Choosing Jesus Over Porn: A North Carolina Pastor’s Victory

By Carl Stagner

No one wants to talk about it. It’s silently eating away at the souls of our teens, our men (and women), and even our younger children. Our Sunday school teachers aren’t immune. Our board members and elders aren’t immune. Our pastors aren’t immune. Why aren’t we talking about it? The world is. Lately, so is Aaron Holman, pastor of youth and young adults at New River Community Church of God in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina. Ordained in July, this Christ-centered leader is boldly sharing his own struggle with pornography so others may find freedom.

Aaron_Holman_daughter_FORWEB“I went from one summer doing lab work in a summer institute for biotech students, to shoveling asphalt the next year in order to pay the bills,” Aaron recounts of the consequences of sexual addiction. “God used all of this to break me. I was engaged, and we needed a place to get married. I walked into Riverside First Church of God not knowing what to expect. I was twenty, pony-tailed, tattooed, and really just there because I figured going there would get us a discount on the wedding.”

Attending the Church of God congregation did far more than provide Aaron and his wife Sara a place to get hitched; it also exposed them to the life-changing power of the gospel: “I remember the night when God convicted me and I could no longer pretend that this was somehow all right. I really wanted to try and have both—couldn’t he just forgive me every time? But I always felt worse after, and hated that feeling of always hiding.” No longer under the chokehold of pornography, Aaron’s newfound faith in Jesus led him to Bible college and ultimately youth ministry. “I chose the joy that lasts forever, over fifteen minutes of pleasure with shame the rest of the day,” he reflects.

Aaron’s spoken-word video, called “Tally Marks,” originated from a challenge he issued to his students at church. During a teaching series on sexuality, the students were asked to draw a tally mark each time they encountered any degree of sexual content during the week. Some students’ tallies totaled in the hundreds by the time the group met again. It became clear that culture is saturated with sexual content, yet feelings of embarrassment, awkwardness, and shame often keep the church from adequately addressing the issue.

Aaron_Holman_wife_and_daughter_FORWEB“Sexual content is so pervasive in our culture because it is incredibly effective at getting us to pay attention,” Aaron explains. “You can add it to essentially anything, and suddenly it becomes watchable. Hardee’s has these ads that show someone eating their burgers—not exactly exciting. But if the person is a woman in revealing clothing, suddenly people want to watch. Most literary critics didn’t think much of the Fifty Shades trilogy, but the sexual content made it the bestseller it is.”

Convinced that the church must address this issue of pornography, Aaron continues: “I have talked about it often enough in public settings that I forget sometimes how awkward many people feel saying words like masturbation. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but confronting sin is rarely easy. This one area is something that affects such a large number of people in the church, compared to the attention we give it. If half your congregation is locked in this cycle of addiction that destroys marriages and cripples ministries, how can you not talk about it?”
Still don’t think it’s a big problem? Aaron explains that many parents underestimate how accessible pornography is to their children. “My parents put safeguards on our TV and computer, but I still encountered it at an early age at a friend’s house,” he says. “I can’t even imagine what it is like now when every kid has Internet access in their pocket at all times. Even looking at random hashtags on Instagram will pretty quickly reveal sexual content.” He goes on to warn that filters alone won’t do the trick. “Nearly every male high school student I have ever worked with has struggled with this, regardless of household or upbringing,” he says. “Talk to them early and often.”

Aaron_Holman_family_FORWEBSome think of pornography as a private indulgence—something that couldn’t possibly hurt anyone else. They reason that their sin isn’t as bad as that of the rapist or murderer. They wipe away the history on their browser, but secretly shed tears of shame and regret that turn into rivers of ineffectiveness and sometimes oceans of sexual immorality and unfaithfulness. “Firstly, this is something that creates separation from God because it is sinful,” Aaron explains. “If I follow Jesus, I surrender every area of my life to him, not just my public actions. Using ‘stealth mode’ on my browser won’t hide my actions from God. If you are single, this will carry over in your dating relationships, and your dating relationships into your marriage.”

Some of the most well-intentioned believers, including pastors, struggle with pornography. While Aaron’s story of going from daily indulgence to eight years porn-free is remarkable—and demonstrates what Jesus Christ can do—it is not the norm. Accountability is key. “Porn addiction follows the same pattern, and activates the same pathways, that other addictions like opiates or gambling do,” Aaron explains. “Unlike these other addictions, sexual content is so hard to avoid. Imagine being a recovering alcoholic, and every time you turn on the TV you randomly get splashes of your favorite drink delivered straight to your mouth. Imagine being a gambling addict, and you have a casino in your pocket with you at all times. Even so, God is greater than our weakness, and if he can change me, he can change anyone.”

Please feel free to share and re-post the video Aaron created with the help of student Chance Meeting. Allow such a testimony to encourage others. Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

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