In or Out Really Doesn’t Matter

As long as our focus is on attending (or not attending) religious services, whether we're reacting to them or thinking they are our only hope, we will easily miss the incredible ways Jesus is knitting together his family in the world. Brad and Wayne talk about a recent LA Times article about "Walking Away From Church" as well sort through a host of listener emails to talk about why people are no longer finding religious institutions relevant to their lives. They also discuss the current conflict in our culture over sexual orientation, the recent number of suicides and bullying of children sorting through sexual issues and why evangelical Christians are the most reticent to come to a table and fight for the protection of young people, even if they do not condone their lifestyles.


  1. Hey Guys, just a thought or two. Why,for the most part,are “christians” so self-rightious and condeming ? Is homosexuality a greater sin than these ? Any focus on our sins this side of the cross leads only to self-rightiousness or condemnation. It makes it impossible to freely live in a growing, dynamic relationship as a free-willed child of our Heavenly Father. May we truly walk in His love as He intended. Gman.

  2. It is amazing how the topic of homosexuality steals “the thunder” of the point. People are looking for a deeper relationship with God, and leaving organized religion does not always accomplish that because they continue to carry organized religion in their hearts. Getting people to know how to have a deep relationship with the Lord is the goal of all genuine ministry.

    That being said, I do want to address some points on the hot buttons of sin and homosexuality. It is wrong to think that all sin is the same. Sexual sins are distinctively different than other sins such as greed, hate, gossip or lying. No sin hinders us from the atoning work of Jesus Christ, but all sins have consequences still in this life that the cross does not remove. Sexuality is the covenant action that joins a man and a woman together as one flesh. This is why Paul said fornication with a harlot joins the man with the harlot (1 Cor. 6:16). Paul makes the distinction between sins:

    “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (1 Cor 6:18 NIV)

    Contracts are not covenants. Covenants join two together as one, which is why Christ dwells in us through His Covenant given to us. This topic of sexual covenant is extremely well explained by Shelia Cooley in her book, “Why the Hymen?” which she explains has no other biological purpose than for the shedding of blood as a seal that is broken in a virgin on her wedding night. She uses the story of Abraham’s covenant with God (Gen 15) with the animal sacrificed, cut in half and the two of them passing through the flesh as the type of sexual consummation. Likewise, the Jews cutting their foreskins off was a shedding of blood with the flesh passing over the flesh.

    All sexual sin, therefore, is an abuse and perversion of the blood covenant. That makes homosexuality, fornication, bestiality, masturbation – and any other sexual act outside of a marriage covenant – perverse.

    What is left out of this discussion, however, is the criminality of such perversions. It is sin when consenting adults engage in sexual perversion, but it is criminal when pedophiles seduce young boys or girls. And this is a large part of what causes youth to be confused with their sexuality. Another large part is a society that encourages the confusion by not making the distinction that all sexuality outside of marriage is perversion.

    Wayne says we should love the sinners while letting them know that we do not condone the sin. Amen. We are not able to untangle the sexual confusion in others. Only the Lord through His Spirit can do that. But exaltation of virtue and the clear distinction of perversion by a society will reduce that confusion. Likewise, criminal behavior needs to be clearly understood as criminal with penal consequences.

    Christians can speak the truth in love, but we need to remember that error revealed hurts and only truth will heal.

  3. I love the remarks about how wemeet together ‘as a family”..personally I’m working on an agenda for thanksgiving with an order of service…since my family will be gathering tigether. In order to avoid confusion I thinka bulletin is in order enumerating who will do what when! The day always goes so much smoother if we are all on the same page.

    my son is goping to stand at the front door and hand a copy of the thanksgiving bulletin to each of the relatives as they enter.

    if I’ve done my planning thooughly and of course prayerfully, it should be a fulfilling experience.

    My question Wayne, is how can you have
    Thanksgiving without organization..doesn’t it degenerate into confusion and anarchy?

  4. What a great conversation today! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. More & more my husband & I are running into people who are outside church .. many having never been inside it .. who are far more ‘spiritual’ & Godly than most of those we knew w/in it. I love the fresh perspective that many of these give to stale old ideas that I, most of the time w/o even realizing it, still find myself in! I loved hearing about the convo w/ the ‘obviously homosexual’ guy from the publishing world. Ahh, fresh air, fresh air; I so enjoy getting deep breaths of it!!!

  5. The emphasis on a personal relationship with Father is just so profound and thank you Wayne and Brad for your constant and foundational reference to it.
    Obviously “grace’ is the central key to this personal relationship thing, but the term seems to mean different things to different people. Why does such a single (seemingly simple) word evoke such a range of perspectives? A potential explanation on this very point, comes form the early chapters of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (which I’ll admit is a rather unorthodox theological text). It contains a really fascinating discussion on how people tend to see things from the perspective of what something “is” or alternatively, from the perspective of what something “does”. It is not so much an issue of the “correct” perspective, but rather that both are important to a complete understanding.

    I’m thinking this insight regarding perspectives might be helpful in understanding the fullness of “grace”. We are so familiar with use of the word based on what it “is”, i.e. God’s love, mercy, unmerited favour etc etc.. So, what about the “what it does” bit? There is a terrific clue on this point in 2Co 1:12 (Amp) “the grace God (the unmerited favor and merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, and keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian virtues)”.
    Maybe if we can really get our heads around both what grace is, AND what it does/means, we could all relax a little and let God do what God does best!

  6. I don’t agree with the conclusion of the article that conservative politics is driving young people away from the church. If that was the case, there are plenty of churches that would support a liberal political agenda and they would be flocking to those churches. The Barna research doesn’t support their conclusion. The LA Times is using this to blame religious conservatives for destroying the church. I like your discussion but the article is BS.

  7. 2Co 1:12 (Amp) “the grace of God (the unmerited favor and merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, and keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian virtues)”.
    Sorry, this is the corrected 2Co ref, (the “of” was missing).

  8. I agree that organised religion is driving many of our young people away from the close & loving relationship they can have with God. This leaves it up to us as parents to do the job. I am now 51 years old, & at 19 i decided that organised religion was drawing me further from a close relationship with God rather than closer to him.. I now recieve my continued relationship with Him, & other like minded christians through sites like this one, & by seeing the wonders of his works around me everyday. As a parent, I have not raised my children in a church, as i have only set foot in one on very rare occasions, ussually having to do with extened family matters. I have however raised my children to understand & believe that God loves them, & has a plan for each of their lives. I have also told them that this does not include judging others for their believes or behavior. That is God’s job, & in no way would I equate my understanding & love with his, as well as his ability to forgive. I strive everyday to reach the love, understanding, & ability to forgive & not judge others that he teaches us, while understanding with great humility that I will never reach his ability. I have a very stronge belief in the fact that it is not our right to judge others. Perhaps in some people’s minds my belief in this is just a little too strong. I can’t help but repetedly be reminded in my own mind of the statments in the Bible about judging otheres, ” Judge not lest ye be judged.”, & ” Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone.” perhaps these are not the most important things the Bible has to say, but ot me they are very important, & one of the reasons I was driven from organised religion. It seems to focus too much on being judgemental, rather than spreading the love of God for all his people, those who believe & those who don’t. It brings him great sadness to know that some people do not have faith in him, & I don’ think we help by judging those very people. It is our job as believers to show that love to non-believers in the hope that they will through the love they see in us come to a relationship with God that will bring joy to not only them, but also to our Savior.

  9. I think it was CS Lewis who said self-righteousness is closer to hell than prostitution. The lust of the heart being our diabolical self. I can easily identify with this conclusion!

  10. I LOVED your quote from Billy Graham!!! 1965 wow.
    Wayne, I ALSO loved the fact that you came to know Jesus at a crusade where “fear” was preached… I did too. More proof that God works ALL THINGS together for the good of those who love H…im. He Who began the good work in you will be faithful to complete it.
    I feel as though God is continuously bringing people to knowledge of Him and REAL relationship in spite of all the churchianity we humans try to push on each other.

  11. Putnam and Campbell are promoting their book, “American Grace”. They might also be trying to justify or prop up their conclusions from the book (which is that American Christianity is ultimately flexible and tolerant of other belief systems). Unfortunately (for them) the book came out amidst protests against a mosque in New York and a threat to burn the Koran.

    I think their thesis that the church suddenly became politically conservative in the 80s is all wet and the idea that young people are leaving church because the preacher said something insulting about gays is totally confused. Yes, churches do tend to be gatherings of like-minded people but there are both conservative and liberal churches in even the smallest towns in America. The “exodus” is more about being bored than being insulted.

    If Putnam and Campbell were correct then young people would be rushing headlong to the Episcopal church, wouldn’t they?

  12. This was one of those podcasts that causes me to wish that I could just spend an afternoon just talking to Wayne and Brad. Thanks.

  13. The Billy Graham quote got me thinking that Christ is dispersing His Church much the same as He did the first generation Christians. They were very much uncomfortable and as they moved apart – the church spread. It was persecution then, today it is religious obligation and self righteousness that makes people get up and go. Perhaps this is the tool that will be used today as persecution was the tool for the first century brother and sisters. I love the concept that the churches today should be focused on emptying the pews rather than filling them. Whatever He uses, the powers that be will remain angry. Make no mistake – there will be many a heartbroken churchgoer that will have questions as to why their world is collapsing. May you point the way to freedom – the Man Christ Jesus.

  14. If one looks at the etymology of the word “church,” you’ll find that the word has always meant a building since the root of the word began back in the middle ages. However, you don’t find the word “church” in the scriptures. You find the word “ecclesia.” The word wasn’t co-opted by a Sunday morning program. We’ve been trying to reclaim a principle by redefining the word. Maybe we should let the building have its name and go back to calling the gathering just that… “the gathering.” Just a thought.

  15. Excellent podcast guys. Loved the diversity of discussion and the conclusions. I’d like to add a left handed comment regarding the thunder. I think when we make reference to the thunder (even in a joking manner) as being God’s anger shows that many of us still have a paradigm (ever so slightly) of that angry God. May I submit that the thunder could actually be God’s applause!!!??? The more I think about it the more it makes sense to me. Many will have heard the comical rendition of the story of Paul and Silas who where imprisoned and singing praises to God. God was listening to their praises and started tapping His foot on His footstool (which is earth), and the tapping caused the earthquake that set them free!! So then, to stretch this thought further, could it be that the earthquake and thunder that accompanied Jesus death on the cross was actually God’s rejoicing that indeed it ‘was finished’ and that finally mankind was again reconciled back to God? Just a thought …..

  16. I love Joyce’s comment about seeing the thunder as God’s applause!

    Thanks for the podcast.
    The expectation that one should stay in the “local church” with the presumption that that is all that God has provided for us is one of those big unexamined presumptions.
    But it is very difficult to reexamine and question the things we have grown up with – especially when the pattern has been around for 1700 years!

    Richard Wilson

  17. “The “exodus” is more about being bored than being insulted. ”

    I agree. Though I don’t think current politics/culture are removed from the situation. I for one have had a lot of troubles getting real answers concerning how to deal with modern social problems from the churches and groups I’ve attended. Even recently I find people telling me “you’re thinking too much”.

    Even from this podcast I still can’t walk away with an example of how to love my gay friend while not condoning his sex life. What does that look like? I can’t seem to draw any comparable analogy. Good effort though.

  18. Abandoning the word ‘churh’ for ‘gathering’ is an interesting one. I tend to do that in conversation already (or use community instead). When the KJV was translated that was one of the stipulations – to use the word church rather than something else (like assembly). Pity the bible has kept with the church translation. Kind of forces the hand to reclaim the word church rather than restranslate eklesia.

    Love the conversation!

  19. Kiel said,

    “Even from this podcast I still can’t walk away with an example of how to love my gay friend while not condoning his sex life. What does that look like? I can’t seem to draw any comparable analogy. Good effort though.”

    This is yet another of those areas where there are very few clear markers. It’s sort of like asking, What does love look like to you? You know it when you see it, and when you don’t.

    Allow me to share, though, an example from my own life. In college, I became good friends with another member of our campus “church” group, RB. Upon graduation, he admitting struggling with homosexual feelings and it was no shock to me. At the time, I had no hesitation about spending time with him and we remained good friends as our schedules allowed, although we went to different sunday groups after graduation. My inner Pharisee told me that it was OK to hang out with him because he was struggling against the sin. A few years later, however, he told me that he was moving in with another man in an active sexual relationship. Thinking that I was fulfilling some mandate of scripture in dealing with a brother who was choosing to live in sin, I cut off all communications with him entirely. Total shun. (Although, I ‘mercifully’ let it be known that the door was open IF he gave up the sinful living arrangement and returned to his fight against sin.. Oi.) Fourteen years later, I re-connected with him over lunch. I asked his forgiveness for those years of rejection. He forgave readily. But 14 years is a long time and difficult to overcome. He is understandably cautious. We both are. I guess what I am saying here is that it is clear to me that the 14 year shunning was not what God wanted for either of us. For those who have friends struggling with gay orientation, don’t shut them out like I did. He never asked me to applaud his living arrangements or otherwise approve of his choices and he didn’t walk away from me. Somehow I thought I was being spiritually mature, that I could somehow bring ‘holy pressure’ to bear and force him to repent. All I did was forfeit 14 years of opportunities to love him like God loves me. It makes me wonder whether I really cared about him or cared mostly about maintaining the Rules and my good standing. I am in no position to tell you what loving your gay friend looks like, but I can definitely suggest to you what it does NOT look like.

  20. Hello friends, a friend of mine told me about this website 3 years ago, I dont visit much but from time to time i just stop by to read some of Wayne’s articles and 2 weeks ago i started listening to the pod casts. What i really like about the views here is the honesty. I have not been active in any “organised church” for over 10 years, though i do meet with some friends every now and then to share Father’s love. I believe that God is able to work out his purpose in all his children by any means he deems fit, we all just need to trust him totally and be confident in his love. God is still very much in control and He surely rules in the affairs of men, he works all things according to the counsel of His own will. Abide in Him!

  21. I came to Jesus at 16 with a very messed up life and sexual identity. Due to the severe abuse I went through, I wanted NOTHING to do with men…period.

    The Spirit taught me to not be trapped by labels. When my homosexual friends would demand to know what I was I now, I would tell them… “I am a Christosexual…my entire sexuality is under the control of Christ. Unless I have a Christian marriage, I am going to stay celibate.”

    Jesus showed me the way OUT through forgiveness and letting him heal and restore the broken pieces inside me. It was not an instant process. I did do what I could do…commit myself to celibacy and trust Him to change my desires into His desires. He did completely change me.

    Eventually I married a wonderful Christian man and have 3 kids….something I felt would be totally impossible for me when I got saved. One of the first things the Spirit taught me was if what I believed was different than the Word than I would have to change, not disregard or distort the Word. God did love me right where I was at, but His love did not abandon me there.

    After I was set free God lead me into a counseling ministry with homosexuals. I could share some amazing stories with you. The love of God shed abroad in our hearts will make us caring, compassionate, and vocal against the abuse of any person.


    PS I am almost 60 and God has lead me out of the organized church.

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