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Posted by on May 24, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Purity and Pain

Over the years, one thing that has always stood out to me and others I have talked to outside of Christianity is the church’s focus on behavior and clean living. Whether it’s deserved or not, the reality is when most people hear the word “Christian” they think of someone who spends their day concerning themselves with making “correct” choices and lecturing others along the way on their need to do the same.

And when it comes to sexual behavior this is especially true. 

Spend any time immersed in evangelical culture and undoubtedly you will hear the word purity come up any time the topic of sexuality is addressed. 

So many books, courses, podcasts, and sermons have been churned out over the years promoting the need for purity and suppression or denial of sexual desires. Witness the fact that if you type the word “purity” in when doing a book search on Amazon you’ll get over 10,000 results.

The result of all this? 

A lot of unhelpful advice that doesn’t work.

Don’t get me wrong, the word “purity” is not a dirty word. God calls us to be “pure,” but when we reduce the meaning of the word “purity” to a checklist of do’s and don’ts we miss the bigger and deeper picture.

And when applying this type of behavior focused thinking to sexual brokenness it not only isn’t helpful, but can be extremely harmful.

For instance…

  • I’ve reviewed paid courses from “experts” that refer to porn use as “just a habit” and suggest that the “fix” to chronic porn use is as simple as getting into healthier habits. 
  • I’ve seen popular books that tell guys the cure to their lustful behaviors is just constantly diverting their eyes from the women that capture their attention.
  • I’ve heard pastors and authors who promote locking down or locking out devices and entertainment choices as the cure-all for poor sexual decision making.
  • I’ve scrolled through comments on our social feed from others asking questions like, “Why is [porn] so big a problem, if ministers are teaching chastity to their congregations?”

All of these suggestions and comments lead to the same message… 

The answer to your porn addiction lies in better behavior so just try harder.

Consequently if you are a person struggling in this area that type of messaging can leave you feeling…

  • Hopeless – because you just can’t seem to stop no matter what.
  • Confused – because trying harder seems to make things even worse.
  • Weak – because you lack the willpower and discipline to say no.
  • Shameful – because clearly you don’t have what it takes to live pure.
  • Isolated – because everyone else is expecting you to pull it together and you’re the odd man out.
  • Condemned – because clearly the real issue is your lack of resolve and faithfulness.
  • Frustrated – because you become convinced over time that things will never change.
  • Resigned – because it’s easier to just give up than beat your head against a wall every day.

It sounds crazy, but more often than not when we welcome someone into our online small groups or communities like Live Free there’s a deprogramming process that needs to take place because so many guys are carrying around these incorrect beliefs that lead nowhere but futility.

We need to understand that if the church is going to do a better job at addressing the needs of the sexually broken we must focus less on purity and more on pain.

Because at the end of the day the real issue behind sexual brokenness is not the choices we make, but the reasons we make those choices in the first place.

  • Trying harder doesn’t work.
  • Denying sexual desire is just suppression.
  • Willpower only takes you so far.

What people need is healing, grace, and a safe place where they can seek these things out.

We need to stop treating hurting people like they are children who can’t behave themselves and more like the wounded souls they really are.

We need to open up our arms and hearts instead of shaking our heads and pointing fingers.

We need to recognize that deep healing is the key to true restoration, not our ability to alter one’s choice and desires.

As St. Augustine once said, the church is “a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” 

And so we need to adopt this type of healing mindset even more so when offering help and care to the sexually broken who carry around some of the deepest wounds you can imagine.

Recognize that purity is not a bad word. But if we want to experience the benefits of a “pure” life we need to address the pain of living in the first place.

 

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Posted by on May 21, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

How the Church is Stepping Up

As we’ve been talking about in recent weeks, shame is one of the greatest weights for a porn addict. To the point where it has the potential to cripple a person’s effort to walk in freedom and healing.

One of the questions always in the forefront of my mind was wondering WHO I could really talk to about my addiction. Would someone think I was weird? Would they think there was something wrong with me?

Until I was asked by a counselor point-blank if I’d ever looked at pornography, I never had the courage to tell anyone about what I was dealing with. Especially anyone in church.

However, I do think we’ve come a long way in the last twelve years helping individuals dealing with sexual addictions, including pornography and other sexually compulsive behaviors. The amount of resources available to a person asking for help today is incredible.

But what about the thousands of people sitting in pews in churches who are secretly being enslaved by pornography on a daily basis?

It begs an even greater question:

Is the Church a place of safety, a place of support, and a place where a person can find the help they need?

Historically, this hasn’t been the case. Of all places you would think you could receive the best help available, the Church was the last on the list.

But, I will say that in recent years, pastors and ministry leaders within the Church have grown tremendously in their knowledge,
understanding, and love for those dealing with sexual addictions.

Much of the credit needs to be given to incredible organizations like XXXchurch and others who have helped over the years to not only inform churches but also equip them with resources as they engage those who are struggling.

So the short answer to the above question is YES. Now, more than ever, I believe in the Churche’s ability to foster a healthy environment for those who are coming in shackled and chained by their addictions.

In a recent article I wrote for Small Groups Online, I included the Church as one of the primary sources of community you need in your life:

“Finding a spiritual family where you can foster healthy relationships, receive solid biblical teaching, and participate in spirit-filled worship is one of the best things you can do for yourself in recovery. Remember, you’re building your support structure and getting yourself out of isolation. When you allow people in to see the real you, feelings like shame, anxiety, and hopelessness cannot survive. Your spiritual family can be an excellent source of support along your journey in recovery!”

So how is the Church really stepping up to help porn addicts?

I suggest three ways…

  • Community

As stated above, when you’re addicted, you’re often isolated. And that means that no one really knows the real you. A church that prioritizes importance on community and knowing each other can be a really healthy outlet for an addict. Truth and vulnerability surface within community.

  • Hope

Secondly, if you happen to believe in Jesus Christ, there’s no place on the earth that can offer you a greater message of true hope and freedom like a Christ-centered, biblically-based establishment. If you’re really open to the message that Jesus came to earth to die for every sin & stronghold (yes, this includes addction), then you can experience incredible freedom.

  • Restoration

A solid church will walk with an individual through their healing and restoration, even if that means bringing in other resources or specialists who are more qualified to help an individual. This could be done through referring a person to a licensed professional therapist or even connecting them to a support group or ministry focused on dealing with sexual addictions.

I believe in Christ’s ability to set us free.

I also believe those who serve Him (pastors, ministry leaders, you & I) are imperfect people. We mess up. We make mistakes. A lot. And we haven’t always done a great job at helping people with life-controlling issues find freedom.

But God ALWAYS has. The freedom He offers is unlike any “freedom” we could ever hope to experience in this life. I’m thankful that the Church is stronger than it ever has been in helping hurting people.

In the last 12 years, I’ve benefited greatly from solid, healthy relationships with people who love God so much that it helps me grow closer to Him as well.

I think this is the greatest strength the Church has to offer in 2021: The ability to come around someone with rough edges and a broken heart and help point them to the One who can make them whole.

 

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Posted by on May 17, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

It Takes a Village to Blame

Two weeks ago I wrote a post that was meant to challenge the “church” to do more and be more proactive in addressing pornography and sexual integrity matters. 

You can read that original post here

In that article I referenced a few stats that were… let’s just say, concerning. Here is what I wrote:

    • 20% of youth pastors admit to currently struggling with porn.
    • 53% of all pastors within the last 12 months have learned that someone they know in ministry struggles with porn.
    • 47% of Christians say pornography is a major problem in their home.
    • 64% of pastors who use porn believe that it has on some level negatively impacted their ministry.
    • 59% of practicing Christian married men have sought a pastor’s help for porn use.
    • Yet…

Just 7% of pastors say their church has a ministry program for those struggling with porn.

The reality is this, we have to do more.
We have to do better.

We then shared this excerpt on Facebook and Instagram and the reaction was explosive. 

On Instagram that post got 721 likes and 28 comments.
On Facebook it received 231 likes, 48 comments, and 103 shares.

One thing was clear… we hit a nerve.

Here are just a few of the comments we received:

A hard truth is that most places masquerading as “churches” are not really churches at all.

I had a situation where a member of a church I was attending made a confession that he was addicted to porn and needed help. Well that poor man was looked down on and even belittled so much he left the church. There is a lot of fear even mentioning porn addiction in church.

Just my opinion but the Church hasn’t done a good job of dealing with sexual sins at all. Too many people are ready to condemn those who struggle with lust Which plays right into the cycle of sin and shame the enemy uses to keep you trapped. This is very much a throw the 1st stone issue yet it seems the majority of Christians have a pile of rocks and are waiting to unload.

The Church was always meant to be a place for healing not wounding. True the healing process can hurt however shaming someone for struggling with a sin that’s different then yours isn’t part of that process. We can’t be upset at someone for hiding behind a mask if we never create an environment where it’s safe to remove that mask.

This is why I left my Christian ex husband and the church, and married an atheist who is every bit as disgusted by porn as I am. Never been happier.

Ouch! 😫

Ready for something else that’s going to sting a bit?

We (all of us) are a huge part of the problem. 😳

What I mean by that is this…

It’s easy to throw the organizational church and its leaders under the bus since it’s clear they’ve dropped the ball on this thing by and large (or at least that appears to be the general consensus).

But when we do this we need to jump in front of that bus also. 

Because the leadership we condemn are just representatives of what the larger consensus demands. 

In other words, we asked for this.

One thing that has always bothered me about the American church is it’s marriage to the “American dream.” We all love the idea of the American dream, but so much of that dream rubs against the ideals of the Kingdom Jesus preached about… like its obsession with excessive consumerism.

We are all consumers.

Which means we take rather than give and we want to be served without having to serve.

And then we bring that consumer mindset into our “churches.”

This is why you see so much focus in modern evangelicalism on the production, on slick programs, on sharp trendy dressed preachers, on fancy lights and fog machines (side note: please lose the fog machines – that stopped being cool 20 years ago), and on topics that are “relevant” yet not too challenging.

Because many of us… 

  • Want to be entertained and “fed,” but not made uncomfortable. 
  • We want honesty and transparency, as long as it’s not too honest or transparent.
  • We want community and friendship, as long it doesn’t get messy or sticky.
  • We want the availability of our leaders, but without their request for money or support.

Do you see the dilemma here?

Churches are doing their best to stem the problem of declining attendance while reaching new “seekers” while they are faced with a very hard choice…

  1. Cave into consumerism

Or

2. Do the hard thing and potentially see even more people file out the front door.

Can you say “between a rock and a hard place?”

So while we need to push our churches to be more bold and aggressive in how they tackle porn, masturbation, and fidelity, we also need to have enough integrity to push ourselves.

  • We can’t be consumers.
  • We can’t be comfortable.
  • We can’t be content to just be served.
  • We can’t hide our own issues.

We need to lead our leaders to a better way of doing things. 

Change starts with us.

 

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Posted by on May 13, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Porn in The Church: A Wife’s Perspective

When I was growing up I never heard the words sex, porn, addiction, or masturbation in the church.  

I remember feeling alone and like I was going to hell when I started viewing porn in 6th grade when I went to a friend’s. Every Sunday, every retreat, every chance there was an altar call I was up at the front, raising my hand or saying a prayer. 

Never telling anyone about what I had seen. I never asked for help because I was sure I was the only girl in the world that looked at these things.

Thank God I was able to stop on my own at a young age but the images and scenes I watched were etched in my brain forever.

I watched my father who battled with addictions, including sexuality, confide in men at church and then be treated as if he never said anything. No accountability. Don’t ask, don’t tell. 

That is until things became more public than the church wanted and asked him to leave if he didn’t confess in front of the church and stop.  

I watched a Christian ministry I was a part of in college bring in XXXchurch and realized that some churches weren’t afraid to talk about hard things. Through this event, my then fiance told me about his addiction to porn. 

It started to bring things to light for him. Although it brought awareness and a new fight in my fiance to stop, there was no real accountability.  XXXchurch came and went, that Christian ministry never talked about sex or porn again. 

Even in college with other fired-up Christians where many things were talked about… Porn, masturbation, and even sex weren’t discussed.

I watched my now husband confide in amazing men in church. He was vulnerable and open in his battle and was met with blank stares and crickets. It was assumed that since he said he was fighting it, he didn’t need help. 

We moved to the church we attend now and almost cried as one of the Pastors talked about his own struggle with porn in the past. I watched as my husband could no longer keep hidden the dark secrets and confided once again in Christian men.

This time he was well received and given back accountability. 

When I realized I couldn’t go through this alone I reached out to women in our church. They didn’t bash my husband or change their perspective of him. They didn’t brush my feelings under a rug and tell me “no matter what, you stay and be a better wife then he’ll stop.”

Some listened with empathy, hugs, and encouragement from their own stories. Some couldn’t help but be excited about the freedom we were both going to have and the testimony we would have to help other couples get through it. 

We have never felt more hopeful to share uncomfortable things at our church. And with the help of XXXchurch and their recovery programs, we were able to experience true freedom.

My husband had a friend or two who have known about his battle and randomly checked in throughout his life since I’ve been in it but not in the way I would have wanted for him. I know there are people in our lives who pray for us and have never told us. And for that, I am so grateful.

But overall I think many don’t want to ask. It might embarrass them or the person they are asking. It’s uncomfortable. They don’t know how to help. They don’t know how to ask. I get it. 

Until we are able to be vulnerable and talk about hard, uncomfortable, dark things we will never have freedom. The secrets will stay secrets because it will feel like no one else struggles with it in the church. 

It starts with testimony as a leader. Our Lead Pastor is a recovering alcoholic. He openly shares his testimony of sobriety at least once a month. Other pastors have openly shared struggles as well. 

It starts with the church body to face someone’s battles, not brush it under the rug. It took courage to share their fight, their secret. It will now take courage for you to get uncomfortable and continue to be a part of that journey with them. 

It takes small group leaders to create a safe place who aren’t afraid to talk about deep things.

It takes accountability partners reaching out often.

It takes women supporting other women asking how their recovery and their husbands’ recovery is going. 

It takes the spouse that battles to speak out and bring awareness. 

It takes a wife to not be ashamed of what has happened in her marriage and be brave to speak out. 

Because this journey is hard.

Although we have confided in many and shared our story with a few, the whole world doesn’t know. So, even as I write this I have to get over the fear that anyone from our church could read this (not just the ones we chose to confide in), my husband’s or my family could read this. 

And God forbid the community found out. Realizing the fear of not wanting to publish this is a realization of how much more work I have to do in my own life and how many out there are still hesitant to share because of fear. 

As more people get vulnerable and share hard things I can’t help to think a ripple effect will take place. More awareness. More tools. More accountability. More confessions and with that, freedom. 

Some churches have come a long way with hard topics. I have been blessed to watch churches grow in this area. Unfortunately, I know many churches can still be the same as when I was young.

My prayer is that more are partnering with organizations like XXXchurch. That more are bringing freedom and speaking about hard things, even if it is uncomfortable. 

I encourage you to know that sharing your story will break chains. 

When Paul and Silas were in prison they weren’t the only ones who had their chains broken. (Acts 16:16-40) Help be a chain breaker in someone else’s life. 

Create that kind of atmosphere in your church.

It starts with you.

 

 

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Posted by on May 10, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

The Church Needs to Understand This Key Concept

I’ll be honest… I’ve grown up in the church world all my life. Because of that I have formed certain practices, beliefs, and perspectives that have been helpful, and sometimes not so helpful requiring a bit of deconstruction you might say.

Regardless, over the years I’ve interacted with the organizational church and many of its leaders on multiple occasions which admittedly contributed some built up frustrations. 

That being said, I want to reaffirm something I said last week in this post.

“Our goal this month is NOT to bash or hate on the church. Our goal is to challenge the church to strive for better in the way we handle [the topics of porn, masturbation, and sex].”

Which leads me to the point of today’s post…

If we as the church are going to effectively take on the issues of porn addiction and sexual integrity then we need to be far more focused on providing supportive communities than offering curriculums and programs.

Honestly, one thing that is evidently clear from all my years of experience in dealing with “the church” is this: 

They love programs and curriculums.

Want to build a great youth ministry?
What program should we buy or adopt?

Want to increase giving?
What course or platform do we need to offer?

Want to teach people how to be faithful with their finances?
What Dave Ramsey seminar do we need to host?

Want to overcome addiction?
What curriculum do we need to purchase that we can run for 8-10 weeks that will solve everything?

Now understand this doesn’t apply to EVERY church and is a bit of an oversimplification. But, the point is this… 

Many churches are hesitant to jump into the messy world of porn and infidelity unless they have a solid “curriculum” they can couple their efforts to.

I am not saying this because of an uneducated opinion. I am saying this because I have seen it over and over again. 

For instance…

One year ago during the height of the COVID crisis I had a large church reach out to us (Live Free) about our church partner program because their ability to meet in person had been shut down. 

In my conversations with the pastor he mentioned that they were using a “course” that he wasn’t a huge fan of and needed something better along with the ability for his members to meet virtually. 

I told him that we had a great solution that would give them the ability to host meetings and discussions virtually whenever they wanted and also allow them to use any curriculum they ended up deciding on.

The sticking point for them with all this was that the less desirable course/curriculum they were currently using had a nice tightly wrapped format and if they went with us they would still need to find a better education piece plus come up with a strategy for meeting over a set period of time.

I answered his objections by saying that in my opinion what was really needed was an ongoing place where their men could meet that would provide a source of support and encouragement and if they offered THAT… the curriculum and strategy could work itself out later.

Well, they didn’t really like my answer and informed me that they were just going to keep going with the program they didn’t really like and would figure out the ability to meet some other way later. 🤷🏻 

This is just one instance of multiple similar conversations and scenarios that I’ve run into over the years.

The problem of course with putting such an emphasis on curriculum and format or “strategy” is that people who are struggling with this stuff in the dark, in the shadows, crushed by shame, really only care about having someone that understands them. 

In other words… They want a safe, supportive community.

Don’t get me wrong. 

We need to offer solid and helpful education and teaching on these topics.
We should have strategies and not run things half baked.

But if we shy away from providing the most basic need – a place of support and healing – because we don’t have the best program or course picked out we do more harm than good.

The truth is until men and women feel loved, accepted, welcomed and encouraged to bring their messy lives to the table, they won’t engage with your fancy programs anyway.

Because at the end of the day our most basic needs as human beings are connection and safety, not an 8-week study with really great teaching.


BY THE WAY…

If you are a man struggling with these issues and still looking for help and a safe place to begin these conversations, join our upcoming FREE 10 Day Freedom from Porn Challenge that begins May 24th.

Just click HERE to sign up!

 

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