The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: A Response

Dear Louisiana Pastors and Leaders,

In the days since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, I have read and heard numerous commentaries on the subject and have mulled over what I should write to the Louisiana Baptist family. There is more to think about than can be conveyed in one letter (I hope you are availing yourself of resources being provided by respected Christian leaders) but I offer a few observations about how we should respond:

1.     We should grieve.  My initial feeling upon hearing the ruling was a profound sense of sadness. I was not surprised by the ruling. It was expected, and was consistent with the rapid acceptance of homosexual behavior in our culture. But it grieves me greatly that America would ratify as a preferred way of life that which is so contradictory to Christ, His Word, and His Church.  It is not as though there was a lack of abundant evidence of a growing anti-Christian sentiment in our country before June 26.  But the Supreme Court decision felt to me like an official public pronouncement against God.  I think I understand how Ezekiel felt when the Spirit showed him the religious leaders of Judah worshipping the sun from within the sacred Temple of God. Would they really go this far? Did they not realize that God’s next step was to abandon them? And so I grieve. I grieve for the rebellion against our patient God who has blessed this nation beyond measure. I grieve for the judgment that will surely come. I grieve for my grandchildren. I grieve for the harm (temporal and eternal) to countless souls. I do not disagree with the many wise Christians who have counseled us in recent days not to despair. I, too, believe God is on his throne and will bring his kingdom to pass. I, too, believe he will bring some good things even out of this bad circumstance. But it is okay to grieve even as we pledge to stand firm and fight the good fight.

2.     We should not change our views and practices on marriage.  I am thankful that the Southern Baptist Convention leaders spoke definitively on this matter a few days ago. Because we take our marching orders from the Bible and not the Supreme Court, and because the Bible is clear on marriage being only between a man and a woman, we will not participate in same-sex marriage in any fashion. The jury is out on complications that may arise because of our refusal to go along with this cultural shift. We are making legal information available to our churches so we may be prepared as best we know how. We will assert that any attempt by the government to force us to participate in same-sex marriages is a violation of our religious liberty. However events unfold, we encourage every Louisiana Baptist to maintain the posture of not affirming, approving, or endorsing homosexual behavior in any form.

3.     We should prepare to become more unpopular.  We need to understand that any disapproval of homosexual behavior will be considered by many as an act of hatred or bigotry. We will be labeled as “homophobes.” Homophobia is a made-up word that is regularly applied in a pejorative way to anyone who believes homosexual behavior is a sin. You don’t have to engage in violence or mockery against homosexuals to get the label. Just suggest that it is wrong. Justice Kennedy, in the majority opinion, identified the disapproval of homosexual behavior as “injustice” per se.  I hope the church will be kind and respectful toward those with whom it disagrees on this subject. I hope we will be as winsome and congenial as we can be. But do not expect a response in kind. Unless we are willing to say same-sex marriage in particular and homosexual behavior in general is a good thing, we will be vilified. But we are in good company. Jesus said, “(The world) hates me because I testify of it that its deeds are evil.” (John 7:7).

4.     We should preach the Gospel. The truth is, our views on homosexuality are not our most unpopular beliefs. The most offensive (and most important) of our Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life and those who do not believe in Him will not experience God’s love, but instead will experience God’s wrath for eternity. The world really doesn’t like to hear that. But don’t stop preaching and teaching it, or the truth about homosexuality, or the whole counsel of God. (II Tim. 4:2).  I pray the Holy Spirit will give you discernment on how much to address critical cultural concerns while not neglecting the myriad of every day sins and struggles those under your influence are experiencing. I pray He will guide you to a proper balance between the prophetic word and the personal touch. And I pray He will use both to bring sinners, regardless of their offenses, to redemption.

These are challenging days, but also days of opportunity. The need for us, the body of Christ, to be “salt” and “light” has never been greater. Hear the Apostles’ admonition:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” (Phil. 2:14-16a).




David E. Hankins
Executive Director
Louisiana Baptists

Additional Resources

For additional resources, including policy information for your church, click the link below:

Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage: What Your Church Needs to Know

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, every pastor and church administrator needs to look at the implications of the ruling and consider possible changes to their church policies. Here are 3 suggested actions taken from the website of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

What Should Your Church Do?

Read the full article

“Now is the time for churches to maintain a clear witness to the biblical truth about marriage, human sexuality, and gender. Churches should update their statement of faith to include the church’s beliefs on these issues.

In the near term, no pastor will be forced to officiate any wedding ceremony with which he disagrees. Pastors remain free to make a theological determination about who they will marry and who they will not.

Churches must continue to be a welcoming presence in the community and can do that through updating or revising their facility usage policy. The key point is to tie usage of the church’s facility to the statement of faith and religious beliefs of the church.”

Read more at ERLC

For more information on the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage:

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission | SCOTUS

Potential Policy Statement for Local Churches

Pastors, if you’re considering revising your policies in light of the recent Supreme Court Ruling, below is a statement you may consider including:

Marriage Policy

The following statement that churches can consider as an addition to their bylaws was developed by the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) chief legal advisor, Whitehead Law Firm LLC in Kansas City.

Our statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), expresses our fundamental biblical conviction that Christian marriage is, by
definition, the spiritual and physical uniting of one man and one woman in an exclusive covenant commitment for their joint lifetime. Christian
marriage is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His Church. As such, this local church believes that wedding ceremonies on
church property are spiritual observances of worship of God who created this divine institution. As worship services, weddings on church property shall be officiated by one or more ordained ministers of the gospel. The church may decline to make its facilities or ministers available for any wedding if it is determined that one or both of the parties are not biblically and/or legally qualified to marry. Such determinations may be made by the [pastor, church council, or wedding committee, etc.], subject to the direction of the church.

No minister [or employee] of the church shall officiate at any marriage ceremony unless such marriage is consistent with this policy.

From Dr. Steve Horn, President of the Louisiana Baptist Convention:

“5-4! There are so many things that I am thankful for in this country. However, this morning, I find myself struggling with the fact that 1 person can make the difference in something that will so drastically alter our country.” –My Reaction to the SCOTUS Ruling on the Definition of Marriage

“With all that has been written about the Supreme Court’s decision since last Friday, the last thing that we need is more commentary on the subject. Instead what we need is a heavy dose of God’s Word. Here are the Scriptures that most come to mind for me.” Read more at


How to Baptize More People at Your Church 

People in the water being baptized serves as a highlight and significant spiritual marker in the life of an individual and a church. Recently, I polled a few of our highest baptizing church plants in Louisiana and found that they have 5 intentional practices that every church can do to increase baptisms:

1. Pray & Share the Gospel

If you don’t have anybody to baptize, you need to ask the question, “Are we communicating the gospel clearly to our community?” It may be that you are in a hard soil area and cultivation will take time. That’s fine. But the promise of the word of God is to produce results (Isaiah 55:11). God’s working in all our communities to bring people to himself (1 Corinthians 5:19-21). As we pray and share, planting seeds in our communities, eventually we can expect a harvest (Psalm 126:6).  If you need some ideas, see my article Proven Ways to Cultivate Relationships and Plant Seeds in Your Community.

2. Keep a current list of potential candidates

Write down the names of people in your fellowship that you’re not sure of their relation to Christ and/or if they’ve followed the Lord through believer’s baptism. Share it with core leaders and ask them to pray. Plan on systematically talking with them about making this important step in their faith journey. Also, teach parents how to look for signs of God’s work in the lives of their children and when they begin to respond, put them on the list and begin to pray for them.

3. Put it on the church calendar

As you do calendar planning, go ahead and put at least two dates for baptisms on the calendar. Announce these regularly. Expect to have candidates. Pray and share the Gospel. Work the list.

4. Get info out about Believer’s Baptism

Teach on it regularly. Produce a brochure and keep it in a well trafficked area in your building and on your website. I’ve also heard of churches doing brief Informational meetings about baptism before and after church. Don’t assume people realize the importance and biblical reasons for baptism.  Here’s a sample brochure that my current church has utilized.

5. Make it a celebration

Baptism is an opportunity to celebrate God’s work in the heart of human being. Jesus died so that work could be done! A person has left the kingdom of darkness and entered the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13)! Even the angels in heaven throw a party when this happens (Luke 15:10)!. Let’s celebrate! Make it a big deal. Send out invitations, post pics, share videos! We throw parties for much less, so a thing that makes heaven party and busts people out of the kingdom of darkness should instigate a celebration!

An evangelistic culture must be cultivated & maintained with intentionality. We have a command from Jesus to go & baptize (Matthew 28:18-20). We have so many people without a relationship with Christ. Get intentional about moving people to understand & respond to the Gospel & celebrate it through baptism.

Rethink Outreach with Small Groups

I wonder sometimes if anyone does outreach anymore. Many Sunday schools, small groups, and churches do not seem to place much priority on visitation, contacts, follow-up and outreach in general. Research continues to reveal that most churches (and their Sunday school/ small groups) are plateaued or declining in their enrollment, attendance and baptisms. Could it be, at least partially, because churches have stopped doing outreach?

I visit a lot of churches and always enjoy picking up a copy of and reading through their Sunday bulletin or worship guide. It seems I rarely see any calendared event or announcement of a church-wide evangelistic visitation.

Some trends I’ve seen that may contribute to this dilemma:

  1. Adult Sunday school and small groups have become primarily a Bible study and fellowship. Now I’m not against either, but if we stop inviting prospects and unchurched people to our classes and groups then the focus becomes inward.
  2. Also, if adult SS and SG begin to focus inwardly, then there is no need to start new classes and groups; nor is there a need to encourage members to leave and teach in other age-groups. To do so would disrupt one’s Bible study and fellowship.
  3. Follow-up of prospects and inactive members is not a priority. Events like, Vacation Bible School, Harvest Parties, Easter Egg Hunts, often provide names of children and parents who are not involved in a church. Worship service guests are often asked for contact information in the form of guests cards. Unfortunately, little is done with these names to connect and assimilate them into the ministries of the church.
  4. There seems to be a mindset today that visitation no longer works. The argument goes that people are busy and don’t want to be contacted and bothered.
I believe some of the most influential persons in the church are the adult Sunday School or Small Group teachers.

Group leaders have tremendous influence over the adults entrusted to their care, as well as the purpose and direction of their class or group.

How can an adult group teacher influence the challenges facing the church today?

  1. Lead your class/group to be outwardly focused. Do mission projects through your class/group.
  2. Strongly encourage individuals in your class/group to serve in other areas and to start new classes and groups. Lead your class to fulfill the Great Commission through making disciples!
  3. Reconnect with inactive members. Follow-up with prospects until they are followers of Christ, assimilated into the church and learning to serve others.
  4. Times have changed and will continue to change dramatically. However, the personal touch is still a human need in our high-tech, impersonal world. People still want and need friends.

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” –Matthew 9 (NKJV)

The Evolution of Church Staff Positions

10 New Names and 1 Idea!

In the eighties, church job titles were pretty simple. We even had decision cards that you could fill out if you felt “called” to “special service.”

You might feel called to be a

_____ Pastor
_____ Music Minister
_____ Youth Minister
_____ Minister of Education
_____ Foreign Missionary

(Check one.)

That’s it. Check the nature of your particular call to ministry and we’ll tell you about the closest Christian College where you can go to get a testimony.

But sometime around ’89 a trusted denominational leader went to a business conference and the wave of new ministry vocations began to trickle down to your typical Baptist Church. These names, I suppose, were to clarify the positions and to give people a better understanding of what they actually do.

1. Pastor of Spiritual Formation

Pastor of Spiritual Formation which is … well.. they kind of form… no… they shape the uh… spirituality of the deacon and leaders? I give up. I imagine he’s like the Minister of Assimilation – whatever that is.

2. Magnification Pastor

Then there is the Magnification Pastor. (This is a real position in several churches. Several big, successful churches, so I can’t be critical. It’s working.) Logic would tell me that the Magnification Pastor would be the Senior Adult minister. He’d do his weekly column in extra-large print. This title of Magnification Pastor is not for every minister. If the Pastor was a grumpy, stick-in-the-mud, youth-minister-firing, church-split-waiting-to- happen guy, would you really want to magnify him. In truth the magnification pastor is someone who preaches or leads worship on Sunday.

Some Sundays.

When he’s not at Catalyst.

3. Executive Pastor

Executive Pastor is the Minister of Education. We call him Executive Pastor to get rid of the stigma that the Ministers of Education have carried for years- that he’s the guy who gives the announcements and knows where the overhead projectors are stored.

4. Children’s Pastor

The Children’s Pastor is simple enough. It means that they minister to the needs of children and their parents. The Children’s Director is even more specific. The Children’s Director does everything the Children’s Pastor would do but this person is a woman.

5. Administrative Assistant

The Administrative Assistant to the Pastor of course is the same as the old Pastor’s Secretary but the Administrative Assistant actually controls the Pastor, knows CPR and how to use anti-virus software.

6. The Minister of Technology

This is the guy (or gal) who knows how to use the anti-virus software but also adds presentation software, feedback, mic chords and automated thermostats to his sphere of responsibility (or blame).

7. Minister of Ecclesia

Talk about seeker sensitive! You say Minister of Eccelsia and the average Joe knows exactly how you spend your time.

8. The Minister of Connections

I visited a church in Maryland where every staff member’s name and email address was listed with one exception. The pastor’s email address was intentionally omitted. Under his name was his administrative assistant and her email address. But she was called the Director of Connections. So one would assume, if you want to contact the pastor, you’ve gotta have connections.

9. Creative Pastor

Here’s another: The Creative Pastor. I can’t help but wonder how makes the other pastors feel? And should we actually use adjectives in a job title. “If the Creative Pastor doesn’t know, go ask the Intellegent Pastor or the Attractive Director. If all else fails you might just have to ask the Monotonous Pastor. He’ll know. He always knows.”

10. Executive Pastor of Operations

I visited a church website recently that had an Executive Pastor of Operations. I had to call about this title. It kept me up at night. What is a Pastor of Operations? Is this legal? Does he do hernias? I learned that the Pastor of Operations is what we used to call the Facilities Manager. This man supervises the janitorial staff as well as the mantanence and repair of the church. That’s his vocation and ministry. My first thought was, “Wow! They must have an incredible middle school program!”

11 ????

Personally I think I’d be a great Minister of Apology. Every day I could get a list from all the other staff members in my mega-church. You know, the Minister of Technology, the Student Pastor, the Director of Childhood Ministries, the Pastor of Operations, and the Magnification Pastor. They could give me this list of people that I should, on behalf of the church, extend a deep and meaningful apology. But the Minister of Apology just doesn’t sound as hip and postmodern as the other members of the staff. Perhaps they could call me the Minister of Apologetics. But then again Apologetics means never having to say you’re wrong.

On top of that, if I became the Minister of Apology I would be doing the work of the most powerful person of the staff: The Receptionist.

Keys to Developing Next and Now Generation Leaders

There is a semi-new trend going on in our culture called binge-watching.  The idea is to set aside a lot of time, load up on snacks, turn the lights down and watch many episodes of your favorite television program that you’ve stored up on your DVR, or maybe on Netflix or Hulu.  One of my favorite binges is the show Flea Market Flips.  It’s not the prospect of making cash out of junk that attracts me to this show.  I’m drawn to the idea of taking something that in its raw state has been useful in another context and transforming it into something brand new that is better than the original item.

The term for that process is called upcycling.  The art of this process is being able to recognize potential, and seeing beauty in something that has not yet been realized.  For twenty-five years serving as a collegiate minster I was blessed with thousands of potential great leaders in our ministry.  I could say all of them had potential to become leaders, but not all responded to the challenge.

The guiding principle used for determining who was willing and interested in growing is found in the New Testament book Matthew chapter 13:1-9. The parable of the sower and the seeds is a powerful teaching about those who hear of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how they respond.   Jesus says  “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” In this passage we find seeds, or as it is implied people, who fall into four categories.

1. Fallen along the path

This potential leader is wandering in life and hasn’t given much thought to what he is going to do with his life.  Figuratively and maybe even physically stop this person in their tracks and tell them that you see potential in them for becoming a great leader and give a clear specific example of something they could accomplish.  It may be that no one has ever taken the time to tell them that God created them for a purpose in life and you are delivering great news to them.

2. Seed in the rocks

This leader may be coming to Christianity without a family of faith heritage. Not only will you be helping this student realize leadership potential, extra effort will be required to develop a foundation of Biblical faith in her life.  Be patient when the scorching sun of life and love discourage this potential leader.

3. Seed among the thorns

This leader is influenced greatly by the human environment in which they live.  The thorns that choke back this leader could be an unbelieving best friend, love interest or even family.  I can remember many students that worked jobs that were so worldly it was near impossible to grow beyond their existing state without quitting and moving to a new environment. Tory was a bartender.  Steve was an athletic trainer in a very spiritually hostile environment.  Janey was raised in a home with rotating father figures where alcohol and drugs always present.  Leading these students to find more “fertile” soil is crucial.  As they learn to move on from the past and take faith steps their trust in the Lord is affirmed and they become even more resolute leaders.

4. Soil fertile and ready for success

You can recognize these students by how they respond to your leadership.  Use the following defining questions to determine their potential.  Does he complete assignments quickly and come back enthusiastically for more? Is she teachable? By teachable I mean are they willing to change their long-held opinions and habits to a more productive behavior.  Everyone has potential and deserves the opportunity to grow.  However, your time might be best spent on those that are growing in fertile soil.

Recently while driving down the street I noticed someone had cleared the attic and taken everything to the curb, my brakes instinctively screeched to a halt.  I looked over the pile and spotted an old blue china hutch.  I loaded it up on my jeep and took it on a short trip home.  Shortening the story, it now makes an incredible art display and supply storage place for paints and brushes.  It has a new purposeful life.  Sharpen your vision and scan your student horizon to see all the great potential that God has placed right in front of you.

4 Things to Consider in Multi-Ethnic Church Planting

1. Is it Biblical?

From the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, scripture reveals that God is on mission and is inviting His disciples—the church—to go on missions with Him. Beginning with the call of Abraham in Genesis 12, and continuing into the New Testament, the mission of God is to call one people from all peoples of the world.  In Gen. 12:1-3, God calls Abram and his descendants to become a blessing to all the peoples of the earth; hence God’s mission is to every people group (Gen. 12:3).  According to the end-time revelation of scripture in Rev. 7:9, God’s goal, as from the beginning, is to have one people for himself, “out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” [1] The Apostle Paul proclaimed the common origin of mankind and God’s purpose for all mankind in Acts 17:26-27, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; …God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

The Baptist Faith and Message cites Acts 17:26-27 as a basis for the declaration that “every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.”[2] Jesus confirmed that the mission of God is to everyone in Jn. 3:16, in declaring that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes will obtain eternal life.” After the resurrection, Jesus gave the Disciples the Great Commission (Mt. 28:16-20) to make disciples of everyone, and the Last Commission (Acts 1:8) to make disciples everywhere. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)   (PGETF Missiology 2015, James Jenkins)

2. Does it fit the context of the community?

The  church  universal  is  comprised  every  people  of  every  nation, but  the composition of the local  church should  mirror  the  community  in  which  it  is planted.  Many churches are planted in mono-ethnic communities; therefore, their composition will reflect their community.  In  these  situations where  diversity is not  possible  the  church  should  focus on  reaching  those  who God  has  placed  in their  community.

Churches  who are  planted  in diverse  ethnic  communities are  responsible  to reach  and  assimilate the  people  that God  has  placed in their  communities.  This  is a  difficult  task  because of  the cultural and  language  barriers  that might need  to be overcome.

3. Are there other barriers besides ethnicity?

The answer is yes. The scriptures call the church to be united in one body.  Different ethnic groups become one because of their common identity with Christ. Their identity with Christ does not erase nor eliminate their language or cultural diversity.  These differences  need  to  be  seriously  considered before attempting  to  unite  all peoples and  nations under one  roof. Let us not assume that all people in the United States will be proficient in the English language. In order to do the right thing one may offend or disrespect another.

4.     What model might be best for a particular context?

Churches may consider different models to reach their diverse communities.  One might be the multi-congregational model.  In  this  model  the  church  is  comprised  of  two  or  more  ethnic  diverse  congregations .  They may share common space, resources, mission and vision and may occasionally worship together. In this model the ultimate goal is not to bring all the different ethnicities together, but allow them to flourish separately.  Another model might be the multi-site model.  This  model  would  differ  from  the multi-congregational model in that the different  congregations  might  meet  in  different  locations.  Another model might be the multi-ethnic church model. This model would include culturally diverse people who meet together as one congregation, utilizing one language, or providing interpretation for other languages.

In conclusion be in such prayer as you consider reaching all the different ethnic groups that God has placed in your field.  Remember that there is no cookie-cutter solution.  There is a mandate to reach all people but there are a variety of methods to do it effectively in a specific context.