A Fence or an Ambulance:
Helping Families Deal With Today’s Sexual Issues
If we are to remain a relevant church, we must overcome our shyness, break our silence, and confront the sexually threatening challenges to our children and families.
By Richard D. Dobbins
Our society is rushing toward a cliff of sexual destruction. The Internet and television are aggressively invading our homes and exponentially increasing the sexual toxicity of our society. Many people in America no longer see sexual experience as something that should be exclusively contained in marriage. Society is ripping out everything that is sacred and holy about this precious gift.
What are we doing to offset these influences and better prepare our children to lead healthy sexual lives in a morally decaying nation? What message is our silence sending to our parishioners?
In August 2006, the Southern Baptist Convention Council on Family Life reported that 88 percent of children from evangelical homes are leaving the church shortly after they graduate from high school. These are the sexually urgent years of life. Could it be that our silence about sexuality encourages our young people to question the relevancy of their faith to the practical needs of their daily lives?
This challenge is going to grow even more menacing. Why? The age of puberty is becoming lower. People are delaying marriage longer. This requires our children and young people to manage their strongest sexual urges for 15 to 20 years before they get married. They often do this with little help from their parents or their church.
If we are to remain a relevant church, we must overcome our shyness, break our silence, and confront these sexually threatening challenges to our nation. Wherever possible, we need to spare our young from the personal calamities that stem from uninformed and unwise sexual decisions. This mission calls for a protective fence built from healthy biblical information about sex communicated to our children by their parents and affirmed by their church.
Unfortunately, for many, this kind of preventive help is too late. They are already living with the tragic consequences of unwise and reckless sexual decisions. They need a spiritual ambulance to get them to churches where they can find the compassionate healing and restoration they need.
Biblical answers to sexual questions
The secular nature of society makes it unlikely that many ever consider why God made us body persons and sexual persons. We have a responsibility to help those under our ministry understand the answers to their questions.
When God created Adam and Eve, He chose to make them body persons and sexual persons. In the process He designed the neurochemical pleasure loop in the brain.
God neurochemically wired our brain to automatically create an attachment, or bond, between our bodies and our sources of pleasure. This is why it is difficult to do anything that is extremely pleasurable only once. So, we need to be careful about what we do to give us pleasure because it will draw us back to it again and again. The greater the pleasure we experience, the stronger the bond to its source will be.
God designed the spiritual ecstasy and pleasure of His presence to provide us with the most intense pleasure that is possible for the human mind/brain to experience. He wants us to be more strongly bonded to Him than we are to any other person or thing in life (Psalm 16:11; Nehemiah 8:10; Romans 14:17).
Experiencing the ultimate pleasure of His presence gives us a benchmark for comparing this enduring pleasure with the transient pleasures of this world (Hebrews 11:25). Until we have experienced the pleasure of His presence, we are at the mercy of Satan’s counterfeits.
God designed the intense pleasure of sexual orgasm to form a bond between a husband and wife strong enough to bind them together for life (Genesis 2:21–23). By doing this, God meant for sexual orgasm to serve three sacred functions in marriage:
1. The uniting function. God intended this to build a lifelong bond between two people that makes them as one.
2. The reproductive function. Sexual intercourse, through the miracle of reproduction, can make two people three. God planned for the human race to be bonded to Him by the pleasure of His presence, and for married couples to be bonded with each other through the pleasure of sexual orgasm, so they can multiply the human race for the purpose of restoring divine dominion over a fallen planet.
3. The rejuvenating function. In His kindness, God made Adam and Eve naked and unashamed. He provided sexual pleasure to strengthen the bond between a man and wife to support them throughout life (Genesis 2:23–25).
Our sexual dilemma
In our modern society, sexual pleasure has replaced the pleasure of God’s presence. Many people, particularly men, no longer desire or seek the pleasure of His presence. More and more they seek intense sexual orgasms. Pornographers pander to this appetite.
Society has turned God’s sacred gift to married couples into a form of adult entertainment that people buy and sell like any other form of commercial recreation. As a result, it is common for both men and women to have had several sexual partners before marriage. Consequently, this weakens the bonds of marriage and family.
More and more people are finding themselves in bondage to whatever they have allowed to sexually excite them. The lack of spiritual and emotional intimacy between spouses fails to bring lasting satisfaction to their sexual experiences.
The neurochemistry of the brain accommodates previous levels of excitement, so it now requires more and more of the stimulus a person has chosen to reach the same level of sexual pleasure. People are in bondage to voracious sexual appetites and perverse expressions of sexuality. Unless God breaks this bondage and heals them, they are incapable of being sexually true to anyone.
Paul warns us about this in 1 Corinthians 6:13–18. Sexual sins are sins against the body. They are not the most wicked sins a person can commit, but they are the most life-complicating because they tamper with the sexual adhesive that holds marriages and society together.
Sex Education Must Begin Early in Life
If we are to spare our children these calamities, we must begin our conversations about sex with them much earlier in life. I was reminded of this recently when shortly after midnight I was awakened by a phone call from a frantic mother crying hysterically: “Oh, Dr. Dobbins help me, please help me! I’m sorry, I know it’s late where you are, but I desperately need help now. I simply do not know how to deal with what I just found.
“A few minutes ago I walked into my children’s play room and found my 5-year-old son trying to engage his 3-year-old sister in some highly inappropriate sexual activity. I was so appalled by what I saw that I ran from the room and tried to pretend I hadn’t seen it.”
As shocking as it was for her to find her children in this kind of activity, I told her it could be a real blessing if it forced her to realize how early in our sexually sick world children become exposed to explicit pornography. I pointed out to her that the nature of the activity her children were trying to imitate indicated they had learned about pornographic sex from someone.
I asked her if she had begun talking to her children about sex. She replied, “They are only 3 and 5 years old. Don’t you think that is a little early to start talking to them about such things?”
I replied, “Of course not. I believe parents need to begin talking to their children about sex when the children begin to talk.”
I asked her how much of a head start she wanted to allow these lustful ideas growing in her children’s minds before she began providing them with the healthy biblical ideas about sex she wanted them to carry through life. Her silence made it obvious she had never given this a thought.
This is this kind of “head in the sand, look the other way” approach that allows the world to steal the sexual innocence of our children from under our noses. Unfortunately, millions of American parents are still naÃ¯ve enough to believe that even in a society as sexually toxic as ours, their preschool children can retain their sexual innocence.
As you can see from this story, children begin making sexual decisions very early in life. They are going to base those decisions on the information someone has given them at the time. As soon as children can talk, parents need to begin the process of teaching their children about healthy sexuality.
Jesus put the emphasis for living a healthy sexual life on our fantasies (Matthew 5:28). He did not say it was sinful for a man or woman to admire the beauty or handsomeness of another person. The difference between looking at someone and lusting after someone is in the fantasies occupying your mind at the time. Lusting involves thinking about what it would be like to have sex with that person.
Children need to link sexual fantasies to the dream of growing up and getting married. Parents need to teach adolescents to train their sexual fantasies to be true to the person they will eventually marry. Married people need to confine their sexual fantasies to each other. Healthy sexual fantasies are always linked to the idea of marriage.
We must awaken parents to the tragic future they and their children will face if the home is not the children’s primary source of healthy information about sex. If parents do not become proactive sex educators of their children, their children will get their information about sex from their peers, the public schools, and pornographers. Then, the family and the church will suffer the grief and pain that will inevitably follow the unwise sexual decisions based on information from these sources.
How We Got From Where We Were to Where We Are
Until the middle of the 20th century, most children could enjoy living a relatively innocent sexual life until puberty. So parents felt it was safe to delay any communication about sex until then. Still, parents relied mostly on public school sex education programs to relieve them of the awkwardness of having this kind of talk with their child.
At that time, the public school’s sex education program reflected the framework of Judeo-Christian values. Schools encouraged young people to delay intercourse until after marriage. They taught young people the danger of sexually transmitted diseases. They frowned on teenage pregnancies and these pregnancies were relatively rare.
This began to change, however, in the last half of the 20th century. In 1963, through the passionate zeal of one committed atheist, the United States Supreme Court took the Bible out of public schools in America. By this action they legally silenced the voice of Scripture in defining sexual mores and values so vital to shaping the character of America’s children and youth. This removed anything sacred or biblical from public school sex education programs. These sex education programs simply gave our children the facts about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Today, we call this sex education. To make sure no religious references bias the sex education of our young, public schools are legally required to present sex education programs from a carefully monitored politically correct agenda.
These programs normalize homosexual lifestyles, take a permissive attitude toward intercourse outside of marriage, and destigmatize single parenthood. When it comes to teaching about abortion, secular sex education programs are more likely to favor pro-choice over pro-life. Although these programs have recently slightly reduced the number of teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases continue to ravage our young at near epidemic levels.
As young people converse with their peers and interact with our sexually charged media, they are being pumped full of permissive studies and statistics about sex. This is just what they need to fire up their fantasies and energize their sexual urges at a time when poor sexual decisions can complicate or threaten the rest of their lives. This is like giving soldiers detailed information about arms and munitions without giving them any rules for engagement except “Let’s hope nobody gets hurt.”
Meanwhile, Facebook, texting, and twittering are helping young people keep each other up on the latest jargon designed by this hanging out and hooking up generation and making sure parents and families are left in the dark about what is really going on in the carefully guarded sexual side of their lives. As a result, when most parents realize the sexual conversations and behavior of their children, they, like the young mother referred to earlier, simply cannot believe it.
By our silence, the family and the church have surrendered serious conversations about these vital areas of life to sources outside the church and family. Secular and satanic forces are seizing the opportunity to capture the sexuality of our children and youth. As a result, today’s children and youth have more information about sex than any previous generation, but they lack a well-defined Christian value system and character structure necessary to guide them in making wise sexual decisions. If the church and family are not providing them with healthy biblical teaching about sex, we should not be surprised when their future is compromised by unwise sexual choices.
The Church Must Address These Sexual Issues
If we are going to prepare our children and youth to stay sexually healthy in a world that is becoming more sexually sick every day, we need to mobilize the spiritual and creative resources of the church to provide them with practical ways of applying biblical discipline to the expression of their sexuality. We need to articulate for them a healthy theology of the body and sexuality. The church is the only institution in society that can do this. Admittedly, the challenge is formidable, but the church can do this if all departments and ministries mobilize for the task.
Facing the issues
One way of addressing these needs is by having the church board create a life committee and charging it with this responsibility. The life committee will free the pastor from the inevitable criticism of a few overly sensitive people. Also, the board’s sponsorship will provide some congregational ownership. This is not to be the pastor’s committee; it is the church’s committee.
Members can include the directors or ministers of Christian education, men’s ministries, women’s ministries, youth ministries, children’s ministries, a representative from the board, and the pastor. The pastor needs to chair the life committee. Quarterly meetings should be scheduled to plan the programs for that quarter, add issues to address later, and reprioritize the program for the following quarter. In considering creating a life committee, discuss the issues this committee needs to address. (See sidebar “Suggested Topics to Address.”)
One of the first tasks of the life committee is to create an agenda of issues, establishing the priority in which they need to be addressed, and designing the platform best suited to communicate each topic. For example, the pastor may want to preach a month-long series of messages on specific life issues. A breakfast or lunch may be the best platform for addressing some topics. The life committee can plan men’s only and women’s only meetings. Parent-teen programs are also helpful. The life committee might want to effectively use panels on various topics. An “Ask the Expert” service once or twice a year will add variety to the committee’s presentations.
When using a panel or an expert, the life committee can select questions for the panel or expert to address and also solicit questions from the congregation. The congregation can write their questions on index cards. The church can designate a way to collect these cards confidentially.
The pastor, or someone he or she delegates, can select the questions they feel are most important and most frequently asked. This allows the pastor to exercise discretion in choosing the subject matter that will be presented.
The preaching and Christian education ministries of the local church need to focus on sexual issues at least once a month. Once the life committee has identified the topics to address, they can do the research to gather relevant statistics and information. They can use this information to promote the event through the media resources of the church. By discreetly confronting the congregation with these life issues facing their community, people are likely to become more open and comfortable in discussing them.
Each department director can identify topics that relate to his or her group. Once the congregation is aware that the life committee is functioning, the committee needs to encourage the congregation to suggest issues they would like to have discussed. Again, a church can do this by providing index cards and a drop box in designated places for people to fill out confidentially.
Eventually, the life committee can create a needs-assessment checklist. They can do this by simply identifying in a discreet way the sexual needs represented in the congregation.
The committee can circulate the needs-assessment list among the congregation at least twice a year. As the committee collects information from the congregation, they can edit the needs list to reflect any new information. Encouraging each person to check the areas from the list that indicate needs impacting his or her life at the moment will enable the pastor and committee to stay focused on those issues.
Some of these needs will be preventive (fence issues). Others will involve healing and recovery (ambulance issues). For example, training parents to be the primary sex educators of their children needs to be a major preventive project. The church can provide special classes, curricula, or programs for the parents of preschool children, elementary school children, junior high children, senior high children, and college students. This kind of developmental approach makes it unnecessary for parents to be involved in classes or programs that are not related to the needs of their children. A number of excellent sex education curricula and books are available from Christianbook.com and Gospel Publishing House.
For more than 40 years I have watched the enemy use the taboos attached to sexuality to effectively muzzle the church. As a church, we have been far too squeamish for far too long when it comes to teaching our children about sex. Isn’t it time we realize, for our sake and for our children’s sake, we need to get over this? The need is obvious. The time to act is now.