The Harvest is Plentiful, but the Laborers are Addicted to P*rn: Part 1
You’re in the middle of a pandemic that’s about to get worse if something is not done, and I’m not talking about coronavirus.
Boredom is one of the most common emotional triggers for porn use. Those who are isolated are much more likely to struggle, and we’re all isolated to some degree right now.
When a college student goes home for an extended period of time, they binge on it more frequently.
With millions of college students quarantined at home, bored, and isolated, it is the perfect storm for indulging in pornography. However, this quarantine is also an opportunity to address the porn issue our students face with real solutions and find freedom!
“Hey man, I’m Tyler. I work with athletes here and help them understand God better to become the ‘Total Athlete.’ I know you’re looking at porn and if that’s something you ever want to defeat, I’d love to share more of my story and how you can do that.”
Honestly, I’ve woven those lines into my initial conversation with guys for years on the University of Arkansas campus. Take a guess how many guys have responded “Wait, I don’t look at porn.” Spoiler alert: it’s ZERO!
Porn use doesn’t disqualify students from serving God, but it does limit their leadership and changes how we lead them to serve. When it comes to leadership positions, we either need to lower our standards or find a way for potential leaders to find freedom. I choose the latter and will share some success stories!
We assume guys are not just looking at porn but are addicted to it. Smart phones have changed the game, giving instant access to pornography anytime, anywhere. In the past, we had to hide magazines and sneak into shady parts of video stores. Now, I’ve seen guys watching porn websites in airports, walking to class, and our students talk about seeing it in class and locker rooms.
I feel if Jesus were here today, he would have compassion on us and maybe state, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are enslaved to porn.”
The Apostle Paul might say, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? How are they to be sent when they’re addicted to porn?”
If these paraphrases seem extreme, look at some survey results from The Freedom Fight, an organization devoted to equipping us all to win the battle for sexual purity. In the survey, 700 Christian college men from over thirty different campuses across the country were asked about their porn use. The men were all involved in a campus ministry, and all considered their faith to be a vital element in their lives. The results are alarming!
Of these practicing Christians, 9 out of 10 watch porn. 71% watch porn monthly. More than half watch porn at least weekly.
Here are the Christian college men’s stats:
- 62% doubted their faith because of their porn use and inability to stop.
- 52% say it decreases their desire to serve spiritually.
- 80% experience self-hatred because of their porn habit.
- 6 out of 10 said it damaged relationships.
Equally alarming, the problem is not just men. The Freedom Fight’s Survey of over 500 Christian women from over thirty campuses across the U.S. showed that nearly half are watching porn.
24% of these women watch porn monthly or more. These aren’t just any college women. These women are involved in campus ministry, and many of them are in leadership positions. Though their faith is important to them, pornography is also a part of their lives. Because this can be seen as “a guy’s issue,” the shame and secrecy are even greater among females.
The survey showed how porn use impacted practicing Christian young women and their faith:
- 6 out of 10 said watching pornography decreased their desire to read or study God’s word.
- 2 out of 3 said watching pornography decreased their desire to serve in spiritual leadership.
- 8 out of 10 said they always or usually experienced self-hatred after using porn.
- More than half of these women say they have doubted their faith because of their porn use or the inability to stop.
Fight! Getting students back to the Great Commission
Helping people overcome the crippling effects of porn use is a key to fulfilling the Great Commission. This lasso of addiction is tying men and women down and keeping them from fulfilling God’s mandate to make disciples of all nations. We must teach students how to fight this enemy. When they learn the tools they need, their guilt and shame will be lifted and replaced with love and mercy.
So what do we do? Internet filters alone aren’t the answer. (There are simple ways around them.) Accountability partners alone haven’t worked. (Guys just lie to each other for a number of reasons.) I’ve found The Freedom Fight app to be the best. Author and speaker, Josh McDowell, says “My team has evaluated over 100 different porn addiction recovery resources, and they have concluded that the Freedom Fight is the best online addiction program in the world.”
I’ll use one of my groups as a case study. Last semester, I had four athletes from the same team going through The Freedom Fight. In the beginning, one was hopelessly lost in daily porn use. Another was frustrated with a few days of sobriety and the inevitable relapse. One was prideful in his freedom from porn but habitually in sexual relationships with girls. The last guy was apathetic toward his porn use.
None of these students were regularly sharing their faith, and I know now it’s because they felt like hypocrites. These guys wanted to grow spiritually and wanted to be seen as growing spiritually, so they felt confessing porn contradicted growth.
I realized something in those early conversations. Our students feel they’re losing the battle, but they don’t realize they’re winning the war. I tell them “Christ, confession, and community is winning the war no matter how many battles you lose.” Say that to a student battling pornography and watch the weight of a thousand videos be lifted off of them instantly. Watch them open up more often and honestly.
We met twice a week; once for Bible study and once for confession and equipping in the fight. Once they realized all their peers are struggling, and that God not only still loves them but likes them, they started to see themselves as the “Avengers” of their generation-not just steering clear of porn but fighting against it for the sake of everyone around them. One of the guys told me, “Tmac, I want to take down the whole porn industry. It makes me sick they’re making millions off of kids like me when I was eleven.” He’s even led a guy to the Lord and is discipling him. Mr. Apathy became open with his sin and is now having spiritual conversations with guys on his team who won’t talk to anyone else. Another has transferred and has already started a Bible study on his new team, is sharing his faith, and continuing the fight with a new group of guys. The last guy is a workhorse for Jesus and is now addicted to serving him more. He finds himself often more frustrated at a missed chance to share his faith than frustrated at a relapse. When guys get in the fight, they get on mission.
Let me tell you what’s unique about the The Freedom Fight app. You may have heard the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. The app gives connection when you’re apart with daily check ins. There’s an “I’m triggered” button which immediately sends notifications to your group so they can reach out to you. You’ll learn about the FASTER scale which can predict a relapse a week ahead of time by monitoring your past check ins and feelings. With one guy, we noticed a trending relapse on Saturday nights, and some adjustments on Friday and Saturday were all that were needed for victory. The app features videos showing proven principles for recovery. We watch one of the 5-7 minute videos together and discuss each meeting. We confess sin and speak the truth of God’s Word over each other. I tell everyone I can about The Freedom Fight, because it’s the best resource I’ve seen for college students, and IT’S FREE!
I’ve found groups are more likely to be open with each other than one-to-one accountability. One-to-one, someone may lie about their porn use and then neither person feels freedom to share. In a group of 4-6, it only takes one person strong enough to be honest to open the floodgates of confession and freedom. Online communities like The Endurance are making it easier for guys to connect who are committed to not fighting alone. Resources specifically geared for women are harder to find, but here are some options. BeggarsDaughter.com, TheGraceSpot.com, and The Desire Series by Cru are other great resources.
Years ago, I wrote an article giving 10 reasons why students won’t share the gospel. If I could write it again, the number one reason would be pornography. If we’re going to be obedient to the Great Commission, we cannot overlook the very thing keeping our disciples from running with endurance the race set before them (Hebrews 12:1). Let us point our students to Christ’s finished work on the cross, the current mission we joyfully receive, and the future glory that awaits us.
The Freedom Fight 30 Day Challenge is a powerful solution to keep students connected to God, truth and one another while equipping them to walk in freedom from porn and other unwanted sexual behaviors.