3 Healthy Tensions in Porn Addiction Groups

June 17, 2013

Addiction Series - 3 Healthy Tensions in Porn Addiction Groups

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Luke Gilkerson

Addiction Series - 3 Healthy Tensions in Porn Addiction Groups

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 1 in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog post on Addictions. In addition to today’s post by Luke Gilkerson, you can read Part 2—Mark Shaw’s Addiction: A Super-sized Issue?, Part 3—Julie Ganschow’s The Heart of Addiction, and Part 4—Mark Hardin’s Shepherding People Struggling with Addiction.

Many Shapes and Sizes

“Recovery groups” come in many shapes and sizes. Churches that run recovery ministries yearn to see Christ’s sin-liberating power extend to those captive to sin. They firmly believe that God sent Christ “to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18).

Good recovery groups usually do not operate perfectly from Day 1. They are forged and re-forged by intentional leadership and devoted prayer. Proactive churches that are delving into recovery ministry will face a number of tensions that should be anticipated and navigated intentionally.

Tension # 1: Forming groups for those with demonstrative struggles but not stigmatizing the sin.

Not like this… “Everyone who wants to stop looking at porn, come to our men’s breakfast and we’ll tell you more about our recovery group.”

Porn has a stigma. Who wants to attend a group just for the sickos and the perverts?

Church leaders not conscious of this tension will have poorly executed, poorly attended recovery groups.

Pastors and elders should navigate this tension by ushering the church through a deliberate paradigm shift: teaching and re-teaching that “recovery” is for everybody. All of God’s children are recovering sin-addicts, self-addicts, idol-addicts.

The principles that guide the sanctification of a man hooked on porn or the woman enslaved to cybersex are the same for the man who desires to be a better husband or the woman looking to build a character of patience.

Here are some ways to navigate this tension:

  • Have a consistent sanctification theology. There will always be serious cases that deserve special attention—professional counseling or the immediate oversight of elders—but everywhere from the pulpit to the Sunday School class to the office, a pastor should have a firm theology of the ubiquity and utter depravity of sin. A pastor should learn from the best biblical counseling resources about how people with “serious problems” experience change, and then how these same principles of transformation apply to all Christians and all habitual sins.
  • Have church members—including leadership—publicly and regularly share their weaknesses. This takes discernment, but when done well it can have an amazing impact on the body of Christ. The more normal it is in your church to “not be okay,” the less likely any recovery group will be stigmatized.
  • Offer a variety of enrichment programs with the same sanctification DNA. Offer a marriage enrichment course or a parenting class infused with these same principles. As the sins of your church members are exposed by the light of God’s grace truth, make it known to church members that this is exactly “the kind of stuff” that recovery groups go through.
  • Recruit and train small group leaders who embrace this vision. Require your budding small group leaders to observe a recovery group for a while. Train them with the same core curriculum you train your recovery group leaders with. Teach them that every group in the church, regardless of its genesis, is an entry point for discipleship.

Tension # 2: Forming sin-specific groups that don’t encourage a struggle-based identity.

And not like this… “Hi, I’m _______, and I’m a porn addict.”

To a group leader, hearing this honest admission from a new member is a sign of progress. But hearing this from a group member who’s been around for years might be a sign that he or she has developed a struggle-based identity.

When we go beyond merely acknowledging our bondage or the effects of sin in our lives to anchoring our very identity in a specific sin, we experience stunted growth. We don’t want group members to define their sanctification by one variable. We don’t want the atmosphere of groups to be performance-oriented. This kind of atmosphere encourages white-knuckling, hiding sin, or even fearing success—because each day of victory is only a higher height from which to fall.

Rather, groups must be Christ-centered:

  • Sanctification is about anchoring one’s identity in Christ and his performance on our behalf.
  • Sanctification is about growing in our love for Christ and hatred of sin.
  • Sanctification is about turning to Christ’s means of escape sooner.
  • Sanctification is about leaning on accountability in the body of Christ to confess sin and be encouraged.

Train group leaders to be on the lookout for “I am” statements that indicate a struggle-based identity, and teach them to create a new group dynamic rooted in Christ. Having a gospel-centered procedure for introspection and confession can be very helpful.

Tension # 3: Forming welcoming groups with high expectations.

Many churches opt for an “open group” where new members can come at any time, but doing this, good leaders still recognize that real life change will not happen for those who aren’t committed.

On a practical level, this means making entry easy, but commitment expectations high.

  • Entry: Make group times and locations public. Structure groups in such a way that newcomers can benefit from the discussion and teaching.
  • Commitment: Consider an interview process. Make the timing and length of your meeting indicative of commitment (Saturday at 6am, meeting for 2 hours, for example).

When church leaders intentionally traverse through these tensions, recover communities can become safe places where sin is confessed and heart-level counsel is given.

Join the Conversation

What tensions have you noticed in churches that run recovery ministries?


12 thoughts on “3 Healthy Tensions in Porn Addiction Groups

  1. Pingback: “Addiction”: A Super-sized Issue? | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

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  3. Great post! I totally agree that all our groups should be gospel-centered and not struggle-centered. The former puts the focus on the cross and what Jesus has done for us – which is the gospel. The latter puts the focus on us and what we can, should, must, ought do for Jesus – which is religion. Also, I think the second bullet in the first point is key. It is essential that shepherds become better at sharing their failures publicly, and how they are seeing themselves as ‘simultaneously justified and sinful’. True gospel fellowship begins with shared weakness and need.

  4. I am probably off topic, which would not be new for me, but my dilemma is on the front end of the gospel-centered recovery group. I appreciated your approach to de-stigmatizing the sin and emphasizing sanctification theology but how do you simultaneously attract the person with the addiction while ministering to those who are the collaterally damaged. Specifially the wife of the professed addict who now realizes that her husband has been lying and deceiving her in addition to the hurt,anger, and possible guilt associated with this particular sin.

  5. Great question.

    De-stigmatizing a particular sin does not mean ignoring the impact of sin in general. As men are encouraged to be a part of recovery groups, complimentary recovery ministries should always be offered to spouses and families.

    The recovery groups will obviously need to be different in their approach. Brad Hambrick at The Summit has formed “Freedom Groups” with the same sanctification DNA in each one, but for the wives’ groups the emphasis is on how the gospel pertains to suffering, whereas the addict groups are about how the gospel pertains to sinning. The DNA is the same, but the emphasis is different.

    Does that begin to answer your question?

  6. Pingback: The Heart of Addiction | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

  7. Pingback: Shepherding People Struggling with Addictions | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

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  9. there are DIREDT LINKS to PORN on this Blog!!!!!!!!!!!! What is up????

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