Below is an interview with Mark Ongley, author of the new Pure Hearted: Banding Together for Sexual Wholeness (Seedbed 2021). It is a resource designed to be used by groups who are on a journey toward sexual wholeness together.
What does it mean to be pure hearted, and what is sexual wholeness? Can you contrast that with what passes for sexuality in the 21st century?
Jesus said, “This is my body, broken for you.” Under the influence of the Sexual Revolution, believers have tended to echo the world, saying, “This is my body, and I’ll do what I want . . . uh, as long as I don’t hurt anyone.” Purity of heart is a single-minded devotion to God’s design and desire as found in the Garden of Eden. This is sexual wholeness.
What is unique about sexual sin and brokenness that makes it so pervasive across human experience? Is there a theological explanation for this struggle?
God made us relational beings and gave us sexuality as a means to be relationally fulfilled. But so often when we feel lonely and unloved, we are quick to believe sexual climax will fill the void—or at least make us feel better. Rather than pursuing deeper relationships, we grasp for the thin air of our imaginative, internet fantasy.
Why is “banding” considered so integral to a person’s journey toward sexual wholeness?
First of all, it is very relational. We open our hearts to a few others about our deepest struggles, finding that our battles are not unique, and there are others who will take the journey with us. The format of a band turns everyone’s focus toward God. John Wesley discovered this incredible dynamic centuries ago. Sex addiction therapists have found these relational and spiritual principles are just as essential today.
Why do you think local churches rarely create programs or ministries with lasting success in this area?
Let’s face it. The Church has found it difficult to talk about sexuality at least since Aquinas. Probably even before him. This has created an atmosphere of shame where people are reluctant to share their sexual struggles. And given our culture’s obsession with sexual fulfillment, few people want it known that they have a problem. This makes the privacy and camaraderie of bands so helpful.
What is unique about the approach of Pure Hearted and who is this book for?
Pure Hearted provides a path for going deeper with God and a few like-minded others. It also provides prayer protocols specific to sexual issues which are effective and easily accessible. Some have found the divine office to be an incredible devotional practice, and Pure Hearted provides one with scriptures, prayers, and affirmations specific to sexual struggles. It is for anyone who battles a bent toward porn or addiction to sexual behaviors.
How do you suggest pastors, discipleship groups, or emerging adult leaders engage with this resource in their communities?
Sexual holiness is tied to wholeness. Simply focusing on sinful behaviors sends people searching for closets. But providing a vision for God’s amazing design for our sexuality is a welcomed message. This was the approach of my first book Into the Light. Casting the vision highlights how far we have fallen. From there, access, anonymity, and availability are key.
What is God’s message to the sexually broken, or sex-addicted person?
There is hope! Recovery specialists have found reaching 90 days of abstinence puts one on a new plateau in their ability to resist temptation. Pure Hearted provides a format for those 90 days with suggestions for follow-up. While some whose issues have deeper roots may need counseling to supplement this work, many will find God transforming them through this time-tested approach of bands.
Mark Ongley is the author of the new book, Pure Hearted: Banding Together for Sexual Wholeness. It is a self-guided handbook on how to overcome sexual sin together in groups. It engages in formative prayer practices and meaningful questions that gracefully help persons journey toward sexual purity.
Maintaining purity of heart in a sex-saturated world is a challenge for all believers. Sensuality has always grabbed our attention, but with the Internet, explicit and highly addictive material is jus ta click away. A glance becomes a gaze, a gaze can become an obsession, and obsession unchecked can bring the chains of addiction. Getting free can be maddening.
But freedom is possible! Studies reveal that abstinence from addictive behavior for ninety days can place you on a new plateau of victory. But you can’t do it alone. Gritting your teeth and making more promises leads only to disillusionment and despair. Banding together with a few trusted friends, however, is a key to liberation.
Arm in arm with a few others, this approach goes beyond mere sin management and aims for the root issues that feed sexual obsession. Are you ready for a journey toward purity of heart?
- Anyone struggling with sexual sin
- College groups
- Men’s groups & women’s groups
- Accountability groups
- Discipleship bands
In these pages you’ll:
- Deepen your relationship with God
- Grow in intimacy with others
- Understand basic principles of sexual brokenness
- Learn effective prayer practices
Get your copies from our store here.