Recently the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted a sting operation focused on sex trafficking and prostitution of underage females. Thirty-two individuals were arrested on various charges, among them were a youth pastor and associate pastor. I’m don’t know if these men are the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15) Jesus warned us about (they fit the description) or men who allowed sin to capture them and take them to places they never should have gone. Most of the comments I read were harsh, critical and directed at the two pastors involved, Christians and the church. It was painful to read.
It was embarrassing because these men, while not typical of the church and Christians, became the face of it and provided ammunition for those who are looking for reasons to distrust and degrade Christians specifically and the church in general. A youth pastor soliciting sex through prostitution with a fifteen-year-old is about as bad as it gets.
While this behavior is unacceptable for anyone, let alone a professing Christian leader, it is becoming all too common. This growing problem points to the fact that our country is facing a crisis. Many sexual behaviors which used to be considered taboo are now social normative and, in some circles, even celebrated. A committed, monogamous relationship used to be the standard for our country, and now ubiquitous self-indulgence is the standard. As our country scrambles to deal with the problems our lack of sexual self-control has created, one of the major players goes largely unnoticed.
Pornography is often the gateway to many of the deviant sexual behaviors we are seeing, and even the sexual crimes that are ravaging our society. If the truth were told, you would probably find a history with both of these men of accessing pornography as well as the other twenty plus that were arrested on the same charges. Almost daily we read about public officials, celebrities, athletes and everyday people, people who might be your next door neighbor attempting to act out the fantasy they see on these sites leading to crimes like the ones the men in Tennessee were charged with. This multi-billion dollar a year industry has an even darker side: sex trafficking, slavery, prostitution, drug addiction, abuse and even murder of young girls and boys. This is not the Playboy pornography you might have found in your dad’s dresser drawer. It’s violent, degrading, and popular. Many of the sites advertise “barely legal” and similar titles with female actors portrayed as younger than they actually are.
The case could be made that these two men made a choice to do what they did, and I would not disagree with that. However, the influences that would encourage acts like these cannot be overlooked. Nor can the increase in sex crimes and worldwide human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution to satisfy these fantasies, that coincides with the free access and availability of online pornography be disassociated with it.
And I’m not trying to be unkind or judgemental (I love my church and my pastor) but the Church corporate has largely ignored and done a poor job of addressing this problem that affects a huge percentage of Christian men, and increasingly women. Many of the Conservative and Christian hot button issues, abortion, human trafficking, divorce, child abuse are a direct result of sexual immorality, encouraged by hardcore pornography and soft-core pornography using food, clothing, perfume as a medium that has saturated the media and our world. Yet the percentage of those who identify as Christian and regularly view pornography is almost unbelievable.
In 2014 a survey was commissioned by Proven Men Ministries (www.ProvenMen.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping men break free from pornography, conducted by Barna Group, among a nationally representative sample of 388 self-identified Christian adult men.
The statistics for Christian men between 18-30 years old are particularly striking:
- 77% look at pornography at least monthly;
- 36% view pornography at least daily;
- 32% admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12% think they may be).
The statistics for middle-aged Christian men (ages 31-49) are no less disturbing:
- 77% looked at pornography while at work in the past 3 months;
- 64% view pornography at least monthly; and
- 18% admit being addicted to pornography (and another 8% think they may be).
Even married Christian men are falling prey to pornography and extra-marital sexual affairs at alarming rates:
- 55% look at pornography at least monthly; and
- 35% had an extra-marital sexual affair while married.
We need to focus on the problems inside our doors and stop pretending it’s not there. When we do we ignore the reality for those who are alone in darkness with this sin. And allow this dangerous activity to continue unchallenged As someone who struggled with pornography most of my adult life, I can tell you it is a very real battle, but one that can be won.
Confession and accountability that brings this sin into the light are effective weapons.
Along with a healthy Biblical view of sexuality that discourages sexual sin and allows the power of the Holy Spirit free access to change us. The church has a great opportunity to take the lead in this, through ministries that speak to the issues instead of ignoring them.
The church I attend has a small group setting available for men who are struggling with pornography and sexual immorality. Providing accountability, Biblical principles and encouragement. It is led by a former pastor whose ministry and marriage was almost destroyed by pornography that led to sexual immorality. And not just men are affected. There is an increased focus by the pornography industry on women as an untapped market
Every church pastor should take a hard look at the efforts being put forth to combat this increasing problem and if it’s not happening it needs to begin. In the case of the two pastors caught up in this darkness, a vibrant aggressive focus on the dangers of pornography and ministry directed toward prevention might have changed the trajectory of their lives. If you are a pastor struggling with this sin, do not let pride keep you from reaching out and getting help.
We sometimes forget who the church belongs to and the price that was paid for it. It’s not ours even though we have the privilege of being part of it. We are the caretakers and the representatives of it and we must do a better job. The shame and embarrassment of what occurred in Tennessee and other places cannot be erased.
But we can begin to do something to prevent it from happening to others, now, today.
For the good of His church through the strengthening of His people and for His glory.