Hi Nathan, could you speak to the prevalence of pornography, and how this is affecting discipleship and evangelism? Do you see any silver linings to how God’s redemptive work in this dark area might open up people to the gospel?
Thanks for the great question.
Pornography is indeed prevalent. Through different means, whether it be smartphones or other easy-access modes of technology, the watching of pornography has become normalized.
Here are a few thoughts.
We need God.
It might be easy to miss, but the struggle that many face with pornography highlights the need for God. Just in the last year, I have been at events at which students have asked me to pray for God to help them to stop watching pornography. Of course, there can be layers and great complexity to how one becomes free from this. But the very encouraging point here is that, more often than not, the people with whom I have spoken are expressing their need for God.(ie: silver lining here.) Sadly, myriads upon myriads do not actually feel or express a need for God. What I have found is that in our culture where the conversation around sex and relationships has become so muddled, people who want to be free from pornography understand and feel their need for God. As Christians, we need to be sensitive and thoughtful in how we respond in these conversations. But make no mistake, if you ever have a conversation with a person struggling with pornography, introducing them to Jesus Christ might just be the best news they have ever heard.
From an apologetics standpoint, since pornography has become so mainstream/normalized, there might be many contexts in which it might be helpful to ask clarifying questions about what we think to be right and wrong. What used to be deemed flat out wrong in our culture has slowly become acceptable or ‘okay for them’. This provides us with the possibility to have deeply meaningful conversations in which we discuss the nature of morality.(ie: what is right and what is wrong) Of course, how we approach these conversations is shaped by the context, so let me make one suggestion. Since the topic of morality is contentious and often disagreed about, do engage the topic, but start by asking questions. (ie: Questions like "What do you think about that? “Do you think that is okay?” “Where does it come to the point at which we say something is wrong?” can be a helpful start.)
This is a spiritual discipline.
It is helpful to remember that meaningful conversations of faith/effective evangelism are not dependent upon our intellectual prowess! The Lord uses what we have, so we do need to put in the time to think, read and prepare intellectually. But we need to have these conversations immersed in prayer. We need to ask the Lord for (a) courage to obey and engage well, (b)wisdom to know when to listen and when to speak. Amazingly, God uses us in these conversations of faith, but it is helpful to remember that in the midst of our intellectual preparation, we need to have our answers immersed in prayer.
I hope this helps. We are only scratching the surface.