Scripture to reference: Galatians 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5; 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 John 1:9
“Pastor, I need to speak with you.”
“Of course,” you reply to the man on the phone and set a time to meet that afternoon. It’s one of your leaders at the church, Sam. Later, when he arrives at your office, you can tell from his face that something is troubling him deeply. You’re surprised by his revelation: he’s hooked on Internet pornography.
Sam probably knows that his pornography habit is not God’s will for him or his marriage. But he doesn’t know how to control his lustful passions (1 Thessalonians 4:3–4). That’s why he called you. So how can you help him? What do you need to know? What resources are available that you can recommend?
Here are a few key tips that will help you minister to this man and to other men who have sexual addictions.
Understand the Whole Problem
From the beginning, draw out the whole scope of the problem. Ask questions, listen, and probe some more. Often, the person won’t reveal the extent of the problem or the evil turns his life has taken. He may feel you out to see how you will react. He may not want to face the extent of his addiction, let alone admit he is an addict. Has he visited adult bookstores or arcades? Has he been to nude bars and nightclubs? Has he cruised red-light districts? Has his addiction led to prostitutes?
Because sexual addiction is a downward spiral that leads to more and more extreme acts, getting a full picture is important.
Encourage Admission and Confession
Once you have a complete picture, encourage him to admit he has a severe problem. It’s not just a little sin here and there. Even if he’s only in the beginning stages, he needs to understand that sexual sin is insidious. It’s always serious. Internet pornography leads to other sin, which leads to other sin. It’s a web that will entangle his loved ones too. If he’s married, he’s probably lying to his wife, and usually, deceit is only one of many marital problems. If he has a family, his sin will cost them emotionally and financially. His secret visits to Web sites will increase; he will spend more and more time and money to feed his growing lust.
He’s probably feeling trapped and terribly guilty. He cannot get a handle on the problem, so he’s come to you for help. You must help him see the extent of his sin and entrapment and confess his sins to the Lord. The person must want real change, not just relief from guilt. Look for repentance, not just sorrow over guilt or entrapment. Genuine repentance sees sin and freely admits it. Let him know that forgiveness is available for those who genuinely repent. As Scripture promises: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Offer Resources and Referrals
When he admits he has a severe problem and desperately needs help, then you can steer him toward helpful resources. Sexual addiction is difficult to break and often requires long, intense counseling. Most pastors do not have the time or experience required to deal with it effectively. Do some research about the counseling centers and resources in your area. And explore the resources available on our Men’s Purity topical page.
Take an active posture in referring him to appropriate resources and follow up immediately. He needs to know you will stick with him. He needs a friend, and he needs to be fully accountable. Your task is to fulfill Paul’s command: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Agree to an Action Plan
Your “Sam” needs to break all ties with pornography. As Paul instructed young Timothy, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). This may include eliminating Internet access or using a filtering service. He may even need to change jobs. Whatever habits he’s built up to feed his lust must be destroyed. If he is married, he needs his wife’s knowledge and cooperation. Have him write out an action plan and allow you to regularly ask about his progress. You might also set up a lay counselor to be his accountability partner.
Internet pornography addiction is more severe and widespread than most pastors realize. Since it’s a matter of the will and the heart, those who struggle with it must acknowledge the sin, genuinely repent, and seek help with the total mind-set of taking every necessary step to stop. Halfhearted efforts will fail. As a pastor, you need to stay with those you help all the way through their courses of action in order to see them gain victory.