Anti-pornography initiative launched at SBC
HOUSTON (BP) -- An initiative seeking commitments from 1 million men to live pornography-free lives was launched at the SBC annual meeting June 11-12 in Houston.
Named "Join One Million Men," the initiative calls Christian men to commit to sexual purity and, specifically, to protect themselves and their families from the devastation caused by pornography. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) jointly sponsored the initiative along with Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla.
"Internet pornography is the perfect trap because it hooks men and then men don't know what to do," Dennis told Baptist Press. "Even if they're wanting out of it, they don't know what to do, because if they tell anybody, there's jeopardy.
"I am hoping that this will be the launch, the discussion-starter for pastors to go back and start having some hard discussions with their men," Dennis said.
The Join One Million Men website (join1millionmen.org) includes a place for men to register their porn-free commitments as well as a place for women to register their commitments to pray for the purity of men in their lives.
Resources from the WMU's New Hope Publishing also are available at the site, including Dennis's book "Our Hardcore Battle Plan: Joining in the War against Pornography"; the companion volume for wives, "Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives: Winning in the War against Pornography" by Dennis and Cathy Dyer; and a mobile app for men that delivers daily Scriptures to their mobile devices to help in the fight against sexual sin.
The seeds of the initiative were planted in 2010 when Dennis compiled a notebook of material to help churches deal with pornography -- material that brought revival to families in his church when he had preached a sermon series confronting sexual sin two years earlier. Dennis showed the notebook to Richard Land, then-president of the ERLC, and Land said the material was exactly what he had been praying for.
Land said WMU was the only organization in Southern Baptist life "that [had] the mechanism and the communication apparatus" to launch a convention-wide anti-pornography initiative, Dennis recounted. So Land contacted WMU Executive Director-Treasurer Wanda Lee, and she agreed to support Join One Million Men.
Among the advocates of the initiative is Kevin Conrad, a member of First Baptist Church at the Mall. He helped staff the Join One Million Men booth in the SBC exhibit hall and shared with others his testimony of deliverance from pornography through the power of God's Word.
"I just simply went to the Word and bathed myself in the truth of God's Word that I can't be effective for Him if I'm tied down by the bondage of the lust of my heart," Conrad said, adding that accountability from his wife and others was a key part of his repentance.
Various Southern Baptist leaders endorsed Join One Million Men during the SBC annual meeting and auxiliary events:
-- Russell Moore, the ERLC's new president, said the anti-pornography initiative confronts a "crisis in our culture and also in the churches when it comes to pornography."
Viewing pornography is "an act of immorality with a digital prostitute," and "persistent, unrepentant pornography" viewing can be biblical grounds for divorce, according to the standard of Matthew 5:32, Moore said. But he stressed the need for grace and reconciliation in a marriage if the spouse viewing pornography repents.
Moore hopes that Join One Million Men will lead to reconciliation in many marriages.
"Because pornography is so sensitive and shameful and embarrassing, often people are reluctant to talk about it except in very abstract terms," Moore said. "And a pornography culture thrives in darkness and in hiddenness. So if it isn't addressed, those enslaved to it will simply hide, and their consciences will be further damaged."
-- Land called Join One Million Men "a Godsend" during the ERLC's report to the convention and expressed hope that every Southern Baptist church would use the resources produced by Dennis and New Hope. Land also spent time in the Join One Million Men booth talking to people individually about pornography.
"I believe that the devil has figured out that the greatest weapon in his arsenal to destroy families and to destroy lives in 21st-century America is hardcore Internet pornography," Land told messengers. "And it's time that we quit playing like ostriches with our heads in the sand and we understood it and we put on the whole armor of God to defend ourselves against the fiery darts of the evil one."
-- The WMU report to the SBC annual meeting focused on Join One Million Men, noting that it is a component of the WMU's larger three-year campaign against human exploitation.
WMU President Debby Akerman said 56 percent of divorces involve "one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites" and that more than $3,000 is spent each second on pornography.
"The church must be vigilant in the fight against pornography, demonstrating the power of God to redeem those who have been trapped in its grip," Akerman said.
Though it may seem strange that a women's mission organization is addressing pornography, Lee said sexual sin must be addressed before Southern Baptists can become optimally effective in reaching the world for Christ.
"If not WMU, then who? Who will [address pornography]?" Lee said. "For you see, [the apostle] Paul challenges us in Ephesians 4:1 to 'walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.'"
God "will join us in the campaign to bring all men and women, boys and girls into an awareness of the seriousness of this issue and the knowledge of God's love for all that He desires as we try to live a pure and worthy life of devotion to Him," Lee said. "Missions will not happen if we are not pure and holy before the Lord."
-- In a Pastors' Conference sermon, Matt Carter, pastor of Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, challenged pastors to love their wives and families.
In order to fulfill the 1 Timothy 3:2 requirement that a pastor be a "one-woman man," Carter recommended that ministers never travel alone, have protective software on their computers and phones and give their wives access to their email, phones, social media and financial records.
Dennis estimated that as many as 2,000 people visited the Join One Million Men booth during the Pastors' Conference and SBC annual meeting. Many pastors told of the pain pornography has caused in their congregations and expressed support for the initiative.
"I pray that this time next year, when we get to Baltimore, we will have known that the majority of pastors in this convention have at least started the discussion with their churches," Dennis said.
David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).