People of faith are awakening to the fact that sexual exploitation and trafficking are taking place all over the world and that freedom is desperately needed in our own congregations. No doubt the place where we worship should be the safest place in the world but I've worked with men and women around the country who regularly speak from the stage and who are hiding deep wounds of secrets, shame and sexual abuse.
I have spent decades in ministry, counseling and leading international organizations, and have realized that it doesn't matter if I am speaking to a man recently released from prison, the worship leader of a church or a survivor of sex trafficking ... you know what they all have in common? They have all experienced childhood sexual abuse. Many of them even experienced such trauma within the church or at the hands of someone they should have been able to trust most (one out of three girls and one out of five boys is sexually abused).
The root of childhood sexual abuse, and the life-controlling shame of secrecy, is deeply rooted in nearly every single man, woman and child I have ever worked with. It does not discriminate based on race, age, socio-economic background or denomination. It is rampant in our churches and I have found my life's purpose in helping believers launch into complete freedom and healing from these issues.
These should not be taboo topics in our congregations. We seek to awaken the entire church to bring it into a new level of freedom through Jesus, not allowing the enemy to have a foothold in any way. We have seen too many ministry leaders fall because of the secrets they were keeping, the blind eye they turned to about the lack of advocacy to protect the flock or the inability to know the wolves in sheep's clothing among them—if indeed they weren't the wolf in sheep's clothing themselves.
We are working to create a paradigm shift, providing a language and a framework so that children can know they have safe adults with whom they can share anything and from whom they don't need to keep any secrets. Those who would groom our children for abuse are smart so we need to be smarter.
Through our ministry arm, Free With E, we have created the "missing link" for the church. Our Program, "Real Talk," is designed for every single church. It creates a safe space to grow in authentic community, free from the strongholds of sexual abuse, shame, secrets and wearing the "mask" of perfection in ministry. It is created for children, teens, men, women and church leaders to not only aid them in preventing exploitation but also help them speak what has not been spoken about ever before in the church. From abortions and pornography to sexual abuse, toxic relationships and creating authentic transparency, this program aims to revolutionize and empower God's people.
The stakes are too high and the reputation and credibility of our Christian witness has never been more at risk because the enemy is prowling like a lion seeking to steal, kill and destroy. He is looking for cracks in the wall, anywhere to get a foothold. And the old "I had no idea," or "I wasn't even aware of that" isn't going to work anymore. We need to protect our congregations and to thereby usher in a new era of freedom from any and all of the enemy's strongholds of shame, secrets and hiding behind a mask in ministry.
If our deepest desire is to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we must fearlessly go into the darkness. We must allow God to use us in ways we never dreamed possible. I never fathomed that I would be a leader in this movement. I wasn't chasing it; I was chasing Jesus. More importantly, Jesus was chasing me. And Jesus will always lead us to the least of these. That is precisely who He was sent for. He ate with those whom society pushed to the side and deemed unclean. He flung open the gates for the oppressed and traumatized. He ate with prostitutes. His own family line descends from Rahab, who was notoriously known as a "harlot." And like many survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Jesus was betrayed by someone He should have been able to trust.
God has called each of us to do our part. For me, it started with a prophetic word that I would have the gift of tears. These tears brought me to a place of understanding and my understanding brought me to a place of action. God's heart is broken for the innocent boys and girls whose self-worth and ability to trust is ripped from them, used for someone else's abhorrent pleasure.
The good news for us is that we are not alone in this fight against one of the most appalling evils of all time. It is you and I, together, who are called to bring freedom to all who are held captive by the trauma and lies of their pasts. We must unite and walk in complete confidence, knowing that we are an army sent on a kingdom assignment with kingdom authority.
This is an area of great reset—an awakening and shaking for the church— to release our own secrets to step fully in freedom to advocate for others. This is a new era and, together, we can end the injustice and abuse running rampant in our congregations. For "Who the Son sets free is free indeed" (John 8:36).
Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good is the co-founder/CEO of The Foundation United, and the founder of Free with E, a catalytic new ministry providing life-changing coaching programs and ministry training modules to empower the church and its leaders to walk in complete freedom and transparency regarding the current global pandemic of childhood sexual abuse. Elizabeth brings decades of ministry experience and a Master's degree in Psychology to the task of creating healthier, safer churches with no foothold for the enemy. She is a passionate pioneer and inspirational thought leader with a desire to expose the root issue behind sex trafficking — childhood sexual abuse. Her book, Groomed (HarperCollins, 2020), recounts her own story of loss, abuse and triumph.
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