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How do you say ‘Porn’?: The battle on the Church’s Closeted Cancer

Right off the bat, I would like to give you the secret to fighting porn.

Children first see pornography at the age of 11 … 40 million view porn daily … there are 4.2 million porn websites … 37 percent of pastors admit to struggling with porn… church for the most part is uncomfortable talking about porn.

Right off the bat, I would like to give you the secret to fighting porn. So, put the cell phone down, let everyone know you’ll be a few minutes late, shut off the MP3 player and come real close to the page. Here it is … talk about it and become accountable to someone. That’s it. Yes, there will be a lot of prayer and study along the way. Yes, there will be pain like you’ve never seen. Yes, Christ can take away the weight of sexual sin, but we must talk about it and find accountability.

I am one of the Porn Pastors. I don’t know if I like the title, but it’s what I have been deemed. Every day I hear a story about how porn has made its way into someone else’s life. The problem is large, and it is just going to get larger. But the issue should no longer remain a secret in our churches. We have groups for drug addicts and alcoholics, but porn and sexual addiction remain dirty little secrets among our congregations. So, where do we begin?

Three years ago porn was a different story for Mike, the other Porn Pastor, and me. Neither of us had a porn problem, nor could we have imagined the journey God would take us on.

One morning Mike heard a single word from God— “porn.” “Porn?” Mike asked. “Porn,” God reiterated. A quick phone call to me turned into lunch, which eventually turned into the number one Christian porn site, XXXchurch.com. The mission: fight porn and assist in the recovery of the dirty little secret.

We hit the road with what we called “Porn Patrol,” learning everything we could about the world of porn. We saw the worst of the worst in the porn-filled streets of Amsterdam to hope and recovery at Pure Life Ministries in Kentucky. What we found brought us to our knees.

Critics. There are always critics. Some say that we love the attention, that we’re not biblically based, that we will never see any fruit. Some go as far as to protest XXXchurch events. Bottom line: We are trying to make it possible to talk about pornography in a country that has wrapped porn addiction up in cute little justified lusts while it is destroying families—and, no, that’s not overstating the problem.

A Pastor Willing to Say ‘Porn’
Grand Rapids, Mich. was cold on Jan. 23, 2005. Mike and I battled weather, airports and each other, crossing the country to speak at Mars Hill Bible Church. Teaching Pastor Rob Bell had a mission: To bring the message of XXXchurch to his congregation of 13,000. It was a natural fit—a progressive message for a progressive church. Loaded with resources and a documentary film, Mike and I took over Mars Hill for what Bell called “Porn Sunday.” The porn plan … speak at all three church services and screen the film Missionary Positions that night at the church. Early Sunday morning behind the scenes, it was business as usual for Mike and me. We did the meet and greet, the quick hellos, made new connections and had a plan for the service. We had spent two years on the road, speaking to Saturday church crowds and at what we called “Porn and Pancakes,” not the best crowds, but people nonetheless. The expectation for “Porn Sunday” was small. Mars Hill can seat 4,000 in the main auditorium. That morning Mike and I began to see the power of a pastor driven to platform a message on a Sunday morning. Bell had been preparing his congregation for weeks, and on Jan. 23 the gates were opened to “Porn Sunday.” The people came in droves. Answered prayer, you bet! It was on … and XXXchurch was right in the middle.

After we spoke at each service, Bell took the stage and said the words “Porn Sunday” a couple times. He had been saying those two words for weeks prior to us coming. He mentioned to his congregation that he wanted his church to be a place where people could talk about porn. So, by calling that particular cold Sunday in January “Porn Sunday,” he was sending a message to his congregation that Mars Hill was a safe place to talk about this issue.

That night when more than 5,000 people showed up to see the documentary on XXXchurch, we were all blown away. What was it about this day that brought out so many people and intrigued so many? I believe it was the fact that, on that particular Sunday, we were addressing an issue that so many members were dealing with.

The week following “Porn Sunday,” Mars Hill started several small groups for people who were caught up in pornography. The attendance at these groups was small. But that is not the point. The point is that there are now groups and safe places for these people to continue to go to. The problem does not go away because you did “Porn Sunday.” The work has just begun. Our prayer (and the prayer of the folks at Mars Hill) is that in the months and years ahead, people will remember what took place on “Porn Sunday” and that it is OK to say the word “porn” at church.

A Country Willing to Say ‘Porn’
Weeks after the Mars Hill event, steam was building. Churches all over the country wanted to do their own “Porn Sunday.” Some churches called and said, “I want to do Porn Weekend.” What happened at Mars Hill has spread, and now other churches are ready to gamble and follow in their footsteps. Finally, churches are addressing the problem of pornography.

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We kept pretty busy this spring, heading to churches from North Carolina to Canada, holding “Porn Sunday” and Porn Weekend events. All of the events are pretty similar—talk about porn on Sunday, deal with it on Monday. The churches bring us in to talk about it, but come Monday it is their responsibility to deal with it and get people in their churches plugged in and connected.

One of the best ways we have seen people deal with this issue is accountability. Accountability means having a good friend stick with you in tough times. There are times when people make mistakes. Usually they are alone. What makes porn so damaging is the Internet, because it can happen in private with no one around. Accountability is enlisting a friend to come alongside you and help steer your direction when you may not be strong enough.

Here is how it works: download X3Watch for free from XXXchurch.com. Place a friend’s email in the program. Then every 14 or 30 days, an email lets the friend know of every place that you have visited on the web in that prior month. When you know someone will find out that you have gone to a porn site, you hopefully will think twice about it. But it has to be a friend with similar beliefs about porn and someone who will be willing to call if something inappropriate shows up on the site.

To me, X3watch is not just about porn. My wife and my best friend receive my accountability reports. I don’t worry that they will find porn on my reports. However, I know at least twice a month that I have two people who are looking out for me and will ask me the tough questions. I am shocked by the lack of accountability in our churches today. Small groups are great if you can go a little deeper and open up to one another. If you lead a small group or are in a small group, maybe you can connect with just one or two people and start holding them accountable. Maybe you are not in a small group. That does not mean you can’t be accountable to someone. My best friend and I live 400 miles apart. We don’t meet weekly, and we only see each other a few times a year. But we both are honest and open with each other, and we realize the value of being accountable to one another.

So, Say It!
We are comfortable talking about drugs and alcohol, and occasionally we touch on premarital sex, but the “P word” sends everyone running into a hysterical state of denial. Porn is creating wreckage in the form of you and your family. The stats say you know someone or you are someone who loves it, who can’t get enough of it, who stays up late looking at it. Yet we couldn’t talk about it if we tried. We have to talk to each other. Pornography is dangerous. But what’s more dangerous is a church that won’t address it.

Craig Gross is cofounder of XXXchurch.com and author of The Gutter. National Porn Sunday is a national effort for healing and accountability in churches around the world. Visit www.pornsunday.com for more information.

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