Sexual Discipleship®: What Is It, and Why Is It Important?

  1. Share
22 4

(Presione aquí para leer en español)

For the past five years, I’ve been using this term “sexual discipleship®" to describe the passion behind the ministry Authentic Intimacy. I’ve noticed that when people hear me put those two words together, they are intrigued. Although you may have been discipled in your walk with Christ at some point, chances are, that discipleship never permeated questions about your sexuality. 

I grew up in the church with loving, caring parents. They did their job having “the talk” with me and sporadically offered dating advice. My youth group and Christian school had days and even weeks with a focus on purity, dating, and sexuality, but they addressed these topics tenuously. The teachers seemed nervous, measuring their words, and the kids just felt awkward.

As I've grown into adulthood, the same strategy seems to have been implemented regarding sexuality—a class or book occasionally offered to teach about sex in marriage; the church’s general approach toward sexuality is to offer pockets of sex education. Let’s compare that approach to how culture tackles the topic of sexuality. It is everywhere! In every media outlet imaginable, we are confronted with an aggressive message of how to think about marriage, sexual activity, dating, and sexual identity.

Even godly, committed Christians are far more likely to think like the world on sexual issues because they have been trained to do so. The church has offered sex education while the culture is sexually discipling us, forming our opinions and worldview on everything sexual.

 

What Is Discipleship?

We often throw words like discipleship around without taking the time to consider what they actually mean. A discipleship approach is very different from an educational model. The essence of discipleship is expressed through Moses’ charge to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the decadent culture of the Promised Land:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, NIV)

There are three critical elements in Moses’ teaching to parents that still apply thousands of years later:

- A clear understanding of what is right, what is wrong, and the lordship of God in our lives

- A daily integrating of that teaching into everyday life

- A modeling of what it looks like to walk according to God’s commands

If we want to know what sexual discipleship looks like, we can just take a look at the world. Honestly, they are modeling it masterfully! The world's system has its own great commission. They are doing a fantastic job of converting us into disciples of their worldview and sexual agenda. Much of the media, news outlets, and educational leaders are aggressive about passing on their sexual values to children and adults. You are shunned and ridiculed if you express an opinion that differs from these values. Looking at the outlets representing the world’s system, do you see a clear doctrine or vision of what they believe about sexuality?

From what you observe through entertainment media, news outlets, the government, and educational system, is the messaging about sexuality from the world consistent? You bet it is! From preschoolers to senior citizens, the world’s sexual mantra is loud and clear. Turn on the news. Browse through random magazines. Flip through satellite television channels, surf the Internet, walk around on a college campus, and you will see very consistent messaging. In fact, our children are barraged by the world’s sexual doctrine everywhere they turn.

It is conceivable that your children may never see what it looks like to live with sexual virtue and purity. However, they will inevitably be exposed to hundreds—perhaps thousands—of examples of what sexual immorality looks like. Sexual discipleship is a lot more than a “talk” or retreat teaching about sexual purity.

It means walking with people through the journey of sexuality through all the stages of life and addressing questions that arise from life experience and cultural pressures. Sexual discipleship goes beyond sex education. Biblical sexual discipleship paints a complete picture of sexuality as not simply something to avoid but a great gift to be treasured, celebrated, and reclaimed.

 

What Must Change

Parents often ask me how and when to talk to their children about sex. Before we ever talk to our kids about sex, we need to be sure that our own sexual worldview is grounded in truth. The vast majority of Christians have very little idea of how to integrate their sexuality with who they are as children of God.

Those who are single don’t understand why God would give them sexual desires without an outlet of sexual expression. Those who are married don’t know how to tackle problems like no sexual desire or a spouse who looks at porn. We don’t know what to do with traumatic experiences of sexual abuse or how to get out from under the shame of past sexual sin.

Why do sexually related topics cause us to feel nervous and awkward? The expression of sex is sacred and private. It should be held in honor and handled with wisdom. However, this does not mean that purity equates to silence.

After all, the Bible does not shy away from addressing sexual themes throughout the Old and New Testaments. Some biblical teaching is so specific (particularly the Song of Solomon) that modern translators have “toned down” the interpretation to make it more acceptable for today’s readers.

At Authentic Intimacy, we want to invite men and women into a conversation that promotes sexual discipleship. What would happen if Christian parents and the Christian community were committed to defining, teaching, and modeling a godly sexual worldview? What if several times a day, we were given positive messages and examples of God’s beautiful design? Through our blog posts, podcasts, speaking events, social media, books, and website, we hope to be part of a movement to see these changes happen.

 

Take the next step to...

 

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Community tags

This content has 0 tags that match your profile.

Topics I'm Interested In

Comments

To leave a comment, login or sign up.
  • Tricia Zimmerman

    Tricia Zimmerman

    Love this article!!!
  • JoAnn Williams

    JoAnn Williams

    Just started looking thru this website. Wow. Exaltexactly what this world, not just this generation, needs. The culture is "bringing out" what was "already in" the past generations. a lack of allegiance, understanding of God, Jesus, the authority of Gods Word. You go girl with the message and equip us so we can share and take a stand. Love
  • Stephanie Ikikhueme

    Stephanie Ikikhueme

    This is sooo good!
  • Gina Mauceri

    Gina Mauceri

    Especially for those who have known only sexual experience thru abuse and starved for true love and intimacy in it's truest form even from a parent, the enemy does a perfect mimic of mocking the gospels version of love and intimcay thru deception and lies of that hurt n pain to distract confuse prevert and distort the truth to destroy lives, to pull away from God hope,belief in love, blinders !!

Related Content

3
What's the Purpose of Your Sexuality, Really?
(Presione aquí para leer en español). If someone asks you, “What are your thoughts on cohabitation?” or “Do you believe God is ok with gay marriage?” how would you respond?  To answer those questions, you will (without even realizing it) tap into your underlying beliefs about the purpose of sexuality.  Every opinion you have about sexual issues is rooted in a larger narrative of what you believe about sex—and ultimately, God. Your sexual narrative is the background that helps you make sense of sexuality. It’s the backstory on why our sexual experiences and choices should matter.  Our culture’s changing views on issues like living together or gender fluidity come from an evolution in our sexual narrative. The larger culture now predominantly tells a humanistic narrative that honors human sexuality as a primary form of self-expression and identity.  In a recent study, the Barna group concluded, “Sex has become less a function of procreation or an expression of intimacy and more of a personal experience. To have sex is increasingly seen as a pleasurable and important element in the journey toward self-fulfillment.” If sex is an important part of self-fulfillment, experimentation and sexual “freedom” become very important avenues to maturity.  In contrast to this narrative, the traditional church narrative presents sexuality as a “pass or fail” test of moral character and religious commitment. In my last blog post, I wrote about the limitations of the traditional “purity narrative” of sexuality. If you read that post, you might have been left wondering. If “saving yourself for marriage” isn’t the complete Christian narrative about sex, then what is? To understand the fuller picture of Christianity and sex, we need to start with the premise that sexuality isn’t just about what happens here on earth. It was created by God as something sacred. Sexuality is fundamentally linked to intimacy. As much as our culture tries to push the concept of “casual sex,” there is nothing casual about it. Sexuality, as created by God, taps into our deepest longings and vulnerabilities.  Sexuality must first and foremost be understood as an earthly aspect of humanity that points to a heavenly truth. That truth is that we were made for intimacy. We were created with deep longings to be known, embraced, and loved eternally by a God who will never leave us nor forsake us.  We cannot understand marriage and sexuality until we understand what they were designed to point to. Our sexual longings symbolize the experience of being incomplete. A sexual encounter at best provides a momentary taste of what we were created to experience for eternity. Even within marriage, we continue to have these longings because marriage was never meant to fully satisfy them. C.S. Lewis eloquently states the angst of desire and disappointment: “The longing for a union which only flesh can mediate while the flesh, our mutually excluding bodies, renders it forever unattainable.” Marriage is the metaphor for the answer—not the answer itself!  God created the covenant of marriage to be an earthly experience that points to the eternal reality that Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom of His Church. He pursued her, sacrificed to make her holy, and was united with her through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are most fulfilled when we abide deeply with God. We get glimpses of that intimacy here on earth, but we are still left wanting! As Paul says, all creation groans for Christ to come and claim His people. While the cultural narrative worships sex as a source of our personal fulfillment, the biblical narrative presents sex as a sacred picture of longing, unity, and covenant. Its power is not in attaining sexual satisfaction but in recognizing the deeper longing it represents. This narrative gives a greater context to all things sexual. It explains the why behind the what.  It also helps us understand why sexual intimacy is celebrated within marriage but wrong when it happens apart from a covenant. It fleshes out why sexual betrayal is so difficult to recover from. Within this narrative, male and female are not interchangeable, because they represent Christ and the church. The Christian “rules” around our sexuality are there because they frame the picture of the true purpose of our sexuality. We were not created for sexual expression. We were not even created for marriage. We were created for intimacy. The greatest sex in marriage is a wonderful thing, but still a temporal pleasure meant to point to deeper longings. This is why the New Testament holds singleness in such high esteem. The ultimate good for a Christian is not a happy marriage but surrender to and unity with Christ Himself. Marriage and sexuality are holy metaphors to be honored but should never become idols that overshadow our longing to know God Himself.  Over the past several years, I’ve been studying and “unpacking” this biblical metaphor. The deeper I press into this mystery (and it is a mystery!), the more I’m understanding God’s heart for our sexuality. It helps me put into context my struggles as a wife, the disappointments I see and experience, and also why everything sexual is such a massive spiritual battlefield. My heart for you is that as you engage with Authentic Intimacy materials, you are not simply learning the Christian “rules” about sex, but are encountering God’s heart for you. Sex is not just about sex. It is a physical way that you experience what you were created for… eternal intimacy with a faithful God.    Read the first and second blog in this series. You may also find these follow-up resources helpful:  Java with Juli #218: Rethinking Sexuality in Your Life (member exclusive) Java with Juli #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual Java with Juli #166: We Are All Sexually Broken  Java with Juli #182: Your Generation and Your View of Sexuality
3
The Good News about Fifty Shades Darker
The  second installment of the Fifty Shades trilogy just hit the big screen. We’ve had this conversation before - first about the book and then about the original movie. We’ve sounded the alarm about the dangers of pornography and other forms of counterfeit intimacy. (You can read a blog about Meeting Mr. Grey, listen to a podcast about the books, or read a blog on sexual junk food.)  There are plenty of bad things to say about the release of Fifty Shades Darker but, to be honest, I don’t have the stomach for it. Do you? My social media feed is filled with negativity, harsh words and bad news. Is yours? The last thing I want to do right now is flood the Authentic Intimacy community with yet another thing to be worried and argumentative about. So, I’ve been asking the Lord, “How can we talk about this movie in a positive light? Is there any good news?”  God has been reminding me of the Great Commission. These are the words Jesus said to His disciples right before He ascended into heaven, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). When I think of this passage in light of our current cultural debates, I see three pieces of good news that I want to share with you. The good news that Jesus has all authority in heaven AND ON EARTH  The first piece of good news is something that we may overlook. We know God has authority in heaven, but sometimes we forget that He has ALL authority here on earth as well. I have needed to remember this truth in recent days. It brings me back to trusting God...To trusting that God is sovereign in the politics of our country and even in the sexual brokenness that is now celebrated in our world. None of it surprises Him or overwhelms Him.  How does this relate to Fifty Shades Darker? Sometimes it feels as if “darkness” is winning. My heart is burdened because I see before my eyes a culture that actively rejects God and a Christian culture that marginalizes His authority. But the good news is that nothing in heaven or on earth will ever dethrone Jesus as the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.  It’s not my job to fix the world or even to fix one person. It’s my job to surrender my life to the love and to the work of our awesome God. It’s my job to be sure that I am His disciple and that my life is about sharing the Good news of Jesus. Every day and piece of bad news provides the chance to show God’s love. Jesus is King, sovereign with all authority both in heaven and here on earth.  The good news that we have the chance to share Jesus. The Fifty Shades of Grey is the fastest selling book in the history of publishing. In 2014, it reached the top ten selling books of ALL TIME. We have to take a step back and ask why? What is the draw? While there are many answers to this question, I believe a key component is that women are lonely, bored with life, disappointed by love and eager to experience romantic and sexual thrills. In other words, women are thirsty.   We all have a relational and spiritual thirst that lurks beneath our busyness and productivity. I believe 50 Shades taps into that thirst, but offers salt water instead of refreshment. The women we interact with don’t ultimately need to hear why 50 Shades Darker is dangerous. They need to know they are not alone and that there is a Jesus who offers living water. This is essentially what Jesus told us to do. Go out and make disciples.  This movie provides yet another opportunity for you to engage with women on a sensitive and personal topic that just might lead to God. Think of how Jesus offered the woman at the well (John 4) living water by talking about her sex life and her loneliness. If God gives you the chance to talk to someone about 50 Shades, remember that the ultimate goal isn’t to convince them that the movie is bad, but that God is good.  The good news that Jesus is with us.  Oh, to know that Jesus is with me every minute. I know that in my head, but I live the majority of my day without remembering this promise. Christ is with me when I don’t know what to say to a struggling friend. He’s with me when people disagree with me. He’s with me giving me wisdom to speak His truth and demonstrate His love. He’s there when my heart aches at the pain and confusion around me. And He is with me when my own heart feels thirsty and unsatisfied. If I truly embraced this promise, how would it change me today?  If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, do you know that He is always with you? Do you depend upon Him as your Counselor, your Comforter, and your Wisdom? Do you know that you don’t have to do marriage, singleness, ministry or parenthood alone? My friend, there is so much bad news that’s it easy to lose heart or simply to stop pursuing God’s truth. The gale-force winds of our culture are relentless and convincing. If you feel confused, discouraged, or weary, let the good news of Jesus’ words fill you heart with hope.  Over the next few weeks, the ministry of Authentic Intimacy will be addressing Fifty Shades Darker. We have recorded two podcasts on the topic, will have a live webinar, a few speaking events and our book Pulling Back the Shades. Our desire and goal is to declare the Good news in the midst of the conversation. Will you join us?    Register for our webinar with Dr. Juli Slattery & Hannah Nitz talking more about the good news.  Enter to win a copy of Pulling Back the Shades- we are giving away 50 copies this week!  Photo by Jorge Salvador on Unsplash