7 Questions Pastors Need to Answer About Porn

To the pastors and ministry leaders reading this blog post, a percentage of your staff and people are regularly looking at pornography. And, all of your people are stuck in a world that has a lot of loud opinions about pornography and distorted messages about sex. How are you addressing their questions? Are you speaking openly and honestly about this sensitive and sometimes controversial area?

We’ve identified seven key questions that Christians might need you to answer related to pornography. And for ministry leaders who want to further address the issue, we provide additional steps you can take in our brand new guidebook, Ready: How to Protect and Heal Your Ministry from Pornography

7 Questions Pastors Need to Answer about Porn

Question #1: Is pornography a sin?

Too many Christians have an unhealthy view of sex and have never been told that God is PRO-sex. His idea. His creation. Our very bodies prove that man and woman were made for each other–a gift to be offered within marriage. Yes, we need to inform our congregations about the horrors of pornography. It only destroys. But, what if that was paired with a new conversation about marital sex? It’s good. It’s right.

So, back to the original question. Is pornography a sin? Absolutely. Its purpose is to entice lust, objectification, and consumption. None of these attitudes glorifies God or brings heaven to earth. If I can’t imagine the behavior being carried out at the foot of the Cross in the loving presence of Jesus Christ, then it can’t be justified. People in your congregation absolutely need to know these things. But, don’t forget to invite them into a healthy, positive view of sex too.

Question #2: Is watching pornography in marriage ok?

We often hear arguments that couples want to watch porn in order to spice up their sex life. Although this sounds plausible on the surface–after all, if I want to learn how to do anything better, I typically watch a video on YouTube titled, “How to…”–is there something inherently different about pornography that ultimately has a different impact on the marital bond?

A sexual counseling center in Seattle provides keen insight with their observations about couples who have come to their offices. One counselor concluded:

“My clinical experience providing therapy for dating and married couples has driven me to the conclusion that couples who view pornography greatly damage their sexual relationship and their overall relational bond. These couples directly report the emotional and relational trauma suffered as a result of such use. That such damage exists and can be lasting is undeniable.”

For married couples who viewed pornography, they point out the following sexual, emotional, and relational risks:

  • One spouse desiring greater quantities of and more deviant forms of pornography over time, due to the incremental nature of porn consumption.
  • The emotional symptoms of guilt and/or shame that often accompany watching pornography.
  • Decreased sexual attraction to their spouse due to a constant flood of flawless, sexually adept, seemingly orgasmic humans.
  • Insecurities felt by the spouse who doesn’t feel that he/she is able to perform according to what is viewed.
  • A sense of betrayal as one spouse envisions the other constantly fantasizing about someone else during lovemaking and throughout the day.

This also ignores the risk that if the couple has children, they are inviting pornography into the home, increasing the risk that young eyes might stumble into the content.

Question #3: What’s the right age to talk to my kids about porn?

Parents commonly ask this question at the parenting seminars that I conduct at Protect Young Eyes. When I receive this question, I typically respond in one of three ways:

  • “If you wait until you’re ready, it’s too late.”
  • “Your kids are probably ready before you are, so get it done!”
  • “Does your child ride a school bus? If so, even if in kindergarten, then he/she should know the word!”

The conversations parents have with their children about pornography are so, so important. But, what’s even more important than the content of those conversations is that they happen in the first place! The speech doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to happen!

Does your kids’ ministry program equip parents for these hard conversations? Does your youth pastor know how to respond when a parent asks him/her how to have conversations about tough topics like porn? Our staff training has a specific video about equipping parents for forming their children in the digital age.

Question #4: I’m a woman and I like porn. Is something wrong with me?

Comment from the Covenant Eyes blog: “As a female, I’d like to remind people that pornography is, perhaps increasingly, a problem for women and young girls too. Please pray for us as well as the ministry for freedom from pornography for females.”

According to Barna’s 2016 survey, The Porn Phenomenon, around 13% of females ages 13-24, self-identified as Christians, watch porn regularly. Consuming pornography is stereotypically labeled a male issue, therefore, Christian women who watch porn often feel an amplified version of shame that not only tells them that they’re horrible and sinful, but that there’s something deviant about them.

Porn is addictive. Period. Male or female. It might have different origins that have a gender-based bent (men might turn to porn to satisfy their libido, while a woman might turn to porn because she’s lonely), but its addictive properties are blind to gender. Whether male of female, those who watch porn often do so:

  • Because it provides short-term relief for some other emotional need.
  • Because it fires up the brain’s reward circuitry.
  • Because it feels good.

And, as a result, whether male or female, those who watch porn often:

  • Feel shameful about their activity.
  • Begin living lives that are more secretive, withdrawn, and inward.
  • Take great risk in order to carry out their behavior.
  • Find their minds constantly occupied with finding the next opportunity.
  • Change other good aspects of their life, including friendships, hobbies, etc.

Pornography is an equal-opportunity destroyer. If your church isn’t educated about its impacts on both men and women, your silence will fuel shame and amplify the deviance the enemy has already whispered in quiet, dark moments.

Question #5: I’m on staff and I struggle with porn. Will I be fired?

Comment from the Covenant Eyes blog: “I have been struggling with porn for a long, long time. My wife doesn’t know about my porn use. I am a leader in my church and the people in my church look up to me…I know in order for me to get some help I need to confess my sins. I am embarrassed about the whole situation. Please keep me in your prayers.”

Comment from the Covenant Eyes blog: “He should be fired. What’s the difference if he views porn or has an affair with his secretary? Would we fire him for the latter? Yep. Now, can he be built back up? Yes. Should he be a pastor again? I’m not so sure.”

You can see the conundrum for church staff. Does your church have any safe places for staff to come forward with their struggles? Or do policies, silence, and condemnation create a fertile ground for sin to grow and secrecy to thrive?

Chapter 3 of our Ministry Leaders Guidebook, Ready: How to Heal and Protect Your Ministry from Pornography, will provide greater detail about policies and practices for churches and faith-based organizations who want to create cultures of grace and recovery.

Ultimately, churches and faith-based organizations cannot expect their faithful to live lives of grace-filled transparency if it’s not modeled.

Question #6: I’m single and struggle with not having an outlet for my sex drive. This church only talks about what to do about sex in marriage. What am I supposed to do?

That’s where so many singles find themselves. Trapped between the images of forbidden fruit given to their married friends and feeling like they’ve been locked out of the garden, they struggle with allowing temptation to take root and grow into poisoned fruit. Even knowing God’s commands to abstain from sexual immorality, they often falter and fail, whether through physical relationships or pornography.

The truth, though, is that singleness is a beautiful, valuable gift. According to Lisa Eldred in our popular ebook, More Than Single,

“While we’re single, we have two critical advantages over our dating and married friends: time and focus. When I get home from work, my time is usually my own. I can eat when I’m hungry; I can make as many plans as I want in the evenings. I can drop everything for coffee with a friend. I can even pack up and leave for the weekend on a whim if I want. Any time commitments are entirely voluntary. I’m not worried about getting the kids to soccer practice on time, or feeding a husband and children, or dealing with a sick toddler at 2 a.m. This also means I can focus on my own projects without fear of interruptions. I can plan my Monday evenings around writing and editing my church’s blog or practice my piano without embarrassment or distraction.”

Does your church embrace its singles and give them a bigger vision for their lives? One that shows them that their worth is grounded in Divine places and not in the flesh.

Question #7: Why do I feel so condemned at my church and around other Christians?

Comment from the Covenant Eyes blog: “As I man I can only say that I feel the Church taught me to be ashamed, and deeply ashamed, of my sexuality in any context, and I carry that shame to this day. I am 63 and never married. I’ve had maybe five girlfriends in my life, if that, and have given up hope that I will ever find anyone. I go to a small church where everyone is spoken for anyway and have few friends.”

It is so hard to be the real us in the place where so many others seem to have it all together and the message we sometimes hear from the pulpit is one of “you must be like Jesus at all times; anything less and you have failed not only yourself but God.”

The use of shame and guilt has been a widely used technique of control since the origins of Christianity, going back to early church fathers, who, like, Augustine, often had a very low view of human sexuality. The message is often subtle but goes like this: “You don’t measure up. You will never be good enough. God will be perpetually disappointed with you.”

Jesus shows us a different way. Consider these words from Julie Mustard:

Jesus never lived in shame and never used it as a motivational tool. When He was accused, He remained silent; when others vied for positions, He made space for them to work it out and followed through with a lesson on the heart of the Father. When He was direct in His discipline and rebuke, it was never meant to shame; He only gave invitations to come up higher.”

Christians have questions. You need to have answers.

The distance between where you are today and the vision you might have of a church that is open and honest about pornography might seem enormous. But ask yourself this–how did anything ever get started at your church? Probably one prayer, one phone call, and one sermon at a time.

Culture doesn’t change easily, and sin hates giving up ground it has taken in the sexual arena or any arena. Be persistent. Be courageous. Be bold. I once heard Pastor Jay Dennis say, “Start the conversation and allow God to move in ways that only He can move.”




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