Wednesday, July 2, 2015
In a world where same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, how should men continue to stand firm on marriage? We stand firm, as men, by pursuing our God-given wife, endlessly loving our children in a biblical way, and by rebuilding a marriage culture–Nehemiah style–that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ and is in turn used for our great good.
Will we be able to build marriage cultures in our churches? If so, we must have pastors who teach their people. Let’s zero in on how pastors can honor God and strengthen the flock by preaching the Bible’s vision of manhood and womanhood, sexuality, and marriage.
First, pastors must recognize that they have competitors. For too long, many Christian pastors have either shied away from hard issues or assumed that people under their leadership will naturally embrace contested biblical truths. We are tempted to think that if we put the right books on the shelves, all the manifold complementarian wisdom of Wayne Grudem and John Piper will somehow waft its way to the minds of church members, magically traveling from book to brain without any action on our part.
In fact, the opposite is true. We have competitors. Many competitors. A secularist culture is quite eager to train our people, and set them straight. We should expect that the hours spent in front of televisions or browsing on iPads will soften their view of divorce, ramp up their sympathy for gay marriage, and increase their appetite for sexual promiscuity. All around us are worldview educators, those skilled in the affecting presentation of sin and its fruits. Pastors are in a great competition for the souls of their people.
This need not drive anyone to fear. It should motivate us to approach ministry with sobriety and great care. Here’s the great news: we have a sure authority and a perfect law (Psalm 19:7). We don’t need tricks and gimmicks. We simply need to open the Word of God to our people and unleash it on the congregation. It will benevolently conquer the hearts of the children of God. The gospel is undefeated, and it will triumph over its competitors.
Second, pastors must equip parents to clear their throats. There is no group in the church that will more feel the culture’s fingers on their pressure-points than parents. Fathers and mothers have an increasingly difficult task in their quest to educate their children in a complementarian worldview, for the culture has removed many of the structural supports for this wise body of thought. Marriage is now make-your-own; gender and sexuality is now what-do-you-feel-like. In such a time, parents must own afresh their God-given responsibility to teach and model what is true (see Proverbs 2; 1 Timothy 3).
If marriage is to be esteemed by the rising generation, fathers and mothers must both teach what marriage is and pursue a God-glorifying union. Teaching without demonstration will leave kids jaded; demonstration without teaching will leave kids uninformed. Marriage is supposed to be a living display of love, even cosmically covenantal love (Eph. 5:22-33). We should not leave our children to marvel, however. We need to talk them through what lifelong union is, even as we discuss why transgenderism is wrong and tragic, and how sexual perversity bound only by consent will destroy the soul. If ever Christian parents have been embarrassed to say these things, we cannot be any more.
Pastors set parents up for success by preaching and teaching on marriage, manhood and womanhood, biblical sexuality, and related topics. When the pulpit is strong on these issues, the elders will know how to handle tough matters, the small-group leaders will be equipped to pray with wisdom, and parents will have a blueprint for training their children. When the pulpit is silent on such matters, and the pastor is quiet as a church mouse because he “wants to be known for what he’s for, not against,” then the church as a body will languish and parents will struggle to speak.
Pastors: train fathers and mothers to train boys and girls.
Third, pastors must speak the truth even when it’s tough. If the preceding points cover material that pastors haven’t yet handled, the moment to start teaching and preaching is now. There is not a moment to waste. Pastors may have avoided preaching on divorce because they had divorced people in their midst. Pastors may have skirted teaching on the family because their own family wasn’t perfect. Pastors might have avoided the issue of homosexuality because they were confused about the origin of this sin.
If this was the case, now is the time for clear words and biblical convictions. The culture is on fire. People are entering our congregations without the slightest shred of a Christian worldview. They don’t need stories and jokes. They need the water of life. But this doesn’t only mean unfolding the means of conversion. It also means preaching and teaching about the tough stuff, the contested ground. It means, like the prophet Jeremiah, saying the hard words, whether people wish to hear them or not.
All God’s Word is true; all God’s truth is good. Speak the truth even when it’s tough for people to receive it. In a joyful, fearless style, drench your people in living water. Preach it from the pulpit. Hold seminars and equipping sessions. If you have Sunday School, do a four-month series on marriage and sexuality. Lead the youth group through a series on manhood and womanhood, singleness and marriage. If you’ve held back the Bible from speaking to these matters, unmuzzle it. You don’t need to shout or grow angry. Whatever your homiletical style, help your people. Don’t leave them without God’s sure guidance.
There’s nothing else to preach. There’s nowhere else to go. There’s no other God who can save. The Bible is our authority, and the gospel is our hope. If we want to build a marriage culture, we can do no better than to go to the sourcebook of marriage. We should show the people of God, and all who listen in, that the Bible begins with the marriage of a man and a woman and ends with the marriage of a divine groom and his blood-bought bride (Gen. 2; Rev. 21).
This vision of marriage may seem injurious, prejudicially limiting, to a secular culture. But to those who have eyes to see, the union of Christ and his church is nothing less than the hope of mankind. Can we build a marriage culture? The answer depends: will we teach our people these spectacular truths?
Owen Strachan is the President of CBMW, a professor at Midwestern Seminary, and the author of The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World (Thomas Nelson, 2015).
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