Preaching homosexuality: Four kinds of churches

Posted on October 16th, 2014 Bible,Culture,Marriage | No Comments »

By: Dean Inserra

February 14, 2014

NOTE: Dean Inserra will be one of the speakers at the ERLC National Conference: “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The conference is designed to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches. This event will be held at the iconic Opryland Hotel on October 27-29, 2014. Get a discount on your ticket here.

I believe there are four types of churches when it comes to preaching on or addressing homosexuality. As culture continues to move toward a “post-gender” mindset, those who wish to expound a biblical worldview that points to the work of Christ will need to be clearer than ever. Unfortunately, those churches are the minority.

Here are four types of churches who take different approaches to addressing this massive cultural shift:

1. The Macklemore Church

The Macklemore Church just simply thinks the Bible is outdated, or just plain wrong on homosexuality. This church has been on the fringe left end of the spectrum, but recently exists in some traditional mainline circles. The Macklemore Church believes as long as one truly loves, then his or her sexual preference is a personal decision, and God is okay with that. Anything spoken against that is judgmental, and unlike Jesus who would think it is all the “same love.” Those who oppose this approach are also outdated and need to evolve with the times.

The issue, however, with the Macklemore Church is not sexuality. The issue is the Bible. There is zero confidence in the authority of the Bible, as inerrancy is mocked. As Macklemore raps in “Same Love” about those who have confidence in the authority of the Bible, “…we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago.”

The beliefs about sexuality held by the Macklemore Church are the least of their problems.

2. The “Wrecking Ball” Church

This is the “America is going to hell in a hand basket,” crowd. The pastor does not shy away from preaching on sexuality, but comes in like a wrecking ball, dropping bombs and mentioning homosexuality every single Sunday. There is zero controversy because all 87 people in the church agree 100%, with their Christian voter guide in hand, saying “amen preacher” after every sentence. The context seems to always be “America” rather than the gospel when discussing any issue of sexuality. This church could also easily be called the “Preaching to the Choir Church.” Good folks and faithful brothers, but fighting a culture war they don’t even realize they actually aren’t a part of, because nobody is listening.

3. The MC Hammer Church.

This Church is growing, innovative, has an amazing band, A-list “communicator,” is young, sexy and when it comes to the issue of homosexuality…

Can’t touch this.

After all, we have gay friends. Why is it that the only sin we can’t talk about with our friends if they are engaged in the sin, is homosexuality? This church usually affirms everything the Bible says about marriage, gender and sex, but outside of a “how to” marriage series every three months, they just aren’t going to touch anything about homosexuality. The fear of offending or upsetting the young base that makes up the majority of the attendance drives the bus.

Eventually one will have to understand that you can’t stay neutral on this issue. The idea that we want to “focus on Jesus” or whichever lines people use to excuse their silence will lead to perceived acceptance of homosexuality. They will also at some point, have to deal with the issue when a practicing homosexual wants to be in leadership, have the pastor perform a wedding ceremony, or embrace the lifestyle all together.

I believe the MC Hammers are the largest group of churches today.

4. The “Ring of Fire” Church.

I do not mean hell, fire and brimstone, but rather entering the most heated areas of discussion in today’s culture, based on biblical convictions that lead one to engage with kindness. There is a deep desire in the Ring of Fire Church to speak with clarity, out of being compelled by the love of Christ and to speak to areas where God has certainly not been silent. Gospel centrality is the key and driving force of these churches. When the lens through which one preaches homosexuality is the gospel, the emphasis goes from a moralistic divide, to an understanding of God’s purposes. Failing to communicate this is a big miss on an opportunity to make the riches of the gospel known, by neglecting visible portrait God painted for us and by the one flesh union between a husband and a wife. That visible portrait points us to the invisible reality of our union with Christ, in the relationship between Christ and his bride, which was purchased by his blood.

These churches seek clarity and speak with strong conviction, but are very careful of their approach and tone, out of awareness of their own personal failures with sexual sin, and out of love for those currently living in it. The gospel centrality also leads these churches to not believe the key issue is sex, but rather the changing of one’s heart toward Christ, that will then lead to repentance. There is not a crusade to win with the Ring of Fire Church, but hearts to be won, and a gospel to be proclaimed.

Ring of Fires also believe that the greatest human flourishing happens when we do things the way God created them to be, and therefore seek this common good in strengthening marriages by God’s design. They speak to cultural issues on sex because God has not been silent, and in those discussions is where the souls of men and women lie.

At City Church we decided we were going to be willing to step into the conversations in our city and beyond that are hot. May we continue to have these discussions, out of a convictional kindness, as God allows, while refusing to pretend God has not spoken clearly on sex. Let us continue to take his everlasting truth, to our ever-changing culture. The witness of the gospel is at stake.

Originally published at ERLC.com.

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It’s Not Too Late

Pulpit Freedom Sunday

This year we had a record number of pastors take part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. So far, 1,758 signed up to stand against the unconstitutional Johnson Amendment in 2014. That’s a total of 3,814 distinct pastors since we started in 2008. Watch a sample from a sermon from this past weekend.

But if you missed October 6th, it’s not too late. It doesn’t end with last Sunday: you can still join us, and preach a Pulpit Freedom sermon any time this year.

Visit PulpitFreedom.org to join the movement to end IRS control over your sermons. Sign the agreement statement, and if you can, preach an election sermon this year.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is not about endorsing the candidates of one party over another. It is about ending IRS oversight of the sermons preached in America. The IRS should not decide whether your sermon is “political” or “biblical.”  Our nation needs to fix the Johnson Amendment now, before it is too late.

Will you join the Pulpit Freedom Sunday movement?

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Same-Sex Marriage and the Future

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By: Russell Moore

April 15, 2014

The Bible tells us that the king of Israel once wanted to hear from the prophets, as to whether he would be victorious over his enemies. All the court prophets told him exactly what he wanted to hear. Yet the king of Judah, wisely, asked whether there might be another voice to hear from, and Israel’s king said that, yes, there was, but that he hated this prophet “because he never prophesies good concerning me” (1 Kings 22:8).

Once found, this prophet refused to speak the consensus word the king wanted to hear. “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak” (1 Kings 22:14). And, as it turned out, it was a hard word.

When it comes to what people want to hear, it seems to me that the church faces a similar situation as we look to the future of marriage in this country. Many want the sort of prophetic witness that will spin the situation to look favorable, regardless of whether that favor is from the Lord or in touch with reality.

Some people want a court of prophets who will take a surgeon’s scalpel to the Word of God. They want those who will say in light of what the Bible clearly calls immorality, “Has God really said?” Following the trajectory of every old liberalism of the past, they want to do with a Christian sexual ethic what the old liberals did with the virgin birth—claim that contemporary people just won’t have this, and if we want to rescue Christianity, this will have to go overboard. All the while they’ll tell us they’re doing it for the children (or for the Millennials).

This is infidelity to the gospel we’ve received. First of all, no one refusing to repent of sin—be it homosexuality or fornication or anything else—will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). This strategy leaves people in condemnation before the Judgment Seat of Christ, without reconciliation and without hope.

Second, it doesn’t even work. Look at the empty cathedrals of the Episcopal Church, the vacated pews of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and right down the line. Let me be clear. Even if embracing same-sex marriage—or any other endorsement of what the Bible calls sexual immorality—“worked” in church-building, we still wouldn’t do it. If we have to choose between Jesus and Millennials, we choose Jesus. But history shows us that those who want a different Jesus—the one who says, “Do whatever you want with your body, it’s okay by me”—don’t want Christianity at all.

But there will be those who want prophets who will say that the gospel doesn’t call for repentance, or at least not repentance from this sin. These prophets will apply a selective universalism that denies that judgment is coming, or that the blood of Christ is needed. But these prophets don’t speak for God.

And, quite frankly, we have no one to blame but ourselves since, for too long, too many of us have tolerated among us those who have substituted a cheap and easy false gospel for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Too many have been called gospel preachers who preach decision without faith, regeneration without repentance, justification without lordship, deliverance by walking an aisle but without carrying a cross. That gospel is different from the one Jesus and his apostles delivered to us. That gospel doesn’t save.

So when these prophets emerge to tell people they can stay in their sins and still be saved, we must thunder back with the old gospel that calls all of us to repentance and to cross-bearing, the gospel that calls sin what it is in order to call grace what it is. J. Gresham Machen warned us that our Lord Jesus himself never attempted to preach the gospel to the righteous but only to sinners. Those who follow him must start by acknowledging themselves to be in need of mercy, to be in need of grace that can pardon and cleanse within.

There’s also another form of court prophet of these times. This one has no problem identifying homosexuality as sin. He may do so with all sorts of bluster and outrage, but he still does what court prophets always do—he speaks a word that people want to hear. What some people want to hear is that sexual immorality is moral after all, and what other people want to hear is that same-sex marriage is simply a matter of some elites on the coasts of the country. This prophet implies that if we just sign checks to the right radio talk-show hosts, and have a good election cycle or two, we’ll be right back where we were, back when carpets were shag and marriages were strong.

I don’t know anyone in any advocacy organization in Washington DC—and there are many fighting the good fight on this one—that is saying that. As a matter of fact, the organizations closest to the ground know just how dark the hour is. The courts are hell-bent on redefining marriage, which is why state definitions of marriage, put in place by the citizens of those states, are being struck down. This isn’t happening simply in blue states but in the reddest of red states—Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, and so on.

The Supreme Court said last year, in a shocking ruling, that essentially the only reason anyone could have for defining marriage the way every human civilization has for millennia is hostility toward gay and lesbian persons. The answer is not a simple constitutional amendment—though that would be optimal—because any constitutional amendment would require a super-majority in both houses, that, apart from a miracle, no one sees happening in the next several years, now that the Democratic Party is firmly behind same-sex marriage.

What several of us have been saying for quite a while is that, in some form or another, your church will have to address the marriage revolution. My friend Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Seminary in California, has courageously called the church to see that everyone will soon have to be standing where he is standing now. He’s exactly right. The cultural trends are such that the red–blue divide will not ultimately isolate any congregation from this Sexual Revolution, and all it entails.

Moreover, the situation isn’t as easy as just an election or two, given the vast cultural changes that have happened.  I—and my co-laborers in other organizations—are fighting every single week in court cases, in hearings, in state disputes for the most basic of conscience protections for those who dissent from the High Church of the Sexual Revolution. Look at the way Louie Giglio was deemed too toxic to pray at the President’s inauguration in 2013. Look at the way the CEO of Mozilla was hounded out of office simply for supporting a ballot measure defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Look at the way photographers and florists are being forced, under penalty of law, to participate in same-sex weddings. And look at the way that even the most base-level religious liberty provisions are deemed discriminatory.

If the church doesn’t read the signs of the times, we will be right where we evangelicals were after Roe v. Wade—caught flat-footed and unprepared. Thankfully, the Catholics were there to supply an ethical framework and a sense of justice until some evangelicals—such as Francis Schaeffer and Jerry Falwell—emerged to rally for the lives of the unborn and their mothers.

 

So what should we do? Well, precisely what we should have done before and after Roe.

We should recognize where the courts and the culture are, and we should work for justice. That means not simply assuming that most people agree with us on marriage. We must articulate, both in and out of the church, why marriage matters, and why its definition isn’t infinitely elastic.

We must—like the pro-life movement has done—seek not only to engage our base, those who already agree with us, but to persuade others who don’t. That doesn’t mean less talk about marriage and sexuality but more—and not just in sound bytes and slogans but in a robust theology of why sexual complementarity and the one-flesh union are rooted in the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 5:22-33).

We must—also like the pro-life movement—understand the importance of a Supreme Court that won’t will into existence constitutional planks by force of its own will. That requires a persuasive public witness, and a long-term as well as a short-term strategy. That means fighting—as we are doing—for the Court not to invalidate state definitions of marriage and for the culture to recognize that a state that can force people to participate in what they believe to be sin is a state that is too big for the common good.

Above all, we must prepare people for what the future holds, when Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality aren’t part of the cultural consensus but are seen to be strange and freakish and even subversive. If our people assume that everything goes back to normal with the right President and a quick constitutional amendment, they are not being equipped for a world that views evangelical Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews and others as bigots or freaks.

Jesus told us we would have hard times. He never promised us a prosperity gospel. He said we would face opposition, but he said he would be with us. If we are going to be faithful to his gospel, we must preach repentance—even when that repentance is culturally unwelcome. And we must preach that any sinner can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. That means courage and that means kindness. Sexual revolutionaries will hate the repentance. Buffoonish heretics, who want only to vent paranoia and rally their troops, will hate the kindness. So be it.

Our churches must be ready to call out the revisionists who wish to do away with a Christian sexual ethic. And we must be ready to call out those who tell us that acknowledging the signs of the times is forbidden, and we should just keep doing what we’ve been doing. An issue this culturally powerful cannot be addressed by a halfway-gospel or by talk-radio sloganeering.

The marriage revolution around us means we must do a better job articulating a theology of marriage to our people, as well as a theology of suffering and marginalization. It means we must do a better job articulating to those on the outside why children need both a Mom and a Dad, not just “parents,” and why marriage isn’t simply a matter of court decree. It means we must start teaching our children about marriage “from the beginning” as male and female when they’re in Sunday school. It means we may have to decide if and when the day will come in which we will refuse to sign the state’s marriage licenses.

Because the stakes are so high, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is hosting a conference this fall on marriage, homosexuality, and the church. Here we will assemble some of the leading thinkers and pastors on these issues to help you equip a new generation to stand for marriage in tough times, to prepare us to preach the whole gospel to hurting people. Sign up and join us. Bring your leadership, your small group leaders, your deacons, your elders, your Sunday school teachers.

Long term the prospects for marriage are good. Sexual revolutions always disappoint, and God has designed marriage, biblically defined, to be resilient. But, short term, the culture of marriage is dark indeed. That’s why we have a gospel that is the power of God.

 

Originally published at ERLC.com.

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Is The Attitude Toward The Influence of Faith in Politics Changing?

Posted on October 2nd, 2014 Churches and Politics | No Comments »

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By Sarah Kramer, Marketing Campaign Coordinator

When I became old enough to vote, I had very little to draw from besides my parents’ political views. The one place that I thought might provide moral insight, as it had for other areas of my life, was my faith. But I found that the church spoke very little, if any, about political and social issues and even less about political candidates.

A recent Pew Research Center study shows I’m not the only one who wants to apply my faith to my politics.

The study, released last week, states that the American public has a “growing appetite for religion in politics.”

According to the poll, 72 percent of the public think religion is losing influence in American life. On top of that, 56 percent believe the fact that religion is losing its influence is a bad thing.

Some other findings in the poll include:

    • - 49 percent of Americans think churches and other houses of worship should express their views on day-to-day social and political issues. That’s up from 43 percent in 2010.
    • - The number of people who think churches should come out in favor of candidates increased from 24 percent in 2010 to 32 percent.
    • - Nearly 60 percent of those polled want members of Congress who have strong religious beliefs.

You might think that your faith has no place in politics. After all, didn’t Thomas Jefferson say there should be a “wall of separation between Church and State”?

Here’s the thing: The idea of “separation of church and state” has been taken out of context. Thomas Jefferson wrote this phrase to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut to reassure them that the government would not interfere with the practice of their faith – not that their faith would be totally removed from government and politics.

In fact, pastors preached freely on political topics and candidates from the American founding to the mid-1900s. They believed the church needed to be the moral compass for the nation.

And it was.

Pastors and churches were instrumental in ending slavery, for example.

The idea that their faith should be entirely taken out of the political sphere came much later.

Free speech from the pulpit was drastically restricted with the passage of the Johnson Amendment in 1954, which threatens churches with the loss of their tax-exempt status if the IRS deems a sermon “too political.” But today, some topics that are biblical are now considered “political,” such as marriage and the sanctity of life. Due to the Johnson Amendment, many pastors have simply stopped preaching on any “political” topics to avoid IRS scrutiny.

Now there is a movement of pastors seeking to end the Johnson Amendment and get the government out of their pulpits.

Will you join them?

Go to pulpitfreedom.org to learn more and to join your voice with the thousands of pastors that support restoring the moral influence of faith to politics.

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How To Fix The Johnson Amendment

First Amendment says a pastor should determine his sermon, not the IRS

Pastors today may not remember a time when they could preach on political and social issues without fear of their church losing its tax-exempt, non-profit status.

But the current fear among pastors of preaching about candidates or an election was not always so pervasive.

Since the founding of our country, pastors enjoyed the freedom to speak boldly from their pulpit about the most crucial social and political issues of the day. In 1954, however, the carefully manipulated passage of one outrageous piece of legislation – the Johnson Amendment – profoundly undermined this crucial freedom.

Nearly 60 years later, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) convened a Commission to study, among other things, whether the Johnson Amendment should be amended or repealed.

The Commission was advised by panels of representatives from the non-profit sector, legal experts, and religious leaders.

After studying the issue, the Commission recommended amending the Johnson Amendment to restore the constitutional rights of free speech and free exercise of religion to churches and other non-profit organizations.

The Commission recommended amending the Johnson Amendment to allow:

1. Speech that would be no added cost or a very minimal cost to the organization (such as a sermon, not an expensive advertising campaign)
2. If the speech of the organization would cost more than that minimal amount, then the Johnson Amendment would only prohibit speech that clearly identifies candidates and directly calls for those candidates’ election or defeat.

This fix, if adopted, will relieve a great deal of pressure on churches and other non-profit organizations.  It will get the IRS out of the business of censoring what a pastor says from the pulpit and will go a long way to bringing clarity to the IRS’ enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.

ECFA’s proposal overrides the negative effects of the Johnson Amendment without even having to repeal it. It is a practical, realistic way to restore a fundamental right to churches and other non-profits that everyone, including Congress, can get behind.

Take Action

Shouldn’t pastors have the freedom to fearlessly speak Biblical truth on the political and social issues of the day?

That is exactly what this ECFA amendment seeks to do – restore the right of a pastor to decide what is said from the pulpit, not the IRS.

Today, there is a movement of pastors in the United States standing up for their free speech and free exercise of religion by signing up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday. This movement seeks to encourage Congress to consider and pass this reasonable amendment.

You can join them.

Go to www.pulpitfreedom.org to sign up. Then share this post on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.

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