The Future of the Churches of Christ: Church Trends, Part 2


Some takeaways —

* Cultural Christianity is dying. Only about to 20 to 25% of Americans are committed Protestant Christians in the sense of going to church on Sunday and actually allowing Christianity to shape how they live. The rest are increasingly no longer pretending.

As Ed Stetzer wrote in a Christianity Today article,

So, there has not been a huge drop in Protestant church attendance. Over the past 40 years, according to the GSS, the share of Americans who regularly attends a Protestant church has only declined from 23% to 20%.

This would reflect in increase in actual membership/attendance as the US population has grown much more than the percentage decline (48% population growth much more than offsets a 3% decline in attendance as a percentage of population). Perhaps this would be more. In 1975, the US population was 219,439,031. 23% of these people attended church regularly, that is, 50,470,977 people. In 2015, the US population is about 325,127,634, and 65,025,527 are regular church attenders, representing numerical growth of 14,554,550 in church attendance. This is why you see so many church buildings built in the last 40 years.

The 25% figure is actually fairly stable within Protestantism. The shift is from Mainline Christianity toward evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity within that 25%. But the 25% remains stable despite the rapidly growing US population.

Yet, the kind of Christians going to church has changed, particularly among Protestants. It’s moved from mainline, to evangelical. In 1972, 9% of the American population was regular church-attending mainline Protestant and 8% was evangelical, according to GSS. By 2014, the roles had reversed: church-attending mainline Protestants made up 4% of the population, while evangelicals rose to 13%.

* The evangelical numbers peaked around 1992 — and then suffered a decline. According to sociologist Bradley Wright in Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (a must read), this was — no coincidence — the time of the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition. When many evangelical churches decided to become a special interest group within the Republican Party, many members left — either because their politics were less rightwing or because they opposed the use of the Lord’s church to put politicians into power.

* We also see another decline beginning about three years ago — which ties closely to the time when the nation began to accept gay marriage. I believe that the attitude of the church toward the gay community will be increasingly important in how it’s perceived by potential converts.

Tim Keller puts it this way:

[T]he number of the devout people in the country is increasing, as well as the number of secular people. The big change is the erosion is in the middle. The devout numbers have not actually gone down that much. It depends on how you read them. But basically, they are not in freefall by any means.

What I think is fair . . . that you don’t so much see secularization as polarization, and what is really disappearing is the middle.

We no longer live in a Christian nation — if we ever did. Rather, we live in a secular nation that no longer sees any reason to pin a Christian label on its secular values.

But the US has a large and growing number of Christians who are largely evangelical and who have a distaste for denominationalism. According to Wright, the data shows that American Christians increasingly prefer large, non-denominational churches — not churches that claim not to be a denomination, but churches that actually act non-denominationally, wear no denominational-sounding name, and teach a committed, Spirit-filled Christianity — free of secular politics and free of hatred toward homosexuals.

And that tells you why both the Churches of Christ and Southern Baptists are in decline. Both cling to a denominational identity and both take great pride in their denominational identities. Ironic, isn’t it, that at the very time the nation is looking for non-denominational Christianity, so many heirs of the Restoration  Movement insist on acting just like a denomination.

Moreover, both denominations have a history of being highly rationalistic, that is, de-emphasizing teaching on the Holy Spirit’s current activity in the church and the individual Christian.

And both have backwards-looking cultures — that is, members who wish things would go back to the 1950s when members wore coats and ties to church and worship music hadn’t changed since the 19th Century, preferring a 20th Century identity to evangelistic effectiveness.

(The Baptists who get upset when they lose their pipe organs don’t realize that, in the 19th Century, Baptists largely opposed pipe organs.)

The Baptists were much more involved in secular politics in the 1990s, and they paid a price in membership and image. The Churches of Christ have been blessed with a heritage of staying out of secular politics — which has served us well — but there are people pushing hard to turn us into a wing of the Republican Party. They are pursuing a secular agenda in the name of Christ.

Neither denomination has much of a history of compassion toward the gay community — although there are individual congregations that stand out in their willingness to minister among homosexuals despite their belief that homosexual conduct in sinful.


In my view, the biggest challenges for Churches of Christ over the next decade or so will be along these lines:

* Do we continue to wear the denominational name? Many of our largest congregations are already re-branding themselves as non-denominational. The question of instrumental music is really secondary to the question of identity. Do we think of ourselves as the only denomination going to heaven? Is our identity tied up in our denominational distinctives? Or is enough to be followers of Jesus? Or must we be followers of Jesus who wear a certain name and worship a certain way?

Many of our members struggle with giving up a cappella music and the name, not because they believe the Bible requires either, but because it’s who they are. It’s part of their identity — their self-image. To give up either would be to become someone else — quite literally. And I sympathize. I do. I’ve struggled with the same feelings myself. But that very real feeling is killing congregations across the country. Thousands have already closed their doors.

As I’ve written over at Wineskins, I believe our historic emphasis on baptism and the Lord’s Supper — the sacraments — is healthy and needs to be preserved. I’d far rather be known as a people committed to the sacraments than to a denominational identity — even though our commitment to the sacraments has roots in our denominational history. We can preserve the best of who we are without wearing a sectarian name.

Indeed, this is something we have to contribute to the church-universal — a renewed emphasis on the Lord’s Supper and baptism — not just getting the theology better but in letting the sacraments become vital elements of our spiritual formation — helping to shape each of us and the church into the image of Jesus. That really would be First Century Christianity.

* Do we continue to resist the temptation to keep politics out of the pulpit? It’s not just a growth strategy question but a question of whether the Kingdom should become one with the principalities and powers. In other words, we have to learn to see earthly powers as earthly powers rather than fooling ourselves into believing that salvation will be found in electing the right president.

* How do we address homosexuality? Again, we err when we think of gay issues in political terms rather than Kingdom terms. It’s not about the law or the ballot box but our hearts and attitudes toward gay people. And we just so insist on treating this as a political issue as though the United States Supreme Court could solve a spiritual problem. We need a major paradigm shift in how we think about the question. We need to get our direction from the scriptures, not the politicians and special interest groups.

Now, just as soon as I say that, readers will assume that I therefore take the Democratic Party position — which is secular thinking pure and simple. When we think Republican vs. Democrat, we’re thinking in non-biblical, non-spiritual terms. It takes some practice, but the question — as always — is: What does the Bible say? I don’t need to listen to Hillary or Rush to find out what the Bible says. So why allow myself to be influenced by either Hillary or Rush?

The Bible is quite clear on the sinfulness of homosexual conduct. But it’s also quite clear about our attitudes toward those outside the church:

(1Co 5:12 ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

When was the last time you heard this verse preached from a Church of Christ pulpit?

Now this passage presents its own challenges, and it hardly makes how we deal with the homosexual question easy, but it’s a pretty good place from which to start. We could start with no longer judging those outside the Kingdom. It’s forbidden.

Our mission is not to label and judge the lost but to seek and save the lost. And if we could just get that right, God would surely bring growth as we plant and water.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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56 Responses to The Future of the Churches of Christ: Church Trends, Part 2

  1. Jay, how should we define the word “judge”? I sometimes wonder if, when people use the word “judge”, they are really saying, “Don’t call me out on my sinful behavior.” (Not saying *you* are doing that.) I think we should call sin, sin–but at the same time, I don’t want to look down my nose at people, because I *definitely* sin as well.

  2. hank Valencia says:

    Jay, what do we mean exactly, when we say (or write) – “…free of secular politics and free of hatred toward homosexuals.”?

    And, that – “Our mission is not to label and judge the lost but to seek and save the lost.”?

    I ask, because we all know that to many, the apostle Paul himself would be/has been accused of being on the wrong side if both of those statements.

    For example, there are many “pastors” today who actually embrace, defend and endorse homosexuality – even performing “marriage” ceremonies for such couples. What do you think about that? Were a minister at the church you help shepherd, wanting to be a part of such a marriage, would you consent? Would you oppose?

    My guess is that to avoid the appearance of “hatred toward homosexuals”, more and more – we will give approval.

  3. Dwight says:

    I would posit that there is a difference between calling sin, well sin, and judging…as condemning. A person who is of the world is an alien sinner, so they are in sin no matter what. So to mark a person who has never become a saint as a sinner because of one particular thing is somewhat redundant. If we want to help another, then trying to bring them to Christ is the first step. Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn, but to save and he was surrrounded on all sides by sinners everyday of his life. Now convicting others of sin and being wordly is what they will understand once they realize that Jesus is the savior as this is what happened in Acts 2. Peter didn’t start naming each of their sins, because they were all sinners and separated from God, although he did argue that they had slain Jesus, but this was a general argument as probably all of them weren’t there at the crucifixion.

  4. Dwight says:

    I would argue that a saint who is practicing homosexuality must be addressed in that sin. Person to person, by two or three witnesses, then by the assembly. It should not be allowed within the assembly and that person must be marked. But we must not stop trying to bring them back either in love. If having your father’s wife was bad, then so was homosexuality as both were condemned in the law as abominations to God.

  5. Price says:

    When I hear debate about change…whatever that change might be… I think of this passage.. Is that a fair reflection ? It seems most want to hold onto the things that Paul was willing to let go of.. Or maybe that’s not a fair analysis…
    For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. [1Co 9:19 ESV]
    To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. [1Co 9:20 ESV]
    To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. [1Co 9:21 ESV]
    To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. [1Co 9:22 ESV]
    I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. [1Co 9:23 ESV]

  6. Mark says:

    A “renewed emphasis on the Lord’s Supper and baptism” is not another 6 sermons on why, how, and how often. Somehow there needs to be a change of attitude on the communion from an individualistic, sad occasion in silence to one of receiving a gift from God and remembering the sacrifice (to use the Catholic term). Sometimes I think going up to receive the elements gives it more meaning than being handed a tray while sitting in one’s seat.

    Everyone taking communion in liturgical churches is told the following or something similar:
    “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.”
    “The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.”

    A baptism should be a joyous occasion, not one watched in silence and performed in a hurry by a disgruntled minister who probably was not happy over it cutting into his sermon time. (Yes, I have seen this.)

  7. Mark says:

    Price, that just means that Paul tried to understand people and their backgrounds which is something often ignored today. You have people who remember when houses only had radios and not televisions, and you have people who have never lived without Google.

  8. brent says:

    I think Paul did more than just try to understand backgrounds. He says he “became”. He changed his approach based on other peoples customs and backgrounds. He shaved his head to better reach a certain group of people. What about Timothy’s circumcision?

  9. JES says:

    Good Morning Jay:

    First of all, I pray that your health is improving & that you quickly will recover fully. We lovingly & in overall scriptural detail, explained that this congregation Now, to the essay at hand.

    As usual, you have addressed several very important points & we all should ponder each one through the Bibles’ overall viewpoint of Kingdom growth. In an effort to do just this, I would appreciate your thoughts concerning my experience in light of the last argument you presented. Following is an example:

    A while back, our men’s bible study group was approached by a very considerate & highly educated young lawyer who asked “why doesn’t the church of Christ ACCEPT gays as they are?” Our response was that GOD accepts all people, but He will not ACCEPT unrepentant (sinful) behavior!!! His response was that “he know of many church leaders that commit adultery, some that even have relations with minors, and they still are church leaders!!!; how can we do that & not ACCEPT gays as they are”?

    His point is valid in one sense, sin is sin, & we ALL are guilty of sin. However, we made the point that the difference between the sin issues being discussed is this, one “classification of sinner acknowledges that they are sinners, they repent & try to “go & sin no more”. Others, “hide their sins” from man, but not GOD, & eventually they are exposed. They have a choice to make; either seek forgiveness & help, or leave the fellowship. However, in none of the homosexual situations encountered, had ANY individual repented, or even felt repentance was necessary; or even taught by Jesus, & that we were hypocrites.

    Well, as you might guess, no “minding of fences” was had, & no further discussions were ever pursued. Although, the young man & I have a friendly association with one another.

    I have had several “discussions” along these lines with gays, or those that think gays have been “treated badly” by the church. None have ever conceded that homosexuality is a sin! So, when this is the position taken, & after addressing as best I can that GOD does love them (all sinners), but not their sinful attitude, I move on with one requisite; if you ever want to let GOD decide, I am willing to reopen the discussion.

    Is this the attitude you are suggesting, or, do you have a more acceptable approach in mind?

  10. Price says:

    Mark.. Maybe.. But then we read where Paul also went along with a ceremonial cleansing ritual and even paid for some others to do it.. He was very aware of the Jewish traditions.. But, then he turned to the Gentile population and argued against circumcision on their behalf.. and apparently argued for acceptance of some of their dietary traditions.. It was more than just a casual dismissal of some local habits… IMO

  11. Price says:

    @ Jes… I think the young lawyer’s argument is right and at the same time seriously flawed… If the assembly ignores and accepts willful disobedience in an unrepentant person then they have very little credibility in condemning someone else, anybody else. But, we are taught not to accept willful disobedience to God’s instructions, from anyone. We may do that imperfectly but that is the standard to be reached for, not the low bar of willful immorality.. And despite the homosexual lifestyle being presented as early as Lot, the Bible never speaks of it in less than the vilest of terms and never ever gives us an example of an exception to that condemnation. It is not however, politically correct to say so. It will be interesting to see how the religious community responds to claims and possible consequences of “hate speech” when we speak what we are taught from scripture.

  12. Dwight says:

    Unfortunately we often think that we must not accept homosexuality in the church as in assembly, but we are the church, so we must not accept sin among us, but we must also not be so blind to condemn each other at the turn of the hat either over things not directly states as sinful. Homosexuality is a matter of willfulness despite the scripture arguing that God condemns it and has always condemned it, no matter what form it was in.
    My cousin had a roomate in college who came out to him and said, “the church just doesn’t address and understand gay people”, which was wrong because it does along the lines of what God says, but it is hard to argue for something or even turn a blind eye to something that God constantly was against.
    But we shouldn’t focus on homosexuality and ignore some of our other missives such as not doing good, not aiding others, pride, self-righteousness, etc.

  13. Johnathon says:

    “What does the Bible say? I don’t need to listen to Hillary or Rush to find out what the Bible says.”

    And I don’t need to read what some lawyer writes to find out what the the Bible says.

    “So why allow myself to be influenced by either Hillary or Rush?”

    The same reason I occasionally read what you have written: There is the very slight possibility that one of them or even you might be right.

  14. rich constant says:

    As Paul put it don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
    And of course we wouldn’t be if we had any idea what community meant in the 1st century, now then think about the love feast, of course that might take 2 or 3 hours, that might keep the lights on you might not be able to cook in the church building, you might not even have a place to cook in the church building.
    How do you build fellowship how do you build relationship,how do you build friendships all of these come together and Take more than an hour a week or three hours a least the group in 1st Corinthians wish Trying.Paul might have said something about the form of the function but said nothing about the function of coming together for a big meal, but we all have selective hearing where that comes to taking away TV time or selective’s not about the joy of the resurrection, it’s about the penal substitution, and how sad we must be about the faithfulness of God. you’ve got to be kidding me.
    we all know how it works and if it ain’t broke when we shouldn’t fix it. so when it collapses like a straw man.we all run around like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling, and refusing to walk inside out of the rain and fixing the real problem, which is I just attend a hospital for sinners and should be so happy about that. That I want to tell other people about it
    How do we tell people that we are in sort of kind of relationship with our deepest darkest desires unrighteous acts, or where we need help in THE ACT OF loving each other.
    I think I’m a little myopic when it comes to my own righteousness.
    Blessings rich

  15. Jay Guin says:

    Tina Sergent Seward,

    You’ve put your finger on several challenges that arise in interpreting Paul’s words. Let’s get the context in front of us —

    (1Co 5:6-13 ESV) Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler– not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

    Paul’s insider/outsider distinction should be obvious enough. But who is a “sinner” and what does “judge” mean?

    Well, we all sin, and so we’re all “sinners.” But I think Price correctly puts his finger on the distinction in his comment at /2015/06/69763/#comment-147433. The Law of Moses distinguished between intentional and unintentional sin. Well, the text here doesn’t say “sinner” but “evil person” — and the NET Bible translator notes helpfully point out,

    An allusion to Deu 17:7; Deu 19:19; Deu 22:21, Deu 22:24; Deu 24:7; cf. 1Co 5:2.

    It’s a phrase repeated throughout Deu as the sentence to be passed against someone who has been tried and found guilty of particular sins: idolatry, a false prophet, a son who will honor the voice of his parents, a betrothed woman and the man with whom she commits adultery against her finance, someone who refuses to honor the verdict of the priests in a disputed matter, someone who testifies in court falsely out of malice (intentionally), someone who sells a fellow Israelite into slavery.

    Now, the language Paul uses is used in these passages. What do they have in common? They are all sins committed with a “high hand.” These are sins committed by someone well aware that his conduct is sinful and who chooses to commit the sin anyway. Contrary to decades of bad teaching in the Churches of Christ, ignorance of the Law actually is an excuse. In fact, the sacrificial system for obtain forgiveness was only available for those sins not committed intentionally.

    (Num 15:28-31 ESV) 28 And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. 29 You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the people of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them. 30 But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”

    And so, “evil person” doesn’t refer to someone who, in good conscience, worships contrary to your conscience. Nor does it refer to someone who sins unaware of the law he is violating. It’s for those in rebellion (Heb 10:26 ff).

    When Paul requires us to disfellowship “the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters,” he is referring to those who violated core teachings of the local congregation (not that God’s law varies, but what we teach clearly enough to know that our members understand to be wrong will vary). What moral commands we teach and emphasize to our churches will vary, but it should be clear to all that swindling others is a sin — making the sin almost automatically high handed. Although, there are cultures where those who steal by being clever are admired. A convert from such a culture would not be high handed unless and until taught better.

    On the other hand, on a questionable matter, such as IM, mailing someone a tract does not make them “taught better” because they very well may, in all good conscience, disagree. It’s about having a heart that obeys what it knows and understands to obey.

    Even so, David was forgiven for his high handed sin against Uriah and Bathsheba — despite the fact that no sacrifice was available for such a sin. Rather, we see a new approach to forgiveness of sin in —

    (Psa 51:16-17 ESV) 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

    The point of purging someone from the church by disfellowship is to produce a broken and contrite heart — which will allow that person to be restored. Hence, we are not to disfellowship those who already have a broken and contrite heart. It’s not about retribution but about shaping a member’s heart to be more like the heart of Jesus.

    So that’s what I take Paul to be trying to accomplish here. Next comment will be on “judge.”

  16. Jay Guin says:

    Tina Sergent Seward,

    You actually asked about the meaning of “judge,” but the Greek word covers a range of meanings and so context matters. Again, we’re instructed by Paul reference back to Deu when he says,

    (1Co 5:12-13 ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

    “Purge the evil person from among you” refers to the verdict of an actual trial. We don’t disfellowship except on the testimony of two or three witnesses, and the person accused must be allowed to present his or her side. In fact, the church has a duty to investigate the case carefully — as the passages referenced in the previous comment teach.

    (Deu 17:2-7 ESV) “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

    We can’t ostracize someone based on rumor or innuendo. A Christian brother or sister is entitled to a fair hearing.

    On the other hand, although we are required to impose church discipline on our members in appropriate cases, we are not allowed to disassociate from the sinners outside the church. Paul forbids it!

    (1Co 5:9-10 ESV) I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

    (1Co 5:12-13a ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside.

    Paul’s language is clearly intended to communicate that we are NOT to judge outsiders. God will do this. Our job is to be the church Christ died for. It’s not to judge those outside the church.

    “Judge” is krino in each use in 1 Cor 5. It has over a half-dozen possible meanings.

    In v. 12, Paul uses “judge” to refer to Christians judging non-outsiders and as judging insiders (Christians). In the second case, clearly he is speaking of a judgment as determining whether a Christian has sinned with a high hand, intentionally, so that his salvation is in jeopardy (Heb 10:26 ff) and so he should be disfellowshipped in hopes of responding with a broken and contrite heart (repentance). We cannot judge whether a fellow Christian has fallen away, because that’s ultimately a question of the heart beyond our wisdom, but we can judge whether the Christian has sinned intentionally and rebelliously. We can judge whether the Christian is in jeopardy of falling away.

    But such judgment as to outsiders is pointless. If a non-Christian engages in adultery or fornication, he has sinned, and perhaps with a high hand and perhaps not. But it doesn’t matter. He is lost. Our job is to convert him to Jesus — to seek and to save — and to teach him a better way of living and to ask him to join the rest of the church in so doing. But until he’s committed to follow Jesus, he’s not following Jesus, whether or not he sleeps around.

    We’ve not been called to create a society that lives like Jesus without believing in Jesus. We’ve been called to invite the lost to believe in Jesus and to therefore follow Jesus. The Alabama legislature and Congress can pass a million laws against fornication or adultery, and no one will be saved. No one at all. In fact, we’ll have only forced people to follow God’s will on penalty of jail — proving that fear of jail can sometimes be as effective as fear of God — except that only fear of God saves.

    In fact, Rom 1 pretty plainly teaches that sometimes God wants those outside the church to be obviously eaten up by sin by God’s turning them over to the natural consequences of their sinfulness. We want to impose Christianity by American civil law — and by definition, it cannot be done. It is impossible.

    Rather, Paul urges us to freely associate with the sinful world that surrounds us. Don’t withdraw. Don’t judge. Don’t follow their example. Teach Jesus. And by teaching Jesus, see people change by choice, not by fear of jail.

    This is true whether we are speaking of homosexual conduct or heterosexual conduct. We are banned from judging those outside the church. BANNED.

    So we should be busy getting our own lives cleaned up and preaching Jesus. God will handle the rest.

    And Christianity will become far more attractive to the lost when we get out of the business of judging outsiders and get busy doing what we’re actually called to do.

  17. Dwight says:

    I think there are multiple purposes for “disfellowshipping” of which to produce a broken and contrite heart, but the other is “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
    Sin affects those that are trying to be sinless, it demoralizes and it can spread if not addressed. We shouldn’t go to the extreme of cutting everybody we think are possibly sinful or who has comitted a sin or we would be peopleless, but to cut out those who rebel and glory in their sinfulness as Jay has noted.

  18. Jay Guin says:


    I entirely agree that a second purpose of disfellowshipping is to purify the church, as Paul says in 1 Cor 5. I’m always reluctant to go there, as some purify with more zeal than God intended. But if we can first get the distinction between rebellious (intentional, high handed) sin from sin that does not threaten the soul of the sinner (sin that does not lead to death), the result is the same, as you point out.

    It’s really hard to have this discussion separate from just what sins do lead to death, but I think Heb 10:26ff says it plainly enough:

    (Heb 10:26-27 ESV) 26 ¶ For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

    Again, “truth” means “the gospel” not “an anonymous tract in the mail.” “Go on sinning” means a life characterized by continuous, intentional sin. “Intentional” means “known by the sinner to be sin” not “known to a church down the road to be sin.”

    It’s ultimately about the heart, and I’ve seen churches handle this with great love and compassion and rescue sinners from damnation. And I’ve seen churches make asses of themselves.

    But what most members don’t see is the number of times an eldership meets with a member, warns the member, insists on repentance, and the member does in fact repent. The elders get no glory for this because it’s handled in private and no one ever tells.

  19. Jay Guin says:


    I used to be an avid Rush listener. He never attempted to teach what the Bible says from the Bible. I can’t think of a single time. Why would I listen to Rush (or Hillary) to learn what the Bible says when they aren’t even attempting to be scriptural exegetes?

  20. Jay Guin says:


    It is true that in Canada, “hate speech” legislation is being used to silence the church on homosexuality. In the US, the First Amendment has frustrated similar efforts — but those efforts have been made, esp on college campuses. (And private colleges aren’t bound by the FA).

    On the other hand, if the church were to address its condemnation of homosexual activity solely to homosexual activity by Christians, then even the Canadians would likely not complain. The church is a voluntary association and those who don’t wish to live by its rules don’t have to. (Not that I’m an expert on Canadian constitutional law.)

    What society finds offensive is the church telling non-Christians how to live based on the commitment expected of followers of Jesus. We don’t condemn Jews who eat pork. But we do tell non-Christians how to live — even though we’ve been banned from judging them and even though the Kingdom is in nowise helped by our so doing. We are equally offended when Muslims tells us what cartoons to draw and how our women should dress. We’re not Muslims! And therefore we don’t have to follow Muslim law — and we should take offense if Muslims try to write their teachings into American civil law.

    But the Constantinian assumption still dominates our thinking: We assume that nearly everyone in the US is a Christian and so somehow that makes it right to pass laws against un-Christian conduct — when only 25% of the people go to church on Sunday.

    Christianity is just as foreign to 75% of the US as Islam is to Christians. And the Bible was written to a minority church, without political power, to teach Christian how to live under the rule of unbelievers. We are there. A clear majority of the US is not Christian in the biblical sense of the word.

    Does that mean we can’t campaign and lobby for the policies we favor? Of course, not. But it does mean that we need to be very, very careful about how we do so — because 75% will be evaluating the claims of Jesus based on how we behave.

    And, frankly, if we could get our thinking straight, we’d see many political issues as uninteresting to us as Christians, and others greatly misunderstood. Rather, we’d be pursuing policies and solutions that neither party has any interest in because very few truly Christian solutions are about who gets to acquire or remain in power.

  21. Jay Guin says:

    JES wrote,

    A while back, our men’s bible study group was approached by a very considerate & highly educated young lawyer who asked “why doesn’t the church of Christ ACCEPT gays as they are?” Our response was that GOD accepts all people, but He will not ACCEPT unrepentant (sinful) behavior!!! His response was that “he know of many church leaders that commit adultery, some that even have relations with minors, and they still are church leaders!!!; how can we do that & not ACCEPT gays as they are”?

    I assume this young lawyer was gay and a part of the local gay community. As such, he’d become aware of gay church leaders who were engaged in pedophilia, which is illegal. He should turn those men in immediately to the proper authorities. In many states, he is bound to do so. And I’m very serious. Allowing any child to be sexually abused is generally criminal and always immoral. This is no debating point. This should happen immediately. If he refuses, call child services (or state equivalent) and advise them of your conversation with him so they can interview him. Perhaps he’ll have the moral gumption to do the right thing and spare children from predators. This is true regardless of whether the children are being taken advantage of by gay or straight predators.

    Obviously, not one of those church leaders was known by their congregation to be engaged in such activity or the man would be removed from his position and, I hope, turned over to civil authorities.

    So the fact that a church doesn’t run off people who effectively hide their sins proves nothing. The fact that he is aware of child abuse and has nothing to stop it proves him without moral standards of any kind. He is likely a criminal under state law. I can’t imagine being friendly with such a person. I have had occasion to deal with sexual predators, and I refuse to spend time debating the moral fine points. I call the cops.

  22. John F says:

    “Although, there are cultures where those who steal by being clever are admired. A convert from such a culture would not be high handed unless and until taught better.”

    In Asian (Taiwanese in my experience) this cleverness is more clearly seen as dishonoring your family if you do NOT take advantage of a situation. Example, someone foolishly leave the key in their motorcycle; doing so opens the item to theft and dishonors your family. If I see the key, and how you have dishonored your family, I am free (expected) to take advantage for the benefit of MY family.

    The primary purpose of disfellowship is restoration of the transgressor.

    Gal 6:1-3
    Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. NASU

    What too often is missing is “you who are spiritual” and a “spirit o gentleness.”

    There is a UNIVERSE of difference in going to someone and telling them they are in spiritual danger — one person may sound like they like the idea of you going to hell, , and another sound like it will break their heart to see you lost. Which approach is likely to be more spiritually effective? (I think I know.)

  23. Jay Guin says:


    But to answer the question you asked, I’ve laid my position out here many times.

    * Christians love their neighbors, even their gay neighbors.
    * Christians do not judge or ostracize non-Christians for the gayness (other than predatory or other non-consensual, criminal behavior, of course).
    * Homosexuals may become Christians.
    * Homosexuals who are Christians must be celibate.
    * The church should overwhelm such Christians in an ongoing love and fellowship so that they are not overwhelmed by loneliness but instead feel the love of Jesus.
    * Violations of the command for homosexuals to be celibate are no worse than violations of the command for unmarried heterosexuals to be celibate. Coerced sex is wrong whether hetero- or homo-sexual. And if we straight people can sympathize with the struggles of single straight people to be celibate, we should remember that sympathy when dealing with homosexual struggles.
    * Grace applies to the sin of others even if I don’t feel the same temptation.

  24. Dwight says:

    What we often miss in this confront the transgressor thing is our part in doing so before it reaches critical mass and often times it is pushed into the critical mass arena first thing. One of the ways we do the latter is by encouraging the sinners to come before the assembly, which is nice if they need prayers and encouragement, but if they want to confess sins, then they need to go to God and then find a brother willing to counsel and be there in the process. We are told to confess our sins one to another. There is wisdom in this. The more people that get involved in a personal issue, the more misunderstanding of that issue that develop. As in Gal.6:1-3 “You…bear one another’s burdens….spirit of gentleness”

  25. JES says:

    Jay, to your first response, I do not believe he “knew” anything, but was reacting to our comments. It was about the time all the Catholic priests were being “outed”. As for the adultery situations, we all have seen this before. These arguments are usually a knee jerk reaction based on “what they have heard” rather than factual experiences.

    In my many years of dealing with people issues I have only encountered three “real” cases and only one that involved a child. Even the incident with the child was not found to be sexual, but stupidity on the part of a youth minister. He got fired over this issue, which was, as you might guess, the last straw in a series of issues.

    A couple of weeks ago I heard similar actuations that “the church” allows such behavior and does nothing about it. Unfortunately, this is often true.

    As a body, we do not deal with issues very well, and have little or no understanding of church discipline and how to apply it. This would be a good subject for you to address sometime.

  26. JES says:

    Jay, as to your second response, I appreciate the list. You may have laid this out before, but I have not seen it all together as you have done this time. Thanks

  27. Jay Guin says:


    THanks for your comments. I’m aware of cases of pedophilia where the church really did defend the minister. Really. I shake with anger at the thought.

    The list is likely novel as a list but reflects positions expressed in the Letter to a Gay Man in the Churches of Christ series and a more recent follow on series. See /category/index/sexuality/homosexuality-sexuality/letter-to-a-gay-man-in-the-churches-of-christ/ and /?s=%22hermeneutics+of+sexuality%22

  28. Johnathon says:

    Do you really think Christians that listen to Rush or Hillary or watch Fox News or MSNBC or read the New York Times or the Drudge Report or watch the NBC, ABC, or CBS news for that matter do so in order to learn what the Bible says?

  29. John F says:

    I am personally aware and friends with a gifted minister who struggled with pornography. He went (was not “found out”) to the elders asking for forgiveness, prayers, and help. They (in Christian love and example, of course) helped him OUT the door. What a loss to the kingdom, and the congregation and what a poor example of dealing with “special” sins.

    I hesitated to post this earlier, but we simple must realize that sexual sin is more more damning than greed, pride, alcoholism, theft,,,,, and the list goes on.

    If there is one great lacking in the churches of Christ (which I deeply love) it is the spirit of gentleness and love in dealing with sin. Too often we approach things in the words of Moliere’s Tartuffe: “A sin isn’t a sin unless it’s seen.”

  30. Alabama John says:

    Sad thing today is the distance men have had to put between themselves and children that they didn’t many years ago for fear of being a molester or some other (bad) person.

    How the boys on my team used to run and jump in my arms when we won a baseball game and hug me and me them while we danced around. Coaches drove the team in their van alone. Today, none do that I know of. Hands off, keep big distance between.

    Used to take a bunch with my sons camping and fishing but would be afraid to do it today.
    I understand the Boy Scouts are having a hard time finding leaders (masters) and its easy to understand why.

    Some men still take young boys, not their kin, out in the woods to identify medical and eatable plants and other educational nature things but all take a few more men or their wives along to be safe. Who would of even thought it necessary to do that a few years ago and the trips are much more seldom today?

    In todays environment, children are missing out on a lot because of this rampant fear from both sides and its real effect on these children is yet to be seen.

  31. hank Valencia says:

    AJ, good points – its sad.

    Jay, what do we mean exactly, when we say (or write) – “…free of secular politics and free of hatred toward homosexuals.”?

    And, that – “Our mission is not to label and judge the lost but to seek and save the lost.”?

    I ask, because we all know that to many, the apostle Paul himself would be/has been accused of being on the wrong side if both of those statements.

    For example, there are many “pastors” today who actually embrace, defend and endorse homosexuality – even performing “marriage” ceremonies for such couples. What do you think about that? Were a minister at the church you help shepherd, wanting to be a part of such a marriage, would you consent? Would you oppose?

    My guess is that to avoid the appearance of “hatred toward homosexuals”, more and more – we will give approval.

  32. Dwight says:

    Just a point a persprective. Prov.6:16 “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” Adultery, sexual sin, homosexualtiy, drunkenness and some of the other sins that usually we consider the worst do not show up here. And at least three of them involve us in speaking, because while some sins can destroy one life, some can spread and destroy many. Just a thought. Some of these are easy to do and don’t require much effort.

  33. Monty says:

    I’m afraid that anything less than absolute approval of anything gay will be seen as intolerance and that’s where all of this is heading. It’s really quite remarkable the speed with which all of this is changing. Who would deny a sinister force behind all of this? Churches that don’t cave and gladly accept practicing homosexuals as members will in a few years lose their tax exempt status and many more such things, perhaps be protested against or have their buildings burned. Then the lines will be blurred between trying to help the sinner and being for the sin. We can’t minister to gays unless they admit it to be sin, just like we can preach against the sin of alcoholism, but unless the alcoholic repents and seeks treatment then where is the ministry? There is the preaching and teaching that must take place in the church that such things are wrong no matter what society says. IF that is done and not neglected, then your church will be known as “anti-gay”, plain and simple. IT won’t be enough to say we disapprove of the sin but approve of the person committing the sin. There will be quite the stigma attached to being a church that teaches that practicing homosexuality is wrong. Imagine in 10 years or so, being one of the few, if any, ministers in town that actually take a stand against the sin of homosexuality. “Hi!” “I’m reverend Billy Bob with the mainstreet church.” “Oh, you’re with that church that hates gays.” “No, no. no” “We don’t hate gays, we love gays, we just don’t believe in God’s eyes it’s acceptable.” “yeh, right!” “You’re either for gays and lesbians or you’re against them. Which is it?” “Well we believe the Bible teaches it to be a sin.” “Hater!! “Told ya.” I don’t believe for a second that the changing culture is going to allow the church to tippy-toe around the issue with flowery words. It will boil down to do we teach it to be wrong. I hope we come out on the right side.

  34. Alabama John says:

    Dwight, You just described most, if not all court prosecutors. That’s why there are so many FORMER ones, they cannot live with getting paid to do what you quoted.

  35. need4news says:

    The inconsistency in every church regarding the tolerance of hetero non-marrieds and homo non-marrieds speaks volumes to those looking for any gnat-straining and camel-swallowing among us.

  36. Jay Guin says:


    I agree that the biblical position on homosexual practice will increasingly be seen as intolerant etc. and will create a barrier against the surrounding culture. The principalities and powers are indeed not yet defeated and very much in power. In fact, the slogan, “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is already being seen as a marker of intolerance.

    On the other hand, we’ve done a pitiful job of loving the sinner — and still tolerate within our midst preachers who treat gay people as choosing to be gay — apparently incapable or unwilling to distinguish being gay and engaging in homosexual practices. Some of our more conservative periodicals have published some truly hateful things — and we seem far more concerned with our civil liberty to be spiteful toward gays than our gospel-duty to love them. Gays are the Samaritans of the 21st Century.

    I don’t see things getting better anytime soon, and I see some of our preachers and brothers continuing to embarrass Christ over this issue. But I’m heartened by Richland Hills’ ministry among homosexuals, comforting many in the local gay community as they die from AIDS rather than celebrating their deaths. Other churches are beginning to follow their example. And countless churches have gay members who elect to be celibate for Christ and quietly go about serving in their churches without making an issue of their gayness — and with elders and other leaders who allow them to take on positions of leadership and otherwise provide them respect as men and women who serve Christ at a cost many of us straight people would be unwilling to pay.

    It’s important that our leaders speak out on these issues to their congregations, and important that we not say things in social media or elsewhere that denies gay people a loving welcome into the Kingdom. Obviously, gay and straight people must commit to live according to Jesus’ will, but we need to learn to say that without contempt.

    You are right that it’s hard for many to distinguish being gay from engaging in homosexual activity — but if we don’t learn to do that and do it well, we’re going to deserve our fate. I mean, how can we believe in “Love your neighbor” and be unable to find love for gay men and women in our hearts? If we can’t do that, we aren’t really Christians and we’ll richly deserve our destruction.

    BTW, we have the same struggle regarding pre-marital sex — so much so that “pre-marital sex” now sounds hopelessly archaic. I mean, why assume that the couple having sex have marriage in mind? It’s really “non-marital sex.” And in TV and the movies, sex outside of marriage is entirely normalized, and those who are virgins are laughed at. And when we ask single people who convert to Jesus to give up sex, they are often astonished that Jesus would care so much about something so unimportant.

    Many churches have already quietly given up the fight. Part of the problem is our understanding of “sin.” We see “sin” as God’s law imposed on all people. We want everyone in society to get married before having sex. However, my reading of 1 Cor 5 is that the sex lives of our non-Christian neighbors is none of our concern. It’s rather part of what it means to commit to Jesus. And this frees us from looking down on our non-Christian neighbors. It lets us teach a better way without judging. It makes the Christian sexual ethic a choice made by those who follow Jesus, not a law that makes us better than others.

    Notice how Jesus puts it —

    (Mat 19:10-12 ESV) The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

    How could Jesus say more plainly that his sexual ethic is ONLY for his followers?

  37. Jay Guin says:

    Hank V asked,

    Jay, what do we mean exactly, when we say (or write) – “…free of secular politics and free of hatred toward homosexuals.”?

    See my comment at /2015/06/69763/#comment-147478

    But is it really necessary on a Christian website to have defend being against “hatred”?

    (Mat 5:43-45 ESV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

    I mean by it’s wrong to hate what Jesus meant by it’s wrong to hate.

    (1Jo 4:20 ESV) 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

    (Mat 24:10-13 ESV) 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

    (Lev 19:17-18 ESV) “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

    Hank V, you also asked,

    And, that – “Our mission is not to label and judge the lost but to seek and save the lost.”?

    I’ve explained my understanding of 1 Cor 5 in extensive comments to Tina Sergent Seward yesterday. There will also be a post tomorrow. But I’m not speaking in code. Rather, what I mean is what I said. It’s not our place to judge the lost. Paul banned our so going in 1 Cor 5:9-13. Therefore, it is wrong for us to do that. We need to stop.

    Our place is to seek and save the lost. OBVIOUSLY, and I’ve said this many times here, that involves repentance and submission to God’s will regarding the sexual conduct of his children. See the comments earlier referenced.

    The church has too long tolerated hatred against gay people while the scriptures repeatedly and plainly prohibit hatred. It’s not hard to figure out that there’s no gay-person exception to “Love your neighbor.” On the other hand, all sex outside of marriage is sinful and should taught as such. But Christian sexual ethics are for Christians. We are NOT ALLOWED to condemn the lost. God will do that.

    (1Co 5:9-13 ESV) I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler– not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

    I believe we should honor Paul’s words.

    BTW — in Corinth, the “sexual immoral of this world” unquestionably included homosexual sexual immorality, which was approved and common practice among free Greek men. But then, Paul also wrote,

    (1Co 6:9-11 ESV) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 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.

    Plainly, Paul had converted men who engaged in homosexual practiced and required them to stop as part of becoming Christians. He sought and saved the lost, even within the gay community of Corinth.

  38. Jay Guin says:


    Please review my post and comments. What I think is that once the Bible has spoken, Rush and Hillary are irrelevant. So why don’t we first ask what the Bible says?

    Take, for example, gay marriage. What does the Bible say on the subject? Well, it says quite a few things. One of them is that Christians are not to judge outsiders. Is it possible that has relevance to the question? Some? Any at all?

    And yet Christians are very fond of using their Bibles to condemn gay marriage by non-Christians to each other. Where is the conversation among Christians on whether this is permitted? Why is the topic not even discussed? Why does no one argue from Matt 19 that Jesus’ sexual ethics are only for Jesus’ followers?

    Again, why isn’t the topic even broached? Why do we never even stop to ask whether we’re supposed to be using Lev 18, to tell non-Christians how to live?

    Now, the question is much harder than I suggest. In the US we are blessed to be able to vote and lobby. We have legitimate civic concerns that we want to favor with our voting and lobbying. And if the Bible isn’t the standard, then what is? Do we want to see the US decline, to let God give the nation over to its sins, per Rom 1? Should we stand in God’s way? Or do we want to give the lost the benefits of living in a society governed by God’s standards? Indeed, outside of Christianity, is there a “good” way to live at all? Is the question even meaningful?

    The Catholic philosophers deal with these topics fairly forthrightly, whereas among Protestants, we just assume that God wants us to impose Christianity on non-Christians via the ballot box. But do we really want to make premarital sex a crime? (It once was in nearly every state and the churches loudly protested the repeal of these laws, and now would likely not support re-enactment.)

    These are, in short, VERY HARD questions, well worthy of discussion, and yet if I even broach the subject, I find myself accused of all sorts of things, as “really meaning” all sorts of things, because so many readers just so insist on thinking in secular terms about Christian things.

    And when we ask Hillary and Rush for their guidance on Christian questions BEFORE we turn to the Bible, yes, that’s a very bad thing indeed. And it’s bad because we’ve let the principalities and powers dupe us into thinking that immigration, and gay marriage, and whatever are political questions not Christian questions, making the Bible irrelevant and giving power over to the secular authorities very thoughtlessly. And the hate and vitriol that is spewed forth from Christian Facebook pages over political issues is enough to persuade anyone against Christianity. We’ve obviously compartmentalized our thinking so that “love your neighbor” doesn’t apply in the political realm.

    And when our preachers DO address these questions, they too often do so the WRONG way, by imposing Christian commitments on non-Christians with no more thought than that. And the result is to make us look judgmental and, worse yet, oblivious to the fact that our own Bible tells us not to do this — making us look controlling and ignorant. When, in fact, if we’d start with the Bible, and be CAREFUL and THOUGHTFUL, we just might find some incredible wisdom there. The world just might be amazed by the wisdom of God for its problems. But we can’t display God’s wisdom because we don’t bother to look.

    Or take illegal immigration. I don’t know the answers, but I know this. I’m supposed to love my neighbor. So the question, for a Christian, is what does love require? Find that on a Christian’s Facebook page. Or blog. We prefer to compartmentalize our lives and limit “love your neighbor” to church stuff but not political stuff.

    God introduces himself to the Israelites as a Deity concerned with the “sojourner”– non-Jews in Israel without political rights.

    (Deu 10:17-19 ESV) 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

    What does this tell us about how we should treat immigrants? Again, it’s not easy, and I don’t know the answers, but I know the topic cannot be discussed BY CHRISTIANS without addressing God’s very direct commands regarding our treatment of sojourners.

    (I’m NOT saying this, that, or that other thing about what the answer is. I DON’T KNOW. Not playing games. Not hiding an agenda. And “love your neighbor” does not necessarily mean “open your borders wide.” But neither does it mean “Mexicans don’t matter.” or “I’m an American and so need have no concern for the poor in Mexico.” So perhaps the answer is something no one has even imagined yet. But it’s not “I don’t care about your problems.” Some of those Mexicans are brothers in Christ. So we start with loving our neighbors. And then we can talk about solutions from that perspective. And if we were to do that, we might actually stumble upon an idea that shows loves for both the Americans harmed by immigration and for the impoverished in Latin America. But the solution won’t be found in selfishness or power-politics.)

    But we NEVER, EVER get there. Rather, we speak in secular political terms as though there were no other considerations, as though God could not possibly have anything to say on the subject. We don’t even go looking for what God says because, to us, politics are separate from religion. Except when we want to use the political powers to impose our religious views on non-Christians.

    Do you see the problem? It’s VERY selective separation of church and state. It’s assuming God only speaks when it’s convenient to our pre-existing secular political views. And it’s being under the thumb of principalities and powers who care NOTHING about God and the church leaning into the punch to gain political power over non-Christians – a temptation that Satan offered Jesus and he rejected and a temptation that we repeatedly fail to resist. We justify it by pretending that God cares nothing about these things and so we can take our guidance from the principalities. But we can NEVER take our guidance from the principalities. Not ever.

    We can pray for them. We can advise them of God’s will. We can even work alongside them to accomplish God’s will. But we cannot be subservient to the secular powers. Rather, we need to learn to separate ourselves from their influence so that we are no longer blinded to what God says — and we need to come up with Christian answers to the world’s problems, answers that may have NOTHING to do with the NY Times and Fox News. And we cannot know that until we open our eyes to the word of God and leave secular thinking behind.

  39. Johnathon says:

    “These are, in short, VERY HARD questions, well worthy of discussion, and yet if I even broach the subject, I find myself accused of all sorts of things, as “really meaning” all sorts of things, because so many readers just so insist on thinking in secular terms about Christian things.”

    I did not accuse you of anything. I asked if you really thought something. I apologize if the question sounded like an accusation. However, you are far to easily offended. I have often noticed that you take offense far too easily from things that are written in the comments, often when no offense is offered. This is does not come from love. This is a symptom of what may be the most dangerous, for it is the most spiritual, of sins: Pride
    You should repent.

  40. Monty says:


    Thanks for your comments. I agree with everything you said. This is a post that addresses my point. It has to do with Pastor Louie Giglio when he stepped down from praying at Obama’s second inauguration- – after some investigative reporter found a sermon 15 years ago where Pastor Louie just said “the Bible says homosexuality was sinful.” He didn’t disparage gays at all. You will see that he was accused of gay bashing and hate-filled rhetoric(I believe). You’ve got to love Mr. O’Donnels attempt at Bible linguistics. We(Christians) have lost the verbal right to even speak where the Bible speaks. It’s hate speech and there simply isn’t any room among the agitators for anything else. Almost everyone now has someone in their family who is homosexual. It is a serious problem and any preacher who disparages gay people for their feelings deserves what he gets(no doubt). But this is the 3rd example I ran across (just today) where nothing mean spirited was said, other than it’s wrong according to God and the folks who said that were immediately labeled as hate filled. The pro-LBGT groups have so framed the argument that any rebuttal is jeered and mocked.

    The poll the gentleman quotes at the end is telling. 52 per cent of Americans believe same sex is not right. I believe those numbers are probably skewed somewhat, after all who wants to be ripped for saying such a thing. I believe around 80% of Americans call themselves Christian. So why are the percentages as low as 52%? Obviously, sexual misconduct(as you mentioned sex without marriage and homosexual practice)) even among some Christian groups and people is something they don’t figure God is concerned about.

  41. John F says:

    “I hesitated to post this earlier, but we simple must realize that sexual sin is more more damning than greed, pride, alcoholism, theft,,,,, and the list goes on.”

    Earlier post should have read “no more damning”. And yet, sexual sin falls into a “special category” according to Paul.

    1 Cor 6:15ff
    ” Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

  42. Dwight says:

    I have a hard time with the concept of gay being seperated from the concept of homosexuality as what we do and say come from the heart. We would expect a child pornographer to stop child pornography, but not just make a physical alteration, but a spiritual one. In Matt.5 in regards to adultery, Jesus attacks the heart of man, then says change that and the rest will follow. If we don’t repent in heart as well as action, then we will always feel as if we are decieving ourselves and we will be. The fruits of the spirit are love, tec. but the works of the flesh are fornication, which includes bestiality, homosexuality, adultery, incest, etc. and are opposed to the spritual part of man. If we don’t align all of ourselves with God, we will always be in conflict with ourselves and God.

  43. Dwight says:

    John F. I agree in the sense that fornication is a corruption not only of the flesh, but of the spirit and yet if the spirit is corrupt it will lead to a physical corruption. That is why I find no way to seperate our homosexuality from how we think or feel. Now is there a possibilty to have homosexual thoughts, yes, but it shouldn’t be what presides over our thinking. Celibacy isn’t the option for those who can’t control thier sexual desires, but rather marriage is.

  44. John F says:

    1 Thess 5:23-24
    Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. NASU

    From above, I see the struggle for the control of the soul. As I perceive it, the soul is comprised our our reason and emotion. Satan uses our body (fleshly nature) to attack (see James), often through our emotions. God seeks to reach our soul through our spiritual nature and invites us to reason with HIM (Isa 1:18). This is not do diminish our emotions, but our reason should control. I do not restrict my fervor to emotional direction, but to the revelation understood through reason; then my emotions can be enjoyed, controlled by the Spirit within.

    In the above scenario, I understand (reason) that homosexual behavior is outside the will of God and leads to damnation; therefore, I will control my behavior and bring it subject to Christ. It is this understanding that makes Jay’s summary appropriate from a Biblical standpoint.

  45. John F says:


    Be very careful about making a charge against someone and suggesting a need for repentance. Written words are often a weak medium to fully express everything. I doubt you know Jay;s heart. While I disagree with some of jay;s conclusions, I do not detect a spirit of pride.

    Maybe you need a Snickers. (watch the commercial)

  46. Jay Guin says:


    I don’t follow you. Are you arguing that one cannot effectively repent of homosexuality? That Paul was mistaken to describe some of his Corinthian converts as former practitioners of homosexuality?

    Or are you saying that no one can be saved until he’s put all temptation behind him? Are teenagers who struggle with heterosexual temptation not converted because they’ve not made a spiritual change — as shown by the fact that they still struggle with sexual purity after their “conversion”?

    I don’t see how we have the right to impose stricter standards on the gay than the straight — or to presume the gay hypocrites and the straight honestly trying to do better. The standards are the same. Purity outside of marriage.

    As an elder, I’ve had occasion to know both straight and gay Christians who struggled mightily with sexual purity. And I’ve seen some handle the temptations better than others. But I never once questioned the sincerity of the person’s conversion just because they found it hard to be sexually pure.

    Or have I misunderstood you?

  47. Dwight says:

    I concur, I don’t think Jay is prideful even though I don’t agree with everything he says.
    Now in some ways I think it is futile for Christians to talk to homosexuals about sin or about turning from thier homosexuality. 1.) If they accepted the lifestyle it is hard to turn back from, not impossible, but very hard. 2.) If they do not know Christ, what is the reason that they should turn from this one sin, if they can’t turn from the world itself. 3.) There are many others out there there that are probably more approachable and convertable and yet we spend out time telling committed sinners they are sinning, 4.) Most homosexuals have read or have heard that the scriptures condemn it and will find no comfort in the Bible. All in all we are telling people something they know, but refuse to accept and hounding them won’t help them or us.
    And yet there might be those who just don’t know and haven’t chosen a side, these are who we need to focus on. The world is sinful, thus the world is condemned and homosexuality is a condition of the world and worldliness.

  48. Johnathon says:

    John F
    You are right. I cannot know Jay’s secret heart. My language was too harsh. Instead of “You need to repent” I should of said “This might be something you need to repent of.” But I still think easily taking offense is a symptom of pride. I think christians should very rarely allow themselves to be offended and never when offense is not offered.

  49. hank Valencia says:


    I appreciate you addressing some of what I wrote. However, you did not address my biggest question. I wrote:

    “For example, there are many “pastors” today who actually embrace, defend and endorse homosexuality – even performing “marriage” ceremonies for such couples. What do you think about that? Were a minister at the church you help shepherd, wanting to be a part of such a marriage, would you consent? Would you oppose?”

    Jay, in light of all that’s being discussed, how would you handle the above situation? Were a minister of whom you serve as an elder, to (for whatever reasons), divide to join a homosexual couple in “marriage”, how would you respond?

    Would you consent, stay out of it, or oppose such a decision?

  50. need4news says:

    Can any relationship–any relationship–that doesn’t have God at the center please Him?

    Does any relationship that has Him at the center please Him?

  51. Monty says:

    It is God, not man, who gives the boundaries for what is an appropriate sexual relationship. Can a man have his father’s wife? No! Can a man have sex with his brother’s wife? John the Baptist didn’t think so. Can a man sleep with his daughter? No! Can a man lie with a man as with a woman ? No! Can a man lie with an animal? No! Our Society in general is built upon the fabric of these scriptures. Is it right to steal? No! Is it right to murder? No! Is it right to lie? No! These are wrong because they violate who God is. Do people, even Christians, do these things? Yes! The struggle is there for everyone to live in the way that God would have us to live. I understand that society, in general, doesn’t have to abide by God’s word in one sense, but as Christians, we are to be the light to a darkened world. We need to teach with love, “speaking the truth in love”. The culture has already committed to the taking of innocent life and the church by-in-large has been the only group (religious or non-religious) that still addresses that as wrong. While some have been non-peaceful and ugly in their protest I don’t believe that is the norm and every ugly protest gives the secular progressive more ammo to portray Christians as a whole as “far-right wing nut cases.” It’s interesting that they won’t portray Radical Islamist in that manner. The left media even refused to say the Muslim guy in Oklahoma that beheaded his co-worker did so because of his radical beliefs. Imagine, if you would, the field day MSN would have had if the guy was quoting the Bible and saying “Praise Jesus” when he committed this unspeakable act. No such giving the “benefit of the doubt” would be given. It’s open season on Christianity.

    Christians must uphold the truth of God’s teachings while realizing that we often miss the mark. But the mark is valid and necessary. The culture of the day wants to silence Christians by shaming us. We are “ugly” to them, sometimes by how some who commit offensive acts in the name of Christian beliefs act, but there’s more to it than that. We are ugly because, well, we’re Christians who have the audacity to say( whether in church or out of church)-“It’s wrong according to God to kill the innocent” and “it’s wrong for same sex couples to marry.” Those two things in particular put us out of step with modern culture. The progressive secularist want our right to speak as Christians silenced (which is quite amazing for their past arguments pertaining to free speech).

    What if culture tomorrow started ebbing toward pedophilia was an acceptable practice? Would we as Christians have to give up our voice in the public square because it’s “outside the church?” Couldn’t we hold out the light of God’s word that pedophilia is a detestable practice in God’s sight without demeaning pedophiles, some I’m sure who have had those feelings since their youth? Maybe as in a large amount of cases they were preyed upon by pedophiles and in some sense have become who they are by victimization. If Christians speak in the public square against such that it was wrong then pedophiles would be miffed at us and we could be portrayed again as being haters of pedophiles. It seems at some point that it is wrong to know the bridge is out up ahead and we do nothing to warn the cars headed toward disaster. Paul once took on the intellectual elites of his day on Mars Hill. He wasn’t a hater, but his message was simple and direct. God once winked at your ignorance(imagine telling that to the cultural intellectual elite of today) but now he commands all men to repent. John the Baptist commanded his culture, some who were religious, many who were anything but religious, some who were soldiers, to repent. These admonitions didn’t take place inside the walls of a church building but in the public square. We’ve all heard of stump preaching and know that many preachers in the history of our nation and that of England led the masses to revival by drawing crowds in the public square. I wonder if they told anyone who was caught up in a sin that they were doing wrong? Does every professing Christian always behave appropriately toward gays? Of course not. Does that mean we should hide the light of God’s word behind the four walls of our churches? That seems ridiculous given our freedom of speech. Does that give us the right to demean the lost for being lost? God forbid.

  52. Jay Guin says:


    So what strategy does that mean the church should adopt toward gays outside the church? Well, as you correctly point out, we will not persuade everyone. Many will reject Christianity because we consider homosexuality a sin. And so our only choice is to be the church, that is, to be like Jesus, to love those who scorn and hate us, and to proactively reach out to those who reject our views in selfless, sacrificial love.

    Rich Atchley has preached some powerful lessons on how doing exactly this has transformed the heart of his congregation while opening up evangelistic opportunities among gays and straights. I wish I could be more exact. I likely heard it at Pepperdine or ACU lectureships, but my memory fails me. Maybe a reader can dig it out or remember when and where. I’m sure Rick has spoken on this topic more than on this topic more than once.

    In short, I don’t think it’s so much a strategy as a discipline of making certain we really are who we claim to be. If we’re really living the SOTM in community, being the church of Christ and the Kingdom of God, we’ll see remarkable things happen in our churches far beyond our expectations and imaginations. It will come from the Spirit, and may be more about a jail ministry or homeless work or mission work or who knows what — but it always happens not because we ask God to bring about spectacular conversions but because we commit to be like Jesus.

    So I’m not disagreeing so much as urging that we think less about what might or might not work and more about being the hands and feet of Jesus. If we plant and water, God will provide the increase, often in ways that we thought impossible. Let God worry about what is and isn’t possible or likely.

  53. Jay Guin says:


    In the case of a wedding for gay people who hold themselves out as Christians, I think 1 Cor 5 plainly prohibits any approval by the church or its leaders. Gay sexual activity by a Christian is sinful and we cannot condone sin. Indeed, we have a duty to exercise church discipline in appropriate cases.

    The Bible does not address church weddings at all, much less for non-Christians. But I can’t imagine anything but confusion, at best, and sin, at worst, coming from a church wedding for a gay couple who are non-Christians.

  54. John F says:

    Peter’s words have something to say about these questions:

    1 Peter 2:11-12 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

    1 Peter 3:13-18 Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

    1 Peter 4:3-6 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

    Luke 6:22-24 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.

    Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

    John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.

    John 15:18-20 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

    1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you

    As long as the church proclaims the Gospel and the call to righteousness, she will be reviled because the church calls for repentance and reformation.

    Then there is the story of the worldly farmer who mocked his Christian neighbor farmer whose crop was not a large since the Christian spent time in worship and service. The Christian farmer simply stated. “God does not settle His accounts in October.”

    1 Cor 16:13-14 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love

    1 Peter 5:12-13 I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! NASU

  55. John F says:

    I would reasonably speculate that the “state” may choose to punish churches who do not “toe the cultural / legal line” by revoking its 501c3 status; just another result or churches yielding controlling authority to the state on its income.

    What had started out as a means of encouraging “the public weal (good)” has become the hammer of control. The sickle may not be that far behind.

    All the more reason to “stand firm.”

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