Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Very Personal Life of Church Planter:Sex

Last month my friend Rick Hunter gave me the honor of speaking to Renew South Florida, two cohorts of church planters in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, about the personal life of a church planter based on Redeemer City to City Incubator curriculum.  

But what about Sex and Finances?
As I settled back home in Atlanta, It concerned me that I had not talked enough about sexuality or financial issues. These are two significant areas of temptation and struggle that need to be addressed. 

So I wrote this as a letter to the men I had just met and sent it off to Rick to distribute to the Renew network. It's a bit long so I'm posting it in two parts. The second part is here.

The Very Personal Life of a Church Planter
By Jim Moon, Jr.

In all the intense focus on prepping for the ‘Personal Life of a Church Planter’ training at the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale cohorts, I overlooked at least two topics that need attention. Sex and finances: two areas of character and skill development where readiness to plant a church needs preparation and attention. Perhaps these topics are old news to you or addressed in other training sessions, but I wanted to mention some important defense and offense to consider now.

About the Very Personal Sex Life of a Church Planter
When you start a church, or even begin to start a church, you are putting yourself, your spouse and your marriage (if you are married) in a highly exposed situation. Most all of this addresses married planters.

I won’t bother to count the number of pastors and church planters I know who are no longer in ministry because of sexual or emotional unfaithfulness or financial impropriety. These are two moral failings that will remove you from the field of battle immediately. God does forgive and the church can and should restore men who fall, but the direct consequence of a moral failing in these areas is removal from ministry for a season until (or if) the marriage survives and restoration made.

As a church planter you are highly stressed. You are working intensely. You will constantly feel insecure. You will fail in many small ways. Every idol you have will clamor for satisfaction. Everyone you know will have idols clamoring for your attention too. Sexual and marital purity is vital.

Especially because you work often and closely with women. You deal with emotions, demands and stress unlike anything you have experienced. And then you go and open the doors of a facility and invite the public. Now your life is open even more to temptation. I will spare you salacious details, but be warned the enemy of your soul and the church sends women to attempt to seduce you. I know too many stories.

So be ready to fight off anything and everything immoral and sexual that is not your bride.
She is your protection sexually. She is God’s ordained emotional and sexual protection for you alone.

Let me say this again: There is one and only one woman who can protect you, your God-given wife. Say that out loud to yourself. Seriously.

One way my wife protected me was to listen to me and realize how much I needed intimacy and sexual gratification while I was under stress and constant temptation. I had to go out on an emotional limb and fill her in on what I needed from her for protection. Do I need to be more specific?

If you and your wife have SO MANY demands on your life that your marriage is not healthy or you fail to make time for rest, or for sex, you can more easily be tempted and fall morally. This is a shameless plug for taking a Sabbath right here. TAKE A SABBATH. Or at least part of one!

What else should you do? I’m a list guy, so here goes…
1. Regularly repent from mini-moral failings. Your eyes will wander. Your flesh will lust. Women will dress immodestly (it’s South Florida) and you will look. Obviously try not to! It just gives your flesh more temptations to work through, but urgently and quickly prefer Christ’s forgiveness and run to the love of God which will satisfy you deeply. We pray ‘lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.’ Protection from sexual immorality is God’s concern for you.

2. Weekly accountability. Weekly talk with someone you trust to hear your confessions and preach the gospel to you AND who knows you well enough to challenge you. Have them ask a question like this, ‘Have you had inappropriate contact with a woman this week? in your mind or physically?’ Live meetings are better. Similar peer level season of life is helpful too.
This isn’t my first rodeo, I know you can you cheat on accountability. But in my life, I want accountability to protect me and just knowing I’m going to be asked that question causes me to pause and reconsider going down a temptation trail.

3. Learn to love ‘blinders’ and boundaries. Blinders are those leather cups worn beside the eyes of horses to prevent distraction and keep them looking forward. Develop blinders of discipline specific to your life, weaknesses and struggles about where you will not go, where you will not click, where you will not go alone. If you have struggled with internet porn, you need a specific set of blinders. If you struggle to keep your eyes pure when you are at the beach, you need a specific set of blinders. If there is a certain woman who causes you to be tempted, you need a set of blinders and boundaries. Seek out a mature Christian man to help develop specifics.

Make it a best practice to not be alone in private with a woman who is not your family. This protects from temptation and protects everyone’s reputation.

On those occasions, when you are unavoidably the last to leave an event or must give a ride to a young lady or woman in an emergency, call your wife and let her know the situation and when you will be home.

4. Gently and clearly let your wife know you need her help. She is the one and only person who can protect your heart and emotions from a myriad of temptations. And she is the only one who keep your sexual/emotional tank full.

So communicate humbly. Keep romancing her. And when you are too tired but needy, tell her that you need her help anyway. It seems wise to me to have your wife as part of all your sexual experiences, rather than just taking care of yourself. Thank her for protecting you and satisfying you. Be honest about how much you need her and when.

Single men. I know Jesus did ministry perfectly as a single man. And so did the apostle Paul. But honestly, I got married young so I have little to no experience as a single man. This is where I’m going to say find a wiser man to discuss this issue and I’ll shut up.
Abuse. If either one of you have been sexually abused, get help in order to heal. Seriously consider how this impacts God’s call for your lives.

Don’t tweet. Seriously, no need to tweet about this part of your life. I think it’s demeaning to your wife and your marriage, even if you say positive things about going on a date. Also protect your wife and other men from thinking about your wife. Let’s keep tweeting about ‘hot’ and ‘smoking’ only refer to barbeque. Really.  

Sexual intimacy in marriage is a very personal gospel issue. Your deepest idolatries and sins will fight the humility and honesty God has granted in the righteousness of Christ. Believe that you are worse than you want to admit but more loved than you ever dreamed. Right there is the key to loving God, loving your nearest neighbor and yourself.

Brothers, I hope this encourages you and leads to a fruitful life of loving and serving Christ and His church! Contact me if I can be of any help.

Suggested Action Items:
1. Do you have a solid accountability system for your protection? What can you do to improve it?
2. Have you and your wife had an open discussion about sexual temptation and the need for sexual and emotional protection in your marriage while planting? Read this together and discuss.
3. If the thought of sexual intimacy as a gospel issue causes you or your wife emotional discomfort, with whom can you speak to about this spiritual emotional issue?

1 comment:

Barbara Moon said...

Excellent advice and well said! May it be taken to heart and acted upon so the enemy has no ground.