By Chris Hefner
Ever since I began preaching regularly, I’ve only known one thing to preach—the Bible. I’ve not really thought of biblical preaching as courageous. After all, preaching—as it’s supposed to be—is “forth-telling” what God has already said.
Where I pastor in the Bible Belt, we don’t often experience persecution for our faith. Unlike Paul and other early Christians, we’re not imprisoned for our biblical beliefs.
But sometimes, preaching does require courage.
Last fall, after several conversations with church members, I began considering a sermon series on biblical sexuality. Students in our schools are navigating friendships and interactions with LGBTQ individuals and philosophy. I knew doing such a sermon series would be difficult, but it seemed necessary.
After spending several months in prayer and conversing with key church leaders, we decided to move forward with a four-week sermon series addressing the “Bible and Human Sexuality: A Biblical Overview of Human Sexuality, Lust and Pornography, Homosexuality, and Gender Dysphoria.”
Because we wanted to speak about these topics openly and honestly, we provided a children’s church option during the series for elementary school children. We also announced the topics we’d be covering in the sermon series through internal church communications and through our church Facebook page.
Not too long after our Facebook post went up, some individuals in the local community began a Facebook thread denouncing our topics and commenting negatively about our church and myself. They even suggested they might protest our church.
In hindsight, I should’ve anticipated such a reaction on a public platform like Facebook. Because of the vitriol in the comments section, I was shaken and nervous heading into the series. I wondered what would happen if a public protest did take place.
The Importance of Prayer
Due to my concern from the outside voices, I read, studied, and prayed extensively for this sermon series. I asked for prayer from church leaders, my regular preaching prayer team, and others.
I can tell you, the prayers of God’s people and the support I experienced from my church was remarkable. Thankfully, there were no protests, and the Facebook threads lightened.
My regular preaching pattern is expositional, but this series was topical and theological. On occasions, it’s important to address contemporary subjects with biblical clarity.
I believe the Lord impressed me to preach this series for a few reasons.
1. LGBTQ ideology is currently a morality versus morality conversation.
We live in an increasingly post-Christendom culture where biblical views on sexuality are not tolerated. Rather, biblical views on such issues are seen as an immoral and bigoted stance toward LGBTQ persons.
Regardless of the consequences of such a cultural digression, we cannot ignore these issues within the church.
2. Uncertainty concerning these subjects is rampant; clarity is a must.
School systems, media, higher education, politics, etc. are offering ideas and opinions on human sexuality. Because these cultural voices often conflict with truth from Scripture, Christians need to think biblically and act graciously concerning such issues.
If we ignore these subjects in the pulpit, how will our congregations learn to see such issues through a biblical lens?
3. No matter the geographical context or size of your church, such topics are personal for members of your church.
Without divulging details, this series brought me to conversational engagement with church members’ children and grandchildren who are living LGBTQ lifestyles, with people in our church members’ families who were questioning their own sexual identity, and with connected friends and family who were dating transgendered young adults.
Our congregations are dealing with these issues. The biblical message of truth and love offers clarity and comfort for those personally interacting with these issues.
4. Churches need to be reminded of biblical truth regarding human sexuality.
The United Methodist Church just experienced the tension of this issue at the denominational level. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship nixed their absolute hiring ban on LGBTQ persons last year. We could go on, but you get the idea.
There’s a hermeneutical shift to interpret the Bible through the LGBTQ lens. As a result, theologically progressive viewpoints are becoming increasingly popular.
Our churches need to hear biblical truth with orthodox hermeneutics and conservative theological viewpoints.
5. Churches need to be reminded of the biblical prescription of love and grace to sinners.
We make a mistake if we treat LGBTQ sexual sins as worse than other sins. For example, in five of the six instances that the Bible addresses homosexuality, it does so in a list of other sins (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10).
To elevate LGBTQ sins above other sins is contradictory to Scripture. Failures to understand or to love can lead to hateful communication about these issues.
But Jesus, our example, offered forgiveness and repentance to those in sexual sin (see John 8:1-11).
6. Community is important to everyone; because of Jesus, the church community should be filled with grace.
Those who identify as LGBTQ are, like most people, looking for acceptance and community.
As followers of Jesus who were loved while we were sinners (Romans 5:8) and made new by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we ought to be welcoming to all sinners, LGBTQ persons included.
Accepting and welcoming a person in love is not affirming their behavior. But until we love, it will be very difficult for us to proclaim the truth about sin and salvation.
Think about how Jesus treated us—conviction and love, but not condemnation (John 3:16-17) so we could believe in Him for eternal life.
Experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit and His guidance and clarity in preaching during this series has been a highlight of my pastoral ministry. I’m grateful that amidst the comments of outsiders and internal fears, God sustained our church and me.
Some of the resources I used for this sermon series include:
If you’re interested in additional resources I used and the sermons in manuscript form, you can find them here on our church website.
CHRIS HEFNER (@chrishefner) is husband to a beautiful wife and fantastic mommy, Jean Hefner, daddy of two little boys, William and Nathan, and senior pastor at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He’s also professor of Western Civilization and Apologetics at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and Ph.D. graduate from the Billy Graham School of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.