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 looking over his shoulder. He can turn to Jesus and trust that He will see him safely out of his struggle.
Related: The Apostle Paul’s Secret to Fighting Sexual Sin
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). Yet, 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 talk about 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 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 awhile (perhaps a few sessions) or as you’re feeling led (but please give it time) then confront them.
Related: What Your Sexual Fantasies (Might) Say About You
Your first time confronting them 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 awhile 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 work for them to be working on for your next meeting.
Related: 10 Gospel-Centered Accountability Principles
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.
Great stuff brother. I remember confessing sexual sin to a pastor and he did rebuke me in love but just left it at that and treated me like a cog in the machine without much relationship or follow-through. That just made me open for Satan to get at me again.
Thanks so much Haydn for your encouraging reply. I’m so sorry to hear that your pastor did that. I hope you have found help and are doing well in this area of your life now. I’m praying for you.
Wowzers!! This is one of the BEST pieces of advice I’ve heard on how to minister to other guys who are struggling with porn addiction. It’s helped take the pressure off of me trying to “fix” their problem and allow the Lord to do the work. Thank you so much for sharing this bro! You’re a blessing. Real talk.
Kenny, Thank you so much for that encouraging feedback on my article. I pray it will help you as you minister to others guys struggling with this issue. Thanks again. To God be the glory!
Great article. In my opinion, an addiction to porn has to be viewed as an addiction, and can best be conquered by working through the steps in a Christ-centered recovery program such as Celebrate Recovery. It’s been said the euphoric release an addict gets from pornography is more powerful than the high a heroin addict experiences. We know that both addictions result in the same outcomes; chaos in all areas of our lives and, most importantly, a separation from Christ. I have heard many great success stories of how Covenant Eyes has stopped many people from viewing porn, and that’s awesome. However, it must only be viewed as an awe some accountability partner; one that, like Christ, can’t be lied to. But, without a program like Celebrate Recovery, the only thing that’s accomplished is the addict is not viewing porn, at least on the devices he/she has installed Covenant Eyes on. But, that’s the same as a heroine addict getting arrested and serving time in jail. Yes, they’re not using heroin, but theomen they get the opportunity, they’re right back where they started. This is why it’s so important, through a program like Celebrate Recovery, to work the steps to find out WHY you’re struggling with porn, alcohol, overeating, drugs, greed, relationship addiction, control, etc, etc. It’s after working the steps that we can begin to truly be the man God designed us to be. This is in no way a negative about Covenant Eyes, but simply a reminder of the important of using it as an accountability tool, as opposed to the be all, end all. We’re starting a new sexual integrity/purity open share group for men at the Celebrate Recovery at our church, due to the # of men struggling with this issue, and I’ve often thought how great it’d be if there were some type of partnership between Covenant Eyes and Celebrate Recovery, and perhaps even the Every Man’s Battle program, as this is an area that is tremendously impacting men, Christian men included, across the nation, and putting it front and center is a great start. Thanks for your article, and for all you do!
Thanks for your encouraging feedback.
I totally get that you are all for Celebrate Recovery. I personally haven’t worked with that ministry and haven’t studied what it teaches. I’m glad you enjoy working with them.
With that said I don’t think the heart of your criticism about Covenant Eyes is entirely fair. I point this out because part of the reason people get reports is so that they can talk to their accountability partner. This is part and parcel of the accountability of the software. It isn’t just “out there” in no man’s land. People get these reports and hold people accountability. I encourage you to check out what Covenant Eyes teaches on this subject because I’m not entirely sure you are clear on what the promote here.
I totally agree with you when you say that Covenant Eyes (and by extension Celebrate Recovery) are tools. Only the gospel can provide hope and healing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone on Covenant Eye’s blog suggest otherwise.
Thanks for sharing your experience, insight, and for your thoughtful encouragement on my article. To God be the glory!
This is very good stuff. I would also add a point of helping men develop emotionally. Most of us with a history of SA are emotionally stunted. When someone would ask me how I felt, fine or mad would be the only 2 words out of my mouth. There are deep seated emotions underneath the desire to act out sexually, usually hurt from traumatic experiences. These emotions need to be wrestled with and surrendered to Christ. The truth shall set you free and you shall be free indeed! The Holy Spirit is the Healer!
One of the primary problems is a lack of knowledge about what “flesh” really is and what walking in the spirit is. God knows we can’t subdue flesh with flesh and He doesn’t expect us to. He knows we will always fail when we do. The other problem is “unbelief” in the gospel. Eddie Snipes does the best job of teaching on this subject I’ve ever come across. His admonition is to close all the portals and then recognize what you are trusting in to fix the problem. (A.) Your own ability to subdue your own flesh or (B.) in what Jesus purchased on the cross. Discipline is not the issue. Its unbelief. Accountability partners, continual confession, trigger recognition, structured teaching on ways to strengthen the flesh, and brow beating and humiliation etc. etc don’t work because it focuses on “self effort”. Its the big “I” saying “I got to stop this”. God’s trying to crucify our flesh and we are trying to empower it to overcome. Well, good luck !!! See you on the next lap around the mountain. God’s trying to get us to give up on ourselves and we keep praying that He will strengthen our flesh so it will overcome so we can take credit for the accomplishment. He isn’t going to answer that prayer ever. I know. I did it for years. There is an answer and its not as difficult as you might think.
Get Eddie’s books. They are excellent.