Category Archives: Church

Sermon: Jesus calls us to love the outsiders

I preached this sermon on 22 January 2017, as part of a series called Jesus Encounter. Jesus calls us to love, unconditionally and extravagantly. He specifically calls us to love those who outside our circles.

Jesus calls

AUDIO: http://www.futurechurchnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Sermon-Jesus-calls-lq.mp3

My sermon notes:

Jesus Encounter series start

Jesus Encounter series – until Easter

The stories recorded in the Gospels and Acts are not merely stories of what happened to a few people 2000 years ago – not just historical record. They were carefully selected in order to show us patterns, and help us understand how WE can encounter Jesus even today. As we read the Gospels and Acts we should be alert for those patterns in the stories, and look carefully for clues and instructions on how we can encounter Jesus and live Christ-like lives today.

PRAY

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When Old White Men Talk About Sex

It is my contention that one of the foundational problems with the conservative arm of the Christian church is a seriously problematic relationship with sexuality. This affects everything from the church’s views on contraception and abortion to female leadership and gay marriage. Each of these issues is huge, of course, and deserving of in-depth discussion and consideration. That is not the intention of this post.

What I did want to point out is that the conservatives (mainly the Reformed conservatives) don’t even know what they don’t know about this issue. And I want to ask all of you who are willing to engage with discussions about sexuality (especially female leadership and homosexuality) to ask whether you’re happy being in the same camp as Reformed conservatives.

look at Exhibit A: this photo:

ETS Panel of Gender and the Trinity 2016

This picture was taken last week at The Evangelical Theological Society’s 68th annual meeting in San Antonio, November 15-17, 2016. It was a panel discussion on the topic of “The Trinity and Gender”. Participants were (pictured left to right): Bruce Ware, Matthew Emerson, Malcolm Yarnell, Wayne Grudem, Fred Sanders, Paige Patterson and Evan Lenow.

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A Community of Radical Inclusion

A few weeks ago, I preached this sermon at my local church. There’s a story behind me asking – and receiving – permission to preach it, and another whole set of stories about the response from the church members – both good, bad and ugly. The senior pastor, Gary Rivas (also Methodist Bishop of Johannesburg), responded to the sermon the week after I preached it, and there’s a few stories there too. I won’t tell any of those stories now. I will just share the sermon with you. There are two versions as I preached it at our main campus and then at our local campus. I have also included my actual sermon notes, and a link to Gary’s response.

This sermon is about one of the most pressing issues facing the Christian church in our generation: how we treat LGBTI people. And it is a call to listen to God’s Word, which calls us to be a community of radical inclusion. Enjoy. And let me know what you think.

Sermon: A Community of Radical Inclusion:

YouTube link
Podcast: audio version available here

Bishop Gary Rivas’ Response:

YouTube Link

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Missional Business Seminar, Johannesburg, 5 Nov 2016

This is your invitation to a vitally important seminar. Download a PDF brochure here, and share with your friends.

The world is changing. More Christians from developing nations are becoming interested in mission. We need more people on the mission field, coming from more diverse backgrounds and finding new methods of funding their work.

Come and join a seminar hosted by OMF International that will investigate some new models of missional business.

LEARN about…

  • NEW WAYS of doing and funding mission
  • INTEGRATING your entrepreneurial spirit and gifts with mission to the ends of the earth
  • GOD AT WORK in various parts of the world through Missional Business

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The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 13: Other Interpretations of Romans 1

Summary

  • We have dealt with Romans 1 thoroughly, but there is one final set of ideas to consider. These come from largely evangelical theologians, who take the Bible seriously as God’s Word, but nevertheless have real concerns about the traditional interpretation of Romans 1. There are seven ways to interpret Romans 1 that do justice to the text, but show that Paul would not be against same sex marriage today:
    1. Paul was a man of his times, and must be understood as such.
    2. Paul is concerned about idolatry, and especially about Cybele, Rhea and the Earth Goddess. And same gender exploitative sexual activity is an effect of idolatry, not a cause.
    3. Paul did not know about loving homosexual relationships or a homosexual orientation as we understand it today. His concern was about abusive and excessive sexuality. He also did not have the scientific understanding we have today of homosexual orientation.
    4. Paul’s issue, in Romans and his other letters, is specifically with pederasty, and not with homosexuality in general.
    5. Paul was wrong. Just plain wrong.
    6. Paul was concerned about Heterosexuals engaging in homoerotic acts, not people born with a homosexual orientation.
    7. Paul is quoting someone else in Romans 1, and will refute this view in Romans 2. From the literary context, it is possible that Romans 1:18-32 is actually a well-known discourse against Gentiles taken from Jewish writings, or at least a well recognised list of sins the Jews accused Gentiles of committing, that Paul pulls into his letter.
  • There are enough valid interpretative options for Romans 1 that we need to be very careful to not just continue applying the traditional interpretation. You can support same sex marriage without giving up the Bible.

  • We have spent a lot of time in the book of Romans in this study. For many Christians, Romans 1 is the key passage against same gender sexual activity, so we need to cover it thoroughly. In the last three posts, I believe I have clearly shown that we misinterpret Romans if we believe that we can use it today to argue against same sex marriages. A summary of the key points is:

    • Paul is not giving instructions about loving, same gender sexual partners – he is talking about abusive and excessive sexuality, including and specifically temple and cultic prostitution.
    • Paul is not giving general instructions about what is and is not appropriate sexual activity. He is addressing Jewish cultural preferences which stated that any sexual activity that was not capable of producing children was considered shameful and unnatural. Paul tells the Jews to change their attitudes.
    • Paul is not really concerned about sexual issues in Romans 1 – his main concern, which is evidenced by the flow of the whole letter, is the divide between Jews and Gentiles in Rome. The sins listed in Romans 1 are used to show that “all have sinned”. But Paul also points out that some things people think are sinful are just cultural preferences. The issue of homosexuality is similar to that of circumcision for Paul: a cultural preference that should not be used to judge fellow Christians.
    • Romans 1 cannot be understood alone – Romans 2 and the rest of the letter make it clear that Paul is using homosexuality as a set up for the Jewish readers, and will go on to show them the error of their thinking. Homosexuality is not a sin. The Jewish disgust for homosexuality was a cultural preference, as was the Gentile disgust of circumcision and Jewish eating issues. Paul tells both Jewish and Gentile Christians to stop judging each other.

    If you haven’t read the detailed explanations behind those highly summarised points yet, please follow the links above.

    In this last section on Romans 1, I want to shift focus and look at a few additional ways in which some revisionist interpreters have approached Paul’s writings. There are varying degrees of revisionists. Some simply abandon the Bible and say it’s no longer relevant. But others believe that we can retain our belief that the Bible is God’s Word and remains relevant, while still at the same time acknowledging that we need to change (revise) our understanding of certain parts of it. We’ve seen many examples of this over the course of this study already, so there should be no conceptual problem with looking at alternative interpretations and evaluating each on its merits.

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    Is same sex marriage Biblical – a debate [Video]

    On 9 October 2015, I participated in a formal public debate with Dr James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. It was organised by TruthWalk, and the venue provided by Gracepoint church. Dr White is an accomplished debater and professional apologist (see his ministry website here), and took the traditional position against homosexuality and same sex marriage.

    I took the affirming position, attempting to put in debate format the work I have been doing on this blog over the past few months.

    The purpose of the debate, in this format, was to put forward the for and against views in as dispassionate a way as possible, so that each position could be given fair treatment, and the observer could understand the logic of each. I believe we achieved this, and that the debate was fair.

    The full debate has now been uploaded on VEOH.com and is available below or on that site. The introduction has been slightly edited for length, but the debate itself is presented unedited and in full.


    Watch Is Same Sex Marriage Biblical – A Debate between Graeme Codrington and James White

    Additional Comments

    This was my first debate, and as such, if I could do it again now, I’d change a few things. In particular, these three:

    Continue reading Is same sex marriage Biblical – a debate [Video]

    For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex

    Around the world, conservative Christians love to think of themselves as being a persecuted minority. In some countries, of course, they are. But in so-called “Christian” countries, like the ones my family and extended family live in (America, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa), conservative Christians love to feel persecuted, silenced and outcast. They’re not really – not in countries with freedom of speech and religion. Rachel Held Evans writes eloquently about this topic on her blog this week, specifically referencing recent issues in the USA. It’s a great read – on her blog, or an extract below.

    For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex

    July 15, 2015 by Rachel Held Evans

    Did you hear about the pastor who was arrested for not marrying a same-sex couple? What about the publisher that got sued for refusing to censor anti-gay verses from the Bible?

    Both of these stories have been exposed as fakes of course, but that didn’t keep hundreds of thousands of conservative Christians from sharing them online this week. When I pointed out to a friend that the story he had just shared on social media wasn’t true, he replied, “well it might as well be. Christians in this country are under attack.” 

    It has become a familiar refrain. We hear it every Christmas when an unsuspecting store clerk wishes the wrong Christian “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  We hear it whenever a high school drops its traditional pre-football game prayer out of respect for those students who may be Jewish or Muslim or non-religious.  An entire industry of books and films has blossomed in the red soil of the American Christian persecution complex, with the first “Gods’ Not Dead” installment caricaturing and vilifying atheists and the second set to expose liberal efforts to “expel God from the classroom once and for all.”

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    Don’t stop now: It’s not enough for churches to just “welcome” gay people

    The last few weeks since the Supreme Court in America approved same sex marriage, and Ireland voted to do the same, there has been a lot of conversation (ok, mainly argument) on all forums and social media platforms. Rightly so. This is a massive shift in society.

    Some people have asked me why I have made such a big deal of it, and why I am “pushing” the issue so hard. The reason is simple. I grew up in a very conservative part of the Christian tradition. I was taught that I was part of a chosen group who were going to live in Paradise, and everyone else was hated by God and would suffer for eternity. If you don’t think about it too much, there’s comfort in being part of the chosen. When you apply your mind to it, though, it’s a horrifying mindset. It actively creates “us vs them” divides at every level.

    This is not what I see in the life and teachings of Jesus, who stands at the centre of my religion. I see someone who breaks down these “us verses them” divides at every opportunity. He does it across all sorts of lines: race, culture, economic status, politics, religion and sexuality.

    So now that the church is confronted by such a radical shift in societal norms, we have an opportunity to re-form our churches too. It’s a key moment in history, and we must grasp it.

    It is incredibly hard for someone who has grown up their whole life not just believing that homosexuality is a sin, but also that gay people are actually disgusting and despised by God to see what is now happening around the world. Acceptance of homosexuality as normal must be incredibly difficult – and for some, a sign of how badly messed up the world is.

    It is wonderful to see some of these people beginning to confront their personal distaste of the “gay lifestyle” and argue for a church that should be accepting of homosexuals, and welcoming. That’s an important and necessary first step. But it’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

    For those who believe that the Bible affirms same sex marriage, we cannot stop and applaud this half way step. It is going to bring more pain and suffering very soon. If you believe that “being gay” is a sin in itself, then you are only going to find pain in a church. And churches that welcome gays but still believe that “being gay” is sinful are going to cause deep and abiding harm to people. Homosexuals who attend those churches will be second class citizens, will be prohibited from leading, serving and exercising their spiritual gifts and calling. They will be broken down, not built up.

    Continue reading Don’t stop now: It’s not enough for churches to just “welcome” gay people

    One by one: Tony Campolo comes out for gay marriage

    Tony Campolo, author, theologian and outspoken evangelical leader, has today announced that after much prayer and study, he has changed his position on gay marriage and now believes that the church should be in favour of it. One by one, evangelical thinkers and theologians are changing their positions. Tony is a significant figure, as he has long stood against affirming gay marriage (while being in favour of churches improving their affirmation of celibate gays). This is an important milestone in the church’s journey of change on this issue.

    Tony made the announcement a few hours ago via his blog.

    He says, in part:

    … Furthermore, we should be doing all we can to reach, comfort and include all those precious children of God who have been wrongly led to believe that they are mistakes or just not good enough for God, simply because they are not straight.

    As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church. When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am”, I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.

    Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

    However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

    One by one, until the ripple becomes a wave, and the wave becomes a flood. That is how it has always been, with any major shift in society.

    Thank you, Tony, for having the courage to make this stand. May many more pastors and Christian leaders be encouraged now to follow your lead, and help us change this dreadful error in our interpretation of the Bible.

    UPDATE ON 10 JUNE 2015: Brian D. McLaren, long time friend and collaborator with Tony (who also opposed him on the gay marriage issue for many years, while still remaining friends), has commented on Tony’s statement as well as the Christianity Today editorial. It’s well worth reading here.