Delivering Truth in Relationships
About the Guest
If someone's sin must be confronted, it is best done in the context of relationship. How do you disciple followers of Christ, when the norms of the culture--not the Bible--define the worldview? Hear some respected pastors and their wives offer their perspective on this challenging topic.
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 disciple followers of Christ, when the norms of the culture–not the Bible–define the worldview? Hear some respected pastors and their wives offer their perspective on this challenging topic.
Delivering Truth in Relationships
Bob: When it comes to addressing sexual sin in our churches, is it possible that today we’ve developed some kind of a two-tiered sin grading system? Crawford Loritts says he thinks that may be the case.
Crawford: You know, it’s amazing to me—there are probably a lot of couples in our church who are living together. What will surprise you are the ones who have been believers for a long time, and they know the Scriptures, and they’re living together. But they view that as sin with a small “s,” because we have a culture that “Affirmation is everything.” The culture defines love as “Affirmation of choices and behavior.” But my line is—when it comes up, you have to speak truth to it; because the gospel presupposes tension. The tension between grace and truth is love.
You help no one by saying that their sinful behavior is okay.
I happen to think the chaos in the culture / the confusion in the culture is a bright and shining moment for us right now. What we need to do is not critique, critique, critique; but give gospel-deliverables and hold high the truth. You’ll never impact that which you are too impressed with or you’re trying to get to like you, but you have to authentically love them and get close to them so that they feel and sense the love of the Lord Jesus.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 20th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. It’s important for us, as Christians, to be consistent with what the Scriptures teach when it comes to our sexual ethic.
We’ll hear a conversation on that subject today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. Have you ever found yourself, listening to conversations taking place in the culture and somebody gets asked a tough question and you think, “Boy, I wonder how I would have answered that”? I mean—some of the questions that get tossed our way, as followers of Christ—there are no easy answers to those questions.
Dennis: If you were going to put together a panel to toss some hot potato questions to, the panel that we have on today’s broadcast, Bob, is about as good as it gets.
Dennis: I mean, these are seasoned veterans, who have been leaders of churches/organizations for decades. They’ve also been moms and dads / husbands and wives in the trenches with their own families.
Bob: We asked these couples to join us as a part of our 40th anniversary celebration.
All year long, we have been celebrating 40 years of ministry, here at FamilyLife. We’ve been doing that by highlighting the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of anniversaries that have been celebrated because of how God has used this ministry over the years. During the month of December, as we wrap up this 40th anniversary celebration, we’re wrapping it up with a special opportunity for listeners to stand with us and to express your support for this ministry.
We’ve had some friends, who have made a matching gift available. Our friend, Michelle Hill, has been keeping tabs on how the contributions are coming in as it relates to this matching gift. Michelle, give us an update; can you?
Michelle: I sure can, Bob. You know as listeners have heard, the matching gift total that we’re trying to meet is one and a quarter million dollars, and so far, as of today, we’ve received seven hundred twenty-four thousand dollars from four thousand five hundred listeners.
And you know, the consensus from listeners like Ellie, Maria, Benjamin and others is that this triple match is a great way for them to support what God is doing in marriages and families. If you agree, we’re inviting you to join thousands of your fellow listeners by donating at FamilyLife.com or calling 1-800-FLTODAY.
Dennis: And when you give, you make ministries like this possible on a daily basis. Recently, we had American Heritage Girls featured on FamilyLife Today. I wrote the CEO a question—I said, “Did our broadcast create any interest of moms and daughters wanting to start an American Heritage Girls club for girls?”—kind of a Girl Scouts type of club. She wrote me back and said, “Did it ever!” She said, “Your broadcast resulted in over 1,000 responses from listeners wanting either to start a club or to participate in one, all across the country.”
We do that, day in and day out, here on FamilyLife Today. We partner with other ministries and promote their causes / what they’re about. If you agree with that—with that approach of a ministry that partners with others aggressively, I need you to pick up a phone and call 1-800-FL-TODAY or go online to FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation, knowing that your donation will be a part of the match, here in December.
Bob: Our website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com; and our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. “Thanks,” in advance, for your support of this ministry.
Now, today, we’re going to hear from a panel—you mentioned this earlier, Dennis—friends of this ministry. Three of these four couples speak at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. The fourth couple—he pastors a large church in Dallas, Texas. We asked all four of these couples to come and talk about how we stand for truth, but stand with love, in this culture.
Bryan and Stephanie Carter joined us on the panel—he is the pastor at Concord Church in South Dallas. Crawford and Karen Loritts were also here—he pastors Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia. Jeff and Debbie Schreve were here with us—he’s the pastor at First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas. And Chris and Susan Willard were here—and Chris works with Leadership Network, working with churches all across the country.
We talked about the issues of marriage and family. Crawford Loritts made an interesting observation in the middle of our conversation—he said, “I’m not sure church-goers today are being taught how to think biblically about the issues we’re facing.”
Crawford: Swirling around all of this is that we do not think critically enough, or we do not think distinctively biblically enough.
That's part of the problem—even in fine, Bible-teaching churches. It is a framework of thinking about these things. We've allowed the culture to give us the glossary of terms and their definitions.
So, for example, this whole issue of identity. In the Bible, identity is declarative—identity is outside of yourself—it's what God says about you. It is not how you feel about yourself. But we assume that, because I have these feelings and I have these inclinations—your inclination is not your identity. Identity is declarative.
As Christians, we have this messy thinking. It causes us to play into these things, and we make a set of assumptions that we shouldn't even make about those things. I think that's a huge piece.
I want to get back to something else also. You know, we don't do tensions really well as Christians.
We are prone to be binary. We don't do tensions real well. And yet the gospel presupposes tension. The tension between grace and truth is love—that's a definition of love. It's abuse to be on either side of that tension. I think that's where we have to live. You help no one—you help no one—by saying that their sinful behavior is okay. You help no one with that.
The culture defines love as “Affirmation of choices and behavior.” Well, God doesn't define unconditional love that way. And yet we have to be careful that we're not held hostage, and our message is not held hostage, and the gospel's not held hostage to that; because if that's deliverable, then we just lost the power of the gospel itself to deliver the person, although they're attracted to us.
Bob: Yes. Chris.
Chris: Yes; I think, too, we have to remember that truth travels best over the path of relationship. Sometimes this sort of lobbing truth from afar into the cultural conversation is not very helpful.
Chris: So, you know, we wonder why we're not being very effective in making headway in this area. It's because we're thinking of it as "us" and "them" and forgetting that, for many of us, we're one or two degrees separated from someone who—I mean, in this room, here, we have sons, and daughters, and siblings, and cousins, who are in the LGBT community. Yet, we still sort of lob truth from afar as opposed to engaging the best we can, where we can.
I have just found, in my own life, if you want to communicate a message to me that I need to hear, it's better if it comes through the pathway of a loving relationship as opposed to some sort of message from afar.
Bob: I'm going to turn the corner to a different subject here; but before I do, just a quick question—somebody calls First Baptist, Texarkana, and says: "We're interested in coming this weekend. I just want to know—are you guys a gay-affirming church?"
Jeff: If I got the call, I would say: "We want you to come. We would love for you to come. We're going to teach you what the Bible says about relationships, and how God set up life, and what He says will make your life go and good, and what He says is going to hurt you." I think setting it up that way is very, very important. I've said before, from the pulpit, "I want you to come if you're struggling like this, because we want to love you and we want to always tell you the truth."
One of the things, too, I think about preaching from the pulpit—you're not talking about anyone in particular—it's not the same as a one-on-one conversation.
You are just talking to the masses. Adrian Rogers had a lady get mad at him, one time, about his sermon. He said: "Hey, I'm shooting in a barrel. It's not my fault if you're down in there." [Laughter] I think that's really true. We're presenting things: “This is not to you. This is to all of us—this is what God says if you want to experience His joy, His peace, and His love.”
Bob: Let me turn the corner to this. We'll start on the far end again. A couple comes to First Baptist, Texarkana. They've been there for three months. There's kind of a little buzz because they're living together, and everybody in town knows they're living together. At what point does that come up or get addressed, or do you leave it alone, or what do you do?
Jeff: I think it comes up when they want to join, or if they want to serve, or something like that. Then we would talk to them. If I get to know them, then I would talk to them about that.
I've had wonderful experiences of marrying people like that.
We did an I Still Do® event just last year. The guy wasn't married—living with his girlfriend—been living with her for almost ten years / two kids. I said, "Eric, it's time." He said, "Can I do it at the I Still Do event, where we repeat the vows?” I said, “Okay, but I need an honorarium.” No! I didn’t! [Laughter] I didn’t say that. I said, “That would be great!” We all repeated vows, just like we did at the FamilyLife conference. He said that to his spouse-to-be for the first time, and they were married that night.
Bob: Bryan, you’ve had a similar situation to what Jeff’s describing. You’ve done this twice. You’re about to do it a third time; right?
Bryan: Right. A few years ago, I was just challenged by the whole issue of cohabitation: “How do we address it, biblically?” I decided to preach on it. I began talking to my team, and I preached a sermon on the truth about cohabitation.
I began to address it, biblically, in terms of what God teaches about cohabitation.
At the end of the message, I said: “We have three options now that you know the truth. One—move out if you’re in it / move out of relationship. Two—move away, which means help teach your children and your friends God’s plan and not just what the culture says. The third option is to marry now, in 90 days. Meet me after church at 2:00 in Room 100 if you’re living together. We’ll have you married in 90 days. We’ll put you through counseling / we’ll give you a free wedding. We’ll take care of the cake / tuxedo—
Bob: A free wedding?
Bryan: —at the church.
Bryan: So they have a couple hours to make a decision. There were quite the conversations happening. [Laughter] Some guys picked the wrong day to come to church! [Laughter] Because they had no idea what I was going to address. That afternoon—we’ve done this twice—and now, we have our third group that’s in counseling. We have 29 couples that will be married next month. [Laughter] [Applause]
Chris: You might have some people moving in together so that they can get a free wedding. [Laughter] You know what I’m saying? That could be a good strategy right there!
Bob: “Free cake, free tuxedo—we just move in together; we got it!”
Chris: That’s it!
Bob: Crawford, how has this come up at Fellowship in Roswell?
Crawford: Well, it comes up. I think, by and large, our folks—if they’ve been around our church long enough—know where we stand on that. A lot of it is under the radar. You know, it’s amazing to me—there are probably a lot of couples in our church who are living together—a lot. What will surprise you are the ones who have been believers for a long time, and they know the Scriptures, and they’re living together. But they view that as sin with a small “s,” because we have a culture that “Affirmation is everything.”
Crawford: “Affirming my choices is everything. So, you don’t judge me. There are a lot of things worse than that.”
Again, it gets down to discipleship, and counseling, and stuff; but my line is: “When it comes up, you have to speak truth to it.” I love what Bryan’s done—in fact, I’m thinking about how that might be a church-growth strategy at our church to do that. [Laughter] That’s good; yes.
Chris: Well, we had a situation our pastor was sharing with us. I serve as an elder at our church. Our pastor was describing a situation—a young woman, who was in our worship team, who was confronted; because she was living with her boyfriend. She was asked to step down from the team—which she understood, and she agreed to do. But her response was: “Well, we’re going to get married soon. After we get married, I can join the team again, right?”
What he, I think very wisely, revealed was that that’s really not the issue; because all this time she knew that what she was doing was out of bounds. Before she’s able to step back into the worship team, she’s going to need to demonstrate that she’s walking with the Lord and she’s walking in truth.
Bob: It’s not a behavior issue—it’s a heart issue.
Chris: Yes; right. So it’s not, “Well, okay. We got married; so now we’re good.” It’s revealing something else, and I think it’s important for us to recognize that.
Bob: Sixty percent of those who will get married this year have lived together prior to marriage. It’s the new norm in our culture. Fewer than ten percent of those getting married today are virgins when they say, “I do.” We know, when we’re talking to engaged couples at the Weekend to Remember getaway, we’re talking to folks—more who are living together / more who are having sex than are not. We have to understand how we address this.
Karen, what were you going to say?
Karen: Yes; I want to say this too—this is my twelfth year in the baseball chapel for the Atlanta Braves.
These are the girlfriends, the fiancées, and the wives that I meet with during home games during the season. A couple years ago, it hit me that I’m talking about marriage from the Bible and all of that—and some of these girls are living with the guys, even the ones who don’t have a ring yet. I asked the Bible chapel leader / the male whom I report to—I said: “What’s with the women and the guys / your players living together, and they’re coming to Bible studies? He’s coming to chapel every Sunday, doing the Bible study; and she’s coming to Bible study and sitting here with the Bibles and all that.”
Then my leader told me: “This is the thinking of these young people. ‘Because’—let’s say—‘Sally and I live together during the season and throughout the year, we’re a couple. We just happen not to be married, and we’re committed; otherwise, I would be a groupie and that would be a sin.’” To me, that was crazy! It was a lack of training and a lack of—but to them, it’s commitment because “We’re committed to just the two of us.”
Bob: I’m going to ask each one of you, and we’re going to wrap things up here.
By the way, this is helpful. We care about this passionately. So what would your—as we’re looking at how we do this effectively in the coming decade / in the coming 20 years, I want to know what your charge to us would be as we go forward. This charge needs to be about 30 seconds each, but everybody gets to offer one; okay? You have yours?
Bryan: I would say this—I would say: “This is our time. Despite what we see happening in the culture, the gospel works best in dark situations. Everything that we see—the redefinition of marriage, the sexual revolution / all of this—is God calling the church to be the church. So FamilyLife—what they’re doing is exactly what God called us to do.
“Three quick things: We have to be courageous. We can’t step back—we have to be engaged in this season. We have to be courageous. We have to be creative—we have to find creative ways, not just to call out the sin, but help people get a pathway out of the sin situation.
“And then last, we have to be connected. It has to be about relationships—social media/technology—using everything that we can to connect people to the truth of God’s Word.”
Bob: That’s good. Stephanie?
Bob: Just “Amen,” on that? [Laughter] I tell you what—that’ll preach; right there!
Stephanie: Yes; that will preach right there—I live with him / I worship with him. I’ll also say: “Be very intentional, especially with your children.”
Bob: Yes. Chris.
Chris: I love when Jesus was talking to His followers about loving our neighbors. They said, “Lord, who is my neighbor?” I think my charge would be to ask the Lord: “Lord, who is my neighbor? Who are the people in my life—who I can personally care about and minister to—who are perhaps in a different community or view the world differently than I do?”
Bob: Good. Susan.
Susan: Well, of course, we need to be connected to the people in our lives and ask the Holy Spirit constantly/regularly: “Show me the words to say. Help me in this situation.
“What is it you want me to say right now? I just need to obey and listen to the Lord.”
Crawford: I happen to think the chaos in the culture / the confusion in the culture is a bright and shining moment for us right now and that what we need to do is not critique, critique, critique; but give gospel deliverables and hold high the truth. You’ll never impact that which you’re too impressed with or you’re trying to get to like you, but you have to authentically love them and get close to them so that they feel and sense the love of the Lord Jesus. Compromise will not do it, and being too enamored with the response of an audience will not do it. Authentic love will, and finding out how they respond to the truth of the gospel and going there with it.
Bob: That’s good. Karen.
Karen: I would think, also, as we talk about truth and all of that, it’s that we need to equip parents to talk to their kids about how to face these things that they’re going to be faced with in their schools / in their communities—whether it’s resources or whatever. I would love to see something like that to equip our culture.
Debbie: I think the most important thing for me, personally, is just continually pray for God’s wisdom and for discernment—and to know when it’s an edifying word and when it just needs to be a hug—and to just use God’s discernment in that. The Holy Spirit would lead you and guide you to do that.
Jeff: I think that the prayer that the disciples prayed in Acts, Chapter 4, where they said, “Lord, give us boldness,” I think that’s huge today. There are two words that we use in our church: “shine” and “share.” It just kind of encapsulates what we’re to do on this earth—shine for Christ: “Let your light so shine among men…”—and then be bold enough to share the truth.
Always speak it in love—but not to hide it under a bushel—but to let it out and let people know: “Hey, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Unless you come His way, you’re not going to come to the Father.”
Bob: I am grateful that we’re allies in this work together. I appreciate these folks so much. Would you thank them? [Applause]
Bob: Well again, we’ve been listening to a conversation that took place a few months ago as we had friends of this ministry joining us. We talked about the fact that standing for truth in this culture is not easy, but it’s still the right thing to do.
Dennis: There are a lot of thorny issues today, Bob, that weren’t on the rosebush three or four decades ago, when we started FamilyLife. Forty years is a generation—a lot of things can change in a generation.
I just want to remind our listeners: “When you support FamilyLife Today, you are supporting this kind of messaging occurring on a regular basis on this station. Frankly, here at yearend, we’d like to hear from you if you want this broadcast to continue standing strong in this community.”
Bob: You can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to make an online donation, or call 1-800-FLTODAY to donate over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
By the way, when you go to our website, check out the book that Dr. Al Mohler has written called We Cannot Be Silent. He offers answers to some of these tough questions that we’ve heard addressed today. In one section of the book he took a couple of dozen questions from students, and he offered a biblical response to each of those questions. I think that’s a great part of this book. Again, you can order it from us at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 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, tomorrow, we’re going to be tackling different kinds of questions. We had an opportunity, not long ago, to get together with a number of listeners and had an informal Q&A session with Dennis, and Barbara, and me. We’ll spend time hearing some of our listeners’ questions and our responses to those questions tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
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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