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When it Comes to Talking About Sex, Should the Church Lead the Conversation?

When it Comes to Talking About Sex, Should the Church Lead the Conversation?

Story by Mark Tyler / Graphic via ThinkStock

Are you sexually satisfied or thirsty? That’s the frank question Paul Graham, pastor of Potomac Conference’s Restoration Praise Center in Lanham, Md., asked earlier this year through Bible Boot Camp Unplugged, an online program on Blogtalkradio. Callers and panelists ended up discussing everything from married couples working with licensed sex therapists, to engaged couples being upfront about their physical desires in hopes of having happy marriages.

“I think there should be more seminars [like this] given,” Graham said during the broadcast. “Too many things are not expressed.”

He’s referring to the fact that, until more recently, few Seventh-day Adventist congregations have engaged in meaningful discussions about sex. His show clearly filled a need. More than 300 people tuned in for the live broadcast, and he says he still gets encouraging calls from people who have listened to the rebroadcast.
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Breaking Taboo

Celeste Holbrook, PhD, a sexual health educator and mentor who attends Ohio Conference’s Worthington church, is another Seventh-day Adventist who would like to see churches create an environment where people can discuss sexual issues and get referrals when necessary. “The conversation is happening whether the church is having it or someone else is having it,” she notes.

The topic of sex certainly dominates American culture, and opinions on the subject are prevalently conveyed through advertising, television programming and all forms of media. “In almost every ad you see, there are implications of sex, and I think the message portrayed is that if you’re not doing A, B or C, there’s something wrong with you,” she says. “I think the church has an opportunity to say, ‘No, you’re perfectly normal.’”

Graham agrees and adds, “Because sex is a gift from God and is used for worship in the right context, the devil always takes something good and destroys it. We have allowed the world to take it from us,” he says. “[Sex] is a trusted gift that God gives us, and He expects us to be responsible with it.”

Holbrook, who deals with “inspired intimacy” on her website, says married couples often face challenges that manifest themselves in the bedroom. She says troubles arise when expectations aren’t met or even clearly communicated. Through a private practice, she coaches couples on how to improve intimacy, raise sexually healthy children and other issues, in part, because people feel uncomfortable addressing such needs through the church.

“We don’t really know how to talk about it because we haven’t made a platform for it,” Holbrook says. “I think it’s a missed opportunity.”

Mike Speegle, senior pastor of Chesapeake Conference’s New Hope church in Fulton, Md., says it doesn’t help that “most people come from homes where sex was never talked about, or it was talked about one time, instead of being an ongoing conversation.” He adds, “We’re either afraid to talk about it or it’s don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.”

Singles and Intimacy

Married adults aren’t the only ones affected by the lack of conversation. So are singles and young adults. Graham says he decided to address sex on his online show after a six-month stint volunteering at an Adventist academy, where he came to the conclusion that the needs of young people aren’t being adequately addressed. He also noted how much this age group discusses sex and other hot topics via social media.

Speegle has addressed sexual issues with both the married and single members of his congregation. For the singles, he recently hosted a sermon series titled “Love, Lust, Dating and Relating.” “Our approach is that we’re not here to condemn you. We want you to know what Jesus said and follow what Jesus said,” he explains. “It’s not to take away your fun, but to increase your joy and happiness.”

Speegle says the singles talked about lust, the way the culture views women and even dealt briefly with pornography. “The Bible is very silent on the whole subject of sex,” he says. “It gives us warnings, but the one thing it’s very clear about is that sex outside of a marriage relationship is different from other sins. Physical sin affects us differently.”

Spread the Resources

Although many churches may not be talking about sex, Claudio Consuegra, director for Family Ministries for the North American Division, says his department provides a host of materials that address marriage, remarriage, sexual relations, parenting and other topics. Many of them can be found at

Consuegra can’t say for sure why the information isn’t better reaching the pews. “We provide pastors with training in a marriage preparation program called Prepare-Enrich, which includes the discussion about how and when to handle sexuality within the bounds of marriage—not before and certainly not outside of marriage,” he says. “The role of the church is to provide training and resources for the parents in the church so they can be their children’s disciple-makers.”

He suggests that members who don’t believe sex is being addressed at their church enough—or at all—should get involved and assist their pastors in dealing with the issues. “Don’t expect your pastor to be everything to everyone,” Consuegra warns. “You can be your pastor’s helper in this area of ministry—to the parents and to the families in your church and community.”



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