Preachers and Porn

In a recent phone conversation with a fairly well known leader and speaker who travels widely within the Restoration fellowship, he told me the number one preacher problem he encounters as he travels is pornography addiction.  According to this brother more and more of us preacher types are falling prey to this temptation.

This was not completely surprising to me- having known of some in my preaching fraternity who have struggled with this problem and fought the good fight to overcome it.

But the phone conversation got me to thinking more about this. Why is it that this seems to be a particular problem for preachers? That pornography is prolific and just-a-click-away for anyone online is nothing new. Reports have the porn industry realizing more profits than the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL- combined- last year. And now it has the convenient venue of the World Wide Web to deliver it- under the cover of anonymity- right onto our computer screen. And as another friend commented, “You don’t have to go looking for it. It will find you.”

But why all the problems for preachers? Are we proportionately more perverse when it comes to this vice? Is it because we as a group tend to spend more time with computers now that the Internet contains vast resources to assist us in our  research and preparation for sermons and other study?

Or could it be that we have been particularly targeted by The Tempter himself in his ongoing quest to discredit and ruin all things Christian? What better way then to attack Christian leaders, right? (This is the strong opinion of one acquaintance of mine)

Although I have no statistical data I believe that the percentage of porn-addicted ministers is proportionately no greater than any other group. I would guess- based on the fact that most ministers I know work diligently to guard their hearts and integrity- that we may as a group be less inclined to fall into this addiction.

Here’s the deal- because of our call and what we stand for- when one of us do fall- when a minister’s addiction to pornography is disclosed-the news is received with greater shock and recoil. The shame is more acute. Jobs are lost, family’s are devastated and reputations are ruined. Certainly we need to run far from the very appearance of this evil. But what is often forgotten is that preachers are human too and struggle with all the same temptations as anyone else.

Now, this is not written to excuse this behavior. Before ever embracing this life calling, ministers should know that (and even their family- fair or not) we will be held to a higher level of expectation and scrutiny when it comes to morality. That is just the way it works. Perhaps that is the way it should work.

But the way it also should work is that when a minister does admit to and seek help for an addiction such as pornography that he should know that the grace of God through his redeemed people will be available to him also and that he can find support and encouragement to defeat this sin and be rehabilitated to once again do the work of an evangelist- if at all possible.

Pornography- regardless of how close it is coming to the American mainstream of entertainment- is an insidious sin that is now more easily accessible than ever. We preachers need to be aware of the damage it can do to our profession, our family, our church and our souls.

We Christians need to be there for those who get caught up in this snare of Satan- providing prayer, support, hope, help- and most of all forgiveness.

We simply cannot afford to lose one person- one preacher- to this lifestyle.

P.S. Here are some Internet resources that address pornography addictions. ( No endorsement of these sites- just ones that looked helpful)

PSS- Ben Overby is also addressing this topic on his blog. Check that out too.

32 Responses to Preachers and Porn

  1. I can’t ignore the spiritual warfare aspect of this.

    I think evil targets preacher’s for shame.

    Using porn is easy for tempters. It easily hijacks healthy sex drives.

    Also the anonymity of internet porn makes it even more attractive to folks who have an image to maintain.

  2. J D says:

    Probably doing more to combat the porn problem than most anyone I’ve seen on the net is http://www.xxxchurch.com – targeting also those involved in the porn industry…helping them escape. They have an “Esther Fund” for those who want to leave the industry…and several have. Some even going into the ministry.

    This is a great subject…one we don’t like to talk about … but in the pews of every church in America are men struggling with this addiction and no one to talk to about it.

    Serendipipty House has a porn addiction curriculum that I have a copy of … it looks good. How do you start a class on this topic, though?

  3. This is such an important issue for men in general. Thanks for blogging about it. JD has called attention to XXXChurch.com which has some great stuff from some very brave people.

    Another issue is that of divorce and preachers … what a painful reality.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  4. Jared Cramer says:

    I’ve been actively working against temptations in this area for several years. Hands down the best resource is

    http://www.covenanteyes.com

    It is software that doesn’t block questionable material (such software can always be circumvented), rather it monitors internet activity and then mails a log (with any questionable sites or search strings flagged) to an accountability partner you select. I chose my fiancé and (I kid you not) my mother.

    Safe to say, my internet activity is completely clean now (except for the fact that both my mom and fiancé now know that I cheat when I play Scrabble online…).

    If anyone wants some more information on resources that are out there, these are well-traveled paths for me. You can contact me through my blog or my email: jared at justapreacher dot com.

  5. Thanks for your insightful post.

    I used to be a campus minister, one who all the while was trying not to nurse a porn addiction. It was miserable.

    Now, having some distance from this issue, I see that time with greater clarity.

    I do recommend now for anyone going into vocational ministry to have this issue dealt with. It can be personally devastating and spiritually deadening.

    I now work for Covenant Eyes, a software company that makes accountability software for those who want to avoid temptation or kick a porn addiction. It is very rewarding work.

    I recently wrote a blog about the need to come along side one another and restore each other when it comes to this issue: http://blogs.covenanteyes.com/2008/02/11/when-accountability-doesnt-seem-to-work/

    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Luke Gilkerson
    Internet Community Manager
    Covenant Eyes

  6. Teresa says:

    The elders at our congregation have set up a system of accountability for our staff. If any of their computers log onto inappropriate sites, one of the elders receives an email immediately. This was done at the request of a minister who was struggling.

    Thanks for addressing this difficult, and often ignored issue.

  7. dannydodd says:

    Thanks for the comments and the links. I have heard both of XXXchurch and of Covenant Eyes. Thanks to Luke for dropping in and directing our attention to this resource.

    I like the accountability policy at your church Teresa. These days this should be standard.

    JD, you raise the point of how to go about talking about this- good one. Because of the nature of this addiction- the shame involved- the secrecy- but there has to be some way.

  8. Adam G. says:

    There has to be a spiritual warfare aspect to it. During my short time as a “full-time” minister the attack was full on. By the grace and help of God I didn’t cave, but well I could have. Pornography has always been one of those sins that generates a sort of visceral response involving revulsion. That may be the one and only thing that immunized me.

    Whatever other sin a minister in North America might commit, I can’t think of anything that would be more difficult for a community to forgive than fornication. I’m not saying that’s fair, of course.

    As difficult as it may be for parishioners to understand or accept, however painful it may be for the family, the minister who falls in this way needs forgiveness and restoration…and the door back into full-time ministry should not be locked.

  9. mkjergaard says:

    Thanks for blogging about this Danny. I have some theories about this trend:
    1. Preachers can spend a lot of time alone/online, with little accountability.
    2. There is a lot of stress in the ministry.
    3. The spiritual warfare aspect.
    4. Often there is a lack of “experience” when it comes to sex (Bible College right out of High School, early marriage sometimes) — the “curiosity factor” is the initial draw, then it devolves from there.
    5. No clear teaching about how to deal with this temptation.
    6. The delusion that it is a victimless sin (or not a sin at all).
    7. The feeling that there is no “safe person” with whom the preacher can discuss this struggle.

    The ministries/resources listed above are all very good.

  10. lesjr says:

    Mike commented above…but another time he used the phrase “the gorilla in the room nobody wants to talk about” to describe porn and Christian men. And he was right, most folks don’t want to talk about.

  11. mkjergaard says:

    XXX Church encouarges local churches to have a “Porn Sunday” (yes the name is intentionally provocative) in which this topic is dealt with head on. I haven’t done it (are we ready for that in Mayberry?), but there must be some forum for this (a Men’s Retreat or something?)

    Whenever I teach about this, the room gets REALLY quiet.

  12. dannydodd says:

    Thanks for your input Mike. Great points.

    We had a men’s class once where it was stated that we would deal with issues such as this and even had a “what is said in the room stays in the room” policy. But to me it was just surface talk- and like you mentioned- when we did go here things got really quiet.

    Les is right when he says most folks don’t want to talk about this but sin thrives in darkness. When we find the courage to bring our struggles into the light healing can begin.

  13. ben overby says:

    Danny, this will be too long and if it’s just a stupid ramble it will not hurt my feelings if you delet it. But I have strong feelings about this kind of stuff.

    Here are a few variables that I think contribute to the problem . . .

    1. Preachers lack intimacy. Without intimacy, one can’t be open to his own sin problems. That is, they are put in a position that can often guarantee they will not enjoy intimate relationships with other people in the congregation, either because they’re constantly viewed as a “resource” or because people don’t want to open up to the guy who’s “supposed” to have it all together. If someone tells the minister about his or her struggle, it usually isn’t because the two are intimate as friends, but because the minister is expected to fix the problem. You might like your mechanic because he’s always there to repair your broken car, but that doesn’t mean he’s your good friend. There’s a distance problem that has to be addressed.

    2. Ungodly expectations. 1 Timothy 4 is the Spirit-filled word on the work of ministry. It includes “train yourself for godliness.” Training the self takes a lot of energy and discipline yet it is nearly impossible in light of the responsibilities which accompany the vocation in the 21st century. I’ve typically only been laughed at for my emphasis on spiritual discipline, and even made fun of by deacons in “business meetings.” Read the qualifications that churches propose in the Want Ads. Read 1 Timothy 4. We should be surprised that porn isn’t the least of a minister’s problems, given the fact that he’s called to a vocation only to fulfill the requirements of an occupation—the dissonance that can grow out of this can lead to deep doubts about the “whole thing,” and open the minister to the Enemies attack.
    3. Few qualified spiritual directors. Ministers aren’t trained by spiritual directors in preacher schools; they’re trained by academics on the one hand, and practitioners of “ministry” on the other hand. With too few exceptions there’s little insight into spiritual formation, so the minister grows in knowledge without increasing in wisdom, which either robs the minister of joy or drives him to denial. The preacher knows the words of Ga. 5.16f; he can expound on the Greek meaning, he can make contextual points, and he can speak of the issues as they relate to culture on a superficial level. But if someone comes to his office and asks, “Can you help me out of my porn problem?” the person looking for help will get some nodding and grunting at the right places, he’ll get a few website suggestions, some friendly praying, and some follow-up praying. But the degreed preacher can’t typically give the person what he needs—a prescription of tried and true spiritual exercises and disciplines fit for the particular individual that will open the enslaved to the Spirit so that He can do battle with the treacherous flesh. And since the minister hasn’t been given spiritual direction or significant training in real spiritual warfare he cannot help himself when Satan approaches with heavy shackles. The minister really doesn’t know what to do to get out of the sin trap. He’ll attempt it with his will, and when he does the battle is over–Satan will have him right where he wants him. The minister can only extend his hands to the slavery and live in quiet misery, going to the cross for forgiveness but finding at Calvary little help to escape the tricks of Satan. He then turns around an preaches that dead gospel (heavy on forgiveness, light on the power to live robustly now!) to the congregation, insuring the whole group settles for a life that feels more like death than reigning (see Ro. 5.17). The elephant in the room is the reality that in a church called to look like Jesus, few ever do, and most confess that we can’t make much progress in this life.

    The problems is systematic and all the attempts to just deal with the individual preacher will never give the system the overhaul it needs. The preacher-porn problem is a symtom. You cannot efficiently cope with the symptoms until you diagnose the disease. Again, the body’s sick; putting a Bandaid on a hang nail will just lead to a coffin full of dried bones with a well-bandaged finger.

  14. dannydodd says:

    Outstanding contribution Ben. This insight is very helpful- at least to me- and has pushed my thinking in another direction here.

    I would like to know what others think of your comments.

  15. [...] that I left at his site. I re-posted it here for two reasons. One, so that you’ll go read Danny’s blog and all those good comments which followed. And secondly, I thought there might be something here [...]

  16. It’s not just ministers who deal with this. Elders, deacons, others that we generally think of as fine christian men AND women also have problems with porn. They may even get into it innocently from pop-ups that come up on their computers and think it won’t hurt to look just once (like just one drink of alcohol won’t hurt) but then they can’t stop. It’s a difficult problem with which to deal and most people can’t kick the habit alone. They need a therapist or counselor or at least a support group to help them weather this storm. Those who are addicted and want help need a great deal of unconditional love and support to overcome. God bless all of those who have fallen into this addiction and God bess all of us who have not yet gone there…no one is immune!

  17. J D says:

    I was thinking about this … as I mentioned I have a resource that I think is good but no way to implement it. Ben has got great thoughts here.

    Is this too shameful a problem to deal with in a group setting? Perhaps the best help is offered one on one … whether among preachers … or with Christian men in general who are struggling. Or would that cheat the participant of the power of a group?

    Anyway … the Disciplines definitely offer some answers.

  18. dannydodd says:

    JD this is the second time you mentioned the idea- can’t you share it?

    Tammie, you are right- no one is immune. This is one reason why discussing this topic is vital.

  19. preacherman says:

    Great thoughts everyone.
    I believe this is important topic.
    Danny, thanks for getting to the heart of the matter. I believe that as ministers we are to reflect the heart of God. If Satan can pentrate our hearts in this way then he causes us to become the moral decay of our lives, families, and churches. We must gaurd our hearts!

  20. dannydodd says:

    Amen Preacherman. Hope you are feeling better.

  21. tcs says:

    I think it is only too touchy to deal with in a group setting if that setting is set up on a relgeous culture that is more concerned with promoting a false self than being transparent and authentic. I have been to a ” retreat” twice that in the very first session one leader/ speaker talked about struggling with masturbation. And I remember talking about that and porn at good ole SLCC a few years back and it was so welcomed by the campers. So, I think it just takes being willing to broach the subject. People may shift in their seats for a while, but if it is good for them and needed then isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?

  22. Bobby says:

    I appreciate this post, too, Danny. We have done a few stories on this topic in the Christian Chronicle. A link below:

    http://www.christianchronicle.org/article242~A_minister

  23. dannydodd says:

    Shifting in the seats is a good reaction sometimes. Truth- on any difficult issue- has a way of doing that . Thanks Tommy.

    Bobby, thanks for that link. I remember that story and it has a lot to contribute to this issue.

    And if anyone does not read or receive the Christian Chronicle I would suggest you check it out. It is a fantastic Christian publication.

  24. Trey says:

    Suggestions for Safe Internet Viewing:

    Supervise Computer Use: Keep your house computer in an open area of your home. Placing the computer in an area, such as the kitchen or family room, gives spouse, parents and guardians the ability to supervise one another. My boys and I hold one another accountable by allowing each of us to look at the others “browsing history.” It’s a good idea to check the history of your home computer often to see where people have been looking.

    Consider a filter for your Internet to block pornography. There are many available.

    Don’t delete your history on your computer. There’s accountability in the fact that my family or anyone else can see where I’ve been the last 40 days.

  25. Steve Holladay says:

    I enjoyed reading the comments posted on this topic. I struggled with a lust/sexual addiction from elementary age until beginning recovery at age 33. Many of those years I was a full-time youth minister. Now 6 years into recovery I direct a ministry that addresses healthy sexuality and addictive sexual behaviors among teens and young adults. see http://www.ultimateescape.org

    I did not notice in previous comments any reference to how early in life this struggle typically begins – age 10 for males and age 9 for females. I also want to note that this is not just a guy struggle – it affects a great number of Christian females also.

    It is obvious that our society is saturated with inaccurate messages about sex. Let’s pray (and be moved to action) that God’s vision for sex will be shared with this generation of young people.

    Thanks for providing a forum to shed light on this issue that is pervasive in our churches – especially among teens!

  26. benoverby says:

    The only thing I don’t like about most of our solutions is that they address the external. If we have to keep our computers in a public place, then we still have serious issues. A thief is the person who would steal if he could get away with it. The way you transform a theif is to eliminate the desire to steal. Jesus adjusts us from the inside out not the outside in.

  27. dannydodd says:

    Ben, your observation is right on the money. We must allow God to shape us from the inside out if we are to defeat this or any other besetting sin. We just cannot rely on externals.

    I think Trey’s point about accountability has more to do with establishing proper parameters to assist in the transformation process. The practices he suggest will not in itself overcome an addiction, but will help the process along.

    Steve, your input and information is much welcome. Your point about early exposure and addiction has not been addressed in this post. Thanks for bringing it to light.

  28. g sarathbabu says:

    Dated : 25-08-2009,

    .

    Greetings to you in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
    All the Churches of Christ send greetings to you ( Romans 16: 16).

    This is my heart full thanks to you, I am G.sarathbabu visited your Web Site. I learned and understood your activities of Ministry work on-going for spreading the Word of God in all places for the people in the world.

    India country is developing country now, in this area’s Hindu religious people are worshiping that the man-made idea gods from the stones, struck and trees.

    By avoiding that the kind of man-made god’s worshiping purpose, a few missionaries visited our country India for spreading the real God name of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Kingdom of God .

    Under this New Testament Doctrine , I am G.sarathbabu working as a preacher for the komarole Church of Christ since 1997 year. I worked and well done that the establishment of the New Congregations at nalagutla Church of Christ, kasanipalleChurch of Christ and yarapalle Church of Christ. Total gathering of the each Church of Christ members are nearly 30 persons

    In every congregations work had been for the Sunday School Classes conducting and Sunday worship services conducting, and Adult Bible Classes conducting by us. All most all we was accepted to spread the word of God to all the people in this area through the house visiting , tracks distribution and free campaigns of the Bible classes in different places and to explain and to teach that the word of God name of Jesus Christ, Son of God and the Kingdom of God .

    I and another Brother G.BABU By name, we are conducting Bible Classes. We are giving massage and Gospel to the People of komarole and surrounding villages of komarole town. We are visiting the families daily and giving massage of our saviour to change their life’s and we think it may turn their lives towards our saviour. please visit our are.

    For this work improvement purpose, I am G.sarath babu Evangelist and the Preacher for komarole Church of Christ are requesting you , Please pray for this area’s work development in Gospel Work grow thing, Evangelical work encouragement and Preachers follow-up work improvement and strengthen purpose. We are praying for your work great in the world for Gospel of Christ.

    Please remember us in your daily prayers for this area’s work , Churches of Christ and in the free campaign work. God always keep you in His hands and help you and also to provide a strength for your efforts and your families, Elders, Deacons and Preachers, Staff of the Church.

    We are waiting for you kind blessings email letter to us . Please help us with you prayers for this area’s Gospel Work Development.

    Thanking you, May God Bless You,
    Yours Brother –in – Christ,
    G.sarath babu,
    Email: sarath_babu779@yahoo.com

  29. As a preacher that was using/addicted to porn, I unfortunately qualified for this dubious distinction…

    I would have to say that the enemy is definitely targeting the leadership of the Christian church, as “the adulteress hunts for the precious life…”

    Also, I would invite anyone to read a paperback book written by David Wilkerson over 20 years ago entitled, “Set The Trumpet To Thy Mouth”. In this book, David describes in detail a dream/vision given to him from God. One of the details involves the onslaught from hell against ministers in matters sexual. Seems like Bro. Wilkerson heard from God.

  30. marc boileau says:

    Thankyou for this simple message ,I am born again for a ling time until I fell on the sexual desires and I question my faith but I will be even more radical Christian by true repentance thanks again look forward for more of your messages

  31. Bryan says:

    What a ridiculous subject to cry about. Seriously, all of this sounds like a bunch of whining over something used as a club to beat you down spiritually. Trying to get victory over sexual desire is like trying to stop the rain from fallling. You will die with this failure in your very being. So, do you want to go thru your life living with a constant beat down or would you like the answer to true victory? There is a missing key which unlocks the door to your understanding.

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