A Dallas-area pastor, Joe Barron, was arrested in an Internet sex sting this past weekend. Undercover officers posing as a 13 year-old girl had been communicating online with Barron for about two weeks. Their conversations had been sexual in nature. Barron suggested meeting the girl in person. He then drove nearly 200 miles on May 15 to meet her in Bryan, Texas. When he was arrested police found a web-cam and condoms in his car. He has been charged with online solicitation of a minor.
On Saturday the 17th Barron’s church, Prestonwood Baptist Church, immediately accepted his resignation. Barron was one of 40 ministers at Prestonwood, one of the largest churches in the country with 26,000 members, according to CNN. Mike Buster, executive pastor, said the church had no record or knowledge of previous improprieties or saw any inappropriate behavior in the 18 months Barron was on the church staff.
If convicted, Mr. Barron could face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for a second-degree felony, according to The Dallas Morning News.
I’m pleased to hear how Barron’s church has been handling the situation. Pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood personally addressed the congregation on Sunday with his thoughts on the matter and released a printed statement to the church. He stated that the staff was appalled and disgraced by Barron’s unacceptable and terrible actions.
Graham is confident, hearkening back to the words of Joseph (Genesis 50:20), “What Satan has meant for evil, God—in His own way, and in His own time, and in His own providence—will use for good and His glory.”
Not a New Problem
It is not for me to pass judgment on Barron, but this story is one of many that highlight the need for pastors and ministers to have good accountability in all areas of life, including Internet use.
While, perhaps, very few pastors are would-be pedophiles, many do struggle with other sexual temptations online. According to one survey done in 2000, 75% of pastors are not accountable to anyone for their Internet use. In 2002, in a survey of 1351 pastors, 54 percent said they had viewed Internet pornography within the last year, and 30% of these had visited within the last 30 days.
On a personal note, it wasn’t long ago that I was a campus minister, mentoring college students, and dealing with my own personal addiction to pornography.
No man can be rightly held to a standard of perfection, unless that man is Jesus. Pastors and ministers are like all sinful men: they have a sinful nature that can be captured by lust. But on top of this, a pastor’s job can also be a breeding ground for this kind of sin. I’ll explain.
Many pastors hold flexible, irregular, and long hours. Their jobs can be emotionally draining. They are expected to be found in their offices and studies alone for long hours preparing for sermons or making calls. This can create more opportunities for tempting thoughts to fester and more opportunities for secret sins. In addition, many pastors do not have a system of open and honest accountability in their lives. They are lone-ranger pastors, or feel like they are, even among large pastoral staffs. Confessing a struggle with pornography could mean the loss of their job, and so there is a hidden pressure to remain quiet about it or deal with it alone. This only accelerates the struggle.
Addressing the Need
More and more seminaries and Bible colleges are recognizing the need to address the issue of online sexual temptations among future pastors and missionaries. Character training and building self-control are being highlighted more and more. Several colleges have started using accountability software for their dormitory computers to encourage conversations about temptations, confession of sin, and a deeper, more honest discipleship. Covenant Eyes Accountability software is currently used by Christ For the Nations in Texas, Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, the Baptist College of Florida, Bethel University in Minnesota, Grace Baptist College in Michigan, Grace College and Theological Seminary in Indiana, Toccoa Falls College in Georgia, and Moore Theological Seminary in Sydney, Australia.
- Pray for the pastors of Prestonwood and their wisdom to navigate through these difficult times.
- Pray for Joe Barron and his family.
- Pray for pastors nationwide who might be prompted to come forward to expose their secret lives because of hearing about this story.