There is an easy alternative to the highly structured methodology of 423 Communities. Some guys and gals may prefer to gather unofficially for “accountability.” They recognize the lure of porneia and want help in the battle. They start small with a couple close friends, pick a time, and agree to meet regularly.
This accountability model seems like a good idea at first, but then... life happens. The grassroots, organic approach to sexual recovery is met with limited success because of family scheduling conflicts, unmanaged expectations, and loss of interest, especially when the measurement of success is as intangible (and as easy to lie about) as sexual sobriety. There is a logistical price to pay for ongoing ministry, and few people have the stamina to finish what they start. I call this phenomenon the ‘fizzle factor’ which is high when it comes to small, informal accountability groups because the penalty for terminating groups like these is relatively inconsequential. In my experience, these groups come and go. Perhaps they accomplish their intended purpose, but they normally do not have staying power.
Traditional accountability holds a two-fold benefit for the addict. At the inception of this form of dependence on people, the addict has someone who will listen to him, and when it doesn’t work, he has someone to blame. Historic accountability is a form of people-dependency. It will fail because it is based on the premise that confession alone brings healing. True confession is an indispensable first step in our recovery, but that’s all it is… a first step only, not the end of the matter. Jesus’ younger brother, James, admonished believers, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5.16 NKJV). Confession is a critical part of the healing process. Without full disclosure, there can be no victory over sin. We are as sick as our secrets. But confession, even honest confession, does not, in itself, heal us. It is only the starting point.
Accountability, in the traditional sense, is overrated. Community is a critical part of the healing process, not because our brothers or sisters will "hold us accountable" and thereby keep us from sinning, as many stuck in the cycle of shame hope. Rather, personal purity is solely an individual responsibility. If I am to "held accountable," it is to God Himself working through my conscience.
Addicts know how to get around people because addicts lie. The man or woman struggling with sexual sin may find it difficult, however, to get around their own conscience. Acknowledging the reality of one's failures in the presence of a compassionate and non-judgmental community releases the power of the Holy Spirit and enables the struggling brother or sister to thrust themselves upon the mercy of Jesus who alone can atone for their sins.
423 Communities, then, is nothing more than a highly structured and confidential environment where people can anonymously share their stories without fear of reprisal. A 423 Community is a 'shame-free' zone and therefore becomes a safe place to tell the truth. There is no upside to lying in this sacred setting of mutual understanding.
It takes a massive amount of work to organize and maintain a structured program like 423 Men or 423 Women. Critical elements of operation include:
- Maintaining a fluid database for members
- Monitoring weekly attendance
- Conducting intake interviews
- Creating member rosters
- Facilitating transfer requests
- Keeping an up-to-date waiting list
- Making new member placements
- Starting new groups as the need arises
- Recruiting, developing, encouraging, and retiring leaders
- Securing and cleaning facilities
- Consulting with and keeping church leaders informed
- Fielding inquiries and counseling members
- Forming policies and implementing change
- Staying educated
This ministry endeavor can be a fulltime job. It’s no wonder those with a casual interest in sexual recovery shy away from providing foundational leadership to a program-oriented effort like 423 Men and 423 Women. It’s too much work. Why risk time, money, and energy to build a non-traditional, messy, controversial, and provocative ministry in sexual recovery? Why not, rather, quietly gather a couple friends, informally begin meeting, and see what happens? The only reason I can think of is the ‘fizzle factor.’ Organic efforts without strong structure, policy, and leadership in place often do not last and their impact, while possibly valid and effective, is short-lived.
The Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine commented, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must... undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Nothing’s free, especially not freedom from porneia. There’s a price to pay for recovery from sexual addiction, just as there is a price to start and operate an effective program for women, youth, and men with sexually addictive behavior patterns. The benefits, however, are unmistakable and worth the effort. Just because a man or woman wavers today in their steadfastness to achieve sexual sobriety now does not mean they will do so tomorrow, next week, or next year. When he or she is ready, 423 Men and 423 Women will still be there, Lord willing, to assist them on their journeys toward sexual freedom.
Many people join 423 Women and 423 Men, quit, and later join again. This fact alone; that is, the consistent availability of recovery groups for the benefit of those who need help when they need it, is enough reason to pay the price for a well-structured and highly organized ministry of excellence led by recovering addicts who are devoted followers of Jesus.
Find freedom. Join a 423 Community today.