Why The Broken Church?

Because we are broken individuals, the church today is broken as well. That’s why I call my blog the Broken Church. It’s not a put down; it’s a signpost of hope. The more we realize our brokeness and our sin, the more God’s grace can be at work in our midst. God likes to take that which is broken and fix it.

I love the church. It has been used in extremely powerful ways in my life over the years. At the same time, I have seen very sad things in the church. Scripture makes clear it is God’s main way to carry out his purposes on earth. Are we as the church up to the task? How can we be more effective? I write to remind and to challenge us to be all we can be.

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Sex Addict Spirituality

Now as I think back, I am amazed at the hearts of many of these men.

March 28th, 2019, was my last night leading a Day Seven group. I had been a part of it for four years. Before that I had been doing intakes part-time for ten years there, but after I had lost a full-time job, the Director invited me to help lead a group for men struggling with porn and other forms of acting out. I would be working under a therapist and an intern. In fact for a few months I was just a regular participant before I started guiding the accountability part of the meeting for 3-4 of the men. I had experience leading support groups in the past. But this was the first with men in the midst of sexual addiction!

Now as I think back at what has passed, I am amazed at the hearts of many of these men. They had a level of passion for the Lord that I have not come close to. For some reason their spirituality struck me as stronger and more real than in most churches today.

One fellow I remember was pretty down when I first met him. He had been convicted of a crime with a minor fellow, and was on parole. His weekly parole meetings were miserable for him. But not long after that he turned to the Lord and was happy with the tiny apartment he had in downtown Lancaster, because at least by God’s grace, he wasn’t in jail. He became a strong member of the group, giving his perspective as one who was a fellow struggler with sexual sin.

For many the pull of the addiction was still very strong, but you could sense the pull of their faith as well as they battled and as they confessed. I remember one night, when a fellow in my group confessed. He had been feeling bad about himself, and was drawn to a gay bar. He knew he shouldn’t and was back and forth about it, but he ended up there anyway. But nothing bad happened there! It was as he walked out and headed away from the bar that a car pulled up and the men inside made an offer he couldn’t refuse. As he related this, he stared at the floor and was in tears. There was such shame and brokenness. He was so open, vulnerable and raw in his honesty.

That’s what stands out overall – the honesty! They exposed their hearts both the bad and the good. Quite a few of them talked in such a deep way about their relationship with the Lord, it was refreshing. He was real to them and a friend to them when no one else would be. They knew He loved them despite the shame of their porn or the family devastation they caused.

To give you an idea here is a reflection of one of the men written after his final night with the group:

For me, it’s been about knowing Him. Sometimes spending hours and hours in prayer pouring out my heart and soul…the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Holding no emotion back. Begging him to show me who he REALLY is. Asking him to show me who I really am. Not what I’ve been taught or what I’ve always believed but the truth.

Wow, there’s a real passion for the Lord. A desperate passion for the Lord.

So what’s the difference between the lackluster devotion we have and the depth they have. We both have the same Lord and the same basic faith. To me it’s one thing, they are desperate and we are not! Plain and simple!

They have been caught in their addiction, maybe by the police or maybe by a spouse, and they know if they continue they will face dire consequences. Jail, divorce or a life of shame. Yet they feel powerless in themselves to get rid of the addiction. Their only hope is the Lord!

Their situation has made them desperate, but are our sins really any different? Not to the Lord! We all sin and either we hide it very well or its acceptable enough in our society that we don’t feel it’s really that bad. We need to get desperate about it, so that we very contritely confess and then know his grace. We need to see how bad it is and how the Lord really sees it, then we can know His grace. And the more we know His grace, the more he deepens our spirituality.

Maybe our first prayer toward desperation should be, “Help me see my situation from your perspective, Lord.”

Doormats for Jesus?

George asked a difficult question, “Should I let her walk all over me?” He was referring to his wife. A few years back she had discovered his porn on their computer. Understandably, she was upset, and barred him from using it anymore, and demanded he go to counseling. He knew he had a problem and was glad that he was caught. He willingly went for individual and group counseling. Even though his addiction to the stuff had weakened since then, she seemed to not see it at all. All she knew was that she had been hurt and didn’t trust him at all, and so the rifts in their relationship widened as time went on. It was typical that everyday conversations became verbally abusive battles. He had asked her forgiveness for the porn multiple times, and she would say yes, but then afterwards she would often fly into rages against him to which he would respond in kind. He described their relationship as toxic, and saw only one way out to protect the kids, and himself from that environment – divorce.

One night in his counseling group after he had described a battle that week, he poignantly asked, “Am I just to be her doormat, that she can walk all over me anytime she wants?”

Couple Having Argument At Home

It’s a good question. A lot of times we think that is the way to live the Christian life. We hear sermons about humility and turning the other cheek and loving your enemy. We know we are sinners and so we should be submitting to others. As a conflict avoider, in a situation with the least bit of tension, I know the temptation to give in and do whatever others say. So it’s a good question, should I be a doormat for Jesus?

Doormat theology can lead to a lot of problems. Clearly, allowing yourself to continually be sexually or physically abused is one.

But what about taking on other people’s responsibilities? Maybe you’ve seen the commercial where one fellow askes for advice about who to get to do a project at his home. When his friend suggests some places, he responds by telling him to go to all of them and ask about his project and get quotes. “Great, thanks!” he says and then changes the topic assuming his friend will do it for him.

Or what about someone that insists on taking you to a place with an immoral reputation or that would cause you to violate your conscience about food or drink? Or to be in a situation that would be tempting to not only sexual thoughts, but also to gossip, or materialism or whatever? Surely things can happen anywhere, but knowing your weaknesses can keep you from places where you know you could fall.

Don’t bring those dirty feet into my house, please!

Jesus says an interesting thing to his disciples as they are preparing to go out to local towns and villages with the gospel. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:14). It’s like our common idiom: “I am washing my hands of the whole thing.” In other words you don’t let the bad of it cling to you, but you move on and don’t participate any further. In effect you are drawing a line in the sand, and saying I choose not to go there anymore.

Even turning the other cheek and loving your enemy is a way to do that. By forcing you to do something, they mean to get you angry enough to retaliate. Responding in love says no I won’t go there.

We are not to be doormats, but we are to keep our feet clean from the dirt of others.

In time George began to see his situation differently, he saw he was being tempted by his wife’s toxic conversation into being toxic back and into trying to escape through divorce. He saw it was only their arguments that were the problem, so he drew the line there. Whenever she would begin to rage, he would say, “Honey, let’s not go there, I’ll go upstairs until you calm down, then we can work this out in a civil manner.” And then he’d walk away! After trying this approach on a number of occasions, it wasn’t long until his anger calmed considerably. Time would tell if she would respond similarly, but he felt he had done the right thing nonetheless.

George learned not to be a doormat for others for the sake of Jesus. But to shake the dust off his feet and walk away. What about you? Is that something you can do?