Over the past few years, I’ve been in a fortunate position to be able to minister to many men locally and across the United States who struggle with an addiction to pornography. Pornography is a huge issue inside and outside the church. Based on the things I’ve learned in ministry, here are four keys to helping men who struggle with pornography.
Build a Relationship
Chances are, only those who know you will open up to you about their porn addiction. As the Lord has expanded my ministry and speaking on this topic, He’s opened doors to minister to people I don’t know. It takes longer for me to help people I don’t have a prior relationship with than people I know locally. I have had to be more intentional to learn their histories and why they struggle. Asking about their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, and even what makes them tick sets you up for a more effective ministry relationship. Engage in polite conversation and build a friendship with the person you’re trying to help.
Speak the Truth in Love
Once you’ve gotten to know the person by learning about their personal history and struggle, you can speak the truth to them in love (Eph. 4:15). This can take many different forms, but it always means being faithful to Jesus by preaching the Word of God. Let’s use Joe as an example. Joe struggles with a chronic addiction to pornography. His marriage is in shambles. In this situation, I want to help Joe understand that the root of his pornography addiction is idolatry. Jesus took his place and died for his sin of idolatry. Through Christ, Joe can be free and put his sin to death.
Joe needs to understand his porn addiction is hurting his wife. When he views porn, he told me he takes off his ring. I asked him, “Do you love your wife and seek to honor your vows?” He wants to honor his vows, but often feels so overwhelmed for looking at things he knows he shouldn’t. Sometimes, he’s just so tired of the struggle that he gives up and stops fighting.
In the midst of Joe’s struggle, Jesus, the sympathetic High Priest who lived a perfect life, died in his place and rose again. Joe needs to learn he is not alone when he struggles. Jesus is there with him even when he’s looking at porn. He can turn to Jesus and trust that He will see him safely out of his struggle.
When ministering to people with sexual addictions, I’ve often dealt with Christians who know some of the answers. However, knowing the right answers isn’t the goal of theology. Yes, it’s a first step, but not the ultimate step. We step into godly maturity when we know the right answers and apply those answers to our lives (James 1:22).
In Joe’s story, he needs to know his sin affects his relationship with his wife. He also needs to understand the nature of God. Jesus sees his struggle and knows his heart. An omniscient, omnipresent God serves as his sympathetic, sinless High Priest and advocates for him before the Father (Heb. 4:14-16). Sadly, Joe doesn’t see this yet, which is why we’re going to move to the next step—confronting Joe in love.
Confront in Love
I met with Joe again to talk about his struggle. Today, we discuss real biblical knowledge. Joe nods his head to acknowledge what I’m saying. Real biblical knowledge isn’t just in the head, it moves from our heads to our hearts and results in life change (James 1:22; 2:14-26). In other words, believing sound doctrine leads to right living (1 Tim. 4:16).
Joe is slowly starting to realize that he has been, as James says, a hearer of the word only and not a doer (James 1:22). As we talk more, he shares his sorrow for how his addiction has affected his relationship with God and his wife. Sorrow for sin is a good start, but feeling sorry isn’t enough—he needs to turn from his sin to Jesus. True repentance is sorrow for sin and turning from our sin to Jesus.
As our time ends, I encourage Joe with the real progress he’s made. We’ll continue to meet, but he also needs to share about his struggle honestly with God and other men around him. I encourage him to get Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering to block his access to sites that will cause him to stumble.
I once again emphasize to him that he doesn’t struggle with temptation alone that Jesus is there and will always provide a way out when he experiences temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). I also tell him when he feels tempted to walk away from the computer. Joe and I plan another session to meet and talk and continue on meeting until he no longer struggles with an addiction to pornography.
There are various stages to confronting in love. First, we always speak the truth in love by remaining faithful to the truth of Scripture (Eph. 4:15). Second, we need to understand what the person is saying about their struggle. If we assume what the person we’re speaking to means and then speak before we gain understanding, our advice will likely be, at best, shallow and, at worst, wrong.
Asking lots of questions is important. We should also ask clarifying questions after someone we’re working with states something we feel is important. Only then we can speak the truth in love. After a while, (perhaps a few sessions) or as you’re feeling led (but please give it time) confront them.
Your first time confronting the person you’re counseling should be very gracious. You should point out what you’ve been talking about and how you don’t see them implementing principles you’ve discussed into their lives. After a while, though, it might become obvious they aren’t as serious. It then becomes important to get a little sterner.
Throughout this process, please be sure you are praying for the person. In fact, you should open and close each session in prayer. Confronting the person isn’t to ridicule and beat them up. Instead, it’s to love them with the love of Jesus and to point out how they are living is contrary to what they say they believe. It’s also important when ministering to people struggling with addictions that there are clear expectations for both parties, along with clear boundaries, and to assign some “homework” for them to be working on for your next meeting.
Throughout my conversation with Joe, I’ve emphasized the work of the Gospel. I learned through my own struggle and victory over an addiction to pornography that Jesus is the only way to freedom. Jesus sets the captives free (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18). He is our sympathetic High Priest who now serves as our Advocate before the Father. We need to emphasize who God is, what He expects of His creatures, who Jesus is, and what He has done in His death, burial, and resurrection.
I’ve found these four principles to be extremely helpful to use in my ministry to men addicted to pornography. I hope they expand your “tool belt” as you have an opportunity to minister to those struggling with pornography too.
This article first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Theology for Life. To download this issue please click here.