The Collapse of a Pastor into Pornography
The message of the email was unmistakable: a simple click on the link would open up a world of electrifying erotica.
In spite of the fact that Pastor Mel hadn’t even seen a Playboy magazine since his teenage years, the pull was tremendous. Curiosity about what he might see escalated as adrenaline shot through his being. Rather than quickly deleting the unwanted solicitation and calling his wife about it, he hesitated. The cursor seemed to take on a mind of its own as it slid across the screen to the link. There it parked for several terrible seconds as his index finger hovered over the mouse.
As the battle between good and evil raged within him, he frantically reminded himself that there would be a price to pay. But his feeble arguments and best intentions crumbled under the force of the temptation. Mel’s shaking finger slowly descended. His eyes unconsciously squeezed shut as if about to witness some horrible scene. The click of the button brought a grimace across his face which quickly gave way to a sense of exhilarating relief that the battle was over.
As he opened his eyes, a delicious world of evil came into view. He had sunk his teeth into the forbidden fruit and found it to be everything it had promised to be. For hours he raced through websites—typing in every obscene term his imagination could conceive. The dam gates had burst open and now nothing was taboo.
Eventually, the lust drained from his body and Mel shut down his computer in stunned silence. He was emotionally and physically spent. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. He had opened a Pandora’s Box that would not easily be shut again.
In spite of the fact that he was finding less and less satisfaction from his newfound love, Mel could not seem to stop his behavior. The following months became the darkest period of his life. It seemed as though something evil had come into his being and perhaps it did. The eyes that once sparkled with the luster of sincerity became increasingly dulled by the deadening effects of sin.
What brought about this pastor’s fall from grace? Worldliness, plain and simple.
The Well Worn Path to Destruction
As a young man, Mel had a dramatic conversion. He was “on fire for the Lord,” and, at his pastor’s suggestion, was soon packing his bags for Bible college.
However, to his surprise, the other kids at school didn’t share his enthusiasm. In fact, they seemed calloused to spiritual things. For instance, when he attempted to share his excitement over the things of God, they would roll their eyes and say things like, “This too will pass.” He was informed that he needed to learn how to be “balanced.”
Over time their deadening influence had its effect. He began dabbling in some of his old hobbies. The old idols of sports, television and video games gradually reclaimed their former position in his heart. Nothing dampens a love for God like the charms of the world.
By the time he graduated from Bible college, he had become thoroughly indoctrinated in a religious system where holiness, humility and love for God take a backseat to outward success. Mel didn’t realize that what he had enlisted in was a hybrid of Christianity and the American culture. I touched on this in my book, ‘Intoxicated with Babylon’:
“We have created a gospel for our own culture, tailor-made to fit smugly within the confines of the American Dream. The old-fashioned Gospel we should preach has been altered just enough to agree with our busy schedules and myriad amusements. By emphasizing certain biblical teachings and, more importantly, neglecting others, we have managed to create a whole new gospel that fits our American lifestyle.
“Tragically, our rendition of Christianity makes no demands, expects no sacrifice, and yields no eternal rewards. The Lion of Judah has been anesthetized, de-clawed, and tamed. We have reduced the Almighty to a harmless icon we passively honor in our busy lives. The vision of a Holy God, a Consuming Fire, a Judge who will one day render unto every man his just reward has virtually vanished out of the American Church.”
Fifteen Years Later
Although his passion for God had subsided, Mel proved to be a good student of the system. After a couple of stints as a youth pastor he received his first call as a senior pastor. Applying church growth techniques to his new pastorate, his congregation began to swell. He became comfortably settled into the ministry. In short, he became a professional.
He didn’t set out with insincere motives; he just got caught up in the flow of a system that left him feeling spiritually empty and “burned out” by the time he was forty. Demanding parishioners, a hectic schedule, pressure to perform, and his own ambition for success all combined to intensify his stress. Rather than getting away for extended periods of seeking the Lord, he increasingly turned to the world for relief. During his typical day at the office, he would often steal opportunities to surf news and sports sites on the Internet. Driving to appointments became opportunities to listen to Rush Limbaugh. Many off-nights at home were spent in front of the television.
Mel well understood the implications of Galatians 6:7-8: “…whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption...” He could quote it verbatim and had preached on it more than once. Yet, he never connected his own growing sense of spiritual dryness and lack of power to the worldly amusements with which he regularly rewarded himself.
He didn’t realize that every time he turned on the TV, opened a magazine, surfed the Internet or listened to talk radio he was making provision for the flesh; in other words, providing for its sustenance, keeping it alive and healthy. He wasn’t taking into account that every spiritual leak he allowed was draining away precious spiritual life he could ill afford to lose. He was oblivious to the fact that the seeds of corruption he was sowing into his life were about to bear an abundant harvest of rotten fruit. A dark corruption was silently invading his heart.
Mel thought that because he had faithfully maintained his devotional life that he was filled with the Spirit. But the truth was that his personal time with God had long since lost its vitality. Bible study mostly consisted of searching for sermon material. His prayers were self-oriented, and subsequently powerless. His fervent sounding pleadings for revival in church were simply the emotional chatter of a frivolous man, not the God-moving, earnest supplications of an authentic intercessor.
The power to resist temptation is promised to those who “walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16) But there is no such promise extended to the one who has abandoned godliness in favor of carnality. “Bouncing eyes,” Internet filters and accountability partners won’t help a person whose godly foundation has disintegrated and whose spiritual defenses have been compromised.
Pastor Mel’s downfall underscores the fact that one doesn’t lose a war overnight; rather, the war is lost through an accumulation of defeats in the daily life. However, it would be superficial to see Mel’s indulgence in pornography as the real calamity of his life. While this man maintained the exterior image of a godly pastor, the truth was that in his inner life he had long since sold out to the prince of this world.
A Modern Spiritual Catastrophe
Undoubtedly, there are many pastors in America who are secretly addicted to pornography or other immoral behaviors. This is a spiritual catastrophe which warrants our greatest concern.
However, even more alarming is the level of interaction that takes place and the degree of familiarity that exists between the post-modern Church and the world. How can the kingdom of light—that place of holiness, purity, and truth—co-exist with the unholy, impure, deceptive kingdom of darkness? They are two different kingdoms—eternally separated.
One might wonder how many ministry leaders will one day hear the words of James as a terrible pronouncement over their lives: “Whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 AMP) May God help each of us to examine our lives in the light of such solemn words.
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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