Not long ago, a pastor friend and I were talking about the challenges that keep churches from
addressing various kinds of sexual brokenness. One difficulty, I said, was simply getting a
congregation to acknowledge that sexual brokenness exists and that the Church has a role in
healing it. He paused for a moment and said, “If you figure out how to do that, write the book
and we can both retire.”
We both laughed, but his response reveals the enormous challenge facing many pastors today.
We live in a hypersexualized culture that is increasingly ignorant of—or outright opposed to—
Christian principles. Like smoke in a factory town, the noxious fumes of society are negatively
impacting everyone, including those within our congregations. There are very few families today
that aren’t negatively impacted by our culture in some way.
Even so, many pastors have not been specifically trained to handle the deep devastation and
spiritual confusion connected to various sexual struggles. “How do I even begin?” is a common
question that I hear. While not exhaustive, here are a few ideas to help you reach out to the
sexually broken within your reach.
Tackling such challenging issues requires a great deal of spiritual preparation. The sexual devastation of our age is not just a matter of harmful media and an unregulated internet. The Bible reveals that sexual brokenness is strongly connected to spiritual unfaithfulness and idolatry. Before trying to engage sexual issues in your church, a period of weeks or even months spent in the Word of God and intensive prayer is a wise investment.
A pastor once told me that dealing with sexual brokenness in his congregation was 0.3% of what
he did. I asked why that might be and he sheepishly said that the people in his church probably
didn’t have those problems. More likely, the people under his care never received a signal from
him that such matters were safe to share.
If we’re honest, other people’s sexual sins can make us feel uncomfortable. As leaders, we know
how Christians are supposed to pursue sexual purity, and their constant falling short can leave us
wondering what to do. Complicating matters, ours is an “anything goes” society and this attitude
is prevalent even in many churches. Thanks be to God that while we were still in our sin, God
loved us. Jesus not only welcomed sexual sinners, he went to them.
To practice presence with the sexually broken is to follow in the footsteps of Immanuel—God
with Us. In both teaching and personal interactions, you can signal to others that you are a leader
who wants to help people in pain and that your congregation is a place where broken people are
welcome. This act of signaling may be far more important than the content you are teaching.
If you haven’t openly taught on sexuality before, the best thing to do is to simply try. It takes
time to break through people’s fear, shame, and isolation. You will have ideas that don’t work,
sermons that upset, Bible studies that fall flat, and programs that bear no fruit. Thankfully, the
Bible teaches that not all are called to bring in the harvest. Your efforts might be to plant or to
water, to weed or to prune. Quite possibly, much of your work will be clearing the spiritual soil
of the thistles, briers, and boulders keeping the Word of God from taking root.
All of us are tempted to give up at times. One pastor told me he once preached about godly
marriage and was chastened by his own board of elders. It was more than three years before he
dared go back to similar topics.
You have undoubtedly encountered resistance in your ministry already. You may be skilled at
neutralizing it or find yourself intimidated. If you plan to address sexual matters, be prepared to
do it for the long haul. Be content with small steps at first and build on your momentum. In all
things, preach the clear Word of God. The Bible promises that God’s Word will not return to
Him without accomplishing His purposes.
At some point, a timid person will stop by your office and share his experience with marital
infidelity, childhood sexual abuse, pornography use, or struggles with gender identity. As you
share the love of Christ and His forgiveness, you will be bringing the Gospel to previously
untouched corners of this person’s heart, mind, and soul. These are great opportunities to praise
the Lord for His ongoing effort to redeem this fallen world. We can count it pure joy that He has
invited us to share in this beautiful work.
Daniel Weiss is the founder and president of The Brushfires Foundation, a Christ-centered
ministry equipping the Church to offer a compelling, Christian response to the sexual brokenness
of the world. Brushfiresfoundation.org