No matter who invented the Internet it is a powerful tool for good. As you read you are taking advantage of the wonder of the Internet. Wherever you are in the world you are viewing an article written by a person in North Central Montana and posted on a server at an unknown location by a Web Master in Southern California and it is immediately available to you. Amazing.
The Internet is astonishing but is also a problem. No good tool seems to be free of abuse and nothing creates more challenges for ministry professionals, their families and their ministries than the Internet. On-line pornography, time wasting games, chat rooms, dating services and a variety of other tempting Internet offerings stream endlessly into clergy offices. One author calls on-line porn the crack cocaine of sex addiction. The substance on the screen is constantly inexpensively available and once hooked whether pastor or parishioner becoming free is less likely with each use. Easily available, highly addictive. Crack for clergy. The available statistics are staggering.
Clergy Internet use begins with the enormous waste of precious pastoral hours. Unchecked it ends with a pastor’s self respect dismantled, his career in the proverbial toilet and his relationships in shambles. The darkness and rapidity of the descent into illicit on-line use is powerfully present in clergy ranks.
One pastor hooked on porn told CRN, “I am the darling in my denomination and if anyone ever finds out about my pornography use I will be tossed to the curb.” He went on to say, “I have always been the pure one, the one with the answers, the one who could be trusted but this stuff on the Internet has taken charge of my life in less than six months.” His telling the truth was the beginning of lasting change but his rapid descent into darkness and his fear of discovery is as common as communion in churches today.
Material once only obtainable in seedy sex shops is now accessible in unlimited quality and variety in the privacy of the pastoral study. A progressively destructive pornography addiction has all the increasingly problematic content necessary to allow the enslaving hooks to sink deeper and deeper without others knowing or suspecting. The accessibility and availability of pornography, escort contact and chat rooms entice lonely isolated Clergy who would never have dared to risk reputations and careers by going to the wrong part of town to search for a more powerful hit. For too many pastors, the wonder of computer technology has become the ever present dealer of illicit substances. Pursuing a porn hit with increasing punch has progressively ensnared wonderful pastors in every denomination.
Several factors compound the pastor’s potential improper use of the Internet. For example, most professionals are not afforded the uninterrupted time alone behind closed doors pastors are. Clergy persons are supposed to study in secure seclusion. Uninterrupted time alone creates tempting vulnerability for the unsuspecting pastor. Most Christian organizations are naive about their leader’s use of the Internet too. This naivete leads to less policies than safer norms dictate and also creates less care than normal through screening, monitoring and protecting ministry employees from Internet abuse. Despite all the media attention regarding the dangers of on-line pitfalls it is hard for most ministry boards and Church staff leaders to construct the policy and technical safeguards other organizations build. We have all heard of ministry leaders who got caught looking at porn on-line but it is hard for us to imagine our chosen ministry leader looking at porn. If you are a person who influences church policy on this matter and wish to consult with Dale W regarding this go to I Need Help and let Dale know what you need.
In addition to the dangerous exposure mentioned above, Pastors are also more susceptible to Internet sexual abuse than most other professionals because of the current dysfunctional nature of ministry systems. Go to Hooked on Sex to read about seven reasons why clergy are more sorely tempted sexually than others. Isolation, lack of friends, arrogance, etc. are Achilles heels toward which the Internet hurls its arrows.
Pastor, if the Internet has its hooks in you and you are wondering what to do we invite you to go to I Need Help and gain confidential help regarding your Internet use. You deserve all the grace and help you can give yourself on this issue. Taking steps before being found out greatly increases the likelihood of your whipping this powerful trap. You and the Lord are not likely to solve it on your own or you would not be reading this. Courageous honesty will free you. Go for it.
But, you may be asking, “Will my wife have to know?” If this is your concern we will do all we can to interact with you to help you deal with your struggles and help you determine if you should tell, how you should tell and when you should tell. Facing this alone can be overwhelming and overly fearful. We will help you and stand with you. Hope will grow as you take steps toward help, even if the steps are baby steps.
You are not sure you are entangled in the Internet in an addictive way? Please take the on-line test regarding sexual issues. The test results will be available to you immediately and you will have more information with which to seek help. We urge you to shake off the embarrassment of the Internet chains and take at least the first step toward real freedom. Go to Finding Help and begin telling the truth confidentially. You can be set free.
Want computer protection which works? At CRN all of the office and personal computers are protected by Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is an inexpensive software which keeps track of every site you visit and sends the report of your visits to your chosen partner. It alerts your partner to the sites visited which it considers objectionable and serves to allow you all the freedom you would enjoy on the Internet with a friend sitting next to you in your office. It works. Go to Covenant Eyes to sign up today. It is inexpensive. If you lack a person to serve as your partner (we do not suggest your spouse be your partner) you can go to I Need Help, contact Dale Wolery and see if he will serve as your partner or suggest someone for you. This fine tool of course keeps track of the time spent on the Internet too and can help with all issues related to on-line use. Taking advantage of the tools available at Finding Help and Covenant Eyes could save your marriage and ministry. You should be proud of yourself for any step toward help you are bold enough to take. We are waiting to help.