “prayer and ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4) both nationally and internationally, Paul believes that prayer is the greatest power on earth. Why? Because it connects us with “Christ, the Wonderful Counselor,” and the supernatural power of His suffering, death, and resurrection. Paul’s passion is helping others experience freedom in Christ so they can receive their truest, deepest identities as sons and daughters of God and move into ministry with a testimony.
Paul is married to his black-haired, brown-eyed beauty, Cristina. They live in Texas with Carolina, their daughter and “celebrator of life,” and their dogs and their cats. Paul loves racquetball, reading, and seeing the local church impact their community for Christ.