Since the Supreme Court’s decision to affirm homosexual relationships as sufficient for marriage, the Church as a whole has spent a few months trying to determine next steps in how we should be responding, how to approach the issue in our own congregations, and how to hold to the gospel while loving and caring for people in the process. The Church wasn’t caught off-guard by the court’s decision, but in many cases, maybe we didn’t have all of our “ducks in a row” prior to the ruling. A pastor might know why homosexuality is sinful, but how does he communicate that to his church? How does he counsel a homosexual male or female, face-to-face, with love and grace? How does he legally prepare for the months to come? How will this affect what he does from the pulpit, in community, in counseling, and in the home?
These are the questions pastors and church leaders need to wrestle with. As someone in the middle of launching and sustaining a new church plant, I have found these questions swirling around in my head as we prepare as a staff to respond to the cultural clamoring in streams of truth, obedience, love, and disciple-making. Sometimes, that’s tricky for a church to sort through, which is why Ministry in the New Marriage Culture is an excellent resource for pastors and leaders to consider these provoking questions and more with deep contemplation, and most of all, a rest in the person and work of Jesus.
Ministry in the New Marriage Culture is a collection of essays written by various church leaders, many of which hailing from the Pacific area and in particular with connections to Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. This context is important; we see that we are learning from voices who at this moment are immersed in a culture of ministry that has to answer these questions on a daily basis because their location calls for it. It is encouraging to see Jeff Iorg and this team of writers partnering with pastors and leaders across the country to help them gain a better understanding for how to handle these tough situations with clarity and confidence.
The book is divided into three main subheadings: Chapters 1-2 deals with biblical foundations for the new marriage culture. Chapters 3-5 address the theological implications of gospel confidence, robust ecclesiology, and positive sexual ethics. Finally, chapters 6-15 approach models for how ministry can happen in the new marriage culture. A wide variety of topics is covered here, from preaching (chapter 7) to counseling (chapters 8-9), to youth and children (10-11). Chapter 12 addresses the comparisons and contrasts between the civil rights movement and same-sex marriage. Chapters 13-15 are key for lead pastors, addressing legal and pastoral concerns.
One of the big highlights from the book was Tony Merida’s chapter on preaching (chapter 7). Merida draws from John Stott’s classic example of preaching as bridge-building and applies this principle to the context of connecting the truths of the gospel to broken, hostile, or unlearned proponents of same-sex marriage. Contextualization is of primary importance, but must be done correctly. We cannot over- or under-compensate in this area. As Merida observes, “Many people today have the same vocabulary, but they are using a different dictionary” (110). It is critical, therefore, that we assume what Merida calls “biblical cluelessness” and “evangelize as you edify” (112-114). Parallel to Jesus walking with the men at Emmaus, we must be willing to patiently walk with people, preaching boldly and comprehensively, the whole counsel of God, Christ, discipleship, marriage, and so forth. We will gain no ground if we build a bridge that comes up short.
Another insightful chapter was Brad Dacus’s chapter on examining and navigating legal challenges (chapter 13). Dacus, an attorney and President of the Pacific Justice Institute, provides church leaders with a lot of practical wisdom in how to prepare ourselves for the future, and also how to protect ourselves from unnecessary conflicts that could arise from this cultural redefinition of marriage. It’s definitely a chapter senior and lead pastors should be reading as they attempt to protect the flock entrusted to them.
Overall, the book is very beneficial and will help Christians understand the answer to the “Now what?” phase we’re entering. Think of Ministry in the New Marriage Culture as a compass that’s helping many of us who are stuck wandering by getting back on track and pointed in the right direction.
I received this book from B&H Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”