Thoughts from the Baptist State Convention

Have you ever allowed a perfect opportunity to say something to someone pass you by? I have. I have had so many, actually. The moment passes and then you spend the rest of the day wishing you had just said it. I actually had one of those this past week.
For the first time ever, I had the opportunity to attend a baptist state convention meeting. It was interesting and I was actually excited. This year’s agenda was pretty full, with several important votes on the schedule. One of the first of these motions was presented by Meyers Park Baptist Church, of Charlotte, NC. The pastor and member/secretary of the deacon board had come to present a motion that would seek to overturn a motion that passed at last year’s convention. This new by-law, without quoting it, basically states that any church which openly condones or approves of homosexual behavior is out of friendly relationship with the convention. Well, Meyers Park didn’t seem to agree with this motion that was passed. In fact, the secretary of the deacons that had come to share with the convention is blatantly open in her lifestyle as a practicing lesbian.
I literally became physically ill in my stomach as we listened to this pastor and deacon trying to persuade the convention messengers to overturn this new rule. The deacon even shared about her partner and a Christmas party that they had begun for others who are living in homosexuality, calling it the Christmas party for misfits.
Well, needless to say, after a little debate, Meyers Park was voted to be out of friendly cooperation with the convention, and subsequently removed from the convention (even though I was sad to see the number of votes who were voting in favor of this church).
As the vote concluded, I heard a woman behind me (who had voted in favor of Meyers Park) turn to the people around her and make the statement, “How do they expect to reach these people if all we do is vote them out?” This is the opportunity that had passed me by. This is what I wish I had said.
First, let me be very clear about one thing. I believe every church should open wide its doors to all people of all backgrounds. I believe that the church must not be homophobic, so to speak, and more intentional in ministering to people living in homosexuality. I, in no way whatsoever, believe that the doors of a church should be closed to anyone, no matter what the background or sin in which they find themselves.
What I do have a problem with is extending membership to someone living in such a lifestyle (especially allowing that person to serve as a key leader in a church body!) As I sat and listened to this pastor share how much love he and his church is showing people who are living in this lifestyle, I couldn’t help but think he is actually showing them the opposite. Let me explain by pointing to a section of one of Paul’s letters that came to my mind as I sat at the convention meeting. See 1 Corinthians 5 (click to read on Bible Gateway). Here, Paul deals with an individual living in a sexually immoral lifestyle (not homosexuality, but the Bible is extremely clear that homosexuality is indeed a sexually immoral lifestyle).
It is evident in Paul’s writings that he loves the church. The church and people are Paul’s passions, along with serving His God. This is the man who exclaimed, “…I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh!” (Romans 9:2-3, esv). Yet, here in these verses, I believe Paul’s love is expressed as strongly as in anywhere else in his writings. You see, Paul loved this man in this congregation enough to remove him from the church body. He understood that if he were allowed to continue in good standing with the church that he would be unable to see the serious nature of his sin. Paul even goes as far as to say that this would be necessary in order that the man see his need for true repentance and salvation. John MacArthur suggests that the man would perhaps “suffer greatly under God’s judgment, but will not be an evil influence in the church; and he will more likely be saved under that judgment than if tolerated and accepted in the church.” Notice that Paul also expresses his love for the church by being unwilling that a person living in a sinful lifestyle continue to exist within its fellowship.
This pastor is giving these folks who are struggling with this heinous sin a false sense of security. He is giving them a false sense of truth. The Gospel is clear in offering an invitation for people to come as they are. However, the repentance that this same Gospel demands is clear that some things must die and sinful lifestyles be forsaken in order to follow Jesus as Lord. Now, we all know that sanctification is a process. The sinful desires are not just going to vanish at the point of conversion. People may even struggle for some time with certain sinful tendencies. But, what there will be, however, is a new desire to follow Christ in discipleship and to be obedient to His Word. This is why it is impossible to be a true disciple of Christ and, at the same time, continue to live in a sinful lifestyle, with lifestyle being the operative word. The new convert will begin to understand the heart of God and what His Word says, understanding that this lifestyle is definitely not one that honors Him. It is a sin that is ravaging so many people and blinding them from the salvation that is found in Christ. I thought about this as this deacon shared how she was growing in her walk with the Lord, despite any inclination that she was willing to turn from this lifestyle.
It is my opinion that this pastor has simply been worn down by a secular society to the place where he has compromised on the unpopular, and yes, often offensive truth of God’s Word. This may seem harsh, but this pastor is making the path that leads to destruction more comfortable for this deacon and the other people in his church who are struggling with sinful lifestyles. And to make it worse, he is masking it with a declaration of love through acceptance.
So, how do we reach people who are living in a homosexual lifestyle? The same way we reach anyone. We love them and tell them the truth about God’s Word. The Gospel is for all, but it comes with unwavering demands. You must repent and turn from your sinful ways, and you must place your personal trust in Jesus alone for salvation. A Gospel message without a true definition of repentance is a shallow one and a false one.
I am very excited to be able to say that I attend and am on staff of a church that is willing to kick me out if needs be. I am also thankful to God that I have a pastor who is willing to go to whatever extremes he must in order that a person is restored to the body through repentance.

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