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Preaching About Sex?

It was an NC-17 church service.

The local pastor was fed up with parents and other adults not attending programs they needed to attend, so he asked me to preach SEX, KIDS, & THE INTERNET™ to an adults only Sunday morning worship service.

This was going to be different!

The service started.  We sang one song.  The ushers received the offerings.  There was a prayer and the pastor interviewed a church member who was also a local high school principal.  Finally, he introduced me and I entered the pulpit.  I looked around, and there he was:

Dr. Leo Garrett.

Esteemed professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, my alma mater.

Author of the texts we used for Systematic Theology.

On the front row.

Smiling.

Can you say:  INTIMIDATION?

I could.  At that point I could spell it frontwards and backwards, and possibly in Greek!!!!

I looked around the sanctuary and it was packed.  In fact, it was SRO! (Standing Room Only)

And that was without all the kids and teens!!!

The topic, Internet pornography and predators, was of interest…and people came to hear.  Admittedly, some were there out of curiosity:  SEX SELLS.

So, I glanced at Dr. Garrett, prayed, grabbed my presentation controller (I’m a control freak with my PowerPoint slides), and began.

That was a first for me.

ski-seminarI’d presented my seminars in many venues:  Schools, fellowship halls, classrooms, and more.  I’d even presented it in sanctuaries, but not on Sunday morning!  Definitely not during the Worship Hour!

The Sunday morning service time always seems to be, well, “different”.  We try to make it somewhat “holier” than other events at the church.  We speak differently, and we speak on different topics.  Uncomfortable or sensitive topics are often reserved for Sunday or Wednesday night, or retreats.

That morning the congregation was going to hear things they’d probably never heard in a worship service, and they would definitely see terms on PowerPoint they’d never seen in worship!

By and large, we don’t talk about sex in church, especially not on Sunday morning.  That is slowly changing through the leadership of bold pastors such as Tommy Nelson, Ed Young, Jr., and many, many others.  But, it still is a topic we don’t regularly talk about, and frequently we only talk about it within a few weeks of Valentine’s Day.

Why don’t we preach more about sex?

Why SHOULDN’T we preach more about sex?

There are four factors that keep pastors from talking much about sex:

  • Poor Theology of SexualityYes, the Bible talks a lot about sex and sexuality, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. No, we didn’t talk much about it in Seminary (at least in my day).  While we systematized salvation, discipleship, ministry, and all the various -ologies, we hardly glanced at what the Bible said about sex and sexuality.  On these subjects, our footing is just about as “sandy” as the average layperson’s.  (Question:  Could this be why so many of our fellow ministers are falling to sexual sin?)
    x
  • Fear.  Satan effectively uses fear where he can, and in the area of sex and sexuality, fear is a powerful weapon.  Many pastors fear this subject because:

They fear for their jobs.
They don’t want folks to think “they” have a problem with sex or with sexual sin (we preach on what we struggle with, they say).
They aren’t too comfortable with the subject, themselves.
They are afraid they will get questions they can’t handle.
They are involved with sexual sin, themselves. (see above).

  • Lack of Awareness.  Some pastors may just not be aware of the level of interest or difficulties that church members have with sex and sexuality.  Also, while they may encounter some with problems/sin in those areas, they may not comprehend the widespread damage being done to the Church through sexual sin.x
    x
  • Family Orientation.  The Sunday AM service must be seeker- and family-friendly!  Pastors have been indoctrinated through church culture that Sunday sermons should be G or PG.  Let’s not offend!

Let’s look at these four items and see why we should be talking about sex from the pulpit (though, not every Sunday).

 

THEOLOGY OF SEX & SEXUALITY

The theological need for talking about sex & sexuality arises from two Biblical facts:

  • “…male and female he created them.”  Gen 1:27b God created the human race with two wildly different sexes (those who are married, you know what I mean).  This was His intent from the beginning.  God didn’t look at His watch, see that the 6th day was HERE, and get rushed!  Sexuality was a key component of His Design.
    x
  • God’s Word actually talks a lot about sex and sexuality.  Here are some high points to consider:

God invented marriage and sex and commanded Adam and Eve to have sex (required for multiplying over the face of the Earth).  BTW: That was before sin ever entered the picture!

God regulated marriage and sexual relations in the Pentateuch, especially in Leviticus 18 and 20.

God  highly esteemed marriage and sex in both Proverbs and Song of Solomon.

Jesus approved of marriage.

Jesus spoke against sexual sin.

Paul wrote of sexual purity and the consequences of sexual sin

Paul specifically recommended marriage due to God-given sexual desires.

The writer of Hebrews exalted the purity of the marriage bed.

Therefore, if GOD designed us to be sexual beings and talked about it in His Word, then we as His representatives need to address sex and sexuality.

x

FEAR

Over the years I’ve asked pastors how often they preach about sex.  Some reply “regularly.  Some reply “annually, during a series on marriage”.  Some just looked uncomfortable.

Satan uses fear and intimidation to keep us off God’s Plan.  He wants us to be AFRAID to preach the whole Word (salvation..but not politically incorrect obedience/accountability, blessing…but not correction, etc.).

So, we don’t preach much on sex and sexuality because of FEAR.

What is there to fear?

If we are preaching as the Spirit leads, why fear?

True, you need to be prepared.  You need to examine your own understanding of the topic vs. the Word.  You may need to repent.  You may have to grow in this area that we, the Church, have ignored.

But, you should not fear!  A better understanding of God’s purpose and plan, in ANY area of life, always leads to blessing and victory!

Worried about your job?  Well, you might be surprised at how people receive your efforts.

Early in my current ministry I preached both AM sermons at a church in Oklahoma that was hosting two of my seminars later in the day.  The sermon, SEX: What Was God THINKING???, was new and I was nervous, for two reasons:

  • It was early in this new ministry that God had called me to and I wasn’t sure how well things would be received, and
    x
  • I was smack dab in the middle of chemo for Hodgkin’s Disease and felt like road kill!

Not only was I worried about the topic of the sermon, but I was praying I would make it upright through both sermons!

No worries.  God provided both strength, and the encouragement.  At the end of the first, traditional, service, an elderly lady came up, shook my hand very firmly, and said:

THANK YOU!  We need to hear more about that part of life!”

No fear!

x

LACK OF AWARENESS

uneasy-conversationSome pastors might wonder if there is a “market” for such topics on Sunday.

If you aren’t sure, do this:

  • Go to Barnes & Nobles, Hastings, or whatever local SECULAR book store is in your area.
    x
  • Count the number of linear feet of shelf space devoted to sex and sexuality/relationships.  Don’t forget to check “behind the counter”.

Now, go do the same thing at your local Lifeway or Family Christian Bookstore.

That’s a LOT of shelf space!!!  Why?

Because it sells, and it sells because people are interested in, or have difficulties in, the areas of sex and sexuality.

Now, Satan has had nearly a free-hand in getting his lies and half-truths out.  This has impacted countless lives both in and out of the church.

As pastors, we have to take God’s Word and use it as a sword in battle against the Enemy, and the sexual battlefield is one we have to regain!  Here’s a SITREP, or Situation Report:


  • Adultery
    is considered “acceptable” or “inevitable” within major segments of the population.
    x
  • The younger generation has “friends with benefits“, casual sex partners with no commitment or exclusivity.
    x
  • Many couples are unhappy with their love lives! (Why do you think COSMO sells so well?)
    x
  • More and more deviant and ungodly sexual practices are not only becoming known (and available via the Internet) but many are “mainstreaming” through the media.
    x
  • Pornography use, even among clergy, is a growing problem.
    x
  • One in five high school girls are viewing pornography weekly. Read about it here: LINK
    x
  • One in eight 12-year-olds have had sexual intercourse.  When oral & and anal sex are included, it goes to roughly one in SIX! Read about it here:  LINK
    x
  • In a 2003 survey by Today’s Christian Woman magazine, 34% of women admitted to intentionally viewing pornography online. It was also reported that about 17% of all women, including Christians, struggle with a personal addiction to pornography, which also happens to be the the same percentage of women who think they can find sexual fulfillment on the Internet.  (I doubt things have improved.  In fact, I know they haven’t.)  Read about it here:  LINK

In the immortal words of Astronaut James Lovell:

“Houston, we have a problem!”

So, the need for God’s Truth in this area is undeniable…and URGENT!

x

FAMILY ORIENTATION

ski-v-bannerBelieve it or not, this is a biggie.

Satan has done such a great job of demonizing sex and making it “dirty” that many parents don’t even want their children exposed to the word in church.

I was manning a ministry table in the foyer of a large church that was advertising the SEX, KIDS, & THE INTERNET™ seminar to be held that evening.  We had our banner hanging on the front of the table as well as vertical banner behind.

Well, a mother towing a young girl (7-8) came up and just fussed at me!  She said she had hoped church was one place where her daughter wouldn’t see or hear that word!

Understandable, but if her daughter doesn’t hear about sexuality in a godly context , at church, where will she hear  it?   There will be nothing to combat what she WILL absorb the rest of the week from TV, music, and playmates.

Talking about sex in a sermon when children are present is difficult.  I will agree wholeheartedly!  But, it must be done.

Preaching about sex from the pulpit has one important component we need to keep in mind:

The AUTHORITY of the Pulpit!

Kids, especially as they enter the teen years, will not be influenced as much by parents as by outsiders.  Hearing God’s Truth about sexuality and purity from the senior pastor will make a difference!  Plus, the senior pastor’s actions in preaching on the subject will multiply the authority and credibility of the Youth and Children’s Ministers!  (Oh, and the parents, too!)

Sermons on sex and sexuality delivered by the senior pastor will impact adults, as well.

Now, this all doesn’t mean we can’t apply wisdom in preparing and scheduling these sermons.  Here are guidelines I use in my Ministry for sermons related to sex, sexuality, pornography and predators.

  • Some sermons and programs are definitely for adults only.  Parts of the Bible are for adults only, too!  If you are not sure about that, go ponder how you would read Leviticus 18 and 20 from the pulpit, especially in a modern translation, with small children around!  There are adult aspects of sexuality and resisting temptation that need to be addressed from the pulpit.  These should be announced ahead of time for parents’ benefit.  These types of sermons, however, should not be the RULE.  You could use a NC-17 or TV-MA rating for these sermons, possibly in advertising, too.  These sermons are also great to kick off non-Sunday events and upcoming retreats. (Don’t forget to rate your podcasts!)
    xx
  • Some sermons are for those 12-13 and up.  This is not a problem for those churches that have Children’s Church in a separate room.  These kinds of sermons are more common.  With children in intermediate and even elementary schools becoming sexually active they need to hear God’s Word preached on marriage and purity with full the authority of the pulpit…and not just on Youth Night.  These are “R-Rated” and should also be advertised/announced.
    xx
  • The majority of sermons about sex and marriage are G/PG. It’s wise to let folks know ahead of time about the topics, though, for these sermons as well. These may cover general principals and/or the inclusion of principals in everydaylessons.  For instance, you could emphasize that, because David left God’s Safe Zone for Marriage by looking at Bathsheba and sending for her, a lot of pain and destruction followed! (See my post on God’s Safe Zone.)
    x
  • Finally, for any sermon dealing with sexuality where children younger than 11-12 are present, I always start the sermon talking to the kids.  I tell them:

Today’s sermon is about things that adults and teens deal with.  Just like your Mommy and Daddy will wait until you are ready before they teach you how to drive, they will explain these things when you are older and ready to deal with them.  For today, just remember that, anytime you hear the word “sex”, the only way that any kind of sex is pleasing to God is in God’s Safe Zone for Sex: Marriage.  So, you have my permission to draw, read, or sleep while I talk to the “big folks”.

Your delivery may vary. <grin>

Think about all the sermons that you’ve heard, and that you’ve preached, in the last 5-10 years.  Which did you hear the most about?

  • Tithing and Stewardship?
    x
  • Sexuality and purity?

Which sins related to the above topics do you think are destroying more lives in your Church and your community?

What needs to be proclaimed from your pulpit?

As you meditate on this, remember God’s repeated command to Joshua:

“Be strong and courageous!!!”

xDr. Garrett was still smiling at the end of the service.

And the pastor is still there, too!

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3 comments to Preaching About Sex?

  • Diana Cox

    Preach it, Brother! So necessary! Take captive every thought for Christ. Nowhere is this more important than in the thoughts of sexuality. They are so private, so intimate, so personal, but THAT’s where Christ should live – deep in the psyche of the godly.

    Keep up the good Word!

  • I know the feeling about the intimidation of seminary professors. I wrote a paper on masturbation in my youth issues class at SWBTS, because so many of my youth were dealing with the issue. I never thought my class mates would hear about it, but my professor, Dr. Phil Briggs, read it allowed in class.

    Thanks for being an advocate and guardian for our young.

  • MichaelF

    The subject is covered in every avenue of public life. If we fail to engage the church with Biblical truth, they will be left to the foolishness of the culture. Hey Preachers – live pure, preach truth. Thanks Buddy for the encouragment.

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