Editor's note: Recently the Ministry editorial office received this letter—the copy of an original addressed to a specific Seventh-day Adventist Conference administration. We hope that publishing it in Ministry will contribute to our awareness of the serious personal and corporate challenge it identifies.
Dear Conference President, Secretary, and Ministerial Director, I need your help.
I am a pastor in your conference, and I am addicted to pornography. In fact, as I write this, I just spent the past hour looking at porno graphic Web sites. I feel ashamed and guilty, but I can't stop. I've tried many times, but to no avail. Ellen White's words, in Steps to Christ, ring very true to me, when she says, "Our resolutions are like ropes of sand." I need help.
You probably saw or heard about the recent issue of Newsweek, in which a prominent Adventist pastor came for ward to talk about his struggle with this addiction (Newsweek, April 12, 2004, "Preachers and Porn"). As I read his story, I admired his courage, his willingness to do something about his problem after 20 years of addiction. I wished I had the same courage.
The article mentioned studies that show that 40 percent of pastors admit to having viewed pornographic Web sites. 1 imagine the number is actually considerably higher. This fact will tell you that this problem is not in somebody else's conference it is right here in ours. I may pastor a large church, or a district. I may be an associate pastor, a youth pastor, or work in the conference office. Whatever my situation, there is no doubt that there are others just like me in our conference.
I need you to understand some things about me. I love Jesus with all my heart. My church sees me as a spiritual leader. I love my ministry. I get excited about evangelism, soul-winning, equipping my members for service. I love my family dearly. Nobody looking on from my church or my home would know that I have this problem. Yet I feel empty.
I know that the Spirit's power is lacking in my ministry because of my sin. I often see Him working, doing mighty things in my congregation in spite of me, but I often wonder what He could do if this big sin wasn't standing in the way. I have prayed over and over again that God would take this from me, that He would remove the desire, but He has not yet done so. I am thankful for His mercy and His grace, and I know that where sin abounds, grace does much more abound, but I'm tired of sinning. I want to be free from this.
How can you help?
1. Recognize the problem. Please don't pretend this addiction doesn't affect your pastors. It does. Talk about it. Address the issue with love, mercy, and compassion at our minister's meetings. Let me know that I am not alone in my struggle.
2. Encourage your pastors to have an accountability partner. It may be another pastor in the conference, it may be a pastor from another denomination. I need to have someone who will hold me accountable, but who is in no way responsible for my employment. Some conferences have paid mileage for pas tors to get together with an accountability partner once a month. I know that finances are tight for many conferences right now, but please consider this.
3. Help me get free, anonymous help. A conference on the [United States] West Coast has addressed this issue by making arrangements with Christian counselors throughout their territory to provide counseling to workers, at the conference's expense. Each pastor is given a certain number of certificates, each good for one session. The pastor simply makes an appointment, turns in that certificate, and the counselor sends the bill to the conference. Nobody ever knows who used the certificate, other than the counselor. I believe that many of us would try to get help if we knew where to turn. Please help us by providing some sort of resource along this line.
4. Send out information about online ministries that deal with this. The Newsweek article referenced a site called <trueintimacy.org>. There are others as well, such as Net Accountability. There are filtered ISPs available, such as <AdventPoint.com>. Find out what resources are available here in our area, or over the Internet, and let us know about them.
Thank you for taking this seriously. I want to be the pastor and leader God wants me to be. Right now I am not. By taking some of these steps, or others you may feel would be helpful, you will strengthen me in my ministry, and thereby strengthen the work of God's church here in our conference. I pray for you daily, that you may have wisdom, supplied by God's Spirit, to address all the issues you face daily, including this one.
I remain humbly yours,
An anonymous pastor.