Truth and Grace Make the Safest Place- Helping Christians with Same Sex Attraction

This is a helpful article on how churches can become safe places for people with same sex attraction to experience love and hear truth.

In my opinion, the folks at the Public Discourse consistently offer thoughtful and academically challenging resources on moral issues affecting our culture.

Some big ideas in this essay:

  • When Christians profess to believe the Bible, yet compromise on sexual ethics it is confusing for people searching for redemption. The author of this article (a lesbian) writes about the journey she took with a friend, “Both of us were confused, wondering whether we should continue to embrace our lesbian identity with abandon, give it up for our faith, or try to have it both ways by twisting the Scriptures and suppressing the voice of conscience.” Sadly, in the name of compassion some Christians in their lives were unwilling to tell them the truth. This added to their troubles.
  • When we open our mind to sin, we open it up to deception. We lack objectivity when we try to wrestle with our own hearts, and often embrace bad ideas to rationalize what we want.
  • Telling people the truth in love does NOT hurt them, it helps them. Trying to encourage people by confirming them in their sin hurts them. Sin is always bad for you. All sin is bad (MY sin is bad for me). This is especially true of sexual sin.  And this includes the many different kinds of sexual sin, even the more acceptable varieties (like the Sports Illustrated soft-porn swimsuit edition).  This includes anything outside of the bounds of a committed, monogamous marriage of husband and wife. When pastors and churches teach a Biblical ethic on sexuality combined with mercy and grace, that is good medicine.
  • People that experience same sex attraction but want to honor God with their sexuality don’t have many places to go. The gay movement wants them to embrace their desires as their identity. Many in the church are also compromising and bending their message to the whims of the culture. There aren’t many places that will talk about repentance, AND also give you a helping hand in the process.  And not enough churches that do speak the truth are also prepared to walk as fellow sinners saved by grace with their brothers and sisters in this messy journey.
  • One of the best lines in the essay, when talking about sexual sin:   “Don’t single out homosexuality, but don’t leave it out either.”

 “Don’t single out homosexuality, but don’t leave it out either.”

The loudest voices in the propaganda machine would insist that the article I am referring to, as well as my comments above, constitute hate speech.  Which is interesting that an essay by a struggling lesbian giving advise to the church would be considered hate speech.  But none of this is hateful. And anyone who has ever experienced real hate-speech will know the difference.  And one of the big parts of becoming a grown up is learning the difference between people that hate you and people that disagree with you.

Source: Rending the Rainbow Veil: How to Make Your Church a Safe Space for Christians with Same-Sex Attraction | Public Discourse

People to Ignore: Critics and Groupies

I haven’t read much of Max Lucado’s writings… OK I haven’t read anything he has written.  But I saw this interview in the Leadership Journal and it has some good stuff.

As a pastor (or leader in general) you have to keep your feet on the ground.  You can get knocked off your feet by what people say. When you are the object of bitter (and false) criticism that hurts. But another unexpected danger comes from praise. At some point every pastor will have someone telling them that they are amazing. That “no one preaches like you do,” that “no one else understands.”  Its true we need both honest feedback and encouragement, but these two voices are not giving us either of those things.

Max Lucado talks about this danger in his interview.   It is easy to think about the danger of critics, and they get a lot of press.  But I appreciate the fact that he is dealing with reality on both sides.

Here is a highlight:

“As a pastor, what are some uniquely loud voices that you’re hearing?

“Every time somebody says, “You’re such a wonderful spiritual leader,” there is a temptation to believe that. Because I’m not. I may have a little more experience than they do, but I’m certainly not as good as they’re saying I am. But there’s a temptation to believe that I am. And there is a temptation to believe I am as bad as some people say I am.

“In every church there are naysayers, there are critics, there are unhappy people. I’ve been at this church since 1988. I’m closing in on 30 years, and I still have people who complain and are grumpy and critical. I have to fight that thought: Am I as bad as some people say I am? Those are the two extremes we in ministry really have to struggle with: feeling self-righteous or defeated. Their voices are completely different, but both of them require leaning into the truth. There has never been a Sunday that I’ve driven home from church having preached that I didn’t battle with insecurity.” (Emphasis mine)

Source: Max Lucado: Dangerous Voices | Leadership Journal

You Need To Go To Church

You need to go to church. Sometimes people say ridiculous things about Jesus and Christianity. And here is something crazy: Christians can be the worst of all at this.

Here is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard believers say, “You don’t need to be a part of a church to be a Christian.” Some nuance is needed to pick this statement apart because there are some christians that are separated from the body of Christ. But when I have heard this statement the overall meaning is that we can do this on our own… that we don’t need to give or receive fellowship.  That we can live as amputated limbs without the rest of the body.  Well, below is one of my attempts to Biblically deconstruct this idea. Here are some notes and a link to a sermon I recently preached on this.  At the core of this message is the truth is that Christian community is tied to the work of Jesus on the cross and in our lives.  The need for fellowship and worship is much bigger than “being a good Christian.”

Hebrews 10:19-39 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Community starts with understanding what Christ has done for us. This is true because sin has separated us from God and one another. And the most important work, the first work is to repair the breach that our sin has caused between us and our God.

Sin separates us from God, and God from us. And sin also separates us from one another. God’s righteousness has barred us from his presence. And because our consciences are defiled, being in the presence of God is no longer pleasurable. We now run from him rather than to him. The OT temple worship was a depiction of this situation. We are separated from God’s presence, but he has made a way for us to return and be cleansed.

The work of Jesus (especially v. 19-21), as described in this passage, shows us 4 things that are the foundation of Christian community.  We cannot separate the way we relate to God from the way we relate to other people.

1.     We are welcomed. We have bold access to God’s presence because of the sacrifice of Christ. His blood has cleansed us. We are no longer banished. This is not because we have become good enough or worked hard enough. This is purely because of his work on our behalf.

2.     We are clean. Our hearts have been sprinkled by his blood. We are washed and forgiven and our consciences can be at peace. What the Old Testament animal sacrifices could only depict, Jesus has accomplished. We no longer need to be controlled by guilt and shame.

3.     We are secure. A promise is only as good as the one who makes it, and we are safe and secure because he who promised is faithful.

4.     We are in process. Though we are forgiven and accepted completely, there is much work to be done in us, on us, and through us.  And this work is explained (in part) in this passage.  God is at work in us through other believers. We desperately need them to help and encourage us.

Continue reading You Need To Go To Church

Church Planting Research Paper

Below you will find the results of my church planting research project. I have performed this investigation to provide a better picture of what is going on among Reformed Baptists in North America in the area of church planting, and to make several recommendations that will help us to be more faithful to the great commission and its fulfillment here at home. The document can be printed or read online. I am aware that there are limitations to all research, and that ultimately the teaching of scripture is all that matters. Consequently I realize that this paper is just one point of view, and that not everyone will agree with what I have said. I welcome any comments and input on this paper, and hope that this brief treatment of church planting will promote more discussion and continued reformation of our beliefs and practices to the will of Christ.

I discovered several things that are encouraging in this area, but more causes for concern, and perhaps even alarm. This project suggests that RB’s are not excelling in the area of domestic church planting, and that some common approaches to planting churches among RB’s are in need of reformation.

Several comments on the format of the paper are in order. Azusa Pacific University (where I was studying) requires the use of APA style. This format requires citations within the text, and stylistically is very “dry.” It does not allow for very much expressiveness in the way a paper is written. My apologies ahead of time.

Additionally, the format of the paper requires a bit of redundancy throughout the chapters in the form of summaries. For those who are not interested in research theory, you may find that reading chapter 2 (the literature review) is helpful. But most important is chapter 4 (page 40-70). This is the meat of the research where the results are presented and discussed.

The State of RB Church Planting by Matt Troupe http://d.scribd.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=17510588&access_key=key-1xv6e5e6h6m7xozzkprs&page=1&version=1&viewMode=

This is appendix C from the research which shows the list of known RB church plants in the last 10 years.

RB Church Planting Appendix Table http://d.scribd.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=17621973&access_key=key-2ke7r6x4wpn4p26wahgz&page=1&version=1&viewMode=