Sexuality and the Future of the Church

There was a palpable sense of a holy ground moment in the room. Through tears my friend brought his story of sexual sin before some close brothers in Christ. Except for the moment he’d confessed to his wife, it was probably the most vulnerable he’d ever been. Though the group of young men responded with grace and love, the topic of sexuality was never mentioned again. A lone voice crying out for companionship in the toughest struggle of his life.

Sweet young women, many of them, have sat across from me and shared how porn or erotica entered their lives during childhood and took hold. They felt so alone and so ashamed. This was supposedly not a “girl problem.” Even now they typically feel very alone when they share with others.

A friend told me of a brave soul in her community group who’d responded to an invitation to share Jesus stories. Before about a hundred people, this man said that he’d struggled with porn but that God was leading him to victory. Applause everywhere but an uneasiness also. I’m pretty sure the thoughts ranged from “I want that victory” to “I can’t believe he said that” to “Thank You, Jesus, that I’m not like that sinner.”

Today’s headlines reveal the need for compassionate conversation on issues related to sexuality:

  • Parents Petition for Policy Change After Transgender Athletes Dominate at High School Track Meet
  • Official Harvard Guide: Gender Can “Change from Day to Day”
  • The Digital Sex Lives of Young, Gay Teenagers
  • 18-year-old Athlete Accused of Rape Gets Neither Jail Time Nor “Sex Offender” Status
  • California’s Deadly STD Epidemic Sets Record

And then there’s the book by a young woman scarred by purity messages she received growing up in the Church: Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.

In the author’s journey toward freedom from fear and shame, she discusses the interesting yet futile concept of separating her sexuality from her spirituality. Though I’m sure her family and church were well-intentioned, obviously something was missing. I believe she needed the whole truth about sexuality and someone to walk this broken road with her

Many of you have heard my Allies talk for parents or read my blog series. I share the need children have for an ally as they journey in a hyper-sexualized culture. The truth is I need an ally too. You do also. We were never meant to walk alone. Though many of us have dear companions, few of us have someone who will hear our stories related to sexuality, identify in some way with them, remind us of how loved we are by God even in our sin or shame, and show us how to walk in true freedom in Christ.

It’s not that we don’t want to help or lead others; it’s just that we aren’t ready to admit that we’re sexually broken too, and most of us feel ill-equipped to help others find the freedom their souls desire.

Recent events have deeply underscored the need for Christians to understand our sacred sexuality and learn how to walk alongside others. The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and related stories have captured the attention of our nation. Perhaps we should use this opportunity to consider how each of us has strayed from God’s best in terms of sexuality.

Sexual brokenness is common to all. We’ve misused our sexuality, misunderstood it, mismanaged it, avoided issues related to it, or perhaps even wounded others with it. Many of us struggle with the pain and heartache of someone’s sexual sin against us. Others are ashamed of their sexuality or wish they could change their sexual longings. The Fall affected every aspect of our humanity, including our sexuality.

Growing up, our sexuality was impacted greatly by the world with little from God’s perspective to counteract it. Dr. Juli Slattery, author of Rethinking Sexuality, says that in terms of our understanding of sexuality, we may have been taught by the Church but we’ve been discipled by the world. I can relate. Can you?

The stakes have never been higher for Christians. Many are falling away from the faith because Christians seem unable to articulate God’s design for sexuality even though God’s word has much to say about it. Many pastors seem reticent to preach on it. Many small groups avoid the topic. Often within our closest relationships, we have trouble discussing it.  The world is screaming for a lifeline, for truth, for answers. Where are God’s people?

My husband and I became parents during the era immediately following the “sexual revolution.” Christians especially were reeling from the effects of it. Prayer had been taken out of school, abortion was legal, the rights of gays were being litigated in our highest courts, the AIDS epidemic was growing, and television and movies were becoming more sexually explicit. Those of faith responded with vigor. Activism became a new catchphrase. We became politically engaged. The need was great because in many ways our actions would determine the future our kids would inherit.

We responded to the call, but I fear we missed God’s call.

His call to confession, repentance, and a deeper understanding of our own sexual brokenness. I believe in the process we became unable to respond to the cries of our fellow human beings, perhaps even those closest to us. As time passed, the Church became irrelevant to the topic of sexuality. Many might even contend that the Church became a stumbling block to their quest for truth.

How do Christians become relevant again in terms of sexual topics? As image-bearers of God, how can we reflect His glory to a dark, confused, and hurting world? How can we become compassionate voices sharing truth in love?

We hear statistics that clearly show the fields are ripe for the harvest. But are we equipped? Do we have the language, wisdom, or perhaps even our own level of healing that is required to go? God’s plan has always been to use us, a people set apart for His glory, to bring truth to a broken world.

The wind is rising as the darkness increases. Harder times are coming for Christians. Your children and mine will face persecution and challenges that we cannot even envision right now. I believe the enemy of our souls is keeping us so distracted, so consumed with worldly things, that when the real storm hits many of us will be caught off guard.

On Saturday, October 13, you have a unique opportunity to learn from Dr. Juli Slattery (Authentic Intimacy) and Jonathan Daugherty (Be Broken Ministries) at our Reclaiming Sexuality event just north of Atlanta.

Here’s what you can expect to gain from your time at Reclaiming Sexuality:

  • Greater understanding of God’s good design for sexuality
  • Truth to counteract lies you’ve internalized
  • A better understanding of the common ground of sexual brokenness in a fallen world
  • What pursuing holy sexuality looks like no matter your gender, age, or marital status
  • Insights on a good next step for you in your journey

Reclaiming Sexuality is not just about freedom from sexual sin and shame, it’s about the future of the Church.

Many are longing for this message of holy sexuality. They need an ally. We have an ally in Christ. In coming to earth as a man, a sexual being, He identifies with us and even now intercedes for us.

Will you join the movement to make God and His word relevant to the topic of sexuality again? Will you answer God’s call to set the captives free and open the eyes of the blind? That was Jesus’ mission, and it’s ours today. Will you join us on Saturday the 13th at RiverStone Church? Many are watching. And many are waiting.

For more information about Reclaiming Sexuality, click here.

Anne

Anne Kerr

Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia (annek@truenorthfp.org)

For great resources on walking authentically in a sexualized culture, check out TrueNorth Freedom Project. We’re a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Please consider joining us as a financial partner. To donate click here. Thank you!

Photo by Stefan Kunze