Review: Ministry in the New Marriage Culture


mithmc“Same-sex marriage is here. So what do pastors and church leaders do now?”

So reads the first lines emblazoned on the back cover of this book, the latest offering from Jeff Iorg, the president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (which, disclaimer, is also where I am studying to complete my MDiv). Dr. Iorg is the editor of this book and has assembled 15 of the leading minds either from or affiliated with the seminary in order to address both this large question and many of the other related questions that follow.

Following the Introduction (chapter 1), the book is divided into three sections: Biblical Foundations for Ministry (chapters 2 & 3), Theological Foundations for Ministry (chapters 4-6), and Models and Methods for Ministry (chapters 7-15).

The first section, Biblical Foundations, is a brief overview of some of the biblical teachings and principles from the Old and New Testaments on marriage and sexual ethics. The book’s point of view on the issues is the historic (or non-affirming) teaching of the church on sexual ethics in general and homosexuality in particular. These two chapters are valuable for anyone who has not done an extensive study of the subject themselves but are also not the point of the book. Those looking for exhaustive treatments will want to look elsewhere, though these chapters serve as an appropriate starting point.

The Theological Foundations section covers Gospel Confidence, Ecclesiology, and Sexual Ethics. Of the three, the chapter on Ecclesiology by Rodrick Durst is a standout: it does an excellent job of bringing historical situations in the history of the church to bear on the current circumstances, is filled with encouragements to the reader, offers case studies of potential church issues, suggests practices that will be of benefit in resolving these issues, AND goes further than most of the other chapters by addressing trans* issues (a step not all of the authors take).

The Models and Methods section is the bread and butter of the book and will most likely be the most helpful of all the sections to pastors and other church leaders. In particular, the Preaching chapter by Tony Merida and the Legal Challenges chapter by Jim Wilson are incredibly valuable resources. I feel the chapter on legal challenges, while not for everyone, would be worth the price of the book all by itself to church leaders for its practical advice and suggestions on ways to preemptively protect churches from possible litigation and liability.

Answering Objections:

But wait, some might ask: why do we need another book by fifteen cisgender, evangelical, conservative authors (who are almost all white to boot)? What could they add that is possibly worth listening to? Don’t we need more voices who don’t represent this point of view?

The first part of the answer to that question is YES! We need more diversity in the conversation. I will not argue on that point. However, this book is diverse in its own way.

This is a book that is not directly arguing the abstract and/or theological question of same-sex marriage. It is instead focused on the practicals–what to do–in light of the legal realities that the churches maintaining the historic teaching are faced with and is mainly addressed to those who already agree with its theological perspective. For the book’s audience, this is a necessary book. There are few resources out there (to my admittedly limited knowledge!) that perform the function this book sets out to accomplish.

Is it a perfect book? No. Some chapters fall flat or come across as tone-deaf. Few will agree with every suggestion that every author makes (at least I don’t). And the book falls far short of answering every possible answer to the problems and opportunities churches will face in this arena. But while it doesn’t provide all the answers, it at least is beginning to ask the right questions and inviting the reader to answer them for themselves.

5 stars out of 5


Jeff Iorg, ed. Ministry in the New Marriage Culture. Nashville, B&H Publishing, 2015. 264 pp. Paperback. $14.99.

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MisterJoshuaRay’s Top 5 Posts of 2015


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2015 is almost over and 2016 is speedily approaching. As we look forward to the coming year it’s natural that we also look back and reflect on what this current year has brought.

I’d like to take a second to say thank you: thanks for reading this blog, commenting, and liking or retweeting any links I sent out. This blog isn’t much more than a journal if there’s no one out there reading and engaging, so thanks for helping be a part (note: not apart…pet peeve of mine!) of it.

As a personal reflection here on the blog, here are the top 5 posts I wrote/shared this year. It’s an eclectic bunch encompassing everything from politics to religion to entertainment to books old and new. (You can click on each title to read the original post)

1. 5 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee

The top post on my blog in 2015 is both a short review and a collection of quotes from Harper Lee’s second-released novel and proved to be popular just as much because of the book’s controversy and lack of quality as its positive qualities.

2. Book Review: “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines

After hearing a good amount (both positive and critical) about Matthew Vines’ book from other sources I decided to read it myself and share what I found in a post that went on to be the second most popular post of 2015. While I found Vines’ arguments about reinterpreting the Biblical texts concerning homosexuality to be well-articulated on the whole, I did not find them convincing or well-founded. However, reading the book DID change my mind about another issue! I’m glad to have read it both for the ways it challenged me and changed me.

3. C.S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Coming in at third in 2015 is a post similar to #2. While reading Surprised by Joy I came across a quote explaining Lewis’ relative paucity of quotes concerning homosexuality even in works like his autobiography that described conditions in the English boarding school system that included pederasty. His reasoning and restraint are a lesson for us all, and not just on this issue!

4. 40? More like *5* The Force Awakens Plot Holes

Though this is currently the most recent post on the blog, it rocketed into the top 5 posts in just a short amount of time. Seems Star Wars is dominating not just the box office but everything that it touches. Here I respond to an article listing a list of 40 alleged plot-holes in The Force Awakens and only find a handful to be actual objections.

5. Christian, Are You Celebrating SCOTUS’ Marriage Decision?

In the weeks following Obergefell v. Hodges I put up this short blog linking to two other articles responding to the decision. Despite its short length, the subject matter boosted the post into the top 5 here on the blog.

Honorable Mention: FREEsources-The Kneeling Christian
Although this post was written last year in 2014, it was STILL the most popular post on my blog in 2015 and (combined with last year) also of the whole blog! I’m pretty surprised by this and can only explain it by conjecturing that since the image I chose is now in the top page of results when you do a google image search for “kneeling prayer” or similar terms it must be people just looking for a picture to use that stumble upon my blog. Random!

 

Well that’s all, folks! Wishing that the rest of 2015 and also 2016 are full of blessing, growth, and God’s sustaining and loving presence through every circumstance for all of you!

Book Review: “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines


Back in June, Tim Keller published a review of two books that each argue that the Bible does not disapprove of same-sex relationships: A Letter to My Congregation by Ken Wilson and God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. Rather quickly, Matthew Vines wrote back, alleging that Keller unfairly misrepresented his views at several critical points and questioning if Keller had even read his book.

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This exchange fascinated me and I decided to read God and the Gay Christian in order to see just what was going on and also to try to further educate myself on the issue. Here’s what I found.

Continue reading

Praying the Promises: Romans 15:13


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Next up for Praying the Promises: Romans 15:13!

In the ESV, Romans 15:13 says:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Why I pray this verse: In this case I was looking for a verse to pray specifically for my wife, Lauren. Many godly men set the example in my life of having specific verses that they regularly prayed for their wives and for their family. Finding myself young and without wife, I also did not have verses I was praying for my wife. I mean, I didn’t even know who she was yet! But the more I saw these men pray for their wives the more the conviction grew that this was something I wanted to imitate and put into practice. (Sidenote: married folks, if this is something that you aren’t already doing, I could not encourage you enough to start it! It’s been an incredible blessing to have a growing list of verses that I have specifically to pray for Lauren.)

I pray this verse for my wife because it has so much in it that I already see in Lauren both in the present and in our future together: she is hopeful, joyous, a woman full of peace and full of the Spirit. But even the most hopeful of us could stand to have some more hope and we all need the Holy Spirit to be the continual fount of that hope! If we look to anything else for hope, it will (eventually) disappoint. Only God will always be faithful and true. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

How I pray this verse: An example of praying this verse would look something like this. “God, you are the source of all our hope. Would you fill Lauren and would you fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that by your power we would ABOUND in hope and others would see it, experience our hope in you, and be blessed by it. Would those with no hope see the hope we have and ask how we can be as hopeful as we are and would those whose hope is also in you be encouraged.”

Those of you without spouses can use this to pray for anyone-family, friends, neighbors, yourself, etc. I’ve simply mainly used this in praying for my wife up to this point. But those of you with spouses: feel free to steal this one! Or to start your own list!

What verses do you pray for your spouse or those closest to you?

Christian, Are You Celebrating SCOTUS’ Marriage Decision? A Few Careful Appeals For Your Consideration


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Last week I reblogged a post collecting several responses to the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage. If you missed it, I recommend starting there (and even if you already read it, it’s been updated since I first linked to it, so you can still check it out!). Now that a bit more time has passed, the discussion has also moved on a bit to discussing the various reactions to the decision.

Today I came across two articles specifically addressed to Christians who are celebrating the decision. Both posts are somewhat of an insider conversation. If you don’t identify as a Bible-believing Christian who is connected to the universal church in some meaningful way, you aren’t the target audience. By all means, still read if you would like. Just know this going into the read.

I share these articles because I think this is too important a topic to stay silent on and that it is critical to examine not just what we believe but how we arrived at those beliefs.

1. “40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags” Kevin DeYoung provides a lengthy list of questions exploring the implications and underpinnings inherent in supporting the Court’s decisions. These are presented as serious questions to ask and engage with and are thought-provoking.

2. “4 Appeals to Christians Embracing Gay Marriage” Gavin Ortlund presents a smaller list but goes into more detail than DeYoung. An excellent call for careful reflection on the issues.


These articles and my post are meant to generate discussion, not offend or hurt. I hope and pray that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart would be pleasing in God’s sight (Psalm 19:14) and that no unwholesome word proceed from my mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). 

FREEsources+Book Review: “You and Me Forever” by Francis and Lisa Chan


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I’ve been a fan of Francis Chan ever since his first book, Crazy Love-his passion for God is infectious and his urgency to live life fully for and in light of the gospel is inspiring. So when I heard that his latest book was on marriage, I was excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Then a strange things happened: I started to read the book….and couldn’t decide whether I absolutely loved it or just thought it was “meh.” Let me explain.

The subtitle for the book gives you an absolutely 100% accurate preview and summary of the book’s contents and main thrust: this is truly a book on “Marriage in Light of Eternity.” Francis says in the introduction that:

There are plenty of marriage books that will teach you how to get along and be happy. This is not one of those books. -p.10

Now it’s not that I was looking for this to be a book that was all about teaching me “how to get along and be happy.” It’s just that the book was so different and unique (and to be honest, challenging) that it took me a while to process what I actually thought about it.

You and Me Forever is a no-nonsense look at marriage through the lens of Biblical truth that says the here and now is temporary, a pilgrimage, a sojourn in a foreign land, and the not yet but soon to come is more wonderful than we can imagine. It’s in that context that chapter titles like “Marriage Isn’t that Great” and “Don’t Waste Your Marriage” make perfect sense and function as a call to remember what all of our first priorities are: life with Jesus.

This book is a quick read, but each chapter serves to hammer home the same point: Jesus is our first love and it’s only together in concerted and joyful service of him that marriage can be truly fulfilling, joyful, life-giving, and God-honoring.

You will never find true, lasting joy in someone or something. Marriage is not the source of joy, though many of us assume that it is. Joy is something we bring into our marriages because we are being filled with joy in our walk with God, and because we are confident of His promises. -p. 146

A few more things of note before the final verdict: 100% of the profits from this book go to support ministries that (among other things) help provide shelter and rehabilitation to thousands of exploited children and women around the world. The book is also available (legally!) for FREE directly from Francis and Lisa. To learn more about the book, the ministries supported by the purchase of the book, or to get a free copy, go to youandmeforever.org.

Somewhere around 3/4 of the way through the book, I realized that my reservations about the book stemmed from recognizing the truth that the book contains and points to…but not being very “comfortable” with that truth (and/or the straightforward and blunt way the Chans deliver it). The book forced me to reevaluate my own beliefs about marriage in light of eternity and how my actions do or don’t match up with those beliefs and it made no apologies about doing so!

We all need to be challenged like this occasionally, especially on a topic as important and life-changing as marriage. For that reason, You and Me Forever gets 5 out of 5 stars. It wouldn’t be the first or only book I would recommend on marriage, but it has its own unique and needed place in every Christian’s library.