Thinking About Porn in Church

August 1, 2012

Have you ever daydreamed in church?

Sure you have.  We all have.  A prayer or a sermon goes a little long, and pretty soon, minds start wandering.

There’s little harm done by a little daydreaming.  But what happens when the daydream turns into a fantasy?

I should just start a series on this.  Because first it was prosperity preaching, and then it was leadership.  I’m pretty certain I’ve found another kind of Christian “porn.”  It runs rampant.  There are millions of Christians addicted to it.  We think about it at home.  We fantasize about it in church.  We celebrate it on blogs.  My God, do we celebrate it on blogs.  If I were a non-Christian dropped into Christian blog-land on any given day, I can’t say there would be much of a chance that I’d ever set foot in a church, seeing what Christians think of it.

Christians are addicted to church porn.  And it’s wrecking our appetities for the real thing.  It’s not just about big light and sound shows either.  The problem is everywhere.

Here we go…

Thinking About Porn in Church

So you’re sitting there in church, and the music starts up.

“This music kind of sucks,” you think to yourself.  “I’m just not feeling this ‘worship.’  Why can’t we have better music, like that other church?”

Then the pastor starts talking.

“I wonder if anyone will notice I’m listening to a better sermon on podcast on my iPhone…”

You greet a few people.

“Gross.  These people are so judgmental and small-minded.  The people at that other church are probably way better.”

If you want to write a blog about why church sucks, you’ll find no shortage of fans.  Everyone has an ideal church.  For some of us, it’s an actual church.  For others, it’s just an idea.  It’s the church you wish you could go to.  And invariably, the church we’re stuck at doesn’t measure up.  None of them do.  Before you know it, you’ve spent your time at church fantasizing about how your church doesn’t suit you, instead of, you know, worshipping.

That’s church porn.  Fantasizing about how the church should look: an ideal, perfectly shaped, airbrushed-by-your-mind church.

Your Pastor Does It Too

Guess what?

Your pastor has fantasized about church porn too.  Maybe while he was writing the sermon you’re daydreaming during, his mind wandered a bit.

“I wouldn’t mind writing yet another sermon if I had people who weren’t so stubborn.  They’ll probably forget what I say by Tuesday.”

“That other church has no shortage of volunteers.”

“I’ve got to get better musicians like that church over there.”

“I wish I sounded more like that other pastor.”

Pastors aren’t stupid.  Most of them are honest.  Every way that you know your church doesn’t measure up, your pastor knows too.  He knows it intimately.  And his ego is fragile, and tied to every shortcoming of the church, which are many.  He knows this isn’t everything the church should be.  He knows the church is an ugly mess, and this isn’t what Jesus’ intended.  He might be fantasizing even more than you do about his ideal church.

When the Fantasy Takes Over

I have a super easy church right now.  And I have been in churches that made it easy to get lost in a fantasy about a better, more beautiful place, with better, more beautiful people.  And I have fantasized about being a far more beautiful pastor.

But perfect churches don’t exist.  My easy church isn’t perfect.  “Perfect” churches are porn.  They aren’t real.  Real people have flaws and so do churches.  And the more you look at porn, or fantasize about church porn, the easier it is to blame real people for not looking like your fantasy.  It’s easy to get angry and complain because they won’t do what your fantasy church does.  It’s easy to withdraw from reality and spend more and more time with your fantasy, and justify yourself because reality sucks so much.

And pretty soon, the real thing doesn’t arouse you anymore.  You have to have the fantasy.  It takes over.

And that’s totally different from trying to transform the shabby, ugly church we’re stuck with into the body of Christ.  Telling a woman she’s ugly doesn’t make her any more beautiful.

That’s that.  What say you?  Are we doing the church any good by saying it sucks?  Are we justified in withdrawing from church because it will never measure up to the ideal?  What’s your go-to church fantasy?

24 responses to Thinking About Porn in Church

  1. Excellent post, Matt!

    I love creating church porn; that is why I write about it! I want my porn to be so seductive that other Christians caught in the trap of going through the motions, the conference addicts, the unsaved get so into what I write that they cross over the line and do it! A place where the fantasy of being so in love with Jesus becomes the reality Yes, I want them to prophesy for real not just read horoscopes! I want them to have hope in desperate situations! I want them flow with the Spirit of God, to heal the sick and see blind eyes opened. And I want them to BE the church, not go to church! Oh, and that they would love the unlovable, have wisdom in addiction and peace during trials… but that’s my fantasy, I guess God wants them going to church forgetting what they heard by Tuesday and bickering over whether Obama is a Muslim or a Christian.

  2. Great post! It really got me thinking. I believe there is a version of “Church porn” in everything we do. We always have an idea of the way we think things ought to be, whether it is our church, job, spouse, etc. If we focus too much on that, it can dilute our thinking and ruin our relationships

    • You’re right – there’s always that “ideal” that can never really be reached. I think the distinction happens when the fantasy takes over and we start demanding the world live up to our unrealistic expectations. It gives us the perfect excuse to place blame on everyone but ourselves.

  3. Awesome post! God’s church has always been a church of grace, not of perfection.

    • I think about Lewis’ ‘Screwtape Letters’ where he describes how a subject should be tempted to not see the church as God sees it, but as a shabby building with sinful neighbors with oily expressions, squeaky shoes and off tune singing voices.

  4. The only “fantasy” church we NEED to focus on – daily- is the Biblical model, found in John 17, and in Acts 2, showing Jesus’ prayer for His Body and what the early Church was like. This will ignite us to action not fraction, and get our eyes off ourselves and our felt needs.

  5. Once again, you make me think, which is why I read your blog in the first place. Thank you.

  6. That’s some tough love! I currently really enjoy my church, but since we recently moved to WA, we haven’t been there long enough to discover “issues” which, of course, there are some because we are only human. I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past, though. Shoot, the last town we lived in, most of the Christians church hopped every few months because of one thing or another. No church was good enough.

    • And the problem with that is they never stick around long enough to affect any change! They are just able to keep their hands clean and look down their noses at everyone and their inferior churches.

    • Church hopping is akin to job hopping. People leave for a perceived benefit somewhere else. The discontent is actually bread into the structure of the American church (and other places as well); it’s called the corporate structure. The Bible is pretty clear about who is involved (Eph 4), and what the do (1 Cor 12, 13, & 14). But it is easier for us to make God not to spooky and just have our worship, announcements, sermon and coffee time.

      Instead of participating, the discontents go somewhere else trying to find significance and level of participation that makes them feel significant to God.

  7. Right on point! And so many of us have fallen into this addiction that we’ve lost sight of the WORK it takes to create anything close to that ideal. Like with any relationship, the faults are a part of what gives us reason to continue working for Better! A truly enjoyable read!

  8. Matt, I love how you think. As a pastor, I can vouch for your point: we do it, too. Our church values theology, but we’re pretty “woo-woo,” and sometimes I’ve imagined how nice it must be to work at a church that has the perfect mix of “spirit and truth.” As if there is a perfect mix…

  9. As a woman and a feminist, I’m not sold on your equation of this kind of escapist church fantasizing with porn. Pornography has a specifically sexualizing and objectifying mission that involves much more than just taking the viewer/user out of their current reality and fantasizing about air-brushed perfection. It manipulates the actual body and physiological responses. Porn addiction is a serious issue that isn’t being addressed at all in the liberal church, and it needs to be. But I’m a gal who appreciates wake-’em-up hyperbole, and you’ve certainly achieved that here.

  10. I’m totally guilty of this. The ideal church is a beautiful thought, but the church is a whore and pretty selfish, perhaps in embracing these two aspects we could more readily fall to our knees. My ideal church: the kind that knows what she is.

  11. The diversity of the Body of Christ is a tricky thing. On the one hand, having so many denominations and sizes and worship styles and … allows us to find a place that is a great fit for who God made us to be, both to worship and to serve. On the other hand, it feeds the already consumer-driven souls of American Christians. We are used to having choice everywhere. We buy a new shirt, love it, and within a few days, start fascinating about the next purchase we want to make. We fall into discontent so, so easily.

    There is something good about looking for a new church when we find our theology just doesn’t match. There is a biblical framework for people disagreeing while still supporting each other’s ministries, like when Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, or when Jesus gives us instructions on how to handle disagreements.

    Yet… we have such a lack of stick-with-it-ness. Every church is made up of sinners. The weaving together of our brokenness is part of the beauty the Church is meant to offer the world. A model of people who make mistakes, don’t agree, have different preferences and personalities, but yet are bonded by a Truth, Love, and Grace that extends beyond our desires to have all our desires met.

  12. Ive struggled with church porn for the longest, and it has caused me to humble myself (which is a journey in and of itself). There is definitely a place for critiquing the church, but in a firm believer that if you’re going to complain, you need to have a solution to offer, because it’s too easy to sit back and be critical. That doesn’t add any value. True story: I’ve been humbling myself and came to church with a good attitude. I really enjoyed the service (crazy I know; worship God with a humble spirit and listen with an open heart), and then the pastor starts in on politics. Is that a hill to die on? Or do I continue to humble myself even though the pulpit at church is increasingly being used to promote a certain candidate/party? I come to church to fellowship and hear teaching on God’s word outside of my own time in the Bible. If I want politics, I can turn on the tv to the political flavor of choice.

  13. I don’t want to go to a perfect church, I would throw off the curve. The great thing about being a follower of Christ is that you have to start from the position that on your own you are not good enough, that you need Christ and each other.

    Love the post bruddah, keep ’em thought provoking.

  14. There’s no perfect church, and we need to be content where God calls us. We can effect change and at the same time learn something, even if it’s just patience and humility.
    But as individuals, and by extension the Church at large, we’re called to come out of complacency, to embrace everything God has for us. I don’t have to look far (um, my own life) to see the huge discrepancy between what is and God’s vision for his Bride. What’s critical here is not pointing fingers at the system or the people, but being willing to let God begin change with me.

  15. Personally can’t relate to this one. I’ve always lived in the reality that we are all sinful and the church is just made up of sinful people with many faults. I think I’ve always had a pretty good idea of what church is and what it is not. I’ve never been in a situation where I am “stuck” with a certain church. Most people try different churches and decide where they fit in. So, I’ve never experienced being in a church that I didn’t like. And I doubt any of my pastors have thought the thoughts you’ve mentioned. Of course, they see everything and have to deal with a multitude of different people, which can get frustrating at times, but I’m sure none of them have ever fantasized about their church being like some other church..And I have known most of my pastors on a personal level. I just feel like the picture you are painting is one of some very insecure people and not really a true picture. Most committed Christians are not insecure, but actually very stable, mature people. I would hate for people outside the church to picture Christians in this way….