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Churches must confront 'crisis of teen sexuality,' Mohler says
September 27, 2004
By David Roach
Youth ministries must teach teenagers how to reflect the glory of God with their sexuality, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said at the sixth annual Vision Conference held Sept. 11.
Preaching from Genesis 2:18-25, Mohler said that churches must confront the current crisis of teen sexuality by teaching young people about the Bible's comprehensive plan for sex and marriage. The conference was sponsored by The International Center for Youth Ministry at Boyce College, Southern Seminary's undergraduate school.
"The biggest problem we have in dealing with teenage sexuality is that we don't know where to start talking about sex in the first place," Mohler said. "The church, as the redeemed people of God under the authority of Scripture, is supposed to be the one place where sanity prevails in God-ward terms."
Teens must understand that God created them as sexual beings so that they could glorify Him with their sexuality, Mohler said.
"When we talk about the crisis in sexuality, the first crisis is that most people don't know where to begin," he said. "So let's just nail that down and say, 'We're going to begin with the glory of God,' so that our message to young people and to their parents is this: We want to help them, teach them, lead them, live before them in such a way that God's glory will be seen in them."
Every teenager has a desire for sexual intimacy, he said. God receives glory when young men and women satisfy that desire exclusively within the context of marriage.
"Our purpose is to get young people from puberty to marriage," Mohler said. "And we are to show them that God's glory is going to be shown in marriage [as] it will be evident in the world nowhere else."
Because of the Bible's emphasis on marriage, youth ministers must explain the benefits of marital union to teens rather than merely listing prohibited sexual activities, he said.
"We are the people who must be under every circumstance determined to talk about sex only in connection with marriage because we have nothing to say that is very meaningful that doesn't get right back to marriage," Mohler said.
Youth ministers must also teach teens about the effects of sin on human sexuality, he said. Because of our sinful natures, every human being is a "sexual sinner," Mohler said. Even people who have avoided committing sinful sexual acts "nonetheless have a knowledge in the mind that is itself sinful and is the result of sin," he said.
The church's goal should be "to take a young sexual sinner and to try to help move that young man or that young woman into Christian maturity, into purity of heart, into purity of ambition to be married and to show God's glory in creation through the covenant fidelity of a man and a woman in marriage."
When teenagers understand the glory of marriage and the pervasive effects of sin, they will be able to understand precisely why God prohibits certain sexual acts, Mohler said.
"When we speak of adultery, it's not just 'Thou shalt not,'" he said. "We come with a Gospel-centered understanding that begins in God's glory and shows how God's glory is then diminished in the world because of … the violation of the marriage covenant."
One of the most pressing sexual sins with which youth ministers must be prepared to deal is homosexuality, Mohler said. In order to deal with homosexuality effectively, youth ministers must understand the differences between male and female homosexuality, he said.
Lesbianism stems generally from relational needs and the inability to trust a man to meet those needs, Mohler said. The most effective way to minister to young women struggling with same-sex attraction is to teach them about healthy marriage relationships, he said.
Godly men in the church must "live before women in such a way that these young girls would see worthy models of husbands who honor and respect their wives, protect their wives, find their satisfaction in their wives. And we've got to dignify the role of the wife and mother in such a way that the feminists don't get their way in talking about that as a prison sentence of domestic captivity," Mohler said.
Male homosexuality generally is based on physical sexual desire and must be confronted with the truth of God's plan for rightly directed sexuality, he said.
"Pastorally, one of our main responsibilities is to realize that we're going to deal with some young guys whose sexual arousal is same-sex," Mohler said. "And we are to respond to them with the absolute truthfulness that we know objectively how God would have sexual desire directed."
Teaching teenagers to reflect the glory of God through rightly ordered sexual relationships will require a fundamental shift in the way churches conduct youth ministry, he said.
Mohler concluded, "You're going to meet some young people that have deep sexual problems. … But there is nothing we can't handle … because we understand that the answer to all these things is not just right information or just right knowledge. It's a personal relationship with the true and living God."