Category: Church

Human Sexuality and Discernment

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By Paula Marolewski, November 22, 2016 9:57 am

“We need more discernment around issues of human sexuality.”

I have heard that statement or variations of it many times recently. I don’t and I do agree with it.

I don’t agree that there is a need to discern whether LGBTQ behavior or same-sex marriage are sinful or not. God has made clear in his Word that such lifestyles and unions are sinful. (For a sound and respectful review of this matter, I welcome you to explore

I do agree, however, that we desperately need communal discernment around human sexuality in many critical areas, including the following.

Discernment Regarding Deception

We should engage in communal discernment to determine what lies we have believed – and why we have believed them – that have allowed us to come to our current state of polarization in the Church. For example, why have some church members and leaders accepted beliefs such as:

• Any form of human sexuality is acceptable if it is loving, faithful, and monogamous
• If someone has a same-sex attraction, it is acceptable because it is “natural”
• There is no “right” interpretation of the Bible
• Morality is relative
• Human sexuality is a civil, not a moral, issue
• All perspectives are equally valid
• LGBTQ lifestyles are diversity to be embraced, not sin to be avoided
• Experience is authoritative in the interpretation of Scripture

Discernment Regarding Hospitality and Ministry

We should discern together how to better engage in hospitality and ministry in the sphere of human sexuality. For instance:

• How do we balance grace (Jesus welcomes all of us to come as we are) and truth (Jesus calls all of us to sanctification in him) as we relate to the LGBTQ community, both within and outside the church?
• How does radical hospitality affect our evangelism? Worship services? Church programs? Corporate life?
• How can we help Christians who have a same-sex attraction or who are practicing an LGBTQ lifestyle to live lives of moral purity and holiness, either in a heterosexual marriage relationship or in celibacy?
• How do we minister to people who must break off a same-sex relationship with someone whom they love in order to follow God’s call to sexual holiness?
• How do we bring God’s healing to people who carry guilt and shame for their sinful sexual behaviors?
• How do we teach the biblical position on human sexuality in such a way as to make it clear, relevant, and attractive to the church and the world today?

Discernment Regarding Engagement

We make a serious mistake if we treat everyone who affirms LGBTQ behavior and same-sex marriage in the same way. We need to discern together how to effectively engage with and respond to many different groups within this larger whole. For example:

• How do we engage in outreach with unsaved members of the LGBTQ community and welcome them into our churches and invite them to salvation?
• How do we disciple newly-saved people who practice or affirm LGBTQ behavior or same-sex relationships?
• How do we respond to long-time Christians who practice or affirm LGBTQ behavior or same-sex relationships?
• How do we engage with those in church leadership who practice or affirm LGBTQ behavior or same-sex relationships?

Discernment Regarding Discipleship

As we look at how often and how easily LGBTQ behavior and same-sex unions have been accepted by Christians, we should ask ourselves:

• Where have we fallen down in discipleship and Christian education that has permitted this view to take such hold in our churches?
• Are we teaching people how to read, study, interpret, and apply Scripture?
• How can we better explain why issues of human sexuality matter so much?
• Where else are we allowing anti-biblical views to take hold? For instance, with regard to the doctrines of salvation, heaven and hell, the nature of Scripture, etc.

Discernment Regarding Conversations

Affirming the biblical position with regard to matters of human sexuality does not limit conversations. It multiplies them. For instance:

• How do we have sensitive, gentle conversations where people feel safe to share the deep pain that may have prompted them to embrace or affirm LGBTQ behavior or same-sex marriage? For example, perhaps they have struggled with powerful same-sex attraction for years, or they may have a family member or friend who has embraced an alternative lifestyle.
• How do we encourage conversations where we talk about reason and logic and world views? We live in a world where everything is considered relative and absolutes are non-existent. The younger generations especially need to be introduced to the concept that there are absolutes, and that personal experience and interpretation are not the ultimate reality.
• How do we engage in conversations where we humbly ask where we have hurt those who affirm or embrace LGBTQ behaviors or same-sex marriage in our actions, attitudes, and words? We need to confess the injustices we have perpetrated and seek reconciliation.
• How do we make space for conversations where people are free to express their doubts and questions and receive sound, biblical counsel?
• How do we have conversations where we disciple each other and build one another up, growing in grace and truth?

The Call for Discernment

As the above points reveal, taking a firm stand on matters of human sexuality does not remove the opportunity for further discernment. Rather, we have and will continue to have a tremendous and burning need for discernment in the Church.

Community in the Pews

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:23 am

I was recently in a small group setting where the subject under discussion was community in the Christian church:  that community should be the center of our life.

Unfortunately, I see a problem – and I see it right in the church pews on Sunday morning. The problem is this: people often don’t practice community in the pews. Couples sit together with empty chairs on either side. Families sit together … again, with empty space on either side.

Sure, sometimes folk sit with other folk. But as a single person who has done a lot of observing and also a lot of chatting with other singles, I can tell you this: it is all too easy as a single to sit by yourself on Sunday morning. Alone. In the very place where you should experience fellowship.

Not only singles are affected in this way. I also see couples who are hurting sitting wrapped in their own lonely spaces. Or newcomers with no one next to them.

It’s easy for couples and families who are feeling healthy and positive not to notice these islands of isolation. When you are with your loved ones, you may not realize that others are not sitting alone by choice. Let’s face it, we tend to be self-centered by (fallen) nature. If we’re happy, we don’t realize that someone else may not be.

But my friends, if we can’t practice community in the pews, I find it hard to believe we really practice it in the church. If we don’t take this simplest of actions – to take the initiative to sit with those who are single, sorrowing, or strangers – how can we ever expect to become a community characterized by true sacrificial love … which is, after all, the foundation of true community?



© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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SWOT Analysis in the Church

By Paula Marolewski, February 10, 2010 6:00 pm

SWOT: it stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats. It’s a great way to engage in strategic planning to ensure that you’ve examined the big picture before deciding whether or how to move forward on a project.

But in the church, I’m afraid I’m afraid we don’t always follow this sound strategy. You see, people who bring out the Ss and Os – the Strengths and Opportunities – are looked at as faith-filled, visionary leaders.

And those of us who bring out the Ws and Ts – those annoying Weaknesses and Threats? Well, all too often, we’re looked at as faith-lacking nay-sayers standing in the way of the progress of the Kingdom of God.

Now, do we serve a God who is sovereign over all creation? Does Jesus still work miracles? Is not God also named Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides?

Yes, absolutely to all three. But we also live in a fallen world, we are in a serious battle against the enemy, and God gave us the gift of reason … and he expects us to use it.

Therefore, I think it is not just important but essential to perform SWOT analyses whenever we are exploring new ventures within the church. We need to be aware not only of the potential we have to do good, but the possibilities that may bring our efforts tumbling down around our ears.

Don’t look down on us WTs. We don’t lack faith, and we’re not trying to be negative. God has simply given us a very practical view of life that allows us to pinpoint trouble before it arises. We help the church take a hard look at things like:

  • Where will the money come from for this project?
  • Do we have the personnel to make it happen, or will we be putting one more job on already over-burdened people? Or, worse, get half-hearted involvement?
  • Will we get the prayer support we need on a consistent and long-term basis?
  • Do we have parties in the church that will stand in the way? Do they have valid concerns?
  • Is there any area of sin that we are not addressing that could hinder our progress?

Then comes the decision itself: actually weighing whether or not to move forward, and, if the decision is made to move forward – how to do so effectively.

Because here’s the truth, folk: not every idea should become a reality, even if the end goal is good. Why? Because the goal will never be reached if the idea on how to get there isn’t sound. Some ideas aren’t well thought out. Some ideas don’t have the support they need at the present time. Some ideas need a little or a lot of modification before they can be actualized. A prayer-filled SWOT analysis can help determine which path God is calling you on.

Remember, we’re supposed to act as a body within the church. Typically, SO-type people provide the “go juice” – the momentum. WT-type people put the brakes on so that the “go” is controlled.

Working together, we can really make things work!


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Flagrant Sin

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By Paula Marolewski, January 27, 2010 7:15 am

I recently encountered the question: How should we respond to people who come to the church with flagrant sins in their background (i.e., sodomy, sexual crimes, murder, etc.)?

Here are three recommendations:

  • First, don’t sugarcoat sin. Don’t pass off what people did lightly and say “Oh, it’s okay!” Don’t make excuses for it. Call it for what it is and look at it in the revealing light of the Word of God.
  • Second, emphasize, encourage, and expect transformation of character through the grace of God. It’s not enough to preach it – the church needs to put accountability and discipleship relationships in place to help people grow and change.
  • Third, let the past be the past. Don’t deny the past (that is why accountability relationships are important), but don’t focus on it either. The past is a done deal, and the old man is in the grave. Focus on who people are now – not what they were – and who they can become through God’s grace. Give people a fresh start.

Oh … and one more thing, just as a reminder: we all come to the church with flagrant sins in our background. They might be the sins of envy, greed, or gossip rather than abuse, adultery, or theft, but they are still sins that separate us from God, fester as a cancer in our soul, and destroy the vitality of our life.

So the fact is, all of us need to put into practice the above recommendations. When we realize that – and practice that – the humility of our hearts and the grace of our God will so shine in our lives that the world will be drawn to the saving Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Putting God on a Time Clock

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By Paula Marolewski, December 3, 2009 9:45 am

I’m concerned about a situation I’ve come across multiple times in the past, and recently came across again. It is this: members of a congregation complain because the pastor’s sermon is “running too long.”

Now, this is not a case where the service usually lets out at 12:00 and the pastor is expounding in the pulpit until 2:30. I mean cases where the pastor may be preaching for 30 minutes when he is allotted 20.

My concern here is not with the pastor.

It’s with the complaining members of the congregation.

Is 10 minutes of your time really so important that it is worth disrupting church life, causing a division in the church, or embarrassing or hurting the pastor?

Is 10 minutes of your time really better spent watching football than learning the Word of God?

Is 10 minutes of your time really a make-or-break reason to stay or leave a church?

Are you putting the pastor on a time clock?

Or are you putting God on a time clock?

Think carefully before you answer.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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How Should the Church Respond to Mental and Emotional Problems?

By Paula Marolewski, November 2, 2009 5:51 pm

As the Church, it is imperative that we do not take a simple view toward mental and emotional illness. We cannot label it an exclusively spiritual problem (“You must have sin in your life or you wouldn’t be having this problem.”) and expect that confession and repentance will take care of the issue. Neither can we take an exclusively clinical approach and say that all mental or emotional illness is the result of a physiological imbalance in the brain. Instead, hard as it is, it is vital to understand that we are integrated as people: mind, emotions, spirit, body, etc. and that mental and emotional issues are frequently the result of some combination of those elements, and very often touch every aspect of our lives.

For instance, take the case of severe anxiety, which I discuss in my book Fire in My Mind: Personal Insights and Practical Help for Severe Anxiety. My own anxiety was triggered by a long-term high-stress situation. No sin involved. Just the stress of starting my own business. It was then exacerbated by the fact that, over time, my body and brain chemistry shifted due to the overload of adrenaline, resulting in anxious feelings regardless of the circumstances I found myself in. (I recommend Dr. Archibald Hart’s book The Anxiety Cure for a very complete discussion of the physiology of anxiety.) This then led very naturally to emotional depression and to spiritual doubt, as I was fighting constantly against something I didn’t understand and therefore couldn’t overcome.

It was only through qualified cognitive behavioral counseling that I was able to unravel all these various threads and address the behavioral, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that by then were all involved.

From my personal experience and talking extensively with others, I would therefore sum up the approach that the Church needs to take as follows: Love with knowledge.

Love itself isn’t enough … I have had people who love me very much say some very damaging things to me because they simply didn’t understand severe anxiety and didn’t know any better. They were trying to help, but they harmed instead.

Likewise, knowledge alone isn’t enough. Clinical knowledge keeps people at arm’s length and studies them like a bug under a microscope. Knowledge needs to be tempered by the warmth, caring, support, and encouragement of God’s love.

Love with knowledge is an irresistible combination that will draw many hurting people into the arms of the Church and the Kingdom of God.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Should Church Membership Ever Be Denied?

By Paula Marolewski, August 28, 2009 9:08 pm

I wonder if we sometimes err on the side of being too nice. Too trusting.

Too gullible.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Suppose that an individual, we’ll call him Bob, applies for membership at a local church. But a current member in good standing at that church, we’ll call her Susan, knows Bob personally, and is an eyewitness to the fact that Bob is a trouble-monger who delights in tearing down church leadership.

Susan, in genuine concern, lays the facts of her personal experience with Bob before the pastor of the church. The question is: what should the pastor and church leadership do?

Now, I am fully convinced that people can change, and that Bob may have turned over a new leaf. After all, that is the core of Christianity! However, that being said, I don’t necessarily think the pastor should just accept Bob’s application for membership without discussing the issue with him.

What if Bob claims he has confessed and repented of his sin? Even then, discretion would be wise. For instance, the church leadership could require a probationary period before membership could be accepted – but it would have to be a long enough period where Bob’s true character traits would have ample opportunity to manifest themselves … for better or for worse. I believe that a truly repentant Christian brother or sister will honor and respect any conditions placed upon acceptance of membership.

Matthew 7:17-18 remind us that “Every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” When the health of the church is at stake, I believe that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If there is a reasonable cause for concern, use discretion. Wait to see what fruit is produced.

© 2009 Paula Marolewski


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