Twenty-one years ago, I was sitting at an addiction recovery leadership conference even though I was neither an addict in recovery nor helping others with theirs. I wasn’t even a leader; just a new employee at Focus on the Family trying to learn as much as I could about my assigned topic of pornography. I attended the recovery conference on a whim that turned out to be a nudge from God. As the conference began, I was struck by the newness of everything I was hearing. I casually jotted down a thought that would come to shape my future.
The Church does not get this.
The “this” to which I was referring had to do with a compassionate, honest, open conversation about sexuality—both health and brokenness. As a young man I had grappled with pornography and sexual relationships before marriage. Never had I heard anyone in the Church mention sexual issues, although I knew the Ten Commandments and had read a number of passages related to sexuality in the Bible.
I have thought of my note many times over the past two decades. In the intervening years, sadly, the Church still doesn’t seem to “get” sexuality. Recently, evangelical mega-pastor Andy Stanley invited “married” gay men to address the parents at his North Point community of churches in Atlanta. Other leaders have gone farther, including flying the LGBT rainbow flag inside their churches. At the other extreme are pastors too frightened of the topic or conflict to speak of sexual matters at all. In almost every church in the United States today, there is a significant disconnect between what pastors believe about sex and what they do about it.
According to original research we conducted with Barna, almost three-quarters of pastors (72%) believe it is “extremely important” for Christians to have a “comprehensive biblical understanding of God’s design for sexuality and relationships.” Similarly, 68% of pastors “agree strongly” that “The Church should be responsible for helping people deal with issues relating to sexual sin or sexual brokenness.”
Clearly, pastors are aware of both the needs of their congregations and their responsibilities as spiritual leaders. Yet, when asked what they or their churches were doing to promote a comprehensive biblical understanding of sex or how they were supporting people struggling with sexual sin, seven in ten pastors admitted that their church had done little or nothing over the previous year. Just 5 percent of churches were highly intentional at teaching about sexual issues.
The Church does not get this.
Our world is destroying itself spiritually and sexually, and this includes many that claim the name of Christ. Christians are divorcing, watching pornography, committing adultery, and allowing the next generation to be evangelized by the internet and a pornographic culture. The only place where people will not learn about sex, it seems, is within the walls of their own church.
The Church MUST lead the culture on sexual matters.
Sex is not a secondary issue of the Gospel. Who God created us to be—male and female—and the unique and complementary qualities He has imbued into each, is central to our understanding of God’s love for His people. The covenant love of marriage and sexual intimacy within it is an image used through Scripture to convey God’s love and is even a picture of the consummation of all time at the wedding feast of the Lamb and the Bride.
The Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit began in 2016 as a collaborative vision of sexual integrity leaders and organizations. Since our first conference in 2018 we have helped hundreds of Christian pastors, ministry staff, small-group leaders, clinicians, coaches, and mentors to improve the care they provide while holding up the larger vision of impacting the Church. This community continues to grow rapidly, but our work requires much more than an annual Summit.
Based on the research cited above, we now know that pastors believe that biblically-accurate sex education and support is vital to the ministry of the Church today. Yet, too few know how to make the personal and cultural changes necessary to begin an effective process of catechizing their congregations on God’s vision for sexuality.
Sexual Integrity Leaders was formed for this very purpose. In addition to stewarding the collaborative Summit community, we have developed and are testing interventions designed to help pastors and other church leaders make this difficult transition. But we need help to carry out these plans. Your prayers and financial support are essential for us to carry out our vision of churches proclaiming and living out Gospel-centered sexuality.
I trust this is your heart’s desire as well. Please prayerfully consider beginning or increasing a monthly gift to help us serve the Church and her leaders well. We appreciate one-time gifts, as well, but are hoping to stabilize our funding through regular monthly donors committed to this ministry for a minimum of 2-3 years. Can we count you among that number?
We’ve started a giving club for our monthly donors which will include personalized messages each month and a quarterly zoom call where partners can ask questions of me directly. Our hope is that this vision of serving and supporting churches and leaders is not ours alone, but that God will captivate your heart with the same hope for positive change that we have.
Please use the link below to join this most important effort. And feel free to reach out with any comments or questions you have.
We are so thankful for your investment in the health of churches, families, and communities.
I am confident when I say that with your partnership: The Church WILL get this!
President, Sexual Integrity Leaders, Inc.