The Scandal of Grace

Anthony Venn-Brown writes:

On Sunday 18 August 2013, a sermon, ‘Scandal of Grace’ preached by Pastor Brian Houston, was broadcast to all Hillsong Church campuses around the world. Below is the relevant extract.

“The one elephant in the room for churches around the world at the moment is the gay situation. What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do? You need to pray for church pastors and leaders around the world because whichever way you turn the scandal is there. You can turn one way and you can tell there would be a great scandal amongst the Christian Church. You can turn another way and you would just cut off so many people. There’s lots of hatred out there but in the middle of it all you know there are three things: the world of the times we live in; the weight we live with; and the word we live by.

Think about that! The world has changed quickly. The world has changed and so I’m not saying that the church ever should be ruled by the way of the world but the reality is we are in a world which is changing fast. Here in Great Britain the laws have passed. The world is changing. We’ve got the world we live in to consider.

We’ve got the weight we live with. You say what’s that? Well it’s the weight when a young person growing up in a church feels like they are confused in their sexuality. They feel like “maybe I’m gay” and they go to a youth leader and they are rejected. At that moment a great hatred comes in. At that moment some of them have gone so far with the rejection and gone to parents who didn’t understand and ended up committing suicide – That’s the weight we live with.

There’s the world we live in. There’s the weight we live with and there’s the word we live by. And they don’t all necessary align. With the word we live by, many people have various convictions. In the middle of it all know that Jesus when it comes to people would let nothing stop Him from breaking through a divide to help hurting, broken, everyday normal people like you and I.

27 thoughts on “The Scandal of Grace

  1. 4 You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.
    James 4
    Amplified Bible (AMP)

  2. That’s a tough line to take Eyes.

    I’d say Houston is similar to Lentz in NY.
    They simply want to reach people and realize that you won’t be able to talk with someone if there is a wall built by the public, blanket condemning of a lifestyle even if you clearly think it’s wrong.

    I don’t think Houston is going to start marrying same sex couples.

  3. On the other hand, if a married same-sex couple came to the church would he turn them away?

    Would they be allowed in the music ministry or the pulpit?

  4. I can’t speak for Brian, but I don’t think he would turn away a gay married couple from attending a service.
    But no, I don’t think he would allow a gay married person to preach or lead worship.

    Hillsong and many other churches similar in theology allow couples living together to attend services. It’s another thing to place a person in a leadership role.

    Most of my friends are living with their partners. I’d be delighted for them to come to church. I wouldn’t make them assistant pastor.

    But I applaud Brian for trying to be as understanding and welcoming as possible.

    And while I was first surprised, I think Carl Lentz has a great approach.

  5. Not sure why you are asking the question.
    But if a person is knowingly and willfully cheating on their taxes, then no, I don’t think they should be an assistant Pastor.

    I think the Bible is clear about past sins being forgiven, and persisting in sin willfully.
    Ie. I have no problem with an ex-prostitute preaching.
    I wouldn’t have want an assistant pastor who is moonlighting as a prostitute and intends to continue .

    But that’s just my opinion.
    Not willing to argue for hundreds of posts over it.

  6. Unfortunately my whole entire comment did not get through.
    Oh well, I’ll just do a Steve, and blame spell checker .

    I also don’t think that Houston is going to wed same sex couples.

  7. Then you have the problem of defining both sin and wilful sinning. Essentially you have to be the judge of someone’s entire life.

    Contrary to some, I think the concept of sin is difficult to define in practice. As I demonstrated when I once asked someone on this blog if he thought kissing before marriage was a sin, and he could not answer a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

    Wilful sin is even more difficult. If someone is over-weight and perhaps increasing in weight are they wilfully sinning? That would include 60% of the population of Australia.

    In practice most Evangelicals shy away from defining sin or judging others unless they become homosexual, muslim or an ABC reporter.

    I think its better not to judge.

    And remember, Waleed Aly is to blame.

  8. I think it’s illogical to be singling out Hillsong when no other Christian denomination (aside from the Uniting Church) endorses or ordains practicing homosexual clergy. I’m not aware of an Anglican diocese which openly does it. Though some have a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach. You can forget the Catholics as they aren’t even ordaining married clergy. I can’t think of another Protestant church which does in Australia.

    Having the discussion is a good start and I think it would have been easier for Brian to have kept ignoring the issue or played the conservative card.

    I’d say he’s listening to either those inside his church or those outside. Or probably boh.

    Once if you’ve established if something isn’t a sin then it’s a logical step as to whether they should be a minister or not.

    But churches are conservative by nature and change takes time.

    Time to change attitudes and thinking and not just say here’s our new youth pastor Tim and his husband Jeff.

    I’d be interested to know where the Anglicans are in this as they were a lot further down but even the liberals such as Dr Rowan Williams thought ordaining gay clergy was too much (mainly for the sake of church unity) and Archbishop Carnley said that gay Bishop Gene Robinson wasn’t allowed to minister in the country.

    So this certainly isn’t a Hillsong issue.

  9. Wazza, I disagree with all that you said.
    If you are honestly saying that I shouldn’t oppose a man being assistant pastor because he is willfully having gay sex, a prostitute continuing to see clients, a bank robber who is planning their next heist etc, because I may allow a person who is 5 pounds overweight who eats a donut to be assistant pastor then I think you are totally lacking in common sense.

    Btw I don’t think kissing before marriage is a sin.

    I have no problem seeing a difference between someone planning to participate in an orgy for the next three nights and an overweight person eating a donut. You can try to say they are the same so they should be treated exactly the same and both be able to preach on Sunday but I can.

    And so can most people.

    It doesn’t mean I can’t define willfully sinning. It just means you aren’t thinking clearly and will come with any silly argument.

    I also see a difference between doing 5 ks over the speed limit and someone who plans on going drag racing after a six pack.
    You might argue that I can’t judge…. But I say they are different.

    If you can’t see the difference fine. I won’t go to a church where you pick the pastors.

    Really, is that all you got?

    Yep, even if I get called a cheerleader I think it’s easier to leave commenting for Steve. I just don’t have his patience.

  10. The criteria for being an overseer of a church can’t just be whether a person sins or not, otherwise no one would qualify. If anyone says he doesn’t have sin I’ll show you a liar.

  11. Having said that, it is also imperative that an overseer shows conduct becoming of his vocation and is able to set the example to the flock. Otherwise he is disqualified, so he has to be able to conquer the temptation to sin, and, if and when he sins, repent and confess his sin before the Lord sooner rather than later.

    The criteria for leadership of a church is clearly set out in the New Testament.

    For this reason an overseer should have an overseer. In other words everyone in leadership should, in some way or other, have people he is accountable to.

    The criteria for membership is somewhat less scrutinised, but nevertheless those who consider themselves disciples of Christ should also be subject to exemplary lives before the Lord, hence the name ‘disciple’.

    Although everyone tends towards sin through temptation, God has given those who have received Christ power over sin, which should be exercised, so we all have a responsibility, not just leaders.

  12. “That’s a tough line to take Eyes.”

    You may be right Q, so I’ll try to smooth it over with scripture,

    16 Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].
    17 Elijah was a human being with a nature such as we have [with feelings, affections, and a constitution like ours]; and he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and no rain fell on the earth for three years and six months.
    18 And [then] he prayed again and the heavens supplied rain and the land produced its crops [as usual].
    19 [My] brethren, if anyone among you strays from the Truth and falls into error and another [person] brings him back [to God],
    20 Let the [latter] one be sure that whoever turns a sinner from his evil course will save [that one’s] soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins [[a]procure the pardon of the many sins committed by the convert].

    And again,

    25 So also with Rahab the harlot—was she not shown to be justified (pronounced righteous before God) by [good] deeds when she took in the scouts (spies) and sent them away by a different route

    You all do realise that God saved the prostitute?

    Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. (mat 21:31)

    How great thou art.
    So be it.

  13. Good scriptures Eyes.

    But maybe Rahab the Harlot’s place in history would have been different if the spies had given her a lecture on the evils of harlotry.

    Btw Rahab the Harlot is a pretty cool name.

    If I were a woman I’d love to answer the phone like that one day.

    “Rahab the Harlot, how may I help you?”

  14. God can change anyone. God gave Paul the strength, wisdom, and endurance to carry out the mission Jesus entrusted Paul with. One of Paul’s most famous statements is: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV), reminding us that our power to live the Christian life comes from God, not ourselves.

    Paul also recounted a “thorn in his flesh” that kept him from becoming conceited over the priceless privilege God had entrusted to him. In saying, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:2, NIV), Paul was sharing one of the greatest secrets of staying faithful: absolute dependence on God.

    Much of the Protestant Reformation was based on Paul’s teaching that people are saved by grace, not works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV) This truth frees us to stop striving to be good enough and to instead rejoice in our salvation, gained by the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

  15. That was not my statement,
    but i am very very very happy about that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. “But maybe Rahab the Harlot’s place in history would have been different if the spies had given her a lecture on the evils of harlotry.”

    She already knew, that’s why she felt so guilty, and had to help the people of God.


  17. 15 But women[a] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

  18. Well then Q, It’s a good thing that God considers the women of the faith,those that are pregnant and are having babies, and also those that are raising children, and are sitting at home thinking, ‘I want to do so much more for God’, :Do you know that the Woman of Faith are doing a good work by raising DIVINE CHILDREN?

    And their faithfulness shall save them.

    25 So also with Rahab the harlot—was she not shown to be justified (pronounced righteous before God) by [good] deeds when she took in the scouts (spies) and sent them away by a different route

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