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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (FBW)—Pornography is the “pink elephant in the pew”—the embarrassing, big subject no one wants to talk about—and that silence is feeding a “bubonic plague” harming churches, Lakeland pastor Jay Dennis told state Baptist convention executive directors and editors Feb. 14 meeting in Oklahoma City.
“Our Enemy has found the perfect tool to deliver temptation to men—men who love God, men who love their wives, love their children, and love their churches,” said Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland. “Yet their involvement in looking at pornography has virtually duct-tapped their mouths closed and taken them out of spiritual leadership in the home and in the church.”
Dennis spoke to the state executives and editors at the invitation of John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, surveying the effort he began at First Baptist in 2009 that has become the “Join 1 Million Men” movement (www.Join1MillionMen.org), to be featured at the Southern Baptist Convention this year.
After his presentation, Dennis told Florida Baptist Witness he was burdened to address the issue—even though he didn’t want to—when a growing number of women in his church sought pastoral counsel for husbands and sons who were struggling with pornography.
“I resisted … because I knew that the spiritual warfare component of this would be immense—and it has been,” he said, citing multiple health challenges he has faced in the last three years.
Unable to find resources written from the perspective of a senior pastor that were sensitive and “grace oriented,” Dennis decided to research the issue and write his own materials for First Baptist Lakeland.
Dennis told the state executives and editors that too many pastors are “out of touch,” believing that pornography effects only a small percentage in their congregations. He cited a 2011 LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 pastors that found 62 percent of pastors believe less than 10 percent of men in their churches viewed pornography on a weekly basis. Dennis believes the figure is more like 80 percent.
Most churches, he said, respond to the problem of pornography by denying its reality, while others are aware of the problem but are not specifically dealing with it.
Instead, pastors must “admit there is a problem and urgently address” pornography by helping men overcome it, he said.
Dennis said pornography is the “pink elephant in the pew” because “we have a huge problem that is primarily directed at men’s attitudes toward women.”
He cited six characteristics that makes pornography “so dangerous”: it is accessible, affordable—in many cases free, anonymous, addictive, altering—changing how men view women, and creates amnesia.
“This is a winnable war, but we must act very quickly,” he said.
Dennis said the “God-sized project” of creating a campaign for churches of all sizes and denominations seeks to involve at least one million men to take a public stand against pornography—and one million women praying for men. The campaign is geared to Christian men, he said, because only through the power of the Holy Spirit can men overcome struggles with pornography.
Convinced he needed to address the problem in his church, Dennis said he attended the Institute for Sexual Wholeness in Atlanta where he earned a certification in sexual addictions. He wrote the initial materials and taught them to his men in the spring of 2010 during six Wednesday evening sessions.
“The response, honestly, surprised me,” he said, noting that after the third session he asked those who were struggling with pornography to stand while no one was looking. The noise of “theater seats flapping” constituted the “far majority,” by his estimation while not looking.
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