My wife and I have been catechizing our almost-4-year-old son since he’s been able to talk. It started with “who made you?”, and we have added a new question whenever it seemed like he had a grasp on the previous one. Even though he doesn’t fully grasp the meanings and implications of these questions and answers about our Creator, he is learning. My hope is that we are building for him a solid spiritual foundation. A foundation that perhaps God will use to call him to salvation. Teaching him takes time, but it really is simple. Tell him something clearly and repeatedly. It sinks in, eventually.
Christian education for adults is very similar. A pastor takes what scripture says and explains it. Clearly. Over and over. It sinks in. But clarity is crucial. A pastor should be clear about what he believes a passage is teaching. I may even disagree with him, but his clear teaching lets me know where he stands. This is also one purpose of doctrinal statements. It tells you up-front what a particular church or denomination believes and you can make an informed decision about them. But what can you learn from a teacher who doesn’t know where he stands? Pick a side. Don’t be lukewarm.
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)
In a recent article, Dr. Michael Brown describes a conversation he had with Pastor Andy Stanley. Their dialogue was concerning recent comments made by Stanley regarding homosexuality. It was, as you might imagine, disappointing.
Before analyzing what was said in their discussion, let us remember what the issue at-hand is, and what it is not. The problem is one of homosexuality within the church. Can one be an unrepentant homosexual and a Christian simultaneously? Is homosexuality, even in a so-called “marriage”, a sin? The point of contention is not regarding extra-marital sex.
Regarding Stanley’s recent statement that churches should be the “safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction,” Dr. Brown asked, “You’re talking about church kids with unwanted same-sex attraction, NOT kids freely practicing homosexuality, correct?” Pastor Stanley responded, “Correct. I’ve never met a teen that didn’t pray for change. Bishop Robinson admitted as much about himself as a seminary student. The unanswered prayer approach to this is important for church leaders.” And then, “We teach teenagers to honor God with their bodies and to never sexualize a relationship. ‘Sexualize’ is stronger and broader than don’t have sex.”
First, I’m glad that Stanley agrees that unmarried teenagers should not be engaging in sexual activity, of any stripe. But notice the red herring. He takes what was a question primarily about homosexuality, and turns it into one about pre-marital sex. It is good to teach them “never to sexualize a relationship.” But do you also teach them that the only place to be “sexualized” is in a heterosexual marriage? (The only type of marriage)
Next, Dr. Brown asked, “When you say there’s no consensus in the room [of leaders at the April conference] re: homosexuality and same-sex ‘marriage,’ you mean, ‘There’s disagreement here, but we need to get back to the Word, which clearly forbids homosexual practice and does not recognize same-sex ‘marriage,’ correct? (I’m not trying to put words in your mouth; I’m trying to understand your position that you want me to correct.)”
Now, Pastor Stanley has the perfect opportunity to state that he agrees with scripture, that homosexual practice is wrong and that there is no such thing as same-sex “marriage.” He can be clear. All he has to say is “yes.” Dr. Brown just made it that easy.
Instead, we get more ambiguity: “I just mean there is not consensus on the broader topic but certainly there should be consensus around a commitment not to run another generation of same-sex attracted kids out of Church. Everybody should agree on that.”
The question was regarding “homosexual practice” and “same-sex ‘marriage.'” Instead of responding to either of those points, Stanley dodges by talking about teenagers experiencing same-sex attraction. Yes, we know that “there is not consensus” regarding homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.” But where do YOU stand, Pastor Stanley?
Again, Andy Stanley was given the perfect opportunity to be unambiguous about his stance on homosexuality. And yet again, he refused. This is not an issue where we cannot choose a side. To not choose to stand for the truth of the bible, is in effect to stand against it. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.“(Matthew 12:30)
Please, go read the full article by Dr. Michael Brown. He is also concerned with the responses he got from Pastor Stanley: “My big question is this. In my view, any solid evangelical teacher or preacher should be able to say without hesitation, ‘God’s Word clearly forbids all homosexual practice, even in a loving, monogamous context, but our church is absolutely committed to loving and serving the LGBT community and offering them a place they can call home as come to know the Lord.’ What stops Pastor Stanley from making this statement? I hope to find out soon. Better still, I hope to hear him make this statement.”
Let us remember to keep Pastor Stanley in our prayers, that he might take a firm stand for God’s Word. This is a man with a big audience, whose influence is massive. Let us also pray for those in his congregation, and those that listen to him regularly, that they would be receptive to the truth when they hear it. How great it would be for them to hear it from their pastor himself.