Thankfully, since 2009 the elders at Preston Trail have been discussing and praying through how our church can best respond to individuals with a same-sex orientation or gay couples who attend Preston Trail or consider us their church home. On this subject, our aim has always been to understand and be true to the teachings of the Bible – not only those about sexuality, but also those about loving our neighbors.
With that background in mind, I want you to know what our elders have written and said on this matter.
First, our elders – Brad Brenneman, Jim Johnson, Roger Myers, Scott Graesser, and myself – have written a statement that summarizes our understanding of biblical teaching on homosexuality.
Second, this past Sunday at the end of our worship services, Jim Johnson, on behalf of the elders, read a brief statement that clarifies our decisions about performing or hosting same-sex weddings.
Finally, I’d like to place this topic in a larger frame of reference. In my almost six decades of life, I’ve experienced rapid and extreme social change only two times. The first was in the 1960s, when the Vietnam War was raging, college students were protesting, JFK and RFK and MLK were assassinated, the sexual revolution began, teenagers were getting high on LSD, race riots were destroying our inner cities, and most churches became essentially irrelevant.
The bad news from the ’60s is that too many families imploded and too many individuals self-destructed. At the time, it seemed like America was going to the dogs. But God was not idle. The Jesus movement of the early ’70s soon followed, blowing winds of spiritual renewal across our country. It was in those years that Jim Johnson and I were touched by God’s Spirit and renewed our love for Christ and were called to the pastorate.
The second season of rapid and extreme social change I’ve experienced is this current decade. ISIS strikes overseas (and maybe eventually on our own soil?), racial tensions still run high in too many communities, shooting rampages in public places put all of us on 24/7 high alert, traditional marriage is eroding in our society, and churches are struggling to make their voices and values heard amidst the interminable noise of social media.
How should we as Christians think about the dramatic culture changes we are experiencing in America in the last few years?
I'm reminded that the Apostle Paul faced far more difficult circumstances in the first century, when he was both beaten and imprisoned for his faith. Yet despite all of that, he wrote Romans 13:1-10, in which he tells believers living at the epicenter of pagan idolatry to respect and obey their godless government, and to love their neighbors as themselves. Seriously? Read it for yourself right here.
These are still the marching orders for the 21st century church. In a changing culture that is paying less and less attention to God, we are called to:
Pray for our political leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
Be salt in a rotting world and light in a darkening world (Matthew 5:13-16)
Love and pray for anyone whom we consider an enemy (Matthew 5:43-48)
In other words, for followers of Jesus, it’s business as usual: love the Lord with all you are and have, and love your neighbor as yourself.
I believe God is at work in the midst of what often feels like chaos. In his timing, I believe we will see an incredible outpouring of his love and Spirit on our world. I believe that God will give us wisdom (and abundant opportunities!) to speak the truth in love, and to live out the truth with grace. That’s the only way the church can remain relevant.
Thank you for letting me share the lens through which I am looking at our culture right now. I hope it helps you . . . AND I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as Jim teaches us about King David and how “God Blesses.”