Living Out and a Call to Immediate Action
When Paul wrote young pastor Timothy in the church at Ephesus, he reminded him of this sobering reality of ministry: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
As pastors, we must keep a close watch upon our lives to be sure that we are walking in godly ways lest we fall and disqualify ourselves from ministry and shame the cause of Christ. Furthermore, we must be careful to make sure that what we are teaching is biblically sound. This is no small thing that we are called to do as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must live by the power of the gospel and clearly guard the gospel because our own salvation and the salvation at others hangs in the balance.
This has been my concern in addressing the troubling details I discovered at Living Out. For the past three days I have shared the bad theology and even perverted counsel offered by two of the websites leaders. You can find those articles here: part 1, part 2, part 3.
My heart in this has been that of a concerned pastor. Throughout my ministry, I have sought to love those struggling with same-sex attraction and extend a gospel message that offers them a hope of real transformation. My aim has been to expose, but not be a sensational exposé.
People need to be saved and set free from the power of sin. Eternal lives are at stake and the gospel is the only thing that can bring transformation. This means that we must be biblically precise in defining sin and repentance. The gospel calls for a lifestyle of repentance and faith, so we dare not offer any other path in redemption, which will ultimately be a path of self-indulgence and false hope.
I take seriously this responsibility as a pastor and I believe most of those who are currently directing people to Living Out do as well. Therefore, surely we would not point anyone to a website that is filled with spiritual landmines that could lead to the destruction of her soul.
Consider another article at Living Out where Sean Doherty offers advice to a heterosexual married couple where “one or both spouses experience same-sex attraction.” Even in this situation he does not call upon either person to mortify their “evil desire” (Col 3:5). Rather, regarding their same-sex attraction, he shockingly tells them to “choose not to repress your desires.” While he does tell them not to “gratify the desires,” he offers this advice: “Christian psychologist William Kraft argues that whilst it is of course right to avoid situations which place us in temptation, that is not the same as seeking to ignore or deny your feelings, which is dangerous.”
The real danger Jesus sees is not the potential of denying your feelings, but the potential of giving oneself over to sin and ending up in hell. Therefore, he commands us to radically remove everything that would potentially lead us toward indulging our sinful desires (Matt 5:29-30). Paul tells the believers at Colossae that they have been fundamentally transformed by their union with Christ in his death and resurrection. This reality demands that we “put to death” not only the outward expressions of our sin, but the inward “impurity, passion, evil desire” that lurks in our heart (Col 3:5-11). However, rather than give this clear teaching of Scripture as counsel to believers struggling with same-sex attraction in a heterosexual marriage, Doherty gives his readers the advice of a psychologist that tells them “not to repress your desires.”
I must stop and ask those who support Sam Allberry’s ministry, does this reflect the gospel’s message of faith and repentance that you believe? We can choose the teaching of Jesus and Paul or the counsel of Living Out, but what we cannot choose is both.
Living Out is giving real counsel to real people. Some of them are in our churches and are turning there for counsel because they trust those who are pointing them in that direction. If lives are at stake, we cannot take the answers offered by Living Out lightly. This is not a debate class exercise where we can afford to defend the wrong position in a sterilized classroom setting. Real people are going to follow our lead and many will end up shipwrecking their lives on the unbiblical counsel and bad theology offered at Living Out.
With the documented evidence that I have presented, I am issuing a call for immediate action to be taken. I am asking pastors to join me in calling upon our fellow evangelical leaders who are connecting themselves with Living Out to immediately take notice of what it is they are actually supporting. If they endorsed without doing due diligence, they should confess that they failed to “keep a close watch on the teaching,” repent, and publicly renounce these dangerous teachings.
Proposals for Action
1. While there is much I have appreciated about Sam Allberry, Living Out is his ministry and he should take responsibility for the content of the website that is unsound and twisted doctrine. Allberry knows about these articles and has chosen to not immediately remove them, even though he previously promised he would.1
He asks for time to give a thoughtful response, and that time should be afforded.2 However, what we cannot afford is another person to be deceived with the unbiblical counsel given at the Living Out website. Nothing is stopping Allberry from taking the troublesome articles down as he prepares a response. If his voice is to be trusted in the future, these articles need to be removed, unequivocally renounced, and a promise to provide greater oversight of the counsel given at Living Out. These are not issues of “misunderstandings” on the part of the readers, but a clear lack of understanding of Scripture’s teaching of sanctification on the part of the writers at Living Out.
Allberry must not address this with private revisions in the shadows of the night, but with public renunciations in the light of day.
2. As a pastor of a SBC church, I am asking Russell Moore to renounce the teaching of Living Out and immediately withdraw his endorsement as publicly as he has given it. In addition, I do not see how the ERLC can continue to partner with Allberry unless he, too, publicly renounces these teachings and removes anyone from Living Out who would persist in teaching such things. No pastor should be pointing his people to men who have offered such unsound teaching – neither should any denominational leader.
Until these issues are adequately resolved, the ERLC should not be partnering with Allberry in any capacity. Therefore, I ask the ERLC to remove Allberry from their April 2nd lineup at the TGC event in Indianapolis.3
3. Unless Allberry gives an adequate response before April 1, I request Midwestern Seminary and 9Marks to ask Allberry to step aside from their upcoming event in Indianapolis.4 These matters are far too serious to not take immediate action. Allberry, himself, has said he needs time to answer these things because he has a “hectic schedule.”5
To be clear, this is not a “guilt by association” fallacy. When you promote Sam Allberry, you might be doing more, but you are certainly not doing any less than promoting his public ministry in its entirety, which includes Living Out. Allberry should get his own “house in order” before another person is pointed to his leadership.
4. I also ask for The Gospel Coalition look into these issues and hold Allberry accountable. Many evangelicals look to you for biblical wisdom and counsel. Those who you embrace and elevate will be followed. Those who follow Allberry will eventually make their way to Living Out.
5. I call upon all evangelical leaders to research carefully the ministries they consider endorsing or recommending, taking seriously the pastoral responsibility we have in ministering to God’s people. People trust us to watch over their souls, and they trust our recommendations. If people fall into error it should be in spite of our carefully researched recommendations, not facilitated by our uniformed endorsements.
These actions, for which I call, should not be interpreted as a lack of care for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, but a clear sign of the greatest of care for them. We are all sinners and what we ultimately need is to be confronted with biblical truth that points us to a lifestyle that is characterized by authentic, biblical repentance and faith.
In matters of repentance and faith, we dare not speak in pale pastels but in bold colors.
We must never forget that eternal lives are at stake. The only hope we all have is a pure and unadulterated gospel message – not only for our justification, but also for our sanctification. If we truly care about the souls of those who are battling against same-sex attraction, we must also care about the fidelity of biblical truth that is their only hope of deliverance and salvation – as it is for all of us no matter what our sin-struggle.
If we really believe this, we will take action and we will take it now.