Living in a Modern Corinth: Actively Pursuing Purity in a Sex-Saturated World

Introduction from Building Church Leaders: Randy Alcorn has a keen ability to speak pastorally on a variety of topics. He is the author of over 60 books, including The Purity Principle, and hundreds of articles, which can be found at and He spoke with Building Church Leaders on the importance of sexual integrity for churches, leaders, and families today.

How did you begin writing and speaking on the topic of sexual purity?

I remember speaking at a Bible college as a visiting lecturer in the early 1980s. During one week of teaching, I had three different female students approach me and confess that they each were having an affair with a youth pastor or senior pastor in their church. It was like cold water thrown in my face. I think the Lord strategically brought those contacts into my life to help me realize I needed to address this issue.

Now that was in the 1980s, when we didn’t yet have the internet. We were in the very early days of renting videos. At that point, I started comparing our culture to ancient Corinth, where you could go out into the streets and supposedly find a thousand priestesses of Aphrodite—prostitutes who would throw themselves at men passing by. Today, with TVs, VCRs, DVDs, especially the internet, and now even cell phones, the immediacy and the amassing of pornography is greater than anything we could have imagined.

As our culture becomes more sexually charged, why do leaders shy away from the topic of sexual purity?

I think one of the main reasons is that Christian leaders have lowered the bar in their own lives—they feel like hypocrites, and they’re desensitized to addressing it in the lives of their people. If a leader is not living a life characterized by sexual purity, how can that person teach others to be pure?

How can leaders keep standards high in their own lives and lead by example?

Leading by example starts in the home. I see the provocative clothing many young Christian women wear and say, “Moms, you are leading your daughters into immorality when you allow them to dress that way.”

How quick are our leaders to change the channel when impurity presents itself on TV? Do we lead by example in our personal lives and with our families? That’s where discipleship and setting an example starts.

How can leaders take a strong stand for purity without becoming legalists?

When I talk with pastors on this, I say, “This is not just about right and wrong; this is about smart and stupid; wisdom and foolishness.” We have to help everybody understand that this is not only about the glory of God; it is about our good.

I take what some people would consider drastic measures to keep myself from sexual impurity. After many years of seeing the devastating consequences of immorality in the lives of person after person—including church leaders—I’ve come to say, “You know what, that could happen to me, too.” 

Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today International/ Excerpted by permission from Building Church Leaders/Christianity Today International. To purchase the training pack containing the entire interview with Randy Alcorn, see their website.

Photo by Dom Gould

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries