The Implications of Same-Sex Marriage: Ministering the Gospel After the Triumph of Secularism in the UK

If I could somehow reach through your monitor to plead with you to read this article in full, I would.

Last weekend saw the first ever state-sanctioned same-sex marriages take place in the UK.  Christians’ reactions were many and varied.  Of all that I have read, the article by John Stevens, Director of the FIEC, is the most insightful and prophetic.  I commend it to you in its entirety.

He begins by reminding us that for Christians to be a minority group who cut against the tide of wider society is normal:

As Christians we ought not to be at all surprised by what has happened. If anything it is the state-sponsored Christendom which was the historical anomaly. Christians should expect to find themselves as aliens and strangers in the world. This was the situation of the early Church, and books such a 1 Peter and Revelation were written to equip Jesus’ disciples to live in a hostile pagan society in which they were a tiny minority. In many ways Christendom had the effect of enforcing certain elements of Christian morality, at least outwardly, but at the cost of neutering the radical truth of the gospel. Social church-going and was the norm, and lip-service was paid to Christian values, but countless millions went to hell because they thought that they were good Christians when they were not.  The triumph of secularism marks a return to normality for the church, and this may well be beneficial for it.

Rather than bemoaning what we have lost, instead we need to work to address the issues facing the church in our generation:

We need to work hard at helping people to understand what Christian conscience requires of them. Just as Paul had to work thorough issues of meat sacrificed to idols in pagan temples in 1 Corinthians 8-9, we will have to work through such questions as whether a Christian can attend the gay marriage of their work colleague or family member, or whether a Christian shopkeeper should refuse to sell a wedding dress to a same-sex couple. We need to tease out the differences between ordinary commercial life which is morally neutral (buying meat in the market place), participation in sin (joining the idol feasts in the pagan temple) and relating to individuals (whether pagans or Christians) with personal scruples who might be offended by the exercise of gospel freedom (being told at a private dinner in a home that meat was offered to an idol) The answers may not be easy, and Christians may not reach the same conclusions, but we will have to do the work.

God’s Word is sufficient for the church in our generation.  And God’s Gospel is sufficient for our society.  May God raise us up for His good purposes.

 

Distinctive

Rock Baptist Church is an evangelical church.  That’s where we begin as we define ourselves to guests.  We are very aware of the problems with that term – most notably that its definition has become somewhat broader in recent generations than it used to be be.  Perhaps we need to add terms like ‘classic’ or ‘historical’ to our self-defined term ‘evangelical.

When we use the term, we mean that it is the ‘evangel’, the good news of Jesus Christ, which defines us in the first instance.  At least that is our hope, our prayer and our intention.  It is the good news of Christ, revealed in the Scriptures, of the Triune God’s plan to save a people from sin and death and judgement for himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That’s a lot to pack into a single sentence.  Perhaps you’d rather view of more comprehensive ‘Statement of Faith.’  This wonderful good news from God for all of humanity is the foundation upon which we build, it is the flag around which we rally, it is the fence by which we promote truth and refute error.

But, whilst we are never less than evangelical, we are more than evangelical.  As with every congregation, we seek the Scriptures and reach conclusions about how God would have us structure church life to his glory.  To that end, we are a deliberately, thoughtfully, decidedly, joyfully Reformed, Independent, Baptist church.

We say so because we believe that unity is best fostered in an atmosphere of doctrinal clarity rather than ambiguity.  It is by defining the doctrines which shape us as a Christian community at Rock that we see clearly what holds us together and where the limits of toleration lie.

To further this drive for clarity, and more importantly to edify ourselves in God’s Word as we considered these key parts of our worship, we have recently enjoyed a short sermon series on the Sacraments – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  These are now available for download here and here.

In addition to these ecclesiological distinctives, we are also sometimes asked about our understanding of what the Scriptures teach about unity with other churches and about women’s ministry in the church.  If you want to find out more, this sermon on 1 Tim 2 will help you better understand our position on women’s vital role in the congregation.   Furthermore, on matters of unity and women’s ministry in the church, we share a common position with our fellow FIEC churches articulated in documents here (on unity) and here (on women’s ministry).

For guests wanting to find out more about Rock Baptist Church, we hold regular church membership classes.  Do ask Mike Partridge or Sarah Ackroyd for details of the next course.

Confident in God’s Word

Just occasionally some ‘celebrity’ pastor says something which is so profoundly wrong that it becomes worth highlighting simply as a means of better understanding what’s actually true.  And now is the turn of the Rev Steve Chalke.  Chalke has recently made a video in which, in an attempt to defend the place of the Bible in the church, he seems to depart entirely from a traditional evangelical view of Scripture.  Here’s the video – but please don’t just watch this video.  Do read on to the good stuff below!

Restoring Confidence in the Bible from Oasis UK on Vimeo.

In response, Dr Dan Strange of Oakhill College has written very helpfully in a post on the Oakhill blog.  It’s worth reading in full.  In addition, the FIEC has filmed an interview with Dan which clarifies the issues.  Put together, Dan’s words are a wonderful corrective and help us evangelicals take confidence in the Bible.

 

FIEC Leaders Conference

Last week, I joined with several hundred fellow pastors from churches affiliated with the FIEC (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) for a 3-day leaders conference.  It was a great time of encouragement and instruction.

A friend of mine has written a wonderfully concise summary so rather than producing my own, see his here.  Also, the main talks from the conference are available free of charge on the FIEC website for all to hear.

It’s a delight to be a part of the FIEC at a time like this.  Do pray for our partner churches.