What Our Churches Must Do to Confront the Porn Epidemic and Minister to the Sexually Broken

by Mike Genung

In his Insight for Living website, Chuck Swindoll published an open letter addressing the need for the church to address the problem of porn in the church.

The following is an excerpt from his letter:

“…The most recent studies available suggest that 1 out of every 2 people-that’s 50% of the people sitting in our pews, are looking at and/or could be addicted to Internet pornography. The struggle is going on among those who volunteer in your church and mine. Chances are good that some of our full-time staff members, even some who faithfully serve on our boards, may be losing this secret battle. And while I’m listing these possibilities, let’s not overlook our young adults-married and single-who provide instruction among our junior and senior high youth. Truth be told, that statistic could be even higher.

…Stop and imagine the ugly but very real possibility of some of your own elders and deacons leaving your meetings and going home to surf porn. Think about youth leaders viewing it one minute, and leading a small group with your kids thirty minutes later. It’s ruining marriages, destroying relationships, harming youth, and hurting the body of Christ. You hardly need to be reminded that fallen pastors and priests did not “suddenly” fall. More often than not, pornography played a role in their downward spiral.”

My friend, it’s time to do something about it. In fact, we need to start today. Making a difference requires action… our churches are in trouble. This is no time to simply wait and pray. Please join me in this battle for our young minds, our marriages, our leaders, and our churches.”

You can read the full text of Chuck Swindoll’s letter here.

Chuck isn’t overstating the fact that there are marriages and families at risk. At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said that the Internet played a significant role in the divorces in the past year, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half such cases. Pornography had an almost non-existent role in divorce just seven or eight years ago.

I know, some of you are thinking “aww, you’re overreacting, we don’t have a problem with porn in our church, there’s no way half of the men here have a problem with this.” You aren’t the only one who’s thought this.

Ted Roberts, a pastor who’s ministered to many caught in the bondage of sexual addiction, tells the following story in his book Pure Desire:

“I was speaking in the Bible Belt not too long ago. When I asked the gracious pastor what he wanted me to share about during the weekend service, he said, “Just tell them about the great work God is doing at your church.”

I said, “I would love to do that, but I will end up talking about real life – about the bondage, addiction and trauma that so many people are struggling with today. And I will challenge them to open up these areas of their lives to God so He can heal them and set them free.”

The expression on his face changed a bit and he commented, “Well, I don’t think we have a lot of folks dealing with the depth of issues that you’re talking about. This isn’t just the Bible belt part of the country. We call it the buckle of the Bible Belt.”

But that pastor gave me the green light, so I didn’t pull any punches. Then, at the end of the service, I gave an altar call for people struggling with sexual issues. No one moved at first. Then the dam broke, and they lined up three to four deep at the altar…”

As Chuck wrote, we need to take action now. Ted Roberts preaches openly about the problem of porn in his own church at least once a year, and so should your church and mine. In a recent Christianity Today poll, 44% of churchgoers said they want their pastors to address sexual issues with more frequency. Our churches are crying for clear answers.

Here’s a battle plan for dealing with the problem of porn in the church:

1. The topic must be discussed openly before the congregation.

Those who struggle with porn the most live in a protective cocoon of isolation. You can address sex addiction at a men’s retreat or seminar, but realize there are many lone stranger Christians in your congregation who aren’t comfortable rubbing shoulders with other men, and they’ll have a hard time showing up for a “let’s talk about porn” event. These broken ones need to hear your message of truth and hope the most, and you won’t reach them unless you address it on a Sunday morning. Those who struggle with sex addiction carry an immense weight of shame that drives them away from others, so you need to speak to them where they are.

2. On a Sunday morning, tell them how to deal with sexual sin.

Your message of hope should provide concrete answers and direction, not just tell them “it’s wrong and don’t do it.” We need to tell the body of Christ how not to sin.

First, expose the 2 myths of “I’m the only one” and “it’s not hurting anyone else.” Because sexual sin is so rarely discussed, most guys assume they are the “only one” struggling with porn. Show them they’re not alone (at least half the men in church have an issue with lust; we have plenty of statistics you can use) and that there is hope. You can debunk the “it’s not hurting anyone” lie here.

Then, hold up the one true standard of sexual purity, which is Matthew 5:27. In a poll George Barna took November of 2003, 38% of adults said it is morally acceptable to look at images of nudity of sexually explicit behavior. Some will be justifying their sin as we mentioned in it’s just a little porn and you need to help them understand the devastating consequences of sexual sin.

And most importantly, point the way out by:
1. Drawing the connection between isolation and lust. Describe the blessing of living the James 5:16 life as we’ve described in What to do.
2. Telling them how to “remove the stumbling blocks” (Matthew 5:29-30), which is covered in What to do.
3. Showing them how to fight the war in the mind.
4. Pointing them to Who they were searching for in lust – the Living God. Encourage them to seek His face.

And then – Give them a safe place to go.

Start a group in your church; provide a safe place where they can find “grace to help in time of need.” Don’t tell them they need to live free from isolation without providing the way to do it.

I’ve put together an information package for setting up your own group. Please email me and I’ll send you the info. There is no charge for the materials.

It is my prayer that our churches would speak out clearly and effectively on the sexual sin that is so prevalent among us, and that many support groups for the sexually broken will spring up all over the nation. May God’s church be the salt and light it is called to be.

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write: These things says He who has the sharp two edged sword: “I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith… But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality… Repent or else I will come to you quickly and
will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelations 2:12-17 (Pergamos is known as the compromising church).

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: “These things says the Son of God, who has the eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: “I know your works, love, service, faith and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. ” Revelations 2:18-23 (Thyatira is known as the corrupt church.)