The Pastor and Pornography

Pornography is pervasive in the church today, among both men and women. The privacy and anonymity of the internet has seen a rather sporadic issue of pornographic magazines in the 1960s and 70s grow into a $13 billion industry in the United States (2006, Internet Filter Review). Within church leadership circles, we know that at least 37% of ministers admit having a problem with porn (2001, Christianity Today survey), and 57% of pastors admit it is the most sexually damaging issue in their congregation. These numbers are a decade old—anyone want to doubt the problem has grown dramatically since then?

It is sin. Pornography is not specifically addressed in the Bible, so first we must understand that it is sin. Porn deals with illicit images, videos and media designed to arouse sexual passion. The Bible does tell us that lust in our minds is the same as committing adultery (Matthew 5:27-28), that we are to flee impure desires (Colossians 3:5) and that there are sins we commit that are against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18). Even the few defenders of, say, viewing naked pictures of your wife, must view the vast majority of pornographic material as sinful, given that nearly all of these images and video depict sexual relationships and acts not conducive to a monogamous marriage relationship.  Against the backdrop of this biblical teaching, and the nature and result of porn, we must conclude that pornography is sinful according to God’s standard for purity in thought and action related to sex.

It is dramatically damaging. The consequences of pornographic addiction discovered are almost universally disastrous in ministry. During the 25 years I’ve spent in ministry, I’ve dealt with three porn related issues within church staffs. In all three cases, the families of the individual involved were devastated, marriages were stretched to the breaking point, and men’s reputations were destroyed overnight. Porn addiction within ministry involves not only sexual sin, but a consistent and persistent intent to lie and cover over one’s actions and thoughts. I’ve yet to meet a minister with a porn problem who did not clearly know and admit on initial counseling that he knew what he was doing was deeply sinful. Persistent sin of this nature should, in some cases, lead us to question the very salvation of the individual involved.

It is addictive. Despite knowing the sinful nature of porn, and the possible consequences if discovered, over a third of all pastors regularly view pornography. In every sense, then, porn represents an addiction—a vice that, despite its obvious dangers, many users, especially men, are simply unable to quit without serious help. Though paid porn has become a tremendous industry online, the fact is that 70% of online porn is free, so a pastor can view it without paying for it (and leaving a credit-card trail), and a semi-intelligent computer user can likely cover his keystrokes. This enables a porn addict to indulge, in many cases for years, without discovery. In one case I was involved in with a porn-addicted minister, the issue had been a part of his life, in various forms, for more than two decades.

It breaks a sacred trust. Within the church, the difference between a pastor’s porn habit and a church member’s is obviously centered in the area of leadership. A pastor must set an example in speech and deed—and we often talk about these areas. Seldom, however, is a pastor called to set an example in his thought-life. Porn-viewing pastors seldom think about the emotional and psychological trauma associated with a congregation that discovers their leader has a sexual addiction. A sacred trust is broken, and the pastors voice in matters of the heart, in most cases, is muted for all time to come.

It is solvable. For a pastor addicted to pornography—and based on readership statistics that would include more than 2,000 men reading this very post—know that this is a sin problem that can be solved. God is bigger than this addiction, and pastors can find a way out. There is one website resource I would recommend:

This site contain some great educational material and simple steps to begin. Some pastors do have the strength to solve the issue on their own. Most do not. A pastor must first admit he has a sin issue and needs help. If you are unwilling to do that, and know you are involved in porn, you probably cannot solve the issue on your own.

It needs preventive medicine. Even if you have no porn problem, I would highly recommend getting an accountability partner and some filtering software on your computer. Both of the sites above recommend software you can put on your machines that email an accountability partner if you stray to inappropriate websites. This is great peace of mind with your deacons, elders and fellow staff, who know you are pure in this area and accountable to someone else for your private actions. Our pastor, Dr. Merritt, has this filtering software and an accountability partner. We do not need to be concerned with Dr. Merritt’s thought-life in the area of pornography—he demonstrates accountability every time he goes to his web browser.

It will come out. There’s a God-driven part to the whole equation that most pastors fail to understand. God will simply not allow His church, His Bride, to be treated like a prostitute by a leader with a secret addiction to porn. Listen pastor, no matter how clever you think you are, God will drive this secret sin into the light. I have seen it happen time and time again. Guys who thought they had it all together, and God used a peer, a circumstance, a chance mistake, to reveal that which is causing destruction to His church. Do not make the mistake of thinking you will never be discovered.

God wants His Church to be pure and effective for Him. Do yourself and your congregation a favor. If porn is a sin in your life, right now, immediately, confess pornographic sin to God, and resolve to get the help you need to purge it from your mind and heart. You owe your congregation, yourself, your family and Christ Himself nothing less.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9


Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.