This post by R.C. Sproul Jr. is a significant post that articulates succinctly my most recent frustrations with the distractions of ministry. Having been involved in Christian Ministry for 23 years now, I have been a part of many hip and fresh church plants. These churches, carrying the legacy of our churches’ ancestors champion the care and mitigation of gross socially accepted sins. Take slavery and John Newton for example. “With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, Amazing Grace is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world."1 John Newton penned and arranged this timeless piece in a response to his convictions against his alcoholism and involvement in the slave trade. Fast forward to where our churches are today and they must deal with even larger present tragedies, so much so that we have adopted a colloquialism summing up our endless battle - the "flavor of the month."
Though human trafficking, abortion, domestic abuse, hunger, and a plethora of tragic issues bombard this fallen world, these ills often catch and clamor the modern churches' attention, inadvertently deceive appropriate attention away from our primary concern against sin – sin harbored in the so called born-again Christian's soul. God is calling us to be holy, not human. This is most vividly displayed in the epidemic of sexual sin that ravages ministry after ministry, thus effectively impeding momentum, which should characterize the local church. On the other hand, you could think of this as the forgotten war on sin.
The War on Terror raged through two separate fronts simultaneously: one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom was pooled with superior resources while in Afghanistan – the epicenter of the terrorist cesspool known as Al Qaeda responsible for the 9/11/01 attacks – quickly became known as the forgotten war, until people finally woke up 7 years later and shifted resources and attention to make the main issue the main issue. But it was too late. Our modern church is in danger of committing the same buffoonery and slow reactiveness. If the U.S. government (at the time) had focused full resources initially and primarily on Afghanistan, terrorism would effectively have been defeated. R.C. Sproul says it better than I can. Here goes:
The serpent is more crafty than any of the beasts of the field. He attacks while retreating, retreating while attacking. He concedes this point, all the while making that point. He is both a tar baby and quicksilver. And we are fools for forgetting it.
Consider, if you will, the battles that have dotted the evangelical landscape over the past thirty years. We had lordship salvation, integrationist psychology, seeker sensitive worship, Jabez, WWJD, Promise Keepers, Harold Camping, y2k and a host of other end of the world scenarios, charismatic gifts, modalist elephants, and in one tiny circle of the evangelical world, federal vision, Shepherdism and the New Perspective.
Most of these issues are or were important. There are right answers and wrong answers, and wrong ideas have bad consequences. What if, however, the devil’s goal was less to encourage us to end up on the wrong side of these issues, and more to distract us from more damaging issues? What if some of these were false fronts, and we left sundry other flanks exposed? What if while we were all scratching our heads the devil was dropping our drawers?
Though there are competing studies, some more alarming than others, the hard truth is that evangelicals are sleeping with partners to whom they are not married. Hundreds of thousands of them, with barely a word even spoken. How many churches, for instance, have a reputation for preaching against fornication? How many denominations are known as those that take adultery seriously? I suspect when church historians in the next millennia look back at our age they may just define us as that group that gave up on sex. We could not remain relevant and faithful to the Word on sex, and we chose relevant. It would be bad enough if we had allowed ourselves to be swept up in the culture’s sexual tsunami. But the truth is worse—we have failed to be salt and light. It is less that we are worse off because we are like them, more they are worse off because they are like us.
The result is not merely immorality. The trouble with not keeping your pants on isn’t that you offend that great Prude in the sky. The problem is that it leads to death (Proverbs 7:27). How many of our grievous social ills trace their roots to the lie that we can have sex outside marriage with no great consequence? To put it another way, what would this world look like if there were no more adultery and fornication? Because families would be intact, ghettoes and the pathologies that come with them would fade away. The murder rate would drop precipitously. Little boys would grow up with fathers, and when grown would be fathers, working and providing for their own families. Little girls would grow up knowing they were loved by their daddies, and would be secure. Sexually transmitted diseases would go the way of polio. Sexual trafficking would be but a shameful memory.
Best of all, babies would be safe in their mother’s wombs. The murder of babies, which is no mere social ill but is our greatest shame, would wither from the scene.
That is not the world we live in. For two reasons. First, we have come to believe that sexual sins have little reach. Wrong we’re willing to confess. Dangerous we are willing to consider. Destroying our world? No, not that. The pathway to death? That’s just biblical hyperbole. Second, and perhaps the cause of the folly of the first, we won’t preach against this because then people won’t come to church. We think it more important to not drive anyone away, to not lose one giving unit, than to see the power of the Word preached to change the world. We sold our prophetic birthright for a mess of relevance pottage.
Faithful biblical preaching recognizes that theology doesn’t stop with our minds. Faithful biblical preaching preaches the whole of the Bible, and calls out our sins, even if the world thinks them not sins at all. I pray a day will come when we say of this pastor or that, “You ought to download his sermons. He preaches sin. He’s a marriage-ist.” I pray a day will come when one believer will say to another, “I was reading Spurgeon the other day, and he got after it. I had no idea that guy preached fidelity.” I pray, with Paul, a day will come when sexual sin is so faithfully preached against that it will not be named once among us (Ephesians 5:3). It matters, eternally.