How Do Church Members Fight Porn Addiction Together?

Article
10.30.2018

Most of what you read about fighting pornography will be relegated to one-on-one discipling. By and large, Christians know they should fight this problem. But I’m interested in a different question: what would it mean to fight pornography together? What would it look like to cultivate a culture where leaders and members help one another?

WHAT LEADERS CAN DO

1. What values do leaders establish for their church?

The pastor is the primary culture shaper for his congregation. When your pastor talks about the Christian life, what values does he say are necessary? For example, do you have a church culture where members feel like they can talk about their sin? I recently heard a young man say, “I grew up in a church where talk about sexual sin was hush-hush. You almost never heard about it, and when you did, it was the occasional preaching against sexual immorality.”

Contrast that with leaders who are willing to say: “Be honest about your sin. Confess your sin to other members. Don’t hide it because sin likes to grow in the darkness. Expose it to the light.” Perhaps it shouldn’t be this way, but sinners generally need permission from leaders to be honest about their sin. This is why leaders must establish a church culture where honesty and transparency about sin is cherished.

2. Do leaders model honesty about their struggles?

We live amid a sea of leaders who have struggled with pornography in their past. Why hide this fact? Why not serve as examples (1 Pet. 5:3b) of what it means to go from porn struggler to pastor? Granted, it’s a long road, but strugglers need examples. Wisdom is needed about what to share, and who to share it with. But never sharing this fact doesn’t seem to be an appropriate testament to God’s grace in a pastor’s life.

3. Do leaders equip, educate, and preach about sex?

Pastors should teach a positive, redemptive picture about God’s design for a beautiful sex life. No “hush-hush.” So pastors, are you preaching about God’s purposes and design for sex? Don’t mind the Christians who will wince and squirm when you read from Song of Songs—let them hear it boldly and clearly because it’s God’s Word.

Porn strugglers will have a distorted view of sex. They live for the short-term buzz; they exalt pleasure to a place it doesn’t deserve. So their understanding of sex needs to be rebuilt and redeemed.

4. Do the leaders strategize how to fight this problem?

Because this one issue prevents more men (and some women) from serving in leadership roles than any other sin, our elders strategize how to fight this together. We read, pray, talk, scheme, shepherd, plan, and share best practices. It’s easy to spend most of my time in the trenches with strugglers. But sometimes, I need to step out of the trench and strategize with other “generals” and “captains” of the faith.

If you’re a pastor, what’s your battle plan?

5. Do you pray as a church?

In our Sunday evening services, Mark Dever offers discipling-related prayer requests like, “Let’s pray that we as a church would be willing to ask each other hard questions” or “Let’s pray as a church that we’d confess our sin to each other.”

By sharing these requests, he not only gets us to pray, but as the primary culture shaper of our church, he holds these out as important for the Christian life. It’s as if Mark is saying, “This is what it means to live as a Christian.”

WHAT MEMBERS CAN DO

6. Are church members invested in the lives of other members, including fighting against the hard and nasty things?

As a pastor, I can’t help every porn struggler, nor can I provide accountability for every man who confesses this sin to me. I just don’t have the time, nor do I think this is the best thing for the church. I can’t be a mini-messiah—taking on the sins of my whole church.

It’s much better for our church members to see themselves as responsible for one another. I want a church culture where members seek to do each other spiritual good, where they pursue one another and help each other fight sin together. Unlike my children—who try to play together as a band but ultimately just create a cacophony of sound—a church is different. When church members are invested in one another, it’s like a symphony full of harmony and unity. As the whole church fights together, you start to see what a church should be.

But how does this happen? First of all, you must teach your members to expect to be a part of each other’s lives. And then you must consistently reinforce those expectations after they join and you model for them what it looks like in your own life.

Member-to-member investment involves more than just general discipling (Bible study and prayer). It demands all of life, which sometimes means dealing with nasty and hard things like pornography addiction.

If members are going to be involved with strugglers, they’ve got to ask themselves: Am I willing to sacrifice my time to help this young man or woman? Do I know where to go in Scripture? Do I know how to convey hope when he or she is hopeless? Am I willing to pick up the phone when they’re tempted to sin again? What will I do when they confess sexual sin for the twentieth time?

7. Do your church members model transparency about their struggles?

If the leaders are honest, then church members are more likely to be honest. I love pointing to examples in our church of Christians who have fought this fight, and by God’s grace and their own vigilance they’ve maintained a degree of victory in the fight.

8. Do your church members know what to do if someone confesses to them?

Steven didn’t know what to do. A young man had confessed his sexual sin to him, but he didn’t know what questions to ask, where to probe, or how to press into his sin.

I assume situations like this are quite common. That’s why the most basic thing we can do for our members is help them to get into the trenches with struggling members. A simple “I’ll pray for you” just isn’t enough.

Simply put, we must train our members to be more effective disciplers. How do we do this? Sometimes it involves teaching, maybe even specific strategies on how to fight pornography. But usually, we do this by modeling.

For example, I don’t meet with porn strugglers by myself anymore. I ask the discipler to come to our meeting. Why is that? As I ask questions of the struggler, probe his heart, and apply Scripture, the discipler watches me (the pastor) and learns just by being in the room with us. The discipler sees and learns things that just can’t be reproduced through a book or a training course.

Here’s my challenge to you: Talk over these eight questions with your pastors—or your entire leadership team, including your deacons. Pick a few of your members and include them, too, to see how you measure up. But don’t stop there. Take active steps to start cultivating a culture where your church can fight pornography together.