Have you ever wondered how half of our pastors could have a porn problem, as the statistics show? Our country is packed with seminaries and Bible colleges led by devoted and gifted scholars, yet many of our ministry leaders are masturbating to pornography. How could these men pass through our Christian educational centers knowing so much of God’s truth, (in Greek and Hebrew even) yet still have a secret addiction to sexual sin?
I’ve talked and corresponded with pastors who struggle with porn, and their stories are often the same. They got hooked on porn or sex addiction at an early age, found the Lord, and later went to seminary or Bible College where they learned the Right Theology – and continued to live the double life of a Jekyll and Hyde Christian.
The pastors I’ve talked to are often masters at “faking it and conforming.” Few would assume that a man of God would be masturbating to porn, so “hiding their inner problems” is easy. Most are gifted communicators who can preach a great sermon on the love of God.
They may know Greek, but they don’t know grace; it’s never made it to their heart. Their actions are proof of this, because a man or woman who’s had their heart filled with the love of God has no interest in the counterfeits like porn. I’ve found it’s often harder to get the message of grace through to a pastor than a layperson; they focus so much on their knowledge, gifting and apparent success in ministry that they’re blind to their brokenness.
… To great sections of the church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.”
Tozer, a pastor of some 40 years who wrote more than 40 books, penned “The Pursuit of God” in 1949. I should also mention that Tozer never went to high school, college, or seminary. Christ was Tozer’s first love, and the overflow of this relationship was the power source of Tozer’s ministry.
Our seminaries and Bible Colleges are doing an excellent job teaching men and women the Word of God, but we’re missing their hearts. For too many, “Your lovingkindess is better than life” (Psalms 63:3) is a precept or principle to be taught on Sunday morning, not something they’ve tasted.
If I were to do a Blazing Grace Seminary, we would go for the hearts of our students; our goal would be to see them fall in love with Christ. The Blazing Grace Seminary would be meant to supplement and complement (not replace) our centers of theological learning.
Our seminary would be located in a peaceful, somewhat remote place where men and women could seek God, perhaps among the green mountain forests of Colorado. (The deserts of California would work too, but I don’t think my wife would live there.) The complex would have a main hall, a dining room, and 50 individual rooms; we’d take in 50 persons every 2 weeks. There would be no TV or computer in any of the rooms, only a CD player for music.
There would be a sign on the door to the main hall that would be marked “No masks allowed; only the broken may enter.” This is not a place for playing the Good Christian Game, or trying to conform to a set of rules; we’re after authentic relationships here. To make the Blazing Grace Seminary a safe place, all who attend would be required to sign a contract of confidentiality so that what is shared wouldn’t be revealed to others.
Our course would last for 2 weeks, and would entail the following:
Week 1, Day 1: Isolation is Death
Each day of the course, a new set of verses are posted up on the blackboard at the front of the room where we meet together. Today’s verses are:
Our instructor (me) sets the tone by telling his story with brutal honesty; our students won’t feel comfortable opening up if their instructor is hiding behind an ivory tower.
Afterwards, every person in the room is required to do the same; we ask them where they are with lust, masturbation, porn, affairs, drugs, alcohol and even overeating. We ask them how their marriages are doing, and to describe what their relationships with their father and mother were like. Every area of their life is explored, poked, probed and tested. Better to get these things out in the open now in a safe place than wait for the Big Train Wreck years later.
In the safety and acceptance of this environment and with everything on the table, close relationships begin to form, and the healing begins. Some would be sharing hurts and secrets for the first time in their life. We finish each day by praying for each other in specific ways, as shown in James 5:16.
Week 1, Day 2: Brokenness 101
Our focus today is to help our students see their lives are a fatal tragedy. We push into areas of pride, blindness and distorted motives. We challenge them to expose any self-centered motives for getting into ministry (i.e. to be needed, for the adulation and approval of others, or to earn God’s love). We set God’s impossible standard for sexual purity in front of them (“but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” Matthew 5:28) so they understand that, if they are to be honest, they have no way of meeting God’s requirements for holiness within. We help them see ministry must come through God’s power alone, so they no longer value or rely on their own efforts, gifting, education, or abilities.
Accepting their brokenness is critical to our students’ success; without it they will continue to rely on themselves and fall prey to the lusts of the flesh. There must be no doubt in their heart that they are desperate for God.
Week 1, Day 3: Exposing the lies within
In Day 3, we help our students see the lies they’ve bought into about themselves, God and others, and then we compare it with the truth. The man or woman who turns to porn, drugs, binge eating or workaholism reveals they see God “as a hard man” who doesn’t love them. The core lie that drives them to the counterfeits of grace is “I can’t be loved as I am by God or others; I’m worthless.” These lies must be exposed, uprooted and thrown away so the life-giving truth of God’s love can take root in the soil of their heart.
Week 1, Day 4: Facing the wounds
In the process of exposing the lies within, wounds will be exposed that need healing, such as abuse, neglect, abandonment. Some will undoubtedly have gone through trauma such as sexual abuse, and will need personal attention. These are the wounds that the core lies and shame have wrapped themselves around; without healing in these areas they will continue to struggling with a spiritual restraining bolt that keeps them from receiving God’s love.
Week 1, Day 5: Grace
On Day 5, we zero in on the incredible gift of God’s grace for our students. To be a conduit of His love, they must first receive it in their hearts; that which has not been received cannot be given to others. Without God’s love in their hearts, our ministry leaders to-be will be little more than clanging gongs.
Every sin they’ve committed is washed away by the blood of the cross, no matter how sick, shameful or secretive it was, and no matter what others have done to them. They need only to accept the gift of God’s grace and love; they can’t earn it by getting into ministry or “doing for God.” There is no hoop to jump through, no theological precept they must master to unlock the secret of His grace.
Week 2, Days 1 -5: Seeking God
Joseph spent 2 years in prison before he was promoted to the vise presidency of Egypt. Moses fed sheep in the wilderness for 40 years before God called him to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt. David spent many of his early years alone, tending sheep. John the Baptist was brought up in the wilderness. Jesus was alone in the desert for 40 days before starting his earthly ministry. Paul spent years in prison writing the letters that make up much of the New Testament. Often, the Lord prepared those He would use powerfully by an extended period of time alone with Him.
Our students will spend 5 days seeking God’s face. Every day of the second week, they will be sent out to the wilderness to seek the Lord alone. They will not seek God and, such as God and freedom from sin, or God and success in ministry or some other and, but God alone.
These verses are posted during the second week:
In the process of seeking the Lord, our students will discover the wonderful mystery of silent communion with the Living God. At first, being still and listening for an extended period of time will be hard; jumping off the treadmill of busyness will go against their “I must do something for God” way of life. As their spirits quiet, something strange happens; peace creeps in; their heart softens, and then cracks open a little, exposing a deep ache for God. Their God hunger intensifies, and they go after Him harder.
As they bask in His Presence during week, our students’ eyes are opened. Suddenly they realize God had been surrounding them with His love every day of their life; they’d just been blind to it. Their hearts break wide open in passionate love for Him, and everything else in life suddenly fades away in importance. “Your loving-kindness is better that life” is no longer mere theology; it’s now more real, powerful and precious than anything on earth to them.
Ministry leaders who’ve faced their own brokenness know the importance of making the church a safe place where others can expose their secret sins and receive grace. Since God is now first in their heart, they’re more concerned with pleasing the Lord than people, and they have no problem boldly proclaiming all of God’s truth.
Those who’ve had their hearts filled with the love of God are passionate about pointing others to Him. They have an aversion to the “strange and foreign thing called a program” Tozer spoke of, as programs can’t fill an empty heart with God’s love. Freed from the need to impress others or earn God’s approval through ministry, they now rely completely on His power and direction, making them spiritual dynamite in His hands. Life is now a roaring adventure in faith, and the Lord can feed many through them.
The most important question in life is not whether we know the Bible, but whether we love Him; the heart is shown first in the greatest commandment, while the mind is last. (What man ever told his wife I love you with all my head?) If we want to equip our ministry leaders to be sharpened tools in the Master’s hands, we must go for their hearts as well as their minds.
In fact, the church needs to go for everyone‘s heart.