Sexual brokenness. It’s a problem that is present within our churches like never before. It affects men and women, individuals and families, congregants and clergy without discrimination. More and more churches are reeling from the discovery of pervasive pornography use, affairs, same-sex acting out, prostitution, and other manifestations. Small groups and staff alike are dealing with the devastating impact of sexual sin and addiction.
There was a time when church leaders could try to ignore the problem, believing it to be rare and certainly not invading my church. Those times are gone. All research and statistics show that pornography and sexual addiction continues to rise, and that there is no discernible difference between Christians and non-Christians.
So how do you, as a church leader, deal with this problem? How do you communicate a message of grace to sexually broken people within your church? How do you do this without seeming to minimize or excuse sin? Is it possible to do both? The Gospel tells us that it is.
Route1520 is a Christ-centered recovery ministry that was built on the belief that people can’t change through mere willpower or trying in their own strength to learn and carry out Biblical principles. Our belief is that change happens when we allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to connect with our hearts and understanding in ways we have not experienced before.
From Slavery to Sonship
Our name originates from Luke 15:20, a verse contained in the parable of the prodigal son and the elder brother. This parable shows us how many Christians live our lives as orphans rather than as the beloved sons and daughters that the Bible tells us we are. We miss out on close, intimate relationship with our Father, either through rebellion (like the prodigal) or through legalism (like the elder brother). We miss out on His heart for us either through self-condemnation or self-sufficiency.
The Gospel tells us that in Christ we are neither condemned nor adequate on our own. It allows us to give up our exhausting efforts to be good enough on our own, and to learn to surrender to the ongoing work God desires to do in our lives. When we decide to take God at His word we find a similar experience to that of the prodigal, who according to Luke 15:20, “arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
The church must help its people see the Father this way. There are many ways for leaders to facilitate this new paradigm of belief.
- Pastors and others in leadership must demonstrate authenticity in their own lives, “leading with a limp” as they allow church members to see that they struggle too.
- We must redefine what constitutes healthy, Gospel-centered accountability relationships.
- Additionally, we believe one of the most important things a church can do is to create a safe culture where people can remove their masks and be honest about their struggles and brokenness.
The church can then truly become what is described in James 5:16, where we can confess our sins and pray for one another toward the end result of healing. The healing applications when we live in authenticity go beyond mere physical healing. We then find spiritual and relational healing as well.
What Route1520 Does: Gospel-Centered 12 Steps
Since 2009, Route1520 has worked to create and hone an approach to community for men and women who have been impacted by sexual addiction, through pornography or a variety of other manifestations. At our meetings we say that we have come to connect at weakness, rather than try to impress with strength.
Virtually everyone who comes to a Route1520 recovery group has tried for years to manage or change their sinful, addictive behavior through their own efforts. And all have failed, because the efforts have taken place in isolation. Clinicians identify sexual addiction as an intimacy disorder, and an intimacy disorder cannot effectively be treated in isolation.
Our groups are similar in many ways to established 12 Step recovery programs like SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) or SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous). We believe that change takes place through focused processes. Addiction involves habits and changes in brain responses that have developed over years, and in order to see change, addicts must commit to a process of undoing these habits and patterns, and learning new healthier ones. We also honor confidentiality, allowing participants to learn rigorous honesty without fearing betrayal; while also encouraging them to practice authenticity and disclosure to their families and to safe people in their lives.
Where Route1520 is different is in how we integrate the Gospel into a 12 Step recovery process. All 12-step programs refer to a “higher Power” that we acknowledge must be engaged if change is to take place. Route1520 is a community made up of people who have identified that their higher Power is the God of Scripture through Jesus Christ. Many times, Christ followers who struggle with addiction experience even deeper layers of shame than people who do not identify with Christ.
If we believe the Gospel is true, then everything that comes with the Gospel message must be true. At our Route1520 groups we have a series of readings, including well-known excerpts from the Big Book and the 12 Steps, but also from Scripture and the Heidelberg Catechism.
One truth that we read every week is from Question & Answer #60:
Q: How are you right with God?
A: Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments,
and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.
All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
How to Have a Group in Your Own Church
As time goes on more and more church leaders are coming to understand the extent of the epidemic of sexual sin and addiction taking place within the walls of the church. As that has happened, we continue hearing from churches, “So how do we do something about it?” Church leaders want to be part of a solution. They no longer want to bury a head in the sand. But they also don’t want to ignore or excuse sin. They are looking for a recovery solution that is not at theological odds with the entirety of their teaching. They want community that ministers to both the addict and to the spouse who has been betrayed.
Route1520 now offers a solution. GroupNOW is a kit for churches that provides training, consultation, resources, and help in implementing a Route1520 recovery community (for men and women) within your church. With GroupNOW, you identify a few individuals in your church (with personal experience in the struggle) who can serve as group facilitators. We provide detailed and comprehensive training on topics such as:
- The theology of recovery
- Distinctives of recovery groups vs. Sunday School or accountability groups
- Belief paradigms of an orphan vs. a beloved son/daughter
- How our beliefs directly affect our behavior, and how a shift in belief can be the key to the change in behavior we have sought
- How to facilitate a group discussion
- Do’s and Don’t’s of recovery groups
- How to help affected spouses effectively work through the trauma caused by the disclosure of their partner’s sin /addiction
- Identifying unhealthy relationship dynamics that need to be changed
GroupNOW is an ideal resource for leaders who have committed to being part of turning the tide of sexual sin within their churches. When churches decide to graciously address the needs of everyone affected by sexual brokenness – both the offenders and the offended – a truly safe, Gospel community of transparency and authenticity forms. This spills over into the way the church addresses every other sin and relational issue they must deal with. The church now becomes the community described in the New Testament where loving correction and gentle restoration is actually experienced.
We believe that GroupNOW is most effective when multiple churches in an area work together, providing multiple groups that will help to serve one another and many more men and women in their areas. An added benefit of multiple churches participating together is a reduction in each church’s cost for the package. Route1520 would love to partner with your church as you shepherd your staff and congregation who are dealing with the impact of sexual sin. For find out more about how GroupNOW works or to begin the process of bringing it to your area, visit www.route1520.com/groupnow.