I just finished watching one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen. A megachurch pastor and his congregation took a strong and clear stand on sexuality and gender, and then held an open mic forum for community members (hostile or otherwise) to come and speak or ask any question they wanted of the pastor. I have never seen anything like it, but it was astonishing. You can watch the video below, but first a little background.
Some of you will recognize Heath Lambert’s name because he and I were coauthors of a book linked in the sidebar, Transforming Homosexuality. Heath now serves as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. This week he and the entire congregation were thrust into a maelstrom of hate and disinformation as a result of a hostile local media and LGBTQ+ activists in the city. How did this happen?
Last October the congregation of FBC Jax unanimously passed a statement on sexuality to be added to the church’s doctrinal statement as a requirement for membership. Here it is:
As a member of First Baptist Church, I believe that God creates people in his image as either male or female, and that this creation is a fixed matter of human biology, not individual choice. I believe marriage is instituted by God, not government, is between one man and one woman, and is the only context for sexual desire and expression.
Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
For three months, no one outside the church really paid any attention to this. Why would they? The statement is simply a declaration of what all faithful Christians everywhere have believed throughout the entire 2,000-year history of the church. If there is such a thing as old news, this is it.
Nevertheless, last week news media in Jacksonville picked up the story and began weaving a distorted narrative about the statement and what it says. Some said that the statement was designed to keep gays from attending the church. A lie. Others said that the statement was an expression of bigotry and hate. Also lies. As the lies kept getting airtime in local and social media, the entire community was being stirred up against this historic Baptist church in the heart of downtown Jacksonville.
So Heath led the church to hold an open mic forum to address the community directly. He invited not only the members of FBC Jax but also members of the community to come in and express whatever concerns or ask any question they had. In a video invitation, he told Jacksonville that if they were brave enough to come to a mic and speak, he would be brave enough to answer their concerns.
The event was held earlier this evening, and it was livestreamed to the world. There were hostile questioners as well as friendly. There were members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as members of First Jax. Somehow through all of it, Heath and the members of FBC Jax bore faithful, winsome witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was really wonderful to watch.
So I commend this video to you. The Lord answered many prayers and enabled the church to put on a masterclass of gospel proclamation to their community. Watch below.