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Home » All Resources » Articles on Pastors » Paul Kendall, Pastors and Pornography
Family counseling specialist Paul Kendall warns pastors and church leaders against the increasing threat of pornography and how to protect themselves and their ministries from it.

During World War II, Nazi Germany dropped pornographic pamphlets from the sky over enemy territory. The reason: to distract the soldiers minds with fascinations causing them to ignore the front line. This has been the strategy of porn from its inception; while we fight the diversionary tactic of pornography, the enemy rolls in behind our backs and destroys our homes. It is time to change our battle plan.

Imagine conquering an entire nation in less than sixty years by simply planting a destructive seed in the minds of a few men and watching it spread to the masses. That is what Satan did through the likes of Hugh Heffner and Bob Guccione in the 50s when Playboy and Penthouse became nationally distributed magazines. Over the years, images of nude women and men engaged in sexual acts have jumped from the pages of embarrassing to purchase magazines to the privacy of our own personal computer screens. Today, US porn revenue exceeds the revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC combined and contrary to its previous consumer group of mostly adult males; its largest consumer demographic today is 12 – 17 year old males and females.

Jesus knew that something as small as gazing at the bait would lead to total entrapment (Matthew 5:27-28), and studies of pastors and porn certainly prove this to be true for many. Statistics indicate that nearly half of America’s clergy admit to viewing porn (Barna Research). Some ministers have admitted to viewing porn during breaks from their sermon preparation. Studies show pastors can be particularly vulnerable to porn addiction, in part because of the nature of their work. Running a church can be lonely, high-demand, and deeply personal work with little tangible reward, and pastors are notoriously without close friends. In today’s world especially, pastors spend more and more isolated time in front of a computer—certainly for research and sermon composition. But because the computer is easily accessible and typically isolated from others, a pastor could begin to turn there for entertainment and diversion. Pastors who then allow any unresolved anger, boredom, loneliness or other issue to fester unabated within them can feel a strong need to “anesthetize” themselves, and porn offers a quickly available, secret solution. In short, porn can offer an effective—albeit very sinful—response to a truly legitimate need within the pastor for companionship, excitement and connection with something outside their daily grind.*

Churches can even enable addicted pastors with what William White calls “organizational incest.” The term is defined in an article published in the July/Aug ’07 edition of Rev! magazine:

Churches prone to this dynamic often place intense stress upon their clergy staff with nearly impossible expectations. Generally, they provide minimal personal support. There are strong no-talk rules about sexuality while other boundaries are breached. The more tightly the system contracts upon itself, the more depleted and suffocated the participants become and more likely sexual boundaries will be violated. The final step for the isolated, depleted, rigidified clergy person in such a system is a sexual violation of church boundaries. Even if professional boundaries are not violated, the dual relationship catalytically disrupts the organization by focusing and concentrating simmering feelings of resentment, alienation, and deprivation among other staff members. Ultimately, the incestuous church institution collapses in upon itself and implodes.*

Like anesthesia, pornography seems to deaden its victims’ sense of reason, replacing wisdom with justification. Excuses for viewing online porn vary almost as much as the methods used to cover it up. For a single person, it may be “something to hold me over until marriage,” not realizing that it is subtly destroying his or her ability to maintain proper intimacy. For the married user, the excuses vary from “My spouse doesn’t meet my needs” to “My sex-drive is much higher than my spouses’, and porn provides a balance.” Pastors may use a variety of excuses such as “Surely God will allow me to view porn in order to stay married; certainly my marriage is more important,” to “I think God understands my predicament, and His grace is sufficient to cover it.” Some pastors will even say, “I know it’s wrong, but I’m not supporting or spreading pornography because I don’t purchase adult content—I only view what is free on the Internet.” (However, most online porn now operates under an advertisement-based model, i.e., merchants pay website owners for traffic derived from their sites via banner and text ads. Basically, every single time a user opens a pornographic website, he/she makes a contribution to Satan’s war fund.) In any case, pornography is a long-term distraction, keeping its users from dealing with the real issues at hand. Without it, they may be forced to find proper solutions, but with it, they risk spending the rest of their lives in dysfunctional relationships and the tyranny of isolation.

Ministers who find themselves involved in porn usage rarely preach on the subject, obviously because they feel like hypocrites. How clever for the enemy—capture the pastor, and you just may get the whole church. Think about it: If the statistics are true; at least half of the churches in America hear little to nothing at all about the dangers of pornography. No wonder it is spreading like wildfire. Indeed, ministers go to great lengths to hide their problems with porn, hoping to make it to their graves without exposure. But here’s a sobering fact: Every moment spent in porn use has consequences that will require a reckoning—either in this life by embarrassing exposure, or at the laying open of all things when we give an account to Christ. Will you allow this to happen?

Let’s settle something once and for all: Viewing porn is a sin, and a pastor’s use of porn is the pastor’s ultimate responsibility to address and rectify. But there is a better option than earthly exposure or ultimate judgment: deliverance. It is absolutely possible to be delivered from the grips of pornography and sexual sin.

Unfortunately, a single, simple prayer typically won’t be enough, and neither will an “accountability buddy” or an Internet filter. Anyone smart enough to hide their porn habit from the world is tech-savvy enough to fool his buddy or a filtering system. There are two effective steps to deliverance, and both are absolutely necessary for success:

1. Realize the fullness of your sin and the damage it is doing to you, your family and your church. Admit that you are powerless over a sin that has gripped your life. Make a solemn commitment never return to it, and immediately distance yourself from anything that enables your use (including late nights alone with your computer or mobile device, inappropriate chat and, if you’ve gone that far, visits to the wrong side of town).

2. Find a porn recovery program that works for you. If porn addiction was something a pastor could easily end on his/her own, there wouldn’t be a need for studies that produce those staggering usage statistics. Although certainly a spiritual issue in part, we’ve shown porn addiction is often the result of a pastor’s poor choice to cope with their much deeper, personal issues. There are now several online recovery programs specifically for pastors that allow them to remain anonymous if absolutely necessary. A pastor simply needs to type the words “porn recovery program for pastors” into a search engine to find one of these programs. An appropriate program should include counseling options for both the addict and the addict’s spouse. Your real-life spouse cannot (and shouldn’t have to) compete with a fantasy.

As you fight the good fight, remember the strategy of porn. Satan doesn’t want your fantasy life—he wants your home and the homes of your parishioners. Begin a counter assault on your enemy and use every means at your disposal. Refuse to be destroyed. Pastors who address their porn usage with desperate honesty, bravely forging ahead to accountability, can experience the “good” God intends for these circumstances (Genesis 50:20). And going the distance to full recovery and healing can transform the problem into a God-given rebirth of a pastor’s heart, health and marriage.

Resources and Support Ministries

Celebrate Recovery, a nationwide, Scripture-based 12-step ministry of Saddleback Church and author John Baker.
New Life Ministries, an online and nationwide counseling ministry dealing with addiction issues, started by Steve Arterburn, author of the Every Man book series.
Clergy Recovery Network, a porn recovery ministry specifically for clergy.
Sexaholics Anonymous, A 12-step program for those who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction.
Sex Addicts Anonymous, Another 12-step program for those who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction.

 

* Earle & Wells, “Pastors and Porn,” Rev! magazine, July/Aug 2007


Paul Kendall

Paul S. Kendall is a minister, university administrator, author, and founder of the Kendall Family Network, an organization dedicated to “building bridges to better families.” He is the host of Family Matters, a daily radio program that offers “a look inside the real world of parents and their children.” Get a free download of the first chapter of Paul’s new book, Family Matters: 100 Short Stories to Help You Build a Better Family, at KendallFamilyNetwork.com.

Paul Kendall of Kendall Family Network
February 20, 2010
Tom, What a pleasant surprise to hear from you via SC! I thank God that you and Nancy are part of our lives. Your comment brings to mind another category in this battle against temptation: those who “Look—but don’t touch.” If they could only see the end of the sin; it would shake them to the core and cause them to DELETE! It reminds me of the old saying, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you are willing to pay.” (Blessings to you, your family, and your church.) [delete comment]
Tom Kempf
February 18, 2010
Ah, I knew him when... Paul, I'm so blessed to see how God is producing real, lasting fruit in your life and ministry. The hook of pornography is sharp with a long barb, and I'm sure I'm not alone being tempted to find out what the attraction is, anyway. Your article is a wake-up and warning to those who may someday be tempted to click on the welcome box just to check it out. I have friends in the ministry who have done so with disastrous results. Your bold voice will help. Thanks! [delete comment]
Paul Kendall of Kendall Family Network
February 10, 2010
Thank you, Brandon, for sharing and encouraging. Your scripture reference is perfect and worthy of noting here for the benefit of our readers: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV) [delete comment]
Brandon Dunman
February 9, 2010
Wonderful Article! This silent (yet effective) weapon of the enemy has taken down so many of our fellow clergy. Becasue of the nature of the office, and the high standard we are expected to live by, many who are in the grips of this temptation are forced into a miserable and disabling silence. I have seen too many families torn apart, and ministries shattered because of it. I must admit, that the temptation to give in to this tactic is very strong. Of course, part of the ploy is that "you are all alone, and that there is no one else who is going through this, so you might as well give up." Just knowing that I am not alone in this is a wonderful comfort. Thanks for the straight-forward reminder of how we have complete freedom in Christ. These are things that I know, but tend to loose my focus and need to be reminded of constantly just as I remind the congregation of this constantly. Sometimes as a minister, I forget that I am just as easily tempted by pornography as the next guy. Just becasue I am a member of the clergy doesn't make me impervious to it. As the article clearly states, there is deliverance in Christ. My desire to please Him, my commitment to the purity of my family, and the fact that the Word of God is constantly telling me that I need to be on that narrow path keeps me from venturing too far into the enemies territory. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:13 are a constant escape from the clutches of the hand of pornography. [delete comment]
Paul Kendall of Kendall Family Network
February 9, 2010
Mark (I’m guessing it’s “Dr. White” by now), I did find your dissertation PDF document. Although I have not read it completely, it appears to be full of insightful information. I applaud you for selecting such a needed, albeit sensitive, subject for your doctoral dissertation. I pray the Lord’s blessings on you as you minister life to those in bondage. [delete comment]
Mark A. White
February 9, 2010
Paul, thanks for sharing your views on this growing problem. I agree that pornography is an entrapment of its victims and that pastors as well as parishioners can be set free from their addiction. I recently completed a dissertation titled: Cybersex Temptation and Use Among Clergy: Prevalence and Path Analysis of the Role of Sexuality Education, Isolation, and Consequences as Vulnerability Factors. I collected data from several hundred ministers that empirically substantiates this as a problem. There are too many statistical data points to convey in this short post. But if you are interested in the data, you can google the title (I assume I can’t post a link). Thanks. [delete comment]
Paul Kendall of Kendall Family Network
February 8, 2010
I appreciate the comments on this article. While some may differ on deliverance methods, we all agree that every pastor (or any person for that matter) caught in the snares of pornography absolutely can be delivered. There is an old saying, “What gets watched changes.” Bringing this problem into the light will begin to change it. I do appreciate Tim Brown’s transparency (post #1) and desire to help others overcome porn addiction. As people open up and face this destructive foe, their courage will inspire others to do the same. Just as Satan used a few men, years ago, to infect society with the poison of pornography—God can work through a few courageous people to spread the antidote: The power of Christ. [delete comment]
Graham Cole
February 8, 2010
Thanks Paul for another excellent and thought-provoking article. Bringing it from the one-on-one to the larger spiritual battle is very eye-opening. It has been a mighty weapon for Satan, and raising our awareness of that is a step towards tackling it with the resolve that it deserves. [delete comment]
Joel Rutherford of 1st Christians Church
February 8, 2010
If experience is what we're looking at, any objective view must admit that 12 step programs have set literally millions of people free. I only have to look at my friend who was drunk every day for six years and has been sober every day for over 30 years and came to Christ through AA. I only have to look at my friend who was a hard-core drug dealer and user and what God did in his life and how now CR is a part of his church of hundreds. I only have to look at my friend who used to view porn daily and visit prostitutes. For years, he's been free. Through CR, God has redeemed his marriage. I know hundreds (maybe more) who have been completely set free by God from addictions and shame, and are now confident leaders and soulwinners in their churches, w/o spending a penny. Ultimately, we also have to look at truth, as well as experience. A Mormon or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist will tell you they have had an experience with God. Are the 12 steps/8 choices of CR Biblical? Let's see - A complete dependence on God, totally dependent on grace to do what I cannot do myself? Faith in God that He loves me and is all-powerful? Making a personal commitment to Jesus Christ of my life and will - not just my 'problem' whatever that is, but everything else? Self-examination/God examination and confession of our sins to God and to someone else? Submission to God to change us and remove faults? Forgiving and seeking forgiveness and making restitution? Having a daily time of openness and intimacy with God? Serving and ministering to others? From my perspective, the 12 steps are Biblically based, plus have a proven track record over decades. Celebrate Recovery has taken the steps that were originally rooted completely in Christianity and put Jesus back in the center of it. Praise God for your freedom, brother; and praise God for the freedom others have experienced. I do want Pastors who are concerned about their positions and confidentiality to know that CR has groups specifically for pastors. [delete comment]
Ron Forseth of Outreach
February 8, 2010
Hi Tim, Thanks for sharing your experience, insights, and website. We welcome and value the input. I've checked out the site and while I didn't review it exhaustively, I liked the emphasis on Scripture, Christ, freedom, and the truth. I also liked the admonition to not bury a root problem with a misplaced emphasis on addiction. While a 12-step approach might not have worked for you or for others, I would like to say that the Celebrate Recovery program offers a Christ-centered 12-step program that has lead to freedom for thousands. In this case, they specifically name Christ as their higher power and as their source of freedom. They have great emphasis on refusing to deny sin and approaching the throne of grace with confession. Readers can learn more about them here: htttp://www.celebraterecovery.com/ or on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/celebraterecovery. This is not to say that a 12-step group is the solution. Jesus is. Let us press on to know him, to know truth, and to know the freedom he promises, whether in the context of a 12-step group or a ministry as you have suggested. [delete comment]
Tim Brown of The Church
February 8, 2010
I will tell you from experience, not to discount anything that the author says in his article, that 12-step recovery groups do not work. All they focus on is dealing with the behavior rather than getting to the root of the behavior. And even when you do the steps and go to counseling and look at the past, all you can do with it is try to emotionally "heal," but think about it. It is our efforts in the flesh and from the flesh, to do something that can only be accomplished through the Spirit. I spent 9 years spending thousands of dollars going to 12 step meetings, going to counseling sessions, reading numerous books, going to numerous accountability groups (Christians and non Christian), etc. etc. etc. and I still struggled with pornography. If not the outright doing of it, then most certainly the feeling of that strong desire within. Nothing helped until I met a man who had been a drug addict and who from his own encounters with God had been COMPLETELY set free from his addiction. His life is so profound I cannot even begin to describe to you what God has done with this man. Since being freed God has given him a ministry to help set others free from their addictions. I attended his seminar, and was myself set free! It is with tears I plead to anyone reading this, pastor or otherwise. If you want the abundant life that Jesus promised, and if you want to be free from the shame, guilt, and compulsion of addiction, then please go to www.180degreesministries.com They are not affiliated with any particular church group, they are not based on the 12 steps, and they approach addiction completely fromt he standpoint of God's grace. www.180degreesministries.com [delete comment]

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