Striving to Make the Church a Porn-Free Zone

With arid dry weather and hot winds that gust up to 85 miles per hour, parts of desert-like, sunny California are a powder keg ready to explode into flames. It is one of the worst wildfire areas in the US. Yet according to FEMA, the fire death rate for California is one of the lowest of all the states in the US. That’s an amazing stat. While a lot of factors contribute to that result, one reason why the death toll is so low is the enormous attention California pays to both raising fire awareness and combating wildfires.

I think the church needs to apply a few lessons from California firefighters. Too often the church responds as if the fire of porn addiction blazing through the spiritually dry lives of unbelievers won’t jump to the church and start burning down our houses. Last week I was invited to address a small group of Southern Baptist pastors in Southern California about the topic of “Preventing the Pornography Fire” from burning down your ministry. Of the many strategies pastors and church leaders can implement to lead their congregations in combating pornography, I will offer the three that I shared with these pastors.

1. Churches need to be equipped to become Fire-Preventers

Clearly, the best strategy for avoiding the lethal danger of porn is to implement thorough fire-prevention measures in the church. Without playing Holy Spirit and assuming that everyone in the church is secretly struggling with porn, pastors need to take preemptive steps to keep the church they shepherd away from porn. Before a single false teacher snuck into the NT church of Ephesians, the apostle Paul said,

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).

In helping the church combat the schemes of the Devil, did you notice the preemptive strategy the apostle employed? Churches need to know that we live on the front line in a war against Satan, and therefore, we need to be equipped to ward-off his insidious attacks, including the enticing sin of pornography. The duty of a faithful shepherd is to warn the flock of potential dangers before they fall, because afterward might be too late.

Last fall, after being interviewed about Secret Sex Wars, of which I am the general editor, the Christian co-host told me a sobering story off air. She recounted the sad and tragic story of a man who was introduced to porn at the age of twelve while living in a Christian home. He immediately became addicted, and as he aged, his life spiraled downward deeper and deeper into enslavement to immorality. Churches need to remember and apply this wise adage, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed,” and pastors need to take the preemptive step of equipping their members to be fire-preventers.

2. Churches need to be encouraged to become Fire-Fighters

Before any fire turns into a blaze, you usually will see smoke first. This is my plea: don’t ignore the smoke by telling yourself that the members of your church could never have a problem with porn. Remember, the sad reality that binds all people together is that we will sin until the day we die. This includes Christians.

We can sin in any and every way unbelievers can. In fact, Christian leaders can sin in any and every way unbelievers can. The difference between Christians and unbelievers is not that Christians can’t commit certain sins. The difference is that because we have the Holy Spirit to empower us, we can resist yielding to any sin, and because we love Jesus, we can commit ourselves to be firefighters who strive to live free from sin (Romans 6).

The key is that many Christians need encouragement to fight against the flames of pornography that are seemingly everywhere present. From pastors to parishioners, from adults to teens, this is where a tool like Covenant Eyes can be invaluable. Once we have encouraged believers in our church to flee from the temptation of porn, we need to show them wise, practical ways to become spiritual fire fighters.

3. Churches need to be educated to become Fire-Burn Specialists

With the flames of porn blowing all around us, every church needs to train fire-burn specialists. We need to accept the fact that even with the greatest efforts to become  fire-preventers and fire-fighters, some in our churches will still get burned, and some very badly. The big problem with porn is that it brings such shame and guilt that those who fall victim to it often run and hide from help.

Churches need to do all that they can to avoid the sin of self-righteously labeling those who struggle with pornography as unhelpable modern-day lepers. We need to reach out to all sinners like our gracious Lord did. Please do not misread my point: please don’t misinterpret the demand for believers to deal with all sinners humbly as to suggest that churches accept sin (Gal 6:1-3). All sin carries consequences, and unrepentant sin the gravest. But when we reach out to those ensnared by sin the way Jesus did, then the church can be assured that we, like Him, will see prodigal sons and daughters turn back to God. When that happens, all of heaven will rejoice, and so should we (Luke 15:11-24).

Conclusion

Reality suggests that we will not see our increasingly secular society turn away from its love of porn. However, like Paul in Athens, we can walk in purity in a culture with thousands of cybernet prostitutes by relying upon the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and wise ways to make the church a porn-free zone. By utilizing a prayerful and loving strategy of equipping fire-preventers, encouraging fire-fighters, and educating fire-burn specialists in our churches, God will protect His church from the danger of porn.