Pastors, Porn, and the Blazing Grace Seminary


by Mike Genung

“But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.” John 5:42

Have you ever wondered how half of our pastors could have a porn problem, as the statistics show? Our country is packed with seminaries and Bible colleges led by devoted and gifted scholars, yet many of our ministry leaders are masturbating to pornography. How could these men pass through our Christian educational centers knowing so much of God’s truth, (in Greek and Hebrew even) yet still have a secret addiction to sexual sin?

Something’s missing.
In his book “So You Want to be Like Christ,” Chuck Swindoll writes: “I’ll never forget a letter I read from a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, where I serve as chancellor. He wrote of his gratitude for his years at our fine institution. What troubled me was that he also lamented that when he arrived, he was deeply in love with Jesus Christ; but when he left, he fallen more in love with the biblical text. For all the right reasons, our professors did their best to teach him the Scriptures, but he left loving the Bible more than he loved His Savior. To use Paul’s words, “the serpent seduced him.” After a few tough years in ministry, he came to realize that he needed to love Christ.”

Swindoll continues: “The message of Christianity is quickly becoming a system of enlightened thinking instead of a simple call to turn from sin and pursue a relationship with God. The desire for greater theological knowledge (as good as that is) has supplanted the simple call to know Him intimately…”

I’ve talked and corresponded with pastors who struggle with porn, and their stories are often the same. They got hooked on porn or sex addiction at an early age, found the Lord, and later went to seminary or Bible College where they learned the Right Theology – and continued to live the double life of a Jekyll and Hyde Christian.

In his book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”, Phillip Yancey writes:
“At a Bible College or Christian Camp, and even in church, everyone learns how to look “spiritual.” The emphasis on externals makes it easy for a person to fake it, to conform, even while suppressing or hiding inner problems. Years after I left Bible College I learned that some of my fellow students suffered from deep inner turmoil – depression, homosexuality, addictions – that had gone unaddressed during their time there. They concentrated instead on conforming to the behavior around them.”

The pastors I’ve talked to are often masters at “faking it and conforming.” Few would assume that a man of God would be masturbating to porn, so “hiding their inner problems” is easy. Most are gifted communicators who can preach a great sermon on the love of God.

They may know Greek, but they don’t know grace; it’s never made it to their heart. Their actions are proof of this, because a man or woman who’s had their heart filled with the love of God has no interest in the counterfeits like porn. I’ve found it’s often harder to get the message of grace through to a pastor than a layperson; they focus so much on their knowledge, gifting and apparent success in ministry that they’re blind to their brokenness.

In “The Pursuit of God,” AW Tozer writes:
“There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy… It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: “Orthodoxy, or right opinion (of theology), is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.”
… To great sections of the church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.“

Tozer, a pastor of some 40 years who wrote more than 40 books, penned “The Pursuit of God” in 1949. I should also mention that Tozer never went to high school, college, or seminary. Christ was Tozer’s first love, and the overflow of this relationship was the power source of Tozer’s ministry.

Our seminaries and Bible Colleges are doing an excellent job teaching men and women the Word of God, but we’re missing their hearts. For too many, “Your loving kindess is better than life” (Psalms 63:3) is a precept or principle to be taught on Sunday morning, not something they’ve tasted.

If I were to do a Blazing Grace Seminary, we would go for the hearts of our students; our goal would be to see them fall in love with Christ. The Blazing Grace Seminary would be meant to supplement and complement (not replace) our centers of theological learning.

Our seminary would be located in a peaceful, somewhat remote place where men and women could seek God, perhaps among the green mountain forests of Colorado. (The deserts of California would work too, but I don’t think my wife would live there.) The complex would have a main hall, a dining room, and 50 individual rooms; we’d take in 50 persons every 2 weeks. There would be no TV or computer in any of the rooms, only a CD player for music.

There would be a sign on the door to the main hall that would be marked “No masks allowed; only the broken may enter.” This is not a place for playing the Good Christian Game, or trying to conform to a set of rules; we’re after authentic relationships here. To make the Blazing Grace Seminary a safe place, all who attend would be required to sign a contract of confidentiality so that what is shared wouldn’t be revealed to others.

Our course would last for 2 weeks, and would entail the following:

Week 1, Day 1:  Isolation is Death

Each day of the course, a new set of verses are posted up on the blackboard at the front of the room where we meet together.  Today’s verses are:

He who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all sound wisdom. Proverbs 18:1

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. Proverbs 28:13

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16

Our instructor (me) sets the tone by telling his story with brutal honesty; our students won’t feel comfortable opening up if their instructor is hiding behind an ivory tower.

Afterwards, every person in the room is required to do the same; we ask them where they are with lust, masturbation, porn, affairs, homosexuality, drugs, alcohol and even overeating. We ask them how their marriages are doing, and to describe what their relationships with their father and mother were like. Every area of their life is explored, poked, probed and tested. Better to get these things out in the open now in a safe place than wait for the Big Train Wreck years later.

In the safety and acceptance of this environment and with everything on the table, close relationships begin to form, and the healing begins. Some would be sharing hurts and secrets for the first time in their life. We finish each day by praying for each other in specific ways, as shown in James 5:16.

Week 1, Day 2: Brokenness 101

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Isaiah 64:6

Our focus today is to help our students see their lives are a fatal tragedy. We push into areas of pride, blindness and distorted motives. We challenge them to expose any self-centered motives for getting into ministry (i.e. to be needed, for the adulation and approval of others, or to earn God’s love). We set God’s impossible standard for sexual purity in front of them (“but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” Matthew 5:28) so they understand that, if they are to be honest, they have no way of meeting God’s requirements for holiness within. We help them see ministry must come through God’s power alone, so they no longer value or rely on their own efforts, gifting, education, or abilities.

Accepting their brokenness is critical to our students’ success; without it they will continue to rely on themselves and fall prey to the lusts of the flesh. There must be no doubt in their heart that they are desperate for God.

Week 1, Day 3: Exposing the lies within

“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. Matthew 25:24

In Day 3, we help our students see the lies they’ve bought into about themselves, God and others, and then we compare it with the truth. The man or woman who turns to porn, drugs, binge eating or workaholism reveals they see God “as a hard man” who doesn’t love them. The core lie that drives them to the counterfeits of grace is “I can’t be loved as I am by God or others; I’m worthless.”  These lies must be exposed, uprooted and thrown away so the life-giving truth of God’s love can take root in the soil of their heart.

Week 1, Day 4: Facing the wounds

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

In the process of exposing the lies within, wounds will be exposed that need healing, such as abuse, neglect, abandonment. Some will undoubtedly have gone through trauma such as sexual abuse, and will need personal attention. These are the wounds that the core lies and shame have wrapped themselves around; without healing in these areas they will continue to struggling with a spiritual restraining bolt that keeps them from receiving God’s love.

Week 1, Day 5: Grace

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10

On Day 5, we zero in on the incredible gift of God’s grace for our students. To be a conduit of His love, they must first receive it in their hearts; that which has not been received cannot be given to others. Without God’s love in their hearts, our ministry leaders to-be will be little more than clanging gongs.

Every sin they’ve committed is washed away by the blood of the cross, no matter how sick, shameful or secretive it was, and no matter what others have done to them. They need only to accept the gift of God’s grace and love; they can’t earn it by getting into ministry or “doing for God.” There is no hoop to jump through, no theological precept they must master to unlock the secret of His grace.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

Week 2, Days 1 -5:  Seeking God

Joseph spent 2 years in prison before he was promoted to the vise presidency of Egypt. Moses fed sheep in the wilderness for 40 years before God called him to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt. David spent many of his early years alone, tending sheep. John the Baptist was brought up in the wilderness. Jesus was alone in the desert for 40 days before starting his earthly ministry. Paul spent years in prison writing the letters that make up much of the New Testament. Often, the Lord prepared those He would use powerfully by an extended period of time alone with Him.

Our students will spend 5 days seeking God’s face. Every day of the second week, they will be sent out to the wilderness to seek the Lord alone. They will not seek God and, such as God and freedom from sin, or God and success in ministry or some other and, but God alone.

These verses are posted during the second week:

Monday:

The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. Psalms 14:2

Tuesday:

For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

Wednesday:

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Thursday:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. John 5:39-40

Friday:

How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart. They also do no unrighteousness; they walk in His ways. Psalms 119:2-3

In the process of seeking the Lord, our students will discover the wonderful mystery of silent communion with the Living God. At first, being still and listening for an extended period of time will be hard; jumping off the treadmill of busyness will go against their “I must do something for God” way of life. As their spirits quiet, something strange happens; peace creeps in; their heart softens, and then cracks open a little, exposing a deep ache for God. Their God hunger intensifies, and they go after Him harder.

As they bask in His Presence during week, our students’ eyes are opened. Suddenly they realize God had been surrounding them with His love every day of their life; they’d just been blind to it. Their hearts break wide open in passionate love for Him, and everything else in life suddenly fades away in importance. “Your loving-kindness is better that life” is no longer mere theology; it’s now more real, powerful and precious than anything on earth to them.

Ministry leaders who’ve faced their own brokenness know the importance of making the church a safe place where others can expose their secret sins and receive grace. Since God is now first in their heart, they’re more concerned with pleasing the Lord than people, and they have no problem boldly proclaiming all of God’s truth.

Those who’ve had their hearts filled with the love of God are passionate about pointing others to Him. They have an aversion to the “strange and foreign thing called a program” Tozer spoke of, as programs can’t fill an empty heart with God’s love. Freed from the need to impress others or earn God’s approval through ministry, they now rely completely on His power and direction, making them spiritual dynamite in His hands. Life is now a roaring adventure in faith, and the Lord can feed many through them.

“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He (Jesus) said to him, ” `You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment.” Matthew 22:35-38

The most important question in life is not whether we know the Bible, but whether we love Him; the heart is shown first in the greatest commandment, while the mind is last. (What man ever told his wife I love you with all my head?) If we want to equip our ministry leaders to be sharpened tools in the Master’s hands, we must go for their hearts as well as their minds.

In fact, the church needs to go for everyone’s heart.

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Note – the Blazing Grace Seminary is at present fictional, but, I’m praying to see if the Lord might lead me to make it reality. If you might be interested in attending an event like this, please email me. It would be open to both men and women.