The Truth About Pornography in the Church (Part 1)

In this age of rapidly developing technology, pornography is being utilized by persons from all walks of life. Red and yellow, black and white, all are poisoned by its bite. Pornography has gone far beyond seedy movie theaters and adult bookstores, and it is appearing on a TV, computer, or smart phone near you. However, we must not forget that the Church is a microcosm of the larger society. In other words, the same problems that are prevalent in the secular society are present in the Church. The poison, as it was, has crept into the pews of countless local churches. We must expose this sick secret from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, in youth group meetings, and in counseling sessions with congregants. If we don\’t, pornography\’s poison will continue to spread among the people of God. Ephesians 5:13 (NIV) says, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible . . .” It is my goal to shed some much-needed light on this problem.

However, our first order of business is to define the term “pornography.” There are many definitions of pornography, which have been proposed. However, it is my contention that we need to move toward a broader definition of pornography. For our purposes, pornography is defined as the portrayal or dissemination of subject matter or erotic imagery for the primary purpose of sexual stimulation. Therefore, a wide variety of media can be used for pornographic purposes, including magazines, videos, the Internet, and other forms of electronic communication. Pornography can include narratives about sexual encounters, nudity, simulated sex, and actual sex acts. Porn has become so depraved that it includes bestiality (sex with animals). It also has a criminal element. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children found that 20% of all internet pornography involves children. 100,000 web sites now feature child porn.

Despite its depravity and criminality, porn is BIG business. According to Tech Mission, a ministry devoted to keeping families safe from porn, the total porn industry revenue for 2006 was $13.3 billion in the United States, and $97 billion worldwide. What do you think $97 billion could do to our national debt? Consider this: the porn industry is larger than the revenues of each of the top tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink. Furthermore, the U.S. porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball.

Porn is pervasive. In fact, 2.5 billion e-mails sent per day are pornographic. Dr. David Bissette found that 25% of all search engine requests are pornography related. Because males, by God\’s design, are more visually stimulated than females, porn has historically been seen as “a male thing.”  But the number of females engaging in the use of porn has increased. Today, 1 in 3 visitors to adult web sites are women. Women often fall prey to the fantasy-based communication of chat rooms, which can be highly pornographic. Porn permeates the workplace of men and women, alike.

To be sure, pornography is wreaking havoc in the Church. In a survey conducted by Christianity Today, 5 reported that 20% of men 13% of women have admitted to accessing pornography at work. 7% of pastors surveyed said that pornography was the top sexual issue causing damage to their congregation. It has been suggested that 5 out of every 10 men in the Church are struggling with pornography. Mark O\’Keefe found that 34% of churchgoing women admitted to having intentionally visited pornographic web sites.   Pastors and other spiritual leaders have been infected by porn\’s venom. In a survey, 54% of pastors said they viewed porn within the past year, and 30% admitted viewing within the past month. In another finding by Christianity Today, 51% of pastors say that looking at internet pornography is their biggest temptation. Internet porn is especially tempting because of what Dr. William Struthers calls “the three A\’s”: accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. It is accessible (easy to get), affordable (often free), and anonymous (it gives the allusion of total privacy). My friend, Dr. Paul Schmidt, says another aspect of internet porn is its adaptability. That is to say, it fulfills the wishes of consumers. When it comes to internet porn, you can pick your poison. According to a 2003 Focus on the Family poll, 47% of families said pornography is a major problem in the home. Many Christians are paying for porn\’s poison to be propagated throughout their home, through the medium of cable television.  Or, we could call it “hell-a-vision.” With the onset of the digital box, pay-per-view, and a plethora of specialized channels, your family may not be as safe as you think. Are your children safe from porn? The average age of first internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old, and the largest consumers of internet porn are persons in the 12-17 age group.

I am pleased to say that my wife, Nannette, and I have taken some proactive steps to make sure our home is porn-free. We have definite restrictions on our computer and TV usage. In fact, in our household, Nannette is the only one who has the passwords for unrestricted access to our computers and TV\’s. I strongly suggest you have a reliable program placed on your computer that protects your family from porn, while holding each person accountable in terms of their internet activity. If you are going to have cable, I suggest you go with the most basic package available. But even with “basic cable,” you must still be vigilant about blocking channels on which soft-core porn is aired. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, and cast it from you . . .” (Matthew 5:29, NKJV). Here, Jesus was using hyperbole to say that we must remove the temptation to sin, no matter what the cost. I personally know of Christian businessmen calling ahead to have the TV removed from their hotel room, altogether. To some this might seem extreme, but to others this is a necessary discipline to employ, while traveling alone.

If you and your family are going to remain safe from porn, it\’s going to take some serious planning on your part. As the old saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  In your planning, you must be totally honest about your own weaknesses. When it comes to porn, pride can get you in a world of trouble.  Many have become addicted to porn because they thought, “It\’s no big deal. I can handle it.” In closing, I leave you with the strong admonition, given by the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV): “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don\’t fall!”

Reverend Joel A. Bowman is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Temple of Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a native of Detroit, Michigan. He was licensed to preach the Gospel, in 1994, at the Historic Second Baptist Church of Detroit. Pastor Bowman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who practices astherapist and pastoral counselor. Pastor Bowman can be reached at