Harvest USA’s new ministry venture, The Sexually Faithful Church Initiative, aims to help churches be proactive in discipling the church community to understand and trust in the wisdom and glory of God’s design for sex, sexuality, and gender.
One major component for assisting the church community to embrace what God is saying about how we ought to live with our bodies is through teaching. But not just the usual way churches teach, through sermons and lectures (nothing wrong here, but it’s not enough). We mean through engagement and dialogue.
The church is making two errors today in dealing with sexual issues: One is to not talk about the subject; the other is to talk without engaging in a discussion. Both these approaches weaken God’s people because, unless the issues are thoroughly explored, most Christians don’t know how to think through the ways the culture is influencing them.
Getting the issues of sexuality out on the table and discussing them in open, safe settings is critical in helping people understand why God’s design for sexuality is good and why it remains relevant for our lives today. Understanding and faithfully following God’s Word in how we ought to live with the bodies God has given us will only take place when we better understand how Christian belief contrasts with current cultural thought.
The church needs to get its people talking! But talking also invites listening, so if we create a context for safe discussions, we can talk about Scriptural truth in a loving way that can help people see and understand the reasons why God’s design for sex and sexuality is good for each one of us individually and at large in our society.
And if we can do this within the church by talking respectfully with truth and love, then we can model the way to speak with those who do not believe what Scripture teaches. These are intensely personal issues, and those who do not follow Scripture here feel threatened by any talk from a religious or faith perspective. By speaking intelligently—with accurate knowledge of the issues—the Christian worldview potentially gains a hearing, and that is typically the way God works to change hearts and minds.
That’s what God’s Design for Sexuality in a Changing Culture (DVD) intends to do. We decided to film 15 of our most popular teaching presentations and reduce each talk to a 30-minute video. We then provide a discussion guide so that churches and small groups can interact with the material.
By showing the video teaching in a group context, it provides an environment for discussion and dialogue. People will watch the same video at the same time, so that means everyone hears the same material. In an age where videos are viewed more than books are read, we think this will entice more people to listen to these important messages and engage in the kind of discussion that can lead to further understanding and embracing of Scriptural truth.
It will be necessary for someone to lead the class or group discussion. It shouldn’t be an unstructured free-for-all. But the leader must make the post-video discussion safe for everyone. The issue of sex, sexuality, and gender—and how we ought to live faithfully before God with our bodies—is a highly emotional topic.
Everyone struggles to live well with God’s powerful gift of sex, sexuality, and gender. There will be people in your class who struggle here, and some have painful sexual histories that make this discussion difficult.
And some may come to different conclusions about what a biblical view of sex, sexuality, and gender is. Having a safe and open conversation about these topics includes having a discussion about why people choose to interpret the Bible in different ways. There may be a temptation to assume a person who thinks differently is not really committed to the Bible, but such is not necessarily the case. It is important to understand why a person interprets the Bible in specific ways and to engage in respectful dialogue about why you disagree. This is the only way to build the trust that is needed when engaging in conversation about such personal and vulnerable topics. A willingness to listen to each other is critical so that everyone understands the ways Christians are being influenced by our culture.
That doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone’s perspective or opinion. It may be necessary in the class or group to say that such a view is outside of Scripture and/or outside of the historical understanding of the church. There is no intent here in these discussions to affirm or suggest that multiple viewpoints on sex, sexuality, and gender are acceptable, or that how we live our lives as sexual and gendered beings is open to any interpretation that is at variance with Scripture and Christian tradition. It does matter that biblical principles for faith and life are affirmed and encouraged.
“It does matter that biblical principles for faith and life are affirmed and encouraged.”
We do, however, need safe and open discussion to help people learn and come to the place where they want to obey God. We grow into obedience to Christ (Matthew 11:28-30). We need to help one another know what we need to learn, and then encourage each other to grab hold of God’s revealed will on this matter and assist one another to live it out faithfully, in the strength that God gives to his people.
Editor’s Note: When you buy God’s Design for Sexuality in a Changing Culture (DVD) from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.