By / Mar 6

Addiction can manifest in many forms. Individuals can find themselves addicted to chemical substances, in addition to processes and behaviors. Process addictions, such as a pornography addiction, are equally as damaging to the brain as substance-related addiction, and therefore can lead to significant impact on one’s mental health. 

The Bible’s teaching on sexuality and the inherent dignity of all people should lead us to declare that pornography is a moral scourge, with spiritual consequences for all of those involved. But as we seek to serve those affected by it, research has provided us an opportunity to also understand the physical realities pornography inflicts upon a person. 

Today, more than half of the global population has access to the internet. While the growth of access to the internet can be viewed as something positive in general, it can also be viewed as something negative, or harmful. The ability to access internet pornography is now easy and anonymous and has opened the door for a serious health crisis. Pornography has even been referred to as the “new drug” to fight in the world of addictions. 

Pornography: What, when and where

Sexual material on the internet can take a variety of forms ranging from educational information about sexual practices to real-time, virtual sex shows. It is difficult to define but many scholars agree that at the most basic level, pornography is any sexually arousing material used as a sexual outlet. 1Grubbs, J. B., Kraus, S. W., & Perry, S. L. (2019). Self-reported addiction to pornography in a nationally representative sample: The roles of use habits, religiousness, and moral incongruence. Journal of Behavioral Addictions. 8, 88–93. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.7.2018.134

Pornographic material can include:

  • sexually explicit photographs in magazines,
  • movies,
  • internet images or online audio,
  • webcam footage,
  • computer-generated pornography,
  • and sexually explicit pictures texted via mobile devices (Giordano, 2021).

With the emergence of virtual reality (VR) came the arrival of VR porn, which creates unique experiences from two-dimensional pornography. 2Elsey, J. W. B., van Andel, K., Kater, R. B., Reints, I. M., & Spiering, M. (2019). The impact of virtual reality versus 2D pornography on sexual arousal and presence. Computers in Human Behavior. 97, 35–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.02.031

And pornography can be classified as softcore, hardcore, and illegal/deviant. 3Doring, N. M. (2009). The internet’s impact on sexuality: A critical review of 15 years of research. Computers in Human Behavior. 25, 1089–1101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2009.04.003

The pornography industry is estimated to make approximately 16.9 billion dollars each year, and their product is primarily viewed on the internet. 4Pornography facts and statistics: The recovery village. (2021, February 25). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/process-addiction/porn-addiction/related/pornography-statistics/

How is pornography being accessed? Data from PornHub Insights—part of the largest online pornography company in the world—revealed that 86% of the site’s traffic comes from mobile devices. Moreover, using smartphones to access free pornography online is the most common means of viewing pornographic material. 5Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Wright, P., Paul, B., Gradus, R., Bauer, J., & Jones, R. (2020). Diverse sexual behaviors and pornogprahy use: Findings from a nationally representative probability survey of Americans aged 18 to 60 years. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 17, 623–633. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2020.01.013 & Ma CM, Shek DT. Consumption of pornographic materials in early adolescents in Hong Kong. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2013 Jun;26(3 Suppl):S18-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2013.03.011. PMID: 23683822.Therefore, pornographic material can be accessed anytime, anywhere, via smartphones.

How porn affects the person and the brain

Easy access to the cyber pornography industry is an emerging health crisis. Individuals who struggle with addictive disorders may find themselves:

  • engaging in addictive behaviors more frequently over time,
  • may spend an increased amount of time seeking the behavior,
  • may experience increased desires to engage in the behavior,
  • may also experience an inability to decrease their engagement.

Addiction is considered a progressive disorder, which, over time, may begin to cause negative implications on one’s psychological, physical, and interpersonal aspects of life.

Pornography can literally rewire the brain. Viewing pornography begins to change the brain long before one may meet the criteria to be considered a compulsive viewer.

Sex is a naturally rewarding activity, activating the release of several neurotransmitters such as dopamine during sexual arousal and endogenous opioids during sexual consummation. 6Doidge, N. (2007). The brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. Penguin Group. Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that makes one feel good, causing individuals to search and seek a pleasurable reward. The viewing of pornography engages the reward circuit in the brain each time viewers click for new content. And research supports the conclusion that continued pornography use can lead to neuroplastic change,7 ibid. & Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography addiction- A supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology, 3, 20767. https://doi.org/10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767 particularly in the arousal template. 8Carnes, P. J. (2001). Cybersex, courtship, and escalating arousal: Factors in addictive sexual desire. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. 8, 25–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720/60127560 & Carnes, P., Delmonico, D. L., & Griffin, E. (2007). In the shadows of the net: Breaking free of compulsive online sexual behavior (2nd ed.). Hazelden.

The sensations experienced when the reward (the material) is obtained (through a click), begin to fire together, causing neurons in the limbic system to rewire together. The limbic system supports long-term memory, behaviors, and emotions while ultimately storing the content viewed on internet pornography for the brain to retrieve again if wanted later.

Those who are “addicted” to pornography may view greater amounts and times of pornography. Recognizing that the use is hindering functioning in other areas of life, yet feeling as though one is unable to refrain and or stop viewing the material is common. When pornography begins to “hijack” the brain, viewers may find that their viewing of content poses physical and social risks.

A 2014 survey reported that 63% of men and 36% of women have engaged in watching pornography at work. 9Hesch, J. (2018, June 30). 2014 survey: Find out how many employees are watching porn on company time. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/2014-survey-find-out-how-many-employees-are-watching-porn-on-company-time-271854721.html Pornography viewing is also linked to relationship and sexual problems. In almost 60 studies, the outcome showed that pornography viewing reduced relationships and sexual satisfaction (Your Brain On Porn, 2021).

A study conducted in Sweden in 2013 explored the impact that pornography viewing has on the brain. Using a 3-T Scanner for images of participants’ brains, researchers found that pornography viewing frequently had a significant impact on the gray matter within the brain. It was evident in the scans when patients’ brains were activating pornography material, which supports neurons anticipating a reward. Due to the anticipation, additional striatal neurons 10The striatum contains neuronal activity related to movements, rewards and the conjunction of both movement and reward. Striatal neurons show activity related to the preparation, initiation and execution of movements (Hollerman et al., 2000) are fired in hopes of a greater reward, causing an increase in gray matter.11 Kühn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2014). Brain structure and functional connectivity associated with pornography consumption. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(7), 827. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.93

The stimulation from the pornography viewing is known to stimulate other areas of the brain causing an increase in the dysfunction of the circuit which can lead to drug seeking, and negative behavioral changes. Past studies for internet addiction (IA) have also shown changes in the brain including but not limited to decrease pre-frontal cortical thickness and decreases in function. The prefrontal cortex is a multifaceted region of the brain that controls one’s ability to learn new rules, exhibit executive functioning, and decipher amongst conflicts such as good and bad, present consequence and future consequences.

Types of pornography viewers

The three main types of pornography viewers include: recreational, highly distressed non-compulsive viewers, and compulsive viewers.

Recreational: One study indicates that 75.5% of recreational viewers of pornography reported that on average they watched just under 30 minutes of pornography a week.12 Vaillancourt-Morel, M., Blais-Lecours, S., Labadie, C., Bergeron, S., Sabourin, S., & Godbout, N. (2017). Response to editorial comment: “profiles of cyberpornography use and sexual well-being in adults”. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 14(1), 87. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.11.320 Recreational viewers self-report that the viewing of the cyberpornography does not cause distress, and it feels enjoyable. Users in this category report their lifestyle functioning has not be changed due to viewing the material, and it has not negatively impacted their relationship or sex life. 

Highly distressed non-compulsive: The second classification is called a highly distressed non-compulsive viewer. Nearly 13% of pornography viewers belong in this category of use. These viewers average 17 minutes a week but view the use as disturbing. 13Ibid. It is reported that use of pornography amongst this group was initiated to increase self-esteem and provide a soothing experience. 

Compulsive: The third category is an unhealthy attachment to pornography called compulsive pornography viewers account for approximately 12% of viewers, and the majority of those in this category are men. Those viewers in this category watch nearly 4.5 times the minutes of pornography each week than recreational viewers, and 7 times more than highly distressed non-compulsive viewers. Viewers in this category report giving up previous pleasure resources in their life to consume viewing more pornography, and many reported that they were unable to stop viewing pornography. 14Ibid.

Helping those with porn addictions

It is necessary to support those who are struggling with pornography, especially those classified as compulsive, thus experiencing an addiction to pornography. Currently 35% of downloads from the internet are pornographic. 15Pornography facts and statistics: The recovery village. (2021, February 25). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/process-addiction/porn-addiction/related/pornography-statistics/ Pornography can lower self-esteem and create many negative physical, psychological, interpersonal, and spiritual consequences for individuals. It is important that individuals have access to a safe space where they can talk about their struggles and seek help. 

The impact that pornography has had on our culture and its people cannot be overstated. Every family and every congregation will experience its destructive consequences. The Church must be aware of this threat and its impact, proclaim the forgiveness of Christ, and provide resources to assist affected individuals in their journey to repentance, health, and wholeness.  

If you or someone in your life is addicted to pornography, please visit or talk with a trusted pastor and a local mental health provider.

  • 1
    Grubbs, J. B., Kraus, S. W., & Perry, S. L. (2019). Self-reported addiction to pornography in a nationally representative sample: The roles of use habits, religiousness, and moral incongruence. Journal of Behavioral Addictions. 8, 88–93. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.7.2018.134
  • 2
    Elsey, J. W. B., van Andel, K., Kater, R. B., Reints, I. M., & Spiering, M. (2019). The impact of virtual reality versus 2D pornography on sexual arousal and presence. Computers in Human Behavior. 97, 35–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.02.031
  • 3
    Doring, N. M. (2009). The internet’s impact on sexuality: A critical review of 15 years of research. Computers in Human Behavior. 25, 1089–1101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2009.04.003
  • 4
    Pornography facts and statistics: The recovery village. (2021, February 25). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/process-addiction/porn-addiction/related/pornography-statistics/
  • 5
    Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Wright, P., Paul, B., Gradus, R., Bauer, J., & Jones, R. (2020). Diverse sexual behaviors and pornogprahy use: Findings from a nationally representative probability survey of Americans aged 18 to 60 years. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 17, 623–633. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2020.01.013 & Ma CM, Shek DT. Consumption of pornographic materials in early adolescents in Hong Kong. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2013 Jun;26(3 Suppl):S18-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2013.03.011. PMID: 23683822.
  • 6
    Doidge, N. (2007). The brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. Penguin Group.
  • 7
    ibid. & Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography addiction- A supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology, 3, 20767. https://doi.org/10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767
  • 8
    Carnes, P. J. (2001). Cybersex, courtship, and escalating arousal: Factors in addictive sexual desire. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. 8, 25–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720/60127560 & Carnes, P., Delmonico, D. L., & Griffin, E. (2007). In the shadows of the net: Breaking free of compulsive online sexual behavior (2nd ed.). Hazelden.
  • 9
    Hesch, J. (2018, June 30). 2014 survey: Find out how many employees are watching porn on company time. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/2014-survey-find-out-how-many-employees-are-watching-porn-on-company-time-271854721.html
  • 10
    The striatum contains neuronal activity related to movements, rewards and the conjunction of both movement and reward. Striatal neurons show activity related to the preparation, initiation and execution of movements (Hollerman et al., 2000)
  • 11
     Kühn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2014). Brain structure and functional connectivity associated with pornography consumption. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(7), 827. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.93
  • 12
    Vaillancourt-Morel, M., Blais-Lecours, S., Labadie, C., Bergeron, S., Sabourin, S., & Godbout, N. (2017). Response to editorial comment: “profiles of cyberpornography use and sexual well-being in adults”. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 14(1), 87. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.11.320
  • 13
    Ibid.
  • 14
    Ibid.
  • 15
    Pornography facts and statistics: The recovery village. (2021, February 25). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/process-addiction/porn-addiction/related/pornography-statistics/
By / Mar 31

I recently celebrated one year of sobriety from alcohol — a goal I’d been working to accomplish for several years. I’d felt I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol since the first time I took a sip as a teenager, and I often thought of my grandfather, who died of liver disease related to alcoholism. I knew it was unhealthy for my body, my choices, and my faith. It was a barrier in my relationship with God. Rather than water and refresh my heart, it dried it up or drowned it out. 

To quit a substance one is physically or mentally addicted to is no small feat, and the support of friends, family, and community can make all the difference. There are likely more people in your life struggling with addiction than you realize. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that 25% of people 18 and over regularly engage in binge drinking. During COVID-19 specifically, excessive drinking increased by 21% overall.  

The truth is, addiction doesn’t always present itself in stereotypical ways. Women, especially, are often high-functioning and successful, masterfully hiding their strongholds behind the highlight reels of social media and accomplishments. Interestingly, alcohol consumption among women rose by 41% since March 2020, according to a Harvard health study

An addiction of any kind is toxic to the body and the soul, and it’s important to know how you can best encourage friends who are struggling. As for me, the process was a journey. After years of asking the Lord to help me quit drinking, I was finally able to do it, knowing that I had been sinful in so many ways with my alcohol consumption. The Bible provides countless warnings about the substance. For example, Ephesians 5:18 states: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” What I recognized, finally, was that one cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit when one is filled with wine. They are like oil and water — unable to mix — and that is one of the best reasons I found to finally walk away. 

This year, I am most grateful for my sobriety and how it allows my faith to flourish and my family to take priority. I am thankful to be rid of mental games and broken promises, feelings of rampant hypocrisy and powerlessness. As 2 Corinthians reminds us, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” It’s only in the strength of the Father and the beautiful community he surrounded me with that I was able to overcome this stronghold. 

Helping a friend with alcohol addiction 

Based on my recent experience, I want to suggest five things you can do to help a friend or family member struggling with non-life-threatening and non-life-altering alcohol addiction:

1. Offer to be a safe place to talk. One of the hardest things about early sobriety is the fear that you will fail and look weak or irresponsible. It’s important that your friend knows you will not berate them if they slip up. A safe relationship opens the door for honest conservation whenever it’s needed. The moment someone feels they may be shamed, they will probably close off. The more vulnerable someone can be in a community, the more likely they are to succeed in the end. 

2. Invite them into community. God has designed us for relationships, and people need community to walk in sobriety. That’s part of the power of Alcoholics Anonymous; it’s a band of men and women who stick together through thick and thin. So, it’s vital that you don’t alienate your friend who is struggling with alcohol addiction. One of the ways you can be most supportive is by inviting them into community. Surround them with the safety of friendship in Christ. Be willing to have a mindset focused on others and how you can best serve your friend as she seeks to overcome her dependence on alcohol by the grace of God. 

3. Pray for them diligently. When someone is giving up an addiction, spiritual warfare is in full force. I used to say that the only thing Satan had to do to keep me away from God was keep a drink in my hand. The enemy doesn’t want your friend to give up alcohol. That’s why we must pray regularly for their strength and ability to overcome. Understand that sobriety is a journey and it’s not always a one-and-done situation. Sometimes people start again and again before it sticks. Never give up on your friend, and be there for then every time they fall. The consistent support is like a safety net that helps them feel they can get up again. 

4. Educate yourself. When you understand addiction, you can be a better support for someone. Sometimes the well-intentioned help by Christians fails to take into account the holistic nature of every individual. There are many sobriety memoirs out there that can help you get into the mind of a person struggling with alcohol. Read the stories of other people and study up on science behind an addicted brain. It can be easy to wonder why someone can’t just “stop drinking,” but it’s usually not that simple. Our brains are actually re-wired when they become addicted to alcohol, so quitting is far more difficult than you can imagine. In addition, know what God’s Word says about addiction, forgiveness, and walking in Christ. 

A solidly supportive friend or family member can be what it takes for someone to overcome their addiction. Without a community to help fuel them, it’s easy for someone to fall into isolation and despair regarding their addiction. Your job as a friend and as a Christian is vital, and I encourage you to take it seriously. God has put you into someone’s life for such a time as this. Be the vessel that they need to to get to the other side. I can tell you from experience that the freedom awaiting them is priceless. 

By / Dec 13

Most people look at me and see a cliché soccer mom from the suburbs trying to keep all the plates spinning: raising five kids, looking for that perfect Pinterest Instant Pot recipe that everyone will enjoy, racing to basketball games while practicing spelling words in the car, all while trying to squeeze in a weekly — OK, let’s be honest, monthly — date night with my husband. It’s the daily grind filled with small moments of joy, stress, pain, grief, and celebrations that many American families experience.  

What people would be surprised to learn is that my life didn’t always look so idyllic. I grew up in the 80s, amid the divorce boom. Every parent, grandparent, aunt, and uncle I knew was divorced. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my dad, and overall, in addition to divorce, I experienced addiction, abandonment, abuse, and general dysfunction throughout my childhood. These experiences gave me the desire to break the generational cycle of dysfunction in my own life.  

My childhood also gave me great empathy for those who have endured similar struggles. It opened my eyes to ways in which the church supports its flock — like the way Jesus ministered to the woman at the well. Unfortunately, my experience of growing up with great instability and dysfunction has also shown me ways in which the church has room for growth. I have seen the church respond with both empathy and judgment, and it has caused me to pause and ask myself, “In what ways are we doing well, and in what ways can we do better?”

Growing and thriving

There are many ways in which the church is caring well for people who have experienced abuse, addiction, abandonment, divorce, and general dysfunction. In past generations, some in the church perpetuated the notion that Christians must “have it all together.” Believers succumbed to an underlying pressure to look, act, and be perfect. This perfection drove many believers to live secret lives of sin and shame — to hide their addictions to pornography, drugs, sex, food, and alcohol, among others. And struggles with pride, anger, depression, mental illness, and more were pushed below the surface. When they perceived they could not confront their sin in a safe and healthy place, they fed their sins until they were bloated with depravity and buried under a heap of guilt.

Today, I see a shift. The church is actively acknowledging that we — Christians included — are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Preachers used to preach it from the pulpit, but now local churches are putting Scripture into action by providing a welcome place where people can process their sin, pain, and grief through programs like Celebrate Recovery, GriefShare, DivorceCare, and other local, faith-based recovery groups.  

I also see a shedding of the stoic exterior once worn by the baby boomers and Generation X. And I believe we have the millennials and Generation Z to thank for that. While the older generations tend to conceal their emotions, the younger generations revel in vulnerability and authenticity. They view openness and sharing their feelings as a strength, not a weakness. They are creating a culture of open dialogue through life groups, discipleship, and mentors, which is helping everyone within the church feel less ashamed and more apt to confess their emotional struggles, familial baggage, mental health issues, and spiritual doubts and confusion. This mentality of vulnerability — along with the ability to acknowledge one’s sin—cultivates a field ripe for more authentic relationships with Jesus and with each other.

Room for improvement

But there is still so much the church can do to improve how it cares for people who have experienced abuse, addiction, abandonment, divorce, and overall dysfunction.  

First, we must realize that those in church leadership are not above these issues. We must provide safeguards and accountability for our staff, elders, deacons, teachers, and the entire church body (because anyone who steps foot in the church building becomes a leader in some form or fashion). These safety measures can come in the form of accountability partners, prayer partners, and life groups, all of which must be shrouded with truth and grace.

We also need to shake off the attitude of “that would never happen to me.” We think dysfunction occurs in someone else’s family and life until our spouse has an affair, our teenager becomes addicted to drugs, we get addicted to prescription pain killers, our daughter struggles with an eating disorder, or our husband looks at pornography on his work computer. We believe these things only happen to other people until we are sitting on our counselor’s couch asking, “How did I get here? Where did it all go wrong?” The truth is, we are all one bad decision away from living a completely different life.

Next, we need to embrace the sinners among us with truth and grace. Instead of having the Pharisees’ hypocritical attitude of judgment (Luke 6), we should have the attitude of Paul who realized he was the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  Fred Rogers once said, “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” Wrong judgment ends when listening begins. When we hear someone’s story, we understand them a little more. When we understand, we empathize. When we empathize, we can offer them the help they need.  

Instead compartmentalizing our faith — consciously or unconsciously — to Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights — we must follow Jesus into the messiness of other people’s lives. We need to listen to the hurting, weep with the broken, hurt with the sick, and cry with the grieving. Due to my family’s circumstances, I lived with a friend’s family during my sophomore year in high school. Later, during my senior year in high school, I lived with a different friend’s family. These families saw a need, and they met it. This is the church — seeing the messy and the broken and putting it back together. Not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s needed. 

So, what can the church do to help those who have experienced abuse, addiction, abandonment, divorce, and general dysfunction?  We can listen and empathize. We can get involved for the long haul. We can point people to Scripture instead of offering pithy, empty clichés. We can be on guard and accept that these traumas can happen to us, even though we live in middle-to-upper class neighborhoods, we have a college education, or sit in the front row at church every Sunday. We can intentionally focus on connection and discipleship, and we can do all of this while offering authenticity and vulnerability along the way. 

By / Mar 19

Honesty may be more difficult than sobriety.” I love that insightful quote from Brad Hambrick. Addictions require deception. In order to maintain an addiction, you have to become skilled at lying, representing yourself and your life in a different way. You have to become adept at hiding so that others don’t interfere, life can still be managed, and addictions still enjoyed. Of all the struggles that addicts have to overcome, learning to tell the truth is at the top of the list. Practicing truth-telling, then, becomes an important part of recovery.

The role of deception

Deception allows an addicted individual to maintain their habit. Exposure will require those who love them to intervene, take steps to help, confront, and issue consequence. But, secrecy, hiding, manipulation, and outright lying become necessary if an addict hopes to keep up the habit.

Tommy, for example, was an alcoholic. Pretty much everyone knew it, but he had developed a series of lies that kept people from being able to confront him. He missed his son’s ballgame because he had to “work late.” He said hurtful things to his wife because he was “tired from working late.” He drank a “little bit,” but that was just to take the edge off of the long day. If his wife had any compassion, then she wouldn’t have picked that fight with him when he got home. These were the sort of distractions that Tommy could throw around to keep people from talking about his alcohol consumption. He was just good enough at it that others, despite knowing he had a problem, could never find the avenue to confront him.

Self-deception is, of course, the biggest form of lying in which the addict participates. He convinces himself that he is in control. “This isn’t that big of a deal. Other people are being dramatic and blowing things out of proportion. I can stop whenever I want.” Wendy regularly used the excuse that her doctor had prescribed her pills, so they were medically necessary. She was taking more than she was prescribed, but that was a non-issue since she had a script that proved her need. 

Self-deception is a common and necessary preservation tactic for developing and maintaining an addiction. It’s not that the addict doesn’t know that there is some level of a problem, but the deception is a form of denial that allows them to keep engaging in the habit without guilt or recognizing the responsibility to change.

Deception, while common enough, will always keep people stuck in sin. Until an addicted individual is ready to take personal responsibility for their desires, attitudes, and actions, they will remain stuck. Honesty must occur, but it is hard to cultivate

The hardship of honesty

Honesty is hard for several reasons. Deception often arises from a place of fear. We don’t tell the truth because we are afraid of the consequences, we are afraid of change, and we are afraid of letting go of something that brings us comfort. Learning to tell the truth, therefore, requires confronting our fears.

Addicted individuals have often turned to substance abuse because they do not have good life management skills. When you don’t know how to manage your emotions, resolve conflict, develop relationships, or work hard, then drugs and alcohol provide an escape. They become the means by which a person “resolves” problems. Using substances to avoid addressing problems, however, simply compounds them. The consequences begin to mount up. If Bill drank to avoid dealing with his wife, his drinking often meant that he dealt with his wife in destructive ways. If Sarah used drugs to escape her failures, using only prompted more failures. The consequences are real, and honesty requires us to deal with them.

At other times, deception prevents us from facing disappointment. Change is hard, and overcoming a substance abuse problem is notoriously difficult. Many addicted individuals have tried, in small or sometimes great ways, to break the habit. Yet, every time they have relapsed. There is something unbelievably discouraging about trying and yet not actually changing. Sometimes the fear of disappointment is so great and we fear that it means we simply can’t change—we are just too broken to ever quit drugs and alcohol. So, rather than be disappointed yet again or face the supposed reality of brokenness, some individuals simply don’t try. Deception allows them to avoid hopelessness.

Finally, honesty is hard because addiction is pleasurable. The longer you indulge in a substance abuse pattern, the more your addiction dominates your life. Addicts have let go of many other healthy outlets of fun, pleasure, and joy, whether friends, hobbies, or social outings, in order to engage in drug use or alcohol consumption. Furthermore, substance abuse changes their experience of the more commonplace fun in which they used to engage. The “high” they get from using makes all other pleasure seem mundane. Being honest about an addiction means letting go of the only thing that makes them feel good. That’s how Derek felt when I first began meeting with him: “If I give this up, I am giving up the only good thing I have left.” He was scared.

Practicing honesty

Understanding these dynamics about honesty and deception allows us to begin to point beyond addictive habits to hope. God gives grace to help us face our consequences (2 Cor. 4:8-10); he gives us promises to guarantee our eventual change (Phil. 1:6); and he ensures that joy is possible as we grow in his Spirit (Gal. 5:22). But honesty is still hard and is going to require cultivation. Just as addictions formulate over time, so too can honesty become a habit as we practice it over time.

Lying can become its own “addictive” habit. Addicted individuals may find that they are so used to lying that they do it even when it serves no immediate advantage to them or their addiction. It becomes part of their routine. Likewise, honesty is going to have to be practiced. They will need to learn to tell the truth with regularity.

Jesus is the truth who sets us free from being enslaved to our sin (John 8:31-32). He call us to walk in the truth. And the Bible is clear that God hates a lying tongue (Prov. 6:17). Cultivating honesty means that we must begin to evaluate what we say and how we live according to biblical standards. The following three questions can help to serve as a grid for evaluating our statements:

  1. Is it true? In other words, is it factual?
  2. Is it the whole truth? Are you trying to leave anything out, or are you declaring the full reality?
  3. Is it nothing but the truth? Are you embellishing or adding to the facts?

We can use these questions and begin evaluating general statements we make about events. Practice it. Pick one thing that happened to you in the last 24 to 48 hours (it can be anything). Share what happened and how it made you feel, filtering the event through these three questions.

If you’re an addict, practice, this and then discuss this exercise with a friend. How did this exercise make you feel? Was any part of it challenging? Did you struggle to answer any of the three questions? Were you tempted to be deceitful in any of the three questions? How will practicing this exercise help you to be more truthful?

Do this again and again. Start with the more routine aspects of your life, describing them honestly. Cultivate the habit of truth-telling. Eventually, however, (and sooner rather than later) you want to increase the gravity of the events you describe. Progressively select events that are more important, that you would be more likely to lie about, and those with consequences. Keep practicing.

Addiction and deception go hand in hand, but you can learn to tell the truth about yourself and your problems with the Spirit’s help. By practicing truth-telling, you are already beginning to change. By continuing to do it, you are growing. Truth telling won’t solve all your problems, in fact, it may mean that you have to deal with more problems initially. Eventually, however, the truth will empower you to fight against sin and to get the help you need. Those who lie and deceive will stay stuck, but the truth will set you free.

By / Aug 27

Amid the cultural upheaval of COVID-19 and what has turned out to be one of the most eventful years in modern history, a dehumanizing and predatory perversion of technology has been spreading in the darkness of our communities: pornography. While the out-of-sight nature of pornography makes it is easier to shrug off its insidiousness, especially given the social unrest of the moment, the rise in predatory marketing plans and expanded pornography use should not be left alone because of the monumental human dignity implications.

As the coronavirus lockdowns went into effect throughout the world in March, Pornhub, the world’s largest online pornography provider, announced that they were providing users in Italy free access and subscriber privileges due to the nation’s outbreak and isolation. The company has also provided similar access to users in other nations such as Spain and France. In light of the free and open access to this pornographic content, Pornhub self-reported on their official blog that daily usage increased by 38-61% throughout these European countries, which led them to also claim that “people all over Europe were happy to have distractions while quarantined at home.” According to the company’s June analytics report, “worldwide traffic to Pornhub continues to be much higher than it was before the Coronavirus pandemic spread worldwide.”

The company also demonstrates how people are also searching for virus-related pornography. According to Pornhub’s report, there have “been more than 18.5 million searches containing Corona, 1.5 million containing Covid and 11.8 million containing Quarantine. More than 1250 coronavirus themed videos have been uploaded to Pornhub, with many being viewed over 1 million times.”

None of this should come as a surprise because the pornography industry is well-suited for a worldwide pandmeic. As the Economist reports, the industry “has already largely moved online; and its consumers often voluntarily self-isolate.” This pandemic has not created a pornography problem in our communities and homes, but it has esacerbated a deep and disturbing trend of separating sexual desire from relational wholeness and marital fidelity.

The problem of porn

Statistics can only take us so far in understanding the deceptive nature of pornography and how it is ruining so many lives throughout our world. At the heart of pornography use is not just young men and women who are unable to control their sexual desires or openly reject God’s good design for our sexuality. The core of the problem is an acceptance of a worldview and morality that isolates our sexuality from our whole person. This deep division of body and mind from flesh and desires contributes to the growing trend of the normalization of pornography and the perversion of human sexuality.

The unbridled mantra of our day is that the real you is your deepest desires and emotions, cut off from the embodied nature of humanity. As Nancy Pearcey states in her book Love Thy Body, “sexual intercourse, the most intimate of bodily experiences, has been disconnected from personal relations” (emphasis original). This bifurcation of humanity has led to countless perversions and abuses of fellow image-bearers, most evidently seen in the rise of the sexual revolution and the corresponding rise of pornography worldwide.

As the culture around us continues to buy into the lie of the sexual revolution, the Church has a call to proclaim the goodness of the created order and the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

When we separate what it means to be an embodied soul, the use of pornography becomes commonplace because it allows for the sexual high outside of any relational context and reduces humanity down to what writer Melinda Selmys describes as a “wet machine,” which could also be understood as a soulless body or organic machine. The real you—the disembodied ghost— controls this machine in order to pursue pleasure in any way you see fit, regardless of the cost to yourself or others.

Alongside this division of body and soul, another dehumanizing effect of pornography is the objectification the person on the other side of the screen (or even headset, in light of the explosive growth of VR porn in the last few years). One of the ways this manifests itself is in the faceless nature of pornography and the obession over the body. God designed the face to play a major role in how we see each other as individuals and subjects, worthy of respect and honor, and made in his image (Gen. 1:26-28). As the late philosopher Roger Scruton describes in The Face of God,

“The underlying tendency of erotic images in our time is to present the body as the focus and meaning of desire, the place where it all occurs, in the momentary spasm of sensual pleasure of which the soul is at best a spectator, and no part of the game. In pornography the face has no role to play, other than to be subjected to the empire of the body. Kisses are of no significance, and eyes look nowhere since they are searching for nothing beyond present pleasure. All of this amounts to a marginalization, indeed a kind of desecration, of the human face.” (107)

Scruton goes on to show that this desecration of the face leads to a “canceling out of the subject,” rendering sex—especially in a pornographic culture—“not as a relation between subjects but a relation between objects.” Through the use of pornography, we naturally objectify the other because we are not concerned with them as a fellow human but rather as an instrument that leads to our sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure becomes the primary goal of the user rather than a deep and intimate connection with another image-bearer as a whole person. 

Predatory porn

The dehumanizing effects of pornography affect those on both sides of the screen. Not only is the viewer dehumanizing themselves by separating the goodness of sexual intercourse from its proper context, but there is also a victim who is portrayed and treated as nothing but a simple object of desire. These victims often see sexual acts as the only way to provide for themselves or even as a way to attain fulfilment or freedom.

During this pandemic, some people are turning to various pornographic websites like IsMyGirl to earn extra income. This particular site offers predatory promises by signing up to become a model. According to a March press release, the company opened up lucrative “opportunities” for furloughed or out-of-work McDonald’s employees. The popular pornography platform stated, “in an effort to help McDonald’s employees, and to make sure they can continue to provide for themselves and their families, we want to help provide them with a legitimate option.”

This “legitimate” option is nothing less than asking others to sell their bodies in order to make ends meet during these extraordinary times. But as the culture around us continues to buy into the lie of the sexual revolution, the Church has a call to proclaim the goodness of the created order and the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

While it may be tempting to overlook those stuck in cycles of pornography use or even the industry itself, Christians have the mandate to speak out against the predatory practices of the entire pornographic industry. Part of this mandate will mean that some believers will need to address and seek help for their own pornography addictions. For others, it will mean speaking out against these dehumanizing atrocities in order to expose the lies and predation of the porngraphic industry. 

The Christan moral witness proclaims that sex is not designed for a temporary high, online exploit, or even a late-night addiction. We are more than just machines. We are people created in God’s image. We are embodied souls who are offered redemption by the God who took on flesh himself in order to save us from ourselves. And our hope in the midst of this porn pandemic is that what is hidden will come to light in the fullness of time. As the church, we must be ready to proclaim the forgiveness found in the light of Jesus Christ while working to welcome, defend, and care for the vulnerable among us. 

By / Jun 25

I met Sarah* when she was seven months pregnant. She was homeless, young, and naive, and her intellectual disabilities were obvious, but so was her affection for the tiny baby girl in her belly, the one she and her on-again, off-again boyfriend were determined to keep. 

The circumstances made it obvious to most that she could not raise a baby on her own. She had no stable place to live, no family support, and no way of knowing what would be required of her. But for a young woman who had nothing else, there in the safety of her womb grew the only evidence she had that she was worth something; she believed her hopes of keeping her boyfriend and her dignity depended on keeping her baby.  

“Well, we will help you,” was all I knew to say, but I had no idea what it would mean.

Just under two years after I met her, this young homeless woman, Sarah, would have a new title: my daughter’s birth mother. 

Getting closer to the story

It’s easy to look at situations like Sarah’s, and the hundreds—maybe thousands—of other examples just like hers in my own hometown alone and dismiss them. 

She won’t hold down a job, she’d rather live off the system

Child Protective Services just needs to intervene and take that baby. 

You can’t help people who won’t help themselves.

I’ve heard each one of those statements over the last two years, from Christians and non-Christians alike. In the most frustrating moments, I’ve been tempted to believe them myself. But there is something that makes it nearly impossible to dismiss another human being with sweeping generalizations: proximity. Get near the broken and you can no longer ignore the reason she is broken.

Sarah’s story began more than a generation back, when poverty and addiction crept into her family line. By the time she was born, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles and siblings had all been affected by the cyclical hopelessness of drugs and desperation. Sarah was taken from her own family as a near-starving toddler—herself an innocent victim of the CPS just needs to take the baby mentality. Authorities did take her, but with a shortage of suitable homes to send her to, the situation changed but did not improve. She was eventually placed with family, and her exploitation and abuse began before she entered second grade. Her primary perpetrator, a family member, was put in jail, but not before forever changing the narrative of Sarah’s life. At eight years old, Sarah had formed no safe attachments, experienced starvation, and had been repeatedly raped. The damage of eight years of trauma on her young brain was done.    

By the time I met Sarah, she had been living “the street life” for five years—sometimes sleeping on an acquaintance’s couch and sometimes under a bridge. She had an eighth grade education and a slew of diagnosed disabilities and mental illness. She used her body the way people who were supposed to protect her showed her how to use it much of her childhood: as a credit card to purchase affection, shelter, or food.

Everything was against her. And none of it was her fault. 

We know from numerous studies that childhood trauma has damaging effects on the brain’s development. Science tells us that trauma leads to “dysregulation of the amygdala, ventral affective processing, and reward circuits,” all big words with a simple explanation: trauma changes everything. In small doses and with safe people to process, virtually all human beings can cope with trauma. But repeated, violent, and ignored abuse in a child is not something she can cope with, and it changes brain chemistry for a lifetime. What that looks like for Sarah today is an inability to discern safe from unsafe people, little capacity to comprehend consequences, and crippling anxiety and depression.

But trauma does not change the image of God woven into Sarah. 

The imago Dei

As frustrating and trying as it can be to love and serve and stay consistent for someone who does not understand—nor can she return—any of those things; who makes the same poor decisions again and again; seeing Sarah as a woman created in the image of God demands from us the kind of love we cannot manufacture on our own. It’s steadfast and unconditional, with no guarantees about when or if it will ever produce any fruit. It isn’t allowed to dismiss her with trite sentiments like she won’t hold down a job because it understands and has genuine compassion for the fact that she can’t. 

When we told Sarah that we would help her, we had no idea it would be through foster care and adoption. We had three young children at home, one with significant special needs. Our plate felt full. But when CPS came to take her baby, she called and asked us for help. 

Every night when we put this sweet girl down for bed, we thank God she did.

As it became clear after several months that Sarah would not be able to safely take care of her baby, she signed her parental rights over to us, asking only one question as she did: “Will my baby know who I am?” 

Through tears I told Sarah, “Yes, of course she will. You’re always going to be her mom, too, Sarah.” 

Like many sentiments, this is harder to live out than it was to say. There are missed visits and pushed boundaries. There’s the very real concern that Sarah’s life is not a safe one to expose her daughter to, but also the knowledge that seeing her daughter is so good for Sarah’s heart. We do not know how to walk out an open adoption perfectly. We only know a perfect Savior who welcomes every chance we ask him to help us (James 1:5). 

We cannot fix what Sarah’s past took from her, and we are not naive about how difficult it is for a brain and a heart as damaged as hers to heal, and then change. We believe with all our heart that if God can raise the dead, then there is nothing too big for Him to redeem. But if we are honest, we don’t know what redemption looks like for Sarah. 

I don’t know if we can expect a miracle—which is what it would take for her—this side of heaven. The damage is irreparable, bearing the tangible scars of so much sin. But, as followers of Christ, we don’t sit in what we do not know and let it excuse our inaction. Sarah needs a miracle, and we cannot do that for her. But she also needs clothes, sometimes food, coffee cards, help filling out government paperwork, and supernatural patience to do it all again when they are lost or stolen or neglected. And those are things we can do

Sarah, and everyone created with the imago Dei—which is everyone—need people to get close to them, and people who believe in miracles, but who tangibly love them while they wait for one.  

*names have been changed for privacy

By / Mar 23

When I entered into seminary I had plans for my ministry career. I was going to preach lots of exciting sermons and pastor a growing church. Admittedly my plans weren’t very detailed and were simplistic and naive, but nowhere in my mind was the idea of working mostly with addicted individuals.

Over the last 10 years, however, God has given me more opportunities to work directly with those who are struggling with some kind of life-dominating addiction. As much as I believe God has used me to be helpful, working with addicts has also taught me much. In working with addicts I have learned nuances about the power of confession, the significance of community, and healing of the gospel.

It’s not, of course, that I didn’t already know about these three things. I’ve read my Bible and been part of church for many years. I knew that confession and community are both important, and I certainly knew about the healing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, in working with addicted individuals I began to see these truths in new light. I began to experience them afresh. As I watched lives both changed and ruined, I began to appreciate in deeper ways the significance of these three elements.

The significance of confession

Confession, for example, is one of the key ways that we find help and hope in the midst of our struggles. James tells us that healing and confession of sin go hand in hand. So, he writes:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)

The apostle draws a line from confession to healing through the prayers of others. As we confess our sins, we expose it, rob it of some of its power, and amass a team of people to come to our aid. We invite others to help carry our burdens (Gal. 6:2), and we especially elicit their prayers on our behalf. Healing can come, then, as people pray with and for us.

I saw this principle at play in life after life as individuals began to own the reality of their sin and ask for help in fighting their addictive habit. Confession is not something that the church does well. We tend to feign righteousness Sunday after Sunday. If everyone wears their metaphorical “Sunday bests,” then we will too, and so sin continues to live in the dark where it grows and spreads.

Often, however, the addict can’t really hide his woes. You can only live with an addiction for so long before it starts to eat at your whole life, and then people begin to notice. So, many are learning to simply shoot straight. I hate it that one of my friends tells me frequently of his relapses. But I love that he doesn’t run and hide when he falls. I love that he just tells me the truth: “I used heroin again last week.” He doesn’t pretend like everything is fine. He doesn’t deny it. He doesn’t even offer up excuses. He just tells me the truth and asks for help. Of course, not everyone is like my friend, but I am witnessing the power of confession as guys give up the pretense, stop playing at holiness, and truly seek help that can lead to lasting change.

We can be a holier church, in fact, if we stop pretending that we already are one.

There is immense power in confession. If we can be honest with one another, we too can change. If I can admit my own sin, my own selfishness, my own sinful habits that keep me stuck, then I can grow just like my brothers in our recovery program. If more members of the congregation will share their struggles with one another, we will be healthier. We can be a holier church, in fact, if we stop pretending that we already are one.

The importance of community

I’ve learned a lot about the importance of community, too. “Community” is such a buzzword these days. Everybody desires it, wants to talk about it, write about it, and promote it. Committing to it, investing in it, and working for it, however, are not as exciting. We all like the idea of community, but the moment it isn’t convenient for us, we quit. So, we love to join small groups, but when the kids have extra-curricular activities, or when we’re just too tired, or when we want to watch the football game, then we don’t go to meetings. We want friends, until friends ask us for help in ways that we are reluctant to provide.

Addicts, however, don’t have the luxury of shunning community. If they really want to change, they have to stay connected. And they have to invite others into the nitty-gritty details of their lives. It is a sad truth that in AA one can sometimes find better community than you can in the church. With recovery programs, you often get connected to a sponsor who is available 24/7, invests in your well-being, counsels you constantly, and holds you accountable.

In church, we are often left to fend for ourselves. But change is a community project. We need each other if we are going to grow. It’s not optional, and it must be a priority. Plenty of addicted individuals pull away from community and run from accountability, but those that change know that it happens because they have connected with others and invited them to speak into their lives. It’s a compelling example and a strong rebuke to the independent lifestyles that so many Christians insist on maintaining.

The power of the gospel

Finally, through working with addicts I’ve seen the healing power of the gospel in fresh light. The gospel is always the hope of change, and yet in working with addicts I’ve seen the gospel truly change lives ruled by destructive habits. Most of the men and women I work with have tried to get clean and sober. In fact, they’ve often tried many times and many different things to help them overcome their addiction. Yet, they rarely achieve victory. Research shows, however, that religious belief adds an element to recovery that may be a key to success. Three authors, writing in Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, said this:

Nonetheless, a growing body of empirical research supports the notion that religiousness and spirituality may enhance the likelihood of attaining and maintaining recovery from addictions, and recovering persons often report that religion and/or spirituality are critical factors in the recovery process. (Alexandre Laudet, Keith Morgen, and William White. “The Role of Social Supports, Spirituality, Religiousness, Life Meaning and Affiliation with 12-Step Fellowships in Quality of Life Satisfaction Among Individuals in Recovery from Alcohol and Drug Problems.” Alcohol Treatment Quarterly. 24:1-2. 33-73. 2006.)

The gospel, in particular, is the power to change. I have seen men who for decades were in bondage to addiction finally break free as they encounter the living God and the hope of the gospel through Jesus Christ. It’s not a simple formula, and they still had much work to do in the process. Yet, knowing that Christ offered them forgiveness, healing, and help made a huge difference in their lives. The gospel changes people! I’ve not only experienced it personally, but I’ve seen it in the lives of men and women who thought they could never attain it.

I’ve learned so much from working with addicted individuals. I’ve been reminded of great truths and seen them deepen in their implications and applications. Working with addicts is indeed a “high calling.” But as much as I believe God has used me to be helpful, I’ve also benefited greatly from this ministry myself. They, too, have been my teachers—which reminds me of Galatians 6:6. Here, Paul instructs that the one who is taught is also to share with the one who teaches. Many of my brothers and sisters struggling with addictions have, in fact, shared with me.

It wasn’t part of my plan, but I am grateful to get to be involved in this type of ministry.

This article originally appeared here.

By / Mar 19

At the age of 24, Lindsay Holloway, a Baxter, Tenn., native, was arrested for the possessing and selling of stolen weapons; addicted to IV drugs, she faced 10 years in federal prison and $1 million in fines. Holloway is one of the rare few who have escaped a destructive life and yet returned to her former peers to offer them hope that they too, can escape.

It wasn’t always that way. Holloway, 31, grew up in a middle-income, church-attending family. Her parents divorced the same year she became a Christian, at the age of 12. But there were greater spiritual aspects at play in Lindsay’s life.

“I felt like I had to perform to be accepted,” she said. Throughout middle school and high school, she had joined a combined total of 14 clubs. In high school, she started partying.

“By 16, I was doing meth (methamphetamine) with friends,” she said. “But I didn’t have to ‘perform’ for them.”

The slippery slope

The last semester of her senior year, she dropped out of school. She had learned how to cook meth. Four years later, she had graduated to IV drugs and was addicted to painkillers.

“Pills were mental and physical––without pills I was sick. You had to feed the addiction to get out of bed to do anything productive,” Holloway said. “There was nothing I could do about it.”

In and out of the court system, she said that she didn’t really want help.

“I was convinced I was worthless, and I couldn’t do any better,” she said. “People look at us, at junkies, like we’re worthless. Drugs do not discriminate.”

It was a spiral that led her to contemplate ending her life. One September day in 2010, Holloway caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror while applying her makeup. She had planned to “accidentally” overdose that day.

“I saw that I was dead, there was no life in me,” she told me, struggling to maintain composure. “I prayed, ‘Lord, come save me, or I’m going to come live with you.’”

Soon after, federal police knocked at her door to arrest her. Normally, she would have fled, but she immediately knew it was the Lord intervening, Holloway said. She received another gift of grace while at court. An aggressive prosecutor aimed for the highest sentence, she said, to use her as an example to other Middle Tennessee drug users and minor criminals. She was facing 10 years in federal prison and $1 million in fines, at the age of 25.

The gift of a second chance

But the insight of her intake director at her rehabilitation program, Kristy Pomeroy, saw her potential. Holloway was admitted to the Nashville- and Chattanooga-based Next Door program, which eventually helped her “get clean” from drugs, strengthen her faith, and launch her back into a life that was looking up.

“I never had people who knew my past, and knew what I had done, and still looked at me like God did,” she told me.

Holloway prayed, and said that the next time she returned to court, she had a new prosecuting attorney. This one had looked into her case and told her to “keep up the good work” in rehab, knocking her sentence down to two years of probation and $2,000 in fines.

Soon, Holloway began sharing her testimony to anyone who would listen––women at a “halfway” rehabilitation house, to churches, and elsewhere.

“It rose up even more hope in me because he was seeing me as a person and not seeing me for my past,” she told me.

When she returned home, she met her now-husband, Derek, a former addict who had also recently moved to her hometown after spending several years in prison––during which he had earned his carpentry certificates and become a licensed minister. The couple has found that their ministry’s impact has doubled with their collective testimonies and miraculous meet-cute.

A woman with a mission

In the Putnam County Jail, where Lindsay spent time, about 90 of the 380 inmates are women, who collectively live in a space built for 32, according to the ministry’s website. The jail has about an 86 percent recidivism rate, meaning that nearly nine out 10 inmates return due to another crime after being released.

While Holloway began serving the jail through her church, Life Church, she quickly was offered leadership opportunities. At the end of 2017, after nearly two years, she had officially launched her own nonprofit, This is Living Ministries, which aids women affected by incarceration and addiction to gain life skills and spiritual freedom.

“‘Once an addict, always an addict,’ I don’t believe that––that’s not what the Bible says,” she said, pointing to the fact that her desire to return to her old habits is “totally gone.”

Currently, the program collects clothing for former offenders in a five-county radius in Middle Tennessee, aids them in applying to halfway houses or other transitional programs, funds bus tickets or other transportation, and is fundraising for their own women’s halfway house since many programs are out of state, Holloway said.

“I want to teach these girls what it took me five and a half years to learn,” she said. “Women who come right out of prison have no safe, clean environment to go––usually because they’ve burned most of their bridges. They have no life skills.”

She helps them with their budget, their resume, their job applications.

“The girls all know me from my past––they know me from my bad reputation,” she said. “Some of them don’t even recognize me (when I speak at the prison), because I look and carry myself differently. Now, they’re drawn to Derek and me, because of our stories . . . Having lived it, the girls know I’m not asking them to do anything that I haven’t already learned the hard way.”

Dreaming big

Another arm of their ministry is helping women with their desires to be better wives and mothers, through custody support, child services support, and biblical teaching. And the results are exciting, even months into her work.

“One of the girls I first used (drugs) with is now full of the Spirit,” Holloway said. “I personally drove her to Michigan to go to treatment. And now she’s coming back (to Tennessee) to help with the ministry. . . . The Lord’s returning a lot of my old friends, and now I’m getting to see their lives prosper.”

Holloway is praying and planning for a greater capacity to serve Middle Tennessee. The plan for This is Living Ministries is to be filling needs to rehabilitate 40 women—whether that’s housing, job training or basic needs to get back on their feet. Her husband also desires to open a men’s house in the future.

“The Lord chooses those that are unqualified and makes them qualified,” she said. “It’s him, not me, and it brings more glory to him.”

For more information about Lindsay’s work, to donate, or to contact her, visit her website or contact her.

By / Jan 2

We live in a world where issues arise in the news and culture daily. Behind every issue, however, is a person—a person made in the image of God. This new ERLC Podcast series, “How to Handle,” will tackle tough issues for today with the hopes of equipping the church on how to handle the topic, care for those struggling with sin and temptation, and care for those who have been hurt. 

Subscribe here

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By / Nov 13

We live in a world where issues arise in the news and culture daily. Behind every issue, however, is a person—a person made in the image of God. This new ERLC Podcast series, “How to Handle,” will tackle tough issues for today with the hopes of equipping the church on how to handle the topic, care for those struggling with sin and temptation, and care for those who have been hurt. 

Subscribe here

 iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | Tune in