When I was formulating a worldview of sex and sexuality – thinking about women and how to relate to them – I had a lot of help from Playboy. Starting very young, I was exposed to the explicit images of pornography from friends of mine whose fathers dabbled in the dark side of sex. This is an odd thing to think, but you have to remember that this was before the advent of the internet when explicit images of women were sought and bought quite purposefully and intentionally. That is to say it shouldn’t have been that easy to come by. But it was.
I don’t remember a lot of images that have passed before my eyes. I will have trouble detailing the particulars of what my coworkers were wearing today. I can’t even recall what color the bridesmaids wore in the wedding I officiated this past Saturday. But I don’t think I will ever forget the image of my first centerfold. I know what color the woman’s hair was, the sheet, the pose, the whole thing. She was holding a book and if the book had had a title, I probably would have been able to tell you that too. And I wasn’t even in middle school. The power of the pornographic image is unmistakable.
In this age, it has become almost accepted that men (and women, too) will look at pornography. My job as a pastor is to tell you that looking at pornographic images is bad. But most people don’t feel bad when they look at pornography. Most people look at pornography because it feels good. It is an entirely solitary way to experience what God meant for us to experience together. Sex and sexuality, from a Christian perspective, is never something experienced alone. The loneliness of the man and the Lord declaring something “not good” tells us that he was lacking something to complete the experience of humanity. That he needed more than just a sexual partner is absolutely true. But it is also absolutely true that he needed a sexual partner. Sex, as it turns out, isn’t a solo flight.
Yet porn, in its alluring way, has offered us just this – solo sex. It comes in any flavor, with anybody, doing anything imaginable, and mostly for free and without the pesky involvement of something I like to call “other people”. The effect on sex and sexuality is devastating. Naomi Wolf, a feminist critic I’m told, makes this comment. “The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women…. For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.”
In the early 1800’s, baptist churches in America had reached a point where it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain doctrinal purity through creeds. Church members were also beginning what we know today as the church hop. Now it wasn’t what you have in mind when you think of church hopping, as a matter of fact, an excommunicated member may have serious trouble finding admission to another church. The “mutual oversight”, as Greg Wills puts it in his excellent book, Democratic Religion, was so stringent that churches had to watch themselves closely to keep from getting other churches in the association all worked up for a council, which would convene to scrutinize the erring congregation.
A member at LaGrange brought a charge against his own church that they were in the practice of “tolerating dancing.” LaGrange themselves requested that three churches send a contingent over in order to help consider the charge. Churches were regularly “disfellowshipped” through loose interchurch discipline, although they refused to call it that in order to maintain autonomy.
They really got worked up over membership though. You’ll enjoy this so I’m going to post it in its entirety. This is from David Shaver, editor of the Christian Index from that time:
They tell us that by virtue of “the time-honored Baptist principles of church independence and the right of private judgment,” our people everywhere “must receive evangelical Baptist churches into associational fellowship, without restrictions on the question of communion.” Continue Reading
This is a wonderful story of redemption and what church discipline is all about. I personally know John and he is a wonderful encouragement to our entire congregation. Read and enjoy the article and then stop and pray for John that he would continue to have victory over his sin and that the Lord would work in his life through the circumstances that he has brought upon himself and his family. He is facing some serious consequences and has a loving wife and three wonderful boys awaiting the final word. Use this in your ministries and churches. Church discipline is a no-compromise area of church life. We simply have the choice to obey or be disobedient in this.
Gambling, embezzling & church discipline
by David Roach FRANKFORT, Ky. (BP)–John Fluharty says church discipline saved his life.
Even though Fluharty was a member of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., he still had major sins in his life. A gambling addiction snowballed until he began embezzling from his employer to fund his habit. But when Buck Run and its pastor, Hershael York, intervened with church discipline, Fluharty repented and began to grow spiritually like never before.
Christians sin. I know, I know, stop the presses! Call an executive meeting and kick the dog! I’ve just solved all the pastoral woes for everyone wondering why in the world their people are so miserable. Well, that’s it – Christians sin.
Which one of us hasn’t used the tired old joke, “Boy I would sure love the ministry if it wasn’t for all the people.” Because most of us are reservationists around here I’ll bet all of you have at one point or another. The number one downfall to the church (which is made up of people, both theologically and practically speaking) is people. People consistently let other people down. They run about and generally make a mess of everything. Not even Jesus surrounded himself with perfect people; look at the disciples for goodness sake.
So if the church is people and people are a bunch of sinning fools, then what do we do? We discipline them, that’s what. Continue Reading
I have been on both sides of the table when it comes to church discipline. It is most definitely a painful experience to have your darkest sins laid out on a table in full view of the ones you love and respect. It is also most definitely a painful experience to lay out on a table the darkest sins of those you love and respect. Church discipline, in its delivery and execution is one of the most excruciating parts of the Christian life.
Most of us, if we are really honest, know what it means to be confronted in sin. Everyone harbors little pet sins that we think are safe and beyond the view of those we wish to impress. The problem with pet sins is that they can’t be house-broken. Any pet sin, if kept long enough, will eventually bite the hand that feeds it. And once you’re bit, the mark is painful and obvious. Continue Reading