Pastors: there's a titanic porn problem in your church

 
Tim Thornborough | January 8th 2018

No one needs reminding that we live in a sex-obsessed society. But perhaps we ought to remind people more often that this is true. Because the problem is not just “out there” in the nasty world. It is most definitely “in here” as well. Surveys on pornography use suggest that it is just as common for those who are church members.

For a whole variety of reasons, Christians find the subject of sex, sexuality and sexual temptation difficult to talk about and hard to address. And yet in the silence, perhaps upwards of 30% of your congregation, male and female, young and old, are regularly accessing, viewing, reading or watching pornography. 

And in the silence, there is guilt, shame, addiction, fear of discovery, spiritual agony and the corrosion of relationships and marriages going on right under our noses. There may be one or two people that have owned up to a friend, spouse or pastor. But these are the tip of the iceberg. And in the same way that this hidden part of the iceberg sank the “unsinkable ship” this problem is a serious threat to what you might consider the most stable of Christians, marriages, ministries in your congregation. To ignore it is just reckless.

It’s vital that we don’t respond with a coy silence, but teach God’s truth about sex without apology or embarrassment

But how do we address this unspoken, lurking issue as a church? Vaughan Roberts makes these valuable suggestions in his new book, The Porn Problem:

  1. We need to recognise that as pastors we are not immune from sexual sin ourselves. We need to ensure we do everything necessary to protect ourselves in areas where we are weak, and also seek help if we fall. If porn is a problem for you, it’s vital that you tell someone and become accountable to them.
  2. Pastors more than anyone else, under God, set the culture in a church. In our preaching we need to ensure the focus is always on Christ as we expound the Scriptures. The battle for holiness is won or lost in the heart, so we must pray that our church family grows together in an ever deeper delight in Christ and desire to live for him. 
  3. We must preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20 v 27), and that must include teaching about sex. The world is bombarding our congregations with lies about sex all the time. It’s vital that we don’t respond with a coy silence, but teach God’s truth without apology or embarrassment. Above all, the emphasis should be positive. Show the goodness of God’s loving design for sex and marriage. When did you last preach a series—or even just one sermon—on this subject? 
  4. We should acknowledge publicly that we all fall short. Too many of our churches are marked by outward respectability and secret shame. This prevents openness about sin and leaves people trapped by it. 
  5. We need to make conscious efforts to ensure that it is easier for members of our congregation to receive the help they need. So how about adding a line or two in a sermon? “If you’re struggling with some kind of sexual sin—perhaps porn—please don’t let it be a lonely battle. I hope you’d feel able to talk to someone. We’re all sinners…” 
  6. Bring it out into the open. Arrange a practical seminar on helping people fight against porn. In my own church we have found Celebrate Recovery has been a significant help to people facing a variety of “hurts, hangups, and habits”, including porn. It has not only tended to draw those experiencing quite severe struggles, but the publicity for the group has also helped the church as a whole face up to weakness and vulnerability. 

This last year has shown the fallout that happens when sexual sin remains hidden for too long. Let’s grasp this problem firmly and apply the gospel of grace and forgiveness to it without fear.

Why not buy a stack of The Porn Problem for your congregation and encourage everyone to read it, whether they struggle with porn personally or not. Alternatively, you could use it as the basis of a seminar group. We all need to be better equipped to talk about and deal with this growing issue.

Tim Thornborough

Tim Thornborough is the Creative Director at The Good Book Company. He is series editor of Explore Bible-reading notes, and has contributed to many books published by the Good Book Company and others. He is married to Kathy and has three adult daughters.

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