Porn in the Church: How to Create Church Policies That Help

porn in church policies that help

Christians Struggle with Addiction Too

I was listening to a podcast from a popular megachurch. Instead of the usual welcome, the senior pastor used the first five minutes of the podcast to tell the thousands of subscribers that church leadership had recently discovered that one of its pastors was caught having an inappropriate relationship. As a result, the church’s leadership team followed a pre-defined process to address this failure of leadership, which ultimately led to the removal of this pastor from his role.

I was reminded of something I heard from leadership guru John Maxwell: “Don’t hide bad news. With multiple information channels available, bad news always becomes known. Be candid right from the start.”

I was initially shocked by this public, “calling out” of the pastor’s actions, but it was clear that this particular church simply followed a pre-established process that guided its decision-making. Yes, it was a horrible week in the life of the church. I could hear the pain and heartache in the voice of the senior pastor as he publicly explained the steps leadership took. But, the existence of a pre-defined policy took away the subjectivity that can cloud decision-making in the midst of an emotional situation.

Developing processes and policies to help church staff struggling with lust is not an easy task. Many church staff members are guilty on some level of violating Jesus’ admonish of not looking lustfully (Matt. 5:27-28). However, the Word of God gives ample truth to guide us. Here are some general principles based on these biblical conclusions that can be used to develop specific guidelines for your church/denomination:

1. Be clear and consistent with expectations. Even expectations about porn.

As we read in the book of Titus, Paul left Titus in Crete in order to raise men up to strive for a high moral standard. Church leadership must be very clear with its expectations of its staff both in spoken and written form as it relates to sexual sin. This starts in its hiring process where staff expectations are clearly laid out. It might include a “purity policy” that is taken seriously. It might include a requirement that all staff computers use Covenant Eyes and that an Accountability Partner is in place.

God will not use a dirty cup. Pastors and anyone in church leadership must clearly understand that they cannot possibly hope to lead their people into purity if they are stuck in the muck of sexual sin (Matthew 7:5).

2. Measure the discipline to the degree of the sin.

God always disciplines His children in love and with the most gracious means that will bring about repentance. Is a warning and the taking of further preventive steps, e.g., Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability services, enough? How about counseling and Accountability only? Is an administrative leave necessary? Is permanent disqualification or a criminal investigation required?

Church policies must define stages of pornography consumption (i.e., curiosity vs. experimental vs. habitual vs. addiction), related suspension/leave consequences, and associated treatment options. Policy wording should make a clear distinction between staff members who humbly confess their struggle with pornography and submit to help versus staff members who persist in denying their porn sin, hiding it, and rejecting accountability. Draw clear lines that church staff cannot cross without incurring disciplinary consequences (Hebrews 12:6).

3. Strive to restore whenever possible.

Remember how Christ mended the wounds of a broken fisherman named Peter and how He restored him to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). And don’t forget the story of John Mark. After Paul rejected him, Barnabas worked with him and brought about spiritual growth. In the end, he became useful to Paul.

When the actions of the disciplined staff person exhibit remorse and repentance, then hold him or her up as a trophy of grace to others. After all, Peter became the rock on which Christ built His church.

4. Do hard things wherever necessary.

Remember God’s warning to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” (Lev. 10:3, ESV). If a staff member must be removed for a habitual, unrepentent, or egregious sin, then the church must remove him or her. We must be jealous for the name of Jesus and be convinced that we do great harm to the church, and even to the leaders themselves, when we leave men and women in ministries when God has made it obvious that He wants them removed.

5. Pray! Pray! Pray!

Church leaders should pray often for the purity and protection of the entire church staff. Psalm 119:37 (ESV) can guide here, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” As you pray, remember Jesus can empathize with all of our weakness. He Himself prayed for Peter knowing that he would fall. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, ESV).

Healthy Churches Follow Through

In closing, let me offer two final words of advice.

First, intervention is a process that will vary from situation to situation. Therefore, leave room in your policy for case by case discretion. Be wise.

Second, removing a staff member for disciplinary reasons is always hard. So after intense prayer and a careful application of Scripture, if your situation requires dismissal of a staff member because of egregious or unrepentant porn use, then fearing God, do it with great courage and resolve.

To get started taking the steps toward creating a grace-filled culture that tackles pornography head-on, please download the first of our Ministry Leader Guidebooks called Ready: How to Heal and Protect Your Church from Pornography. It’s filled with practical tips to help you create policies for your church staff and address pornography with your congregation.

Download the Ministry Leader Guidebook