Following the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States on June 26, I have been inundated with calls from pastors and church leaders regarding the impact of this decision upon churches. The scriptures record Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (KJV).
This verse is the basis for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) response to the action of the Court as I conduct seminars across the state to assist pastors and their congregations to respond appropriately. This is the first in a series of articles to assist churches in their response to the actions of the Court. In this article, I want to address the matter of “fear.”
I remind readers that God did not for one millisecond shudder or recoil at the Court’s decision to validate same-sex marriage across the nation. God is still sovereign, still on the throne and still in control. We can have confidence in our God, His truth and the expectations He has established through scripture for marriage.
Regardless of the validation of same- sex marriage by the Court, the fact remains that God has not validated any marriage outside of that which He ordained in scripture. Marriage is and shall forever remain between one man and one woman; specifically between a man as created by God and a woman as created by God.
However, fear abounds among Christians, and there are groups that wish to exploit that fear. For example, a web-based fake news site promoted a false news story regarding the supposed arrest of a minister in Vermont due to his refusal to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. The story took on a level of credibility it did not deserve as it was circulated and cited as an example of “the beginning of the end.”
Sadly, few people read the story before they posted, repeated and shared the story. If the story had been read, the lack of credibility would have been easily recognized. First, the story was posted by a website masquerading as a credible site; the URL for the site was a giveaway. Second, the story indicated that the minister in question was pastor of a for-profit church; an entity that simply does not exist.
Finally, a number of fake news sites on the web circulated false reports and these sites often use the same names in their stories over and over again. The story in question identified the minister as Paul Horner, one of the names so often used by these fake news outlets in their false stories.
It is imperative that pastors and church members exercise discernment regarding stories of this nature. The church needs – and the gospel deserves – Christian statesmen that will discern truth from lies. It is also important for pastors to understand that prior to the Court’s verdict, the government of this nation could not force a minister to baptize, extend the Lord’s Supper, bury or marry anyone. The June 26 action of the Court has not changed this protection enjoyed by pastors across our land.
Some Christians are afraid that the redefinition of marriage will result in the eventual closure of churches across the land. I do foresee many churches closing in the future, but this will not come as a result of the validation of same-sex marriage. The closures will be due to the failure of churches to make disciples.
I am of the opinion that another recession or depression is in the foreseeable future. For the economy to rebound from the next recession, municipalities that are starving for revenue will consider every untapped source of tax dollars. The result will be that municipalities will turn to non-profits, including churches, and revoke the exemption on property tax. Contributions to churches will remain tax deductible, for a while, but churches will be called upon to pay tax on their properties.
The reality is that so many churches operate on such slim budgets that the addition of property tax will result in their inability to stay financially solvent. Why is the addition of property tax going to be so burdensome? Simply stated: church members are not practicing Biblical stewardship; which is part of the disciple-making process. The statistics are alarming.
Few give financially to the church and even fewer actually tithe. It will be to our shame that churches will not be able to pay their property tax. Jesus said the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church, but it appears that His people will allow property tax to do so.
The church should not fear the recent action of the Court nor the potential actions of municipalities in days to come. Rather, the church, led by the Holy Spirit, should boldly engage in disciple making. Most importantly, the church must intentionally disciple each and every member on her rolls and equip these members to engage each person in their community with the gospel. We must develop a culture of disciple-making in our churches. Far too many will slip into a culture of survival if disciple-making does not become the priority. The church must, as the early church did, see disciple-making as its reason for existence.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power. In the next article I want to explore that power God has given us, which is recognized – in part – even by our government. There is no challenge presently before the church that God has not given His people to the power to withstand.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian K. Davis is associate executive director-treasurer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
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