One of the most beneficial courses I took at Denver Seminary in 2001 was on addictions. I learned about sexual addiction and alcohol and drug addiction. It was very interesting and highly applicable. In order to work with clients who struggled with these addictions, we were required to deal with our own “stuff.” I had to face my own struggles with pornography and the sexual sin in my family-of-origin.
On the drive home from that summer course, the Lord gave me a vision of a ministry to men who, like me, battled sexual sin. The vision was in my head and heart. It had a military theme and encompassed two stages, a catalytic event, The Battle, and a small group ministry, a Purity Platoon. In sharing the vision with my mentor, Dr. Mark Laaser, he suggested adding a third stage, Purity Boot Camp. His reasoning was that it was too great a leap for men to go from a large, catalytic event like The Battle to a small, intimate group, a Purity Platoon. A mid-sized event that called men to sacrifice and helped men to connect with one another would ease the discomfort and open men to joining a Purity Platoon. He was right.
I came back to my home church where I was the associate pastor and the chief pastoral counselor and promptly launched one small sexual purity group, a sort of trial balloon. It was successful and led to four years of powerful sexual purity ministry at the church. In an effort to take the ministry to other churches, I resigned from my position at the church and Elsie and I launched the National Coalition For Purity. We led NCFP for nine years with me leading Every Man’s Battle For Purity and Elsie leading Women of Truth. It was the fulfillment of the vision the Lord gave me on that drive home from seminary and is one of the great ministry blessings of my life.
What did I learn from those 13 years of sexual purity ministry? Here are the top 10 lessons I learned:
- Jesus really is our Deliverer who will break the bondage and power of sin in our lives when we hit rock bottom and cry out to Him for mercy. Out of the 7,000 men who went through the ministry during those 13 years, 91% testified to the freedom Christ had given them.
- Pain is a more powerful motivator to men in dealing with their sexual sin than either love or promises. When a man experiences pain in the form of the loss of a marriage, a job, an STD, or incarceration, he is usually motivated to make changes.
- Men need structure, an attainable goal, and a call to sacrifice to reach that goal. Convenience is the enemy of sacrifice and it’s a huge mistake to miss this frequently made in dealing with men. Sacrifice can take the form of finances, job change, choosing new friends, loss of selfishness, or marriage counseling. Structure takes the form of clear, understandable manuals that do not gloss over the hard topics.
- Safety is imperative for men to become part of a sexual purity ministry. Safety will involve discreet registration through the church website or at the door prior to The Battle. Men value what their wives think of them and want to be heroes to their wives and children. Anything that would cause their wives to question their sexual purity is threatening to them. For that reason, sign-ups for The Battle in the church foyer are counter-productive. There must always be a time to bring sin into the light but the timing to do that is seldom at registration.
- Ministry to the wives of men in the purity ministry is essential. Wives need hope and encouragement too. Wives cannot be neglected in the process of ministering to their husbands. This was the impetus behind why Elsie started Women of Truth.
- The most successful church purity ministry will be led by the senior pastor. Yes, laymen lead Purity Boot Camp and Purity Platoon but the influence of the senior pastor on the men in his congregation is enormous. He needs to be the general and lead the charge by promoting the purity ministry in the worship celebrations, speaking at The Battle, and becoming vulnerable in Purity Boot Camp and Purity Platoon. If he does men will follow his example.
- There is no substitute for “boots-on-the-ground” leadership. Leaders must be trained and shown how to do the ministry. Training leaders through indirect means such as internet or video is ineffective. Leaders-in-Training need to see and experience leadership firsthand for them to duplicate it. This is why we recruit leaders who have been through the purity ministry themselves and train them. They can draw from their experience.
- God will provide. When Elsie and I led NCFP the Lord provided us with competent board members, generous financial partners, facility resources, an abundance of men desperate to become pure, and courageous pastors and churches willing to open their doors. We lacked nothing. God is so good!
- Sex is such an intimate and intimidating topic that many churches won’t deal with it. As one pastor of a prominent church told me, “You must have a lot of sexual sinners in your church. We just don’t have any in mine.” I was flabbergasted and thunderstruck to the point of not knowing how to respond. He was blind to the needs of the men in his congregation.
- Men resort to pornography, self-sex, and sexual fantasy as substitutes for true intimacy with their wives. It’s false intimacy and is inspired by the devil as a substitute for true sexual intimacy. In addition, sexual sin using the three substitutes becomes a way to medicate the pain of rejection, frustration, anger, depression, or disappointment. It is a “mood elevator” that temporarily elevates their mood but when the reality of their sin sinks in the guilt, shame, and self-loathing is enormous.
Purifying Christ’s Bride so she can walk the aisle in white,