Currently, I am a Bible Study teacher for high schoolers and also one of the praise leaders for the college ministry in my church. I am in a habitual sin [porn addiction]. Should I step down as a leader until I am not struggling with this anymore?
If you would’ve asked me this a few years ago, I would’ve definitely told you to turn in your badge and hand over your Bible.
These days, I don’t make so many blanket-statements and I’m trying to see things on a case-by-case scenario. I don’t say this so you can do what you want, but I’ve seen plenty of flawed leaders serve through their issues just fine, so long as they’re taking steps to repent and overcome. They didn’t just confess and stay complacent — they confessed and made forward progress.
However, you must tell this to your pastor and church leadership. They have a right to know and they get to call the shots. If you were the senior pastor of this church, you would also want to know if one of your leaders was struggling with porn. If they ask you to step down, whether temporarily or permanently, you have to respect that decision.
The very fact that you’re messaging me shows you probably want to overcome this, and that’s a huge step in the right direction. I hope your church sees it that way, too — but whether they do or not, you need to tell them.
Ministries can only work when they are brutally transparent and fatally honest. If you keep this from them, you will both hurt yourself and hurt your people. If you’re honest, it still might hurt you and some others, but that’s where the healing can happen. Don’t hide it anymore.
If it were my church, I’d probably still keep you on the team and work with you on your battle. I don’t mean to “compare sins” or anything, but porn addiction is not the same thing as beating your wife or doing heroin or embezzling church funds (in which case I’d probably kick you out and call the cops [and counsel you from your jail cell]).
If you can remember the humility of being in leadership, then that fact alone should be enough motivation to defeat your habitual sin. Now add God plus your church cheering for you. So the only thing you need to do right now is to be honest. I’m hoping your church is a safe haven of grace that is willing to restore you. And if not, honesty is still the best and only policy.
Please remember that there’s no shame in stepping down, whether it’s your choice or theirs. It doesn’t have to be a big deal — it’s between you and the Lord and your mentor working some things out.
If your church decides to work with you on these things, then don’t beat yourself up out of perfectionism. Don’t let the devil tell you that you’re not good enough, because that’s actually a really lame gameplan. I’m not good enough? You’re right — I never was. Be patient and set up a good battle plan to face this head-on.
You can also still be a mentor for potential students to be leaders. Your students need to be able to function without you, so if one day you have a meltdown or you step down or you take a break — they won’t worry. They will, in fact, grow.
You should be doing that already anyway. My job as a leader is always to work myself out of a job. One of my absolutely favorite things to do is to promote younger people and build them up. Any chance I get, I brag on young disciples and cast big visions and promote their blogs and encourage them to step it up. Real leaders make leaders, in spite of (and even because of) their own brokenness.
Pray hard through these things. Ministry is serious. Fortunately, God is gracious. You can beat this sin. It’s not the only thing about you. God will help. Jesus was glad to die and rise for this very sin you’re fighting. You have the loving power of the Holy Spirit. And God is a God of second chances. He will love you all the way through it.
When tragedy occurs, we are often too quick to fight or too quick to forgive.
When we are hasty to fight, we allow rage to blind our vision. This is understandable, but unchecked will lead to bloodlust and xenophobia and too many assumptions of the facts.
When we jump to forgiveness, we are trying to free our hearts of bitterness. This is understandable, but unchecked will lead to a bypass of justice and become insensitive to the hurting.
There’s a time to be angry, to shake a fist, to attack evil and defend the weak. It’s right to hate injustice.
There’s also a time to extend pardon, to pray for enemies, to hope for better and wipe the slate clean. It’s how we rebuild for tomorrow.
God will finish this story both ways. We don’t need to force one on the other. If we try: we will forfeit both. Only God can hold this equally in tension, and only He is righteously infuriated with a tender grace.
One day, this broken world will be made right. God will unroll His love and justice on a people waiting for both, and the things that don’t make sense will be answered somehow.
Until then: we fight. Until then: we forgive.
I often hear or read things about “habitual sins.” … I know that I will always be sinful, and even if it’s not porn, I’m going to sin in other ways. However, I guess I’m wondering if it’s different because this sin is a habitual and cyclical one?
Thank you so much for your honesty here. In case you’re interested, I have a podcast and blog series on porn addiction here.
The short answer is that “habitual sin” usually has three traits:
1) Premeditated: you plan it out or you purposefully lower your guard to triggers and situations.
2) Preoccupied: it’s always on your mind and you make no effort to re-prioritize your central thoughts.
3) Unrepentant: you refuse to stop because of some rationalization or you just don’t want to, despite the destruction it’s causing.
While I hesitate to label things so quickly, if you have the above: it’s possible you might be in a habitual sin.
Let’s also remember what “sin” is because this word is so often mocked and ridiculed and misinformed. Defining it will also help us overcome it.
Sin is simply the entire human condition of brokenness that causes our hearts to be divided from our design and Designer.
You’ve probably heard that “sin is doing bad” or it’s “total depravity,” and while I understand what they mean, I don’t think it’s helpful to leave it there.
Sin did begin with an act of rebellion, but the consequence is that we’ve been dislocated from God ever since. We often cover the first part about “immoral behavior,” but not the second part about being made for Christ. We not only disobeyed; we were disconnected.
Remember: We once were perfectly whole in reflecting and receiving the Glory of God, but since Adam and Eve, that’s all been painfully fractured.
That’s why Romans 3:23 doesn’t say, “We all disobey the glory of God” — but rather, “We fall short.” The rest of humanity’s story is the desperate effort to find the wholeness that only God can give us. Or in another way: The noun of sin can lead to verbs of sin, but we are ALL woefully broken and in need of rescue.
This helps you both overcome the behavior and the source of the issue. Sin is not only what we do or who we are, but what we’re missing. It doesn’t just explain alcoholism or porn addiction or yelling in traffic, but also explains our need for approval, our competitive cutthroat culture, and our existential self-examination of significance.
So if you’re trying to quit porn, you can’t just “quit porn.” We must both runfrom sin and run to Him — to His purposes, His opportunities, His people, and His presence.
Now if you’re “stuck in habitual sin patterns,” you are willfully using and abusing people and things to fill your spiritual void — sometimes maliciously, other times mutually, but always consciously.
But here’s the thing: If you are actively fighting this sin in your daily spiritual walk, one day at a time, with your pastor or mentors or church and in confessional fellowship with others — then you’re doing something about it. Even messaging me is a step in the right way. You’re already moving towards Him.
You must please allow yourself some grace and time on this. These addictive patterns of sin have been your comforts for a while: so breaking free requires your full weight upon the Holy Spirit and the process will be just as painful as an amputation. Be drastic. Find replacement behaviors while working on your heart with the Lord. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s “legalism,” because as I’ve said before, effort is NOT legalism.
Each day, your resolve will grow stronger as you pursue Him. You’ll continually leave behind the corpse of your old self as you put on the new self. If you fall, keep going.
If you doubt your own growth, then I have a simple question —
Can you tell if a moon is waxing or waning? You’d have to look at it over a period of days before you could see it growing or shrinking. Right now, you are the waxing moon. You are growing. You are making the choice in submission to Christ to overcome this sin and reflect His Glory. If I could, I’d give you a high five. I don’t want you to see this as an affirmation to relax, but rather an encouragement to push you forward. Keep fighting the good fight on this.
To close out, I will once again shamelessly quote myself:
The Christian life is your whole life. That sin which keeps defeating you has more roots than you think, and God is patient to work in you for the surgery. Our journey of faith is a growing process of fits and starts, aches and pains, highs and lows, bliss and blisters. Jesus is going to take you all the way home on this: just keep leaning in with the full weight of your weary, desperate soul. He will catch you, always.