For three years in a row, we did a sermon series at our church called “You Asked For It.” The pastoral team at our church provided a list of 20-25 questions and surveyed our people, asking what they wanted or, in many cases, needed to hear about from God’s Word. The top responses were usually along the lines of hearing God’s voice, how to deal with stress, how do I forgive, etc. However, each year, a question finished at the bottom: “How can I heal from my sexual brokenness?” Nobody wanted to talk about it. It made me think a good sermon series to preach would be “Things You Didn’t Ask for That You Need to Hear.”
Sexual brokenness is more than all around us; it’s something every single one of us deals with, or has dealt with. Rather than sweeping it under the rug, what if we took serious steps to deal with this?
In today’s blog, I’m inviting my good friend Chris Burns, a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, founder of Rewrite Recovery, to help us as pastors know what proper next steps could look like in our churches. Chris Burns is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, and if anyone would like to take this conversation further, you can see how to reach Chris below.
Without further ado, here are some beneficial words from Chris to us.
I often tell men that I work with that if shame were the antidote, everyone that struggled with unwanted sexual behaviors and porn addiction would be cured. Shame is a killer. Addiction, like sin, is both chronic and progressive, which means that it not only persists, it escalates and doesn’t just simply go away.
Porn destroys intimacy, marriages, and lives. Yet, porn is big business — it’s a 97 billion dollar industry. Late last year, the New York Times released a scathing opinion piece shining a light on the very successful PornHub, a website that garners 3.5 million visits a month. Individuals are consuming millions of pornographic images a day, including sexual child abuse and rape of women and girls. This is an insult to the Imago Dei — we are all children of God, created in His image. The church should be on the front lines of this battle, and the battle starts within the church’s walls.
The Conquer Series, a biblical anti-porn ministry, has recorded some shocking statistics regarding porn usage in the church:
• 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn regularly.
• Of young Christian adults 18-24 years old, 76% actively search for porn.
• 59% of pastors said that married men seek their help for porn use.
• Only 13% of self-identified Christian women say they never watch porn – 87% of Christian women have watched porn.
• 33% of women aged 25-and-under search for porn at least once per month.
• 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issue in their congregation.
• 69% of pastors say porn has adversely impacted the church.
• And perhaps one of the saddest statistics listed: only 7% of pastors say their church has a program to help people struggling with pornography.
So, What Can The Church Do?
1. STEP ONE: Recognize the problem (without shaming and judging)
Just like in the first step of the 12 Step Process, we (churches and pastors) need to admit there is a problem; we are powerless over the size and scope of the issue, and it has become entirely unmanageable. This initially looks like speaking openly about the problem — may be starting a small group that focuses on this issue — talking about it in a sermon series — or posting about it on social media. But be conscious about “how” you are speaking about it.
Often, churches will unwittingly shame their congregants, which only pushes the problem deeper into the shadows. Keep in mind the percentages posted above, and remember: most of the people in your church have struggled with this issue at one time or another (including you). If the church isn’t a safe place for individuals to be openly broken, then people will not share and seek healing. So let’s speak the truth to the problem but deliver it with grace.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
— JOHN 1:17
2. STEP TWO: Create a culture of redemption and restoration
You may think, “I do this every Sunday!” I know. Many churches can preach redemption and restoration, but can you see it? Can your church see it? In other words, who are the people that have come in broken and are now transformed by the Spirit? Do you know them? By name? We are called to share our stories of hope and healing, and one of the best ways to let people know that hope can be found in your church is through personal testimony.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
— REVELATION 12:11
You mustn’t rush this process, quickly scrambling to bring people up on the platform or trying to gather video footage of transformed lives. But you will need to be intentional about the process, being both prayerful and mindful of the comfortability level of individuals and respecting the confidentiality/anonymity of people’s stories (which is why you need STEP THREE).
3. STEP THREE: Develop ministries within the church that allow for healing
Let me first say that many churches understand the problem of sexual brokenness and unwanted sexual behavior. Maybe that is you and your church! If so, well done. But unfortunately, many pastors and church leaders feel stuck, out-gunned, and ill-equipped to face the problem. Do you have someone in your church, possibly a volunteer or staff member, that is a licensed therapist? Maybe someone who didn’t necessarily go to seminary but has the training to care for people you trust theologically? If not, find that person. Raise up that person. Dream with them about what a ministry focused on healing would look like in your church. Connect it to the vision of your church and give it a budget. It will be worth it.
Final thoughts: The hope is for the church to create a safe and sacred space where people can come, be known, and heal together in the context of a Christ-centered community. We live in a broken world, and we are all in need of healing and restoration. We know that Jesus is the Healer and the only one capable of restoring us. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, which is a Spirit of Restoration. We see this in Luke 7:21-23:
“At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
— LUKE 7:21-23
Let’s be the church and help some people.
Chris Burns is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. He is also the Healing Minister at theCross, a church in Mount Dora, Florida, where he oversees Restoration Nights, DivorceCare, GriefShare, Life Disciples, and the Stephen Ministry.
In conjunction with his private practice, Chris provides consultation services to pastors and churches in the United States. Are you in the 93% of pastors that say their church has no program to help your congregants struggling with pornography and other addictions? Contact Chris today for his consultation services.