Right now I am meeting with six men in an intentional discipleship format. The goals and efforts in each of these relationships are different, depending on the person.
One young man is considering seminary, so we are reading and discussing our way through a systematic theology. With a husband and father, we are studying gospel-centered marriages and parenting. With a young man trying to choose a career path, we are looking at God’s Word to see what it says about discovering and using our gifts for God’s glory.
Each of these discipleship relationships is different. But what they all have in common is that each of them began with them coming to talk to me about their addiction to pornography, and asking me to help keep them accountable.
Something Wonderful Out of Something Ugly
God is doing something wonderful in our church to overrule the rampant pornography that has at times invaded even our most closely guarded homes and hearts. Men and boys who previously wrestled with how to connect with one another, be transparent with one another, or even see the need for discipleship—including myself—have come to see, through the horrific plague of pornography, our need for God’s help, our need for God’s Word, and our need for each other.
As horrible as any sin is, and as terribly as it ravages our own soul and hurts others, if that sin is used by God to humiliate us, to break us, and to draw us to himself it then becomes an encouraging example of how God works beautiful good out of our ugly messes.
If the near-spiritual-death of pornography addiction is used to open up conversations in your church about how to love Christ more, know Christ more, and serve Christ better, then God may bring something wonderful out of ugliness for you also.
More Than Mere Accountability
The problem of pornography is nothing less than an epidemic. Any pastor or leader in a church who pretends to himself that his congregation is not affected by it is doing just that: pretending.
It is crucial that every church establish, and publish, some way to address this sin in their midst. Messages from the pulpit that merely condemn it, and shame anyone participating in it, will not be effective. While God’s Word does condemn all sexual sin, it also offers healing and forgiveness from all sexual sin. Every church ought, therefore, to reflect this biblical offer by encouraging counseling, accountability, and help for anyone who has been taken captive to pornography.
However, my plea is that you do not stop at mere accountability. Do not be satisfied with “putting off” pornography, without also striving to “put on” explosive spiritual growth. The deep void that pornography promises to fill, but never does, is a void that can only be filled by growing in relationship and service to Jesus Christ.
Don’t always play defense against pornography. Go on the offense against every sin issue, by allowing the dreadful feebleness and failure to drive you to Christ for strength.
From Accountability To Discipleship
The blessing of accountability, in relation to pornography specifically, is that it lets a person know they are not alone in their struggle, that they can speak freely to someone when they fail, and that victory over this sin is possible.
But that is not enough. What we want every believer to internalize is the biblical expectation of spiritual growth, not merely spiritual survival. This sin—like any other occasion for repentance—is an opportunity to run to God like never before. It is an occasion to recommit our souls to utter dependence on Christ, to utter devotion to his Word, and thereby discover the joys of the utterly surrendered life of faith.
When you first come in contact with a person who is suffering from pornography usage, they may not immediately be mature enough, or emotionally steady enough, to talk discipleship. Biblical hope for the next day, for the next step, is what they need. But as you continue to meet with a person, and see the fruit of the Spirit born in their life, don’t settle for accountability. Think discipleship.
Tell the person that you don’t just want to merely be their “counselor,” or their “accountability partner.” You want to be their friend; you want to be their brother in Christ. And this is what Christians do for each other—they disciple one another. They openly and intentionally admit their faults to each other, yes, but they also consistently provoke each other toward more and more Christ-likeness.
“Would you be willing to continue meeting with me, even though you may feel the crisis with pornography is passed? Because I would like for us to encourage each other toward explosive spiritual growth, for years to come.” I’ve never had anyone say no to this offer.