"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Pornography And A Private Prayer Language

A pastor sent me an email yesterday that contained a question he asked if I would answer. Since I serve the SBC at large as a trustee of the IMB, I feel it is appropriate for me to answer any and all questions that come my way. This pastor, who prefers to remain unidentified, wrote to me the following:

Dear Wade,

I just returned from a Regional Summit of the IMB at FBC Arlington. The closing panel asked for prayer that more men would become Journeymen, as presently women outnumber men 2 to 1. The startling fact was revealed that about 50% of male applicants are turned down . The primary reason is the use of internet porn. In fact, the problem is so pervasive that the application question has changed from "Have you ever used internet porn?" to "When was the last time you used internet porn?" A repentent attitude demonstrated by a significant time of "abstinence" would allow candidates to still be considered. I think this is a wise stance.

However, all this got me to thinking: You mean past use of internet porn won't bar you from the mission field, but a private prayer language will?


An Unnamed Pastor

Let me be the first to say that I am in complete agreement with the work of our candidate consultants of the IMB and the modification of the questionnaire regarding the past viewing of internet pornography. I have learned in over a quarter century of pastoring that some of the most valuable servants in the kingdom are those who have been truly broken of their private sins of the past.

However, the pastor's specific question to me was "You mean past use of internet porn won't bar you from the mission field, but a private prayer language will?"

I think it would be good to understand the new policy, adopted by a majority of the IMB trustees, but opposed by the IMB President, on November 15, 2005 regarding a 'private prayer language.' Point four of the new policy prohibiting a private prayer language states (emphasis mine):

In terms of general practice, the majority of Southern Baptists do not accept what is referred to as “private prayer language.” Therefore, if “private prayer language” is an ongoing part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.

The pastor's question seems to indicate he thought that somebody could serve as an IMB missionary having viewed pornography on the internet in years past, but a missionary candidate would be rejected if he had used a private prayer language in the past. In other words, he seemed to think viewing pornography was treated differently than using a private prayer language.

That's not so.

Viewing pornography and using a private prayer languages are treated the same. You may have viewed pornography on the internet in the past, and you may have prayed in a private prayer language in the past, but you must renounce both, in terms of 'conviction' (i.e. 'it is wrong') and in terms of practice (i.e. 'I will not do it again).

So, under the new policies both pornography and a private prayer language are seen as similar activities from which a candidate can be forgiven, redeemed, and ultimately restored. I am making no comment or statement in this post on whether or not these two activities should be treated the same, just an observation that they are treated the same as far as the screening process goes. Both pornography and a private prayer language are treated as activities from which a person must repent in order to serve as a Southern Baptist missionary.

I trust that answers the pastor's question.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Bill Scott said...

It seems crazy to compare and contrast a biblical gift with a satanic snare. I do see the validity of the question and understand the justification for both examples. I still just find it hard to believe that the use of a PPL would be as disqualifying as a satanic snare such as pornography.

Bill Scott

Wade Burleson said...

Bill, I think these are issues that all Southern Baptists should wrestle with before any of us just simply say, 'What's the big deal?'

Anonymous said...

That really stinks that the Apostle Paul wouldn't have been allowed to serve as a missionary for the SBC. God help this denomination.

TruthOfActs said...

“In the screening process both pornography and a private prayer language are treated as activities from which a person must repent in order to serve as a Southern Baptist missionary.”

If both of these are sins that must be repent of, why does the IMB NOT make present missionaries and the IMB president repent or be fired for having a private prayer language?

I never knew God allowed sin to be ‘grandfathered’ as OK. Is pornography also OK for present missionaries?
If not, the IMB not only will have to install a listening device in new missionary closets, but they will need an ‘inspection’ of all missionary computers for pornography.

What the IMB needs is a KGB, or has the IMB already surpassed that organization?

The more that man distrust the Holy Spirit to guide His workers, the higher the wall of rules he must make to keep sin out and prisoners within.
Rex Ray

bryan riley said...

Fantastic post, Wade, as you already know, because you are showing how the PPL policy of the IMB is equating faith in the gifts of God with conduct that falls short of the glory of God - i.e. sin. What causes great angst for me in seeing this equation is that it shows how frightening such policies and mandated doctrine can be. In essence, ultimately, when our doctrine does not match up with those in power, we can be declared sinners, heretics, and metaphorically, at least, burned at the stake.

TruthOfActs said...

Has God withdrawn the Holy Spirit from Southern Baptists?
The IMB must think so, because when you think it’s impossible to come up with one more limiting factor to cancel the call of God to a would be missionary—bingo.
The latest is pornography. To ask the question is an insult.

Anyone that can indulge in that degrading sin without grieving the Holy Spirit does not have Him.
If someone is answering the call of God, he has the Holy Spirit and to raise the question insults Him.

If that was not an insult enough, think how much an insult to the Holy Spirit it is to doubt Him giving the gift of a private prayer language.

To put God’s gift on the same level as pornography is the ultimate slander on the Holy Spirit and comes from ignorance caused by the devil.

How much money is wasted to produce new rules?
When orders came to close the Baptist Book Store in China for lack of money, my missionary uncle kept it open with his own by tying parts of automobile tires to his shoes, but that was not as hard as hearing his wife crying, “Our children need new shoes.”
Rex Ray

Bob Cleveland said...

Rex: What you said!

Wade: It is unthinkable that, what Paul stated is a gift, which we are not to forbid, should be viewed by the IMB as something which over which we need to repent. My understanding of "repent" is not merely to stop or turn away from, but to think differently of, or after. How am I supposed to think differently about a gift that God gave me?

And I do not buy that "private prayer language" and "glossalalia" are different occurrences, either. The Bible simply does not say they are.

There's a big difference between agreeing to abstain from something (like trustees and booze), and to state you will change your mind about a thing.

Welcome home, oh ye thought police.

OC Hands said...

How sad that a gift of the Holy Spirit, the use of which Paul explicitly said "do not forbid" has become so misunderstood in Christian circles. Beyond that, to require a rejection of this gift in order to serve as a missionary in an international setting is just unthinkable. Since this gift is referred to as "private" prayer language, how can anyone police it? Will the next requirement be to vote for certain candidates or specific issues? How far will those who make policies go into the private lives of candidates?
I Corinthians 12 indicates that "one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as he wills." It is puzzling to me how those who make these decisions can seemingly say in essence, "I know more than the Holy Spirit, I am more knowledgable about this than the Bile." Is this what it means now to be a Southern Baptist, that your beliefs must conform to what a few well-intentioned but misguided leaders say you must believe? To what lengths will we see a redefining of what it means to be SBC? And how long will those of us who disagree remain silent or continue to allow this to happen? I am grateful for those who have a voice and are now speaking out. (Bob, you beat me to the punch while I was editing this) Amen.

Chris Gates said...

O for grace to trust him more.

ml said...


Usually I appreciate your posts and the rigor to which you go in order to present your positions. I think you missed the mark on this one. If we run your post to its logical end, even you would not agree with the logic you have written here.

Wade should everyone be considered as a viable candidate for IMB service? IF not then based on your logic any one who is disqualified is sinning? That would mean someone of another denomination is sinning simply because they are not a member of an SBC church. Or, based on your logic as presented here, it is a sin to not be a Southern Baptist. BTW I do not believe that this doctrinal conviction should disqualify someone nor am I defending the trustee policy. I think you have made an invalid comparison or observation. I suspect there are some disqualifiers that even you agree with Wade but you would not call them sin? You have not left your self much wiggle room here.

Pastor Tony said...

In all of this discussion over the last 18 months or so, I missed the leading sentence in the new policy on PPL. Wade wrote: In terms of general practice, the majority of Southern Baptists do not accept what is referred to as “private prayer language.”

Oh really? How do we know the opinion of the "majority" of Southern Baptists? I have bee in Souther Baptist churches all my life and I have never, ever been asked my opinion about PPL. So, apparently those who hold to the cessationalist position are projecting their opinion on the rest of the convention. This is not something to take lightly. Granted we have elected the BoT to speak for the convention, but not to think for the convention. Where does it end?

[a ludicrous follow through of thought]: There are churches that claim to be Southern Baptist that do the whole snake-handling thing. Now, if they believe it is right, can they say that the "majority" of Southern Baptists believe it is right? From their perspective, the whole SB church does it, so, yes, the majority of Souther Baptists that THEY know do hold to it.
[end journey to ludicrous land]

I am disturbed that an opinion of some can become the opinion of most without any kind of objective backing.

Once again, thanks Wade for keeping it real.

Kevin Bussey said...


That is a great question he asked. My experience with people who are addicted to porn is it is hard to break.

I don't know about any of the rest of you but we are getting spam every day in our church e-mail from porn sites and male... drugs. I think Satan is really attacking churches. This is a real concern.

Thanks for bringing this to light Wade.

Bob Cleveland said...


Pornography is a tough habit to break. Same goes for praising or worshipping God, or praying for someone, in an unknown tongue. Maybe moreso.

Yeah .. definitely.

Wade Burleson said...


You wish not to call a private prayer language a sin, and you seem to believe I err by comparing it to pornography, which is a sin without question. However, I think if you will read carefully, I did not call a private prayer language a 'sin.' I called it 'an activity.' However, to renounce this activity in both 'conviction' and 'practice' indicates that someone, somewhere considers a private prayer language morally questionable. If not, why would you pry into a 'private' prayer closet and ask someone what they do 'in private' while they are praying?

Finally, I think it would be good to remember that there is not one IMB doctrinal policy, not ONE, that 'exceeds' the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, except for this new private prayer language policy (the requirement for an 'athentic baptizer' for a baptism to be valid is an IMB 'guideline'). Like another person has said, "it is difficult to identify any compelling reason” for trustees to adopt the policy.

“Certainly biblically it goes beyond the doctrinal parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message,” he emphasized. “I can’t remember in my tenure when the board pushed forward to actually adopt something that was as divisive and controversial in terms of ‘why do we need to do this?’

“It does go beyond what Southern Baptists have defined in our confession of faith which should be our doctrinal guidelines,” he added. “It does alienate and offend a large segment of our churches.”

I don't know that I could have said it better.

Wade Burleson said...

The person who said the above is Dr. Rankin.

Matt Snowden said...


I still marvel at this sad issue. It is hard to see beyond the absurdity. Thanks

John Moeller said...

Wade et al,

It seems we are back to ranking sin.. My sin isn't really sin compared to your sin. Mine is trivial enough not to be noticed, but YOURS !! You should be ashamed of yourself for doing THAT!!

Maybe, those who felt the weight of sin most and reached out to Jesus would be the best suited to go tell others about what Jesus did for them….What a concept? By the power of their testimony!

It’s a good thing I haven’t sinned since 1972, I haven’t prayed since then either, promise, not a single word. Do I qualify to be a missionary?

SWBTS Student said...

I don't want to attempt to rattle off statistics regarding the pornography epidemic that is raging in America and alas in our SBC. Let's just say that if there are 50% of all male candidates being turned away, there are probably some that are still getting through the process who have struggled and will continue to struggle with pornography. This is a huge problem that I do not think that our denomination has dealt with adequately (preaching against it on Sunday morning alone is not going to fix it).

Secondly, Wade said in his post:

"Therefore, if “private prayer language” is an ongoing part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC."

Does this mean that a missionary candidate must refrain from having "private prayer language" as an ongoing part of BOTH his or her conviction AND practice? or does this mean that if the person simply does not practice then they are ok? I would have a hard time believing that someone who has had a legitimate experience of speaking in tongues privately would be able to honestly renounce this fact as an ongoing part of their conviction! Furthermore, what about future missionary candidates who have yet to experience ppl yet who believe in their legitimacy are they disqualified as well since it is an on-going part of their CONVICTION? I am feeling more and more ostracized as I write this post. This stuff makes me so sick that I have had to take longer and longer "SBC blog fasts" over the past few months (these . Wade, continue to fight the good fight against injustice by making known the voices of those who who are being mistreated.

A Simple Student @ SWBTS

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that I need help. Will someone who is learned in this area please detail to me the difference between the tongues spoken by the Apostles at Pentacost and the tongues referred to as private prayer language.Were there 2 reasons for tongues? I understand the first reason but I am in the dark about the second. Did God intend it be secret? If so why admit it? But that would'nt work for one would have to admit it if asked because God would never put you in position to lie or take the the fifth. Someone please give me some references to help me understand.

Roger D. Lee said...

In the case of the PPL, why is the IMB treated differently from NAMB? For 20 years HMB/NAMB has disqualified applicants due to the issues of languages, private or public.

In 1988 it was well known to applicants (My wife and I were appointed in 1988)that if it became known if one spoke in tongues or had any affiliation with a PPL that the candidate(s) would immediately be dismissed from the process.

This is not a new topic. I would appreciate some type of response.

Thank you. I feel we have missed great opportunities in ministry due to our fear and not due to doctrinal purity.

Roger D. Lee

Anonymous said...


To answer your question on what is PPL...

referring verses;

"But you, beloved, build up yourselves on your most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Jude 20,21

"Praying in the Spirit at all times with every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints." Eph. 6:18

"For he that speaks in a tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for no man understands him; however in the Spirit he speaks mysteries." I Cor. 14:2

"I want for you all to speak with tongues..." I Cor. 14:5

"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with the spirit, but I will also pray with the mind; I will sing with the spirit, but I will also sing with the mind. Else if you bless in the spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say 'Amein' to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? For indeed you give thanks excellently, but the other is not built up. I thank my God I speak in tongues more than all of you." I Cor. 14:14-18

What happened to Peter on the day of Pentecost was that Peter spoke and his language was somehow changed between his mouth and the ear of the listener. This is different than a believer praying in a language he does not understand, but somehow his spirit and the Spirit of God understands each other and the believer feels that, just like you may feel God ministering to your heart as you pray.

It has to be experienced; no words can describe it accurately. When words can not describe my feelings, groans and utterances that the Spirit of God understands, knows my heart and ministers to my needs.

Ask more questions, and I'll send you more answers...


Pamela Cook said...


Check out 1 Corinthians 14 as a starting point. This chapter deals with several types of tongues. It shows the differences between them to define how they should be used in the local church.

Verses 2, 4, the first portion of 5, 14 deal with what many refer to as the private prayer language. It is talking to God, not man.

Part 2 of verse 5 and verse 13 describes the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. All the nine manifestations/gifts of the spirit are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

Verse 22 describes tongues as a sign to the unbeliever. Many feel that what happened with the apostles in Acts 2 when they were filled with the Holy Spirit is an example of this. They were speaking in languages they did not know in the natural. Others understood them praising God.

ml said...


You said: "However, to renounce this activity in both 'conviction' and 'practice' indicates that someone, somewhere considers a private prayer language morally questionable. If not, why would you pry into a 'private' prayer closet and ask someone what they do 'in private' while they are praying?"

Here is the fallacy in your argumentation. Your conclusion is a stretch. This does not mean they find it any more morally questionable than not being Southern Baptist--which is also a disqualifier. Now if you want to suggest and argue that they find it theologically questionably then I would agree with that statement. And I would resoundingly disagree with them, as do you, based on interpretive issues and on emphasizing a theological issue outside of the BFM theological framework.

In the last paragraph of your post you did use “activity” and “repent” for both private prayer language and pornography. Inferentially you are relating the two to the same category. Based on your logic the same must also be said of people who are not Southern Baptist since that is also a disqualifier. I suspect you would agree that not being Southern Baptist disqualifies someone from being sent out by the IMB. And based on the argumentation in your post you are, by extension, also saying essentially that they must repent of not being SB in order to be sent by the IMB.

I agree with you that the new position on prayer language exceeds the language of the BFM. I am simply responding that you have inferentially made a jump between morally questionable and theologically questionable which are not synonymous but can be of equal disqualifying parameters. I agree with your position on the private prayer language, but simply am not amenable to the logic you used to link these two issues in this comparison.

Wade Burleson said...


I would encourage you to ask the people you know who wish to prohibit Southern Baptists who have a private prayer language from serving on the mission field as a Southern Baptist if they wish to do so on a 'theological' basis, or on a 'moral' basis. I believe you may be surprised at the answer.

Why? The answer might begin with the response, 'Well, of course, it is a theological concern,' but the more you probe you will find a very narrow view that unless someone perceives 'truth' as they percieve it, then those people who disagree have allowed themselves to be 'deceived' by the enemy.

In fact, I have been told by one that praying in tongues is 'the language of demons.'

So, you may wish to separate things along theological lines, but until you understand that what I am calling for is acceptance of all brothers and sisters in Christ who affirm the fundamentals, and a gracious, Spirit-filled love for those brothers who disagree on tertiary theological matters (including a private prayer language), with a humility of spirit that says, "You know, I could be wrong in my beliefs on this subject" then you will not understand the point I am attempting to make.

By the way, I clicked on your profile and it is not working. I would love for you to identify yourself. Your words are articulate and thoughtful, but they carry more power in my mind when I know the person from whom they come.

Bob Cleveland said...


Facts are facts. Speaking to God in an unknown tongue is what it is. Addiction to pornography is what it is. The parallels with those two things as respects IMB eligibility is what it is, and I see no use denying that.

Why on earth are people quibbling over words? Check 2 Timothy 2:14 for details.

And in fact the term "repent" is
metanoeo ... to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction.

Sounds like that's what IMB would require in either event.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that private prayer language is assummed to be biblical.

It's also interesting that it has seemed to be forgotten that doctrinal error is "sin" needing repentance (2 Tim 2:25).

Tongues as private prayer language is either biblical or its not - if it isn't then the belief and practice of it is sin.

You would say the same about the deity of Christ, the view of the Bible as the Word of God, etc.

False prophecy was dealt with as sin in OT (and it still is under New Covenant) - no matter if it was a "real experience."

Pastor's are ordained on the basis of their life and doctrine.

While the spiritual gifts has been deemed a "secondary issue" - we can't approach this issue in a postmodern way (i.e., "well if it's true for you than that's cool brother - come on and serve>"). One's views of the gifts have ramifications for their understanding of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the work of sanctification. It's no small issue.

As Wade said:
"these are issues that all Southern Baptists should wrestle with before any of us just simply say, 'What's the big deal?'" or dismiss the policy as ridiculous.

....life and doctrine...(1 Tim 4:16)

And the criterion should be discussed as one whole - not two specific points in isolation (isolating these colors ones view of the whole application process).

Wade Burleson said...


Read the above anonymous comment. Read it carefully.

I rest my case.

WTJeff said...


No one is advocating a postmodern "what's truth for you may not be truth for me" approach. Rather, when one looks at God's word in humility, we find my interpretation may vary from yours regarding certain doctrines. That's why Wade has advocated Dr. Mohler's tier classifications, in order that we may distinguish between those that do and don't prevent cooperation. PPL (remember that first word is "private") should not prevent qualified, Christ loving, called of God people from serving through IMB. The restriction has grown so tight that a viewer of internet porn and someone who practices PPL end up in the same boat --- excluded from service through IMB.



davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade,

It is sad that PPL and porn are compared as being one in the same.

Unfortunately, some people have had a hard time understanding the gifts of the Spirit since about 100 A.D., and they probably will untill the second coming of Christ.

The quote below is from John Wesley in 1751, however it is still relevent today " The Christians of the second and third centuries were real Scriptural Christians, and that the main reason why the miraculous gifts were soon withdrawn was not only that faith and holiness were well nigh lost, but that dry, formal, orthodox men began to ridicule whatever gifts that they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture"

The freedom of the Spirit is being replaced by ceremonial ritual and ecclesiastical order.

bryan riley said...

If that is your belief, anonymous, then why do you have to comment anonymously? At least explain that. Moreover, are all sinning who don't agree with your doctrine because of the fact they don't agree? And, how does your comment square with Paul's teachings about disputable doctrines?

bryan riley said...

DavidinFlorida, the Wesley quote is excellent.

docjoc said...

John Wesley And Tongues

Wesley, who never claimed the gift of tongues, once when debating the cessationist, a Doctor Middleton, said:

"He who worketh as He will, may, with your good leave, give the gift of tongues where he gives no other;and may see abundant reasons to do so, whether you and I see them or not."

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

You responded to ml by saying; "By the way, I clicked on your profile and it is not working. I would love for you to identify yourself. Your words are articulate and thoughtful, but they carry more power in my mind when I know the person from whom they come."

I would agree whole-heartedly. Would the same be said for the anonymous pastor you posted in the article? While you know who he is, the rest of us have to take your word that someone asked you this question. I would have to say that the words would carry more weight in my mind if I know from whom they came.


farmboy said...

As the paragraph below - taken from a letter from George Whitfield to John Wesley indicates - demonstrates, Mr. Wesley made use of the practice of casting lots to determine God's will in particular matters.

"The case (you know) stands thus: When you were at Bristol, I think you received a letter from a private hand, charging you with not preaching the gospel, because you did not preach up election. Upon this you drew a lot: the answer was 'preach and print.' I have often questioned, as I do now, whether in so doing, you did not tempt the Lord. A due exercise of religious prudence, without [the drawing of] a lot, would have directed you in that matter. Besides, I never heard that you enquired of God, whether or not election was a gospel doctrine."

Mr. Wesley also taught the doctrines of prevenient grace and entire sanctification, doctrines that previously had not been found in Scripture.

Given the above, and not withstanding Mr. Wesley's many virtues, I wouldn't want to base the case for the continuation of miraculous sign gifts on Mr. Wesley's appraisal of church history. For one that wants to make the case for the continuation of miraculous sign gifts there are more solid foundations to build one's case on.

Wade Burleson said...


I know who the pastor is. He identified himself in the email, but he requested that he not to be identified for reasons that he articulated to me which I found legitimate.

davidinflorida said...


How about this one; Irenaeus (A.D. 125-200) bishop of Lyons, a disciple of the apostle John said "For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have been thus cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe in Christ and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come, they see visions and utter prophetic expressions. Others still heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole."...." In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church who posses prophetic gifts and who though the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God."

R. L. Vaughn said...

Wade, I realize that most of the conversation on this post is directed toward private prayer language, and that is probably what you intended. But I have a question about the "porn question" on the application for Journeymen (not being SBC, I'm not familiar with that term). According to your anonymous pastor, the question has changed from "Have you ever used internet porn?" to "When was the last time you used internet porn?"

Do you know any of the discussion/thinking behind this change? I notice that the anonymous pastor states that use of internet porn is the primary reason that 50% of the male applicants are turned down. What I'm wondering is whether this is a kind of pyschological thing -- i.e. the wording change somehow makes it more likely that the applicants will answer truthfully; or whether there is just the assumption that all of the applicants have used internet porn (the question seems to imply it); or whether there is some other thing that I am missing. Thanks.

Wade Burleson said...

r.l. vaughn,

For me to even attempt to answer your question would require me to say things which I do not know.
I am honest enough to say when I don't know the answer, "I don't know" and I don't know the answer.

TruthOfActs said...

Your answer to Tim illustrates “Love hardly knows when it’s done wrong.” You went to the trouble of explaining about the unidentified pastor.

Back in the days of the Old West, if someone said, “The rest of us have to take your word that someone asked you this question”—the reply would have been; “Are you doubting my word?” and a shootout may be the end result.

Tim, I’d like my name to be excluded when you say, “The rest of us have to take your word” because I ENJOY taking Wade’s word for I believe it is full of ‘truth and grace.’ I’m can’t say the same about yours as you and I like to grip…don’t we?
We are different in ‘digging’ someone as I don’t ‘sugar coat’ my words by starting with “brother” and ending them with “blessings.” The reason being is like someone said, “My friends don’t need it, and my enemies wouldn’t believe it.”

You asked why the question of missionary applicants was changed from “Have you ever used porn?” to “When was the last time you used internet porn?”

First of all, I think the appropriate answer would be, “Longer than the last time you have.”

I felt the same way the last time I filled out papers to go overseas for the SBC as the question was, “Will you refrain from smoking while on the field—Yes No?” As I’ve never smoked, it was irritating.

I believe the problem is IMB rules try to make applicants accountable to THEM instead of God. Could it be they don’t trust the Holy Spirit to guide missionaries because they don’t let the Holy Spirit guide them?

They have to have so many rules to show the size of the border on their robes.

Why don’t they just ask one question, “Will you be just a good as Jesus?” and then all we’ll have on the field is liars.
Rex Ray

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks, Wade. Sometimes the best and most appropriate answer is "I don't know". Some folks never seem to learn that.

I looked up Journeymen -- single (never married) college graduates going on a two year term overseas -- on the IMB web site, and that helped some by putting a little context to the questions.

rms said...

R.L. Vaughn,

While serving on staff at a church outside of Richmond Virginia, I was the staff coordinator for our counselling ministry. I had three Christian counselors that I supervised. One of them, contracted with the IMB to do psychological testing/profiling.

Her explanation about the porn question was rather enlightening.
She said, the assumption is made that most male candidates have been exposed to sexually explicit material during their lifetime.

So when the question is asked and a male candidate says that they have never been exposed to porn, or it was not something they ever struggled with....that candidate is red flagged...because most likely they are not being truthful and a pattern of dishonesty is indicative of a character flaw/spiritual immaturity

It is possible that a candidate truly does not struggle with lust or has never been exposed to porn..and if they are telling the truth other variables in the testing help to confirm that.

Of course repeated exposure, addictive behavior disqualifies someone from service but honestly admitting that you have viewed pornographic material or struggle with sexual temptation (in the past) would not neccesarily disqualify you from service.

I have great respect for the screening process the IMB uses...I have no problem with asking about the PPL issue or pornography. I think we should know as much about a candidate as possible (authenticity/honesty are quite refreshing these days!)I just just do not think that PPL disqualifies a candidate from service.


SWBTS Student said...

i thought i would reformulate my question more pointedly:

can someone be disqualified for having an ongoing conviction that private prayer language is legitimate? (though they do not practice)

A Simple Student @ SWBTS

Anonymous said...


You said: "No one is advocating a postmodern "what's truth for you may not be truth for me" approach. Rather, when one looks at God's word in humility, we find my interpretation may vary from yours regarding certain doctrines.

My point is - irregardless of it being a "varying interpretation" - PPL is either true or false, right or wrong, etc. So, therefore, it is not far fetched for the IMB to exclude one from service because they understand it to be "false/wrong".

And also this isn't a matter of mere opinion but the fidelity of the Word of God and of Christian practice. Secondary doctrine doesn't mean "either or" it means - not essential for salvation. There is still a right or wrong position. And the one that is wrong is error/sin - simple and plain.

When we bring men into leadership roles in the church - we don't minimize "secondary" doctrines do we? A man cannot hold to infant baptism and be an SBC pastor (and vice versa in Reformed Presbyterian churches)?? Correct?

Serving as an evangelist (church planter) in missions should take on a similar examination as that of any other leadership role. There are doctrinal and moral qualifications - either kind of failure could disqualify someone from ministry.

So, in that sense, what is the problem with IMB's criteria being on par with immorality?

You also said: "That's why Wade has advocated Dr. Mohler's tier classifications, in order that we may distinguish between those that do and don't prevent cooperation. PPL (remember that first word is "private") should not prevent qualified, Christ loving, called of God people from serving through IMB."

This isn't about "cooperation" among those with differing views - which can take place in a broader sense (e.g., Together for the Gospel, etc.). But, this is about establishing ministers/leaders within one's own ecclesiastical construct. (And, to my understanding, the historic doctrinal position of Southern Baptists has been cessationist.) So, it is the IMB's prerogative to establish this criteria. (Again, I point back to my earlier comment about doctrinal and moral qualifications).

Why is this such an issue - if someone has a problem with the criteria - they should find a charismatic/pentecostal denomination and serve in their missions organization. And there wouldn't be any love lost because we believe in the freedom of religion - so there is freedom to leave and go serve as you are convinced in your own mind.

It's really a no brainer and overkill/unecessary discussion in my estimation.

Anonymous said...

And let me add - if a person would leave to go to a charismatic/pentecostal denomination - because the PPL issue is a secondary doctrine - then we could gladly and joyfully consider the individual a brother/sister in the Lord and pray all the best for them and not break fellowship.

So, there still can be a charitable relationship irregardless of the exclusion to serve in missions.

Anonymous said...


As I clarified my thoughts yesterday (which you said proved your point about a "narrow view" held by some) - I'd like to know your thoughts about the "doctrinal and moral" qualifications argument I mentioned.

To add - yes - PPL is a disqualifier on a "theological basis" and there is such a precedent in Scripture for being disqualified for service based on doctrinal grounds. And the Scriptures themselves also seem to place "moral" and "theological" qualifications on par with each other (e.g., 1 Tim 3) - i.e. - you must have both to be qualified.


Wade Burleson said...


There are SOUTHERN BAPTIST churches that have differing views on the gifts. There are SOUTHERN BAPTIST churches that hold to the sufficiency, inerrancy and authority of Scripture who interpet the passages on the gifts differently. SOUTHERN BAPTISTS churches cooperate around missions. No hierachial authority can tell a SOUTHERN BAPTIST church that their views on the gifts are NOT Southern Baptist. Authority flows from the local church UP, not from the denominational entities DOWN.

David said...

When I started my undergraduate work some years ago, all freshmen were required to take a test/profile. On the test, two of the questions have forever stood out to me. They were:

-Have you ever lied?

-Do you like everyone you meet?

It was obvious that these were psychologically based questions, they were certainly "red flagging" all participants who answered no to the first or yes to the second.

Such is a question like "when was the last time you used porn?".

TruthOfActs said...

You gave an interesting account of why missionary applicants were asked, “When was the last time you used internet porn?”

What I don’t understand is why would the IMB have a woman asking men such a question? Why don’t they have women asking women, and men asking men? But hopefully I have jumped to the wrong conclusion and that is the way it is done and there is modesty after all.

I’m curious what would be the next question the counselor would ask the applicant. Would it be, “Why did you stop?”

Reasons for stopping:
1. Parents put controls to stop porn on computer.
2. Computer located where family could see.
3. Fear of getting caught.
4. Threaten to be fired.
5. Threaten with divorce.
6. Guilt finally outweighed the pleasure.
7. Sin grieved the Holy Spirit.

What would be accepted answers to pass?

Rodney, do you believe this same question should be asked of pastors and the congregation?

I’m glad you disagree with PPL disqualifying missionaries. I believe PPL would be beneficial.

BTW, you said, “…struggle with sexual temptation (in the past)…” I know what you meant by “in the past”, but I believe everyone would agree the devil never gives up.