Christian community is to be an alternate society in which sex, money, and power are used in life-giving ways that differ sharply from the practices of the broader culture. This article addresses sex in the context of the gospel and Christian community.
For most of my preaching career I have used the New International Version (NIV) as it was a decent translation and the most commonly used. At one point, I had a man approach me after a morning service encouraging me not to use the NIV as it could cause confusion in his family who all carried the King James Version. As you know there are many reasons people chose to use that version. Some are actually convinced it is the most accurate, others grew up on and it is familiar, others because it was used by the Apostle Paul! Well, I have actually haven’t met anyone who actually believes that, however this man’s reply surprised me! He did not like the NIV because it used the word “sex” and “sexual relations.” And yes, feel free to do a KJV word search, and you will find he was correct, it doesn’t use either! He had a daughter who was approximately age 9, who he did not want exposed to sex and therefore would not use a version of the Bible that used it.
Several years prior to that while serving as a youth pastor, I was confronted in the parking by a parent for teaching about sex to a middle school audience. Complete with a pointed finger in my face I was told that church was not the place to talk about sex and the she would discuss it with her daughter “when the time came.” Please understand that this was not a “bird’s and bee’s” anatomy discussion, but simply an application of Scripture. Also, know that this young lady attended a public middle school where sex was a common conversation and practice.
Sadly these accounts typify what is often practiced in the church. Anything to do with sex is avoided, implied or out and out condemned… especially in a sermon! However we live in an overly sexualized culture.
Before moving to some suggestions about preaching on sex, it is very important that a sermon or even a series on the topic not be all that a church offers. It is crucial that there are several opportunities for people of all ages to learn how God views sex in a setting where they can ask questions and discuss their questions in a safe and confidential environment.
Here are some thoughts:
- This should not be an occasional thematic topic, but one that is a regular point of application as it is a primary idol of the heart which most constantly struggle with.
- As it should be with all of your preaching, be sure to cover the sermon or sermon series in prayer.
- Do your homework and don’t make silly and incorrect statements about sex and our culture.
- Let the Scripture be the authority. Do solid exegetical work and preach from the text. Don’t miss use a text as a springboard for a general sex talk. Let Scripture speak through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Because the topic may be objectionable for parents, be sure to let your congregation know well in advance so they know what is coming. Be sure to catch guests who have young children. Provide an age appropriate alternative that Sunday during the sermon. At the same time help parents understand that most children have heard more bad information about the topic then they think they have.
- Be sensitive to who may be in the congregation.
a) The Young – There will be students who either know very little or have been exposed to it in the playground in through pornography.
b) The Struggling Married – Many couples are struggling in their sex lives. This could be the result of an overly sexualized culture, pornography, conflict, abuse or physical problems.
c) The Single - Many singles in your congregation are probably already sexually active at some level, don’t be naïve. Others are guarding their purity and struggling deeply with singleness. You need to acknowledge and be sensitive to both.
d) The Seniors - Older generations often don’t talk about it and could be embarrassed and believe it should not be addressed in a sermon. On the other hand, please understand that though sex was not something discussed, one of the fastest growing demographics for STD’s are retiree’s.
e) The Victims - In every congregation there will be victims of sexual abuse. Never forget that! Be sensitive to the consequences that they live with as a result of this.
f) The Confused – we have to face the fact that there are people in your congregation that are gender confused. Don’t add to their confusion or drive them toward a wrong conclusion in regard to the sexual orientation.
- Preach with conviction and passion.
- Use the “S” word and speak directly to the subject. There is no need to be suggestive or make assumptions that people know are trying to communicate.
- Speak with dignity. There is no need in a sermon to be crass, or overly descriptive.
- Help people, don’t condemn them. Believe it or not people are genuinely confused on the topic. Treat sex as idol. Remember an idol or “counterfeit god” is anything that we depend on rather than God.
- Here is a good summary on perspectives on sex that is helpful to keep in mind, ‘The secularist/pragmatist sees sex as merely biological and physical appetite. The moralist tends to see sex as dirty or at least a dangerous impulse that leads constantly to sin. But the gospel shows us that sexuality is to reflect the self-giving of Christ. He gave himself completely without conditions. So we are not to seek intimacy but hold back control of our lives. If we give ourselves sexually we are to give ourselves legally, socially, personally--utterly. Sex is only to happen in a totally committed, permanent relationship of marriage” (Tim Keller, The Centrality of the Gospel)
- Another good resource from Kim Keller available for free online is an article entitled The Gospel and Sex.