By Mike McManus
Pastor Jay Dennis is not your usual pastor – quiet, modest and gentle. He’s loud, passionate and inspiring. He’s been successful. In 1999 he led a revival that so grew his church in Lakeland, Florida that he moved the congregation into the civic center of an old mall.
In 2010 a woman came to Pastor Jay to say, “I am concerned about my husband who is struggling with pornography, and I have a friend who is as well.”
Pastor Jay replied, “There are great resources available. People in the church are the people of hope who have faith, love, and who have every reason to believe we are on the winning side. The revival needs to start in the church with pornography-free living.”
Later he told his congregation, “To those in the church – it is time to have a revival of purity!” Applause erupted as he recounted those words last month at a conference to fight Sex Exploitation.
He continued his story: “The pure in heart will see God. We will experience God’s work in men and women in 2010. I will ask you to bow your heads and close your eyes if you are struggling with pornography.” He brought in a huge pink elephant, saying “Pornography is the pink elephant in the church, but no one wants to talk about it.”
Pastor Jay then made an extraordinary request – that those “who are committed to having a porn-free life – to come forward and make that pledge. This is not just signing a creed. It is a surrender controlled by the Holy Spirit, a spiritual discipline.
“We will put your names on a wall in the foyer of our church, if you are making a porn-free commitment.” He made the same request three Sundays in a row. “I asked men and their sons to come forward.” One of the boys who did so in the previous year had seen his dad hang himself in the back yard, due to his addiction.
Today there are 2,376 names on that wall.
At a Morality in Media conference near Washington DC he recounted asking 1,000 Baptist pastors what percentage of men in their congregations were struggling with pornography. A surprising 62% put the figure at only 10%, while only 4% said that half or more men are addicted.
“Until we begin to understand the problem, we will not affect the culture at large,” he asserted. Sadly, only 4% of pastors came up with the correct number. Half of men are addicted to pornography – and a surprising 20% of women!
Pastor Jay was challenged by John Maxwell to “put your dreams to the test.” He was asked to quantify his dream. In the last week of November, 2010 he dared spell out his dream that “one million men will commit to pornography free lives.”
So far, 23,000 have done so on line. (Any interested reader can make the pledge by going to www.Join1MillionMen.org.)
Pornography is a battle the church must fight. According to divorce attorneys, nearly two-thirds of divorces involve pornography addiction. After years of slightly declining divorces in America, they have grown in the last few years by 100,000 to 1.2 million according to the Census. There are only 2.2 million marriages. So America’s divorce rate has risen from 50% to 55%.
“This is a winnable battle,” declares Pastor Jay. His optimism seems belied by the fact that in three and a half years, only 20,000 men outside his church have signed up. He is right that “The church has the message of transformation through the Gospel. People can change their lives. We have a real message of hope.”
However, the church must be clear about the threat of pornography, and many clergy must begin preaching the sort of message Pastor Jay has challenged his church to consider.
Many of them are genuinely unaware of the scale of the problem in the pews before them. I heard a recent sermon in my church on I Corinthians 6:18, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” Yet the word “pornography” was never mentioned.
Pastor Jay cited Ephesians 6:12 that the battle is not “against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Ask your pastor to preach on pornography which is today’s ruler of darkness for tens of millions, crippling their lives and their families.
Copyright © by Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.