Corporate Consequences of Unchecked Porn Use

Article
10.30.2018

In his 2015 book How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, Steven Johnson shows the cascading consequences of ideas. 9Marks readers will remember, for example, Gutenberg’s contribution for the purposes of the Protestant Reformation. But what you may not know is that the printing press—by putting books under tens of thousands of noses—also helped people realize they were farsighted, which led to manipulating discs of glass for corrective eyewear, which led to making more powerful lenses that could look up into space or down into cells. Thus, moveable type started a chain reaction that helped people clearly see the gospel but also germs and galaxies.

As we consider pornography in this 9Marks Journal, it would be beneficial for us to ponder such chain reactions in the church. If pornography goes unchecked in your church, what threads might the next generation trace back as they’re cleaning up a huge mess and asking, “How did we get here?”

It’s not difficult to discern the consequences on individuals when pornography is unchecked: formidable addiction, haunting shame, calloused consciences, disturbing hypocrisy, and relational selfishness all run rampant? Yet beyond that, here are 11 frightening snapshots of how pornography left unchecked will weaken your church. Note that these aren’t in and of themselves reasons porn should be avoided. We want to kill sin because we love Jesus, not because we want more missionaries in the field. But we should still be aware of these wide-ranging corporate consequences.

(1) It will weaken church leadership.

There will simply be fewer pastors, first and foremost, because if unchecked porn use plagues the ranks of the overseer then men will find themselves quickly disqualified. But, second and perhaps more likely, there will be fewer young men raised up as future elders who meet the biblical qualifications of being above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, respectable, upright, holy, disciplined, and outside the charge of debauchery (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9).

(2) It will weaken leadership capital.

This point is less obvious than the previous one, but it will exist nonetheless in a church with unchecked porn use. There will be fewer leaders, but even among the leaders who remain it may be assumed that they have scandalous skeletons in the closet as well. When a church isn’t characterized by a culture of confessing and repenting of sin and clinging to the gospel, it will cast doubt in the minds of many as to whether anyone is actually qualified to preach, lead, and shepherd.

(3) It will weaken service in the church.

In the same way that there will be fewer elders, there will also be fewer deacons who must hold to the faith with a clear conscience (Titus 1:9). But it will run even deeper than that: many will be unwilling to serve. Why? Because serving others involves selflessness and considering others as more important than self. Those ensnared by unchecked porn use, however, will be primarily self-focused, leaving little room for serving others. Additionally, others will be sidelined from service because overwhelming guilt will leave them too ashamed or simply unqualified.

(4) It will weaken the mission of the church.

There will be fewer missionaries, fewer evangelists, fewer church planters, and fewer involved in training and theological education. And that’s if the normal candidates put themselves on the shelf. If they don’t, then there will be propagators peddling a gospel that they themselves aren’t currently cherishing, which will likewise weaken the mission of the church.

(5) It will weaken the prayers of the church.

If you take what Jesus said about lust amounting to adultery (Matt 5:27–30) and combine it with what Peter wrote to husbands about their prayers being hindered for dishonoring their wives (1 Pet 3:7), then it would stand to reason that those with unchecked porn use aren’t enjoying healthy and vibrant prayer lives.

(6) It will weaken Scriptural enlightenment.

The prayers of the church will be hindered, and so will Bible study. Meditating, reflecting, and dwelling on the Word of God is a uniquely spiritual work. It’s no mere academic exercise. And yet, if porn goes unchecked it will disconnect the gift of the Word from its Giver. God will become a mere concept or an idea. The church will suffer as its members lack the concentration, clarity of thought, and connection to the illumining work of the Spirit. (Eph 1:17–23) Even worse, some may start to give up on the Bible entirely in an effort to tamp down the conviction that reading it brings in their lives. All of this means less corporate transformation through the Word, less wise counsel given, and less helping each other hold fast to the truth.

(7) It will weaken the singing of the church.

It’s a beautiful experience to walk into a church where the saints are singing with passion and conviction. The powerful praises of God’s people is a great encouragement to the congregation as well as an intriguing witness to non-Christians who may enter. But that corporate reverberation will be muffled in a church where pornography is prevalent. Shame, hypocrisy, and callousness to the beauties of Christ don’t typically lead to the loud singing of God’s praises.

(8) It will weaken the responsibilities of church members.

Church members are tasked with encouraging one another, admonishing one another, speaking the truth with one another, and bearing each others’ burdens (1 Thess 5:11; Col 3:16; Eph 4:25; Gal 6:2). We are to exhort one another so that we won’t be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13). But unchecked porn use will make us reluctant to carry out our duties with each other. We’ll isolate ourselves in shame or pull punches because we feel like hypocrites.

(9) It will weaken the marriages in the church.

It’s an unavoidable fact that unchecked pornography will have a deleterious effect on marriages. Romantic pursuit will wane, sex lives will suffer, and trust will be broken. It’s also not out of the question for porn to serve as a gateway into emotional, physical, and sexual abuse among married couples. There will be unhappy and shattered marriages, which is devastating in its own right, but this means that there will also be a loss of godly examples for younger couples to follow.

(10) It will weaken dating in the church.

I was shocked to hear a Christian friend of mine quip a few years ago that young Christian women are basically choosing between which porn addict they like best. While I don’t think this is true—and I pushed back at his dismal claim—it’s sad that some people have adopted such a defeatist mindset. But if we’re granting the premise of unchecked porn use in the church, then we have to acknowledge that this could be the perceived reality that some men and women feel they’re facing: choosing between the lesser of two evils when it comes to a pool of potential spouses.

(11) It will weaken relationships in the church .

Pornography causes us to see others as objects. If this goes unchecked it will turn the common church lobby into a college nightclub. We’ll lose the ability to rightly relate to those we’re called to love and serve. A brother or sister will be seen as a temptation to be avoided or an object to be ogled. And those on the business end of that stick will feel the pain of that constant avoidance or that objectifying flirtatiousness. This will devolve until we don’t even know how to look each other in the eye and have a conversation, much less how to do spiritual good to each other for the glory of God.

CONCLUSION

Given all we’ve said above, mentally walk your way through the weekly gathering at your local church and ask: If porn goes unchecked, is anything in our corporate gathering left unaffected?

Conversations in the lobby as you walk in? Awkward and compromised. Call to worship? Many people don’t feel like it. Music? A shadow of what it could be. Prayer of praise? Some are grappling with competing loves. Prayer of confession? Self-deceit and rationalizations abound. Pastoral prayer? A lot of prayer for suffering marriages in the church—not as much for the sacrificial mission of the church. Offering? Selfishness reigns. Sermon? Some are calloused toward it, others ambivalent, and a few are questioning the Bible’s authority altogether. The Lord’s Supper? The question “What does an ‘unworthy manner’ really mean?” abounds.

In a word, if porn goes unchecked, the corporate consequences will be pervasive. Brothers and sisters, by God’s grace, may none of this be true in our churches! But let us be cognizant of the potential corporate consequences so that we may remain vigilant for the sake of Christ.