The national conversation has been dominated by the news out of Houston, Texas that Mayor Annise Parker’s legal team has subpoenaed the sermon manuscripts of area pastors. Her office has pushed a controversial piece of legislation called the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. As I write this article, the ordinance has passed into law and its proponents claim it is designed to protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Houstonians.
Conservative area pastors took issue with some of the provisions and apparently Mayor Parker’s legal team believe they have the right to factor these sermons into their legal defense of the ensuing lawsuits. Many have written about the obvious threat this is to the First Amendment and to the separation of church and state. These are worthy causes to take up. We should never stand for our government interfering with free people believing in their cause and speaking their minds. But the whole time this debate made the rounds on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and every other news outlet another thought occurred to me.
Having given my adult life to the study and act of Christian preaching, I want you to know why I happily invite any person to read, view, download, or podcast my sermons, including Mayor Parker’s team. My reasons are rooted in the distinctive identity of true Christian preaching. First, Christian preaching is good news. No other world religion places such a high priority on publicly declaring truth the way Christ followers do. Christians believe God has spoken and His message of redemption from sin as a means of restored relationship with God in all of its various facets should be told over and over.
Second, Christian preaching is Bible preaching. Admittedly, there are many examples of modern day preaching where the Bible is not the central source for the content of the sermon. This is unfortunate and unfaithful. A true Christian preacher should not enter his pulpit to criticize those who hold different values. Rather, he should use the Bible to articulate God’s will about a particular matter, then help his people apply this truth in real and redemptive ways. For example, in Houston there was much debate over a provision in the ordinance which allowed people to enter restrooms based on their chosen gender identity rather than their actual sex. Bashing transgender people is not Christian preaching. However, using the Scriptures to show that God makes no separation between gender and anatomy when he creates people is not just loving and helpful, but it can also be freeing to those trapped in gender confusion.
Third, Christian preaching should never be seen as a threat to those who do not follow Christ or believe God’s Word because Christ nor His Word ever promote violence or other forms of sinful mistreatment. I am well aware that in the so called “name” of Christ there have been false teachers and cults who propagate violence. But this is not true Christian preaching. Christians have to understand that for their preachers to be biblical they will proclaim truth that is growing more and more controversial. This is not because God is becoming more conservative or orthodox, for He does not change. Rather, it is because our culture is moving further and further away from the affirmation and acceptance of distinctively Christian values. I believe that Jesus is the only way to have a right relationship with God and inherit eternal life. I believe that sex is designed to be experienced and enjoyed between one man and one woman inside of marriage. I believe that life begins at conception and ought to be protected. I believe that husbands and fathers should be the leader of their homes. I believe that every word of the Bible is inspired by God and without error. And I believe that I everything I’ve just expressed is now considered to be controversial. But not one time have I ever preached any of these truths and then instructed my flock to go out and hurt, mistreat, or discriminate against others. Why? Because I also believe and preach that our greatest weapon of effectiveness in a world full of hurt is the rich, redemptive love of Christ flowing through His followers.
So if Mayor Parker’s lawyers call and want my sermons, I would gladly point them to the public website of our church where they can be viewed in their full and unedited form. Then I would hang up the phone and pray that she watches them with an open heart towards a God who loves her and gave His Son that she might have eternal life.