By Jack Wilkie
It’s time we get serious about engaging one of the most widespread sin issues in the church today. As we’ll see, pornography use is incredibly common among those who claim to be Christians, and so we as churches can’t afford to bury our heads in the sand. Here are four ways we can help end the epidemic.
First, talk about it.
In studies composed and/or compiled by Barna, Covenant Eyes, and others, research has shown that as many as half of all those in ministry positions confessed to struggling with pornography at some point, and 64% of self-identified Christian men admit that they access it at least once a month. And yet, for some reason, many congregations remain silent on the issue. Or it’s addressed vaguely or in passing. Their are pornography-addicted men and women sitting in church pews every Sunday fighting a silent battle without knowing what to do next. That’s why we have to talk about it. There’s a fairly common belief that it’s a special kind of sin reserved only to a “few perverts” (a phrase I’ve literally heard a preacher use), but that stigma goes away when we talk about the issue and how widespread it is. Additionally, talking about it (with both love and grace) shows those who struggle that the congregation is committed to helping people in their fight. Talking about pornography gets it out of the darkness in which it currently thrives. Ephesians 5:11 tells us to shine the light on such sins so as to expose them. Hiding from them because of awkwardness doesn’t help anybody.
Preachers, if you haven’t preached on pornography addiction, it’s time to start putting a sermon together. We can preach on sins like homosexuality, drunkenness, and other sins all day long when very few of the members in most churches struggle with those. We can’t afford to look the other way on one of the most common, insidious sins in the church today. Elders, if your preacher hasn’t preached on it, encourage him to do so. When he does, give him your full support as it’s not an easy topic.
Second, give safe channels for confession.
Because of the way pornography addiction is looked upon as a type of “worse” sin, it’s not exactly something that many people are going to confess in front of the entire congregation during the invitation song. The addict fears how the confession will change the way people view them, so they stay quiet. And the sin just keeps on festering. In our congregations we need to make it clear that anyone who struggles with any sin can come to certain people (starting with the elders and ministers, but not limited to them) at any time for help. The knowledge that someone will put their arm around your shoulder and say “we all struggle with sin, but with God’s help we’ll get you through this” is invaluable. It’s exactly what Galatians 6:1-2 commands us to do. In fact, with the numbers being what they are, most churches of any size at all should explore the possibility of creating at least one accountability group where pornography addicts can gather at regularly scheduled times (preferably weekly) to hold each other accountable, pray for each other, and counsel each other with the Scriptures.
Third, embrace the addict.
They don’t need to be held at arm’s length or treated differently than others. They need to be loved. They need to be brought into the church family. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 shows that repentant people of any sin background can and should be accepted as part of the Lord’s church.
Fourth, work toward building discipling relationships between the older and the younger, the spiritually mature and the spiritually immature.
Part of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) involves building discipling relationships between strong Christians and those who are weaker and/or younger. People need to be taught to observe all Jesus commanded, and that doesn’t just come naturally. In having these kinds of relationships where the basics of Christian life like repentance and confession, we can both help current addicts recover and help others from falling into that sin in the future.
It’s not a complicated formula. It’s not difficult to implement, either. It just requires a willingness to stand for the truth about the damage of sin coupled with a love for people who are caught up in sin. I have full confidence that our churches can work toward eradicating this sin, if we’re just willing to start shedding light on the issue and pulling people out of the pit.
XXXChurch (yes, the name makes the site look suspect, but it is a recovery ministry)
Jack Wilkie is the editor of focuspress.org and author of “Church Reset: God’s Design for So Much More.” He also preaches for the Forney church of Christ in Forney, TX, where he, his wife, Allison, reside with their four children. You can find his full bio here.