Over the years, however, there have been many distractions to us maintaining focus on our mission. Trendy recovery methods might come along, enticing us to elevate form over function. Comparing ourselves to other similar ministries has, at times, caused us to think we were doing ministry "wrong" (or "right"). Opposition from those who disagree with our stance that porn and adultery are wrong can hurt and upset us. And there has also been just weariness, fears, and the struggle to persevere.
But time and again we return to the core values that God placed in this ministry from the very beginning: Grace, Honesty, Purity, and Community. These are the foundation from which we build every resource, every podcast, every workshop, every website, everything. We believe for anyone who wants to effectively minister to someone sexually addicted, these are the core values that must exist. Therefore, let me share what these mean; to us, and to the process of recovery.
"No one is too broken to love."
When a sexual addict reaches out for help, the most important response they need is one of grace; the undeserved kindness of a friend. We believe this grace originates from God, who loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin (including addiction) that we couldn't. God didn't wait for us to get "sober" or cleaned up or "on the right path." Instead, "...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8b) That's grace!
Many addicts, however, are not greeted with grace when they finally decide to seek help. They are often met with condemnation, rejection, or rigid rules. This causes the addict to falsely believe that their worth is based on their performance, so if they just learn how to "behave" they will find the love and acceptance they long for. But that's not how grace works.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, you must lead with grace; extending compassion, kindness, and warmth even while they are still drenched in the muck of their addiction. It is a soft touch, not an iron fist, that draws the addict out of the dark and into the light of recovery.
"Everyone's full story is worth hearing."
Sex addicts (or any addicts) are excellent liars. They often have a history of not only telling lies, but also being told lies. In fact, every sex addict I have ever met learned to tell lies by being told lies, whether from a parent, older sibling, or the media they consumed in childhood. And lies beget lying.
The predominant teacher of lies for sex addicts is usually pornography. It teaches a young person a host of lies; about sex, about love, about relationships, about life. Once a kid has bought porn's lies, it becomes easy to travel down the road of deception -- of others and self. Eventually, this person wakes up in their late 20's or early 30's and realizes "I'm living a lie!"
Therefore, to help a sexual addict break free from a life of lies, you must introduce them to truth. Truth comes from God, for Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6a) For an addict to overcome their self-deception, they must encounter Jesus. This requires getting into His Word, the Bible, and reaching out to Him in prayer. As one draws closer to Jesus, the line between lies and truth becomes clearer.
But freedom for a sex addict doesn't just happen because they come to see the difference between the truth and a lie. Real freedom only begins when they honestly share their full story and commit to a life of brutal honesty. There is no true freedom if an addict never shares their whole story. All of it must come into the Light in order for them to experience total release and hope.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, create a safe place for them to share their story; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Encourage brutal honesty in a "shame-free-zone," reminding them that their worth is not based on their behavior, but on the God who loved them enough to send Jesus to the cross even before they ever acted out.
"A journey of better reflecting Christ."
No one is perfect, except Jesus. The Bible says, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc. 7:20) It also says of Jesus, "For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus was perfect in every way, without sin. In other words, He was pure. We, however, apart from Him, are not.
Certainly someone wanting to break free from sexually addictive patterns must take steps toward purity. After all, pure is the opposite of impure. However, these steps are not toward a purity that we can conjure up within ourselves. Remember, there isn't a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Therefore, purity must come from the only One who is pure: Jesus.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:13-16)
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, lead them to a deeper dependence on Jesus for their purity. A life of sexual integrity is one that reflects the image of Jesus.
"Enjoying the fruit of healthy relationships."
The ultimate vision we have for sex addicts in recovery is "True Lovers in Joyful Community." We believe God made us to be great lovers, not great lusters.* And the environment for developing as a great lover is in community. We desire addicts to one day adopt the very heart of God, a heart which loves.
It is hard for anyone to get close to an addict. They hide and lie and naturally push people away with their self-absorbed lifestyle. Everything about them points inward, to their brokenness, their pride, their lust. In essence, their lives are always and only about themselves. Not only do they not engage in real community, they can't because their eyes never look away from their own image.
When a sex addict finally has the "rock bottom" experience that jolts them awake to the reality of their self-centered life, they must (re)learn to connect with others in healthy ways. This involves telling the truth, listening, exercising empathy, serving with proper motives, and accountability. This is no small task for someone whose life has only been focused inward, but it is still the path to total freedom and joy.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, welcome them into a loving community where the truth is told in love and faithful friendships can blossom. The eventual place an addict needs to arrive for their freedom to be realized is a place where giving and serving others is of higher importance than receiving anything in return.
The greatest joy in recovery is investing these core values into a weary addict just looking for help...
*(thanks to Stephen Cervantes for coining this phrase)