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Every time I mention Pulpit Freedom Sunday, I generally get two basic objections to the concept of Pulpit Freedom.  Yet these objections in some way are either misguided or just flat out wrong. I’ll discuss the first today:

  1. Pastors should not preach politics from the pulpit

This is a common objection to Pulpit Freedom Sunday, since an election sermon obviously involves the realm of politics.

The main problem with this objection is that the definition of “political” keeps changing.  Thirty years ago, a pastor could preach a sermon from Scripture that marriage was between one man and one woman and no one would have been concerned or would have even thought to complain to the IRS that the Church was violating the Johnson Amendment in the tax code by speaking politically.  Yet today, if a pastor were to stand in the pulpit and preach a sermon that says marriage is between one man and one woman, that sermon would be instantly deemed “political.”

Some of this is, of course, a function of the culture war over fundamental issues such as the definition of marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious freedom.  As these issues are fought in the public square, they frequently become politicized by a culture that increasingly turns to the government to demand answers to these most fundamental questions.  Yet a pervasively darker consequence of these fundamental cultural conflicts is that the Church is frequently told that when culture deems an issue “political,” it somehow becomes off-limits for the Church to address without someone screaming that the Church has violated the Johnson Amendment and is endangering its tax-exempt status.

Ultimately, when people say that pastors should not preach about politics, they are making a theological argument.  No one can deny that Scripture has direct application to all of life, including the realm of politics.  What they really mean is that Scripture should not be specifically applied to the election or to the positions held by candidates or their parties.  That is, at base, a theological argument that Pulpit Freedom Sunday is not designed to address.  Rather, Pulpit Freedom Sunday is designed to answer the question of who gets to make that decision for churches.  Should it be the government or each individual church?

You see, when we allow the government to make that decision for churches, we are ceding control of what is God’s to “Caesar.”  That is a role the government is specifically prohibited from playing.  Even if people disagree over whether a pastor should preach an election sermon, everyone should at least agree that the decision should be left to the individual church and pastor to make.  We set a dangerous precedent when we allow the government to choose sides and pick a winner in an ongoing theological debate.  That’s not the free exercise of religion.

Read part two, Common Objections to Pulpit Freedom Sunday: Tax Exempt Status, next week.

We want every pastor to sign up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2014.  Go to www.pulpitfreedom.org to learn more and sign up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday this year, October 5, 2014.

Have you heard this objection before? What other objections have you heard (or have) to Pulpit Freedom Sunday? Let us know in the comments below. 

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

 

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Marriage. When you read that one simple word, what do you think of?  Perhaps you think of your own marriage and its joys and struggles. Maybe you think about the failed marriages you have seen among your friends or family. But today, you can’t say the word marriage without conjuring images of same-sex wedding ceremonies, court battles, and television pundits opining on the future of that one word. Alliance Defending Freedom is fighting every day to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

There is no question that America is in an intense debate over how culture, society, and law will treat marriage in the years to come. Is it, as it always has been, a life-long relationship between one man and one woman? Or will it be reduced to merely a transient relationship between two individuals with some added tax benefits?

At times like this in American history, the Church has spoken clearly and decisively, helping to frame the debate in moral and Biblical terms. Now, the Church’s influence is needed more than ever. America needs to know why God created marriage as the lifelong exclusive union between one man and one woman. America needs to understand that when God said that what he joined together, no man should separate, that He meant it, and that He meant it for our good and the betterment of society. And the Church has the answer to these pressing issues.

This month as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, why not use this opportunity, when the country is focused on love, to remind them about God’s design for marriage? Can you as a pastor take the opportunity to do some things to restore or promote a culture of marriage in your church? Here are a few ideas:

  • Show this video to your congregation that explains the big picture view of why the battle for marriage matters.

  • Preach a sermon on marriage and why it should remain the union of one man and one woman. Visit our website for resources to help prepare.

  • Launch a marriage ministry in your church to combat rampant divorce and its harmful effects on the family.

  • Sign up to participate in National Marriage Week in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day.

These are just some ideas for ways to celebrate marriage and to work to strengthen it in your church.  The Church must lead the way in protecting and strengthening marriage if society will ever once again value marriage. Let’s take this opportunity this month, as the world focuses on love, to hold up marriage as God’s ideal and, as the Church, lead the way toward a restored and renewed culture of marriage.

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What do I need to do to protect my church?

We receive many questions about what proactive steps churches can take to protect their religious liberty. And with the recent Supreme Court decisions, this issue has taken center stage. Therefore, we have assembled a couple of resources all churches can use to best position themselves for the future.

First, read our resource Seven Things all Churches Should have in their Bylaws. We also have some suggested bylaw language on marriage and human sexuality that will help churches in this regard.

Second, we advise every church to adopt a facilities usage policy that governs use of church facilities for wedding ceremonies. We have created a sample policy for you to use to ensure your church is protected.

Even in those states that adopted same-sex “marriage” or some equivalent, such as civil unions, churches do not have to allow use of their facilities for wedding ceremonies that are inconsistent with their faith. But there is an effort underway in some areas — such as Hawaii and Hutchinson, Kansas — to force churches to allow use of their facilities for same-sex “weddings” if they open their facilities for use by non-members for weddings at all. Passing a facilities usage policy provides a good defense. Put simply, no government official has the right to force a church to allow its facilities to be used for events that violate its religious beliefs.

Never forget that Alliance Defending Freedom is “watching the legal horizon.” We will continue to keep you updated and provide the best ways you as a pastor can respond to protect your church from legal threats.

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By: Dr. Jim Garlow, Sr. Pastor Skyline Church
 
I admit it.  As a pastor, like you, I would be happy if we did not feel the need to defend biblical, natural marriage.
 
And I “get it.”  Some pastors feel we need to “let the world be the world” and “have their own definition of marriage” while “we the church, will have our own definition of marriage.”  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Sounds, well, so cool.   Even a bit “hip.”  Live and let live, yes?
 
Well, it actually does not work that way.  For the last several years, I have tried to track with what happens every time that marriage is altered by the government.  It does not change marriage for just some folk.  It changes it for us all.  
 
And the consequences are horrific.  There is no way to say this easily.  Redefining marriage will take away the religious liberty we have in this nation, along with personal freedoms, along with parental rights.  Not the first day, or year, or possibly for four or five years.  But it will take it away – eventually.  It will crush underfoot what we have cherished as the First Amendment, the capacity to share the Gospel freely.
 
This issue has been studied in nations that have endorsed so called same sex “marriage.”  And “it ain’t pretty.”  At least not with regard to religious liberty.  If you had the time to read it, I would take the time to write it: exactly what is happening in nation after nation, in state after state, where the strong arm of the law – in supporting sexual liberty and same sex “marriage” – is crushing underfoot the proclamation of the gospel.  But you do not have time to read it (and I fully understand), so I will not overload you here with the many historical examples.
 
Some say, so what?  So what if the church goes through this?   We’ll just be like other countries, lose our liberties, be forced “underground.”  “So what?” they say.  And then comes the classic line: “the church always flourishes under persecution.” 
 
Well, that is partially true.  But not always.  I don’t know much about much.  But I have given my life to the study of church history.  My Ph.D. is in historical theology and church history. I have written one book on the history of Christianity.  And if you were to walk through Skyline’s new worship auditorium, you would see we have strong historical references throughout the building’s architecture (including the names of the top 350 leaders of Christian history, from every century, from all six continents).
 
The fact is the church suffers greatly when religious toleration (liberty) is lost.  At times, in some places, the church is wiped out.  Destroyed.  Gone.
 
America is at a crisis moment.  Some will say that those who share my view are being melodramatic, alarmist, overstating reality.  But the facts back up the reality that our nation is in an economical and moral freefall. And the institution of marriage is at the heart of that collapse.
 
Some argue again “so what?’  It is not the job of the church to “prop up” America or another other nation or any culture.  To do so would be to promote “civil religion” or “culture religion” instead of authentic, biblical Christianity.  Well that is true, if…if…if our goal was “civil religion.”  But it is not.
 
I am not appealing for the “saving of a nation” or the “salvaging of a culture.”  That would be an under-stimulating goal.  I am arguing for something so much bigger than that.
 
I am saying that God is God.  His Word is right.  His Word applies to personal life, family life, church life, community life and national life.  That is NOT saying that “America is Christian or a Christian nation.”  It is not.  (It was however founded on Christian principles – an easily defended statement in spite of the shrieks of the historical revisionists.)
 
But it is saying that “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord!” (Ps. 33:12) God is the one who created people, families, churches, communities, cities and nations.  Thus he wrote the “Owner’s Manual” for all of the above.  He alone knows how a person, family, church, community, city and nation are to function.
 
And he designed the marriage of one man/one woman to be the integral part of that equation.
 
Therefore, I am asking you to join with thousands of pastors and preach on marriage on Sunday, June 9th (or any date in May-June-July), as we take a stand on what is important to the heart of God.
 
How do you do that?  By signing up right now.  Join thousands of pastors who are spiritually discerning, who “get it,” who – like the sons of Issachar – “discern the times” (1 Chron. 12:32) and, consequently, know what the church ought to do. 
 
Sometime in June (presumably late June) the US Supreme Court will announce its verdict regarding the definition of marriage.  It is hard to know whether our highest court will side with God, or defy biblical truth.  But be assured, if the decision is to defy the biblical definition of marriage, there will (at some point) be some profound and unpleasant consequences for you, as a pastor.
 
Now is the time to declare biblical truth regarding marriage. Sign up to preach on marriage on Sunday, June 9.  Find out more at www.PulpitFreedom.org
 
Blessings on you this day,
Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor
Skyline Church, La Mesa, CA
Founder, The Pastors Rapid Response Team
Author

For years we have been warning that same-sex “marriage” is not the end goal of the radical homosexual legal agenda.  Instead, the end goal of that movement is the silencing of all dissent.  Numerous examples abound in other countries where we see the inevitable consequence of approving same-sex “marriage.”  In his latest column on Townhall.com, Alliance Defending Freedom President and General Counsel Alan Sears tells how France is now seeking to censor speech in opposition to efforts to redefine marriage or gender.

When a society’s laws recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman are changed to honor the unions of same-sex couples, it’s not just the law that changes—it’s also the society itself that changes. A top-down metamorphosis begins in which every aspect of public law changes to match the new definition of marriage.

Today, this is playing out in France with great clarity.

There, Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is pressing Twitter to help control the speech of the people by censoring messages that run counter to the position of the French government.

In particular, Belkacem wants Twitter to censor messages that run counter to the government’s decision to grant special rights and an elevated status to people who engage in homosexual behavior and persons who are of one gender but claim to be of another.

Belkacem praises the French government for making it illegal to discriminate based on these and other things and calls on Twitter to share the convictions of the government:

It is the honor of France to have gradually included in the penal code punishment of incitement to hatred or violence against a person or group of persons because of their origin, membership or non-membership in an ethnic group, nation, or of their sexual orientation or gender identity…Twitter [needs] to find solutions so that messages sent from our territory, our language, and destination of our citizens do not bear a clear violation of the principles we have set.

Notice—now that France has added “gender identity” to its national non-discrimination policy, unapproved communiqués on the subject of homosexual behavior are punishable by law. Now that France has embraced and attempted to redefine morality on homosexual behavior, speech against such behavior is literally banned.

And Minister Belkacem approves of this. She said as much when she wrote that French officials support “freedom of expression” but not freedom of expression “with impunity.”

There are so many lessons here for Americans who think that such things can never happen in this country. Believing the falsehood that all advocates of homosexual behavior want is to be left alone, one need only read their own words and examine the legal landscape, where dissenters and people of faith are being persecuted by “human rights commissions” and other government authorities who have no tolerance for a different point of view from their own.

Alan is correct.  What we see happening in France is bound to happen here should our society recognize and approve of same-sex “marriage.”  And those who  think that the First Amendment will stand as a shield against such efforts must remember that the Constitution has never deterred the left from pursuing its agenda.  If you have any doubts about that, ask JuleaWard, Elaine Huguenin, Ake Green, and countless others who have had their religious freedom threatened simply because they chose to speak up and live their faith in the public square.

The churches of America must speak up on this issue before it is too late and before the inevitable consequences of recognizing same-sex “marriage” fall on the church.  If churches do not speak up now, then they may not have the opportunity later.  Visit the marriage resource page of our website for information about the efforts to legally protect marriage.  And if you are a pastor, consider preaching a sermon on marriage and why it is important to protect it from radical efforts to redefine this most basic human institution.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

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