If Daniel Weiss has learned anything about the small towns of east-central Wisconsin, it's that folks in the region he calls home care about what they eat.
Say buzzwords like "organic," "natural" and "superfoods" and -- snap -- people will organize fairs, farmers markets, farm-to-table workshops and debates about whether local free-range chickens have healthy social lives.
"You can talk about fresh veggies and how important food issues are for their families," said Weiss, leader of the Brushfires Foundation, a sexual-integrity ministry based in Omro, Wisc. "People in a secular society will bond together to talk about food and good health. That's real. That's safe. …
"It's totally different -- even in our churches -- if you try to get people to talk about pornography, smartphones, videogame addiction and all the stuff that's filling up their hearts and minds."
When asked about these issues, many pastors say things like, "I don't want to be negative," "That's a parents thing," "Tech issues are so complex" or "I'm afraid to offend people and run them off." Many pastors think silence is the safest option.
That's a naive attitude in modern America, according to Barna Group research commissioned by Brushfires, and supported by 24 national and state groups, such as Focus on the Family and Enough is Enough. Researchers contacted 410 senior ministers in 29 evangelical and mainline Protestant denominations, along with non-denominational congregations. Pastors were asked about 18 issues, including marital infidelity, premarital sex, same-sex relationships, sexting, gender dysphoria and the use of pornography by husbands, wives, teens and young children. Among the findings:
* Eighty percent of these Protestant pastors said they had been approached during the past year by church members or staff dealing with infidelity issues and 73 percent had faced issues linked to pornography.
* Seventy percent of the pastors said they dealt with serious "sexual brokenness" issues in their flock several times a year, with 22 percent saying this took place once a month or more.
*Only a third of the pastors said they felt "very qualified" to address the sexual issues being raised by their staff and church members.