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How do we deal with pastors using pornography?

I wanted to provide some resources for church leaders having trouble with porn themselves and for church leaders who must discipline and restore people who are using pornography.  542620_10522446_1

Six crucial truths about pastors and pornography:

1. Churches should get prepared for the fact that they will likely need to figure out ways of helping and disciplining church leaders who are involved with pornography. 

Young pastors are very aware of this.  I heard a
podcast (available here) last night by Catalyst Conferences - the cool "young church leader" conference (which I have not yet attended).  They were interviewing Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller who said as an aside that he does not have internet access at home but rather uses the internet at coffee shops because he wants to stay away from the temptation on internet porn.  They then mentioned that Catalyst had handed out thousands of XXXchurch internet accountability software at last year's conference.  Rob Bell's church also had the people of XXXchurch come and speak.  Read about that here. 

I recommend the following recent Leadership Journal article for a broad overview of the issues involved in trying to deal with these situations. 

Restoring Fallen Pastors: The road back to ministry after a moral lapse—whether physical or virtual—is long and difficult. How can the restoration process be improved?

by Eric Reed

Leadership Journal, Winter 2006   

Sorry, you have to pay to view it now.  I viewed it on July 23, 2006 for free.  The next day it was gone to archives.

2. Any moral lapses like addiction to pornography have enormous costs to the pastor, his wife, children, dreams, and to the church. 

See Leadership Journal's classic three articles on pastors struggling with porn:

The War Within The anatomy of lust.  (This article generated more interest than any article in Leadership Journal's history). 

The War Within Continues An update on a Christian leader's struggle with lust.

Battle Strategy Practical advice for avoiding needless scars.

3.  As church leaders involved in restoration and discipline we must think throught these issues carefully. 

Eric Reed's article suggested that an elder board must answer the following questions when a pornography problem has been uncovered or confessed.  I think they are excellent and could serve as the agenda for a meeting.   

  1. Which offenses require absence from ministry?
  2. Is exposure to pornography an equally serious offense as an actual sexual affair?
  3. How long is the pastor to be out of ministry?
  4. What are the requirements for counseling and who will oversee it?
  5. Will there be any financial support for the pastor and family?
  6. Will the pastor's spouse be included in counseling and in meetings with the denomination or restoration team?
  7. After the restoration process, how will the pastor find a new position?
  8. And what will the new congregation be told about his season on the sidelines?

Eric Reed also points out that the Assemblies of God have already done some good work on this issue.

"The denomination has identified five stages of porn use, each with its own required restoration process.

  1. curiosity: requires three months professional counseling.
  2. experimental: requires six months professional counseling.
  3. regular: requires one year professional counseling and a three-month suspension of credentials.
  4. habitual: requires one year professional counseling and a six-month suspension of credentials.
  5. addictive: requires two years of professional counseling.

4. Though this is not exclusively a male problem, it is definitely a predominantly male problem. 

Dan Allender said in a lecture at Taylor University that men struggle with pornography at the rate of 20 to 1 over women.  One of his lectures at Taylor is available here. 

5. People who blog are probably more susceptible to the temptation of pornography because of their exposure to the internet and because they blog after their spouse has gone to bed!

6. There is a growing group of resources that provide help. 

Here are a few links that are a good starting place for the problem of pornography. 

Reputable organizations and their resources:

- Focus on the Family's Clearing House for Pornography Information

- Pure Intimacy - one of Focus on the Family's sites on pornography

- Promise Keepers - see Promise 3 and the resources they recommend. 

- New Life Ministries - the ministry of Every's Man's Battle series of books

- XXX Church - a reputable ministry regarding pornography

Internet Filtering Software including filtering for things beyond porn including sites on drugs, violence, etc. if you are interested.   

- Consumer Reports on Internet Filtering Software

- PC Mag's Report on Parental Control Security Software

Both of these reputable journals recommend: SafeEyes which is about $50 per year.

Promise Keepers have two resources that they recommend:

- Promise Keepers Recommend Internet Filtering Software - pkfamily.com which is an Internet Service Provider

- Eye Promise Accountability Software from Promise Keepers.  This is associated with Covenant Eyes, which is a very reputable tool.  Basically, a friend of your choice receives a record of all the internet usage from your computer each week.  The internet is not filtered.