Practical Help for Christians who use Porn

TypeRecent research from the Barna Group shows, disturbingly, that one in seven pastors (and one in five youth pastors) have a current problem with pornography and more than half admit to having a problem at some time in the past. Porn is sadly used by more than two of every three Christian men (and three in four young adult Christian males) according to other studies. Statistical accuracy is difficult, though. Candid self-admissions are hard to obtain from Christians due to the stigma of sin. However, help is available and necessary (see below), given that porn use is so obviously problematic on numerous fronts.

Understanding this is important, in light of the values that Christians will say they live by. Of course, Barna’s study presumes that self-identified Christian users share such values (e.g. on the basis of Jesus’ comments on lust in Matthew 5:28). The mistreatment of (mostly) women subjects and the devastation in current (and future) relationships are just some of the many self-evident abuses. Even married couples supposedly using pornography together are contributing, through associated sponsorships, to the financing of this industry.

Nevertheless, despite reproach brought to the name of Christ by Christian users within a society already cynical about faith, porn use is shown in the research findings to be considered a safer and ‘less sinful’ form of sexual stimulation, hence greater use by Christians than non-Christians among frequent users. In Barna’s study, it is shown to be less strongly condemned than some other sins, especially by younger people, and this suggests that widespread accessibility is simply overwhelming people’s resistance.

It is no surprise, though, that seven out of ten church-goers support punitive action against porn-viewing pastors. Younger people are more forgiving (or more liberal) here. So, too, are other ministers, perhaps because of being fellow users in some cases, but perhaps also because of understanding the complexities involved.

Despite a need to help addicted people, though, it is difficult to condone ongoing ministry leadership for those engaging in ongoing sin. This very problem nevertheless contributes to secrecy and therefore to some difficulty in addressing the problem, particularly among ministers. In the early days of internet usage, one study found that more than a third of pastors had viewed porn over the previous twelve months. This is not dissimilar to the findings of the current research and perhaps shows that little has changed over time.

Falling short in standards of holiness is, of course, attributable to the human condition, irrespective of a person’s role. The sin nature needs constantly to be combatted by waking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and thereby making a choice not to let sin reign in us (Romans 6:12). Here, though, are some practical steps to achieving that.

1. Seek proactive mentoring that asks the right questions

This is ideally not just after, but before, problems emerge. Building trusted relationships in which the hard questions can be asked routinely by someone who can help and hold us accountable is important for anyone, but especially leaders. The focus, then, is on preventative maintenance. Hitting issues of spiritual disciplines, energy levels, key relationships and personal habits can help anyone, because we are all sadly fallible and all fall short of perfection. The good news is that, knowing we all need help in one area or another, we can hopefully more humbly and more willingly seek it out. Finding a good mentor is our responsibility and ultimately for our own good as it helps inspire us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

2. Recommit regularly to vital spiritual practices

Other studies have shown a close correlation between ministry health and personal spiritual practices such as prayer, worship and Bible reading (other than that done for sermon preparation and meetings). This link is a key to any ministry or church firing ahead well. Achieving new goals requires intentionality and regularity in small steps and using a devotional journal for can force compliance as the desire to change grows. Hiding God’s word in our hearts is partly so that we will not sin (Psalm 119:11). The ‘Evernote’ app which syncs prayer and Bible reading entries on your phone or laptop is a great tool, provided that the Holy Spirit is also asked for help in revealing the power of Scripture to change thinking and behaviour. Worship music that is not just easy to listen to but draws you in to actual praise can also help connect us to the heart of Christ who needs to be Lord over every part of life.

3. Use widely available resources, now!

Leaders generally have easy access to resources through their churches. That means everyone can ultimately find help if they will be transparent. Even if feeing ashamed of admitting problems to others, people have little excuse for not systematically working through such tools as part of making ‘a covenant with their eyes not to lust’  (Job 31:1). There is the widely-acclaimed Australian-based Valiant Man course and also the Conquer Series. One book which focuses on understanding and combatting porn addiction is Wired for Intimacy. Web tools are also available, such as those at Covenant Eyes, Feed the Right Wolf and X3 Watch. (For a current petition and facts sheet related to the negative impact of porn on children click here).

Whether Christians using porn have marriage problems and feel unable or ashamed to get help, whether they simply justify an outlet for their personal pressures, or whether they are deceived into believing that God will somehow help or protect them more than others, sin is sin and must be combatted with intent in any Christian. This happens with the power of God and faith, but also uses trusted counsel in preference to just being ‘found out’.

We surely need to balance an appreciation of the fear of God which regulates behaviour and the love of God which draws us to healing. The relational and spiritual health of those we influence is in such strong need of emotionally healthy spiritual role-models to lead the way in a morally vacuous world.

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