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Preaching and Cultural Issues?

We are living through rapid cultural change. Many are turning from historic Christianity. Many are adopting Marxist and intersectional feminist ideals which turn them cynical toward biblical teachings. Progressivism now dominates the major institutions of society. David Young’s new book Resilient: Standing Firm in a Hostile World is a vital call and guide for Christians seeking to understand and react to these changes.

Let’s look at six key societal changes in marriage and sexuality as a case in point. Many Christian beliefs and practices that used to be respected in our culture are being replaced by pagan ones:

Should churches talk about these rapidly changing beliefs and practices in our culture? What should church leaders say?

It is a hard question. Many preachers are silent. Many churches are not addressing these issues.

What about your church?

As the lead preacher at my church, I am speaking out. My church is addressing what is happening. It has created some difficulties, but I believe that time will prove that it was the right choice.


“Should churches talk about these rapidly changing beliefs and practices in our culture? What should church leaders say?”


Why talk about these societal shifts when it can lead to pushback? Shane Pruitt recently made a Twitter post that helps articulate why we are addressing the cultural issues and why everyone in our church has been asked to read Resilient: Standing Firm in a Hostile World. Here is what Pruitt says:

“When the church is silent on issues that the culture is screaming about, then a whole generation only hears one worldview. The church must speak up, disciple up, and train up a generation to navigate through cultural issues with truth and love.”

I want to share what we are learning at our church and why it is important to speak out and to do so in the right way on these cultural issues.

1. The world is out-discipling the minds of our members.

The average person today is locked in their social media bubble for five to seven hours a day and is being discipled by a narrative and viewpoint that is not based in Christ. Many of these narratives celebrate these societal shifts and add to the moral chaos. Add to this the peer pressure from their non-disciple friends and the pressure from Human Resource departments, LGBTQ+ sensitivity trainings they must sit through, news reports from the mainstream media, and the television shows and movies—all of which condition us to normalize and accept LGBTQ+ identities and behaviors regardless of how they go against Christian ethics.

There is no way an hour or two of church each week—especially in a church that is not addressing these issues—is going to empower people to be faithful to Jesus. Our people need help so they will not conform to the pattern of our world:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2)

Every church needs a realistic plan to help “renew the minds” of their people. Every church needs to help their people see and live out God’s will when the culture is shouting something different.


“Every church needs to help their people see and live out God’s will when the culture is shouting something different.”


2. What we win people with is what we win them to.

The Canadian preacher A.W. Tozer explained something preachers need to understand: “What you win people with is what you win them to.” He was right.

But this presents a dilemma for us preachers who often feel tremendous pressure to grow our churches with winning strategies. Here is the uncomfortable truth: we know that some people will look down on what we preach when we address these issues. Even when we address these issues with relational sensitivity and a gracious tone, we know that it will cause some people who are checking us out to think negatively about us. Some of our less mature members will leave the church. Wouldn’t it be more of a winning strategy to stay silent about topics that could turn people against us?

But we must not shrink back when biblical teachings feel like stumbling blocks and foolishness. The apostle Paul described this reality for us in 1 Corinthians 1:23-25:

“We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles …For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

As Paul said, people will look at what we teach as foolishness (or worse). But we must trust God. We must speak the truth so that people will come to the real Jesus and to the realities of his kingdom, even when those realities are looked down upon in our culture.


“We must speak the truth so that people will come to the real Jesus and to the realities of his kingdom.”


To counterbalance the negative perception of these teachings, we will have to stay strong in other areas, too. It requires a lot of prayer and the ongoing demonstration of lifestyles of humility and grace. But faithfulness to Jesus requires us to be truthful about his teaching.

3. The preaching of the Kingdom requires teaching about sexuality.

A friend of mine recently challenged me about our decision to address cultural issues in a sermon series. Here is what she said: “Jesus didn’t speak extensively on the cultural issues of his day.…he focused on developing the kingdom of God.” I appreciated the input, but felt the need to disagree. Let me explain what I did.

It is accurate to say that Jesus focused his message on the kingdom of God, but that included addressing the cultural issues of his day (for example, re-read his Sermon on the Mount). Furthermore, according to Scripture, if we are focused on the kingdom, it will include addressing sexual issues along with other moral issues. God inspired the apostle Paul to write the following in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

“Or do 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, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 

My friend was right when she pointed out that Jesus rarely talked about government, but these issues are ultimately not government issues. Progressive politicians (and others) make them government issues in our time, but that is because of their platform and their agenda. Our first goal is to pursue the kingdom of God and to be faithful to King Jesus. Ultimately, his kingdom will clash with any government that sets itself up as the final authority, but that is because Satan is using them for that purpose (e.g., see Revelation 13).


“Our first goal is to pursue the kingdom of God and to be faithful to King Jesus.”


Daniel 2:44 teaches us that it will not be a manmade kingdom that will prevail. God’s kingdom, established by Jesus, will endure forever:

“The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”

4. Our people need us, as leaders, to show courageous faith.

The pressure to cave to cultural ideals can be overwhelming. In my home church, we see families locked in battles about the truth on these issues. I was recently asked to pray for a woman locked in a heart-breaking battle. She works in a hospital which is immersed in progressive ideals and her daughter was discipled in progressive ideals at a secular university, where she excelled. Here is the edited text (to make the names anonymous) that I received.

“Please be in prayer for [the woman], all the stuff in the Resilient book is literally playing out in her life and she is getting slammed by it, not in theory, but she is living behind enemy lines almost 100% of the time. Work & home. Her adult daughter visited this week & it was brutal. [The woman] is being told she must agree (or be considered hateful & that she is invalidating her children’s lives). She is not being allowed to have an opposing view at all. Her daughter keeps pushing views opposed to [her mother’s] views to try to get a reaction so she can call [her mother] hateful. [The mother] is trying so hard to love them where they are. So sad & so real!”

David Young, author of Resilient, spoke to this point at our church yesterday. He addressed the reality that many parents are turning from Jesus’ teachings because of pressure from their adult children who have turned from Jesus. Take three minutes and watch the clip of what he said here:

Parents compromising because of their children

We must be both clear and courageous when our people are facing this kind of pressure. Jesus described the reality for his disciples in Luke 14:16: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” To place our faith in Jesus means that our highest allegiance is to him.


“To place our faith in Jesus means that our highest allegiance is to him.”


Jesus’ teaching on this point is why I commend Elizabeth Rundle Charles’s well-known statement (which she wrote about Martin Luther):

“If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that point are attacking, then I am not professing Christ, however boldly I am professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that point. (The Chronicles of the Schoenberg-Cotta Family, 1865)

5. We must disciple the minds of the people in our churches with the truth in Jesus.

What we believe and think are the biggest determiners of what we will do. Let me state it slightly differently: what we truly think and believe and value will determine our actions.

This is why the Bible describes spiritual warfare as a battle in our minds and the need for Christian leaders to disciple minds. Paul describes this in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Here is what Paul, under inspiration, teaches us in this passage:

  • We do not fight battles as the world fights battles.
  • In the knowledge of Jesus, we have divine power to use stronger weapons than the world wields.
  • By the knowledge of Jesus, we demolish spiritual strongholds by taking captive every thought to make our thinking obey Christ.

What does all this imply? The battle is a battle in and for the mind.


“The battle is a battle in and for the mind.”


This is why, in an age of chaos, wise, godly people who are rooted in Scripture and historic Christianity have much to offer, but only if they are willing to enter into the battlefield of the mind in discipling relationships. We must enter into the battle with people (and for people) and help them grapple with the hard questions.

***

I hope you can understand, after reading what I have written above, why we made the decision to work through these topics and why David Young’s Resilient has been such a helpful book for our church.

Here are some key elements that we are following that will also help you to understand more of our strategy.

  1. We seek to ground everything in prayer. We have weekly prayer meetings by the elders on Thursdays and prayer meetings open to the whole church on Tuesday nights. We also invite as many as possible to fast and pray with us throughout the day on Tuesdays. We are constantly asking for God’s guidance and protection.
  2. The sermons in our current series follow Resilient and we have our people in small groups processing the sermons and chapters of the book each week (small group questions are located in the book). We discuss and help disciple people in the nuances of these teachings, and we seek to coach people through the difficulties they often face.
  3. We constantly insert hope into the conversation. In fact, we believe that the New Testament teaching on hope is so important that we started the whole series with a sermon on hope and why it will continue to be so prominent of a theme as we work our way through the material.
  4. We will NOT stay in this series perpetually. This is a season for our church where we will clearly, deeply, and thoroughly guide and equip our people through these societal and ethical issues. We will then move on to other topics. We typically work our way through books of the Bible (expository teaching). We seek to be grounded, day in and day out, in faith, hope, and love.

“We constantly insert hope into the conversation.”


I write this post to encourage everyone to dive into Resilient (or a book like it). If you are a church leader, I encourage you to consider charting a similar path as I’ve described here in your church.

I understand how tempting it is to stay muted on controversial topics which are biblically clear yet societally inflammatory. Yet it isn’t wise or fair for our people to be slammed by issues we are unwilling to confront in the church.

We must be wise, but bold and courageous, in these times.

To check out David Young’s Resilient: Standing Firm in a Hostile World, click here.

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