When I first became a pastor, I thought the question I would be asked the most was, “Pastor, how should I think through this issue?”
I was wrong. I did have people asking me, quite often, about how to apply the gospel to current cultural questions. But more often than this was a deeper, more personal inquiry: “Pastor, I’m struggling with this. What should I do?”
Cultural Issues Come to Church
I still remember the shock I felt when a faithful, older member of my congregation confided in me his lifelong struggle with same-sex attraction. This was a man who, by all accounts, had his life together. He was doing well in his career, he was a beloved father, and (by all appearances) happily married. But inside, he wrestled with these desires. As a pastor, what gospel hope could I give him that would equip him in the daily struggle? One one side, if his secret got out, he’d be condemned for even facing this temptation. On the other side, there was a ready and waiting chorus pushing him to accept a sexual ethic the Bible forbids.
Pastors must be ready to answer these questions, the deep questions, the people in their congregations will have. Perhaps no question is more vexing or real than the question of homosexuality. In my experience talking to pastors and church leaders, I find two responses.
Some wish this issue would just go away so they can “preach the gospel.”
Some want to treat this issue as a lower-tier issue like baptism or views on the end times.
Called to This Culture
These responses are lacking. Pastors and church leaders can’t pretend this issue will go away. We are not called to live in the culture we want but in the culture to which we are called. Pastors need to be courageous and compassionate, ready to answer and shepherd their people toward Christ-likeness. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Not Called to Compromise
The other response we are seeing, at least among a few evangelicals, is an attempt to reconcile the modern sexual ethic with the demands of the gospel. Some of this is fueled by a genuine desire to see unity in the church and break down barriers in order to see people experience grace. Yet, some are attempting to accommodate the church to the ambient culture. Church leaders need to be ready to answer these arguments and courageously speak to and lead their people to swim against the tide.
This is why the ERLC is hosting a conference on October 27-29th at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The theme is: The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage. Our desire is to equip pastors and church leaders in addressing this issue in a gospel-centered, compassionate and clear way. We hope you will join us.