3 Ways To Respond to A World With Changing Values

Written By Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

On 6 September 2018, India’s Supreme Court overturned a 157-year-old law which had previously criminalized consensual gay sex.

This may come as a surprise to many, since India has long been known for its family values and traditional views on marriage. But all over the world, same-sex relationships have become more and more accepted, so this move by India’s Supreme Court was inevitable.

The LGBT community in India—which used to be a hidden minority—are now coming out in the open and reveling in their victory. This landmark decision was a huge relief to the LGBT community, as well as activists and supporters who stood by them. Celebrities and politicians across the country have expressed support and congratulations over social media, reflecting the increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships.

This news has highlighted a growing trend towards changing values that are at odds with the Bible. Going forward, we will more and more frequently encounter people with ideas, mannerisms, and desires different from ours. How then should the Church respond?

Should we respond in protest and anger, or should we continue to spread the message of love, acceptance, and inclusion? Should we seek to hold on to our core beliefs revealed in the Bible, or compromise our message in favor of being progressive and accepting? What is clear is that we need to make these choices with sensitivity, wisdom, and with the help of God’s grace and love.

Here are three ways I believe we can respond to a world of changing values with love and gentleness:

 

1. See each person as made in the image of God

Regardless of what someone’s views on sexual relationships or any other divisive issue may be, it’s important that we remember that we are all broken, sinful, and in need of Christ. All of us need the good news of the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We all need to learn that our identity does not come from our sexual orientation, social status, or even personality—but in the privilege of being called Sons and Daughters of the Living God.

This begins with being committed to seeing each person we meet as made in the image of God and valued by Him. As long as we focus on showing people the love, grace, and mercy of God, the Holy Spirit will bring about transformation in our lives and the lives of those around us. Take time to build relationships and trust with genuine love.

 

2. Demonstrate the love of Christ through practical ways

As Christians, we are called to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40)—and our neighbor is anyone around us who is in need and hurting. This call remains the same regardless of the legal changes or societal views that prevail. There is no list of requirements our neighbors need to meet before we shower them with our love. No one is out of bounds.

Instead of retreating in fear or shame, or inciting anger or hate, we must seek to be the hands and feet of God in practical ways. As Christians, we recognize that only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can offer real hope to this lost, broken, and damaged world. And His love is demonstrated when we serve others in practical ways.

This could take the form of taking the time to listen to the stories of those who struggle with same-sex attraction with sensitivity or empathy, helping those who are hurting find counseling avenues, and keeping our hearts and doors open to anyone seeking refuge.

 

3. Get to know those who are different from you

Many churches have already begun doing this by breaking down age-old stereotypes, educating themselves, and reaching out to those unlike them. This often comes about through church services that are welcoming, intentional acts of compassion and mercy, friendship evangelism, and providing counseling and pastoral care.

There are also focused ministries that are committed to reaching out sensitively to LGBT communities as well as many others, presenting the message of the Gospel. Much fruit can already be seen as a result of the persistent efforts of these ministries.

My church, for example, has organized a seminar for youth and young adults to hear from experts and ask questions relating to our sexuality. These young people are also encouraged to invite friends who are either curious or troubled about these changes and are seeking frank answers to difficult questions.

As a church, we have also taken steps to proactively approach the transgender community in parts of our city, and invited them to a special service at our church. Many attended, and were received with warmth and genuine love. We desire to continue building relationships with the leaders of this community, so that we may have more opportunities to engage with them and share the transforming love of Christ.

 

In a world where ethical and moral values are shifting endlessly, it’s even more pivotal that we understand our role as Christians—to be the salt and light that will draw others to the Light of Christ and His offer of eternal life. Let’s hasten to do this and ask God to lead us in our interactions with the world around us.

6 Ways The Church Can Help Sexual Abuse Victims

Written By Gillian Chong, Malaysia

Gillian Chong is a counselor and the co-founder of Agape Vision, a non-governmental organization in Malaysia serving at-risk youths who have been abused and marginalized. Agape Vision empowers youths to be leaders through programs such as Expedition Agape Malaysia, in which youths lead community service projects both in Malaysia and overseas. Agape Vision is currently setting-up a residential treatment centre in Malaysia which will provide severely abused youths with a therapeutic milieu in a residential setting as well as professional therapies to support the youths’ healing from childhood abuse.

“Who’s going to believe me?” she asked wearily, her head cradled on one hand. She was seeing me for counselling after being sexually abused for many years by a pastor. We were processing her childhood experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of the man who first led her to our Savior, and her feelings of helplessness all those years. “He’s a pastor!” she cried out vehemently.

I nodded, my heart aching. In truth, her words echoed my own. “Who’s going to believe me?” For so many years, I asked the same question. First molested by a full-time church youth worker, and then seduced by a youth pastor—both women—I lived in a web of terror throughout the weeks and months of both experiences.

At the back of my mind was the cry, “Please, somebody help me!” Yet because same-sex relationships are so taboo in churches, I felt unable to voice out my plea for help. I thought nobody would ever believe me if I told them that the very leaders who were teaching us—about the sins of sex outside marriage and the importance of setting boundaries—were the ones touching me in ways that I felt unable to escape from.

I felt so alone. I thought there was surely something very wrong with me. I never thought that I would be a victim in the very place that I felt the safest.

A sexual abuse survivor’s journey to healing is a long and painful one—and it’s a journey we cannot walk alone. For me, my helplessness led me to spend more time with God and His Word, pouring out my deep hurt and betrayal to Him. I found that truly, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). God understood the depth of my pain. He spoke to me in my times of anguish and reminded me that He would never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

When I felt dirty, He assured me through His Word that His blood had cleansed me and washed me whiter than snow. I also sought both pastoral and professional counselling so that I would have support as God led me through my journey to His freedom and healing.

While the stories I have shared above happened within the church, there are many other survivors who have been abused by those outside the church. I believe that as the Body of Christ, we should protect and support sexual abuse survivors through the painful months, and even years, of healing ahead.

So how can we as Christians, whether church member or leader, help support survivors of sexual abuse, and protect the church from sexual abuse within churches?

 

1. Believe Them

Nothing sets a victim free as much as those three words, “I believe you.” Perpetrators are wily to know what they should do to keep victims silent, and the biggest lie they convince their victims of is, “Nobody will believe you. They will believe me.”

Childhood victims of sexual abuse, especially, often act out due to their abuse. Over and over again, in the non-governmental organization Agape Vision that I co-founded with a friend, we have been referred “at-risk youth” for troubling behavior, which ranges from being involved with gangs to suicide attempts.

In each case, as the youths trusted us enough to open up and share about their lives, we found the trauma of childhood sexual abuse at the core of their issues. Yet, when one of our youths was brave enough to finally share with his mother the abuse he went through, he was told, “You are a liar!”

We need to be careful that the exhaustion of dealing with someone’s “difficult” behavior does not blind us to the possible reasons behind such behavior. And when someone trusts us enough to tell us about their experiences of abuse, we should listen and assure them that we believe and will support them.

 

2. Educate Yourself

As the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have been exploding with disclosures from men and women from all walks of life, more and more people are asking for greater education on sexual abuse.

There are a few non-governmental organizations in Malaysia, where I live, that specifically make it their mission to empower communities to protect children and adults from sexual abuse. They run workshops and trainings to educate and bring awareness to participants. Among them are PS The Children, Projek Layang-Layang, and our NGO, Agape Vision. The trainings include topics such as, signs that a child has been sexually abused, the grooming process that perpetrators use, as well as how to educate children about personal body safety.

If you know of someone who has experienced sexual abuse, or wish to educate yourself more, do a Google search for other organizations in your area that provide training in this area.

 

3. Set Up Safety Procedures in Church

Perpetrators often target areas where they can access children and young adults, and this often includes children’s church or youth ministry. Not only does this give potential perpetrators access to children and young adults, but they also have the opportunity to build trust with young people, whom they can then victimize outside church premises.

85-95 per cent of child sexual abuse victims were abused by people they know. But setting up some basic safety procedures can help protect our young people. Some things you can do are:

  • Always have more than one person present with children and youths, be it in the church hall, at cell groups, or outside during activities;
  • Do not allow private conversations to take place in areas where the child or youth cannot be seen by other adults;
  • Do not allow contact outside the activity premises alone with the child or youth;
  • Repeatedly inform and assure children and youths that, should there ever be any inappropriate conversation or touching by anyone inside the church, regardless of their status in church, the children and youths can speak to any of the adults in charge of the ministries, who will immediately take measures to protect them.

 

4. Set Up a Reporting Process in Church

It is easy to assume that church members know that they can report to the leadership of the church, be it the pastors or the deacons, in case of any sexual abuse. But I speak from personal experience that I did not know I could report to the leadership of the church, despite attending the church for many years.

Especially when a perpetrator is someone trusted by parents, and spoken well of by other church members, it can be hard for a victim to speak up. We need to enable our young people to speak up if they are abused, and making it known that there is already a reporting process in place can help.

Pastors can also address this issue specifically from the pulpit during services. I applaud the service held in Pastor Rick Warren’s church where he specifically addressed the issue of sexual abuse within the church during the service. He gave a stern warning from the pulpit to any perpetrators in the congregation, that he would hunt them down and report them to the police.

This gives so much reassurance to victims hiding in the congregation that it is safe for them to report abuse in church, and that they and possible future victims will receive protection and justice.

Sadly, the young lady I shared about at the start of this article was told that her perpetrator would be subject to church discipline, but was not assured that she would be supported in reporting the abuse to law enforcement. It is indeed frightening for survivors of sexual abuse by church members or leaders to continue seeing the perpetrator regularly attending church with them if they are not prevented from attending church services and meetings as part of the discipline process.

 

5. Emphasize the Importance of Speaking Up

Since sexual abuse, especially at the hands of persons the victims trust, can be so shocking and traumatizing, it can be difficult for victims to say “no” and run in the spur of the moment.

This is why it is so important that pastors, parents, and teachers regularly teach children and young adults that they can inform us if they feel unsafe at any moment. We should not be afraid to speak in an appropriate manner about topics that are often seen as taboo, such as sex and private body parts, so that children feel comfortable using such words and will not be afraid to approach us about these topics.

We can also carefully look out for any changes in the person’s behavior, but we should be careful of assuming that we know the circumstances causing it.

 

6. Refer Survivors for Professional Help and Support

When responding to the survivor’s story, we have to be careful that our words do not unwittingly retraumatize him or her by thoughtless words and projection of our own feelings of disgust and horror.

When I disclosed the experiences I went through to church leaders and others, I heard words such as “your (perpetrator) was looking for someone who was willing,” “you were naïve,” or “your demeanor makes it look as if you want it.”

All these words made me feel guilty and overly responsible for something that was not my fault. Thank God for professional counsellors who were able to help me navigate the overwhelming sense of guilt and shame that I experienced through therapy, and who helped me to place it on the shoulders of those who should feel guilt and shame—the perpetrators.

And now, through my own counselling work, I strive to also provide survivors with the therapeutic support that they need, because I have seen for myself the difference it makes to a survivor as they heal.

While I do not discount church counsellors at all, for trauma as great as sexual abuse, professional help is needed along with the loving healing of our Savior. While professional counsellors can help survivors comprehend and cope with the traumatic effects of the abuse, ultimately it is only the Lord who can do the deep, complete healing that a survivor needs.

 

As the voices of #ChurchToo rise in volume and number, I hope that the church will take this opportunity to see how they can best protect the Body of Christ and support those who have been hurt through sexual abuse. Those who have been brave enough to speak up should be encouraged and applauded for having the courage to confront what many do not. I hope this article provided you with some steps that you and your church can take to make the Body of Christ a safer place for all.

Can A Christian Be Racist?

Photo By Tricia Victoria From #blacklivesmatter

Written By James Bunyan, England

James Bunyan is a bit of a fidget, to be honest. His inability to sit still tends to spill over into all sorts of areas of his life; he loves travelling, good writing, all sports (except frisbee), the sense of purpose that the gospel gives him, exotic teas and the satisfaction of peeling off a sticker all in one go. He lives in Twickenham (London), where he works as a CU Staff Worker for UCCF: The Christian Unions, a student mission movement, and he recently married his best friend, Lois. That was a good move.

There’s a short answer to this question and it is very short.

No.

A Christian cannot be racist.

A Christian cannot be racist because the whole good news of the whole Bible is wholly international in its scope, embracing every people group right across the globe equally. This good news could be summed up thus:

 

1. All humans, from every people, are made in the image of God

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth. (Acts 17:26a)

The Bible has a lot to say about the first human, Adam—not least that every human since has inherited his image (Genesis 5:1-3). Made in the image of God, Adam has passed on to his children an image that is marred and faded but still holds inherent dignity and value.

But one thing that the Bible has to say is that, in the beginning, God created the human race from one man. Which means, whichever ethnic group you belong to, you have common ancestry with every other ethnic group; you come from the same place, a man lovingly crafted by God.

 

2. All peoples can be included in the family of the church

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

It doesn’t matter where you come from or what color skin you have; through faith in Jesus, you belong in God’s great family, a family that He is gathering from all the nations. This doesn’t mean that every person will have faith in Jesus but that any person from any people group can have faith in Jesus. Jesus didn’t just die and rise again for white people.

Paul states this truth so strongly here that he almost goes so far as to say that the things that define and divide us as humans don’t even matter in God’s family! “There is neither Jew or Gentile,”  he says. What divides Christians is nowhere near as strong as what they have in common. You have something more substantial in common with a believer on the other side of the world than you do with your unbelieving family—faith in Christ Jesus.

 

3. All peoples will be worshipping Jesus round his throne

. . . there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. . . And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

At the end of time, God’ great family will come together to sing the praises of the one who died and rose again to save them, and the truth is that every people group will be represented. It’s going to be amazing.

This is why Christian missionaries have always travelled across the globe to find peoples that don’t yet know Jesus; He deserves to have people from every nation know Him. And this is why there is something particularly beautiful about a Christian church that is truly diverse; it’s a snapshot of how we’ll be spending eternity.

Now with these three truths in mind, you can see that racism, any belief that one’s own ethnicity or race is superior, simply has no room in the Christian religion. Whereas racism tends to overemphasize and deride the differences between peoples, the New Testament has always been revolutionary in affirming and uniting peoples from across traditional divides. It’s one of the best things about the true church!

 

. . .”But what about the Crusades, the slave trade and the KKK?”

Given all that is above, it makes it particularly tragic that the history of Western Christendom is marked by episodes of intolerance and racism. People who have claimed the Christian religion for themselves have even tried to use the Bible to justify the belief that their own particular race is superior to others, thereby “permitting” them to carry out all kinds of atrocities against “sub-standard” peoples. “How can a Christian justify that?” you may ask.

The answer is that you cannot.

Someone may claim that they are a Christian or may act in the name of God—those people in all the above examples did. They may have an intellectual understanding of the “faith” or be churchgoers but, if they are acting in a way utterly inconsistent with the Bible’s clear teaching, they are not Christian and their professions are useless.

Such faith is dead and, on the day He comes to judge, Jesus will name it as the evil that it is.

 

A Christian cannot be racist. . .but a racist can become Christian

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Here, Paul names a whole list of sins. The list is by no means exhaustive; they just happen to be the problems the Corinthian church seemed to be struggling with, so there’s a sense in which you could insert any sin in there.

What’s interesting is how strict Paul is here; there is no excuse for consistently and habitually committing these sins, nor does he even allow them to continue to “struggle” in them, committing them every now and then. He tells them that, if they are now Christian, then all these things are in their past. They have been made clean in Jesus’s blood, made holy by His sacrifice and made righteous by His work. Now their whole identity has changed and there’s not a trace of these old sins left.

The same offer is on the table for racists. There is no room in God’s family for racism but there is room in the family for them.

We seem to have lost the word “repentance” in some modern expressions of Christianity. Christians are people who repent, who turn away from their sin and their old selves and turn anew to Jesus, His death, resurrection, and promises. It’s a word that implies a dramatic break from a past that is wrong. It’s the perfect word for our current discussion.

The controversial truth is that racists can be made children of God, people endowed with the very Spirit of God. But they must repent, leaving their racism at the door. There’s no room for it in God’s kingdom.

The stakes are high. We’ll all either spend eternity singing Jesus’s praises shoulder-to-shoulder with people utterly unlike us or we’ll spend eternity in suffering, surrounded with people just as selfish as we are. It’s our own choice.

Am I Too Young To Lead In Church?

Written By Tyler Edwards, USA

Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He has served in full-time ministry since 2006. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is also the author of Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back Into the Body of Christ.

At what age is a person old enough to become a leader in the church? We love having younger people serve, but when can they transition from serving into leading?

1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” How a person serves in church should not be limited by their age. As a general rule, the “young” have more free time, energy, and passion than our older counterparts. But too often, we can’t preach because we are “too young.” We can’t lead because we are “too young.” We can’t organize an event because we are “too young.” The list goes on. Too often, our abilities and gifts are never considered because they’re hidden in the shadow of our age.

Age is a factor, but it is a far less important factor than maturity. I have seen 60-year-old Christians with the spiritual maturity of toddlers, and I have met teenagers with a passion for the Kingdom and a closeness to the Lord that many senior citizens have never experienced. It is dangerous to see someone older and assume that because they have gone to church for a long time, they have a mature relationship with God.

 

Timothy the Youth

1 Timothy is a letter Paul wrote to someone called Timothy. We know from the letter that Timothy was a young man, and many scholars think that he might have only been 16 years old when Paul first met him in the city of Lystra. In our society, that’s not even old enough to vote! Yet Timothy already had a reputation as a godly man, from Lystra all the way to Iconium (Acts 16:2). That’s 40 miles, which is two days’ travel by foot. In today’s terms, Timothy would have been internationally-known.

Timothy was young, but Paul didn’t say he was “too young.” Instead, Paul sent him to resolve some of the most significant problems at churches across the region—including at the church in Corinth, which we know had sexual immorality, incest, and all sorts of other problems! Timothy also pastored the world’s first megachurch at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3). He taught, preached and was in charge of a church, all at an age that today would likely be considered “too young.”

Timothy had skills and was called by God. Paul saw that, and he used Timothy—despite his young age—to do what God had gifted him to do. The Great Commission Jesus gave applies to every Christian. There is no age requirement. If the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, why do we turn away perfectly good help just because they don’t have as many years under their belt?

The church is often guilty of ignoring 1 Timothy 4:12. When considering someone to serve and lead in church, we must learn to look beyond their age, and see their maturity, their faith, how they conduct themselves, how they speak, and how they love.

 

Lead by Living an Example

But 1 Timothy 4:12 is not only a challenge to the church. It is specifically a challenge to young Christians. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” That’s a call for us to display our maturity beyond our years by setting an example. We can’t control how others think of us. We can’t control how they will judge us. But we can demonstrate our love for Jesus, our maturity in speech, and in conduct.

Too often, we approach the older generation as if they are out-of-touch dinosaurs. Don’t come in with a list of complaints. Don’t demand that others listen to music you like or dress like you. Your greatest gift is your passion, but if you want more seasoned Christians to take you seriously, you need more than that.

You need to offer them the respect you want to receive. If you approach someone with frustration or contempt, you are likely to receive it in return. But if you show your passion and heart for the Gospel, if you demonstrate your maturity in Christ and seek for others to come alongside you, you might find that they try to listen. Share a vision for reaching your generation and invite others to join with you.

I was 21 when I first served as a lead pastor in a church, and most of the congregation was old enough to be my grandparents. I knew that my age was an obstacle for the congregation, and I didn’t want it to distract them from what I had to say about Jesus.

So I sold the beautiful car that I loved in exchange for a four-door family vehicle. Every Sunday I donned a nice suit, despite the fact that I really don’t like suits. No one had asked me to do this. I did it because I wanted to help the church accept me in spite of my age. I didn’t change my personality—that would be fake—but I focused on changing how I presented myself. I met my church members in the middle. I didn’t just demand their acceptance.

More importantly, I focused on what I was qualified for. As a 21-year-old kid, I was not qualified to give a lot of life advice. But I had Bible knowledge. For years, all my application, all my advice, all my expertise came from knowing the Bible and from getting to know it better. People didn’t care what I had to say about raising their kids, because I had never raised kids. So I shared what the Bible said. I didn’t talk about my perspective or my opinion. I talked about the Bible.

God did not say that no one has the right to look down on us; instead, He challenges us to live in a way that no one can look down on. Prove maturity by setting an example of godly character. Present yourself appropriately. Live like Jesus.

No one looks down on someone who speaks well, who lives right, who has a strong faith, who loves, and who characterizes maturity. People don’t look down on examples—they follow them.

So what does that look like?

1. Be involved

Everyone respects someone who works hard. Get involved in the old system even if it needs a lot of improvement. Serve. Work hard. Prove that you care. Often we complain, but we don’t want to do anything ourselves. We’re busy with our own lives, but so is everyone else. The people who hold the most sway in a church are the ones who work hard and are actively a part of it. The more involved, the more reliable, the more invested in our church we are, the more people will care about what we have to say.

 

2. Take initiative

If you have an idea, take action. As a church pastor I can tell you, no one comes to us with more ideas for things they think should change than young, idealistic Christians. At the same time, no one is harder to get involved in the work and mission of Jesus than those same young idealistic Christians. While we need to be careful not to over assert ourselves or to act out of bounds, sometimes doing something unofficially can wake the church up to do it officially. When you do it first, you prove you have your thumb on the pulse of the community.

 

3. Let go of your entitlement

The Gospel is clear: the only thing we deserve is death and eternal condemnation. It is only by the grace of God that salvation is possible. Entitlement is anti-thetical to the Gospel. Let go of your entitlement. Don’t take things for granted. Appreciate what others do. Be gracious. Be patient. Be humble.

 

Paul told Timothy not to let anyone look down on him, and Paul told him how exactly to achieve that. Set an example—in your speech, your behavior, your love, your faith, your maturity.

The church needs young leaders. The world needs Timothys. Out of our love for Jesus, those of us who are young need to learn to grow and mature as Godly Christians so that we might lead now. Not just 20 years from now.