Yet another hub-bub in conservative Christian circles is rocking social media. This issue relates to Hillsong’s founder and pastor Brian Houston and his remarks pertaining to gay marriage. The buzz started buzzing and the media started taking sides almost immediately. Thankfully, some cooler heads prevailed and waited to see how this all worked out as the cloud of dust and the hardy ‘Hi-Ho Silver’s’ settled down. I’ve reserved comment on this topic until now. I still would not be commenting on it but for the reason that I see an opportunity to point out an angle that has not been covered up to this point. At least not that I have seen.
Last week, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Pastor Brian Houston, founder of the Hillsong movement (which now has congregations in California and New York), “Can your pastors preside at same-sex marriages?”
Pastor Houston replied (in part), “It can be challenging for churches to stay relevant. Because many mainstream churches upheld what they would believe is the long established view of what the Bible says about homosexuality. But the world has changed around and about them.”
He continued, “So the world’s changing and we want to stay relevant as a church. So that’s a vexing thing. You think, ‘How do we not become a pariah?'”
These are understandable concerns, since, if we are driving people away from Jesus, we can hardly bring them to Jesus.
Unfortunately, when speaking to the Times, Pastor Houston did not make a clear statement as to what he believed the Bible did say about gay “marriage,” drawing a firestorm of criticism.
Thankfully, before the week was out, Pastor Houston issued a follow-up statement, saying, “Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage. … My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”
To date, I have seen responses dealing with pastor Houston’s doctrine, character, the issue of relevancy (which I do feel is worthy of discussion), the church, the culture etc. What I have no seen is anyone talking about the missed opportunity here.
In the article in CharismaNews with the excerpt above, pastor Houston confirms his support of the biblical views of homosexuality. We have to assume (since he did not elaborate or use actual references) that based on his references to Paul’s teachings that his stand is with biblical views of homosexuality – that God calls it sin. Examples of Paul’s teachings would be Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-10 and Jude 7 that takes us back to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Again, Houston did not elaborate on the topic, so I’m making a bit of an assumption here, especially when I consider the context of his remarks (which should be a topic for another day).
But here’s what Houston missed: If he really is a supporter of biblical marriage, one-man one woman, and the fact that the bible declares homosexuality a sin, he had an AWESOME opportunity to share this truth with millions of people – and he didn’t.
It’s what he left out of his interview that matters more to me. If he really believes that homosexuality is a sin (as he sort of admitted after the fact), than why did he not just answer the New York Times question with a resounding, “No.” It would have spoken volumes for his doctrine, his leadership, and for God’s truth. But he didn’t.
Houston’s answer affirming homosexuality as sin would have resounded loudly. He and especially the Hill Song name (made more widely known because of its worship music than any of his teaching), is hugely popular. He and Hillsong (Hillsong meaning – his church body of many thousands in Australia and now with congregations in NY and California, Hillsong Worship, Hillsong TV, etc.) have a huge influence on the Christian’s around the world. He could have used this influence to peddle God’s truth to the needy ears of so, so many. BUT HE DIDN’T!
This was an excellent opportunity to really show the unity of the church in the truth of the gospel, his unity with the historic positions of the church on this subject, and it was missed. The church is in such sad shape today because political correctness, success and relevancy have silenced the voices of Christian leadership. All too often, Christian leaders choose political correctness and ‘relevancy’ over standing firm on the truth of God’s word. It’s not that they deny God’s truth (as in this case), it’s just that they do not openly pronounce it, affirm it, and defend it.
I learned long ago, that what a man doesn’t say says as much about him as what he does. Houston must have known something was wrong, and that he needed to set the record straight, because in just a few days he released a statement to help clarify what he said, or in this case didn’t say. In fact, to me, the clarification still left much to be desired. While confessing his support for “most traditionally held Christian views” (what that means for sure we do not know, because again, he did not support his thoughts with scripture), he also said things like, this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ”, and “public statements condemning people will place a barrier between the church and the world”, and to close off the very brief statement, Houston writes,
“This – like many other issues, is a conversation the church needs to have and we are all on a journey as we grapple with the question of merging biblical truth with a changing world.”
Yes, Pastor Houston, the world needs Christ. And if you don’t give it to them, they will not come to know Him.
If you don’t tell the truth about homosexuality to anyone but the people who are already coming to your church, is that taking the gospel to all the corners of the earth? If we do not speak out in truth and love about homosexuality when given such a grand opportunity to bring glory to God’s Holy truth and Holy name, how do you expect the world that needs Christ to know Him or find Him?
In the end to me, it seems that “being relevant”, staying popular, and not offending people has become so important to pastor Houston that he feels the right thing to do is to hold back the truth so as to not offend. I’m not sure this is the right policy. To me, this is yet another instance where applying grace is trumping sharing the truth.
What are your thoughts?