The creators of XXXchurch.com are taking their unconventional campaign out of the gutters into the sanctuaries of the nation's churches: October 9 is National Porn Sunday. The event is the brainchild of two youth pastors who say it's time that the church stop ignoring pornography. "Ten years ago, this was a topic for a Saturday men's breakfast; not anymore," says Craig Gross, co-founder with Mike Foster of the anti-pornography ministry. "In 2005, everybody has either had contact with pornography, or knows someone who has. This is a topic for Sunday morning."
"I think all churches must take leadership in addressing the things that are defeating their members," says Elliott Anderson, pastor of Elgin (Ill.) Evangelical Free Church, "and porn is definitely one of those things. The church should be leading this discussion—not reacting to it."
Leading such a discussion is not without risk. "I thought the Porn Sunday thing was going to blow up in my face," says Gerry Michalski, pastor of Soul Sanctuary in Winnipeg, Canada. Instead, Michalski found his congregation was eager to hear about the spiritual effects of exposure to porn and hope for healing. After the church sponsored a Porn Weekend, Michalski says, "Everybody acknowledged that porn is a problem. We wanted to deal with the issue straight up."
"Addictions of any sort, including pornography, set in motion a compulsion that interferes with daily life," says Anderson, who previously ministered to students as a counselor at Judson (Ill.) College. "Suddenly, the day begins to revolve around that addiction. In the case of pornography addiction, nearly everything in the person's speech and actions becomes sexualized, and everything they do is done through that sexualized screen. It becomes their god."
Every day, nearly 40 million people visit one or more of 4.2 million porn sites the internet. At $6.2 billion yearly, porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, NBC, and CBS. According to statistics at XXXchurch.com, nearly 50 percent of Christians say that pornography is a major problem in the home.
What began three years ago as a minor movement for modest dress (The NoHoZone) and addiction awareness (The Porn Mobile) with in-person teaching by the youth ministers has developed into a website and a world-wide campaign. Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, will host both Gross and Foster at its Axis (20-something) and high school ministries on Porn Sunday. Beyond that, the pair estimates 200 churches will make use of their Porn Sunday Kit.
The DVD kit includes a five-minute introduction to the problem and some solutions, and a full-length documentary, "Missionary Positions," which chronicles Gross's and Foster's expedition into the shady realm. After viewing the film, church leaders are encouraged to set up small groups and prayer teams to assist those interested in taking action against the onslaught of pornography.
"When Porn Sunday is most exciting—and most effective—is when people start getting in groups afterward and talking about it," Gross explains. Michalski says his church formed three "deal-with-it" groups in response to their Porn Weekend, and that congregation members continue to talk about XXXchurch's ministry, even nearly five months after Gross's visit to Soul Sanctuary.
Preparation is as important as follow-up for most congregations, Gross says. "A number of churches we have preached to had done a series on sexual bondage or on some other sexual issue most Christians struggle with before we came and talked about pornography," Gross told Leadership. And Michalski's experience bears that out. A congregation must be warned in advance about XXXchurch.com's in-your-face approach to a sensitive subject. The presentation is frank, but clean. Gross and Foster deal with messy issues, but strive to stay spiritually disciplined. "We don't actually deal with porn on a day-to-day basis, but with the devastation that results from it," Gross says. "We have seen what porn can do to people, and because we have, we know we don't want any part of it."
Abram Book is Leadership editorial resident.
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