A website helping people break the bonds of sinful addictions

by Daria Greening

According to “The National Campaign To Stop Pornography,” 30 to 40 percent of Christian men in the evangelical circle struggle with involvement in pornography. While sinful habits of sexual impurity abound, individuals also grapple with drinking, smoking, and overeating. Shon Bruellman, executive director of Setting Captives Free, tells about the ministry of helping people break free from sinful addictions. Shon and his wife, Julie, are the parents of three sons and are members of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Algona, Iowa.

What is the ministry focus of Setting Captives Free? We help individuals who are enslaved to habitual sin find freedom through Christ and the counsel of God’s Word.

How did Setting Captives Free get started? Mike Cleveland, an airline pilot from Ohio, was set free from bondage to habitual sin through the counsel of the Word of God. A year later he and his wife were enjoying their new life so much that they wanted to help other people find freedom through God’s grace. They put the Biblical principles of freedom into a course format and placed it on the Internet. On the site’s first day it had over eight hundred visitors. I was one of the subsequent visitors, looking for help and freedom.

What types of addictions does your ministry address? Our free courses deal with homosexuality, pornography, self-gratification, alcohol, smoking, and overeating. We have a course for spouses of those enslaved in habitual sin and a course titled “Purity Force,” which is geared toward teens and young adults.

What does the use of pornography do to those who are enslaved and to their families? Often individuals will say, “I’m not hurting anybody. This is a private thing.” However, anytime an area of spiritual bondage exists in which a person worships or finds satisfaction in anything other than Christ, there are consequences. Our sinful actions bring separation from God and harm our relationship with Him and with others. Pornography is a secret sin that loves the
darkness-fungus grows best in the dark.

How widespread is the problem of pornography? The numbers are discouraging; 30 to 40 percent of evangelical Christian men struggle with pornography, and much of that struggle is fueled by the Internet’s making pornography so accessible. In past years when I was enslaved to pornography, my desire to look at it had to be stronger than my fear of being recognized when walking into a store and buying a magazine. Now with a click of a button during the night in the privacy of one’s own home, a person has access to millions of pictures. He doesn’t have to fear that his viewing habits will be exposed. This is why it is so critical that filters are in place on every computer in the home. [See www.safeeyes.com.]

Your full-service addiction ministry addresses overeating, smoking, and drinking. Are you getting responses in those areas as people come looking for freedom? Yes, the Word of God is a full-service Counselor, able to free us from all areas of bondage. We have found that as God draws individuals to Setting Captives Free, they are able to find freedom from whatever chains are binding them.

How were your courses on the additional areas of addiction developed? As people were set free from other areas of bondage, we developed additional courses. For example, an individual was going through the pornography course and recognized that in addition to pornography, smoking was an idol. He applied what he was learning, found freedom from cigarettes, and adapted the material to write the course called “Breath of Life” for overcoming smoking. The writers and mentors of Setting Captives Free are not experts or professional counselors but people who have applied principles from the Word of God and have experienced life-changing transformations. God has set me free from impurity and from fifteen years of being on antidepressants and going to counselors and therapists. I do not have a college degree, but my time in the gutter brings a level of trust and authenticity with someone who is seeking help.

When somebody has an addiction, how does he or she access help from Setting Captives Free? Individuals enroll in a course according to their needs and are assigned mentors of the same gender. The enrollees go though lessons that are based on the Word, answer questions, and send the answers to their mentors. The Word of God is sufficient to free souls from captivity regardless of how long they have been in spiritual chains. Settingcaptivesfree.com gives hourly updates and testimonies of people who have found freedom.

How do individuals alter their addictive behavior patterns? We don’t say to them, “You need to try harder,” or “You need to stop doing it.” They know pornography is wrong and they want to stop, but they are ensnared in their sin. They need someone to deliver them. It is Jesus Who opens prison doors and sets the captives free (Isaiah 61:1). One of our main teachings is referred to as radical amputation (Matthew 5:29, 30). This cutting off of things that lead to sin is accomplished through Internet filters, accountability tracking programs, and/or removing the computer from the home. It’s not uncommon for individuals who are traveling to have the TVs taken out of their hotel rooms. Setting Captives Free provides both spiritual and practical counsel as it emphasizes the importance of staying in the Word and gives students tangible things to do to walk in purity.

Do women enroll in your courses? Yes, most women enroll in “The Lord’s Table” course on overeating, but roughly 30 percent of the students who enroll in the sexual purity courses are women.

Women have difficulty with pornography as well as men? Yes, but while men primarily struggle with the visual, women struggle with the relational. They get involved emotionally through sex chatting or online romances. A woman might say, “What’s the big deal? We’re just doing some harmless flirting.” But it grows. A pastor’s wife had Internet access installed to use with homeschooling her children. She began talking with other people online, and six months later she was in a city three thousand miles away to meet a man she had never seen in person. She had walked away from her husband and seven children to start a relationship with someone she had met on the Internet. Thankfully God brought her to her senses in time, and she returned home.

In the process of overcoming an addiction, how long does it take to have assurance that the individual is on the right track? You never can know for sure that someone is on the right track, but from my own experience, I would say it takes a week. From observing more than eighty thousand students who have enrolled in our courses, we see that when individuals truly get to the end of themselves and turn to Christ, they often experience an immediate transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The sixty-day course strengthens and fortifies their new walk in freedom. Repeatedly God opens people’s understanding, starting with the first lesson. This type of freedom takes place when they come broken and genuinely repentant-at the bottom of the barrel. Others may come who are not ready; they are not broken, or they may have a chip on their shoulder or are prideful, and inevitably they fall. In the end it’s all in the timing of our sovereign God.

Does someone who has experienced this transformation no longer have to deal with his or her temptation later? In the book Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character, Christian, is walking through a forest. On either side of him lions are roaring, jumping, and snapping. However, the lions are chained-they can roar, but they cannot get him. That’s similar to what someone who has been set free experiences. The phrase “Once an addict, always an addict” is not true. We still are tempted because we continue to carry flesh. However, the grace of God allows us to endure those tests and temptations when previously we would have given in to them.

How does Setting Captives Free work with local churches in helping their people deal with addictions? We desire to develop accountability relationships for our students within local churches, having the pastor of the church be closely involved with the individuals who are going through the lessons. To establish accountability, students may send their lessons to whomever they want-their husbands or wives, a pastor, a church member, etc.

As a parting word to a reader who is despairing over an addiction, what ray of encouragement could you offer? In Isaiah 61:2 and 3 Isaiah said the Lord had sent him to “‘comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.'” People who are in bondage need hope and the news that freedom is available. The enemy tells people that they are alone; nobody else is as bad. They carry with them a “spirit of heaviness” and “mourning.” The good news is that Jesus Christ is able to deliver captives for His glory. He can work a miracle even when things look hopeless. That’s what He did for me and is doing for thousands of freed captives who have come to our ministry, finding help from the Word of God.

Daria Greening serves alongside her husband, John, national representative for the GARBC, in the roles of administration and writing.