'Battle Plan' to equip men in pornography fight
What they're doing, pastor Ed Litton said, can be replicated in churches across the nation.
Litton has been pastor of First Baptist Church in North Mobile, Ala., for nearly 20 years, and in the past five years or so he has noticed what he calls a cultural avalanche.
"I'm certain other people are seeing it too, but as a pastor I'm watching marriages in my church be ravaged and destroyed. I'm watching men become less directional about their leadership role in the home and the church," Litton, a former president of the SBC Pastors' Conference, told Baptist Press.
"In counseling and trying to deal with these issues, we suspected that one of the major issues for men is pornography."
First Baptist North Mobile's effort coincides with the Join One Million Men anti-pornography initiative (www.join1millionmen.org) set forth at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June. That movement, launched by pastor Jay Dennis at First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., calls men to commit to sexual purity and to protect their families from the devastation caused by pornography.
Earlier this year, Litton read "Closing the Window" by Tim Chester, which Litton described as especially practical and honest among various books he had read on fighting pornography.
"The thing that I was most encouraged by with Tim's approach was that it wasn't a shame-based approach," Litton said. "One of the things I will say about the southern culture is that we are a shame and honor culture.
"I was in Japan last summer on a mission trip. That's a shame and honor culture, but I felt the whole time like I was in south Alabama in that sense," Litton said.
What he means by a shame and honor culture, Litton said, is that people refrain from talking about certain subjects openly and publicly, such as pornography.
"That was the driving motivation for us to say, 'We've got to stop this.' If we hope to turn this around, we're going to have to deal honestly and frankly with this subject and lift the lid on shame," Litton said.
"This is every man's challenge at some level. We've worked really hard to present a plan that isn't the broken struggler -- the guy who would identify himself that way. It's for everybody. Many of us are broken and many of us struggle.
"Our basic idea is that it's a frank conversation about porn and manhood and the ultimate beauty for which every man longs," Litton said.
On Sept. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. men will gather at First Baptist North Mobile for a "Battle Plan: Men Fighting for Freedom" conference. Litton will lead the discussion, along with Neal Ledbetter, director of campus life at the University of Mobile.
Ledbetter is a member of First Baptist North Mobile, described by Litton as "a young man who's very sharp and really understands this generation of students and what they're struggling with."
"He deals with this on a daily basis, so I went to him and told him about Chester's book. I told him, 'You need to read it and we need to sit down and talk. I'm thinking a Thursday night event, two hours where we just have an honest, frank conversation,'" Litton recounted.
Their approach will be Gospel-centered, the pastor said, and they'll talk about God's original intent in creation followed by the fall of man and the cross.
"Ultimately, there is no hope apart from what Jesus did for us on the cross," Litton said.
That will be covered during the first hour of the event, and after a short break the men will reconvene for a panel discussion of five points of the Battle Plan -- "five things that they're going to need in order to be victorious," Litton said.
The University of Mobile, which is about three miles from the church and is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention, is promoting the event among their student body, and Litton hopes every man on campus and every man at the church will attend.
First Baptist North Mobile also will provide a live video feed of the event, and people across the country will be able to watch it on their iPads, laptops or with others.
"We've got churches that are going to show it in the auditorium, and we've got churches that are going to tune into it in their small groups," Litton said.
Someone said recently that the antidote for shame is the phrase "me too," Litton said. People are better able to cope when they know they're not the only one struggling. But he'd add a second phrase, he said: Jesus said, "Come to Me."
"He's the source of cleansing and overcoming," Litton said.
Most pastors could lead this sort of event themselves, he said, and they would be wise to do so.
"Pastors have got to be transparent with our people, especially our men. We've got to tell the truth about ourselves and our own struggles, whatever those are and at whatever level," Litton said.
To view a video about the Battle Plan event, click here.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).