Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hidden Idols: Unseating the idol of porn

Nate Larkin went to a different seminary at a different time, but despite his story he’s not all that different from many of today’s seminarians. He took the biblical languages and systematic theology. He was an excellent student and expositor. He won the preaching prize. He pastored a small independent church while he was in school. He sincerely wanted to follow the Lord’s calling on his life. He seemed, from the outside, enormously successful. Ideal, even. But inside, he harbored pain and guilt from something deep and hidden. Over time, it metastasized.

“When I was in seminary, I felt like I had joined the Marines and that I was the designated hero,” he says now. “I would be the guy who would have the answers for everybody else. I would be a repository of wisdom, I would be the tip of the spear.

“But that’s a concept that militates against much of what the New Testament tells us about the interdependence of all the members of the body of Christ.”

Larkin started looking at pornography long before seminary. But it was during that period that it became truly addictive. At the time, the early 1980s and long before the internet, glossy men’s magazines were the entry point for porn users, and the next stage was adult bookstores. Larkin says he can still hear the sound of a clattering film projector behind him from the first time he visited such a place. One bookstore was halfway between the seminary and his church, and he recalls on many occasions feeling like the car turned into the bookstore of its own volition.

After a post-seminary men’s retreat, he promised himself he would get serious about his sin, even opening up to his wife for the first time and vowing never to do it again. He experienced a period of “abstinence,” as he calls it, and even decided he had recovered enough to plant a church, but he never dealt with his sin at the root or was truly honest with others about the condition of his heart. Eventually, it grew worse.

Larkin describes driving to church one rainy night, where he was going to preach at the Christmas Eve service. He saw a young woman on the street, and deciding he would be a gentlemen and get her out of the rain, offered to give her a ride. But she was not there by accident, and the $100 bill he had in his wallet for the church Christmas offering never made it to the offering plate. It was not the only time, even after he quit the ministry in a desperate attempt to kill his addiction. As best as he can reconstruct it now, during those dark years he spent as much as $300,000 illicitly.

His wife caught him one night, and spoke two words that would finally spark change his life. I’m done. She said she still loved him, but she didn’t like him, didn’t respect him, and didn’t think he could ever change.

Desperate to save his relationship with his wife — the one friend he still had, he says — Larkin started attending 12-step recovery and at last began being honest about his sin.

“It was there that I encountered Jesus in a whole new way,” he said. “It was there that doors and windows were opened on the gospel for me, and I began to see that Jesus was always unfailingly kind to the sexually broken. He never himself endured sexual sin, but he was always unfailingly kind and gracious.”

He started developing close friendships, which forced him to stop minimizing his sin and get serious about it. This is not sin management, one friend told him. They would work hard to confront the behavior, but they would also drill deeper into the heart issues that drove his actions. You have a lot more repenting to do than you know, he told Larkin.

The work took years, like the sprouting of a sapling or the glacial drift of an ice flow. A member of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, Larkin began to grow under the preaching of founding pastor Scotty Smith and honest, deep friendships and openness with other Christian men. The change itself, however, was supernatural. It was the work of the Holy Spirit.

“Eventually, either we surrender to a power greater than ourselves and our addiction, or we lose.”

The friendships Larkin formed during that phase of his life have lasted decades. He has been in recovery for more than 25 years and has used his story to mentor countless men struggling with pornography and sexual sin. Scotty Smith watched Larkin and his ministry flourish during that time, and calls him “one of my favorite people in the entire world.”

Larkin feels burdened to help men with stories like his, and believes the best way to cultivate long-term change is through honesty and companionship. Sanctification is pursued in community, isolation is a breeding ground for sin — and he recognizes few Christians are as isolated as men training for or in the ministry.

“To me, one of the greatest tragedies of contemporary American religious life is that, in the typical American church these days, the pastor is the most isolated guy in the congregation,” Larkin said. “We face a very wily foe, whose game is one-on-one. He is a master of it. He doesn’t play team ball; he plays one-on-one, and he’s only been beaten there once. If he can trap us forever into his game, he will win.

“The most successful pastors I know have managed to construct for themselves a brotherhood. We have to be vulnerable to somebody, and that takes courage.”
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Larkin is a writer, speaker, and founder of Samson Society, a men’s ministry with church groups across the United States. Read more about his story and ministry in his book, Samson and the Pirate Monks.

The post Hidden Idols: Unseating the idol of porn appeared first on Southern Equip.



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