September 29, 2023

What Should the Church Be In This Sexual Revolution?

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We are living in an unprecedented time in American history. Never before has it felt so scary to identify as a Christian. A few decades ago, being a faithful church member—perhaps an elder or deacon—meant you got the job over the equally qualified but church-unaffiliated competition. Not so today. In our current cultural climate, identifying with Christ comes with tangible costs and few upsides. It used to be that society’s greatest objection to the gospel was the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell. Now Christians are considered dangerous bigots because of our biblical convictions on sexuality and gender.

Churches are choosing to respond to these cultural shifts in a plethora of ways. Tragically, many have acquiesced to cultural pressure, proudly waving the rainbow flag and twisting the Scriptures to condone what God hates. Others have taken the polar-opposite approach, advocating with a very combative tone for a Christian nationalism to “take our country back.” Between these poles are countless other approaches. These issues are challenging to navigate.

Regarding the church’s role in society and how we should respond to increasing hostility to God’s Word, there are dangers on all sides—I don’t have the market cornered on wisdom and discernment. But I will offer four principles we can use when asking, “What should the church be in this sexual revolution?”

1. Humbly Repentant

Every church must ask, “What are the logs lodged in our own eyes?” We cannot rightly call the world to repent if we have not dealt with our own house first. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” In the context of grave sexual sin in the Corinthian church, Paul is making two simultaneous statements here:

“Don’t expect the unbelieving world to act like believers.”
“Expect believers to live up to the testimony they profess.”

We all long for a revival of true gospel living—both in our land and around the world. Church history shows that when the Holy Spirit does an unusual work in bringing multitudes of people to Christ in dramatic ways, those seasons are precipitated by a deep, contrite repentance in the church. Revival starts from within the church, not from without.

How many of us, when we look at the sexual chaos in the world, immediately search our own hearts with the prayer of David:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)

There is much repentance needed for sexual sin within the body of Christ. The scourge of pornography continues to wreak havoc in so many church communities adopting a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude to sexual sin. Too many churches are passive in their approach to these shepherding needs. In this state, are we ready for the refugees from this sexual revolution who will come to our doors seeking help?

May our corporate prayer be guided by Hosea 10:12:

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

2. Theologically Unwavering

The more I wrestle with the complexities of pastoral care for sexual strugglers, the more convinced I become that we need more theology, not less. There can be an attitude in the church that pits sound doctrine against compassionate care for strugglers. We can all fall into the dangerous fallacy of thinking that we can be more compassionate than God himself1—that we know how to heal someone better than the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3).

Brothers and sisters, the world does not need a filtered gospel. Only the whole counsel of God, rightly divided, will lead us to true maturity in Christ. Of course, pastoral wisdom knows how to apply God’s Word in apt ways and appropriate times. We should never use Scripture to bludgeon people but instead seek to conform our speech to the standard of Proverbs 15:23: “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is.” However, there are countless examples of well-meaning pastors and counselors compromising the truth of God’s Word because they believe that, in some way, speaking the truth would not be loving but harmful. In subtle and subversive ways, we are in danger of making our logic and feelings the standards to which Scripture must submit and not the other way around. Heresy does not happen with one giant leap, but with small, consistent compromises over years and decades.

3. Pastorally Present

From the outside, it might look like the world is celebrating their victories in indoctrinating our children, canceling dissenting voices, and pushing policies that make it increasingly difficult for Christians to live peaceful, quiet lives. But underneath their veneer of rejoicing is tremendous agony and chaos. Sin only brings forth death, never life. Behind the promise of sexual freedom and liberty is the bondage of lives enslaved to corruption. While you may think things cannot possibly get any worse, the full consequences of the path the world is taking have only started to surface. Consider the thousands of children making the life-altering choice to mutilate their bodies irreversibly. Consider the torrent of despair, regret, and hopelessness that could engulf an entire generation in the coming decades.

Yet this is when the church shows herself to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Jesus ministered on the earth when disease, demonic oppression, and societal unrest were rampant. In that context he sent his disciples out into the world, giving them “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Matt. 10:1)—the very same ministry he himself performed.

Now Jesus is sending us, his church, out into a chaotic world—to a broken people who are like sheep without a shepherd—and he’s sending us with the authority of the gospel: “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). We need to be ready to be a hospital for the many who will come with the scars and sicknesses of sin. The world might proclaim a message of victory over the church, but in reality, they are hurting and desperately need the hope of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28).

4. Fearlessly Bold

For these reasons, we must be bold in the truth and in our willingness to associate with people who are different from us. As we continue sliding into a post-Christian culture, we will increasingly be reminded that we are citizens of another city, living now as pilgrims and exiles.

For however long we reside in Babylon, we are to take every opportunity to work for the good of the city, as God directed the exiles of Judah to do (Jer. 29:7). Just as many of the societal blessings we currently experience are the fruit of Christian principles established by Christ-like citizens from centuries ago, so God has put his people in various levels of authority and influence in society today. We have an ongoing responsibility to seek the welfare of our neighbors—not only for today, but for the coming generations who will inherit the society we build.

Our boldness to stand on the truth and promises of God’s Word is not contingent upon the broader culture’s response to our faithful witness. We know not whether God will turn our nation away from the destructive lies it has embraced with unabashed pride. It is remarkable to see many European countries outlawing gender-transition surgery for minors, and God, in his common grace, can bring similar changes to our nation as well. But whatever the outcome for citizens of the United States or any country, the truth remains that the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church. It is because of this promise that we continue to move forward with great expectation that strongholds will continue to be torn down as we cast “down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

1I believe I first heard this idea expressed this way by Rosaria Butterfield, unsing the work “mercy.” For more from Dr. Butterfield, see

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Mark Sanders


Mark has been President of Harvest USA since October 2022. Mark holds an M.A. in Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA, and a B.A. in Communications & Integrated Media from Geneva College,

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