From the start, I will tell you that it was difficult for me to write this article. It may prove to be distasteful for you. Still, I respectfully ask you to read on.
The subject matter we addressed on volume 11 of our audio series, Pastor to Pastor, was titled "Overcoming Sexual Addiction" and was burdensome to discuss. Those who joined us are some of the finest commentators on the subject in our country. They are godly folks who care a great deal about you, your church and the people you serve. I must admit that, as I reviewed the various aspects of this subject we addressed, I was a bit overwhelmed by the problems we face as colleagues in Christian leadership.
I have just reread excerpts of a book by Archibald Hart called The Sexual Man (Word). Dr. Hart is a good friend of mine, and he currently serves as Dean of the School of Psychology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. His book is based on the experience of "good men" — mainstream types. Most of them were married fathers who attended church and worked hard. The Sexual Man does not address in any depth sexual perversions or deviations except to clarify what is considered to be normal.
One day, one of our secretaries in Pastoral Ministries mentioned to me that she had received five calls that morning from pastors on the issue of pornography. Initially, I thought the callers were looking for counseling aids, but I soon discovered that they themselves were hooked. One had been struggling with the temptations for more than 20 years.
Sexual addiction is a major problem in the ministry. At Focus on the Family, we surmise that more than one in five pastors have a problem in the area of pornography. Research in The Sexual Man shows that 15.5 percent of married men who are not clergy and 6.8 percent of married clergy continue to masturbate to pornography. Why? From his research, Dr. Hart concludes that sex has become dehumanized. In many circles, it is no longer regarded as an act between loving, responsible couples. Sex has become a sport. And, as in all sports, there is a strong desire to improve one's performance — pornography is a tool. Ministers are not excluded from this game.
How do men break the pattern of pornography? First, they must realize they choose their behavior. The men I have counseled say they could never break the habit gradually. It had to be done cold-turkey. The Sexual Man makes the following suggestions for the man who is faced with a pornography habit or any other sexual addiction:
Dr. Hart states, "I have seen men take spiritual steps to find significant release from their lust and longing for porn. Thank God for this. But it doesn't happen every time. Many godly men have prayed for release from their obsession, but to no avail. Why God helps some men and not others, I don't know." For the clergy, I would think the reason, though complicated, is that the minister often has no one to turn to and cannot possibly find healing alone.
Research shows that, as men look back later in life on how pornography influenced them, the overwhelming majority see it as a negative force. Eighty percent said it was harmful. Eighty-two percent said it is distorted sexuality. Ninety-seven percent admitted it did not help, and 71 percent concluded it was destructive.
Why am I writing an article on this subject? Because pornography is a problem in the church and among our colleagues. I hope you will purchase Dr. Hart's book, The Sexual Man. It will prove to be both helpful to you personally, and invaluable as a counseling tool.
Below, you will find a helpful list of other resources for use in dealing with men who God places in your care that are battling sexual addiction. The resources might even be helpful to you personally. If we can serve you in any way, please feel free to give us a call on our toll-free Pastoral Care Line at (877) 233-4455. We are here for you. I am serious when I say, "What happens to you matters to us."
(Focus on the Family does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by these organizations, individuals and publications. Some of these resources may no longer be available from the publishers, but may be found in local and seminary libraries or from colleagues.)
Organizations & Therapists
Dr. Harry Schaumburg
Colorado Springs, CO
Dr. Ralph Earle
Psychological Counseling Services, Ltd.
(602) 946-7795 (fax)
Sex Addicts Anonymous
National Service Organization for S.A.A. Inc.
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
Sex Offenders Anonymous (SOANON)
Van Nuys, CA
Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS)
Fuller Psychological and Family Services
Biola Counseling Center
La Mirada, CA
Books & Articles
Lonely All the Time
by Dr. Ralph Earle and Dr. Gregory Crow (Pocket Books)
False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction
by Dr. Harry Schaumburg (NavPress)
The Sexual Man
by Dr. Archibald Hart (Word)
Out of the Shadows
by Patrick Carnes (ComCare)
The Secret Sin: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction
by Mark R. Laaser (Zondervan)
by Earl Wilson (Intervarsity)
"Freeing the Sexually Addicted"
by Hal B. School and Gary Sweeten with Betty Reid
Leadership, Fall 1989
"The War Within"
Leadership, Fall 1992
Also check out the "Sexual Issues" section of our Online Pastoral Care Directory.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.