This is all coming from a tolerant loving community? An open-minded community that seeks to be understood and wants to understand others?
We’re not going anywhere…. We will love anybody who walks through our doors. We will not condemn anybody—but we will not back down from what Jesus tells us.
—Pastor Jeremy Schossau of Metro City Church outside Detroit, Michigan—
A Plea to the Church
Key point: The debate over marriage, sexuality, and gender issues represents the front lines of spiritual warfare today.
View all the myths we’ve covered thus far here.
Myth #14: Same-sex marriage has implications for the same-sex couple only, and not for others. “If don’t agree with same-sex marriage,” we were told, “don’t worry. “Changing the definition of marriage won’t affect you!”
Fact: Same-sex marriage and all the “rights” that flow from it relating to gender and gender identity issues will affect everyone and every institution—perhaps especially the church. The good news, however, is that the church can help people find the truth about matters related to gender and sexuality. Everyone needs a compass in his or her life. Today is a day of opportunity, and the church must seize it!
Lake Ingle is a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he is a religious studies major. At this point, however, his planned graduation, scheduled for May, is in doubt. Why? Because he challenged his professor in the classroom, pointing out that officially, biologists say only two genders—male and female—exist. You can learn the details of what is happening to him here.
Sadly, this is the kind of day and world in which we live! It is undeniable that confusion over gender and gender identity issues has intensified since June of 2015 when the Supreme Court struck down laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman in all fifty states. Quite likely it is going to grow even worse! Everyone, and every institution, will be affected. Even, and perhaps especially, churches!
Five Audio Clips and a Video
Through five audio clips and one video, I’d like to report the recent experience of a Christ-centered, outreach-oriented church. Jeremy Schossau [pronounced SHAW-so] is the founder and lead pastor of Metro City Church, a multi-campus church outside of Detroit, Michigan. Pastor Jeremy
- understands the desperate need teens have for clarity on gender and gender related issues,
- realizes how the Bible and a biblical worldview provide answers to pressing questions, even about that, and
- seeks to address those pressing questions not only with biblical truth but also with compassion and love.
Moreover, he leads his church to do the same in all three of these areas. Accordingly, earlier this year, Metro City Church offered a workshop for girls ages 12-16. The “Unashamed Identity Workshop” is designed to help girls with questions about gender identity or who are struggling with uncertainty about their sexual orientation. At the sessions, participants find caring adults who listen. Then, through conversation and biblical counsel, leaders answer questions and provide loving guidance. No one is condemned or coerced. Among other things, the young women learn that at their age, asking questions is normal, and having concerns about one’s sexual orientation does not mean an individual is gay, lesbian, or bisexual (also go here). The church launched the program and advertised it through its website and Facebook page.
Kudos to Pastor Jeremy and his church! They have done exactly the kind of thing that Jesus would do were He still on the earth. He would be unafraid of any issue and willing to speak both compassionately and truthfully in order to meet people’s needs. Although He never intentionally would try to be controversial, He would not shy away from any topic just because it might be controversial.
And consider this. People in the church who are struggling with these kinds of issues often feel they’ll be misunderstood or condemned if they ask questions or share concerns. Just offering such a workshop sends an important message: Here is a safe place to ask questions and find answers. Of course, the church must to an excellent job leading the group; but when it does, the sessions themselves reinforce the initial invitation to come and ask questions.
Despite all these benefits, a backlash erupted—from outside the church walls.
Quite likely, many people objected to what the church was doing because they didn’t fully understand the nature of the workshop sessions and just how the girls involved were being counseled. At least some others—perhaps even many—either didn’t care how the church was doing what it was doing or they knew and engaged in a deliberate misinformation campaign. Add political pressure to the mix as well. It didn’t take long for some Michigan state legislators to urge the state’s attorney general to investigate the church.
Metro City Church was thrust onto the national stage, and Pastor Jeremy made every effort to clarify what his church was doing, why, and how he and his church saw the people in the larger community.
Many churches refuse to address anything related to homosexuality or gender issues because it is “too controversial.” They fear they might become targets of militant gay activists, just as Metro City Church has become. While I understand their fears, they need to realize that even if they “stay on the sidelines” of this issue, they still will not be spared the effects of militant gay activists’ efforts to silence the church.
There’s something else—something I don’t understand. I don’t understand a church’s unwillingness to help people in the areas where they are questioning and hurting the most. If we do not help our young people sort out issues relating to homosexuality and gender identity, then others will “help” them in ways we don’t want them to, and we will have lost our opportunity set their feet on the path God wants them to walk! I’m not talking about coercion, but loving guidance. This is a spiritual battle, and pastor Jeremy and his church, to their eternal credit, are on the front lines!
The Lies Teens Hear and Are Tempted to Believe
On the February 13th edition of Family Research Council’s radio program Washington Watch, FRC President Tony Perkins talked with Pastor Jeremy about the workshop.
Take a moment and reflect on what Pastor Jeremy just said. Members of the gay community—or at least some members of the gay community—are telling young people that if they are questioning their sexuality or sexual orientation, it’s an indication that they must be gay! Yet having questions about one’s sexuality in the teen years is quite normal, and it categorically does not indicate he or she is a homosexual or will become one. Significantly, nor do feelings of attraction to the same sex! In the vast, vast majority of cases, these feelings will naturally disappear! Young people are being deceived—and if the church will not counter these lies, who will?
Young people are being deceived about gender identity issues, and if the church will not counter these lies, who will?
Bringing Parents and Teens Together
There’s something else Metro City Church is doing right. It is involving parents in the workshop. Parental participation is encouraged, but not mandatory if the teen feels uncomfortable with her parents being present at all the sessions. This ought to be a no-brainer to people, but apparently parental involvement frightens militant gay activists.
A Platform to Declare the Gospel
Finally, it is noteworthy that God has used this “firestorm” to give Metro City Church and Pastor Jeremy Schossau a national platform to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have discussed at length the relationship between God’s design for marriage and the gospel, and considered how upholding marriage is one of the most effective ways to uphold the gospel. Metro City Church and its pastor are remaining faithful, and they are not backing down. Consistently, they are telling the truth in love!
The Challenge for the Rest of Us
Metro City Church has become a target of militant gay activists, but one reason this church has been so hard hit is because so few other churches have stood alongside it, doing the same kind of thing Metro City Church is doing. The more “targets” gay activists believe they must hit, the more difficult it will be for them to hit all of them effectively. Remember what we said earlier: Even if you try to sit on the sidelines of the spiritual battles occurring over gender and gender identity, you still will not escape the effects of militant gay activists’ efforts to silence the church. Are you going to cooperate with them when they go after your church and maneuver to keep you and your faith community from sharing the gospel? Are you going to cooperate with them now by never addressing sexuality and gender identity issues in any context? Young people are struggling and looking for solid answers. What would God have you and your church do? You can begin to learn about these issues by reading this article, and this one. Reading these articles represents a modest start, but it’s a step in the right direction. Check back here periodically for additional links. We’ll try to give you more help as you plan steps your church can take in this area of ministry.
Sitting on the sidelines with regard to these issues is not a viable option for a Bible-believing, Christ-centered church that truly cares about and loves people.
The lesson for the church at large is clear. Hebrews 13:4 states in unambiguous terms, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
First Corinthians 6:9-11 is instructive for us as well.
9 [D]o you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (emphasis added).
Who will show sinners the way to freedom—the way we also didn’t deserve but found by God’s grace?
Will your church do its part?
Will you do yours?
Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.
top image: www.lightstock.com
Note: With the exception of the clip from FRC’s Washington Watch, the audio clips featured in this article were lifted from this sermon.
Unless otherwise designated, all Scriptures have been taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.