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In general, people rarely come forward to talk about their sexuality, sexual struggles or sexual identity issues. Therefore, it can be difficult to address people pastorally, even when pastors are willing and want to help people deal with their sexual brokenness. On the other hand, pastors are sometimes increasingly reluctant to address these issues themselves.  One member of a church filled with millennials told me that his church never addresses issues like sexuality at all.  That’s pretty ironic, given that this generation is the most porn-exposed, gay-affirming, and pro-gay marriage group of any generation – even in very conservative churches. In the absence of guidance from church leaders, the culture has done its own job of discipleship in this area quite well!

“Every day, it’s almost like I’m only one step away from starting to believe that, just maybe, we are the ones who have been wrong [about homosexuality].”

Indeed, pastors have told me they fear that the culture, sexually speaking, is starting to impact their leadership and elders as well.  Case in point?  Sam, an elder at a larger congregation with a mostly younger crowd, confessed to me recently, “Every day, it’s almost like I’m only one step away from starting to believe that, just maybe, we are the ones who have been wrong [about homosexuality].”

Phil, a pastor in a large metropolitan-area church, told me that some people stopped attending his church when they found out that the church held a biblically faithful stance on homosexuality.  “Visitors are often offended when they learn what we believe about this issue, even though we talk about it with grace and mercy.”  It’s true.  Today it’s quite normal for someone to inquire of an individual, once they find out they are a Christian, “Well, what do you think about homosexuality?  Is it a sin?”  It’s seen as the new barometer of trustworthiness in the eyes of the inquirer.  In an analogous way, church visitors, even those who may attend an introductory or membership class, also want to know up front now, “What does your church think about homosexuality?”  One pastor described trying to navigate these waters today as a minefield—no matter what he says or how kindly he will say it, someone is going to be upset. In fact, the upset party may very well leave the church, perhaps taking some others with them.

Maybe that’s why one pastor of another large city church told me not long ago, “We’ll never have anyone from Harvest USA come and speak to our congregation.  I don’t want to offend anyone, especially those who may be gay in the church.”  Well, okay, but my question to that pastor would be, “How do you plan to educate your people biblically about sex and sexuality?  Or are you just going to let them figure it out for themselves, continuing to allow the hundreds of other voices out there be their instructors?”  I also wonder how struggling members of such a congregation might ever be encouraged towards honesty, faith, and repentance when it comes to their sexual temptations, struggles, and sin—to even want to get help.

My guess is that fear of man and a desire to not upset the applecart are often ruling forces here.  We err when we dismiss or fail to teach on something as big and important to God as sex. If we talk about these things biblically (as in really teaching what God says), we may fear that our message won’t go over well with those who are exploring the faith.

But church leadership doesn’t have to walk on eggshells, fear, be confused, or choose silence.  Yes, teaching and speaking the whole counsel of God, offering mercy and grace all the while, can be a challenge. Yes, we’ll need to be more strategic in learning how to engage the culture that is already deeply influencing our own people. But if there’s any time that we must proclaim the truth and grace of God about these issues, it’s today!

Harvest USA wants to help pastoral staff, other church leadership, elder boards, etc. better consider how to communicate all this to their congregation.  No longer can we just wait on the sidelines.  As leadership, we must intentionally think about how we can guide and help our people better understand God’s intention in these areas.

Please let us know if you’d like Harvest USA staff to help your church leadership and key volunteers think through these things. Your church staff and other leadership will be much better prepared to help the congregation if you do.  Send me an email for more information on how your church leadership can begin to tackle these issues—and, therefore, be enabled to lead your people well in concerns close that are close to the heart of God.

As the church steps into the trenches of the sexual struggles with which her people are wrestling, it is encountering a new reality and new challenges in how to do faithful ministry. As the culture continues to push into the church, the following “givens” impact how Christians are thinking about sexuality:

  • Increasing cultural acceptance of homosexuality, especially among millennials
  • Growing acceptance of a gender-fluid and genderless society
  • An awareness of Christians who experience same-sex attraction (SSA), but confusion about how to help them
  • Legalization of gay marriage
  • The encroachment of pro-gay theology and its inroads into the evangelical church
  • The trend toward casual sexual relationships and co-habitation
  • The ubiquity of pornography and the steady erosion of biblical sexual ethics

All of the above signals the need for churches to think strategically about how to “do ministry” as the culture continues to push into the church. John Freeman has spoken to church leaders and presbyteries, helping to bring awareness of the pressing issues that need attention. John highlights four things churches must address.

1. Leadership—insuring everyone is on the same page

While leadership certainly means your key leaders – pastors, elders, deacons, etc. – it also includes your leadership volunteers like women’s leaders, youth leaders, Sunday school and adult teachers, small group leaders, and so on. The importance of all leaders being on the same page, theologically and pastorally, has never been more critical. Asking the following questions will (hopefully) result in dialogue and clarification.

Do you know your current leaders’ views on sex and sexuality? Considering the “givens” listed above, how do you approach your leadership in determining what they believe, and where they might be feeling pressure to change? We used to take it for granted that leaders would adhere to biblical sexual ethics, but some are changing their views and remaining silent about it. How do you get everyone on the same page?

Do you know if your leaders are struggling here? As important as what they believe, do you know if some of your leaders are struggling here? People, and especially leaders, hide sexual struggles. How can you call them to be honest, and in what ways do you help them? We know that when leadership falls sexually, it deeply injures the church and how people see Christ.

How will your leaders approach sexual issues pastorally? Key leaders have the greatest influence, so it’s more important than ever to make sure they believe fully in what the Scriptures say and will speak that compassionately to those who struggle. Sometimes that’s not easy to do, but true compassion is grounded in speaking God’s truth, not in defining truth as we wish it to be.

How would your church address a leadership candidate who experiences same-sex attraction? As we call believers to openness and honesty about their sexual struggles, we should expect to find men and women who live with same-sex attraction and are living faithfully according to Scripture. When they pursue leadership roles in the church, what help and assistance do they need?

2. Membership – confronting complex issues

The culture greatly influences church members. Confusion is growing as pro-gay theology, rooted in secular thought, influences believers who know too little of Scripture. How will your church in this new reality address some of the following scenarios?

What if someone identifies as a gay Christian? Is this a private matter known only to some, or is this becoming public? Do you know what this person means by adopting this identity label?

What about someone who supports gay marriage and homosexuality? Again, is this a private opinion or an advocacy position? What is a pastoral approach to members whose views are in opposition to Scripture? What if someone with these views wants to join your church?

Are you talking about sex and sexuality to prospective members in your membership classes? Do you approach the issue from a discipline angle, or first from a Christian worldview perspective? Or do you not mention the topic at all, and if so, why not?

What if a same-sex couple comes to faith (one or both)? What if they are legally married? How do you approach the complex situation of pastorally shepherding a family, particularly when there are children, when the parents are legally married?

What about church discipline? While recognizing the complex issues involved with sexual sin, where might church discipline come into play as someone is being shepherded through the ups and downs that go with this struggle? Is there an approach that is more helpful, or less so?

3. Church Culture—what kind of church culture do you want to nurture?

Do you have a sense of the culture in your church in how it relates to the culture “out there?” How does your church address the new reality of sexual issues that are prominent in the culture? How do you speak about them publicly, from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, in the things your church writes? There is a big difference between churches that speak harshly about sexual issues and those that say hardly anything at all. The first approach leaves people hiding, and the other leaves people in confusion. That we need to talk about these issues has never been more critical, but the words we use (or do not use) are equally important. How do you speak to those who are opposed to his ways; and to those who are confused about what Scripture says; and to those who want to obey but struggle to submit to the Lordship of Christ in this area? Our approach, our words, our faithfulness to Scripture, and our presence with those who struggle are the many ways we show who God is to them.

4. Policies and Procedures—possible dangers ahead

Two seismic changes have transformed the landscape for ministry: the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the use, or threat, of non-discrimination laws and regulations, known as sexual orientation and gender identity ordinances. Churches with a history and tradition of opening their doors to the community for weddings and receptions, local community events, outside groups that use the church to meet – all of these connections may become problematic in light of the increasing use of anti-discrimination ordinances.

These new laws and court rulings mean that churches must carefully think about ministry in three key areas.

Weddings.
While this issue gets a lot of press, the reality is that the First Amendment seems quite solid in protecting ministers from performing same-sex marriages. However, the matter is more uncertain if your church has been open to hosting outside weddings and receptions. What steps can your church take to remain open to traditional weddings while not hosting wedding events that oppose biblical truth?

Building usage by outside groups.
Apart from weddings, building use for other outside events might become more difficult, particularly for churches that rent their facilities or allow them to be used by the community. The challenge for churches that want to remain invested in their local community is to determine how to both invite and define that involvement, in ways that will avoid potential lawsuits.

Staff behavior.
Anti-discrimination laws regarding employment are another new reality that is increasingly stepping on religious turf. Churches that discipline ordained staff for misconduct are again protected by the First Amendment. But addressing non-ordained staff behavior is not so clear. What if a staff person comes out as transgender, or a staff person legally marries someone of the same gender? Gender fluidity and sexual orientation are major battlegrounds for employment law today. The area of employment law for religious groups seems to be up for grabs today. How churches will be affected is not yet clear, but they should now find ways to try to protect themselves while also shepherding staff who are struggling in these areas.

We’ve just scratched the surface on a few of the crucial issues churches are facing with these new realities. Harvest USA can help! We can help you think through these issues and conduct a healthy conversation among your leaders.

Contact John Freeman at [email protected] to get the conversation started.

In January 2016, Ellen Dykas returned to Taiwan, East Asia, to teach a two-week course entitled “Biblical Sexuality and Ministry to Strugglers.” 

I was going back to Taiwan to speak to twenty-nine students who all spoke Chinese. Back to China Reformed Theological Seminary in Taipei, to help train men and women preparing for ministry. They came from Taiwan, main-land China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, and Australia. I had been there before, in 2013, when I first addressed sexual struggles in Asia, and I was eager to return. I hoped to meet up with some students who I taught three years ago. As a teacher, you always wonder if anything you said or taught made a difference.

Upon arriving, I learned that Taiwan was considering legalizing gay marriage. The news dismayed my students, and I gave them insight into what Christians in the USA faced when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage last summer. We found common ground as Christians living so far from each other: as sexual sin outside of God’s design becomes the norm, standing firm for biblical truth may cost us more than it has in the past. We agreed that ministry would need to be more strategic and nuanced than ever before in order to speak into the culture.

But we alsoEllenTaiwan newspaper image - 870 x 580 concurred that ministry still needs to be relational and personal, appropriately caring for each individual.  I met up with one of my students from 2013 and heard her story of parenting her gay-identified daughter. She expressed fresh sorrow over her daughter’s life, but shared with me new insight about the faith to which God is calling her as she loves her daughter in a new way. She recalled my teaching from three years ago, that telling her daughter to “Stop!” would not lead to true repentance. She began learning how to engage her daughter relationally while also holding true to God’s design for sexuality and relationships. It is so good to know that God uses even my words to strengthen his people!

How does the church address sexual struggles in Asia? Much the same as we do, but with one very big difference: in Asia, the church hardly talks about sexuality at all. A powerful culture of shame encourages hiding and silence on an even a deeper level than what we see in churches in the USA. And the silence from church leaders is much “louder” than here, compounding the confusion and despair of Christians struggling alone.

But by offering courses like the one I taught, China Reformed Seminary is beginning to change that culture of silence. What the Asian church needs now are solid biblical resources translated into their languages.

I have one more memory to share: The seminary partners with a local biblical counseling ministry. On Saturday, between my two weeks of classes, the counseling ministry hosted a community lecture at which I was the featured speaker. You can imagine my surprise when I realized that the lecture made the front page of the Taipei Christian newspaper! Serving with Harvest USA has certainly led to many unexpected adventures!

Also, here is one last prayer request: God is expanding Harvest USA’s influence outside of the United States, and it’s exciting! I will have the opportunity to teach on biblical sexuality at a national women’s conference in Columbia this coming July, but I need some special funding to make this happen. I need to raise $1500 to cover the costs, so that Columbians will be able to attend. Tax-deductible donations may be made by check to Colombia Reformed (please add a note that this is for Ellen Dykas, but do not write that on the memo line!) and mailed to: Colombia Reformed, P.O. Box 102, Lovettsville, VA 20180. Thank you!

In an earlier post (below) Dave White talks about whether it is ever appropriate to tell you children about your own sexual struggles and sin from the past. In the video (above) Dave gives a number of options on how to do this.

 

Do you have sexual skeletons in your closet? Many Christian parents do, and as their kids edge toward the teen years, they begin to dread the questions that may come and begin to ask their own: How can I expect my kids to hold the line sexually when I failed at their age? Isn’t disclosing my own failures giving them license to do whatever they want?

In light of these concerns, does it ever make sense to open the closet door and let your kids see your past?

It depends. There are some kids in a place of rebellion, looking for any excuse to act out. The parent/child relationship may be so contentious that any vulnerability will be exploited and used later to lash out and possibly wound when you seek to address your child’s behavior. Were you a Christian while you were sexually active? This could cause your Christian teen to think they can sin now and repent later. All of us should pause and seek the Spirit’s guidance in broaching these issues with our kids.

That said, in the vast majority of cases, I believe it can be wise and helpful to let your kids see into the closet. Here are three good reasons why.

First, your story can provide a cautionary tale. Even if you were spared the harsh consequences of STDs or unplanned pregnancy, you can discuss the soul damage that can occur when we don’t follow God. Our anything-goes-as-long-as-it-doesn’t-hurt-someone culture tells us we can indulge sexually with impunity, but God says it is a sin against our very self (1 Corinthians 6:18). Our kids need to hear that there are unseen consequences in carelessly squandering God’s great gift in this area of life. There can be some real losses later in life.  Even if the sin was only with your spouse prior to marriage, you can share the challenges this may have caused early in marriage or the way it impacted the joy of your honeymoon, etc. Listen: I’m not big on scare tactics. Graphic STD photos aren’t helpful to show to your teen. But there is a benefit to hearing that this is God’s world and following him is the only path to true blessing and joy.

Second, it gives glory to the God who redeems. My past is extremely messy and my kids have known it for a long time, getting more details at age-appropriate stages. Why do they know this about me? I want them to know that my life is a testament of God’s grace! The Spirit of God has radically changed me from the inside-out. They need to know that God forgives sinners and there is no one beyond his grasp. I praise God that the man I was 20 years ago would be unrecognizable to my kids (and not just because of the Afro!). Real honesty removes you from any pedestal that would cause you to eclipse Jesus. He alone is the righteous one and your kids should know that you’re as needy as they are for needing his grace (and that means today, not just in your distant past!). One of the most crucial things we do in passing on the Christian faith to our kids is to model authentic faith, which revolves around confession and repentance.

During a season often marked by growing distance between parents and teens, this is a way for you to build a bridge relationally. Being vulnerable, inviting your kids to know the “real” you, invites a reciprocal response. True, they may not be willing to open up, but at the very least it lets them know you want a deeper relationship. The essence of relationship is to be “known,” so we should be striving to let our kids really know us in age-appropriate ways. And it is always huge for teens to be treated as the budding adults they are.

Finally, your kids need to know that the gospel speaks to their sexuality, affected as everything is, by the Fall. “Youthful lusts” are a powerful force at this age. All teens enter these turbulent years wrestling with physical desires they’ve never experienced before, and to make matters more difficult for them, parents generally are not asking them about this stage of development.  So, kids are wrestling with strong physical and emotional feelings and desires and the real-life guidance they need is sadly lacking from their own parents. If no one speaks about these struggles, then, to them, neither does the gospel.  But it does!

This is a crucial time for them—and you, as their shepherding parents—to apply the gospel in deeper ways!  Our sexual struggles (and failures) are often a significant place of learning our utter dependence on God’s Spirit and the Body of Christ to grow and live in the way we are called to live in Christ. And the best way for your kids to learn these things is for you to be vulnerable about your own neediness and encourage them with how Christ and his people have met you in your own struggles with sexual sin.

For further thoughts look for my forthcoming minibook: Raising Sexually Healthy Kids, soon to be available at NewGrowthPress.com.

Raising Sexually Healthy Kids

This is a one-day seminar for parents of young children and teens.

It’s tougher than ever to be both a kid and a parent today! The world’s culture is continually pushing an anything-goes sexuality on our children. Gospel Sexuality: Raising Sexually Healthy Kids gives you gospel-centered principles and practical helps to disciple your kid’s hearts and nurture their faith as they face the sexual chaos of their world.

Seminar Topics:

Session 1: Fallen Sexuality
How can we understand our children as fallen image-bearers? God gave a great plan for sex and love, but sin twists our worship, mars our identity, and distorts our relationships.

Session 2: Gospel Sexuality
How can we understand our children in light of the Gospel? Christ gives us a new vision for sexuality. He transforms us and our sexual brokeness, so that we can live by faith, repentance, and love.

Session 3: The Sex Talk(s): Getting the Subject out in the Open
How do we talk with our children about sexuality? Learn how to share a Gospel vision for sexuality with your family, receive practical guidance for age-appropriate conversations, and find grace for the challenging road ahead.

Session 4: The Technological Terrain: Where your Kids Live
How can we know our children’s world? The latest innovations in technology and social media are being used to indoctrinate a fallen sexual worldview. Learn the dangers of this terrain, what you can do about them, and how to further walk with your children on the road of discipleship.

 

 There will be a charge for this event. Lunch WILL be provided.
For additional information please call the church at 423-629-1421.

To register for this seminar – Click Here!

Presenters:

Dan Wilson, Director SCO

Dan Wilson, Coordinator, SO

 

Dan Wilson is the Student Outreach Coordinator for Harvest USA. Dan is also an ordained minister, and has served as a youth minister, education minister, pastor, with para-church ministries, and taught New Testament at Bryan College, Dayton, TN.

 

 

Cooper  Pinson, SO Staff

Cooper Pinson, SO Staff

 

Before coming north to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Cooper Pinson, a life-long southerner, graduated from Samford University in Birmingham. There he met his wife, Katie, and worked as the Junior High Director at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, also in Birmingham. Cooper has a passion to help youth live with sexual integrity, and to walk with them as they grow in a deeper faith in Jesus Christ. A new comer to Harvest USA, he serves as our Student Outreach staff member.

Raising Sexually Healthy Kids

This is a one-day seminar for parents of young children and teens.

It’s tougher than ever to be both a kid and a parent today! The world’s culture is continually pushing an anything-goes sexuality on our children. Gospel Sexuality: Raising Sexually Healthy Kids gives you gospel-centered principles and practical helps to disciple your kid’s hearts and nurture their faith as they face the sexual chaos of their world.

Seminar Topics:

Session 1: Fallen Sexuality
How can we understand our children as fallen image-bearers? God gave a great plan for sex and love, but sin twists our worship, mars our identity, and distorts our relationships.

Session 2: Gospel Sexuality
How can we understand our children in light of the Gospel? Christ gives us a new vision for sexuality. He transforms us and our sexual brokeness, so that we can live by faith, repentance, and love.

Session 3: The Sex Talk(s): Getting the Subject out in the Open
How do we talk with our children about sexuality? Learn how to share a Gospel vision for sexuality with your family, receive practical guidance for age-appropriate conversations, and find grace for the challenging road ahead.

Session 4: The Technological Terrain: Where your Kids Live
How can we know our children’s world? The latest innovations in technology and social media are being used to indoctrinate a fallen sexual worldview. Learn the dangers of this terrain, what you can do about them, and how to further walk with your children on the road of discipleship.

 

 There will be a charge for this event. Lunch WILL be provided.
For additional information please call the church at 423-629-1421.

To register for this seminar – Click Here!

Presenters:

Dan Wilson, Director SCO

Dan Wilson, Coordinator, SO

 

Dan Wilson is the Student Outreach Coordinator for Harvest USA. Dan is also an ordained minister, and has served as a youth minister, education minister, pastor, with para-church ministries, and taught New Testament at Bryan College, Dayton, TN.

 

 

Cooper  Pinson, SO Staff

Cooper Pinson, SO Staff

 

Before coming north to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Cooper Pinson, a life-long southerner, graduated from Samford University in Birmingham. There he met his wife, Katie, and worked as the Junior High Director at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, also in Birmingham. Cooper has a passion to help youth live with sexual integrity, and to walk with them as they grow in a deeper faith in Jesus Christ. A new comer to Harvest USA, he serves as our Student Outreach staff member.

Don says to Dave, “What’s you major?”  “Business Administration,” replies Dave.

“What’s yours?” asks Dave, and Don says, “English Lit.”

Predictably, Don says, “So, what’s your minor?”

And Dave says, “Porn is my minor.”

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Relationships? Emotional connections with others? Do we “make” all of these experiences for ourselves? Do WE set the agenda and do what we want? Many will shout out a loud and exuberant YES! But the God of the Bible says something else.

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I thought it might be good to begin and the beginning…where do all these things come from anyway? I mean…sexuality? Relationships? Emotional connections with others? Do we “make” all of these experiences for ourselves? Do WE set the agenda and do what we want?

Read More


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