In recent days there has been a dust up concerning President Obama’s choice of Atlanta Pastor Louie Giglio to deliver an inaugural prayer. The crux of the situation is this: Giglio was chosen because he leads a college ministry that fills stadiums with young people and, among other things, in recent years has commendably addressed the issue of ending the human sex trade.
He was disinvited and subsequently withdrew from the inauguration because a sermon he gave some 15-20 years ago surfaced wherein he proclaimed audacity of hope in God to save people from the sin of homosexual behavior.
While Democrats normally are fond of telling the Church of Jesus Christ to stay out of people’s bedrooms, they were willing to make an exception for the sexual sin of forced prostitution. They were not happy, however, to learn that this “Evangelical” golden boy had a dark past of proclaiming the whole counsel of God during the Clinton administration.
Following Giglio’s withdrawal from President Obama’s Inaugural festivities a host of Evangelical luminaries not only came to Giglio’s defense, but also, used the incident as a teachable moment on the descent of this liberal administration and of the culture as a whole away from the Christian World View.
The tenor seemed to be that Giglio was merely another Bible believing Preacher of God’s Word who was being persecuted for his faithful Gospel witness in a crooked and dark generation.
However, a closer examination of part of Giglio’s letter to the President raises different questions,
“Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.”
~ Louie Giglio (From the Jan. 10th 2013 statement made on his Passion City Blog)
The question that pops into the minds of many Evangelical Pastors is, “Are we allowed to de-prioritize parts of God’s word?”
It should be pointed out before we go further that Giglio seems to be speaking about his public ministry, and that it may well be that he simply chooses to teach on this topic using different platforms: individually, in small groups, or in counseling sessions.
The burning question remains whether a preacher, who is by definition a public teacher of God’s word, has the option of 20 years of silence on a subject that has been very much in the public eye for those 20 years? Do Pastors have the option of emphasizing certain parts of God’s truth while leaving other parts for some other guy? If so, most would embrace, as Giglio has done, God’s truth on the sex trade: that it is wrong to enslave people for the purpose of sexual exploitation, while staying away from the lightning rod issues. After all, everyone, inside and outside of the Church can get behind that one, even the Obama administration. This sort of justification of publicly ignoring God’s teaching on a massive topic of the day seems dangerously convenient.
Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary does well to point this out on his blog, he writes:
“A fair-minded reading of that statement indicates that Pastor Giglio has strategically avoided any confrontation with the issue of homosexuality for at least fifteen years. The issue “has not been in the range of my priorities,” he said. Given the Bible’s insistance that sexual morality is inseparable from our “ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ,” this must have been a difficult strategy. It is also a strategy that is very attractive to those who want to avoid being castigated as intolerant or homophobic. As this controversy makes abundantly clear, it is a failed strategy.”
Preachers must be careful to not become culture chameleons. In the 90’s it was the thing to do to be as some put it, a “culture warrior”, in these days it is much more popular for Evangelicals to speak to issues of social justice and the environment rather than sexual morality.
The irony is that Louie Giglio is being defended and used as an illustration by the very people who have not shied away from the tough issues of the day. Indeed, it is fair to say that Giglio is being defended by preachers who themselves would never be invited to the Inauguration by the Obama administration.
Relevance in preaching is not about movie quotes or wardrobe, but rather exposing issues of current import to the radiant light of the Gospel.
If it is true that Giglio has not publically addressed the sin of homosexual behavior from the Bible in the last 15-20 years it means that he has not taught God’s truth on this particular issue to the multitudes of young people who have attended his “Passion” conferences. This is significant in light of the fact that it is among this demographic that homosexual behavior, even among the so called churched, has gained acceptance.
It also means that since the launch of Giglio’s Atlanta based Passion City Church in 2008, this under shepherd has never led his sheep to the living water on this, as he put it, “most difficult” issue.
Still more questions are raised by Pastor Giglio’s reticence to publically proclaim the whole counsel of God’s word for the last 15-20 years, namely, what is the criteria to be considered in the “Evangelical” or “Reformed” camp?
Some Pastors who watched Giglio’s sermon last week at his “Passion” conference would have had strong critiques of the very same sermon had it come from a different mouth, say Joel Osteen’s for example.
Yet even Osteen (despite waffling before and since) has publically said that yes, homosexual acts are indeed sin. He said this to no less than Piers Morgan, on CNN, as recently as 2011.
What, then, is to be learned from Louie Giglio? Is he a hero for last preaching truth to power 15 years ago when it was easy to do so? Or, is he a byword among Evangelicals, teaching us to preach the whole counsel of God all the time?
Perhaps the lesson to be learned comes as it so often does from the Apostle Paul’s words, this time as they came to the Elders of the Church in Ephesus,