Where Are Southern Baptists Getting it Wrong On Homosexuality In the Church?
I pose this question as a means to offer a further response to last week’s post. Though a couple commented on this blog site, several did what I would have done . . . sent a ‘non-public,’ personal email to further understand the issue. I know the question above appears negative (and, I guess it is). However, based on interactions I had with people last week – all church members by the way – I feel as if we (Southern Baptists – which I are one) have gotten some things wrong. The result? Many loving Christians are now confused, frustrated, and/or very concerned.
So, where have I/we gotten some things wrong to cause these very valid and genuine emotions?
#1. Defining and Implementing Biblical Church Membership.
Based on recent interactions and conversations, one of the main concerns I came across had to do with welcoming all people/sinners – whether they be adulterers, divorcees, drunks, homosexuals, gluttons, etc. To this I say – YES! We must! No one sin or sinner is greater or worse than others in God’s eyes. I struggle with sin. You struggle with sin. We all have a sin problem. Yes. But there is a HUGE difference between being a practicing, unrepentant sinner and a sinner who hates their sin and longs to move beyond it. The New Testament is clear: A church member is one who has acknowledged their wrongdoing against God, cried out to Him for mercy and grace, found it in the Person and Work of Jesus, and turned to Him as both Savior and Lord. This doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t struggle with sin. It means they acknowledge that they are sinners and long to move beyond it by the grace of the Lord Jesus. Someone who does not cling to Jesus as both Savior and Lord cannot be a member of His church. This doesn’t mean they cannot attend and be welcome in services and have relationships with loving believers. This doesn’t mean ‘non-members’ will not be honored and treated as distinguished guests. But until (and it could take years) a practicing, unrepentant sinner becomes a desperate, repentant sinner who cries out to Jesus – church membership must wait.
In my opinion, this distinction and emphasis has been severely lacking in churches and by pastors (myself included). The result is the assumption by many that ‘anybody and everybody’ can join the church regardless of where they are on their journey with Jesus. While I agree that ‘anybody and everybody’ can attend and (hopefully) move toward Jesus, and ‘anybody and everybody’ can ultimately become members – membership is distinctly for Christians.
#2. Being Known for What We Are Against.
This is so unfortunate. Another observation I made last week is that many church members immediately put up their defenses when discussing issues like homosexuality. Why? Because they and/or their friends have been beaten up by preachers and church members over certain ‘no-no’ sins for years. Southern Baptists are, unfortunately, known for being ‘Gay-Bashers’ and ‘Beer Bashers.’ We are known for treating those who do such things as aliens. Because of this, we’ve lost respect, trust, and – in a lot of cases – interest from those who most need what we have to offer (the Gospel with loving intentions). We’re a people, I fear, who are known for what we are against instead of WHO we are for.
When you put these two things together – confusion over church membership and particular sin bashing – you have a recipe for disaster.
Please pray. Pray for your pastor. Pray for your church. Pray for our convention. Pray that we would be a people who are known for loving all people with the Gospel of Jesus AND are made up of people who cling to and love Him with all our affections.
What do you think? Am I right? Wrong? What else would you add?