Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
For many, Leadership Journal’s Fall 1982 anonymous article was a huge wake-up call: The War Within: An Anatomy of Lust. I remember reading this article as required reading for our Pastoral Counseling course at TEDS in the later 1980s. It was published again recently as one of Leadership’s top articles since the publication of the magazine began in 1980.
Consider how the moral landscape has changed since 1982. The anonymity, affordability, accessibility of pornography and things related to deviant morality in the sexual realm have made this much more ubiquitous and challenging. It deadens a person’s soul and intimacy with God and others.
Recently Josh McDowell Ministry, Cru Ministry, commissioned Barna to conduct a survey on the use of and perspective of pornography for an upcoming Set Free Global Summit, sponsored in partnership with Covenant Eyes, in April. The study, referred to as The Porn Phenomenon, consists of “a massive research project examining teenagers, young adults, and Americans in general as well as pastors and youth pastors – more than 3,000 interviews in total across a range of questions.” McDowell notes, “Pornography violates all relational values between the individual and self, the individual and society, the unity of our families and our moral fabric and fiber as a nation. When we objectify and demean life by removing the sanctity of the human person, our future is at risk.”
Although the Barna team is still working on a detailed analysis of the data, they have released some of the “top-level findings” of the study. Their desire is that this study will prompt discussion among Christians. Their hope is that “it leads to healthy meaningful change.” Their reason for this focused study is “because a lot of what we have been doing to help address porn in a digital culture doesn’t seem to be working very well.” (This has also been summarized by Christianity Today: Here's How 770 Pastors Describe Their Struggle with Porn)
Even though this study includes porn usage among Americans in general, it also focuses in particular of its usage among pastors. I will focus on that aspect of the study. Here is some of the statistical information with some of the conclusions drawn.
Porn and Pastors
12. Most pastors (57%) and youth pastors (64%) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past.
13. There is a big difference of opinion between faith leaders and congregants when it comes to the consequences for pastors who struggle with porn.
14. The vast majority of the faith community, including leaders and laity, believe pornography is a bigger problem in the Church than it was two decades ago. But many do not know what to do about it.
Regarding the morality of porn more generally, Barna discovered “Teens and young adults view ‘not recycling’ as more immoral than viewing porn: 32% say viewing porn is ‘usually or always wrong’ compared to 56% who say not recycling is ‘usually or always wrong.’”
There are many moral issues affecting us today. Many of them are “out there” and we in the church must address them, e.g. homosexuality, same-sex marriage, LGBTQIA, etc. But there are also many issues we must address “in here,” in the church, in our own family. It is important and necessary to address both. Are we giving attention to those moral issues “out there” to keep from addressing our own personal moral issues? As Peter writes, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17a).
Here are a few thoughts/comments regarding this information.
I conclude with a plea and an exhortation.
Remember these three passages of Scripture regarding holiness and purity as we live and minister coram Deo, in the presence of and under the authority of God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
“Strive for . . . holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16).
Let us pursue gospel-produced, grace-induced, sin-fighting, people-edifying, God-glorifying holiness as we live our lives coram Deo.