7 minute read

Who Is Watching Porn in Church and What Can We Do About It?

Last Updated: November 21, 2022

Karen Potter
Karen Potter

Karen Potter has over 25 years of experience working within K-12 education, business management, leadership coaching, and strategic planning. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business and Information Systems Management, and a Master of Arts in Education. Karen is a wife, a mother of two, and a dedicated Christian. She works with Covenant Eyes to equip church leadership, parents, and educators as they navigate a sexualized culture.

Would you watch porn in a church building?

The question might sound shocking, but a while back, our team spoke 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 us:

“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.”

The senior pastor eventually lost his job.

This example feels extreme: 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.

Let’s take a closer look at porn in the church. How big is the issue really? And what can pastors and ministry leaders do to help their churches (and themselves) live porn-free?

Who’s Affected by Porn in the Church?

The devastating effect of porn in our churches isn’t limited to one specific demographic. There are broken marriages due to virtual infidelity. Heartbroken parents who don’t know how to help their child who is already addicted to porn. The young, 20-something woman who can’t find a guy in college not watching porn. Even young women are carrying secret burdens of watching porn themselves.

The list goes on and on.

Data on Porn in the Church

Statistics from a 2014 Barna Group study with Proven Men3 tell us that 64% of men and 33% of women are viewing porn at least once per month. This is clearly not just a men’s issue, and it certainly should not be contained to only a small portion of men and women who are honest enough to admit they have an issue and join a recovery group. (If you’re interested in learning more about how many people are watching porn, check out our Porn Stats resource.)

Everyone in your church is, in one way or another (and whether they know it or not), affected by the porn problem. Smartphones put access to porn in everyone’s pocket. With all this access and so many Christians addicted to porn, why are we as the church body only talking about the porn epidemic once or twice a year in passing, or only in men’s groups or recovery groups? 

Porn is a secret sin, and most users are hiding in your pews. As we saw earlier, even pastors are not immune to the temptations of porn. Mark Denison was a pastor who himself struggled with porn and sex addiction, and he now ministers to others to help them find freedom. He says:

“We know that a lot of pastors are viewing porn. While various studies draw different conclusions, the number of pastors looking at porn is alarming.”

While church leaders genuinely feel heartbroken over this issue and desire to help their people overcome porn, our attack plan is lacking. We treat the plague of pornography as a check box on a list of taboo topics we need to address once per year—a passing topic while preaching on biblical sexuality in Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, or Matthew.

Unfortunately, this type of strategy will never win the war against porn.

3 Ways You as a Leader Can Fight Porn in Your Church

If you want to win a war, you must understand your enemy. In the book Art of War, by Sun Tzu, this quote sums it up pretty well:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”1

Here are three ways that you can help your people understand the enemy and fight pornography in your church.

1. Start by training and protecting your leadership; this includes you!

If we want to help people in our ministries, we need to start with ourselves and our leadership teams. Soldiers do not enter battle without training both mentally and physically, studying strategy, and learning from those who have been in battle before. To win, we need to prepare, educate, and protect our leadership teams so they can help your people.

  • Educating your leadership team is the first and most critical step in our customized program for helping faith-based organizations fight porn. We’ve created Porn Education for Ministry Staff to simplify this process for you.
  • You and your leadership teams also need to be modeling healthy digital accountability. Use Covenant Eyes and find a friend or spouse to receive your accountability reports. In your team, it could get messy. But if your staff can’t find room for grace and forgiveness then how can your people?
  • You can “protect” your staff by making sure that policies for personal conduct, digital behavior, and pornography use are updated and clearly understood. Again, Covenant Eyes has a suite of policy templates that can help.

2. Address pornography with the entire church.

In addition to encouraging leaders to model accountability, we need to develop a battle plan for all areas of the church—men, women, children, singles, community outreach, etc. We need a sustained plan of attack.

Talking about porn at all levels may seem difficult. There is a lot of fear out there—fear of offending, fear of driving people away, fear of exposing problems you are not equipped to help with. But God did not give us a spirit of fear. We can overcome our fear through the art of discipline. Discipline is the secret sauce to victory; it keeps you going when motivation and passion waiver (Titus 1:8).

We must have a discipline of being honest and open about real issues with our people. We need ongoing educational campaigns for parents, so they can help to protect and teach their children about the dangers of the internet. We must equip high school and college-age singles to take a stand for purity in their friend groups and on their campuses. We have to provide support groups for men and women who have been struggling with pornography addiction. The list of must-dos is long but essential.

Remember, you are raising up an army for battle here. They need to know the realities of what they are up against, that they are not alone, and others have fought and won this battle so there is real hope.

3. Treat porn as an ongoing battle for your church.

Remember, to win this war, you need boots-on-the-ground leaders who are willing to hunker down in the trenches and lead their congregation to victory. This isn’t just a “them” problem. It’s an everyone problem—a you, me, and the entire world problem. And it’s not going away anytime soon.

Keep preaching about porn from the pulpit. Dedicate an entire Sunday to discussing pornography with your congregation (Have you heard of Covenant Eyes’ Safe Haven Sunday?). Create support groups that meet regularly to help those in your church who are struggling with a pornography addiction. Schedule regular policy reviews and training for your staff and leaders.

Like any war, if we give up, we lose. How dangerous it would be to lose this war. The tethers of pornography can restrict every aspect of our life. As God’s people, our life should be spent serving him, not chained to addiction. 

Help Your Church Find Freedom From Porn

As pornography infiltrates more areas of our lives, the church cannot keep ignoring this issue. It is time for leaders to take charge and lead their staff and congregations to victory against porn, and Covenant Eyes wants to help. To learn more about just how to equip your church in today’s over-sexualized culture, we highly recommend that you download and read our ebook: The Prepared Ministry: Policies That Heal and Protect From Porn


1 Goodreads, “Art of War Quotes,” accessed on November 11, 2022. https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3200649-s-nz-b-ngf.

2Pew Research Center, “Mobile Fact Sheet,” Research Topics, April 7, 2021. https://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

3Proven Men Porn Survey (conducted by Barna Group), located at https://www.provenmen.org/2014PornSurvey/ accessed November 14, 2022.

  • Comments on: Who Is Watching Porn in Church and What Can We Do About It?
    1. Patrick Malone

      True statements here.
      As a recovering addict I know the impact is great! The need is tremendous.

      We have a a good fellowship of men at our congregation but I’m one a few that seem to be honest enough and it is tiresome to be honest. Keep going with your ministry it will pay off.

    2. Karen … I will be reposting your pertinent and powerful blog concerning the “Battle Plan” which churches need to implement to go to war against the pervasive and powerful XXX forces out there in the “pornified” wold in which we now do battle every day. And your article certainly fits with the name of our ministry … now one of the longest serving CHURCH ministries of its kind in the country. Founded in May, 2000, there are few churches in the USA with named, budgeted, and discipleship outreach ministries that predate “Battle Plan Ministry” (see website) at Central Church in Collierville, TN (www.centralchurch.com). So thanks for this cogent blog which helps other churches go to battle, trying to empty the ocean of XXX evil out there with teaspoons of ministry for God’s glory. We certainly fight on !!!

      • Karen Potter

        Rev Bill- Honored to be in the battle with you!- Karen :)

    3. I would add a couple of more. Encourage all to have one or two people they regularly have a spiritual review with. Get real and serious, not just for accountability — talk about the good spiritual experiences of the week, talk about your Bible study and worship, as well as the failures. Make plans for the coming week to experience the good and overcome the bad. This regular habit brought me to success over porn.

      Develop a real focus on the nature of God — especially his glory, holiness, and beauty. Contemplate on them regularly. He showed me there is far greater power in focusing on him than focusing on my weakness and guilt. This led me to real success over lust.

      • Moriah Dufrin

        Kent,

        Amen! I am encouraged to hear how you have overcome lust and pornography, and I know that others will read this and be equally encouraged.

        Blessings,
        Moriah

      • Alicia

        As a spouse of a recovering porn addict, i want to add how important it is to quickly establish a support group for spouses, especially if you hope to see marriages recreated through the recovery process. Without good, safe support, many spouses will leave soon after disclosure, which in many cases discourages the addict from pursuing recovery at all.

    4. Richard

      I was first exposed to porn at 16 yrs of age – that I know of! I am now in my sixties and this remains an unvarying thorn in my side. It has been the ruin of my marriage, devastating to my family and a thick brick wall between me and God.
      I love it – I hate it. The war wages within. The minute I have a moments peace it is there to cajole and coerce. For me, it is the battle of all battles. A battle within my mind – it is constant! My mind is clever, When I am not actively engaged in something I fight with my mind over porn and my mind weaves this atrocity into my life in the most cunning ways attaching to situations and circumstances like ‘triggers’. God says “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”
      I oft-times wonder if there were some attributing factor from childhood I am unable to recall which haunts and contributes to my inability to overcome. But overcome I pray for constantly.
      Three of my children and daughter-in-law were viewing porn regularly and we all wanted to rid it from our lives. And so my family and I studied together the book “The Porn Trap”. We dissected the book, talked it through discussing the many aspects of this curse on our lives. I believe they are free. I, on the other hand am still fighting a battle.
      RE: “3 Keys to Creating a Strong Battle Plan to Fight Porn in Your Church”
      It is my opinion, that this IS a daily issue in the lives of Christians. I agree that this needs to be addressed more regularly than once per year…. not once though but 26 times per year by means of a non-threatening challenge. IT IS THAT SERIOUS, IT IS THAT INVASIVE, IT IS THAT DIFFICULT FOR THE ADDICTED.
      It needs to be talked about without shame and guilt, but instead understanding and encouragement, then there will be hope to win this battle for everyone. I sadly lacked that with my wife who dared not understand this as a “bigger than me” problem but instead went on a detective hunt to find me forever guilty. This attitude is most unhelpful.
      But I am guilty and I understand my repentance never out-shadows my addiction and so I continue in sin. I am not happy! I do so wish and pray this is OUT of my mind.
      One positive aspect to my weakness is that I am very aware of the dangers of porn and consequently am vigilant with my children ensuring their safety as best I can.
      Please at least pray for me and keep up your very good effort in waging this war.

      • Joe

        Hello Richard:
        I am also in my ( late, and getting later) 60’s. I noticed the time stamp on your post. In college, an all-nighter was not a good option for me; but at least it was for a positive purpose. Hours of porn has led to all sorts of physical, emotional, and spiritual harm.
        Having been stuck in this mire for decades gets me depressed, and makes me wonder: Is God’s purpose for my life: To be a cautionary tale for younger believers? But, He has given me faith and hope that I can receive the freedom He is offering me.

        Your “I hate/love it” comment reminds me of Jer. 2:23-25. Honestly, I can’t stop loving those porn images which, truthfully, are idols.
        But, Jesus and His Holy Spirit can help me stop. And, He will- if I humbly ask him to. Be careful brother, Satan will tell you: The Father won’t forgive you anymore; you are beyond hope.
        Those are LIES. Our sins have been removed, forever.

        It is through gratitude that we obey God’s directions and commands.
        I just prayed for you, Richard. I know others are praying. Pray for me to update my list of things I am grateful for, even the tough ones.
        Under His mercy, Joe

      • Gail

        There are online groups that will greatly help you through Pure Desire Ministries. The men’s group is called, “Seven Pillars to Freedom” and walks you through the healing and recovery process with others who understand the battle. Past traumas (childhood, etc.) are also dealt with. The group meets weekly for 10 months and is well worth the effort and cost. You ARE more than a conqueror through Christ! Victory can be yours.

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