Chick-fil-A reported record sales last Wednesday as thousands showed support for owner Dan Cathy and his stance on Biblical marriage. However, while individual believers stood in long lines to publicly endorse God’s plan for the family and vent their frustration at the media’s criticism of Dan Cathy’s Biblical stance, a number of churches seemed to opt out of the conflict.
While the mayors of three large cities and a few University administrators were publicly threatening to ban Chick-fil-A, and while the discussion was the hot news topic of the week, there were many ministers who said little or nothing at all. Church members from across the country are puzzled as to why. When a Christian brother is beaten up by the world and left wounded on the side of the road why would church leaders just pass by on the other side and not get involved?
Some are fearful of criticism. No one likes to get nasty emails or hear derogatory comments about their church. If you stand for Biblical marriage you are sure to be accused of being bigoted, hateful, or intolerant. Dan Cathy is a prime example. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”. (Matthew 5:11) But it doesn’t feel blessed when it happens, and it seems many Christian leaders do everything they can to avoid persecution. Perhaps they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Some leaders think it’s wise to stay out of the fray in order to better evangelize the lost. Ministers know one of the primary reasons people are turned off to the church today is because of its stance on homosexuality. They fear that if their church gets a reputation as being homophobic then an increasing number of people – both gay and straight -will refuse to visit. They think a bad public image makes it more difficult to evangelize. After all, it doesn’t make good sense to alienate the very people they’re trying to win. So these church leaders continue to keep silent in hopes that Dan Cathy and those who believe as he does will survive the attacks. They pass by on the other side of the road because they don’t want to be found guilty by association.
Another contributing factor for their silence is a sensitivity for hurting church members. Many of us have relatives or close friends who are involved in the LGBT lifestyle. We love them and we’re praying they come to know the Lord and obey His Word. They may even be attending church and we don’t want the preacher saying anything that will alienate them or confirm their erroneous suspicions that they’re not welcome.
As a result, when the preacher takes a stand that could be interpreted as anti-gay he gets criticism from family members who are disappointed at his lack of sensitivity for their situation. The preacher doesn’t want to hurt already wounded souls, so he keeps quiet.
Perhaps the primary reason not much is said in church anymore is the cultural war is passé. The younger generation of Christian leaders is tired of the cultural war. In their minds it was fought (and lost) by the previous generation. They feel it’s time to acknowledge it doesn’t do any good to get involved in social and political issues so let’s focus on repenting of our own sins and deepening our Christian walk. After all, there are so many other issues that the rest of us struggle with every day; gossip, greed, indifference, hypocrisy. Why single out one sin and focus so much time on it?
Not long ago a young Christian blogger in North Carolina wrote an article entitled “How to Win a Culture War and Lose a Generation.” She was upset that the controversial initiative to ban gay marriage in North Carolina had alienated so many. It was painfully polarizing. She pleaded for “less waging war and more washing feet.” The cultural war made her feel “awkward” in her circle of friends.
Really? You’re “tired”? Afraid to feel “awkward”? Tell that to John the Baptist who lost his life speaking out against the sexual sins of the king. Or what about Stephen or James or Peter or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Jim Elliot or Nate Saint or scores of other martyrs who have lost their lives standing for Christ and His Word. Did Jesus condemn John the Baptist for speaking out against a politician? No. Jesus said “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist“ (Matthew 11:11) We are commanded to be faithful unto death. Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me, AND MY WORDS,… the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in His father’s glory.” (Mark 8:38)
So while the world wages war against Biblical marriage, many Church leaders hunker down in foxholes of silence hoping the fighting will subside and church-life will get back to normal. But like it or not, we are involved in an intense spiritual battle. Martin Luther once said, “If I be valiant all along the battle line except at the point where Satan is pressing his attack, I am not valiant for Christ.”
Here are four reasons why church leaders need to speak up consistently and courageously:
Our silence is not saving homosexuals. Sin separates us from God and leads to death. The church is required to call people to acknowledge their sin and repent. And, yes, churches want to be known for what they’re for, not for what they’re against. We want a reputation for loving people, not condemning them. But failing to call people away from a sinful lifestyle is neither loving nor caring. The proper response to a driver going the wrong way up an exit ramp is to blow the horn. To fail to sound a warning would be unconsionable even though initially the wayward driver doesn’t want to hear it. The church must provide acceptance for repentant sinners and provide encouragement away from sinful lifestyles. And there are scores of Christians who were once involved in the LGBT lifestyle who have found their new identity in Christ because Christian leaders were not afraid to speak the truth.
Better now than later. Church leaders will soon have to take a stand one way or the other. The longer you wait to mow the grass or establish order in a classroom the more difficult it becomes. The longer you wait to let your congregation and community know where your church stands, the more flak and fallout you will experience. Churches cannot feign neutrality much longer.
Our silence is contributing to the loss of our children to the church. While we stay mum so we don’t alienate the world, our own children and grandchildren are being swept away by the constant pro-gay propaganda coming from the media and the entertainment world. We assume they believe the same way we do, but when they hear little or nothing from God’s Word on this issue they get swept away by the spirit of this age.
We are commissioned to preach the whole counsel of God regardless of consequences or we will be held accountable. We were not called into ministry to put our finger in the air and see which way the cultural winds are blowing and adjust. We were called to preach the word “in season and out of season” and not just “say what itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5) And the Bible clearly warns us about our failure to do so: “When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.” (Ezekiel 33:8)
John Calvin said “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw the truth of God attacked and yet would remain silent.” In the end, we will be judged not by the favorable impression we have in the world but by our faithfulness in proclaiming God’s truth. That takes boldness … and constant vigilance. But we are following in the footsteps of forefathers who, “loved not their lives even unto death”. For “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer