Naked and unashamed
Porn. It seems in this internet-age, porn’s pervasive push has spread like the yeast of the Pharisees into every corner of our cyber society. Gone are the days where it was hard to access—brown paper bags, magazines hidden under beds. Now the images move, and as society’s appetite grows more depraved, they have become more violent, more deviant and more extreme.
Here’s something you might not know about porn. Most pastors have struggled with it. Most? That’s a stretch, you might say. Well not according to a Barna study (reported by Christianity Today), which surveyed nearly 3000 American adults, including 432 pastors and 338 youth pastors. The study found that 57 per cent of pastors and 64 per cent of youth pastors “admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past”.
These stats are not good but probably not much worse than the rest of us.
Let’s not pretend that Adventist pastors are immune, nor Adventist members. They’re not—and part of the issue is attitude.
According to the study, only 1 per cent of pastors with a porn problem think they should reveal it and 55 per cent are living in constant fear they’ll be discovered. So they keep it in the dark. And sin flourishes in the darkness.
As a man, I prefer someone to shoot straight with me and be open. That’s what will gain my respect. Take a group of men and put them in a room together, make it a safe, open place, and you’ll find that many married and unmarried men struggle with something sexually related.
But rarely is church an open place. We worry what others will think so we don’t hear the struggles, the victories, and practical and relatable advice—the experience of older, wiser Christian men and women.
We struggle on alone while the sins of self-gratification, selfishness and ignorance destroy our homes and marriages. Shame and guilt keep us from our Saviour. The accuser gets the upper hand and our churches are powerless.
This is not the philosophy of the Scriptures. Don’t you think Moses could have left out the part about him arguing with God? Couldn’t Peter have asked the disciples to forget about that embarrassing denial incident? Don’t you think Abraham’s little lapses could have been missed to emphasise his faithfulness?
No. One thousand times no. Our story is not our own. It is about what God has done or is doing for us. If it can be used for His glory then it should be.
If we want our marriages and our churches to be strong places, where the devil has no power, we must make them open places (age appropriate with the correct timing, of course). Open, authentic and raw, just like our marriages need to be. We’ve been delivered to deliver.
Credit goes to our pastor and his wife who discipled us by being willing to share their marriage struggles and the victories God has given to them, with my wife and I, and our church. And now, my wife and I have spoken at couples conferences on our struggles with culture, forgiveness, resentment, communication and yes—even sex. We’ve seen people and marriages healed by the power of testimony and a willingness to be open—struck by the realisation they don’t need to struggle and suffer alone; that others have been through the valley before them and, with God’s help, come out the other side.
There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a church to raise a Christian and it takes an open church to disciple healthy Christians and save marriages and souls. We leave our kids, our young people, and our new and growing members unprotected and vulnerable when we don’t talk about issues like sex, marriage, lust and conflict.
Jarrod Stackelroth is associate editor of Adventist Record.