What a day! The Set Free Summit kicked off with an audience representing 19 countries and 350 different organizations. The purpose: to bring awareness to the pervasive problem of pornography and encourage the Church to fight for freedom. Three amazing speakers took the stage to share their stories and insights about porn’s destructive nature and the redemption that is possible.
Session 1: The Porn Phenomenon
Dave Kinneman, President of Barna Group, shared the results of the 2016 Porn Phenomenon research study commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry and Covenant Eyes. The research shows that the porn problem runs deep and significantly affects the Church and our youth. Here are a few of his main points:
- Porn use is fueled by a new moral code embraced by society that says (1) people should not criticize someone else’s life choices, (2) people can believe whatever they want as long as their beliefs don’t impact society, and (3) any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable.
- A new type of pornography has emerged. Porn 2.0, as Barna labeled it, is often self-created, shared with friends or significant others, includes sexting and is encouraged and rewarded by celebrities like Kim Kardashian. Porn 2.0 offers the same trauma and harms as traditional porn.
- There are signs of hope in spite of the growing problem. The Christian community is becoming aware of the problem and the need for holistic solutions. Porn is no longer socially taboo to discuss, and millions are expressing guilt about using it. Christians do not struggle with it to the same degree as other groups.
Session 2: Pornography in the Church
Steve Arterburn, founder of New Life Ministries, believes porn is the greatest threat facing Christians today. Here are four reasons why:
- Porn always gets worse. When a person gets involved in pornography, the more likely they are to move into a genre they used to think was detestable or perverse.
- Porn prevents sanctification. When a person is addicted to pornography, they have lost the desire to be sanctified.
- Porn kills intimacy. Pornography destroys intimacy with God, a spouse and others.
- Porn causes impotency. ED drugs are flourishing because of porn.
Steve called the Church to action. Those in the Church must live with integrity–reaching out when we struggle, understanding and addressing the complexities of a porn addiction, and sharing the message with others. We must challenge our leadership to act and offer compassion and groups to those looking to find freedom.
Session 3: From Recovery to Redemption
“There was something about porn that grabbed hold of me,” said Michael Leahy. Although he felt loved as a child, Leahy found his way to pornography at age 11. It became part of his identity. Despite his picture-perfect life, he continued to return to porn, especially once the Internet made it more available.
“What you feed grows, and what you starve dies,” said Leahy. For 30 years he fed his relationship with pornography and sexual fantasy. Eventually he got into what could be described as a death spiral with a fellow sex addict. His wife was blamed and became suicidal, and his kids got in trouble. Leahy finally hit rock bottom about a year after his divorce, and even contemplated suicide.
His true recovery began at this record low, and it was the first time he truly wanted it. Mark Laaser’s book and counseling played an influential role in his recovery. Eventually Leahy felt called to help others and founded a ministry called BraveHearts. He came to hold the philosophy, “One, not everyone,” which encourages doing for one person what you wish you could do for everyone. As he mentored individual men, he realized he needed to develop a process, not just a series of one-offs. When he realized his own story matched up the stories of many others, he found he could help many, not just a few, find true success and freedom.
“I have the best job in the universe,” said Leahy, “because I have a front-row seat in life change.”