For a long time I’ve had a theory that our teaching about sin – though well intentioned – can actually cause our students to sin. Unfortunately, I learned in a recent conversation the theory is true. I’m thankful that I’m not the one who caused it, but I’m crushed to know it happens.

Jonathan (not his real name) was in a youth service. The topic was purity. The boys and girls were divided into different rooms. From stage in the boys’ session, the speaker assured students that 100% of the guys in the room had “been addicted to pornography” and “masturbated regularly.” Jonathan had not.

By attempting to reassure the students that this was “every man’s struggle,” the speaker actually ended up making Jonathan curious about the topic, instead of turning him away. Jonathan felt like if he was the only one not doing it, he must be ‘weird’ or ‘unmanly.’

We’ll never know if other factors may have played a role in Jonathan’s eventual fall into this struggle. What we do know, however, this that this church service for high school students was (at the least) a catalyst for Jonathan’s engagement in this sin.

Jonathan is not alone. I’ve reached out to other youth workers to find out if there may be other stories similar to his.

Here are two of the responses I received:

  1. My husband and I have been at our current church for one year and we have one student who this happened to. He is dealing with some serious serious stuff now. There was already a lot of brokenness in his situation even before this, but all it took was the last leader sharing about pornography with them. It really did some damage!
  2. That sounds like my story. I checked it out after listening to an American speaker that came to our country made a statement about it. I was curious. Googled it. Stayed up all night looking tons of pictures. And that began a struggle that lasted for years

Please hear my heart on this: I am not being the messaging police. I believe we need to address difficult issues boldly. However, I also believe if we don’t speak wisely, we can cause people to stumble into sin and addiction, or return to old ways. As a church, let’s all do what we can to be prayerful, careful, and very intentional about our messaging.

Also published on Medium.