Sexual Discipleship®: What Is It, and Why Is It Important?
(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.
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Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash