Wake-Up Call: Sexual Integrity Weekend at Dayton Avenue Baptist Church
By Pastor Jonathan Young
My phone buzzed with a text that said “you need to come to the church RIGHT NOW.” Thankfully, I was only two minutes away, and as I arrived, two more texts prepared me for the scene. During a non-church event, a recording device was discovered hidden in one of our bathrooms. As I came through the door, the shaken guests were waiting in the foyer for me and for the Sheriff to arrive – a scene now burned into my memory. Looking back, though, this event was a wake-up call that the Lord knew we needed to hear.
Sexual integrity sin is an all-too-common reality today, and our church family had already been affected by several cases of marital infidelity that had become publicly known. While those burdens were heavy enough, this was a new challenge: fully cooperating with the judicial system, compassionately helping the victims, wisely dealing with unwanted publicity, graciously counseling the offender, and prayerfully leading our church family through all this. Clearly, this was beyond our abilities!
As we sought resources to help minister to the individuals affected by these heartbreaking situations, our church leadership realized that we all needed to be better equipped for the attacks of the enemy. We needed to claim “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and at the same time we needed His strength and wisdom to learn how to better avoid these tragedies before they become realities.
Our research led us to Troy and Melissa Haas from HopeQuest Ministries in Woodstock Georgia (www.hopequestgroup.org). On Saturday October 21, Troy and Melissa conducted a regional seminar for church and ministry leaders designed to help us better minister to people affected by these issues. Then on Sunday the 22nd, Troy and Melissa shared their story in both of our worship services, conducted separate teaching sessions for men and women, conducted a working lunch session, and also provided a limited number of personal counseling sessions for individuals afterward. Audio recordings of portions of those sessions can be heard on our church website, www.daytonave.org/media/audio/ (search by date).
The Sexual Integrity Weekend (as we called it) is only part of an on-going effort at our church to minister more effectively to those who have been affected by sexual sin. As Troy emphasized, this issue is not going away; instead, it is likely going to be the biggest issue the church will continue to face for years to come. While the subject matter makes some folks uncomfortable, equipping and protecting our churches is too critical an issue NOT to address. We are being as sensitive as we can while speaking to these issues with our church family, and so far, their response has been only positive and affirming.
One final word. Five months after our wake up call, our church family has seen God bring healing and reconciliation. Recently, the offender addressed our church family with a humble statement of repentance and asked for forgiveness. Even though these have been difficult months, this has brought us repeatedly back to the heart of the Gospel – forgiveness and reconciliation – and God has been working all things together for our good.