Louie Giglio, Living Martyr?

(Reblogged from Do Not Be Surprised)

It was announced on 8 January that Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and founder of the Passion conferences, had accepted an invitation to deliver the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration on 21 January.

Immediately following that announcement, someone dug up a 15–20 year old sermon of Giglio’s wherein he made comments about homosexuality that didn’t sit so well with the loudest voices in this country. By the morning of 10 January, Giglio had withdrawn his acceptance of the invitation.

With this news, Louie Giglio immediately became a living martyr among evangelicals. Indeed, the backlash and response to the contents of his sermon was unfortunate—there is little arguing that fact. At the same time, it really should not surprise the Christian who does not have his head stuck in the sand. America is, after all, a Romans 1 nation. We love our sin. We love our sexual sin. We revel in it. We celebrate it. So what do you expect?

But, is Giglio’s withdrawal from the inauguration ceremony worthy of the praise and commendation of Christians? Has he taken the strong stance that so many evangelical leaders would have us believe? Is he a victim, taken to the figurative stake and burned for his adherence to God’s Word?

Now, the argument is swirling based upon a New York Times (NYT) article that Giglio was asked to step aside, that he in essence was ousted. This was the scenario painted at Denny Burk’s blog, however the quote in question has since been removed from the original NYT article.

If one looks at the pastor’s own words, though, Giglio says, “I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation.” So if Louie Giglio was asked to step aside, then that needs to be said by Louie Giglio. Otherwise, we should take him at his word. He is, after all, a Christian pastor, and thus his word should be able to be trusted, should it not?

With that, and because Louie Giglio wears the title of Christian pastor, it behooves the Christian to examine the statement he has made regarding this decision to withdraw. The remainder of this post will look at that statement in its entirety, as it was shared with Louie Giglio’s own church.


At the blog of Passion City Church, we read

Dear PCC Family,

Though I was invited by the President of the United States to pray at his upcoming inauguration, after conversations between our team and the White House I am no longer serving in that role. I sent the following statement to the White House today:

I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms.

Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.

Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation. I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so. I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.

Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever we need God’s grace and mercy in our time of need.

The issue of homosexuality (which a particular message of mine some 20 years ago addressed) is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate. However, individuals’ rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve.

As a pastor, my mission is to love people, and lead them well, while lifting up the name of Jesus above anything else. I’m confident that anyone who knows me or has listened to the multitude of messages I have given in the last decade would most likely conclude that I am not easily characterized as being opposed to people—any people. Rather, I am constantly seeking to understand where all people are coming from and how to best serve them as I point them to Jesus.

In all things, the most helpful thing I can do is to invite each of us to wrestle with scripture and its implications for our lives. God’s words trump all opinions, including mine, and in the end, I believe God’s words lead to life.

My greatest desire is that we not be distracted from the things we are focused on…seeing people in our city come to know Jesus, and speaking up for the last and least of these throughout the world.

Honored to be your pastor,
Louie

Let’s break this down:

I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms.

Uniting around common goals is fine, so long as the gospel is not compromised in the process. Any pastor agreeing to offer the benediction at an event such as this should do so with the gospel in mind, not a social agenda. If one truly desires to “end slavery in all its forms,” then start with the great eternal slavery of sin, and seek to “end” that by preaching repentance and forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Rom. 6:6–7)

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:16–18)

Giglio continues,

Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.

One might ask Mr. Giglio: Do you still believe the words you preached 15–20 years ago? Do you believe what the Scripture says about the sin of homosexuality? Then stand firm on that Scripture. It is the only worthwhile support you have. If the media labels you as “anti-gay” in the process, does it really matter?

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. (John 15:18–23)

May we be counted worthy to be persecuted for the name of Christ! May we never back down on what we know to be true because it has been spoken in His Word. May we never be ashamed of our Master, seeking to step aside from conflict that arises simply because the world hates Him, as He told us it would.

Next, Giglio offers a most curious statement:

Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years.

Look closely at the sentence above and then answer this question: If a man has not seen fit to preach on the topic of sin in the past fifteen years, then can he legitimately wear the title of Christian pastor? Homosexuality is a sin. It is in the Bible. Preaching about sin (not just homosexual sin, but all sin) must be a weekly priority for every pastor. Why? Because without teaching your flock about the sinful nature of man, without sharing with them their depravity and wickedness, they cannot see their need for a Savior, nor can they see and understand the great, glorious, saving gospel of grace! The Good News is not good news if there is not bad news delivered first. A pastor who has not placed sin as a priority within his sermons for one and a half decades is, it could be argued, a pastor in name only. The Apostle Paul tells us,

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Tim. 1:15–16)

Giglio then shares what the purpose of his ministry has been over the past fifteen years:

Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.

This sentence does not even make sense. Is he calling people to be significant? One would hope not, since Jesus must always increase as we decrease (John 3:30). Further, one cannot “make much of Jesus” if one diminishes sin. With a diminished view of sin, Jesus is unnecessary. The good news of the gospel, as Paul taught us in 1 Timothy (quoted above) is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and that, through his life, death and resurrection He has saved sinners. But if we choose to ignore the concept of sin in any form, then that good news fails to maintain any concept of goodness. Christians are to call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Luke 24:47). Any other mission is doomed to fail.

What Giglio has stated here is not the gospel. And if Louie Giglio’s aim has not been to proclaim the gospel and the whole counsel of God, then he has been gravely off-target. If one truly desires to “make much of Jesus Christ,” then one may consider calling people to repent of their sins and to turn to Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Nothing gives God more glory.

Giglio continues:

Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation. I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so. I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.

Mr. Giglio has been called out and attacked for teaching the truth about the sin of homosexuality as found in God’s Word. Yet, this is not a battle he thinks is worthy to fight? Oh, what a travesty! To think there is a man posing as an under-shepherd of the Lord Jesus Christ who will not stand and defend his Shepherd’s Word!

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3)

Opposition will come from both within and without. In neither instance is the Christian to retreat from the battle that rages against God’s truth.

Continuing Giglio’s statement:

Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever we need God’s grace and mercy in our time of need.

More than ever, this country needs the truth. It does not need weak and wobbling Christians.

The issue of homosexuality (which a particular message of mine some 20 years ago addressed) is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate. However, individuals’ rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve.

Yes, individuals have a right to “hold differing views” on this subject (though all Christians should hold the same view). Yet, how is withdrawing from this event demonstrating this? Those who would call Christians intolerant best learn to be tolerant themselves. Christians who cater to their whims should never complain, then, when liberal agendas plunge forward with commanding speed.

As a pastor, my mission is to love people, and lead them well, while lifting up the name of Jesus above anything else. I’m confident that anyone who knows me or has listened to the multitude of messages I have given in the last decade would most likely conclude that I am not easily characterized as being opposed to people—any people. Rather, I am constantly seeking to understand where all people are coming from and how to best serve them as I point them to Jesus.

If a pastor truly wants to “love people and lead them well,” then he best heed the duties of a pastor as declared in Scripture:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1–4)

Preach. The. Word. In season and out of season. Meaning, whether people like it or not. Whether it attracts 60,000 people or 6. Preach the word: reprove, rebuke, exhort. Teach truth because people would rather be led astray by false doctrine; lies that sound good now but that lead to damnation. You cannot truly “love people and lead them well” if you do not preach sin, and the forgiveness that is available through repentance of that sin and faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot effectively “lift up the name of Jesus above anything else” if you are willing to compromise on anything found in His Word.

In all things, the most helpful thing I can do is to invite each of us to wrestle with scripture and its implications for our lives. God’s words trump all opinions, including mine, and in the end, I believe God’s words lead to life.

It is a bit frightening to think that the most “helpful thing” a pastor can do is “invite” people to “wrestle with scripture.” On the topic of homosexuality, the Bible is clear. On the topic of all sin, the Bible is clear. And on the way of salvation, the Bible is clear (John 14:6). The duty of the pastor is to open up Scripture, proclaim it and explain it so that those who are lost may hear the truth and be saved. God’s words do lead to life, on this we can heartily agree.

My greatest desire is that we not be distracted from the things we are focused on…seeing people in our city come to know Jesus, and speaking up for the last and least of these throughout the world.

Again, people cannot “come to know Jesus” in a saving way if they are not helped to understand why they need Jesus Christ as their Savior. That entails preaching the whole counsel of God, including the reality of man’s sinful nature and depravity, which is the very reason we need a perfect Savior in the first place.

for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:27–28)

There is little doubt that my thoughts on this fall into the minority. As many Christians have sought to make Louie Giglio a living martyr, they have allowed themselves to compromise and to be blinded as to what Giglio has truly said in this statement. Why the compromise? So that they may be united against a common enemy: the liberals. Yet, why are we surprised that the liberals are angry over what they deem to be “anti-gay” sentiment? Why are we surprised that those who hate God are upset over what God says in His Word? Is this a reason to ignore the true implications of what has been stated here by the pastor of Passion City Church? If one truly examines this statement, one may find that Giglio’s weak words here actually help to qualify him even more, in the mind of the liberal, to deliver the benediction at the inauguration.

The truths and convictions of God’s Word ought never to be undermined to unite against a common enemy. The Bible is the greatest weapon Christians have at their disposal against the enemies of Christ. If we diminish that, then we have laid down our arms and are no longer worthy of the battle.

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