God Speaks Today
For the past few months pastors across America have been thinking and praying about how to address the gay marriage issue from the pulpit. For some the question has been, Should we address it at all or should we ignore it altogether? For many others the question has been, What should we say and how should we say it? There is no "right" answer to these questions. Pastors and churches will have to come to their own conclusions about what is proper in their own ministry context. I offer the following simply as one way to address the issue. At Calvary Memorial Church we plan to address the issue through a five-week sermon series called "God Speaks Today." It is based on the conviction that in any discussion of public morality, the church has only one unique contribution to make: We are to tell the world what God says. If the world chooses to ignore what God says, then so be it. But that's our turf, our assignment, our calling from the Lord. If we major in sociological analysis or if we build our case on the latest Gallup Poll, then we are no different from the talking heads on TV.
For the last several weeks the pastors have been discussing a major sermon series that will start in early September. Here is what we have so far:
1) A five-week series starting on September 12 (the Sunday after Labor Day) and ending on October 10 (the Sunday before our Missions Week begins).
2) The theme will be “God Speaks Today” in order to emphasize the unique contribution that the church can make to the ongoing public debate. We also want to bring our 2004 theme—Back to Basics—into the mix somehow.
3) I want all members of the pastoral staff to have some visible platform role during this series. Perhaps preaching, perhaps reading Scripture, perhaps leading in prayer, perhaps sharing with the congregation about ministries of compassion, etc.
4) The galvanizing issue is the gay marriage debate. No matter what we do, we can’t escape the reality that gay marriage has made huge inroads in our society and it will be a big issue in the election campaign this fall. Everyone will understand why we are tackling marriage and the family at this time.
5) Our challenge is this: Gay Marriage is the “presenting problem” but we don’t want to make it the only issue we talk about. It won’t work to have a five-week series about “Why We Oppose Gay Marriage.” We will need to work hard in the area of presentation both before and during the series to make that point clear. Our emphasis will be more along the lines of God Speaks Today about marriage, the family, sexuality, true happiness, real change, compassion, and so on.
6) There are several things we want to do besides the sermon series: A) Put a copy of Erwin Lutzer’s The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage in the hands of every family in our church, B) Put the brochure from Family Life in the bulletin at least once—maybe twice. C) Unveil the constitutional revision during this series, D) Show the two-part Focus on the Family videos to the ABFs, E) Host one Sunday night presentation or forum with a speaker or a panel, with time for questions and feedback.
7) Our people need to be informed and motivated in two directions: A) Many will want to know how they can make a difference in the political arena. We need to be ready with workable ideas, how to speak out, who to contact, etc, and B) Many will want to know what we are doing to reach out to homosexuals and others trapped and hurting because of sexual sin. This is the “prophet-priest” dichotomy we often face. The prophet declares the truth of God in the face of an unbelieving, rebellious generation. He rarely wins a popularity context. The priest reaches out with compassion to bind up the wounded. In every congregation there are both prophets and priests (who don’t always understand each other, by the way). We need to equip our prophets and our priests and our prayer warriors.
8) Parents will want to know how to protect their families as they raise children in a society that grows increasingly hostile to Christian values.
9) We can’t do everything in just five weeks, so we’ll have to pick and choose what we want to hit.
10) We want to be aggressive in advertising this series. Our standard ought to be: We will be as bold about what we believe as the other side is about what they believe. In
11) So we will advertise in the local papers, put it on the Internet, put up a banner, and use any other in-house means we can. We want to investigate mailing postcards with info about the series to every home in
12) The next step is for the pastors to solidify exactly what topics we want to cover on the five Sundays and in what order. We’ll tackle that this Friday at pastoral staff meeting.
13) Please continue to send your thoughts and comments. This series is still in the formative stages and your input is most valuable.