Turn or Burn?

Churches must tackle issues of sex

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal spiritual columnist.  I recently ran across this quote from singer Butch Hancock about growing up in Texas: “We were taught two main things (in church).

“1. God loves you, and he’s gonna send you to hell.

“2. Sex is bad and nasty and dirty and awful, and you should save it for the one you love.”

If you spend enough time in church, you’ll hear a sermon with a mixed message. In most churches, the “Turn or Burn” preaching has cooled off. Not many pastors believe you can scare the hell out of anyone — and lead them into heaven with some old-fashioned fire and brimstone.

But the subject of sex often has people in the pulpit tongue-tied.

The consequences should be obvious: sexual diseases, unwanted pregnancies and, yes, sometimes even plain-old broken hearts.

For many people, a relationship is never quite the same after they’ve slept together — no matter how sophisticated and mature many of us claim to be.

Most sermons on sex dwell on the pitfalls. They go on and on — dire consequence after dire consequence, minute after minute, which seems like hour after hour.

People squirm in their seats. Some loosen their collars; others check their watches. It reaches the point where they all wish they were somewhere else, including the person giving the sermon.

Finally, the pastor finishes it off by saying: “But in marriage, sex is a great, God-ordained thing.”

And everyone is relieved and repeats, “A-MEN!”

“If you don’t talk about sex in church, then we are denying who we are,” said Bishop F. Josephus Johnson II from the House of the Lord. “Society has reduced sex to an act only, and it’s easy to get stuck on just the act. Then suddenly, people start talking about it being filthy and nasty.”

Johnson said he has sat through more than a few dreary sermons about sex.

“Too often, the guy in the pulpit acts like he’s never had any problems,” said Johnson. “Are you kidding? We all battle lust at some point. I admit that I do. I need to pray, I need to sometimes repent. If you come across like this has never been an issue in your life, no one will listen.”

Johnson said the biblical word for sex is “ `know’… and that’s appropriate. Sex should be one of the ways we get to know our spouse. In the context of marriage, it is the most wonderful, repeatable thing on Earth.”

The Rev. Ronald Fowler, senior pastor of Arlington Church of God, said you can’t ignore the consequence of sex.

“So many people have been damaged by it,” he explained. “Sex when they are too young. Abusive relationships. So many people have been sexually violated. This is not a trip to Disneyland. When you don’t value the other person in a sexual relationship — and that can even happen in marriage — you have problems that just don’t go away.”

Both pastors believe the church should be there to help the healing, not pile on more guilt when people who have been hurt sexually come through the doors. That’s because people have to deal with the sexual damage before they can have the kind of sexual relationship that God wants for them.

“It really is a celebration,” said Fowler. “But we have to understand that too many people are carrying around guilt, shame and pain.”

Johnson talked about the sermons where sex is reduced to simply “an act to produce children.”

“That’s not what God intended,” he said. “Read the Bible; it’s filled with very passionate people.”

Here’s a sermon seldom heard on this topic: How do you handle it when your partner is not on the same sexual-experience level?

Another one: How do you deal with the sexual baggage in your past?

Or how about this: How do you deal with the sexual history of your spouse? How much do you need to know? Why is it tempting to want to know everything?

“We ignore this,” said Johnson. “We have to deal with it head on, and be real if the church is to do the job that God intended.”



  1. Christy Said:

    I agree… and we gotta get the message out to the youth… they are already getting messages from other sources

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kodiak Said:

    Oh my puritan ears. 🙂
    True be truthful, sex is a gift from God for recreation long before God gave the command to be fruitful and multipy.
    A great book for married couples and engaged couples to use as a good devotional is Dr. Kevin Leman’s “Sheet Music”. A practical guide to Christian sex blends humor, warmth, and practical advice to address a wide spectrum of issues on how to improve the quality of a sexual relationship. learn more http://www.drleman.com/books-sex/sheet-music.php#loadAnchor

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