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3 Things Women Want You To Know About Their Addiction to Pornography
As someone who serves in ministry with my own history of struggling with pornography, women often pour out their stories to me with a sigh of relief. While sitting on my living room couch, Jessica shared her struggle with porn: I was exposed to pornography as a first grader by a childhood friend. I had no idea the lasting effects it would have on me as I got older. While I didn't understand what it was or why it was bad, I innately felt that it was wrong—that alone filled me with shame. Shame followed me through my life until, for the first time, I heard another woman share that she struggled with it too. That defeated the biggest lie I was believed: that I was in this alone. There are many women in your church who have similar stories to Jessica. Some may sit next to you on a Sunday and others may be leading Bible studies—they all worry that someone will find out about their secret. I’ve had women from across the spectrum confess their struggle to me, from new believing college students to experienced church leaders. Sadly, the influence of porn in the church is almost as dominant as it is in the world. The secular world is speaking out and telling women that watching porn is okay. Yet, the church often remains silent (or only addresses the issue with men). If the church will not talk to women who struggle with porn or create safe spaces for women to talk about it, then one of two things will happen: 1) Women will continue to think that watching porn is okay or 2) Women will think that something must be incredibly wrong with them because no one is talking about it. Porn is on the internet, in TV shows and movies, and even in romance novels. Porn is addictive, accessible, affordable, and anonymous—the perfect combination to make it extremely dangerous. Watching porn is a secret sin that no one has to know about—which is one of the reasons porn has such a grip on women. Women can look at porn on their phones from the comfort of their living rooms or read erotica from a kindle on an airplane and no one would ever know. Porn addictions in the lives of men and women have differences and similarities. Women are more likely to start with “soft porn” and then move toward “hard porn.” Soft porn is usually not as graphic or explicit, but its goal is still to arouse. Examples of soft porn include erotica, romance novels, romantic movies, TV shows, sexting, and online chat rooms. (Soft porn today was actually hard core porn years ago.) Women are more likely to search for “romantic porn” and “popular with women,” and men are more likely to search for “aggressive porn” (although statistics from major porn sites show that women are viewing more aggressive porn than ever before). The purity movement has previously said that men are more visual than women. Research is showing that this gender stereotype may not be true. A recent study found that “at least at the level of neural activity… the brains of men and women respond the same way to porn.”1 Both men and women are impacted by porn and can become addicted to porn. Pornographic images affect both men’s and women’s brains and condition them to want more. As Christian leaders, we must begin to change the way we talk about the struggle with porn. Porn is not “just a guy’s problem.” Porn is a human problem. The number of women watching pornography increases each year. In 2016 and 2017, the number of women watching porn was around 26% worldwide on the largest porn site. By the end of 2018, the percentage of women viewers increased by 3%, meaning almost 3 out of every 10 consumers were female. The following year, from 2018-2019, women visitors increased another 3% from the previous year to represent 32% of the porn consumers. For 2020, this site has yet to release their statistics. What do all of these statistics tell us? More women are increasingly watching more porn each year. Pornography is everywhere, and an addiction can start innocently or even by accident. Once it becomes part of a woman’s life, it sinks deeper and deeper into the dark places of her soul. It may seem exciting or stimulating in the beginning, but ultimately pornography objectifies sex and makes it inconsequential and meaningless. It poisons relationships by teaching us to objectify each other. Porn triggers changes in women’s bodies that become addictive and harmful. It may lead to other sin and, worst of all, it moves women away from God’s love. Shame continues the cycle of addiction, forcing a woman to keep her addiction a secret. If she keeps her pain to herself, she may never find freedom or accountability. Eventually, porn may no longer fulfill her desires. Like with drug addiction, the addict will turn to bigger and harder products. The list of sex addictions goes on and on and points us away from God’s design for sex. Once we understand that women struggle too, then we can provide recovery tools for healing. Here are three things women who struggle with pornography want you to know: We need to hear about your own sexual brokenness. Juli Slattery often says that we are all sexually broken. When leaders understand this concept and share from a humble place, they will create a safe place for others to share their stories. With vulnerability, share your story first. Porn addicts keep their stories to themselves, which builds shame in their hearts and gives Satan power. Even if you have never struggled with sexual addiction, begin the conversation and authentically share the struggles from your life. All believers have gone from death to life through the power of the gospel. Your vulnerability will help women confess their addictions and find freedom.   We need you to know that women struggle too. While in seminary at Dallas Theological Seminary, I was the Graduate Teaching Assistant for a class called Sexuality and Ethics. One week we had the students read different articles written by women about pornography. Almost 90% of the students (who were in seminary to become pastors, ministers, or counselors) said that they had no idea women struggled with pornography! Once leaders understand the vastness of this issue, then we can begin to educate others. (By the way, this starts with parents and their children—sons and daughters! Children can access sexually explicit images at younger and younger ages. We need to help parents talk to their kids about sex and set up internet filters like Covenant Eyes.) Ministers need to understand the rise of pornography among women and learn how to have meaningful conversations with women about God’s design for sexuality. Let’s focus on changing hearts, not behaviors. Telling a woman to pray more or do more is simply a spiritual Band-Aid. It won’t heal her heart. A woman addicted to porn most likely uses it as a coping mechanism. If we fix the outward behavior and fail to tend to her heart, then the woman will create a new coping mechanism or a new addiction. The cycle will go on and on.   We need you to point us to Jesus. How do you break a cycle of addiction? Point her to Jesus. Only Jesus can heal women from pain, free them from addiction, and release them from darkness. Take the pressure off yourself. In our ministries, we preach the good news of Jesus—the redemption of the cross. Jesus died to redeem lives. He died for men and for women. He died for porn addicts. Jesus came to break every chain—every single chain, even porn addiction in women. There is a bigger picture of God’s design for sexuality. God created us as sexual beings, and our sexual desires are a good gift from Him! Using porn to steward this gift will cause more pain and more problems. The good news is that we can help women steward this gift well. Isaiah 61:3 says Jesus came “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” We worship a God who redeems and restores our broken sexuality! Let’s begin to include women in our conversations about pornography so that they can begin a journey to freedom. Join me in going first so that others can go second. If you'd like to learn more about navigating these sensitive topics with others, join us May 3-6, for Equip, a digital summit for Christian leaders to learn how to have gospel-centered conversations around sexuality. You'll hear from some of the most respected Christian voices on topics related to sexuality, like Jonathan Daugherty, Sean McDowell, Mary DeMuth, Preston Sprinkle, Dr. Doug Rosenau, Sam Allberry and more. There will be daily, live Q&A panels for you to get your questions answered. Whether you’re in full-time ministry, or a parent or lay leader who wants to disciple others, this digital event is for you. Register today for Equip! 1 Mitricheva et al., “Neural Substrates of Sexual Arousal Are Not Sex Dependent.” Photo by John Mark Smith on Unsplash
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4 Things To Remember If Someone You Care About Is "Deconstructing"
“I don’t believe in God anymore. At least not in the God I heard about in church.” Have you heard someone you love make this statement? Have you read similar declarations from people you once admired? According to the Barna institute, this trend is likely to continue. The younger generations are asking questions their parents never thought to consider—questions about gender, happiness, what it means to be human, equality, and what is “fair.” These questions push against traditional biblical teaching and sometimes lead to “deconstructing” from Christianity.  You can find podcasts, churches, books, and conferences now organized around the trend of deconstruction from biblical Christianity. Some who have gone through this process deny God altogether while others embrace a progressive form of Christianity that rejects the authority of Scripture and the supremacy of God as Lord and King.  Perhaps the only thing more discouraging than witnessing a Christian leader fall away is watching it happen with someone you love. A child. A sibling. A spouse. I recently heard from a young man desperate to save his wife and his marriage: “After two years of marriage, my wife is questioning everything! I don’t know who I am married to anymore. We actually met at a missions conference, and our relationship has been built around God. Where do I turn for help?” While a person’s relationship with God must be personally navigated, family and friends around them can be an important piece of coming back to God within that struggle.  Here are four critical things to remember if you find yourself or someone you love in the midst of “deconstructing.”    We all regularly deconstruct.  About every other year, I read through the entire Bible. Right now, I’m in the book of Numbers. Practically every day of studying the Old Testament Law, I hit something that causes me to feel a tension. I wonder how a loving God would allow that to happen? And why did God treat men so differently than He treated women? I wrestle to understand the God of the Old Testament in light of the love of Jesus.  Events in my life also cause me to re-examine my faith. The most effective Christian servant I know is diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 50. I see a severely disabled child and wonder why God would allow such brokenness in a human life.  In psychology, we call these experiences cognitive dissonance. It is the stress that results when we encounter something that doesn’t fit with our held beliefs. Cognitive dissonance is a normal part of human life, whether you are an atheist or committed Christian. The atheist must wrestle with the evidence of redemption in a person’s life (like Kanye West), every supernatural miracle they hear about, and deeper questions about why the universe has such complexity and order. As the Bible says, all of creation declares that there is a God.  We all experience continual minor deconstructions of what we believe. The question is not whether we will deconstruct, but where we turn for truth in the rebuilding process.   Dissonance doesn’t go away if it is ignored.  Sometimes in our own anxiety, we refuse to entertain someone else’s unsettling questions. We don’t want to hear about our child’s doubts or our friend’s anger toward God. Instead of listening and validating, we tend to answer gut-wrenching questions with empty platitudes. Doing this pushes people further into the realm of doubt. If the Christians they know can’t handle their questions, then maybe God can’t either.  Job is one big study in cognitive dissonance that could have led to Job walking away from His faith. His wife likely did. Job’s friends tried to explain away the hard questions and even criticized Job for asking them. Yet God was quiet as Job wrestled, knowing that this would be part of Job’s journey toward a deeper spiritual maturity.  The best way to deal with the anxiety of cognitive dissonance is to acknowledge it and hit it head on. Instead of ignoring or explaining away dissonance, embrace it. Just yesterday, I spoke with a young woman wrestling with disillusionment with Christians. She said something like, “How can Christianity be true if the Christians are critical and rejecting while my unbelieving friends are loving and accepting?” This is a valid reason why many young people permanently deconstruct from Christianity. They care about justice and love far more than they care about theology.  We must get comfortable with these conversations instead of shutting them down with a Bible verse. People deconstruct from Christianity when their questions are continually ignored or simplistically addressed. There is a time to talk about Scripture and God’s character, but it is often after listening and simply sitting with someone’s doubts and pain. The journey may be a long one. Be committed to walking it.    Shallow theology cannot withstand deep pain.  While people have always deconstructed from Christianity (or fallen away from faith), research indicates that we are seeing an accelerated trend. Barna’s studies additionally suggest that those who fall away today are less likely to return to their belief in God in the future. While there are many factors that contribute to this pattern, perhaps the greatest is that many Christians have a shallow understanding of theology. For many, reading the Bible means snacking on devotionals that promote a prosperity gospel Jesus who wants them to find personal happiness. In order to make Christianity more attractive to seekers, pastors and writers focus on Christian positivity, ignoring any teaching on human depravity, hell, judgment, eternal life, and the holiness of God. When trials hit, it’s no wonder that Christians question what they have been taught about God.  As a freshman in college, I took an Old Testament survey class that blew my mind. I had grown up in church and knew the Bible, but had never seen how the whole story fit together before this class. The prophets and the OT Law just seemed like obscure ancient history. A gifted teacher opened my eyes to see how what I didn’t understand about God fit within what I knew about Him.  The older generation of Christians (like me!) need to learn from young Christians about love, compassion, and inclusion. But we also need to be the teachers and mentors who unfold the treasures and puzzles of Scripture that have been ignored by feel-good devotionals and sermonettes. Cognitive dissonance begs for answers. Often those answers are not explaining, “Here is why God allows pain,” but modeling how “God’s plan is much greater than we understand.”   Faith means embracing mystery.  John chapter six records a time when many of Jesus’ disciples abandoned Him. Jesus had taught something that offended them and created a cognitive dissonance that they refused to work through. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked, “Will you also leave me?” Peter replied, “Where else will we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life.” In his perplexity, Peter returned by faith to what he knew to be true, with the willingness to sit with an unanswered mystery. We see similar events in the journey of Paul, John the Baptist, David, and Mary. Hebrews 11, often referred to as the “hall of fame of faith” tells of many who journeyed by faith, believing what they could not explain or see.   Christian writers like A.W. Tozer, St. John of the Cross, and Brother Lawrence are often referred to as “Biblical mystics” because they went beyond studying the words of Scripture and ventured into the mysteries of God. The Scriptures “set the table” for us to ponder and experience a God who is beyond understanding. For us to know God will ultimately mean leaving the security of words on a page and grappling with a Being who defies our own reasoning. Every one of us must continually “deconstruct” from who we think God to be in order for us to approach the mysteries of who He actually is. Discipleship means not only embracing dissonance, but at times even inviting it.  The trend of deconstructing truth is heart-breaking. None of us want to see those we love or respect reject Jesus, particularly once they have walked with Him! Yet we must recognize the opportunity to love each other in the midst of pain, doubt, and disappointment. Questions can be either the end of belief in God or the catalyst to a mature faith in Him. May we be filled with God’s grace to meet friends in their struggle and with His wisdom to remind them that Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.    Follow up: Every Christian leader must be equipped to wade into these difficult and painful waters with the compassion and truth of Jesus. Whether you are in full-time ministry or a lay leader, join us for Equip, a digital summit for those who want to have gospel-centered conversations sexual topics. Photo by Canva
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Reader's Corner: "Understanding Sexual Abuse" by Tim Hein
My first response after reading this book was,“This guy doesn’t waste a word!” In 182 pages, Tim Hein addresses some of the most pressing and complex issues related to childhood sexual abuse, while also sharing from his own journey. Tim's official role is that of minister at Malvern Uniting Church and the director of discipleship at Uniting College in Australia. More importantly, both Tim and his wife, Priscilla, are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  The focus of this book is to help Christian leaders have a practical understanding of how to minister to sexual abuse survivors. The author doesn’t try to make you an expert but provides a thorough overview of what will equip you to be a compassionate source of healing and advocacy for this often overlooked population. I have read 300-page books that cover the topics of each one of his chapters. Tim does a phenomenal job of selecting and clearly communicating the most essential components of understanding brain trauma, becoming a safe place to disclose, the journey of healing, and the complexity of forgiveness and justice. Through his personal story of anguish and recovery, Tim guides the reader in navigating questions like, “Why would a good God have allowed this suffering?” and “Is it wrong to want revenge?”  What I love the most about this book is the author’s consistent approach toward integration. For a survivor of sexual abuse, integration is a powerful word because healing involves the integration of the abuse experience within a person’s sense of self and life story. It is significant that Tim Hein models different aspects of integration throughout this small, powerful resource.    The integration of theology and psychology. Most Christian books about sexual trauma have a clunky relationship between psychology and the Scriptures. The authors often seem to be working too hard to make one fit the other (or they allow one to dominate at the expense of the other.) Tim’s knowledge of trauma science is evident and seems to seamlessly flow with his intimate knowledge of God as his Healer and Redeemer. Without saying it, Tim models a beautiful integration of God’s power revealed in Scripture, creation, and healing personal relationships.    The integration of his story with teaching. Each chapter begins with a vignette from Tim or Priscilla’s healing journey, without sugar coating the pain and struggle of the personal road of recovery. Then at some point in each chapter, Tim “looks the reader in the eye” and gives wise counsel on how to learn from his experience. Many Christian leaders shy away from telling their stories, particularly their struggles to forgive, their anger, and their depression. They fear that telling the raw and messy truth of their journey may invalidate them as leaders. Others get so lost in their own pain that they miss the opportunity to teach others from what they’ve experienced. Tim strikes a beautiful balance of modeling Henri Nouwen’s “Wounded Healer.”    The integration of theory and practical application. There is a certain amount of science and theology a person must understand to know how to compassionately respond to childhood sexual abuse. For example, it’s critical to know why a person may recall a memory of abuse twenty years after it happened. And understanding a basic theology of suffering will keep you from panicking when asked a question about God’s goodness. But all of that information will not ultimately equip you to know how to respond when someone’s life is falling apart in the wake of sexual abuse. Tim gives you the basics you need to know from respected scientific and theological scholars, but he never gets lost in the weeds of theory. He quickly moves to practical applications like what to do when someone discloses abuse to you and the importance of avoiding simplistic sermons about complex topics like forgiveness.  Understanding Sexual Abuse* is one that I will keep on my bookshelf and gladly recommend to any Christian who wants to be equipped to minister to this vulnerable population.    What to Watch Next: Why Christian Leaders Must Understand Sexual Trauma, Ask Anything: Interview with Tim Hein   *This is an affiliate link. AI may earn referral fees from qualifying purchases.
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Reader's Corner: "Embodied" by Dr. Preston Sprinkle
I remember standing in the grocery store checkout line not more than five years ago while listening to a podcast. The host of the podcast suggested that within just a few years, gender would be considered a fluid concept, simply a social construct, by mainstream America.  “No way,” I thought to myself. From my studies and experience as a psychologist, I knew about gender dysphoria, cross-dressing fetishes, and intersex conditions. However, these were widely regarded as rare and agreed upon as “disorders” by the psychological and medical communities. Throughout history, male and female have been a cornerstone of how we understand humanity. I couldn’t imagine a society that would encourage the rejection of such foundational truth.  Here we are in 2021, experiencing that new reality. As parents and Christian leaders, we are now encountering questions we couldn’t even imagine just a few short years ago. Questions about twelve-year-olds taking hormone blockers, plural pronouns to describe an individual, unisex bathrooms, and whether or not sex reassignment surgery is a sin. A few months ago, I met a woman who was married to a biological woman who had transitioned to a male identity. The woman I met had just become a Christian. “Does God see my spouse as a man or woman? Is my marriage biblical? As a follower of Christ, what do I do?” Enter Dr. Preston Sprinkle. A courageous professor with a Ph.D. in New Testament from Scotland and a passion for the LGBT+ community. Preston’s most recent book Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church and What the Bible Has To Say is a labor of love for the body of Christ.  This is not a light read, but a well-researched resource for the Christian who is willing to wrestle with the complexities of the transgender world. Preston does a masterful job of blending together three critical components of understanding the trans community: People, psychology/medicine, and theology. He then applies the conclusions of these three sources of information to the real-life tension of a loving and biblical response.  Not Just an Issue It is tempting for Christian authors, teachers and speakers to get stuck digging for truth in LGBT conversations while neglecting the genuine pain of individuals. As in his most recent book, People to Be Loved, Preston makes it clear from the outset of Embodied that he refuses to allow this to happen. Gender fluidity and dysphoria are not simply issues to debate. They impact real people and can literally represent a life or death struggle. Preston’s empathy and his relationships with a variety of people walking this journey continually remind the reader to remember how Jesus loves people and pursues the marginalized. While not openly chastising the Church for her neglect of the trans community, Preston’s empathy serves to convict and to prompt us to respond with genuine compassion to individuals, not just react to an issue. Science and Research From a psychological perspective, Preston gives a helpful summary of relevant terms and research including discussions on Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, intersex conditions, and less commonly known variations of gender angst. He documents the history of gender dysphoria as it transitioned in psychological and medical communities from a disorder to an accepted preference. Preston emphasizes that the trans community is comprised of a wide variety of people whose experiences can be vastly different. Quoting recognized expert, Mark Yarhouse, he reminds us, “If you’ve met one trans person… you’ve met one trans person.”  Preston cites helpful research about comorbidity with anxiety, depression, suicidality, and other psychological disorders among the trans community. Although longitudinal outcomes research on gender reassignment is minimal, he summarizes what these studies have thus far indicated.  What Does the Bible Say? As a biblical scholar, Preston does a thorough job of examining gender through the lens of Scripture. He doesn’t spend much time in passages specifically about cross dressing (like Leviticus 22:5), but dives more deeply into God’s purposes for male and female as they comprise the image of God. He applies biblical passages about sin, brokenness, redemption, and discipleship to the trans conversation. Preston also addresses common liberal theological arguments that support gender fluidity, such as Paul’s comment in Galatians 3:28 (There is neither male nor female…). I found Preston’s biblical teaching to be both solid in tone and satisfying in depth.  Practical Application The most courageous aspect of this book is not simply the biblical and culturally unpopular stand Preston takes, but his willingness to tackle real-life application. While sincere Christians are unlikely to disagree with Preston’s biblical scholarship, they may take issue with some of his suggested applications. Do you use a person’s requested pronouns? Do you allow a biological girl to identify as a boy in your youth group? Should your church proactively minister to the trans community? Preston says “yes” to all of these questions.  While acknowledging that many leaders he highly respects disagree with him on some of these points, Preston is not shy about his commitment first and foremost to a posture of compassion.  I am grateful that Preston was willing to “put himself out there” by addressing these real-life questions that parents, loved ones, and church leaders are actually asking. Even if you disagree with where he lands on a particular point, Preston’s courage and compassion are challenging and admirable.  If you are in ministry or want to thoughtfully and compassionately engage the transgender conversation, this book is a must-read. Thank you, Preston, for the hard work, diligent scholarship, and Christ-like love reflected in Embodied. (Embodied becomes available on Feb 1st, 2021) Are you a Sexual Discipleship member? Don't forget to check out how some of the respected leaders answer some of the the most challenging questions around sexuality in our Ask Anything videos. Not a member? Learn more here.
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Reader's Corner: "Talking Back to Purity Culture" by Rachel Joy Welcher
Purity culture has been a topic of conversation for several years as Christian women who were teenagers in the 1990’s (at the height of the purity movement) are now in their thirties and forties. Many who grew up in the evangelical purity movement are experiencing pain in singleness and marriage—pain they assumed they would avoid with their purity pledges and commitments to abstinence. In response, several have written blogs and books decrying the harm done by well-meaning pastors, parents, and teachers who urged these teens to “save sex until marriage.”  Rachel Joy Welcher's book, "Talking Back to Purity Culture," is a recent example. Rachel grew up in a loving Christian home and saved sex for marriage. She became disillusioned when her husband left the Christian faith and her marriage five years later. This—along with watching her Christian friends walk through the trials of singleness, sexual assault, and sexual pain in marriage—led her to complete her master’s thesis on the topic of purity culture.  What I Liked I found myself underlining, highlighting, and cheering Rachel on as I read her book. With clarity, she points out ways that the evangelical purity culture has perpetuated victim blaming, a double standard for Christian women and men, unhealthy expectations about sex in marriage, neglect for those who have suffered sexual trauma, and devalued singleness. I whole-heartedly agree with this assessment and have devoted much of the past several years to helping Christians have a more complete biblical framework for sexuality.  As I have said and written many times, every sexual issue is also a spiritual issue. Disillusionment with the Church’s teaching on sex will prompt us to reconsider God’s character and the trustworthiness of Scripture. For this reason, I particularly appreciate that Rachel has “deconstructed” from the simplistic message of the purity narrative, but reconstructed on the bedrock of trusting God and leaning into biblical truth. This is a necessary contrast to others like Linda Kay Klein (Pure), Nadia Bolz-Weber (Shameless), Josh Harris and Glennon Doyle who have examined the harm of the purity message and found resolution by stepping away from foundational Christian beliefs.  Rachel spends more ink dedicated toward diagnosing the problem of past approaches than presenting a practical and biblical way of moving forward. While she offers some suggestions for a healthier biblical ethic, she doesn’t dive into the biblical narrative of sex, exploring God’s heart for the “why” sex matters.  What Concerns Me Rachel wrote this book much like an academic literature review, including scores of quotes from books by Christian authors to prove her point. She praises some (Debra Hirsch, Jackie Hill Perry, Scott Sauls, Daniel Darling) as “getting it right.” Others she criticizes (Rebecca St. James, James Dobson, Josh Harris, John Eldredge, Dannah Gresh, Stephen Arterburn and Shannon Ethridge) as promoting great harm. I personally know several of the authors on both her “good” and  “bad” lists. Many of these are courageous men and women who have worked to honor God with faithfulness to His Word. Indeed the Bible does say much about striving for moral and sexual purity. The primary difference distinguishing these two camps of authors is when their books were written. I have a sneaking suspicion that Rachel’s book—and even my own books—would sound a lot more like the purity culture had we written them thirty years ago. I just finished a complete overhaul of my first book, written in 2000, and cringed at some of the nuance of my understanding of sex and marriage back then.  Our conversation about God and sexuality has evolved as our culture pursues “sex positivity” and as we learn more about the physiology of sex, addiction, gender, and trauma. Much has transpired over the past few decades to prompt Christians to examine the traditions passed down to us by our Church fathers. We can no longer be silent or simply recite verses that condemn sexual immorality. Instead, we must press into the character and Word of God, and be willing to wrestle with questions posed about abuse, sexual shame, hypocrisy, legalism, human depravity, and Christian liberty. God’s Word gives us guidance to grasp in our minds and hearts a deep theology and praxis around all sexual issues. Yet, we seek and wrestle with real-life tension. We approach our Christian history of sex (including the simplicity of purity culture and unloving posture toward LGBT individuals) with repentance, humility, and dependence upon God to equip us through His Spirit and the Body of the church.  My primary concern about "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is the neglect for this nuance and respect for our fellow brothers and sisters who have boldly addressed sexual issues in decades past. I have a deep appreciation for the forerunners of this conversation, even if we now have eyes to see how things should have been communicated differently. It is entirely possible to critically dissect the teaching and traditions of the Church without aiming that criticism directly, and perhaps unfairly, at our sincere brothers and sisters.  The purity message got some things wrong but also has done great good. No Christian author is “all good” nor “all bad” in what they write. In hindsight, we can pick out sentences and phrases that we now see have the potential of misunderstanding and harm. Even so, we can just as readily point to the many who were helped and shielded from the world’s abuse of sex because of the men and women who courageously wrote and taught in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It humbles me to know that when we pass the baton to the next generation of Christ followers, they will see that Juli Slattery got some things wrong! I pray this in no way detracts from the work God wills to do in me and through me today.  In summary, Rachel’s work in "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is an important “voice” in the chorus of God’s people who strive to understand and articulate His heart for sexual redemption. I would only encourage Rachel to join arms with those around her who have labored to sing the same song, even when they have gotten a little off key. May we pursue not only a complete theology of sex, but do so while honoring one another in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.   
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Reader's Corner: "Pure" by Linda Kay Klein
I recently read a very sad book, Pure by Linda Kay Klein. This book keeps popping up in my newsfeed, which tells me that people want to talk about it. The subtitle of the book hits precisely why this book caused my heart to ache: “Inside the evangelical movement that shamed a generation of young women and how I broke free.” Within the book, the author shares her journey of shame, confusion and turmoil around sexual issues resulting from the way she learned about sex from a conservative evangelical church. Her upbringing was much like mine. She describes moments in her teen years of passionately committing her life to the Lord and His work around the world. She would have been one of my good friends had we gone to the same church or youth group. But Linda’s faith journey was radically derailed because of harmful messages she heard about sexuality, sexual sin, sexual abuse and femininity. As I’ve said before, every sexual issue is ultimately a spiritual issue. When sex becomes confusing, God becomes confusing. Throughout the book Pure Linda shares the stories of dozens of women who experienced deep rooted shame and trauma related to their sexual choices and experiences and not fitting the evangelical stereotypes of a “pure woman.” The problem, as well as the solution, are summed up in the book's subtitle. The Church has mishandled sexuality and femininity. Freedom is found apart from the evangelical church. Both statements are heart-wrenching.   The Problem My heart literally ached as I read the words of women who have been damaged by insensitivity and harmful teaching. Women who were  blamed for a pastor’s sexual advances and those who felt shame not for having sex but simply for being sexual creatures with beautiful bodies. I read about women struggling with gender and same sex attraction who were shunned, sexual abuse victims who were minimized rather than offered help, and women with strong personalities and opinions who were told to conform or leave. Others told stories of extreme anxiety in the marriage bed because of consistently pairing sex with shame. What Linda Kay Klein has documented is real, pervasive and must not be ignored.  There is ample evidence that the way the church has addressed (or flat out ignored) sexual issues has caused harm for men, women and marriages. We must also note that while this problem is widespread, it certainly does not represent every Christian woman’s experience. Many within the evangelical churches have lovingly and truthfully guided young women through the challenges of adolescence, dating, romance and sexuality. However, by-in-large, Christians have not been beacons of hope offering truth and love within an area that is intrinsically tied to human worth and dignity. By distorting God’s truth on sexuality, we have unwittingly distorted the larger message of God’s love. Linda writes: My friends and I were told in one breath we were loved unconditionally, accepted just as we were, and headed for Heaven, and in the next we were warned of the evils of feminists, homosexuals, women who had sex outside of marriage, and other Hell-bound individuals. It didn’t even occur to me that some people in youth group might already see themselves as fitting into some of these categories that I wouldn’t see myself in for years, and how that must have felt to them then, but what did occur to me was this: The unconditional love that I had fallen for in my early days in the church? It was conditional.     The Solution  The second reason why the book Pure is so sad is the author’s conclusion that freedom from shame comes from walking away from God, or at least from the version of God that limits our sexual expression. Practically every woman interviewed for the book has resolved her conflict by distancing herself from the biblical teaching that sexual intimacy was created for the covenant of marriage between a man and woman. The tension of sexuality and God, according to Linda, disappears as we choose for ourselves a sexual ethic that feels right. If you also choose to hang onto God in the process, He is perfectly fine with your own personal sexual morality. We must make a distinction between God’s design for sexuality and the ways in which we have failed to appropriately teach it. Biblical teaching about sexuality is not a random form of morality but reflects how we were designed to thrive and function. Throwing off moral restraint does not bring freedom but ultimately leads to yet another form of bondage. Linda’s book, while compelling, is also very one-sided. I could compile an equally compelling book of women who wish that someone would have taught them to value themselves enough to say “no” to a dozen guys in high school. Women who wish they could turn back the clock to undo the abortions or reverse the effect of herpes. There are many more women who carry shame not because of what they learned in church but because they have gone from man to man to man, only to be discarded yet again.   Freedom will never be found in walking away from God but rather in running toward Him. The message that sexuality is shameful is not found within the pages of Scripture. God created us as sexual people. Our sexuality is a wonderful gift that teaches us about the nature of God’s passionate and faithful love. (Listen to our "Why God Created You to Be Sexual" podcast and read our "Why Does Sex Matter?" blog to learn more.) Because sexuality is so powerful and sacred, the Bible clearly teaches how our sexual passions are to be directed. The Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, emphatically tells us to avoid sexual immorality (this includes things like sex outside of marriage, pornography and same-sex activity). But here’s the key: Our “purity” has never been based on our sexual choices but upon our reliance on the finished work of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. We will not “go to Hell” because we had sex before marriage or slept with another woman. We go to Hell because we reject Jesus as Lord and Savior who has given His life to pay for our sin. This is the heart of the Gospel and must not be lost in the midst of our efforts to teach people about biblical sexuality. After all, God is not after our “sex lives,” He’s after our hearts.   As I interact with more and more women, I recognize that we must go beyond talking only about sexual morality, but we must also address sexual maturity. Following God’s design for our sexuality isn’t just about our behavior conforming to a certain moral code. Maturity means surrendering our wounds, our questions and our confusion to an unchanging, all-wise God who is able to bring healing and redemption. As our hearts change, so eventually will our behavior. We are all on this journey with a long way to go. That’s called discipleship.   Although I am grieved by her conclusion, I am grateful that Linda Kay Klein has sounded the alarm. We must do better in representing the heart of Jesus as we present God’s design for sexuality.  
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La importancia del discipulado sexual™
Durante los últimos años, he estado usando este término "discipulado sexual ™" para describir algo que verdaderamente nos apasiona en el ministerio de Intimidad Auténtica. Me he dado cuenta de que cuando las personas me escuchan unir esas dos palabras, se sienten intrigadas. Aunque es posible que hayas sido discipulado en tu caminar con Cristo en algún momento, es probable que el discipulado nunca se ocupara a profundidad de las preguntas sobre tu sexualidad. Crecí en la iglesia con padres amorosos y cariñosos. Hicieron su trabajo y tuvieron la famosa “charla” conmigo y esporádicamente me ofrecieron consejos sobre citas. Mi grupo de jóvenes y mi escuela cristiana tenían días e incluso semanas enfocadas en la pureza, las citas y la sexualidad, pero abordaban estos temas de manera superficial. Los profesores parecían nerviosos, medían sus palabras y los niños se sentían incómodos. A medida que me adentré a la edad adulta, veo que se ha implementado la misma estrategia con respecto a la sexualidad: una clase o un libro que ocasionalmente se ofrece para enseñar sobre el sexo en el matrimonio; el enfoque general de la iglesia hacia la sexualidad es ofrecer pequeños y reducidos espacios de educación sexual. Ahora comparemos ese enfoque con la forma en la que la cultura aborda el tema de la sexualidad. ¡Está en todas partes! En todos los medios de comunicación imaginables nos enfrentamos a un mensaje agresivo acerca de cómo pensar sobre el matrimonio, la actividad sexual, las citas y la identidad sexual. Incluso los cristianos entregados y comprometidos tienen muchas más probabilidades de pensar al igual que el mundo en temas sexuales, porque así han sido entrenados para hacerlo. La iglesia ha ofrecido educación sexual mientras que la cultura nos está discipulando sexualmente, formando nuestras opiniones y cosmovisión sobre todo lo sexual. ¿Qué es el discipulado? A menudo usamos palabras como discipulado sin tomarnos el tiempo para considerar lo que realmente significan. Un enfoque de discipulado es muy diferente al de un modelo educativo. La esencia del discipulado se expresa a través del encargo de Moisés a los israelitas mientras se preparaban para entrar a la decadente cultura de la Tierra Prometida: Escucha, Israel: El Señor nuestro Dios es el único Señor. Ama al Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón y con toda tu alma y con todas tus fuerzas. Grábate en el corazón estas palabras que hoy te mando. Incúlcaselas continuamente a tus hijos. Háblales de ellas cuando estés en tu casa y cuando vayas por el camino, cuando te acuestes y cuando te levantes. Átalas a tus manos como un signo; llévalas en tu frente como una marca; escríbelas en los postes de tu casa y en los portones de tus ciudades. (Deuteronomio 6:4–9, NVI) Hay tres elementos críticos en la enseñanza de Moisés a los padres que todavía aplican hoy en día; miles de años después: Una comprensión clara de lo que está bien, lo que está mal y el señorío de Dios en nuestras vidas. El integrar a diario esa enseñanza en la vida cotidiana. Un modelo de lo que es vivir de acuerdo con los mandamientos de Dios. Si queremos saber cómo tiene lugar el discipulado sexual ™, podemos simplemente echarle un vistazo al mundo. Honestamente, ¡lo están modelando de maravilla! El sistema mundial tiene su propia gran comisión. Están haciendo un trabajo fantástico al convertirnos en discípulos de su cosmovisión y agenda sexual. Gran parte de los medios de comunicación, las noticias y los líderes educativos son agresivos en cuanto a transmitir sus valores sexuales a niños y adultos. Eres rechazado y ridiculizado si expresas una opinión que difiere de estos valores. Al ver a los medios que representan el sistema mundial, ¿ves una doctrina o visión clara de lo que creen sobre la sexualidad? Por lo que observas a través de los medios de entretenimiento, los medios de comunicación, el gobierno y el sistema educativo, ¿son consistentes los mensajes sobre la sexualidad del mundo? ¡Por supuesto que sí! Desde niños en edad preescolar hasta personas mayores, el mantra sexual del mundo trasmitido claramente y a todo volumen. Enciende las noticias. Mira algunas revistas. Pasa los diferentes canales de televisión satelital, navega por Internet, camina por un campus universitario y verás mensajes muy consistentes. De hecho, nuestros niños son bombardeados por la doctrina sexual del mundo dondequiera que vayan. Es posible que tus hijos nunca vean lo que es vivir con virtudes sexuales y pureza. Sin embargo, inevitablemente estarán expuestos a cientos, quizás miles, de ejemplos de cómo es la inmoralidad sexual. El discipulado sexual ™ es mucho más que una “charla” o un retiro que enseña sobre la pureza sexual. Significa acompañar a las personas a lo largo del  camino de la sexualidad a través de todas las etapas de la vida y abordar las preguntas que surgen de la experiencia de la vida y las presiones culturales. El discipulado sexual ™ va más allá de la educación sexual. El discipulado sexual bíblico presenta una imagen completa de la sexualidad, no simplemente como algo que se debe evitar, sino como un gran regalo que debe ser atesorado, celebrado y recuperado. Qué debe cambiar Los padres a menudo me preguntan acerca de cómo y cuándo deberían hablar con sus hijos sobre el sexo. Antes de hablar con nuestros hijos sobre el sexo, debemos estar seguros de que nuestra propia cosmovisión sexual se basa en la verdad. La gran mayoría de los cristianos tienen muy poca idea de cómo integrar su sexualidad con quienes ellos son como hijos de Dios. Aquellos que son solteros no entienden por qué Dios les da deseos sexuales sin tener una salida para la expresión sexual. Aquellos que están casados no saben cómo abordar problemas como la falta de deseo sexual o un cónyuge que mira pornografía. No sabemos qué hacer con las experiencias traumáticas de abuso sexual o cómo salir de la vergüenza del pecado sexual pasado. ¿Por qué los temas relacionados con la sexualidad nos hacen sentir nerviosos e incómodos? La expresión del sexo es sagrada y privada. Debe ser honrado y manejado con sabiduría. Sin embargo, esto no significa que la pureza sea algo equivalente al al silencio. Después de todo, la Biblia no muestra vergüenza ni evita abordar temas sexuales en el Antiguo y Nuevo Testamento. Algunas enseñanzas bíblicas son tan específicas (particularmente en Cantar de los Cantares) que los traductores modernos han "atenuado" la interpretación para hacerla más aceptable para los lectores de hoy. En Intimidad Auténtica, queremos invitar a hombres y mujeres a una conversación que promueva el discipulado sexual ™. ¿Qué pasaría si los padres cristianos y la comunidad cristiana se comprometieran a definir, enseñar y modelar una cosmovisión sexual de acuerdo a la voluntad de Dios? ¿Qué pasaría si varias veces al día recibiéramos mensajes positivos y ejemplos del hermoso diseño de Dios? A través de nuestras publicaciones de blog, podcasts, conferencias, redes sociales, libros y nuestro sitio web, esperamos ser parte de un movimiento que nos permita ver estos cambios.