A new study about adultery and our cultural understanding of it was released by Deseret News. It surveyed the normal population and compared it to conservative evangelicals and other religious groups.
For some, like The Gospel Coalition, the findings were alarming. Their headline, “Survey Reveals Many Evangelicals Are Confused About Adultery,” spoke to their concern regarding the survey results. They quoted results from the survey regarding the following question, “How often, if ever, would you say the following activities would be cheating on a spouse or partner?”
- Having regular sexual relations with someone other than your partner (82 percent)
- Having a one-night stand with someone other than your partner (77 percent)
- Romantically kissing someone other than your partner (78 percent)
- Sending sexually explicit messages to someone other than your partner (75 percent)
- Being emotionally involved with someone besides your partner (67 percent)
The Gospel Coalition article argued several things were to blame for the breakdown of morality in evangelical culture. Education within the churches did not work, church members were not hearing the message, church leaders were not doing their part to purvey the proper message nor were many leaders living what they preached.
The GC article did a good job of covering the initial bases, but I wanted to dig deeper on some things churches could do to manage some of these shortfalls to address adultery and sexual sin in the church.
1. Church leaders may not have adjusted the impact of Matthew 5:27-28 to the changing social environment.
When Jesus said that to look upon a person with lustful intent is to commit adultery, he meant it. The attitude of the heart dictates our actions. I’m not saying that we change scripture. But we do need to examine the text in light of how culture is changing and let people know how Jesus’ words apply to sexting, following your ex on Facebook, and having a dating profile on Tinder. They even asked whether women were more sensitive to these issues. (The Deseret study had questions about each of these topics.)
I’ve blogged about many of these topics and get asked about them on a regular basis. There’s a good chance that people in your church have a question about many of these issues as well. Having a discussion about these topics from a scriptural basis would be a big help to people in your church.
2. Has sex education failed in our churches? Or is it something else?
The Gospel Coalition article suggested that sex education has failed in our church. It’s very possible that it never took place in many churches. Or, it may be that the church leadership didn’t feel that it was a topic that needed to be discussed within the four walls of the sanctuary. But sex is holy and can and needs to be addressed. God talks about it and so should we. It can be done properly and in the right way.
It could also be that leaders may have their own problem with moral ambiguity. I’ve had conversations with many pastors who are struggling with sexual sin. They may feel they are the last person who should be talking to a congregation about sexual issues. If either of these is the case, feel free to get outside help and bring in a guest speaker or group who can talk to your church about these important issues.
3. Shepherds need to be clear and unwavering on these topics.
Pastors and church leaders must stand together on message in an age of ever changing media. Social media will change at a moments notice, but the truth of God does not change. People are looking for answers from God’s Word and want to know where to find them. Leaders need to show people that these issues have answers in the words of Christ.
We speak to fallen leaders and people on a weekly basis and we want to prevent that from happening. Don’t let it happen to anyone in your church. Strengthen those who may be weak and looking for answers. Be open and honest about the world and the situation. Learn what you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For a lot of leaders, this is overwhelming. There are denominational supports for many churches. If you’re non-denominational, there are a lot of good resources. Fallen Pastor Ministries provides speakers for you to talk to your church about preventing moral failure and straight answers to tough topics. Please feel free to contact us.
Regardless of where you are, know that there are people ready to help you in whatever situation you’re in. There is always help for God’s people.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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