Advice to Churches on Purity
Pastor Jeff VanGoethem
I had the privilege recently of attending a workshop at the Moody Pastor’s Conference led by Mr. Bradley Furges of Pure Life Ministries. Having myself begun to preach on the subject of purity, I became interested in the workshop when I saw the title, which was something like, “What Churches Must do About Sexual Impurity.” Pure Life Ministries is relatively new on my horizon. I did read a magazine they put out for a few years, although I did not completely grasp the whole scope of their ministry. I found the magazine helpful, even powerful in probing the area of purity, much like I found the workshop. I was not acquainted with Mr. Furges prior to the workshop, however I found his remarks to be sobering, yet constructive. In fact they were so on the mark, I thought it wise and prudent to pass them along to you.
Mr. Furges serves as an intake counselor for Pure Life’s residential program – they have 75 “beds” in their program devoted to helping men break the slavery of sexual sin. Men come and live on their grounds in Kentucky for six to twelve months of intensive discipleship until they are set free. Normally, they are pretty desperate by the time they come. So Mr. Fergus has been intimately involved for many years with people and churches struggling with the slavery of pornography, lust and sexual sin. Here was his advice to churches:
- Teach people to walk in integrity, with no “secret sins” or “secret worlds” of lust and sin. Encourage transparent relationships in the body so that those struggling can get help from others.
- Be keenly aware of the tremendous increase of sexual impurity in the church. It is one of the main issues the church faces today.
- Leaders should take care to know the state of the flock. How is your church doing in the purity battle?
- There should be frequent messages on purity and sexual sin. Sin should be called sin.
- Biblical counsel and biblically based resources should be made available to the congregation. Hearts must be changed and only the Bible can overcome sin.
- The church should love its members enough to discipline them when needed. We should not fall for notions of “humanitarian mercy” but be determined to see people find their way to deliverance from sin.
- Address immodest dress. It is better to risk giving offense than to permit the temptations of impurity right in our churches.
- Reach out to the youth ASAP. Young people are quickly sucked into our culture’s obsession with sex and we need to reach them for the cause of purity as soon as we can.
- Encourage every Christian to make his or her home “safe for purity.” Our homes should be a sanctuary that allows for purity to grow.
This is what we have been trying to do with our recent message series on purity. Mr. Fergus remarked that over the years of working in this ministry, Pure Life has seen a downward trend regarding sexual purity in the church. Church members and professing believers are getting into this stuff more and more, earlier and earlier, and to greater degrees of deviancy than ever before. Yet many of them remain deceived, thinking they can be right with God while involved in a secret world of lust and sin. He even remarked on several visits he has made to Amish communities! It seems that some of the Amish have begun to permit cell phones and their people have discovered the world of pornography. Even this isolated community has been penetrated by the culture’s obsession with sex. The Amish have reached out for help.
Do you need to reach out for help? In our messages on this subject we have tried to stress the positive way out of the enslaving sin of sexual impurity. There is grace. There is help. But we must seek it. Yes, we are often ashamed of ourselves and the temptation is to pridefully hide this kind of sin from others and to run away from God. But that is not a solution. We have to return to God, receive His grace, seek His help, and get the help we may need from others in the body who love us. That is the pathway to victory. As a reminder:
- Get serious about this sin. We have to look at it as God looks at it.
- Make a confession. Find someone you can trust who can listen to you and help you.
- Complete the necessary “amputations.” Take firm and decisive steps to eliminate the “triggers” that lead you into sexual sin. Just saying “I won’t do that again” is not going to work.
- Get in the Word. Memorize, internalize and utilize God’s Word in the battle.
- Get the level of help you need. Do you need to counsel with a pastor or Christian counselor? Do you need to be in some kind of program? Do you need to share something with your spouse and enlist his or her aid? Do you need an accountability partner (s)? Do not try to go it alone.
- Be prepared to fight the battle long term. The root of this sin can be big, complex and deep. There isn’t a quick fix or a pill to take. It is a battle every day, so we must be patient and when we have lapses, return to the good and holy way of purity.
It is interesting how Paul says it, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints” (Ephesians 5:3). This is one sin that must be put all the way outside of the church. It is far from being so today – we hear every day of sexual scandals in churches, adulterous affairs among believers, and confessions of addiction to pornography by church members.
I wonder if this sin is one of the main reasons God is not blessing us with revival? Maybe if we get this sin out of the church, God will come back in? There is more at stake than just how I am doing and how you are doing. What is God doing with us?
Some years ago I was reading a magazine article about professional baseball players. It was discovered by some of the players’ wives that their husbands had “girlfriends” they hooked up with when on the road with team. One wife said, “almost every player on this team has girlfriends, except for maybe a couple of the born again guys.” Maybe if all of us will take the appropriate steps to regain purity in our lives, someone might at some point say, “everyone in our society is involved in sexual impurity, except for those Christians, they live pure lives.” When the world around us can say something like that about us, then we will be in obedience to God. Then maybe revival will come. Let’s do what we have to do.