“No Church Left Behind”
Just got back from vacation in Northern California, where we enjoyed whitewater rafting, tours of vineyards, outrageous roller coaster rides and a repeat viewing of The Dark Knight Rises. (Worth a look, in my opinion, but I’m a sucker for all things DC) During that same week this blog had its first viral episode, with the August 2 post on the protestor I spotted at Chic-fil-A generating 29,800 shares as of this writing. (Click here if you missed it.) Thanks again, wholeheartedly, for participating. More than a hundred of you commented, and while I try to respond to all comments on this site, the volume that came in during my time off made it impossible. But your posts reminded me of how much we rely on your support, so please, if you haven’t done so already, won’t you help us out by clicking the “like” button (here) if you’re a regular reader? Sure would appreciate you taking the time to do that.
Clearly this subject is on people’s minds and hearts, making the Church’s response all the more critical. We’re challenged to both know and hold the right position, then to express that position in the most God-honoring way. To that end, let’s look at Part 6 in our series on same-sex marriage – No Church Left behind.
Illumination is part of the Church’s job description. So Jesus told His followers we’re the light of the world; Peter noted that we’re to “declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light” (I Peter 2:9-10); and Paul said to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather, reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11) Illumination points to God and His glory, and also, inevitably, reproves what’s wrong while underscoring what’s right. So said Francis Schaeffer when he remarked that “Christianity provides a unified answer for the whole of life” and, therefore, “Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.
To know the truth, live the truth, communicate the truth – there’s the challenge, and nowhere is it more pronounced than within our own walls. The local church must respond to the issues of its time in ways that are Biblical, compassionate, relevant. And who could deny that homosexuality is a prominent issue of our times?
A common one, too, becoming more commonplace by the hour. Pastors in churches across the country are hearing, with more frequency, from parishioners affected by homosexuality: the Christian husband who secretly uses gay porn; the parents reeling from their son’s announcement that he’s attracted to men; the woman wondering whether to accept or decline her friend’s invitation to a same-sex wedding ceremony; the teens in youth group who have gay friends at school and can’t understand what all the fuss is about. Christians are, directly or indirectly, feeling the influence of America’s growing acceptance of homosexuality. That’s a given. What’s questionable is whether or not our churches are communicating God’s heart and mind on the matter.
I would argue that, generally, we’re not. Of course, assessing the entire Body of Christ is a fool’s game, because who knows what all churches are like? Still, I think it’s safe to say this issue caught us by surprise, a surprise we need to recover from post haste, because when it comes to educating people on human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, the world has eagerly, aggressively taken up the challenge. And that’s left us with some serious catching up to do.
Some would say that, in order to catch up, our churches need to establish specialized ministries dealing with homosexuality, featuring support groups, counseling and education. I’d say otherwise, though I do think highly of such ministries, and would love to see them developed in more congregations. Still, I think the answer lies less in the counseling office and more in the pulpit. If our pastors communicate, faithfully and clearly, what scripture has to say about the human condition, then believers will be better equipped to apply and express what they’ve learned, and everyone wins. So my first and earnest hope is that our leaders will apply themselves to teaching their congregations what scripture says about six primary issues:
- Human nature (both the fallen and redeemed)
- Human sexuality (what God intended and why it matters)
- The struggle between the flesh and the spirit (expecting and dealing with temptation)
- Sanctification (the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the believer)
- Body ministry (the role of other believers in our growth)
- Healthy intimacy (growing in love and responsibility to others)
It doesn’t take a specialist to teach these topics from the pulpit; only a man well versed in scripture who’ll take the time to explain its application. An educated church is an equipped church; an equipped church has answers and direction. So first and foremost, let the local congregation be Biblically grounded on these points, and it will have the tools it needs for relevance and redemptive ministry.
Check Out the Entire Series, “The Gay Marriage Debate: Winning, Losing or Dropping Out?”