Standing for the Truth: What Your Church Can Do
- 2004 12 Jun
A friend emailed me with this question: "As a body of believers what can we do to stand firm in what we believe and also show our anger as to what is happening not only in Oak Park but throughout the country?" He is referring to the fact that last Monday night the Oak Park Village Board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment.
For those of us who live in Oak Park, this came as no surprise since we were the first community in Illinois to institute a "domestic partnership" registry, and since we have a lesbian village president and another openly gay village trustee. On Monday night the trustees also a proclamation declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. Again, no big surprise.
My friend's anger is understandable and his question deserves an answer. While Oak Park has a long history of being in the vanguard of "progressive" social change, for once we aren't that far ahead of the curve. What is happening here has already happened in Massachusetts and California and Oregon and in New York. And those states may actually be ahead of us in terms of approving same-sex marriage.
My interest in this question is far from theoretical. Since I pastor Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, we live with the results of the gay rights movement all around us. To borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer, how then should we live? If this is America in the 21st century, how do we stand firm in the face of a rising tide of immorality, widespread public apathy, and a culture increasingly hostile to Christian values?
First of all, we must not despair. I do not tire of quoting the remark by Richard John Neuhaus who, when asked what we can do since "the times" are so terrible, replied, "The times may be bad, but they are the only times we are given. And despair is a mortal sin." Biblical faith does not shrink from "the times" but moves forward with confidence, believing all the more in the sovereignty of God. In some deep sense, we must believe that things are the way they are because God has willed it so. God's purposes are worked out just as much in times of confusion and controversy as in times of peace and certainty.
Second, every church needs to speak out with the truth. It is given to the church to declare, "Thus says the Lord." Others may quote the latest polling data or the current sociological research, but God has vouchsafed to the church the sacred deposit of divine truth. When Paul said, "Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not" (2 Timothy 4:2 NLT), he meant that we should preach truth whether or not people want to hear it.
Third, as a practical matter churches need to consider amending their constitutions to make certain they have a statement about marriage as being only between one man and one woman. We plan to do that at Calvary later this year.
Fourth, remember that how we say what we say matters greatly. If we give in to fear, our fear will turn to anger and our anger may cause us to say and do things that do not help the cause of Christ. If we rant and rail and lose our composure, we will turn off the very people we want to reach for Christ.
Fifth, we need to pay attention to the marriages inside the church. Kevin McCullough sent me a note last night about an event planned for July by the churches of New York City:
One event that they have planned in July is to have 50,000 married couples come to Central Park- publicly confess their sin before God and recommit their vows to keep their marriages strong. Nary a word will be said about Homosexuality that day - but the power of the Body of Christ coming together to confess sexual sin and reclaim the proper perspective on a God centered marriage for their lives will be a powerful and needed step.
Homosexuals are quick to point out the general state of decline that Christian marriage is in these days. There point is well taken. The church MUST address the issue powerfully and I believe the clergy in New Yorkare committed to making at least - in leadership - this emphasis known.
Sixth, I recommend that every church distribute copies of Erwin Lutzer's brand-new book, The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage. We hope to put a copy of this book into the hands of every family in our congregation. It's biblical, wise, compassionate, honest, with a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God.
Seventh, I don't think we need to worry about what "the other side" thinks of us or try to protect our reputation. The truth is, some people won't like what we say no matter how we say it. Our standard ought to be: We will be as bold about what we believe as the other side is about what they believe. In Oak Park the other side is not bashful at all. They are "out there" in every sense of the word. We should be at least as bold as they are. If we can speak the truth in love, we can rest well, knowing that the Lord will take care of our reputation.
Eighth, let's remember that only the gospel can change the human heart. That means we should preach the gospel and then pray for God to do what only God can do. The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord (Proverbs 21:1). Those who are thoroughly broken by sexual sin can be reclaimed, redeemed, and restored by Jesus Christ. And even those who today seem thoroughly opposed to the truth may yet have their eyes opened by God.
Here's one more word from Kevin McCullough:
God did not call his remnant for this hour to lead us to total destruction. Those who have the heart and the courage can today commit their marriages to God. Men can give up pornography. Men can love their wives. Women can commit to supporting and serving their families - and through their Godliness - teach their children discipleship. Men and Women can communicate with one another and together pledge themselves a new to be agents of holiness and love to a world that is crying out for it.
Amen and Amen! We must not lose heart. These are amazing days in which we live. Our part is to be faithful. The rest is up to the Lord.
Dr. Ray Pritchard, Senior Pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL, has ministered extensively overseas and is a frequent conference speaker and guest on Christian radio and television talk shows. He has written 23 books, including An Anchor for the Soul, Man of Honor, What a Christian Believes, The ABCs of Wisdom, Keep Believing, and The God You Can Trust. Ray and Marlene, his wife of 29 years, have three sons—Josh, Mark and Nick. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.