Jeff Fisher: What Sexual Strugglers Wish Their Pastors Knew
By Ella Chan
You can be a great help to the sexual strugglers in your congregation. You don't have to be a trained counselor or sexual expert, but it helps to understand what they are thinking, what they don't need and where to find good resources.
I hope these insights will help you step into the shoes of a sexual struggler. I have felt them, and the men and ministers I work with have felt them.
1. My roots go deep - Every person who struggles sexually has a history. There may be abuse. He may come from a sexually repressed family or sexually liberal family. He may come from a strong Christian family but never talked about sex in a health way. Peer pressure, unmet needs, past sexual experiences, failures, or the condition of their marriage could all have an effect on why a person is acting out sexually.
2. My true needs are being met in wrong ways - What deep needs does the struggler have that he's trying to meet in unhealthy ways? Yes, he has a need for God, but what specifically is he longing for? It might be the need to be loved, accepted, understood, fulfilled, respected, or appreciated. It might be a need for companionship or a need for intimacy. The minister needs to know unmet needs drive addictions, and the addict has discovered sexual pleasure makes him feel like these needs are being met.
Great resource for understanding the deep needs of the sexual struggler: Seven Desires of Every Heart by Mark Laaser
3. I have tried to stop, many times - The sexual struggler doesn't understand the bondage he is in. He knows he needs to stop and has tried hundreds of times. He's made promises to himself and God. He's prayed and repented, but doesn't know how to conquer it. He doesn't know that he can't do it on his own. He doesn't understand the importance of sharing his secrets and confessing his sin (James 5:16). He doesn't know that he is damaged and needs others to help him slowly through it. Telling a struggler stop or replace his behavior isn't enough.
4. More religious actions won't help (yet) - Bible reading, prayer, fasting, memorization are keys to recovery. But many who are struggling are already doing these things. They are in bondage to sexual sin. A stronghold has taken hold. Books from Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis are fine, but suggest them later.
Right now, the man who struggles needs to confess, bring things into the light and repent. He needs the elders of the church to pray over him and walk him back to Jesus (Galatians 6:1-2). He has hardened his heart and has no idea how far away his heart has strayed.
5. I need someone to "get in the mud" with me - Some react to a sexual struggler like he has H1N1. We offer trite expressions and dismiss the person saying, "I'll pray for you.", or "Wow, I'm sorry you're struggling with that." A sexually broken person doesn't need sympathy, he needs empathy. He needs people to get in the trenches with him. He is sick, crippled, paralyzed, and unable to "man up" and work through his struggles. If you treat the sexual addict like you would someone who's just been in a tragic car accident you'll be on the right track.
6. A lecture, threat, or scolding is not going to help me - The sexual struggler is already wrestling with the Shame Monster. Don't bring more shame on him. Don't bring condemnation or blast with how unrighteous he is acting. He knows that.
7. I need skilled help - Some ministers are helpful to the sexual struggler and can help them with the initial layers of recovery. But a minister needs to know his limits, both in skill and in time commitment. Find a Christian counselor who specializes in sexual issues. Find an older or more experienced person in the church that can help disciple the struggler. Help them find a Christ-centered support group.
- Help them search for Christian counselors: HERE
- Help them find a Celebrate Recovery group (Christian support group): HERE
- Help them learn how to search for help on Google with these tips: HERE
8. I need resources - Sexual strugglers don't know where to turn for help. They have used their computers for finding porn, not for finding help. Now you can help them! Do some leg work. Help them find websites, phone numbers, podcasts, books, counseling programs, support groups, and live-in programs. Connect them with the others who are experienced.
Show them this large list of resources on our Porn to Purity site: HERE
9. I'm not a leper - It's not hard for someone in bondage to sexual sin to feel condemned. They do a good job condemning themselves! Ministers can protect sexual strugglers from being labeled and ostracized. Helpful churches know we all have sin, and sometimes get into bondage to sin. With one hand we must deal with sin seriously and with discipline. The other hand must reach into the mud with love and grace and mercy to help those of us that are sick.
YOU CAN BE A HELP AND NOT A HINDERANCE
In my journey toward sexual purity I have sought the help and support of several ministers. Some have responded in a negative, hurtful ways, or didn't know how to respond. Others have been positive, loving, supportive, and helped me find the help I needed. The ministers who have helped me the most were not clinically trained. They had good listening ears, and were able to look beneath the surface to see a child of God who was hurting, broken, and in bondage to sin.
About Jeff Fisher
Jeff Fisher is a minister, blogger and podcaster from Raleigh, NC. He is a graduate of Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth and pastored churches in Texas and New York. Deep recovery began for Jeff when his pornography addiction caused him to lose his ministry position. For the first time, he began discovering the sexual health that God intended for him and for his marriage.
Jeff and his wife Marsha run Porn To Purity, a site designed to offer hope, encouragement, and resources to individuals and couples struggling with sexual sin. His podcast "Top Tips For Sexual Purity Podcast" can be found on I-Tunes. Jeff is a regular writer for XXXChurch.com and CovenantEyes.com.
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