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Book Review – Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting


Book Review – Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting

Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting by Dr. Sam Serio makes three basic assumptions. First, that there are a certain number of people sitting in church pews every week that are agonizing over various forms of sexual hurt. Secondly, it is assumed that Pastors will take up an interest in preaching about sexuality and finally, that their preaching will be sensitive. After reading Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting I believe that all three of these assumptions are true and that Dr. Serio has identified a great need within the church. He rightly points out that pastors often fear preaching on sexuality. They fear the topic because they do not know how it will be received by their congregation. Will the older generation rise up to dismiss him from his post for speaking about the unspeakable? What about children in the congregation? Will parents get upset if he brings up topics that are taboo in their households? What if the congregation begins to suspect that he himself may be struggling with sexual sin by the mere fact that he has began to address sexuality from the pulpit?

Fears aside, Dr. Serio argues that avoiding preaching on sexuality is a grave mistake because scripture views sexuality as a tremendous gift which has the power to create tremendous intimacy or tremendous pain. He also points out that the scriptures were read to the entire congregation in both the Old Testament and New Testament. These congregations faced the same challenges we do today. They were comprised of young children as well as those who were resistant to discussing human sexuality. These congregations also existed in hyper-sexualized cultures such as our own. This aside, they faithfully read the accounts of infidelity, incest, homosexuality, prostitution and rape found in Genesis as well as the highly erotic Song of Solomon. Whether the text celebrated the pleasures of marital union or recounted the shameful exploits of sexual abuse, the text was read and was read aloud to all who were present.

So what are the predominate issues that pastors should preaching on when it comes to biblical sexuality? Serio suggests seven key areas: casual sex, abortion, sexual assault & rape, childhood sexual abuse & molestation, pornography, same sex attraction & homosexuality, and the sexless marriage. In each of these, Serio offers key insights not only into how to prepare the sermon, but also how to preach it in such a way that is sensitive to those who have experienced hurt in any of these areas. I appreciate Serio’s approach because he not only focuses in on the behavior, but also on the areas in which those who have experienced abuse can find forgiveness and the change that they desperately need. When dealing with abortion for example, he goes well beyond the typical sermon which condemns abortion and those who support it,  and focuses on proclaiming the gospel to the women who have had abortions.


Preachers get so caught up with the little people that we tend to forget about the big people affected by abortion

He then offers scripture to help those who are dealing with past guilt and memories of a child they may have aborted. This is critical for pastors to get. Abortion is, by all means, a great evil. And we must do all that we can to protect the lives of all people. But all to often, pastors (and in turn their congregations) forget that the men and women who are having the abortions also need help. In fact, I would argue that the only possible way to end abortion is to focus more attention on heart transforming gospel proclamation than on simply shouting about the evils of abortion. It’s not until the hearts of men and women are changed and they are given a new heart that they the abortion crisis will begin to wane.

Serio deals skillfully with each of the areas of sexual hurt. I especially appreciate his chapter on sexless marriages. With all of the attention given to seemingly greater sexual sins, Serio gently reminds the reader that there are many men (and women) who are experiencing hurt and feelings of betrayal due to an unwilling spouse. He doesn’t let this great sin slide and acknowledges that it is one which is rarely handled correctly.

There are millions of hurting men and women who are just one step away from believing that death or divorce are the only solutions, since nothing seems to move their spouse to be more sexually affectionate. Healing this hurt is critical! While one of  them sleeps, the other does not. They lie awake frustrated and humiliated, wondering why they have been sentenced to a lifetime of marital celibacy. where does the hurting spouse go? What direction should they take? To whom do we speak about it when our spouse never wants to talk about it to anyone else? You vowed to be with only one person in life and that person doesn’t want you.

As is the case with each of the sexual hurts, Serio carefully guides the reader through relevant passages and offers suggestions for sensitively preaching to those who find themselves in this situation.

Serio ends the book with 14 challenges issued to the church to begin to take biblical sexuality seriously and end the cycles of sin and the resulting hurt it produces. Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting  is the single best book that I have come across on this topic because it not only focuses on the area of sin, but specifically on how to prepare to speak on these issues to a vast number of people who are hurting. It is a book that every pastor should read…certainly; but also a book that should be read by anyone who speaks into the lives of those who are struggling with sexual hurt. This is a very large number of people and the size of this group should not be underestimated. I for one am thankful for this book and highly recommend it to just about everyone.

Where to purchase

You can Sensitive Preaching for the Sexually Hurting and my other by searching amazon using my Amazon picks below:

Alternately, also sells Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting or you can pick it up at Kregel Publications

About the Author

sensitive preaching to the sexually hurtingSam Serio, DMin, writes with more than thirty-five years of experience in preaching and counseling. He has pastored churches, conducted seminars, and currently counsels individuals who daily feel the deep emotional effects of sexual sin or pain. Dr. Serio is founder and president of Healing Sexual Hurt ( where people from all around the world seek his words of biblical wisdom and warmth in these taboo topics. He has published various articles and is available to speak at churches and conferences. Dr. Serio lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia.






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

15 thoughts on “Book Review – Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting

  1. Marie

    Aaron this book looks so perfect! I’m not a preacher. I don’t think that is a job for women but that’s a whole different topic. But I am a person who has had many difficult experiences that this book speaks to. I am also one who speaks to many women who are sexually hurting. I’m also someone who for many years hurt my husband by keeping myself sexually distant and the quote you used about feeling like the only way out of the feeling of being trapped in a marriage is death or divorce is exactly how my DH described it to me. I’ll never forget those first difficult conversations we had about my lack of meeting his needs. In my mind, we were doing it enough because we were intimate more often than most of my girlfriends but I failed to see him as an individual with individual needs. Oh I really need this book! Thanks again for reviewing another intriguing book! I hope you and Jami and your kiddies enjoyed Thanksgiving!

    • Thanks for your comments Marie. Our Thanksgiving was fun. I hope yours was enjoyable as well.

  2. Christine

    FINALLY a book that gets it! It took me many years to get over my past abuse and my pastor and elders did NOTHING to help. I hope lot of pastors read this.

    • Christine, I’m sorry to hear of your experiences. I too hope a lot of pastors read this book.

  3. Scott

    As a pastor I think this sounds like a book that will help me better communicate to my congregation. I struggle with what to say and how to say it. The point about suspicions is right. We all know that as soon as a pastor starts on sex people start thinking that pastor is talking about sex so much because he has a secret sin.

    • Dr. Serio briefly touches on that very issue and how many pastors have the same fear. It is a real issue unfortunately but that shouldn’t stop us from teaching the truth.

  4. Anonymous

    I’m a pastor and I simply cannot minister to the sexually hurting because I am in the same boat myself. After living this hell myself and having an unresponsive wife I understand why men turn to pornography and eventually have affairs. There was a time when I wouldn’t have dreamed of committing adultery. These days I fight against the thought every day. I lay awake at night hoping against hope that maybe tonight my wife will find me attractive enough. Respectable enough to just simply do anything. Nothing. So this goes on for a couple weeks until she finally lets something happen but she never acts as though she wants to be there and God forbid she ever let loose a little and give herself away to me. I get the struggle. I don’t condone adultery or pornography but I understand why men choose that path. At least then they can stay in the marriage and not be sentenced to a lifetime of regret. I had one man tell me that he absolutely lives his wife but is no longer sexually attracted to her because after 20 years of trying he just gave up. When he looks at her he sees a good friend who he loves and would do anything for. But he does not see a wife or a lover. And you know, I am starting to feel that myself. I can’t minister to the sexually hurting anymore because I understand all too well and I get it.

    • Anonymous, I am so very sorry to hear your story. Please stay faithful. Please contact me personally if I can help. Use the contact link and leave your email. I will respond.

    • Autumn

      Anon, I’m writing this from a woman’s perspective but I totally understand men. In fact I think you should go over and listen to this episode at Uncovering Intimacy.

      The problem is your wife doesn’t understand men. Have her listen to this. Once she understands that her denying your advances would be similar to you pushing her away when she needs a hug she will view your sensuality differently. Of she doesn’t then she is a b****.

      My two cents is this. Aaron is right you need to stay faithful. But I would say and Aaron probably wouldn’t that if she is denying sex then she has broken covenant with you and has trampled on her wedding vows. This is emotional abuse. Yes emotional. God created you with a sexual desire and he said it is good. It meets the basic need of marriage which is companionship. She has walked away and my opinion is that you can divorce her at any time since she has continued to live in broken covenant. The divorce is only putting ink to what she has already done. She abandoned you in this marriage. Don’t cheat. Don’t watch porn. Those are sinful reactions but God provided for those who have been abandoned in marriage. Of other continues then divorce, heal, and after a time of healing begin to find a new companion which you can because your unbelieving spouse abandoned your marriage. Next time around make sure you marry a Godly woman who understands sex. There are plenty of divorced women with a high sex drive and of course plenty of young women with high drives who are looking for a more mature man. Like I said I know Aaron probably won’t agree with the divorce option but I think know it’s valid.

      The link is good. He doesn’t agree with divorce either bit I think it is your last hope in your marriage. Listen to it with your wife and talk about it together. Don’t cheat on her. Don’t watch porn.

      • Autumn

        My typos are really bad. I’m on my phone and it wants to change all my words. 🙁

      • Anonymous

        First of all thanks for caring enough to take the time to write. I listened to the link and I think he is right on.

        You are right, Aaron doesn’t agree. In my emailing back and forth with him since my original post here he has given me this passage to meditate on:

        Romans 5:3-5

        3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

        The easy solution is for me to divorce and there is an argument to be made that it is justified. She has been unfaithful in this area. But as Aaron told me divorce will not (I think he said ABSOLUTELY will not) produce endurance, character, or hope. Hope doesn’t put me to shame. Hope covers the shame of my wife’s refusal of me and my need for closeness.

        I choose to stay in a humiliating and degrading relationship because I want endurance, character, and hope. Many of us do. Many of us choose this path.

      • Marie

        Autumn it’s funny that you mention denying your husband sex is like him denying a hug. That is so true! I remember when we were going through our struggle he got so frustrated one time that for an entire month he did this to me every time I wanted to hold hands or cuddle or just hug. He’d give me the same excuses that I did. “I’m so sorry. I’m just really preoccupied/tired/busy. Maybe we can try to hug tonight” (of course just like me he said this knowing it wouldn’t happen) or even worse is when I would try to cuddle with him in bed and he would just roll over or get out of bed with a deep sigh and go to the other room to watch TV. He did this for three days and then he finally hugged me while acting disinterested and not “being present” with me in the hug then he’d start all over sometimes going a whole week before giving me any physical comfort. Every time though he was disconnected from me in our hugs,kisses, cuddling, everything! I swear to God I was ready to kill him or myself after a month. I thought for sure he was cheating on me or wasn’t attracted to me or was going to file for divorce. Then finally he apologized and told me he has felt like that every since our second year of marriage!!! I wanted to cry. I did cry. I was so ashamed. It takes hard work. Getting a divorce is not the answer. I have never had such blessings in my life than I had after I started being obedient to God in this area. I don’t want to say that God punishes us for disobedience like this or that it is normal but life settled in and the blessings started pouring in once I repented of this. Call it God or call it coincidence. I don’t know. But I have never been happier and more fulfilled in my marriage. And the part about the man feeling actual physical pain similar to menstrual cramps and not wanting to do anything? Yeah that’s real. My husband used to say it hurt physically. I laughed. But those days of him just wanting to lie around are gone now too. We didn’t know it at the time but it was classic depression and the physical pain made it worse.

      • Autumn you are right that I don’t think divorce is right in this situation. Certainly it is difficult. I don’t want to minimize his experience but this is not what Christ had in mind when he said that divorce is not permitted except for fornication. I know a few translations have translated that as “unfaithfulness” but the Greek word quite literally means fornication (Gr. πορνεία transliterated as porneia) or sexually illicit behavior. Metaphorically it is used for idol worship. It is never used for emotional neglect or even sexual neglect. Yes, Paul speaks of abandonment in 1 Corinthians 7 but regarding this he says if a person has an unbelieving spouse and that spouse leaves the marriage and has no intention of reconciling then the believing spouse is not bound and may remarry. The test here is both unbelieving and abandonment with no intention to reconcile. Nowhere does he say if you are emotionally neglected or abandoned you can divorce. The issue at hand is remarriage not divorce and the offense is physical abandonment not sexual neglect. The spouse simply leaves home not to return.

        This dear anonymous man has chosen to remain with his wife and patiently wait for her to come around as well as work on changing some of his own faults. He has chosen to accept this as God’s sanctifying work in his life to both allow God to work endurance and character in him and give him hope. THAT is a beautiful thing.

  5. Dr. Sam Serio

    Aaron, I thank you for posting such complimentary remarks on my Book. You made my day! I only want God to be glorified by giving us the Scriptures to heal us from any and all of our sexual wounds or sins, hurts or habits. He is close to the broken-hearted and binds up all of our wounds – including sexual wounds! Amen.

    • You are very welcome Dr. Serio. I fear our silence on the issue has only increased the volume of those who do harm to the gift of sexuality. This book is a treasure!

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