Ian Henderson The Naked Truth Project

Posted by Craig Borlase on 12 September 2017

Ian Henderson was preaching when the phone call came in, so it was via voicemail that he found out his father had been arrested. It took a couple of hours to discover that he was being charged with possession of indecent images of children. It took a couple of months to discover that his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. 

“For a year we were just dealing with whatever was in front of us – the next court date or the next hospital appointment. Eventually, with three weeks to live, the judge gave him a suspended sentence. He went straight to a hospice and died a few weeks later.”

Ian grieved. The experience had brought the realities of pornography close to home, but it had not changed his fundamental assumption that porn was something that some people struggled with sometimes

A couple of years later, as he approached 40, Ian noticed something within him start to change. With almost twenty years of Christian ministry behind him, and a bright future ahead at The Message, Manchester, Ian began to sense that God was unsettling him.   

“I felt God start to talk to me about the issue of pornography. It was painful and I was reluctant, but as I started to read up about it I got a sense of the massive shift that has happened in the last decade. I began to see that the world I had grown up in was completely different to the world today.”

That change is colossal. One free pornography site currently receives 4.4 billion hits a month, placing it above Apple and Amazon.co.uk. According to a survey of lawyers in the US, obsessive porn use is sited as a factor in 56% of divorce cases. The average age of first exposure to hard pornography is 11, and three in five youth pastors admit that they struggle with porn. And even those who use it regularly are desperate to stop, with one survey indicating that 56% of men said their taste in porn has become “ increasingly extreme or deviant”, often creating problems in their real relationship, while 88% said they would be willing to seek professional help if it was available online.

“The rise of the internet and prevalence of smart phones and tablets means that pornography has never before been more affordable, accessible anonymous or potentially addictive. But back in 2013 the church wasn’t talking about it and in wider culture there was a taboo about suggesting that there could be something negative about porn.”

Ian knew that God was calling him to raise awareness and begin to fix what he could of the damage caused by porn, but it was in many ways a leap in the dark. “It made a lot of sense to stick around at The Message; they are a great charity I knew I could do something worthwhile there, I had no experience in this work with porn, and had no clue how I was going to get paid. But the reasons for staying began to be more about fear rather than calling. I was thinking what if I leave and fail? What if I leave and don’t get paid? Acknowledging that fear was the main thing holding me back became the indicator that it was time to leave.”

In 2013 Ian established The Naked Truth Project, and early growth has been rapid. Today its activities range from working in schools to briefing politicians, publishing books to setting up online support groups that have seen many porn users break free from dependency. 

It’s a good start, but it would not have happened had Ian not been prepared to face some painful memories and take a serious risk.

“I’m a massive believer that we’re made for this stuff. We’re made for risk and doing the scary faith things. Even though it can be scary and hard and upsetting, there’s a sense I’ve had from the start that this is what it means to be a disciple: being in place of faith and risk, not knowing what is going to happen. It’s what keeps your faith alive.”


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