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Guidance offered for ministry in new marriage culture

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — How should the church respond to a gay couple requesting premarital counseling? What about when the new girl with the Awana ministry brings her two mothers to meet her teacher? Or when a church member who owns a business doesn’t want to provide marriage benefits to same-sex couples? The new book “Ministry in the New Marriage Culture” focuses on helping churches and ministry leaders address these questions and more.

Edited by Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Ministry in the New Marriage Culture was written by veteran ministry leaders, including professors, pastors and theologians, who give guidance on same-sex marriage. The book aims to give Christians a framework with which to lead their churches effectively and minister to non-believers while the church encounters new and complex cultural situations.

The book does not focus on the reasons that same-sex marriage is wrong or the legality of a biblical or traditional marriage, but rather answering what is the next step of ministering within the new marriage culture.

Iorg — along with his assembled team of Christian leaders — addresses various issues that result from same-sex marriages. The book is divided into three major sections — Biblical Foundations for Ministry in the New Marriage Culture, Theological Foundations for Ministry in the New Marriage Culture, and Models and Methods for Ministry in the New Marriage Culture. Each chapter is written by a different leading voice, ranging from topics in children’s ministry to preaching to legal issues in the new marriage culture.

“Churches are facing the pressing ‘now what?’ question of responding to ministry challenges in the new marriage culture,” Iorg said. “Our book helps answer that difficult question.”

Inspired by the seminary’s Ministering in the New Marriage Culture conference in October 2013, the book discusses how churches and ministry partners should respond to situations that arise as a result of America’s changing marriage culture. In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, the church faces cultural pressure to accept and even celebrate behavior the Bible clearly condemns as sinful.

“The darkness of our culture only makes the Gospel stand out even more,” Iorg said in his presentation at the conference.

In the book, Iorg writes about three principles by which Christians should model their ministries in the new marriage culture: First, Christians must stand strong in their moral convictions; second, they must recognize their morals will be aggressively opposed; and third, this opposition requires a Christian response.

“Your most significant message to people in a culture marked by moral decay and immoral living is the Gospel,” Iorg writes. “…Your first and best response to immorality in your community is to preach, teach, share, witness, and live the Gospel. The greatest need of every person in the world — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, adulterer, fornicator, or straight-laced puritan — is still the Gospel.”

Ministry in New Marriage Culture, published by B&H Publishing Group, was released Oct. 1, and is available for purchase at Lifeway and other Christian bookstores, as well as online at amazon.com.