An Interview With Bear Clifton About The “Training For Godliness: Purity Summit”
Tell me a little bit about the Purity Summit?
The “Training for Godliness Purity Summit” is a weekend where guys come together to talk about something the Bible talks about all the time, but we in the Church don’t – sex. We’re going to get open and honest about God’s view of sexuality. It’s one of the greatest gifts a loving God has given to humanity. But in case no one’s noticed, our culture is just falling off the rails when it comes to sex, and a lot of people are getting hurt by sexual confusion and temptation. And many of them are in our churches. So it’s time to bring this topic front and center in our conversations, and get real about it. Our Purity Summit is where that starts to happen.
Who would you like to see attend the retreat?
This weekend is for any man from teens on up. The big question I’m asking this weekend is: How does a follower of Christ live in this sin-sick, sex-saturated world of ours and keep his head and heart clean? Is it even possible in today’s world?
This isn’t just a conference for those who are struggling or addicted or hurting. It’s for anyone who is concerned for what’s going on in our society, and would like some ideas in how to respond to it. We’re going to be looking at sexuality from a big-picture perspective. I don’t know what theological issue the Church will be dealing with twenty years from now. But I do know that right now, sexuality – the very definition of what a human is as a sexual being – is the #1 issue facing the Church.
So if you come you’re not going to be admitting that you’re a “dirty old man”?
That’s a problem with a lot of so-called “purity conferences”. Because of the shame Christians often attach to sex, it scares off the very guys that need to be there. Those who are struggling will find help for sure. We’re going to share a life-changing strategy that God used with me years ago, when early in my marriage I got caught in pornography, and God brought me to freedom. But those who are not struggling in this area should come especially, because they’re going to hear some ideas that will equip them to help others, their sons and daughters, kids and grandkids. Any man from teens on up should be a part of this.
What do you think the Church is doing poorly when it comes to sex?
We’re either silent about it, or if we do talk about it, or if a guy comes forward and admits to struggling with something sexual, then we shuffle him off to that secretive support group that meets in the church basement at 6am on Saturdays. Or it’s something that we let the youth groups cover but we don’t say a word about it from the pulpit or in our classes. I want to turn all of this on its head. Like I said, this is the #1 doctrinal issue facing the Church right now.
Why do you think the Church has struggled so much when it comes to sex?
It’s a problem that really goes way back in church history, rooted in some terrible interpretations of what the Bible says, where the idea arose that sex was so worldly and carnal, that the “more spiritual” you were, the less you should think about it. And so sex became “that which shall not be named.”
But that’s just awful theology. God creating us “male and female” is right there in the first chapter of the Bible. God’s will for how we should order our sexuality is right there in the second chapter of the Bible. Jesus came right out and endorsed Genesis 1 and 2 as his gold standard for sexuality. It’s a good and God-given part of creation, that should be celebrated and enjoyed, not swept under the rug.
So what’s different about your approach?
Well first of all, that we’re talking about it. Boldly, openly, without shame. That’s huge! The second thing that’s different is the way in which we talk about sex. We’ve done shameful things with sex, but sex isn’t shameful. It’s good, and God-given. We speak of it as this amazing gift that God has given to us. This is God firing on all cylinders.
But sex is also one of the most powerful forces within us. And so God, out of love, has given us very clear boundaries about how to use our sexuality. So the third thing that’s different in our purity training is we look straight at those boundaries and we don’t discard them or redefine them or say that God has “changed his mind” like so many churches are doing today. We talk about how these boundaries are life-giving and lead to happiness and freedom. It’s not hateful to point others to God’s boundaries and say, “This is how we should live.” In fact, it’s one of the most loving things you can say to a person.
So what are guys going to come away with from the retreat?
We’re going to teach the guys what I call the Five Keys Of Purity Training. My ministry is called Train Yourself Ministry and it’s built on 1 Timothy 4:7 where Paul tells Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly”. I think we’ve lost the idea of training that is imbedded in our faith.
We call ourselves disciples, which means someone who is learning the discipline of the Master. And when I look back at how Christ wrenched me free from my porn habit, what he did was quite literally train me back to holiness. Each and every part of me. He brought discipline to my spirit, but also to my mind, my body, my emotions and my will.
And so if you ask: How does a Christian businessman who’s on the road every week stay pure? How does a Christian high school student or college student who’s grown up with technology stay pure? How does a person struggling with their sexual identity stay pure? How does a Christian single keep on keeping on for Jesus? (And let’s not think that purity issues go away after you’re married.) If you want to be sexually whole, and walk in freedom in our modern day Corinth, then the best answer is you allow Jesus to train you. And we’ll spend the weekend unpacking that idea.
You’ve also written a book about this topic.
It’s a 40-day devotional called Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40-Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness. It walks step by step in 40 short readings through everything we’re discussing. And I think because this is written as a daily devotional, that it’s useful and accessible for all ages. And because it covers sexuality from a big-picture perspective, it will be a tremendous help to just about anyone. If you want to avoid falling in to sexual struggle, or you’re stuck and want to get out, no matter what that area of sexual struggle or temptation you’re facing, this book points the way to freedom in Christ.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. In addition to this website, his blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”.