XXX Church – by Terry Mattingly

PHOENIX — Anyone with the nerve to create XXXChurch.com

is going to get attention, especially if they keep calling it “the No. 1

Christian Porn Site.”

“We’re No. 1 because there really isn’t a No. 2, which is a good

business plan if you think about it,” said Craig Gross, co-founder of

the ministry in Corona, Calif.

Two years ago, Gross and partner Mike Foster opened their first booth

at the Adult Video News trade show in Las Vegas, handing out

anti-porn brochures to hardcore consumers and sharing their faith

with porn stars and producers. The youth pastors took their wives as

chaperones and to take turns inside their church’s full-body rabbit

costume. The approach was goofy, but intrigued the Los Angeles Times,

ABC, Playboy and others.

This year XXXChurch.com teamed up with veteran pornographer James

DiGiorgio — producer of videos such as “The Sopornos #3” — to make

a surreal public service announcement called “Pete the Porno Puppet”

warning parents not to expose kids to explicit images. As it turns

out, “Jimmy D” is also a parent who worries about porn.

Now comes the hard part. Yes, the online ministry offers anonymous

education, counseling and prayer support. It has free X3Watch

software to help porn users form accountability groups. It has hip

media products for skeptics.

But a website is not enough, said Gross, speaking at the annual North

American Christian Convention. Sooner or later, church people will

have to talk about pornography.

Sadly, it’s easer to discuss God with porn stars than pornography

with many pastors.

Why? A poll by Leadership magazine found that four in 10 pastors with

Internet access had visited a porn site and more than a third had

done so in the previous year. Many skeptical pastors said those

numbers were too low.

“If 37 percent of our pastors are looking at this,” said Gross, “then

this is not a subject they’re going to feel comfortable with in the

pulpit. … Think about it. What is going through a pastor’s mind if

he wants to look at online porn before he preaches on Sunday morning?

What’s that all about?”

Many believers prefer to ignore such questions. Faced with a minister

who gets caught with porn, the typical church board will send the

offender packing — quickly. Yet this kind of zero tolerance policy

will drive other addicts deeper into fear and denial, said Gross.

“What the church keeps saying is, ‘Get out! We have no sin here,’ ” he said.

The goal is to take this secret sin seriously, while still offering

hope to broken people in pews and pulpits, said the Rev. Gary Rowe,

minister of pastoral care at the East 91st Street Christian Church in

Indianapolis. Nevertheless, churches that create ministries for those

struggling with pornography and other sexual sins will face unique

challenges.

For example, it’s hard to promote small-group sessions for porn

abusers without listing the times and locations in the weekly church

bulletin or on a web site, he noted, during another session at the

convention in Phoenix. This sensitive issue must be openly discussed

in the pulpit and in church education efforts, yet without violating

the privacy of those involved.

It’s also important to learn that the most effective ministry may not

begin with the men.

“We had eight guys come forward when we started this work,” said

Rowe. “But we immediately had calls from 100 women, looking for help

with a husband or a child who was involved with pornography. That

really impressed us.”

Gross agreed that wives almost always cry out for help before

husbands. It is also important for church leaders to ask questions

about pornography in premarital counseling and in parenting classes.

Youth pastors have to realize that the teen years are crucial, since

that is when most boys first come into contact with sexually explicit

media.

The trick is to pull this subject out into the open with little or no warning.

“You can’t come right out and say, ‘We’re having a men’s breakfast

and we’re going to talk about pornography,” said Gross. “Guess what?

If you do that, nobody’s going to be there. You are going to have

lots of pancakes left over. …

“We’re at the stage where you’re going to have to ambush people.”

Terry Mattingly (www.tmatt.net) teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic

University and is senior fellow for journalism at the Council for

Christian Colleges & Universities. He writes this weekly column for

the Scripps Howard News Service.

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