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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.   Take the next step to... learn more about Sexual Discipleship.   Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash
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Three Things I (Wish I Hadn't) Learned From Pornography
When I was a fifth grader, my friend opened my laptop and introduced me to pornography. At the time, I didn’t know what pornography was, but I did know that it was something new and exciting. Years would go by before I rediscovered porn. In college, after experiencing date rape (my first time having intercourse), I had many questions about sex. My curiosity led me to my reliable friend Google. As I began typing in my questions about sex, I was intrigued. “So this is what sex is supposed to look like.” I truly believed that... Porn became my sex education. It taught me that sex is never messy, that women have to look a certain way to be loved, and that manipulation is okay. But neither the sex I experienced as rape, nor the sex I was watching on the screen, accurately displayed God’s purpose and design for sex. If Christians fail to create a safe place for young adults to ask questions about sex, they will more likely turn to internet pornography. According to a recent study, 25 percent of young adults ages 18-24 years old in the U.S. say that porn is their most helpful source of information about how to have sex.1 This is likely an underestimated percentage because of the shame associated with using pornography. When young people turn to porn for sex education, single or married, they begin to believe that the sex they experience in real life will be like the sex they see in pornography. In the survey, porn was the most commonly identified source for sex education. It rated higher than family, a significant other, and media. The study, conducted by a non-Christian group, came to impactful conclusions. They explain, "The bad news is that young adults are misunderstanding what porn is there for. Most free, online pornography is there for entertainment and to make money for the creators. It isn't there to teach you what you are supposed to do when you are having sex." Even the secular world understands that pornography should not be our source for sex education! Here are three things I wish I hadn't learned from pornography: Porn taught me that sex is self-focused. In pornography, the focus is all about how to get the most pleasure for oneself. Whether through masturbation or focusing on orgasming quickly, the focus is never on serving the other person. In God’s design for sexuality, sex is mutual (and even better) when you focus on pleasing and serving your spouse. Paul talked about surrendering your body to your spouse in the marriage bed in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4. He said, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” This does not mean you have to give your body to your spouse whenever they want, but rather that our bodies are gifts to one another in marriage. (To learn more about this idea, read Are You Entitled to (Good) Sex in Marriage?) Loving and serving your spouse (above your own desires) in the bedroom is one way you display your marriage covenant through sexual intimacy.   Porn taught me that sex would always be amazing. Sex portrayed on a screen is nothing like sex in real life. Sadly, when young adults look at porn as their sex education, they will be let down when married sex does not always result in explosive orgasms. Real sex requires communication with your partner as you figure out how to please one another and allow time for arousal. Watching porn trains your body to be unable to respond to your spouse’s touch and can be a detriment to enjoying sex in marriage.   Porn taught me that it's normal for sex to feel abusive. Covenant Eyes, an online filter software, states that 88% of scenes in porn films contain acts of physical aggression, and 49% of scenes contain verbal aggression. When young adults see abuse in porn, they are more likely to think aggression is normal and play out what they’ve seen in real life. Sometimes couples say that they watch porn to learn how to “spice things up.” Porn and erotica actually do the exact opposite. Things may “spice up” at first, but they will eventually erode the trust and communication needed for sexual intimacy and a loving sex life. (Want to learn some healthy ways to spice up your love life?) The men and women who make porn are also negatively impacted. Porn performers are often high on alcohol or drugs and some are actually victims of sexual exploitation. Covenant Eyes shares that 79% of porn performers have used marijuana, and 50% have used ecstasy. It is normal for the women to be high or drunk when performing, and have eating disorders.   Let’s Talk About It As Christians, we must stop allowing shame to keep us from asking for help. We need to create safe places for men and women, single or married, to ask questions about sex. We must be a place where women (especially) can confess to struggling with porn, and find help, healing, and encouragement. In order to help men and women reclaim their sexuality, we must begin talking about God’s greater design. Porn is a terrible teacher, but God’s Word has answers to every question—even questions about your sex life. And His Word brings freedom, healing, and purpose to our sexuality. (Presione aquí para leer en español).  1 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-020-01877-7 Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash