Mailbag #7—Cake-baking Principles; Two Services or One; Youth Pastors; & A Discipline Issue
A friend of mine recently asked me, “If a Christian baker should not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony, should he also refuse to bake a cake for the wedding of a Christian to an unbeliever? Both weddings violate the principles of marriage set forth in the New Testament.” And what about other examples, such as a divorced Christian re-marrying another woman when his divorce was biblically impermissible?
Let me just answer the first comparison, and then you can extend the principles to any number of variations. The short answer is, a Christian baker should treat these different weddings the same way.
Mind you, a same-sex wedding ceremony is not formally equivalent to a wedding between a believer and an unbeliever. The latter produces a marriage; the former produces a legal union, no matter what people call it. I say that because I believe different moral realities are in play after the wedding. But with regard to the wedding itself, the first question you need to ask with any of your examples is, is the union sin? I believe the Bible teaches that both the same-sex union and the believer/unbeliever union are sin. And I believe that Romans 1:32 instructs Christians not to “give approval” to sin, which would mean a Christian should not do anything to “give approval” to either of these weddings.
Now, Christians might disagree on whether baking the cake for any of these weddings amounts to “giving approval.” But if someone is convinced that baking a cake does amount to giving approval, they should withhold. And it would seem to me that they should treat these two situations equivalently. Hope this is helpful.
What’s wrong with two styles of services—one contemporary and one traditional?
At the TGC conference during one of the workshops, Mark Dever made a comment about getting away from multiple church-services and having one service. He also mentioned that splitting services into traditional and contemporary services was actually worse than simply having two services that were the same. Would you be able to expound on that?
Good question, Gabe
The problem with two services, to paint in super broad strokes, is that it divides the church. The problem with two services with different styles is that it divides the church generationally (or according to some other natural human division). The power of the gospel should be displayed in the life of a church by breaking down the walls of division which ordinarily divide human beings: male/female, Jew/Gentile, slave/free, young/old, rich/poor, Republican/Democrat, Serbian/Croatian, Hutu/Tutsi, you get the point. In fact, says Paul, the manifold wisdom of God is made evident right here—in the tearing down of these dividing walls of partition (see Eph. 2:11-3:10).
So why would a church want to programmatize generational division? That’s what always happens. The young go in one direction, the old go in another.
What it tells you, furthermore, is that the church is employing man-made devices (like musical style) to attract people and to build unity. They are not relying on the power of the gospel. To put it another way, they are affirming people in their consumerism: “Don’t come here for what you can give; come for what you can get. We’ll cater to you and your preferences!” That’s an anti-lay-down-your-life-like-Jesus lesson.
Finally, two styles weakens the life-giving fellowship that old and young should be able to share with one another in the church. The young should avail themselves of the wisdom of the old, and the old should seek to pour into the young. Each member of the body should own the honor and dishonor of every other member. But your two-style-of-service structure teaches them they can ignore the other half. It robs both sides of fellowship and discipling opportunities.
What role should youth pastors play in the leadership of the church? Should they be elders? Should they be seen in the church more as directors or pastors? And lastly, should age be a large factor in deciding if someone should be an elder or not?
Thanks for the question. I would not give the title of “pastor” to anyone who is not an elder. The Bible uses the two terms interchangeably, and I think it helps our congregations when we do the same. So I would not name someone as “youth pastor” (or “administrative pastor” or “missions pastor” or “anything pastor”) unless he is also an elder.
Okay, that is a biblical conviction. Now for the prudential. I think you can have either an elder or non-elder lead any youth programming that you have. Both a “youth pastor” and “youth director” are legitimate. Our church has used the latter of late (though we don’t have the title, I don’t think). But I do think you generally want to have an elder giving oversight to the youth ministry. That doesn’t mean he has to attend events. But the person running the events should report to him, consider teaching material with him, and so forth.
We don’t have a youth pastor right now (though we’ve been considering it). A pastoral assistant presently runs our youth ministry, and one of our staff elders oversees him and the youth ministry, along with his other job responsibilities.
Should age be a factor for nominating elders? No and yes. I mean, it’s less age and more life experience. So, no, there’s no formal age established by Scripture, and Paul tells Timothy not to sweat his youth. And we have had elders in their late twenties. But generally speaking, you want a guy with some accumulated life experience and wisdom under his belt. To some extent, this might feel differently between a congregation where the median age is 65 and one where it’s 25. Hope this helps!
We have a single mother in our church with two daughters graduated from high school. The younger daughter has entered into a very rebellious stage, and is leaving the house and running away for days at a time. The mother is always accommodating to her daughter, and there is no discipline. The mother is a member; the daughters are not.
The mother is a member of our praise and worship team, hospitality team, and the director of one of our ministries. When she joined our church about 18 months ago, she was involved with just about everything. Now, she has become distant and is missing church almost as often as she comes.
In the midst of the struggles with her daughter, she approached me and our teaching elder to say that she was moving to Florida to take care of her mom. Her mom, however, is currently being taken care of by her sister and stepfather. She will not have to work, her mother is going to buy her all new furniture if she moves down, and will pay for her two daughters to go to college.
As I consider the issue at hand, I realize that there are a number of factors at play. One, she has voiced that she has prayed and talked to friends that all agree this is the will of God in her life. Two, taking care of an ill family member is certainly a valid reason to move, but she is planning her move for five months from now.
However, as we dig in to the reasons behind the move, we have discovered that she is really moving because there would be considerable financial gain for her. Many of her intentions mask her hope of a better life being taken care of financially by her family.
My question is whether or not this is a sin issue (pride, greed) and if this should be brought before the church publicly, since she is trying to remove herself from membership, and is going to members soliciting their blessing. The sin is not private, since it will entail her removing herself from the body.
Please do not bring this woman before the church for sin. If anything, bring her up and pray for her and her move. Is there pride and greed in her heart? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps you have lots of data that would compel me to think that her desires to move are worldly. I still would probably accept her decision, and then bless her as she goes. I have a hard time imagining ever publicly disciplining someone for greed, as damning as greed is. Greed is awful. Paul calls it idolatry. (I wrote about it here.) But it’s a sin of the heart and not the kind of thing you can easily prove in a court of law or a “court” of the church.
Further, I can well imagine why a single mom who has had a rough go of it would want to be around family, including with some of the financial advantages that this might afford. Again, I don’t see what you see, but based on what you’ve said I wonder if her desires might be utterly legitimate.
Last thought: I do know of adults who wrongly manipulate or bilk their aging and increasingly helpless parents for money, even when it endangers their parents’ livelihood. This is horrible. If this is the situation, my counsel might be different. But your letter made it sound as there would be no financial threat to her parents or family by moving to Florida, in which case I’d say, bless her as she goes. Even if it’s not the best thing for her to do, you can entrust her to God’s care.