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GREG DONNER: "I also mentioned this to Julie [Sibert, I suspect], but I would be interested in your take on how we as believers can (and should) be doing to boldly speak the truth about biblical sexuality in the church. It's something I'm very passionate (and frankly, very concerned about)."
In some respect, Greg answers his own question: boldly.
Take a look at the letters of Paul in the New Testament: He boldly addresses whatever issue plagues the church and refocuses people on God's desire for their lives.
Wrongful thinking and behaviors regarding sex permeate our culture. From the sexually abused child to the promiscuous teen to the porn-addicted husband to the withholding wife to the married couple who struggles to connect physically, we are off target a lot. Jesus never turned a blind eye to sin and pain in His midst. It is our God-given duty to speak into others' pain and confusion, to speak for God where He has spoken, and to pass on God's desire for their lives, even in the area of sexuality.
What should this boldness look like? Ideally, churches should have a cradle-to-grave approach. Here are some suggestions for how churches can minister to people in various stages:
Provide parenting classes to help families address the subject. Plenty of parents want to equip their children with a godly view of sexuality, but they simply don't know how to talk to their kids about it.
Empower youth ministry to address biblical sexuality with tweens and teens. All too often, parents resist having the subject brought up in church. Guess what? It's being brought up everywhere else your kid is. Isn't it better for our children to get information from a biblically-driven youth pastor than from his/her school friend or a TV show?
Host fun, well-supervised teen events. Churches can help teens by hosting events that provide opportunities to mingle and have fun without the sexual temptation that often exists in secular venues. It needs to be something that will attract teens, but also keep them out of pressurized situations. For instance, when I was a teen, a couple of churches hosted teen dances; the likelihood of anything inappropriate happening with my date at the Mormon family dance was practically nil. Here's another out-of-the-box idea: What if a church rented a bunch of luxury cars and had volunteer members drive teenagers and their dates to and from local proms?
Provide preengagement and premarital classes and counseling. Preengaged.com focuses on this kind of assistance, and Brad and Kate Aldrich of One Flesh Marriage recently mentioned a premarital program at Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas. There are some excellent studies for dating couples (although I am only familiar with Before You Say I Do by H. Norman Wright). Ask most married couples if they wish they had prepared more, and they will say yes--including in the area of sexual intimacy.
Help singles find a mate. I don't believe everyone must get married or that being single is a lesser status. However, 1 Corinthians 7:9 says, "It is better to marry than to burn with passion." And although marriage rates are declining in the U.S., the vast majority of people still want to be married at some point. Hey, the best thing the church ever did for my sex life is introduce me to my husband. But too many single Christians have few options. What can churches do? They can offer area-wide singles events. I'm not suggesting some Christian version of The Bachelor or The Dating Game. Such events shouldn't be meat markets, but rather worship, fellowship, or Bible studies which allow singles to gather and get to know one another. Love can take it from there.
Make marriage classes, retreats, and seminars routine. In addition to in-depth scriptural and theological studies, churches should teach on the practical application of God's Word. Look for biblically-based marriage studies or find couples with knowledge to share. Here are a few series I have been through: Dynamic Marriage (Dr. Willard Harley); Love & Respect (Emerson Eggerichs); Love, Sex & Marriage (Joe Beam). I am also a fan of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (who has a study titled The Marriage You've Always Wanted) and just about anything Dr. Kevin Leman writes (he has a study titled Making the Most of Your Marriage). Several friends have also spoken well of Mark Gungor's Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.
Stop skipping the sex part! This is part B of the above suggestion. I was recently told by another blogger that churches often skip the sex lesson in a marriage series--perhaps because the topic is considered too sensitive. That tidbit of information had me V8-headsmacking the rest of the day. (Ouch.) God wants married couples to have growing marriages and great sex! Let's support healthy marriages by helping couples do exactly that.
Financially support marriage ministries. Many quality marriage resources can only continue through outside financial support, and churches can make that a goal of their budget.
Provide babysitting services to married couples with children. One of the hardest periods for marital intimacy is when your kids are young. A group of church members (e.g., youth, "Golden Agers," singles) could provide babysitting as a ministry. Or a church could establish a babysitting co-op in which couples keep others' kids at times and get their own date nights.
Take a sex survey of your church and present your findings. Oftentimes, we don't know that church members are struggling with sexuality. Who's going to stand up on Sunday morning and say, "Could you address biblical sexuality because I ain't gettin' any at home?" We can awaken the attention of church leaders and members by asking for anonymous input about where they are thriving and where they need help.
Be specific. Too often, churches address sexuality at too high a level. For singles, we hear, "God wants you to stay pure." Yes, He does. But be specific about how a sexually-ramped-up 17-year-old boy can stay cool when a hot girl throws herself at him. Or how a 23-year-old single woman can wait another seven years to let her libido see daylight? For the marrieds, it isn't enough to say, "God wants you to have a good sex life." How does a husband figure out how to pleasure his wife to climax? How can a women deal with her lagging interest in sex? How can a couple move beyond negative sexual histories? Be specific.
Bring in special speakers. Christian colleges and universities often have marriage and family therapy or Christian ministry departments with qualified experts. There are also writers, bloggers, counselors, and speakers who address this subject. For instance, get Sheila Gregoire, author of The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, to come talk to your church (or better yet, my church).
Offer couples counseling. Couples counseling should be available to dating teens, couples in serious relationships, engaged couples, and married couples. The singles may need a session or two to learn strategies for stopping sexual activity before it starts, while a married couple may need to address a lack of intimacy or physical barriers to satisfying sex. If the church does not have the wherewithal to offer such counseling, it can subsidize another church's counseling center or a Christian-based counseling practice.
Plug into ministries that help those who need special care. Has a child been sexually abused? Is a husband dealing with a porn addiction? Is a couple dealing with adultery? Such issues go beyond typical couples counseling. Find ministries that address specific issues.
Look for experts in your midst. That physician who attends your church? The labor and delivery nurse? The psychologist or counselor? The recovering sex addict? The woman who was sexually-abused as a child and found healing? The couple that lived through an affair and have a thriving marriage? They have something to offer. Ask how they are willing to help support healthy and godly sex lives for church members.
Maintain a quality library with helpful resources on biblical sexuality. There are many Christian-based books and video and tape series available, but cost can be prohibitive for families. Churches could use purchase resources, and then let families know that they are there.
No one church can offer all of this, so we must rely on each other in the larger church body. But each church can address godly sexuality throughout the seasons of life by offering biblical knowledge, specific information, relationship support, and prayer for the purity and intimacy of their members.
Now that I've thrown out my brainstorming ideas, what are yours? What are your churches doing to boldly address biblical sexuality? What would you like to see your church or area churches do?