Defining Sin in the Church

Ever since Obama announced his support for gay marriage, endless news cycles have debated the political expediency of the decision. Countless commentators have suggested that Obama may have handed Romney the election by giving religious conservatives a rallying cry on the issue of gay marriage.

Perhaps. However, I’m not so sure that the church is as prepared to combat sin as the left might fear. For example, check out this sermon illustration by Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, an Atlanta megachurch.

This video is making waves because the pastor condemns adultery but seems to see nothing wrong with homosexuality. While homosexuality is a very important issue, three even more pressing issues should be raised by this video.

1. The Church Must Have Membership to Have Discipline

Doesn’t it seem odd that the ex-wife was the one who had to kick the man out of the church? Where does that fit into Matthew 18:15-17? The concept of church discipline never shows up on Stanley’s radar even when he confronts the man over adultery.  In many megachurches, church discipline is impossible because the church doesn’t have a membership to discipline. How can the church confront sin in our culture if it can’t even deal with sin in its own congregation?

2. The Church Must Condemn All Sin, Not Just Homosexuality

Stanley is attracting attention because he gives homosexuality a pass while condemning adultery. He told the man that his boyfriend had to get divorced before they could minister in the church. Forget the homosexuality for a second, and we still have major problems. Here is a pastor that (A) doesn’t care that two of his ministry team members are having extramarital sex and (B) encourages one of them to get a divorce without biblical warrant. Should the church condemn homosexuality? Yes. However, churches need to get serious about rejecting all sin. How can the church condemn homosexuality if it permits and even encourages other sins?

3. The Church Must Choose Holiness Over Messiness

Towards the end of the clip, Stanley gets all geeked out over how his church has some really messy people. While churches need to avoid constructing hypocritical spiritual facades, too many pastors today have a morbid obsession with applauding really “messy” people in their churches. An ER surgeon may enjoy the more difficult cases, but wouldn’t we think her a bit odd if her face lit up with excitement whenever trauma victims arrived? The church is an ER, not a museum. We don’t go to church to show off but to get better. However, too many pastors today are showing off serious problems as if they should be the norm. We cannot progress towards holiness if we just sit around an enjoy the mess.

Will religious conservatives rally around a biblical definition of marriage? I hope so. However, unless the church learns to define sin, we will lose the bigger battle. Churches must develop the capacity for church discipline, use it to deal with all sins, and cultivate a sincere passion for holiness.

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One thought on “Defining Sin in the Church

  1. I agree Stanley needs to be clear, but I think he is in many other places. I think here he may have been afraid talking about homosexuality would distract from the point he was trying to make. Nonetheless, your point is well taken.

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