Silent Epidemic: The Church’s Problem With Porn

  • by Ross McCall

If you discovered that your church pastor had been viewing pornography, would you immediately want him fired?

Would the answer depend on how recently it had happened? Would you be more concerned if it was the youth pastor?

A recent study suggests 57% of pastors in the United States struggle with pornography personally, and 68% of youth pastors.

The Porn Phenomenon is a landmark study into the problem of pornography in modern society, and the church in particular. Josh McDowell commissioned the Barna Research group to undertake the study after becoming convinced that Christians' struggle with porn had reached epidemic proportions and was becoming a spiritual cancer in the church.

Josh believes that pastors and others Christian leaders have been reluctant to talk about this issue because of the shame and risk of exposure attached to it. He believes educating pastors is the first step in equipping parents to tackle a struggle their children will not be able to avoid.

The proliferation of smartphones has changed the way we live in positive ways, but experts also suggest it has made pornography more freely accessible than at any point in human history.

Turning Fears Into Facts

The Porn Phenomenon is a first step in finding a way forward. The Barna Group is a market research firm specializing in studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, and the intersection of faith and culture. Their study put hard numbers on a problem many have known was afflicting the church for decades.

Barna’s research shows that:

  • 62% of teenagers (ages 13-17) have received a sexual image via their cell phones.
  • 72% of Christian young adults (ages 18-24) actively seek out pornography on the internet.
  • 3 out of 5 divorces cite the use of porn as a major factor.

What the study also showed was that the most worrying numbers were all increasing at an alarming rate.

Focus on Solutions

It’s to pastors that Josh McDowell is turning his attention first. The Porn Phenomenon found that while only 7% of pastors run programs for those addicted to pornography, 88% believe porn is a major issue in their church.

“I would rather put a fence at the top of the cliff, than an ambulance at the bottom,” says Josh.

He believes the church should be leading society in addressing this epidemic. At a time when the average age a child’s first exposure to pornography happens between the ages of 8 and 9, parents need help now. Josh McDowell believes pastors are the key.

How can you encourage your pastor to tackle this issue head on?

“You can’t understand pornography if you don’t understand neurology,” says Josh McDowell.

And so from April 4-7 Josh McDowell Ministries is hosting Set Free, a global summit on the church’s problem with pornography. The event, taking place in Greensboro, North Carolina, will bring together experts in addiction ministry, theology, psychology and neurology.

Consider encouraging your pastor to attend Set Free because you think this issue needs urgent attention.  

Read more about overcoming pornography addiction.