In How Many Porn Addicts are in Your Church?, we looked at the pressing need to confront the porn epidemic in the church. In this article, we go on the offensive. Our enemy has carpet-bombed us with lust, and we’ve allowed them to take a lot of our territory. They’re holding thousands of broken men, women, children, marriages and families hostage in slavery to sexual sin, and these prisoners of war are waiting to be rescued.
Our enemy is skilled at psychological warfare, and he uses our silence, apathy and fear as a weapon against us. If we want to win this war, we have to boldly assault his front positions with truth and decimate his ranks with the power of God. We’ll clear a path of grace so our battered P.O.W.s can make it home without fear of attack; once they’re safe our Lord can heal their wounds with the balm of His love.
To reach the sexually broken in our churches, we need to provide clear answers in a Sunday morning service. You can offer a men’s retreat or seminar on the topic, but if you don’t go for it in front of the congregation many who desperately need to hear your message of hope will miss out. Those who struggle with porn or sex addiction are trapped in shame and isolation, so the idea of going to a “let’s deal with porn” men’s retreat will be too intimidating for many. We have to reach them where they are, which means your best shot is at church on Sunday morning.
Earlier this year, Christianity Today asked 680 pastors and 1,972 laypersons if they thought the topic of sex should be discussed more from the pulpit: 44 percent of churchgoers said they wanted to hear more scriptural teaching from their pastors on sexual issues, while only 22 percent of pastors agreed. Our culture is a sex saturated sewer, and your people are hungry for the secrets of living a pure life.
Before addressing sexual sin with your congregation, you and your staff should spend a few weeks praying for them. This is an epic battle and you’re stepping up to the front lines; our enemy isn’t going down without a fight. They’ll infiltrate your ranks with thoughts of doubt, fear and confusion… “You can’t talk about sex; it’ll offend and embarrass them. What if they leave the church? Maybe we should soften the message a little... or put it off until we feel led.” They’ll try to cause stress in marriages and families to keep them from coming, and they’ll attack your P.O.W.s with shame and fear: “You don’t need help, you can handle this… besides, what would others think if they really knew what you’ve been doing?” Be sure to pound the enemy with prayer artillery before making the assault into his territory.
Those who suffer with sexual sin carry a heavy burden of shame, and some have been wounded when they shared their struggles with the wrong person. Your purpose is to draw them out of isolation so they can get help and find freedom from sin. A red hot, scolding sermon on hell and damnation will drive them deeper into hiding, which is the opposite of what you want. Boldly speak all of the truth in love. Our approach with the sexually broken should be like Jesus’ when He restored Peter (who would have been greatly ashamed) after he’d failed miserably by denying Jesus three times.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1
The following is a suggested outline for your message of hope. Sexual sin isn’t an appropriate subject for young children, so you may consider making an announcement 1-2 weeks prior that the topic is PG-13, and parents should have their little ones in Sunday school that day.
First, set the standard.
In a 2003 Barna survey, 28 percent of Christians said looking at pictures with nudity or sexually explicit behavior was morally acceptable. God’s standard, found in Matthew 5:28, is that lust in the heart is the same as committing adultery. The married man who uses porn is sinning against God – and is unfaithful to his wife. Christians aren’t immune from our culture’s “if it feels good do it” mentality, and those who’ve allowed this lie to influence their thinking need to hear God’s truth.
Show how destructive sexual sin is
“Just porn” takes out marriages and families; the tragedy is that most guys don’t realize it until it’s too late. At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said Internet porn contributed to more than half of the divorce cases they handled. The aftershocks from porn addiction in a marriage are little different from the fallout from the physical act of adultery; there are many stories in Scripture that show the devastating consequences of sexual sin (such as Samson and David’s).
Let them know they’re not alone.
Because porn or sex addiction is so rarely discussed in the church, most guys mistakenly assume that “I’m the only one with a lust problem.” This lie keeps many trapped in shame, because if “I’m the only one” then I dare not tell someone for fear of being branded with a scarlet P. Exposing the statistics that 50 percent of Christian men have an issue with porn will show them they’re not “the only one,” and encourage them to reach out for help. One powerful way to do this is for one man to share his struggle with lust with the congregation; when one person steps forward and confesses his weakness it gives others the courage to do the same.
After opening the door, point the way out:
1. Isolation is death
All who struggle with sex or porn addiction are isolated, and few have friends who they can be vulnerable with. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one other so you may be healed,” and in Proverbs 28:13 we read “he who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” When we keep our sins a secret they have more power over us; exposing our struggles to others dissolves the shame (Psalms 32:1-5) and breaks the stronghold of lust in the heart. And, when others pray for us in our specific area of weakness as is mentioned in the second half of James 5:16, the Holy Spirit touches our heart where we need it with His power and grace.
2. The stumbling blocks of lust must be annilhated.
In Matthew 5:29, right after He set the standard for sexual purity in verse 28, Jesus drew a black and white picture of the no compromise approach we’re to take in the war against lust: "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” In practical terms, this means the man who stumbles with internet porn installs blocking software, gives his wife the passwords to the computer, or shuts off all internet access to their home. If cable TV is a problem, he has the service turned off. If he can’t stop watching porn movies in hotel rooms, he must leave the TV off, doesn’t travel alone, or finds a new job. Wife getting in lingerie magazines like Victoria’s Secret? He asks her to cancel the subscription. Our enemy thrives on compromise and weakness, so the only way to win is to take the offensive and kill it.
3. Point them to the One they’ve been looking for.
Sex addiction is the search for God’s love and acceptance in lust. Help them see they’re after a “lovingkindness that’s better than life” (Psalms 63:3), which is found only from the Living God of blazing grace. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” Psalms 42:1
4. Teach them about grace.
I’ve never met a man or woman who struggled with porn or sex addiction who had accepted God’s grace in their heart. Most are programmed by parents, peers and circumstances that love is performance based, conditional, or impossible to obtain. This makes their hardest struggle not in being accountable, or cutting off the stumbling blocks of lust, but accepting God’s grace. Teach them to live in grace, as Jesus told us in John 15:9:
"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”
5. Give them a safe place to go
Once you’ve shown them the way out, give your people a safe place where they can be vulnerable and find encouragement by starting a Strength in Numbers group in your church. Strength in Numbers is a Christ and grace centered support group for those who struggle with sex and porn addiction that is based on James 5:16. For more information on how to set up a Strength in Numbers group go to www.blazinggrace.org.
A Strength in Numbers group is a ministry to your city, not just the men in your church. I get requests for a group all the time from persons all over the U.S., and most of the time I don’t have a place to send them to. I’d love to be able to refer the sexually broken to your church. My prayer is that we’ll see many of these lighthouses of grace spring up in churches all over our land.
Mike Genung struggled with sex addiction for 20 years before God set Him free in 1999. He is the director of www.blazinggrace.org, a ministry to the sexually broken and their spouses, and is co-host of the Blazing Grace radio show. Blazing Grace also helps churches minister to the sexually broken, by providing resources and helping them set up Strength in Numbers groups.