Founded in 2002, XXXchurch is an online resource dedicated to helping battle pornography and sex addiction through awareness, prevention and recovery. XXXchurch not only provides accountability software and online groups to help individuals with their addictions, but also does outreach work at some of the largest adult entertainment conventions, including the EXXXOTICA Expo. Instead of holding up protest signs or condemning either the producers or consumers of pornographic and adult entertainment materials, XXXchurch sends a message of love, compassion and support to those who need help or guidance in their personal struggles related to pornography and sex addiction. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the formation of the church and its mission with founder Craig Gross.
C.J. Asher – First, tell me about the XXXchurch and its mission.
Craig Gross – The XXXchurch website mixes the seedy with the sacred in an effort to raise the often taboo subject of pornography as a problem that needed to be dealt with. Porn addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome, but XXXchurch is an online resource to help those with porn addictions as well as bring awareness to prevent them. We use the web, social media and news media to tell a story often left untold.
C.J. Asher – How did you come up with the concept of the XXXchurch?
Craig Gross – I founded the website XXXchurch.com as a response to the hurting I saw both in those addicted to pornography and those who made their living in the porn industry. In the 13 years since it began, XXXchurch.com has had over 70 million visitors to the website and the ministry itself is the subject of an award winning documentary. I also spearheaded the development of X3watch, an internet accountability system that is used by over one million people. I am the author of eleven books but the most meaningful role I have is that of husband to my beautiful wife, Jeanette, and our two children.
C.J. Asher – How did you decide to start working for the church?
Craig Gross – I founded XXXchurch after years of being a youth pastor and seeing the common thread of pornography coming up in the lives of the youth.
C.J. Asher – How do you define “success” with your missionary work?
Craig Gross – Success in this work is not defined by the day to day that is for sure because it is a challenging line of work whenever lives are involved. I would have to say that success comes from when we see the fruit of our efforts in the lives of those who have been either helped by our online ministry or by our team.
C.J. Asher – I’ve seen XXXchurch.com represented at various adult entertainment conventions such as EXXXOTICA and the Adult Entertainment Expo. How does your work in reaching out to individuals who are so thoroughly engrossed in adult entertainment differ from other areas of your ministry, such as porn addiction?
Craig Gross – There are plenty of groups and organizations out there in the world that will point fingers to the do’s and don’ts of religion. We don’t show up with that agenda. As a matter of fact, the only agenda we have is to engage people where they are, show an interest in them as individuals and to impart the message that God loves them right where they are. And that is for all of us. Whether that be in the midst of a porn saturated culture / career or whether that be for someone who sits in church religiously every week. God loves us and longs for us just the same.
C.J. Asher – How do you define “porn addiction”?
Craig Gross – I think addiction is addiction. When you enslave yourself to something that leaves you feeling empty, miserable and interferes with your well-being or life-goals and dreams yet you find yourself going back to it over and over again is an addiction. Not everyone that picks up a glass of wine will turn into an alcoholic and not everyone that has seen porn will turn into a porn addict. We do strongly believe that you have to be guarded with both because the potential is there.
C.J. Asher – What do you have to say to critics who might argue that watching porn (and, indirectly, masturbation) is a healthy alternative to having multiple sexual partners and the related risk of STD’s and pregnancy that accompanies such activities?
Craig Gross – Our goal has never been to spew our thoughts onto those who are not asking for help or our opinion. We want to spend our time helping those that are caught up in ‘unwanted’ sexual behavior. I will say this though, I do believe that pornography sets up an unhealthy expectation of sex and what the sexual experience is about. Porn and masturbation is typically selfish— all about self in that moment. Whereas from a Christian perspective, a healthy sexual relationship designed by God, it is about the other person and experiencing oneness with your spouse through an act of selfless giving. If both partners are doing this selflessly then you both have one amazing sexual experience that by far tops whatever temporary satisfaction is found in pornography.
C.J. Asher – What was the inspiration behind Jesus Loves Porn Stars, both the t-shirts and the Bible?
Craig Gross – It has been our message since the beginning. We believe that Jesus does love porn stars just as much as he loves pastors. Because of the stereotypes of religion, that message of love has been lost and we show up to make sure the message is seen and heard by those we encounter. The bible is a real bible that we’ve interjected stories of hope into around the chapters. Real life stories of people we’ve met throughout all our years of doing this.
C.J. Asher – How does your ministry plan to adapt to the changes in technology (i.e. free streaming porn), as well as society (i.e. fascination with BDSM through Fifty Shades of Grey) that are making porn and sexual exploration more socially acceptable?
Craig Gross – I don’t really think any adaption is necessary; we’ve been dealing with an internet based driven porn epidemic for a while now. We did, however, see that Fifty Shades really opened up the door for discussion about things like BDSM openly instead of behind closed doors. I wrote this piece that generated quite a bit of hate mail. Ironically, the hate mail came more from the church about my going to the movie to write the review than it did about the movie itself. Many denied standing with me on my thoughts about it in general from a man’s perspective let alone a Christian’s because they couldn’t get past the idea that I went to see it to write about it.
C.J. Asher – What about your group defines you as a “church” in relation to other organized religious groups?
Craig Gross – We believe that the church Jesus designed was for those who were in need of mercy, of healing and love. That is exactly what we’re about: we have the attitude of “come as you are.” We’re not here to judge; we’re here to help you and to sojourn with you if you want or need us.
C.J. Asher – What types of negative feedback have you received from mainstream religious organizations as well as the adult entertainment industry?
Craig Gross – Sadly, the church (which is made up of imperfect pastors and people) has typically been known for its stand on issues and its willingness to speak out against those things instead of allowing people to come as they are and just love people right where they are and allow God to convict hearts instead of their pointing fingers. We have received backlash from both: the churches that still exist like that who think we’re some kind of cult or watered down ministry because we don’t have a legalistic approach as well as backlash from the industry who has had enough run-ins with those types and therefore lump us in and assume that we’re part of them. You will NEVER see anyone from our ministry holding up picket signs. Ever.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about the X3watch software and how it operates.
Craig Gross – X3watch is free. It is easy to download onto your computers or mobile devices and it monitors what’s happening online and shares it with you or the people you choose to have accountability reports sent to. X3watch Premium includes all the great features of the original X3watch plus URL filtering, real-time content evaluation, and unlimited desktops and mobile devices. No matter how many ways you use it, we’ll sync all the information into one weekly report, and tech support is available for any questions that come up.
C.J. Asher – Do you have any alliances within the adult entertainment industry, such as companies that help spread your message?
Craig Gross – Ron Jeremy and I became friends ironically through years of traveling together doing an event called “The Great Porn Debate” and while Ron doesn’t help us to literally pass out bibles- he will tell you that we’re the real deal and he wants us at the conventions and to be there for those who need help or want out of the industry. Brittni Ruiz, a former well known adult industry worker (porn star) has really embraced our message and just recently shared her thoughts on our Jesus Loves Porn Stars bible and how that played a part in her leaving the industry to chase after her dreams.
C.J. Asher – I’d love to hear about some positive success stories from your church’s efforts, what can you share
Craig Gross – In addition to the thousands of men and women who have been freed from porn and sex addictions through resources and hope offered are the stories of those who have left the industry and living their lives without shame from their past (Brittni Ruiz and Stephanie Swift to name just a few but you can find more stories in the industry section of our website) and then there are testimonies from men who have gone through our support groups and workshops who are now walking in victory. Parents who were able to intercept their teenagers’ porn addictions and help them to overcome before full blown life-long addictions began.
If you or someone you love is struggling with pornography or sex addiction, please visit http://xxxchurch.com/start-here.