Preaching about Sex

A seasoned pastor that I know preached a sermon this weekend on a biblical vie of “sex.” And he mentioned that whenever he preaches on sex, people come up to him afterward and comment on how hard it must be to preach on sex. Somewhat bemused, he usually comments that it’s a whole lot easier and more fun that preaching on a lot of other issues that he needs to address.

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Although we live in a sex-saturated society, we still find it incredibly uncomfortable to talk about sex in church. One of my greatest frustrations in my years as a youth pastor, was the number of parents who would grow outraged if I spoke too directly about issues of sex and sexuality to their children. I always wanted to say, “Look. You’re kids are already talking about sex. Wouldn’t you prefer for them to talk about it in church?” Sadly, I’m afraid that some of them would have said “no.”

Brandon Smith recently posted the following promo video for a series on sex. And it certainly presents a number of compelling reasons that we need to learn how to speak openly about sex in church. You may not think that it’s appropriate to do so from the pulpit or in mixed audiences. Fine. Where are you talking about sex with the people in your church? Because I guarantee that they’re talking about it and struggling with it in other contexts. So, why not face it head on in the one place where they can learn to understand sex h way God intended?

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If you have preached or taught about sex in your church, I’d be very curious to know how it went. Any insights or lessons learned for others?

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About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on February 23, 2011, in Preaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Even if churches talk about sex there’s only so far they can practically go. That’s because people are uncomfortable hearing certain people talk about sex, because they don’t want to acknowledge and imagine that person having sex (which they will be forced to do if that person talks about it openly). It crosses a boundary for them. So if sex is discussed it has to be done in a minimal, abstract, somewhat surface sort of way and they can’t really go into much detail.

    Instead we have to have certain people we give permission to talk to us about sex. People we don’t mind acknowledging or imagining have sex. Unfortunately the only people that come to mind are people we don’t know and who are beautiful celebrities. Otherwise the best way is to have a faceless person telling us through a book or something. After all who wants to hear their pastor or Sunday school teacher talking about bj’s and sex positions? They don’t want to accidentally imagine someone else’s sex life. It’s actually a strange taboo considering we celebrate marriage and pregnancy so much and sex in fundamental to those.

    You ever read the book “Real Sex” by Lauren Winner?

    • I wasn’t thinking so much about specific sexual practices as about the theology (and ethics) of sexuality. I’d be the first to say that I don’t want most pastors describing the details of their sex life. That’s a mental image that I could really do without. But, I do think it’s a shame that we don’t want to think of certain people (e.g. pastors) as having sex. You’re right that we do that, but it still suggests an unfortunate separation of sexuality and spirituality.

      And yes, it is “a strange taboo.” Christians should be the first to talk about sex, not the last.

      No, I haven’t. Is it good?

  2. THEONOMY! The Law of God.. then the Gospel of the Grace of God. It used to work nicely! Back when people and the Judeo-Christian ethic were feared. Not perfection, but at least a line in the sand! But that is gone now for the most part. We have lost the fear of God in both the Church and Culture!

  3. Marc:
    How do you talk about sex without getting specific about it? To talk about it in almost an abstract way is to treat it as taboo and not something really good. It’d be like talking about your love for food and how wonderful it is without talking about actual food, places you eat, dishes you’ve had, great meals youve shared, etc. The “world” treats it as good and has no problem celebrating it and going into specifics. That’s why people listen to them instead and are more influenced by the world when it comes to sex. The most the church can do is say sex is good in the confines of marriage and bad outside of it, and then leave it at that. Are Christians too prudish when it comes to sex? Do we really want Christians to be otherwise?

    I heard Lauren Winner speak on the book and it was really good. I bought the book but never got around to reading it.

    • Fair enough. And, I’m willing to admit my own prudishness on the subject. Though I’m perfectly comfortable talking about the theology of sex with just about anyone, I’d be reticent to talk details with a friend in private, let alone with a congregation in public. But, the pastor I referenced in the post also talked about a time when he preached about being satisfied with your wife’s breasts (from Song of Solomon). That’s definitely moving in a more explicit direction than I’m accustomed to, but something I think is a great idea. So, I suppose I’m wrestling with what I think is best done from the pulpit and what is more appropriate for other settings.

  4. Lord knows I am an Irish male, and love the beauty of women! But, I take my passion and desire to where it should be…my love for my wife! And I think I know what to do in that godly genre! 🙂 And btw, even at my age.. it is still quite alive, both the love & desire! Do we need to get any more graphic? I think not! lol > And I hope I speak for many married Christian men and other pastors.

  5. When I was doing campus ministry at Rice, we had our weekly meetings in the student center cafeteria. Next door was a large banquet hall that hosted various other things at the same time we met. I was doing a series on “Dating, Marriage, and Sex,” and I got to “the” talk about sexual love according to Scripture. Turns out the very same night, the Chinese Student Association was holding Chinese new year preparations in the that adjoining hall. So, the whole time I was talking there was a steady, and increasingly loud drum line playing (they also had dancing dragons but we couldn’t see them). The drums were their loudest right at the “juicy” parts, and stopped right at the end of the talk. I couldn’t have planned it any better.:-)

    I’ve read Lauren Winner’s book and it is a keeper. She does a good job of weaving story (her’s mainly) and applying Scripture throughout. I gave it to students back in the day. I’ve not given it to folks at Hope, though that might be a good idea.

    I appreciate what Bryan is getting at, wanting the Christians to talk about sex in a helpful, godly way. But I have reservations in wanting to talk about sex like we do about food. We don’t consume sex like we do food. Food is a communal, shared experience. Everyone eats – not everyone has, or is even meant to have, sex. That doesn’t mean we don’t talk about it. But I am not going to talk about the “ingredients” and preferences, and exotic things of sex like I would with eating food cart fare downtown. And honestly, sometimes the ways we even talk about or focus on food, beer, coffee is idolatrous.

    Sex, is not a public a thing in the way food is, either. It is shared between husband and wife, and together they forge the “recipe” of mutual love and service in the sexual relationship that will vary from couple to couple (e.g. probably not all spouses like to do the same things in the bedroom). Paul says that the bodies of the spouses belong to one another. So, I take it that the aim of sex in marriage is to honor the other spouse, by aiming to put the others sexual needs first [I hope my wife isn’t reading this right now!] How that happens, e.g. what positions, etc. should be worked out by them. There can be good conversations that happen privately, but instructional type sermons from the front are probably not helpful. Even Driscoll doesn’t go that far – and I actually think he does a very good job in areas like this.

    I’m listening…

    • Great thoughts, Pat. I think you strike a good balance of engaging the “sex” talk openly and constructively, while still identifying certain aspects of the conversation that are best handled in other settings. (And, I would have loved to have been there for the Chinese New Year Drum Line Sex Talk.)

  6. Marc,
    It’s a tricky subject and I don’t really know what more the church can do. I feel like they kind of dug themselves in a hole on this issue and there’s no easy way out. And I wonder whether series on sex like the one you linked to really go far enough. I wouldn’t say a Sunday sermon series is the right place to deal with the topic of sex but Sunday is the right place to begin changing attitudes about it.

  7. What a very strange thought: “preaching about sex”. How can an exegete and expositor of Scripture avoid it. Does this mean no one teaches Song of Solomon or are they no longer literal-grammatical- historical in their hermeneutic when they do? Perhaps Ruth’s encounter with Boaz…no I won’t say it 😉 It seems to me that Scripture from the naked truth of Genesis through the harlot of Revelation is ‘pregnant’ with sex talk. Maybe it’s only Driscoll who has discovered it. That would be a frightening thought.

    • Strange though it might be, I think you’d be hard pressed to find many evangelical pastors who touch on this subject openly from the pulpit very often. And, when they do, I’m sure they display a fair amount of the prudishness I mentioned in an earlier comment (in reference to myself). I do think there’s a fair amount of selective exegesis at work on this one.

      It may be in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that it’s found a way into our pulpits.

  8. i think most conversations about sex would be better suited to a sunday school session, small group, house church, or otherwise smallish setting. i don’t see how the topic could be properly addressed from the pulpit, unless it is simply the theological aspects of it, as marc referred to initially.

  9. I don’t know whether there is God or not, but I like the scriptures and I try to live by the golden rule and apply proper sex in my marriage. I am single. I grew up in an Armenian family in Soviet Union. With my parent I would never dare to discuss what is the proper way to have sex. This could be because of the discomfort the subject itself brings up, because it requires on to be honest and willing to talk about his bedlife. I have never been married, but the question what it means “The bed is undefiled” has been in my mind for quite a while. Since there isn’t an eight hundred number to the Kingdon of God to inquire the details of what we should and shouldn’t do in bed, we are left with our sound judgement and sincere conscience. I heard that a pastor’s wife has killed her husband, the pastor for unwanted sexual performance. Who can stop her from being offended if her husband forces her to put his penis in her mouth and suck it. “Fellatio” means oral stimulation of the penis. Blow job in Vulgar language. There are several known ways of having intercourse. First is the missionary style (man is on top and the woman is underneathe facing each other). This is highly advisable since there is no offense in this position when it comes to possibly defiling one’s conscience. I personally will not practice any other approach in bed. This is my favorite possition. Why? Let’s put this into test. While I am having missionary style sex with my wife, let’s assume for the sake of the argument, someone opens my bedroom door. It could be my thirteen year old daughter, my mother, her father, the president of the country, a pornstar, or a hardcore religious person from any world religion, doesn’t have to be born again christian. “Oops, I am sorry” they say and shut the door behind them. Now, it is time for an early morning breakfast and while all of us are sitting at the table, me and my wife along with the party that has mistakenly entered my bedroom are definitly analyzing what had taken place in the bedroom. If it was only missionry style full throttle orgasim, my conscience wouldn’t bother me at all. Just a little embarrassment like as if I forgot to pull up the zipper of my pants. But what if the uninvited party witnessed fellatio (I am ejaculating on my wife’s forehead or slapping her face with my penis). What if my daughter opened the door and saw my penis bearly pushes its way into her mother’s anus while my wife yells “Could you not push is that hard for my anus hurts a lot”. What about a doggy style sex. The name bears witness that it is a style that dogs not human beings use. Dogs are out of the New Jerusalem. There is so much pleasure and satisfaction in just touching a woman and feeling her flesh on mine, that I do believe that missonary style intercouse is the only way one could go without defiling the bed. Blow jobs, anal sex, men sucking or eating virgina or sixty-nine(man sucks the virgina whicl woman sucks the penis) are all called lewdness, lechery,a lasciviousness. Unrestrained indulgence of sexual desire. Ask youself, if everything were permitted to consummate in bedroom, than the word lewdness wouldn’t have to be in the bible. I hope it helped.

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