Representing Christ with Grace and Truth
About the Guest
In Post Modern America, gender identity is considered fluid. How do you minister, and stay true to the gospel, when the cultural winds are blowing in the wrong direction? Hear some pastors and their wives offer relevant, biblical guidance for being effective communicators of the Gospel.
Chris and Susan WillardChris and Susan were sweethearts at the University of Massachusetts and were married in 1986. Susan has a BFA in painting and design and owns an interior design firm called Fabulous Interiors and a wedding planning company called Fabulous Celebrations. Chris has an MBA and works as a consultant to many of the most effective faith-based organizations in North America and Europe. He is the co-author of Contagious Generosity, Creating a Culture of Giving in Your Church. The Willards have t...more
Crawford LorittsCrawford Loritts (B.S., D.Th., Philadelphia Biblical University; D.Div., Biola University) was the senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia. He has served as a national evangelist with the American Missionary Fellowship and the Urban Evangelistic Mission, and as Associate Director of Campus Crusade for Christ. He co-founded Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas. He is a frequent speaker for professional sports teams, including three Super Bowls and the NCAA Final Four...more
Karen LorittsKaren Loritts is a speaker, teacher, and author. Karen has served in ministry since 1972 with her husband, Crawford, who is currently the Senior Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia. Karen served as the keynote speaker for the True Woman conferences held by Revive Our Hearts. Karen and Crawford are also featured speakers at FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember marriage conferences. Karen enjoys her four grown children and eleven grandchildren.
How do you stay true to the gospel, when the cultural winds are blowing against you? Hear some pastors and their wives offer relevant, biblical guidance for being effective communicators of the Gospel.
Representing Christ with Grace and Truth
Bob: To live as a follower of Jesus in 21st-century America means living with a keen sense of Christ-honoring balance. Here’s Pastor Bryan Carter.
Bryan: John 1 says that Jesus was both full of grace and truth. We live in delicate times—where the church has emphasized truth—but to the sacrifice of grace. Ministry for today means: “As a believer, I have to figure out how I live with my gay neighbor next door. How do I love them with grace, although holding to the truth of God’s Word?” That’s the way we have to understand how to live this out on a daily basis.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. As we prepare this week to celebrate Christmas, we’re going to get some coaching today on how we can represent the Savior with grace and truth. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, when FamilyLife got started—and by the way, we’ve been celebrating 40 years of ministry all year long.
Dennis: And the way we’ve done that is by celebrating the anniversaries that we have made possible in literally hundreds of thousands of marriages—maybe millions of marriages—around the world through our various outreaches.
Bob: Lots of anniversaries that have been celebrated.
But you never imagined, back 40 years ago, when FamilyLife was getting started, that the issues that we were talking about from the Bible would be headline issues in our culture and that they’d be hotly debated issues; did you?
Dennis: I was asked that question this morning, Bob. I said, “Not in the foggiest.”
Dennis: I didn’t have any idea that by standing for a man and a woman in marriage, with covenant-keeping love for a lifetime, that that would mean you strapped a target on your chest and became hated by certain segments of society—accused of bigotry and hatred—even though that’s not the truth. We love people—that’s why we’re in the ministry. But I had no idea that America, as a nation, would question God’s design of its most basic unit, the family.
Bob: Well, we’re going to hear from some friends today who are going to help us understand how to stand firm—anchored in Scripture—and still represent Christ well, with grace and with love.
We just need to take a minute here and say, “Thank you,” to our listeners who have made it possible for us to try to do that for more than two decades now, here on FamilyLife Today. I think most of our listeners know that this month we have a matching gift that we’re hoping to take full advantage of. We’re asking you to consider a yearend contribution so that we can receive the funds from this matching gift.
Michelle Hill has been keeping tabs on how the matching gift is doing all month long, and she’s here with an update. Michelle—
Michelle: Bob I do have the latest information as I keep tabs on the matching gift. As listeners probably know, our matching gift is one and quarter million dollars. And as of today, we’ve received seven hundred and fourteen thousand dollars from forty-five hundred listeners. Now again, when listeners make a donation it’s effectively tripled from the money in the matching fund.
Oh, and Dennis? One thing that folks like Gregory and Isolde are really resonating with is how this triple match multiplies the power of their giving. So, seven hundred fourteen thousand dollars from forty-five hundred listeners as of today? That’s great! Of course, we’re still hoping to hear from additional partners to get us across that finish line.
Dennis: And I just want to say to you, as a listener: “If you’ve benefited from FamilyLife Today, and you agree with our mission and what we stand for from the Scriptures, I’d like to challenge you to consider giving a generous gift, here at yearend, so we can take full advantage of this matching gift that’s been made possible.”
Here, a couple of years ago, Bob, you’ll remember we didn’t meet the match. That meant some money was turned back to donors that we had hoped to take full advantage of. So if you believe in what we’re doing—you agree with our approach here of being practical, biblical, and hopeful about marriage and family—then I’d like to challenge you to give, not only here in December, but I’d like you to consider becoming a Legacy Partner, which is a monthly donor. What it would mean is—your first gift this month, here in December, would be matched—and then you could give the other 11 months next year. You would keep FamilyLife standing firm for a biblical definition of marriage and family and one that equips millions of marriages and families around the world with God’s blueprints.
Bob: If you’d like to become a Legacy Partner or make a yearend contribution to FamilyLife, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. “Thanks,” in advance, for your support of this ministry.
Now, we gathered together a group of friends as a part of our 40th anniversary celebration this year—
Dennis: Not just any friends.
Dennis: These are stout Christ-followers, who are leaders in churches and ministries around the country.
Bob: In fact, three of these couples speak at our Weekend to Remember®getaways. Crawford and Karen Loritts joined us. Crawford, of course, is the senior pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia.
Dennis: Chris and Susan Willard also speak at the Weekend to Remember. He works with Leadership Network.
Bob: Jeff and Debbie Schreve joined us on this panel. Jeff is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas. He and Debbie speak at the Weekend to Remember.
Dennis: And Bryan and Stephanie Carter, whom we’ve tried to get to speak at the Weekend to Remember.
Bryan’s a good friend, but he must not be a good enough friend—we just / we’re after him, you know? He’s a great guy.
Bob: He has a lot of people asking him to speak.
Dennis: He is pastor of Concord Church in South Dallas and is one of the great Christian leaders across the country. That’s the reason why he can’t speak—he has too many demands, both at home and at his church right now.
Bob: We asked these couples to interact with us about how we can be full of grace and full of truth as we confront issues around marriage and family in our culture today.
Bob: The reason we asked all of you to come and be here is because ministering to marriages and families in our day is more challenging than it was a decade ago or two decades ago. You think back to the beginning of FamilyLife—we weren’t even thinking how to answer the questions that we have to answer today, because nobody was asking those questions 40 years ago.
Chris, you are working with churches all across the country. I would imagine, in different parts of the country, different churches are taking different approaches to how they’re going to address trying to be faithful to the gospel and address marriage and family issues. What are you seeing?
Chris: Well, I think that’s true. I think, as churches are trying to figure out how to respond, some are making mistakes because they’re trying things—and, “That’s actually not so bad,”—right?—or they’re stepping out and trying to do the best they can.
I think what I’m seeing is that more and more pastors and ministry leaders are able to say the phrase, LGBT community, without it getting stuck in their throat, which really is what happens to many of us—we feel like, in some ways, it’s a concession to just recognize that they’re there. But I think really the law of love calls us to recognize that they’re there, and that’s making a difference.
Bob: Crawford, you talked about that very fact in a message that you presented on this subject and how you had to confront it in your own heart.
Crawford: Yes; I did. I had to confront—I say this transparently here—there’s a bank that we do business with. The teller there / the young teller there was obviously part of the gay community. This one particular day, I just thought his mannerisms were extraordinarily exaggerated. I can recall—and to my own shame—that as I’m looking at this, I’m thinking to myself, “Come on, man—why does it have to be all this?” I remember the Holy Spirit hitting me like a ton of bricks—He said: “Crawford, who do you think you are? That may not be your struggle, but we all have a struggle.”
I was actually—shortly after that, I was preaching a message series at our church, “Thinking Right about What’s Going Wrong,” interestingly enough. I gave a message on thinking right about homosexuality—God and homosexuality. I opened the message up with that story. I was once again reminded that there are only six times in the Bible where God—six passages—where He speaks to homosexuality. Now, they’re extraordinarily clear; but I think the reason for that is very, very clear—God does not obsess over that sin. So, you know, it just puts it in perspective.
I think the way we engage that is—first of all, thinking right, theologically, about what we believe and putting it in its proper biblical perspective. I think that’s the first place to start.
Bob: Bryan, how has this issue presented itself in South Dallas, and how have you responded to it?
Bryan: I think we’ve all seen the culture shift so dramatically these last four to five years. As it shifted, as a pastor, I’ve been challenged in a number of ways.
I’ve been challenged in my preaching. I’ve been challenged in how we do ministry. I’ve had to preach, at least, two sermons in recent years—one after the President’s remarks about same-sex marriage and, secondly, after the Supreme Court decision—the Sunday following that, I felt responsible to talk to my church about this to help them understand that.
In the message that I preached on both occasions, the first part—that we owe the gay community an apology—was to talk about how we have so overemphasized this / we have categorized sins inappropriately and not in line with Scripture—but then, secondly, also to make sure we’re clear on what we stand for. I’ve had to do that, because I have to help my church and our community understand where we are.
John 1 says that Jesus was both full of grace and truth.
Bob: Right; right.
Bryan: We live in delicate times—where the church has emphasized truth—but to the sacrifice of grace. Ministry for today means: “As a believer, I have to figure out how I live with my gay neighbor next door.
“How do I love them with grace, although holding to the truth of God’s Word?” That’s the way we have to understand how to live this out on a daily basis.
Bob: So let me throw this out to any of you who want to respond—and ladies, please feel free to grab the microphone from your husband’s hands and talk here. I saw a T-shirt the other day, online, that said, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Everything was “X’d” out except “love.” I thought to myself, “Hmm.” I had a moment that, “There’s truth there, but I’m not sure it’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Something wanted to resonate and something was just at odds. What was I feeling? What’s going on when you see something like that?
Jeff: Well, I think that God hates the sin—He makes that very, very clear. The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. What I see is that, as far as grace and truth in our world today, we’re losing the truth.
One of the reasons I talk a lot about God’s plan for marriage and issues with gender questions and homosexuality is the kids growing up today—they see all of that on television. You know, if the church isn’t letting them know what the truth is—they just think it is fine.
Jeff: And you know, I think that we do need to speak the truth in love; but to me, what’s lacking in today’s world is the truth—holding up the truth—and that’s what the Scripture says in Jude. We’re going to have certain persons who are going to creep in unaware, and they turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny the Master. So that’s what resonates in my heart—we need to continue to tell people: “Hey, this is the out-of-bounds line that God set up. I didn’t set it up—God set it up, and He set it up for our protection and our good.”
A lady in our church—a young lady—she had lived in a lesbian lifestyle for seven years, got saved, got baptized / is now married. I had this conversation with her not too long ago, because somebody was coming out against me and saying: “Hey, you just need to preach love. It’s not about the sin; it’s about the love.” She said to me—she said: “Keep preaching the way you’re preaching; because people in that lifestyle need to be told the truth, because they believe a lie and their eyes need to be opened to truth.”
Chris: And I think there’s a timing issue as well. Susan and I live in Orlando. Our church is actually—is really about two blocks from the Pulse Nightclub—so we’re right there in the middle of this tragedy, frankly. I think what people tend to do sometimes—when something like that happens is—they’ll want to say, “While I don’t agree with their lifestyle, I want to express my sympathy.” Frankly, expressing your sympathy would have been enough—that might not be the time to lead with truth.
Maybe that was just merely a time to be a neighbor—who expresses love, and grief, and concern, and decides, “I want to try to help,”—not withstanding, certainly, our need to continue to tell the truth about what the Scriptures say. I think, sometimes, it’s a timing thing; right? Sometimes what we need to communicate is love and grace, and we can get to the truth in a different conversation.
Karen: I was involved—there’s a ministry in our church that helps certify those who want to be involved in foster care and adoption. A couple years ago, they asked me to do one of the sessions, where anybody in the city can come to our church to be certified. My message was going to be on marriage. I started in Genesis—talked about the role of the husband / the role of the wife—I did my session. When I got finished, I noticed that—when they got back into the main plenary sessions, that the couple—those two guys, who were sitting at the table, listening to me—they were a gay couple, but they stayed the whole day.
Well, I was really—I said: “My goodness! They stayed there and listened to me talk about God’s plan for marriage and what’s a man’s role / what’s a woman’s role.”
I was challenged to read this book called Messy Grace. The book of Messy Grace talks about, I believe, this young man, who grew up in a home where eventually the mother was a lesbian and she left that family and had a relationship with this woman. His father ended up being in a relationship with a man. But this guy got saved. He talks about and goes through that. I was convicted, because here’s the thing—when it says to love your neighbor as yourself, I think that we have dropped the ball because we put up all these—for me, anyway—I was putting all these barriers, saying, “This person’s going to go to hell, because he had the worst sin,” and all the rest of that stuff.
But I also was convicted that I need to go ahead and still teach that class again. Whoever comes—if they want to sit and listen to truth, then I’m not guilty—but I have to love them. Somewhere, along that journey, I believe there may come a time when they’ll remember those words from the Bible. So I’ve been convicted—that I think sometimes maybe the church has lost a little bit of relationship equity out of saying that “We’re just bearing truth.” We have to hold truth. For me, you have to hold truth, but also love them as my neighbor.
Debbie: Well, I wanted to just tag on something that she said—and that is that the key element, in my opinion, is the Holy Spirit. We have to be faithful to do our part, but the Holy Spirit has to enable us to love. We have to walk that out, and then the Holy Spirit has to do a work.
I think one thing that can kind of separate this kind of sin—because all sin is equal—but a lot of the time, people in this lifestyle are not willing to admit that that’s sin.
That’s the first step—is they don’t necessarily see that. People that are in adultery probably realize, “Yes; I probably shouldn’t be doing this”; you know? That recognition is different. I think that’s important, because the Holy Spirit has to do that work to open eyes.
Stephanie: I was going to come from the aspect of—we have three children—so we have a 14-year-old, a 12-year-old, and an 8-year-old. So even though they go to public and private schools, in their extracurricular activities, they’re meeting young children, or they’re meeting parents, who are a part of the LGBT community. In fact, our 14-year-old—when she was 12, she was at a camp—and she later told us that one of her roommates—she was at a ballet camp! One of her roommates was bisexual. Even though we had taken her through Passport2Purity®, she just still was like, “Why would she make this choice?”
Teaching your children how to even deal with children that they interact / that they come in contact with, who are a part of this community.
Bob: Yes; I want to ask you about that; because, increasingly in our day, the reality is young people are being—it’s either being modeled to them, or they’re being taught, or they’re growing up with the idea: “I should explore my sexuality. I should figure out what I am—whether I’m gay, straight, bi.” I don’t remember ever asking myself that question when I was 14 years old. We chuckle at that; but honestly, there is probably not a 14-year-old today who isn’t, at some level, wondering.
We talked to a mom, who said they had just moved to a new community. Her daughter had made friends with another girl. Mom said, “Why did you and that girl come together?” She said, “Because we’re the only two in my class who aren’t gay.”
We talked to another mom—a missionary staff / Cru staff—she said, “When the President issued his decision, our 14-year-old wanted to put the rainbow flag on their Facebook® profile.” “Why did you want to do that?” “Because everybody else in my class has done it. If I don’t, it’s conspicuous.”
This is the environment—so how do you coach a parent of a 12-, 13-, 14-year-old to deal with this?
Susan: I think you have to start before they hit 12.
Susan: I think talking about their identity, talking about how God sees their identity, talking about your morals and values—it doesn’t mean that just because you follow this timeline you will remain straight—they can waver—but I think the main thing is, as a parent, that you’ve taken them through those steps, and then, that you’re having those conversations.
It’s hard enough to have a conversation about sex, but now—what our kids are facing now, between Snapchat® and social media—you can say, “Well, I don’t let my kids have that.” They’re still exposed to it. Some of the things that our kids have been exposed to have been at church / have been at a private school—a Christian private school! So you can’t just put your child in a bubble and say: “You know what? I know they’re protected.”
Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to a panel of four couples: Bryan and Stephanie Carter, Crawford and Karen Loritts, Jeff and Debbie Schreve, and Chris and Susan Willard—all joining us to talk about how challenging it is to stand for truth in this culture and do it with wisdom and grace.
Dennis: I really wish our friends—and all four of these couples are great friends—I really wish they had an opinion. [Laughter] I mean seriously, Bob, what a great group of high-caliber Christ-followers, really giving us the essence of how they’re trying to equip their kids / how they’ve done that in their lifetimes to pass on their faith to their children.
I am just thinking, as I was listening to their answers, about Ephesians 5. I haven’t quoted this in awhile—he [Apostle Paul] says in verse 15, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” And the days are challenging—they really are challenging today. If you don’t know what your convictions are, what you think about the Bible, what you believe to be true from the Scriptures, you’re going to be a casualty in this culture. Unfortunately, so will your children.
I’d just encourage you: “If you haven’t been in the Book recently, pick up the best-seller of all times—the Bible—and start reading it. Then start asking God, ‘How would you use me in all that is taking place in this culture, beginning with our own family, but then beyond that to our community?’”
Bob: You know, earlier this year we had Dr. Al Mohler joining us on FamilyLife Today.
We were talking about a book he wrote this year called We Cannot Be Silent. In that book, he asked students to give him their toughest questions. They did, and he provided his answers to those very difficult questions. In fact, I think the answers to those questions are maybe the best thing about the book—certainly worth the price of the book just to get that. We do have Dr. Mohler’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of his book. Again, it’s called We Cannot Be Silent. The website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you’d like to order at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we want to wish a “Happy anniversary!” to David and Cinda Lea Sitler, who live in Crossville, Tennessee—
—23 years as husband and wife / a December bride, right before Christmas. Back 23 years ago, the Sitlers became husband and wife. “Congratulations!” on your anniversary today.
We think anniversaries are a big deal. That’s why we spent a lot of time this year celebrating our 40th anniversary, as a ministry. We really were celebrating the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of couples whose lives and marriages and families have been affected by the ministry of FamilyLife. We want you to know, when you make a yearend contribution in support of this ministry, you’re actually touching those families / those marriages through us. Together, we’re able to effectively provide practical, biblical help and hope for couples who are looking to thrive and for families who are trying to make it in a difficult culture.
I know many of you have been thinking about a possible yearend contribution in support of this ministry.
You can make your donation today by going to FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Tomorrow, we will continue to hear from our panel—the same panel we heard from today—discussing the challenges of living faithfully for Christ in a culture that has moved away from a biblical foundation. We’ll hear more about that tomorrow. Hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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