When My Sermon Riled Our City

Preaching on sex and gender led to local uproar and national headlines. Here are seven things I learned.

October 13, 2019, seemed like every other Sunday. And it was—until it wasn’t.

My sermon that day on Genesis 1:27 unexpectedly made national headlines, changing my life, our church, and the relationship our church had built with our community.

Since then, I’ve reflected on what transpired and how the things that we learned might help other churches as they prepare to teach on sexuality and gender.

In the fall of 2019, we started a yearlong preaching series through Genesis. We take a team approach to preaching, so we discussed how we wanted to handle Genesis 1:26–28—an incredibly important passage with profound implications. Dave Cover, who cofounded The Crossing church with me, preached on the image of God, and the plan was that I would preach the next week on what it means that humans are created male and female.

Knowing the sensitivity of the topic, I asked Dave and other pastors to read the sermon ahead of time and give me feedback. The final version was a team effort to speak truth in love. And the truth is that Genesis clearly teaches that God created people male or female. What people often derisively call the “gender binary” isn’t rooted in the patriarchy or Victorian ethics. It’s rooted in God’s design. Sex and gender aren’t social constructs.

It’s also true that transgender people will always be welcome to attend The Crossing. In the sermon, I told parents that if your child comes to you and says they are trans, the right response is to hug your child, tell them you love them, and assure them you will work through it together. I said that if someone visited the church, I’d use the name they shared with me. I want to build a relationship with people, …

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