Why Churches Should Battle Pornography, Hardcore
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Surveys show about two-thirds of all American men regularly view pornography and the rate is about the same for Christian men.
But surveys also show most pastors don't believe the rate is anywhere close to that in their own church.
Rev. Jay Dennis of First Baptist Church at the Mall says it's time those in the pulpit wake up and fight back against the flood of X-rated material.
"I believe that 80 percent of men in churches are struggling at some level with viewing pornography," Dennis told CBN News.
Yet he said most pastors either don't believe it or won't take action. Trena Mewborn, director of counseling at Dennis' church, said that inaction plays into the devil's plan to make believers feel isolated.
She said the feeling among many of those struggling with pornography is they're somewhat unique.
This feeling, she said, "Especially in the Christian community is that nobody in this church understands, nobody struggles with this. I am really this pervert or I am really this deviant."
Pastor Jay Dennis, author of Our Hardcore Battle Plan talks more about ways his church has been exploring to help people stay porn-free:
Pastor Dennis' and Mewborn's church is meeting the porn epidemic head on with a helpful book series and a DVD featuring church members who were addicted or are in the fight against porn.
On the DVD, called "Our Hardcore Battle Plan," Tom Wolfe talks about going from just pornography to eventually having affairs.
"I was a youth pastor and I used pornography as a springboard really into a full-blown sexual addiction," he said. "And I had a moral failure -- a series of affairs -- and I was found out. And obviously lost my job, lost my church, lost my youth pastor's job, and for awhile lost my family."
Wolfe said if he'd felt free to confess and talk to someone about the porn, he might not have fallen into so much sexual sin.
"I really feel like the thing that pornography does is it keeps you really locked, almost like a slave, in secret," Wolfe explained. "You're afraid that you're going to be found out. And the first thing I would encourage you to do is expose it. I promise it will start losing its power."
Not Just Men
Bonnie Hicks says on the same DVD, "At a friend's house, we found a stash of her dad's pornography. It awakened a sexuality in me at such a young age."
"It started a life of, a journey of, acting out myself as a female, and things that I'm very, very ashamed of," Hicks confesses.
But then she explains how she was too frightened to ask for help.
"I felt like I was all alone. It felt like I was the only one, the only one struggling with what I was struggling with," she said. "I was scared and I was ashamed and I was fearful that if I ever told anyone what I was going through, that they would not understand -- or they would think I was a freak of nature."
She finally found freedom, though, when she overrode the fear, opened up to others, confessed, and repented.
"The very first thing was admitting: admitting that I had a problem, that it was something that was not approved of by the Lord, and that it didn't please Him," she says.
"Satan is a liar," she added about that dark time. "And if he can keep us thinking that we are all alone, then he's won."
Healing in the Light
Desiree Smith is a church member who stood by her husband after he confessed to having gone from illicit sex involving pornography to an illicit affair.
"You hear this shouldn't be talked about in church," Smith says in the DVD. "And it's exactly where it needs to be talked about. It needs to be brought to the light because when it's brought to the light, it can be healed."
Now imagine if you had an entire church full of brothers or sisters who you could go to, confess to, get support from them. Then you might hear things like Mewborn told CBN News.
"You're not alone. This is a problem everywhere, every church, everywhere you go, and we need to hit that head on and not deny it," she said.
"I am so thankful that that veil is being lifted and that I'm part of a church where the pastor openly talks about it from the pulpit," she added.
The message is not only from the pulpit. Pastor Dennis goes anywhere he can to aid a campaign he started, pushing to get at least a million Christian men to pledge at his Pink Elephant Resources website they'll live porn-free.
That website is also where you can find the "Our Hardcore Battle Plan" DVD and books as well as other resources to battle pornography.
Porn Free = Revival?
Dennis believes a million believers making such a pledge could alter the Body of Christ and the nation. He said it altered his church and brought it revival when just a few hundred men made such a pledge.
He told CBN News about a time when he set aside six Sundays in a row to confront this problem, and a particular watershed moment when he asked his men to stand up if they were struggling with porn.
"We have theater seats," he said. "So I remember, with my eyes closed, I was listening; I could hear all these seats hitting the backs of the chairs. And I said when I heard that, it sounded like chains were snapping."
His director of counseling feels that result could happen at any church willing to join the fray.
"Churches need to see, 'Hey, we've got to be the hospital,'" Mewborn said. "'We've got to be the ones saying we're going to figure out how to help people and be real with people."
Dennis maintains, however, it's up to each individual Christian one-by-one to make the life-altering decision. He warned there can be dire consequences if they don't.
He told CBN News he's seen men lose their jobs, their wives and their families.
"No man goes into this knowing, 'Hey, I know I'm going to destroy my life, I'm going to wreck my marriage, I'm going to ruin my testimony,'" he explained. "I don't think any Christian man goes into it like that. But that is the result of this."
Addiction into His Marriage
One church couple, Cathy and Greg Dyer, went through such an intense struggle but managed to come out the other side. Pastor Dennis co-wrote a book with Cathy, called Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Women.
Greg Dyer told CBN News he first encountered pornography as a young teen and it took such a powerful hold on him.
"I can still picture the first images that I saw," he said.
His addiction followed him into his marriage.
"That was always a part of my life, pornography was," he said. "Even once I met Cathy, that pornography was still a part of my life. And then that led to years of lying to her."
Despite his Christianity, the X-rated material led him to move out on Cathy and their newborn daughter and into an affair with a co-worker.
"I was looking at pornography all day," he confessed. "I viewed women as sex objects instead of women, someone else's daughter. And so when the girl made herself available to me, it wasn't that big of a stretch."
After seven years of marriage, Cathy couldn't believe it when she found out about Greg's double-life.
"It was very shocking for me," she said. "It took a long time for me to just absorb this was Greg."
But about half-a-year into their separation, God began to move on both of them in a way that made reconciliation possible.
'I Had this Gaping Wound'
First, Cathy came to see she needed counseling.
"I had this gaping wound, and I knew if I didn't get some counseling, I was going to hate men. I was going to be very bitter. And I could already feel those things sort of cropping up in me," she recalled. "And I didn't want to be that person."
So she was about to go into counseling at the same time Greg was getting an intense shakeup from God. One night he clearly heard the still-small voice of the Lord give him a harsh word.
"I distinctly remember the voice saying, 'I've protected you through the drugs, through all the alcohol, through all the unprotected sex that you've had, I've protected you. If this is how you're going to live, I'm done,'" he recalled hearing. "'I'm not going to protect you through that anymore.'"
"I grew up in church," Greg explained. "I knew what the presence of God was in my life and at that point, it was gone. And it scared me -- scared straight basically."
He contacted Cathy and let her know he was determined to see his life free of all this sin, whether she wanted him back or not.
"I was willing to go to counseling, I was leaving the other girl, and I was going to turn my life around," he recalled telling Cathy.
Because she was about to start counseling herself, she had them both see one the next day. The counselor they saw was the perfect one for the Dyers because his specialty was dealing with sexual addictions.
As Powerful as Cocaine or Heroin
They found out Greg was likely going to have quite an intense struggle freeing himself because scientific studies have found using porn can be as addictive as any drug.
"As far as the synapses firing in your brain, when you look at a pornographic image or when you use cocaine, for instance, there's really not much of a difference," Cathy explained.
Mewborn backed this up.
"The exact same chemical reaction happens in the brain when a person is addicted to pornography, every time they view it," Mewborn said. "That happens in a heroin addict every time they do a hit of heroin."
Greg said he basically had to do a real turn-around.
"Everything about my life had to change. I couldn't drive around with money in my pocket. If I had money in my pocket, I knew where the stores were that would sell pornography," he explained. "What I watch on TV, what movies I see, things like that: all that had to change."
Greg did get free, but said he came to realize he couldn't do it alone.
"You have to be 100 percent all in, ready to turn your back on it," he said. "And you have to have help. God has to help. I couldn't have done it by myself. There's no way."
Pastor Dennis believes Christ has to be involved for people to be delivered.
"Jesus Christ came and lived a perfect life, faced every temptation that we face, went to the cross, died for our sin, and He rose from the dead so that we wouldn't have to be the way we are, that we could change, that we wouldn't have to give in to our sinful natures," he said.
God Performed Heart Surgery
For Greg and Cathy, it was a long road back to reconciliation, but seeing Greg fighting hard and watching God move on both their hearts made it a miraculous reality for Cathy.
"It's a miracle that Greg was able to turn his life around," Cathy said. "That is completely a miracle that God helped him to do that. But to me the more amazing miracle is the heart surgery that God performed on me, because my heart was broken and I was not really interested in reconciling."
But finally Cathy found her heart mended and had a renewed love for Greg.
"I started to see Greg through God's eyes," she said. "That's really what happened."
Cathy explained why Pastor Dennis wanted her to co-author "Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Women" with him.
"He especially liked our story because it has a successful ending, which is rare. And we're trying to make that not so rare," she said.
The book talks extensively about how Christian wives can help their husbands find freedom.
'It Owned Me'
Greg testifies today there was nothing sweeter than the time he finally found his freedom from pornography.
"It owned me for a majority of my life," he said. "And I don't feel like it owned me anymore."
The people of Lakeland's First Baptist Church at the Mall have seen so many results tackling this issue head-on, they want to let churches know they really can make a difference.
Mewborn said her hope is many others would emulate the attitude at First Baptist.
"We want to come alongside people and say, 'We're not judging you; we just want to help you and love on you and give you the tools that you need to combat this,'" she said.
Can't Do It Alone
Mewborn has worked with many addicts.
"I don't think you can do this by yourself. I don't think that's how God would want us to do it," she explained. "And there's a lot more power in a team, even if it's just a team of two or three, than it is when you feel like you're the Lone Ranger."
"And I personally don't know anyone who has successfully battled a really bad addiction by themselves," she said.
"The more we as a Church start putting it out there, I think the more people will feel like they can go to someone, they can ask for help, they can seek out some friends for accountability," Cathy added. "It needs to become something that we don't just try to brush under the rug."
On the DVD the church produced, "Our Hardcore Battle Plan," church member Joan Lester explains why it's crucial for those struggling against a pornography addiction to realize their church is behind them.
"They know that they are not alone, and that this is something huge that has hit mankind," she says. "That God is in control if they turn it over to Him. That He can take this away from them and can heal them and restore their marriages and heal their hearts, their wives' hearts, and that families can be made whole again."
"I can tell you from having dealt with many men who have broken free that the joy returns, the peace returns; they're not worried about getting caught," Pastor Dennis added. "The guilt is gone, the shame is gone."