Campaign for Purity

Pornography is ravaging the hearts and minds of men and women worldwide. Today, the accessibility to pornographic images is simply a click away. Movie channels, the Internet, and apps such as Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and other media platforms provide unfettered access to sexually explicit material. Consider a few of the recent statistics on pornography[1]:

  • One-third of people come across pornography weekly or more often, even if they’re not seeking it.
  • More than 1 in 8 web searches are for erotic content.
  • 12% of practicing Christian teens seek out pornography weekly.
  • 61% of young adults ages 18–24 seek out pornography at least once a month.
  • 68% of divorces involved one party’s meeting a new lover over the Internet.
  • 71% of teens have found a way to hide from their parents what they do online.

And due to the widespread availability of sexual content online, a child now sees his first pornographic image around 11 years old. For many children, this first exposure may lead to a lifetime of addiction, which will affect their spiritual, physical and emotional well-being for years.

Still, the problem is not just limited to culture. Increasingly those within the church, including pastors, struggle to avoid online temptations. The same Barna study indicated, “21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with viewing porn.” Pastors are no less vulnerable to this temptation than those they shepherd. And because of the anonymity of digital pornography, Satan has used this enticement to weaken the effectiveness of ministers across every denomination in our country. However, through the power of Christ, each person has the authority to destroy these strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Recognizing the need to confront this problem, Prestonwood launched a multi-year endeavor in conjunction with the premier Internet accountability and filtering software ministry Covenant Eyes. Through a three-step approach, our desire is to bring awareness, accountability and action to this ever-expanding issue.

AWARENESS

First at Prestonwood was to inform people on the significance of this problem. Many people are unaware of the magnitude of the problem or do not know about the tools available to guard themselves. So beginning with the entire church staff and deacons, we highlighted this issue through a series of meetings. Then in the fall of 2016, Pastor Jack Graham launched the campaign with a series of messages to the church on purity. Following this pulpit launch, Barrett Johnson from Info for Families spoke on “Critical Conversations” to parents at a Wednesday evening service. In this talk, Barrett gave an overview of the hyper-sexualized culture parents are faced to raise their children in today. Later, the Bible Fellowship Ministry at Prestonwood launched a curriculum emphasis across every age division.

In conjunction with the launch of the campaign for purity at Prestonwood, we dedicated a portion of our website to addressing this issue. Primarily, the site presents people with an overview of the problem, information on how to become a Covenant Eyes user and supplemental resources for those struggling with a pornography addiction.

ACCOUNTABILITY

At Prestonwood, we are excited that our ministers and full-time staff are now using Covenant Eyes as their primary Internet browser. Together, the Prestonwood team made a commitment to lead the way in personal holiness. Knowing we cannot lead anyone where we haven’t been first has motivated everyone to jump on board. As Pastor Graham has said many times to the Prestonwood team, “Accountability is not about calling each other out, but it’s about calling each other up to who we can be in Christ.”

Through that type of accountability, Christians propel each other to a deeper level of spiritual maturity. James says in James 5:16 to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” And in the battle for purity, accountability is one of the chief weapons through which victory is gained.

Furthermore, research supports that accountability is the answer to winning the battle of the mind. Recent studies show that filters are not enough to stop someone from looking at pornography.2 In fact, in many cases, an Internet filter simply becomes an added fence to get around. Once around a filter, people become further trapped by a predatory pornography culture.

However, through accountability, people can further protect themselves from unwanted content online and break the chains of pornography. Covenant Eyes users assign an accountability partner to receive a weekly report, which flags inappropriate websites. These reports provide a compressive tool to help accountability partners have a conversation about making wiser choices online.

ACTION

Lastly, this multi-year initiative includes an ongoing emphasis on continued action to attack pornography. Throughout the year at Prestonwood, we promote Covenant Eyes at our annual marriage, men’s and women’s conferences. Whether it is addressed from the pulpit, at workshops or prayer times, the Prestonwood team has made the commitment to continue to talk about this topic.

Additionally, Prestonwood started a men’s purity support group on Wednesday evenings. This group helps men get to the root issue of this addiction while offering proven principles and practical tools to combat pornography.

Also, through Homelife, which is a ministry of Prestonwood that helps equip families with tools to build faith at home, there is a dedicated section to purity. These resources provide families easy-to-read guides to address the various issues regarding purity.

But our desire is not only to impact those inside the walls of Prestonwood but to tackle this topic outside the church. Currently, Prestonwood is working with area state representatives to pass a resolution declaring pornography a public health hazard. This resolution will open the door for education, prevention, research and future policy changes to address the harmful influence and consequences of pornography.

Next Steps for My Church

As pastors, we have seen and will continue to see the damaging effects of pornography unless we do something. Together we can prayerfully bring about lasting change. Here are three quick ways to begin a campaign for purity at your church:

  • Lead by example – Unfortunately, many pastors today know of a fellow minister who is no longer active in the ministry due to stumbling to a sexual sin. The calling to the ministry is too critical for any pastor to leave this area of purity vulnerable to attack by the Enemy. If you are currently not an active user of Covenant Eyes, please become one today.
  • Inform regularly –Because of the rapid advances in technology, people have a difficult time keeping up with the various means by which the pornography industry solicits customers. By offering educational seminars, we can help individuals and families stay proactive in the fight against pornography. Covenant Eyes, along with Protect Young Eyes, provides excellent educational resources to keep churches up-to-date on the ever-changing technology landscape.
  • Offer Support – The shame, embarrassment and sense that no one else struggles with pornography keep people from experiencing true freedom over this sin. Many struggling with a pornography addiction feel as if there is nowhere to turn. However, a safe environment such as a support group provides a place for confession and healing. These types of accountability groups allow for transparency and authenticity, which help people grow deeper in their walk with Christ.

We can no longer ignore the elephant in the room. For far too long pornography has destroyed marriages, homes and the Church. Therefore as leaders in our churches, let’s do everything in our ability to fight this silent drug. Together we can guard our hearts and protect those within our churches from experiencing the pain of pornography.

If you find yourself struggling with a sexual sin, please find someone to talk to. Visit Focus on the Family’s website, ThrivingPastor.org; call the Pastor Care Hotline at 844-4PASTOR; or give us a call at Prestonwood (972-820-5000) so we can help.

By Shawn Callander, Minister of Marriage & Family Life

 

[1] https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/
2 http://www.covenanteyes.com/2016/04/21/do-internet-filters-work/