Would You Watch Porn at Church?

Would you watch porn in a church building? I wish I could say I was asking merely for shock value, but I’m not.

I was talking with David Blythe, a pastor who regularly travels and speaks on the temptations of pornography. A young man approached him after one of his seminars and spoke about being hired as the new youth pastor of a church. He moved his family across the country and was just settling into his new job. David told me:

He was setting up his office one Monday morning, and he went in to turn on his Internet, and he was having a problem. And he traced it down to a hub in the church that wasn’t giving a signal…in the main sanctuary. And he walked in the sanctuary. Up on the big screen was a pornography movie playing next to, he said, ‘the biggest cross you’d ever see.’ And his senior pastor was in the sound booth watching pornography in the sanctuary of the church.” (Listen to the whole interview here)

The senior pastor eventually lost his job.

In one sense I’m not surprised to hear the story. I know (sadly from personal experience) the more someone sinks into the mire of pornography, the less inhibited they become. The fear of “being caught” gradually lessens. The risks become greater. Hardness of heart settles in, and someone can becomes like the false teachers Peter warned us about: “They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime…They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin” (2 Peter 2:13-14).

Often when I tell this story I often see a visceral response: Watching porn in a church? In God’s house?

While it is sad that someone would use resources set aside for the worship of God in order to satisfy their lusts, there is something even uglier going on. Every time a Christian man or woman intentionally takes pornographic images into their mind, they are defiling God’s house, whether they’re in a church or not.

You Are God’s Temple

Paul gets at this in 1 Corinthians 6:13b-20:

“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Paul’s theology is astounding considering his Jewish upbringing. He knew how God’s glory had filled the Tabernacle throughout Israel’s wilderness journeys (Exodus 40:34-38). He knew how the light of God’s presence so filled Solomon’s temple the priests couldn’t even enter it (1 Chronicles 7:1-3). He knew how the innermost chamber of the tabernacle was considered the place where God lived (Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2), a place so holy no one but the high priest could enter but once a year, and even then with trepidation.

And yet, if you belong to Christ, your body is now the temple of the Spirit. God made this clear several days after Jesus ascended to heaven. Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait, for they would be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). He said the Holy Spirit would come upon them (Acts 1:8). And just like when God’s presence rushed into the temple of stone and timber, the Holy Spirit came in a mighty display of power. The sound of a rushing wind filled the sky above and surrounded the disciples. Tapering flames appeared over each of their heads. Suddenly they all found themselves able to speak in languages they had never learned, and the masses stood bewildered by the sight as they heard the wonders of God.

Glorify God in Your Body

God has made your body His temple. Paul says, just as Christ’s physical body was raised from the dead, so too he will raise our bodies in glory and power when He returns. Though I will be transformed, my physical eyes will behold Him, my mouth will eat at His banquet table, and my ears will hear Him say, “Luke, well done, good and faithful servant.” Until that day I have been anointed by Him, given His Spirit in my heart as a guarantee of this inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14).

This is the great motivation Paul gives for sexual purity. We have been bought with a price. The grace we received cost Christ everything. He purchased all of us—mind, soul and body—for Himself.

We must consciously honor God with the members of our bodies, with what we see, what we hear, what we say, how we think, and where we go. Each time we sit at a computer and feel the urge to click on something we shouldn’t see, these are the thoughts that need to flood our minds.

Practice the Presence of God

If we are going to avoid the temptation to watch pornography, we need to cultivate a holy sense of God’s presence. We need to do this not just in the moment of intense temptation, but as a lifestyle.

This is not merely something we experience emotionally—although it can deeply impact our emotions—but something we experience by faith. Brother Lawrence’s classic, The Practice of the Presence of God, boils down to one key principle: turn your mundane moments into prayerful dialogue.

  1. First, consume (daily) the promises of God’s company. Remember, Jesus is our Immanuel—God with us. He has promised to be with us and never forsake us.
  2. Second, let your pains be a reminder to pray. In each moment of suffering, train your mind to turn to anxiety into prayer, knowing God is near to listen.
  3. Third, let your pleasures be a reminder to praise. In each moment of joy, train your mind to thank God both in your mind and verbally to others.
  4. Fourth, let your transitions be a trigger. Whether its rising in the morning, driving to work, or moving from one activity to the next, let each transition in your day be a reminder that God is waiting for you in the next moment.

How has seeing yourself as God’s temple changed the way you behave? How does practicing God’s presence help you to find lasting joy when life gets hard?