Is God calling you?
The need out there is overwhelming, so more ministries will be essential to help people who are struggling with sexual or pornography addiction. As scary as it is, there is an elephant in the room and someone has to take it on.
60 to 65% of men and about 90% of teens are struggling with this in your church. Why pretend it’s not a problem?
(Ps: If you are struggling you will need to start with yourself before you try and facilitate healing for others. If there is no safe group in the church then don’t let that hinder you from starting a group with yourself as a participant, because we all had to start somewhere).
Consider the following now famous quote adapted from the US justice department:
Never before in the history of telecommunications media has so much indecent and obscene material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many homes with so few restrictions
Who will help those crying out in their pain? Who will reach out to the teens who are being barraged daily and are at their wits end when it comes to personal purity? If you start this ministry you may have many more desperate people attending your church, but understand that this is not a new gimmick for church growth. We are dealing with people’s souls and deepest hurts. This problem is so widespread now that if healing is to come to churches and especially the younger generation, we have to deal with the issue in a different way. Christian counsellors and therapists will be needed for support and specialisation, but the only answer is ultimately the church rising up as a redemptive community.
On a practical level a church can run a program or churches can network and run a program together, which is the most effective strategy for smaller churches. But the bottom line is this. We have to have the courage to take this on.
If healing is to come to churches and especially to the younger generation we have to deal with these issues in a different way
Essentially, recovery ministry should become a natural part of the ministry of a church and not the central ministry or a special group within a church that alienates others. Inner healing ministries have at times caused a lot of hurt because they elevated themselves to a special status within a church, when they should just have been there for others. No one should join a group out of compulsion or coercion and we always have to guard against categorizing or labeling people as “healed” or unhealed”, “broken” or “unbroken.”
Putting some foundations in place
It’s really important to have a few foundations in place for people to experience healing, freedom and restoration.
Guard against categorizing or labeling people as “healed” or “unhealed”, “broken” or “unbroken”
There are also a number of principles to follow for small groups and legal requirements to bear in mind for the sake of the safety of the church.
Firstly, there has to be a careful balance between grace and truth for effective ministry to those battling sexual addiction. “Grace and truth’ came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1: 17). And for the cornerstone of grace to reign there need’s to be the following underlying sense in the church for this ministry to flourish. (If you cannot get this right you will never have an effective healing ministry for sexually broken people).
- God as Father
In Luke 11 we read that Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he had finished one of the disciples asked him: “Lord, teach us to pray just, as John taught his disciples. He said to them. When you pray say ‘Father'” (1 – 2). This is phenomenal. How as a believer do you address the LORD God almighty, the LORD of hosts, the Holy one of Israel, El Shaddai, the one who says “I am who I am.”? You say Father. In fact like Jesus, we can now say Abba (Daddy) Father (Galatians 4: 6 – 7).
It’s not a surprise that Jesus would say this, since most of the wounds addicted people carry are as a result of a deep “father wound.” It can be a “mother wound”, but often it’s a father wound. Their earthly fathers mostly tried their best in terms of their own upbringing, but they often failed when it came to them being emotionally available to their sons and daughters. Perhaps they never called their daughters out and affirmed them deeply.
Most of the wounds addicted people carry are as a result of a deep “father wound.”
Or they never mentored and walked with their sons teaching them how to do life and how to have relationships. It could have been so much worse for you. Sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, violence. This is not about blaming mom and dad or anyone else, but about understanding and acknowledging the pain of the past so that you can move into experiencing the abundant life in the future. In Luke 15 in the story of the prodigal Son we have this picture of God the Father that is stunning. He is emotionally strong. He gives his son the choice, knowing that he his son had already isolated inwardly himself from the family when he asked for his inheritance to be paid out. Notice: This father could have gone into “rescuer-enabler” mode and brought his son back because he had influence and he had money. But he knew that the son had to come to the end of himself. Yet the father was spring steel. He never gave up on his son and when he saw the first signs of repentance he ran to his son and threw his arms around him.
Our Father in heaven is emotionally strong and never gives up on us
Yes, our Father is the Holy One of Israel, he is Almighty and he has called us to glorify him. But we can only love because he first loved us (1 John 4: 19). We have to learn to live in his love. Despite what we may think about God in Old Testament, we never see God giving up on his people or rejecting them. Read through Jeremiah 30 till 33 and you will see the prodigal’s Father. His Son did not have to have perfect repentance to be brought in for the celebration. The Father was waiting ready to receive and restore and bless him. he allowed him to experience painful consequences, but he was ready to restore and bless him. God is not there with a big stick ready to chase us around the garden and beat us up like a rageaholic dad. He is there to walk with us. He has given us the Holy Spirit, his own personal presence, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Father. He is ready to restore and heal us. His heart is to teach us and mentor us out of addiction.
Perfect repentance is not required, just a heart turned towards home
If we can get this right in terms of God’s unmerited favor we will see that grace is so much more that just us getting what we don’t deserve. It’s the reign of grace. It is unmerited favor and restoration and blessing and vocation. It is the New Covenant. “For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through the one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5: 17). For any small group recovery work to be effective we have to have this foundation in place. It is not a pressure group, it is learning to be healed by the Grace of the Father.
When we make poor choices, we can only break the shame and power of addiction by sharing openly our struggle with the group. And we can only do that if the group is a safe place and we realise that our value is not in our performance.
- Truth and accountability in Small groups
Secondly, there is the element of truth. There are legal requirements which highlight the need for truth. There has to be safety and confidentiality in the group. Participants will need to sign forms agreeing to the terms and conditions of participation. These are available in all the Pure Desire materials. In fact this is the basis of any fiduciary relationship that a pastor will have with the parishioners. Confidentiality and safety.
There have to be boundaries in place
A group leader also has obligations in terms of mandatory reporting, so know the laws of your State. A ministry like this has to be clearly promoted as Biblical and not as a therapy group. Because if a leader is not a registered as a therapist or a psychologist and gives advice which is then supposed to be psychological expertise, it can leave a church open to civil claims if something goes wrong in the counselling. We may use clinical tools but it is promoted as Biblically based support group and not a secular therapy group.
How far must healing be to get involved in ministry again?
Then, depending on where people are at in terms of their healing, they may or may not be released back into some form of ministry and this is where wisdom to implement boundaries is required. This should not be too soon because it is natural to find our worth in doing rather than being. There is no “one size fits all” rule however. Someone who has had issues with children cannot be allowed to work with children again and needs to respect those boundaries. The atmosphere of a church must be kept safe for all who are involved and attend.
The leadership must be the ones making a decision whether a person in their church is ready to be involved again
The leadership must be the ones making a decision under Christ whether a person in their church should be getting involved again. Someone who has acted out with a worship team member cannot expect to be playing in worship again after a few months just because they started recovery. On the other hand we don’t exclude those who have struggled, yet have not had a pattern of acting out with a person or viewing child pornography and have been on a solid healing journey for some time. It’s really about weighing the context, the gravity and the consequences of sin and seeing the person’s heart, their repentance and where they are at in terms of recovery and maturity.
Recovery must be based on the combination of grace and truth
In addition, because recovery is based on complete openness and honesty in working through the recovery material, it is vital that a group leader has experienced victory in this area. It is not helpful if the leader is on the same level as the participants and is struggling and relapsing and is doing the ministry for personal healing. He or she does not have to be perfect, but they need to have experienced victory over at least a period of two to three years, so as to effectively lead others in the journey.(The exception is if there is no one who has been through recovery – then you simply have to start, perhaps with the Pastor helping out if he has a good grasp of grace).
“Therefore, the church of the future, if it is to be effective, must become a place of practical grace – Ted Roberts
It’s walking a fine line, in which on the one hand the leader can be vulnerable, without communicating hopelessness or being codependent on the group, and on the other hand being completely closed or ministering in such a way that he or she seems completely perfect and does not have a struggle in the world.This puts them on a ridiculous religious pedestal. You have to learn to be real without being needy or making it about your healing. This needs to be kept in mind in ministering to others. Ted Roberts has some profound words to say in this regard:
“Therefore, the church of the future, if it is to be effective, must become a place of practical grace. It must be a place where hope is the dominant theme, and denial and religious pretending is nowhere in sight. And that’s a challenge for those in leadership, because personal vulnerability is the key issue. Leadership must be characterized by personal honesty that is open and forthright about their own struggles, yet at the same time able to speak from personal experience of the overwhelming victory available in Christ.” (From the book “Pure Desire”)