Exodus International (My Continuing Thoughts, Continued)

Homosexuality seems to be one of the main issues dominating the church and culture today. I have written before about some of my continuing thoughts regarding homosexuality, yet the culture seems to continue to shift, so taking a stance is easy for a day, but then there’s another facet that needs to be dealt with. So many times it feels like we’re shooting at a moving target. In this same moving target, Exodus International, an organization aimed at fixing people with same sex attraction by converting them to straight attractions, has just announced that they will be shutting down their organization. Alan Chambers, the founder of Exodus, just published a blog titled ‘I Am Sorry.‘ Through what I’ve read about the “redemptive therapy” the results were slightly less than what people I think had hoped. I don’t necessarily think it is the best way to deal with same sex attraction.

Shortly after Alan announced that Exodus would be closing their doors, he did an interview that appeared in The Atlantic. In this interview he said a few things that were troubling to me.

Have you changed your theological position on homosexuality?

My belief about sexual expression remains the same. But that really matters little to anyone except for me. It only serves to govern my own life. This isn’t something I’m going to make an issue or a barrier of in my relationship with anyone else.

The bold was the question asked, the regular font was Alan’s response. I’m glad to see that his beliefs about sexual expression remain the same, but it isn’t enough to say that is only governs his own life. The church has a responsibility to protect and preserve what God has commanded in regard to sexuality. And far too many people forget what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:12 in talking about sexual immorality, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

Tied in to this is Alan’s response to the question, “Are you in favor of gay marriage?”

I don’t really know what to think, honestly, when it comes to gay marriage. But I also don’t think anybody needs me to have a position. People have a right to live their lives as they see fit. If a friend or family member who is gay or lesbian invites me to be a part of their special day, I’m going to go and be a part of that because I love them. It doesn’t matter if I endorse or condone something–that’s not my right. I have plenty of friends who are gay and lesbian, loved ones in my family who are gay and lesbian. Their family will be my family, their friends will be my friends, and that’s all that matters.

Again, tied in to my above hesitation with this-if someone is a true believer, I don’t think that this is an appropriate response. If someone is in Christ, yet experiences same sex attraction, it does not make them worse than me as the sinner I am, but that does not mean they are then able to act on their desires. Just as me, as a single heterosexual male cannot act on the desires I have in the lust I have in my heart toward women I see. And this gets harder as it gets warmer out! I so long for the day that I will no longer have any lust in my heart, but until that day I will fight hard against my fleshly impulses.

So many people in this discussion point to Christ and his lack of mention about anything in regard to homosexuality. While Jesus may not have mentioned anything about this, he did talk about sexuality in general. In Matthew 19, Jesus is questioned about divorce.

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They (the Pharisees) said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Jesus whole idea of sexuality is rooted in the creation order. Looking back at Genesis, the way God created the world was with a male and a female, who together were the pinnacle of his creation. Yes, because of sin there were and are perversions of sexuality throughout the Bible and today. Many of the patriarchs had multiple wives, and we can read through the Bible to see the problems that occurred because of those multiple wives! God’s intent for mankind has always been for a man and women to become one flesh. Tied in to this, simply because Jesus didn’t address this issue head on, doesn’t mean it’s not an important issue. Far too many people neglect that Jesus was a real person who lived in first century Israel and was raised in a conservative Jewish home. There were many issues that Jesus didn’t address that were assumed. Homosexuality was considered to be a sin in conservative Jewish homes, and as seen above, Jesus had a very high view of sexuality that is rooted in the creation order. Does this mean that Christians need to be hate mongers who continually bash those with same sex attraction? Not at all! We should come alongside our brothers and sisters who do experience these attractions and love them as they live in the same fallen world we do, struggling with their sin and issues, just as we do. Let’s not encourage the pursuit of sin, but the pursuit of holiness in all areas of life-including sexuality.

I hope that Alan Chambers does not throw out Scripture in his attempt to reach those with same sex attraction, but continues to hold to it as he seeks God’s will for his life now as he works to help reconcile the relationships between those who experience same sex attraction and those in the church who are opposed to it. May the church be a place of grace and the Spirit convicting those of the sin in their lives as we continue to conform more into the image of Jesus Christ.

Creating a Contrast Culture

The Gospel Coalition had an interesting article yesterday titled ‘Create a Contrast Culture in Your Church‘. The article starts of with many people asking what program the church uses to produce the discipling, evangelizing, and hospitality that are easy to see. The answer is not a program, but rather that they offer tools to create a different culture of discipling, evangelizing and hospitality.

One of the phrases that most stuck out to me was: “Think about the local church as an embassy from the future.” I had never thought about that before. Christians on this side of heaven are preparing for a new heaven and a new earth where we will constantly be in God’s presence in a New Jerusalem. I think there has been some great work done on helping us appreciate that heaven will not be us sitting around on clouds playing harps, but instead a place where we will continue to do the things we love to do, but without pain and suffering, just like the Garden of Eden (see Randy Alcorn’s Heaven).

The article then lists 12 ways churches can create a culture that contrasts the culture of the world around them. One of the most important that I see in this list is number five:

Encourage church members to build their lives into one another’s. Yes, we want friendships outside of our churches. But Christians should also prioritize relationships within their churches, where they can leverage the same ministry of the Word in one another’s lives.

I think it’s far too easy to neglect the church family for your own family or for your own wants and desires. I think people have a far too narrow view of their relationships-the relationships they have with people who are believers will last for eternity. The phrase “blood is thicker than water” is true, but the reverse is true for the church body, “water is thicker than blood.” Those of us who have been baptized into the body have a new family that we need to invest our lives into and encourage them regularly, and even more as each day brings us closer to the day of Christ’s return.

The Consequences of a Liberal Lifestyle

I found a very interesting story about how the culture is pushing a 10 year old to become a gamer as well as watch explicit videos on YouTube. You can read the article here. This is a very sad commentary on what is going on in the world today. This is something I experienced in going to public school in rural North Dakota, with people showing me pornographic pictures in 7th grade. Thankfully, gaming wasn’t as big of an issue, and the only online interaction we had was MSN Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger, and I even had to sneak onto those to use them!

My only concern with the article is Rod’s response. As he explains why this is the very reason he homeschools his kids, he goes on to say that parents are alone in this struggle:

Your kids’ school is not going to help you, and may not be able to even if it wanted to.

Your church, lacking an awareness of the seriousness of the cultural situation, and perhaps having lost confidence in its message, is probably not going to help you. Your community is probably not going to help you either, because people either choose not to see what’s happening, or understandably feel so powerless against technology and the deeper cultural forces it carries with it that they tell themselves it’s not as bad as all that.

It’s just you. What now?

I find this even more sad than a liberal culture negatively affecting children! Of course the culture is going to continue to push Christians away from what is good right and true, but does that mean families need to pull in even closer to their “bubble” to protect themselves without any concern for what is going on around them? NO! This is the very reason we have the church and community around us to lovingly support rebuke and encourage us in our growth in holiness. Yes, the church hasn’t always done a good job of reaching out to families and helping to protect them, I’m struggling with this at the church I serve in as well, but there are many good families who are together doing the best they can to help each other as they raise their children to, Lord willing, become godly men and women. If we don’t have the church to support us in this, who do we have? I’m incredibly grateful for families who took an interest in me as I was growing up. Even when I go back home today I’ll stop and visit those parents just to catch up. That is what the body should do as we live in a broken culture. Don’t withdraw, but engage and show how we interact with the world around us in a godly way.

Introverted Evangelists

Found this article titled ‘The Introverted Evangelist‘ yesterday and found it very insightful. On every personality test I’ve ever taken I’ve been an extrovert to the extreme! I love people, I love being around people and never like being alone. Talking to people is generally very easy for me and the instant I walk into a room I have new best friends. Because of this it is often hard for me to identify with introverts.

The main point I liked from the article was:

What is an evangelist anyways? An evangelist isn’t a personality type or a personality disorder, but an evangelist is one who brings good news, both in the proclamation with the mouth and their actions. If this is the case, where does it say that an evangelist is going to be an extrovert or introvert? What if God’s plan was for everyone to do the work of an evangelist? (2 Tim 4:5). Think of the power of the church if we empower both the extrovert and the introvert to be the representation of the good news in the way that God has made them? How many more people would be reached for the sake of Jesus?

We took the youth group to a Dare 2 Share conference a couple weeks ago that fell into the extrovert evangelism camp. During one afternoon we had to go to a mall and share the Gospel with a stranger. Many of the students weren’t very comfortable with this, especially the introverted ones. I don’t think trying to talk to strangers is always the best way to evangelize.

The church needs both introverts and extroverts to be the body. We are different and can and should use our gifts and personalities to God’s glory. I hope and pray I’m able to reach out and influence the introverts I know, but continue to encourage them to live out their mission to make disciples.