Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting, Dr. Sam Serio. Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2016.
Summary: Explores the different kinds of issues that arise around sexuality in our post-sexual revolution society, and how pastors and others extending pastoral care might counsel and preach with sensitivity that may open the door to the healing of sexual wounds.
Sam Serio proposes that pastors are often out of touch with the issues around sexuality of the people sitting before them each Sunday. Married couples who have not had sex in the recent past. Someone who is struggling with same-sex attraction. A daughter who “checks out” of the Father’s Day sermon because of her past history of being molested by a father. The wife who has discovered sexual abuse between her husband and one of her children. The pro-lifer trying to atone for the abortion she had in her youth. The college student who is a date-rape survivor.
Serio begins the book with a list that includes these and many other instances of woundedness around sexuality that people in our congregations or parishes may be struggling with. He contends that often we preach and speak in such a way to preclude most of those who struggle from ever coming to us for help. He writes:
“Most ministry leaders usually do one of two things when it comes to this kind of delicate preaching on these most difficult topics–we are either negligent or negative. We either say nothing or we say mean things. We ignore, or we abhor. There is rarely a happy medium….Do you have that rare biblical balance? Do you preach truth and grace? Do you preach love and law? Facts and feelings? Proclamation and consolation? When is the last time you actually smiled as you preached about sex and offered hope and restoration, healing and wholeness, forgiveness and transformation?”
Serio recognizes that many really don’t know what this looks like. After helping pastors assess their own and their church’s readiness for this ministry, and a brief chapter on the Bible and sexuality pointing out its frankness about the things we often are reticent to discuss, the next chapters address the different kinds of issues pastors may need to address in preaching and pastoral care. First he opens with a chapter titled, “How You Can Preach About Sex, and Still Keep Your Job.” His subsequent chapters discuss pastoral considerations that help one enter sensitively into sexual wounds of members and then gives texts and language he has used to preach on each of the following topics:
- Casual Sex
- Sexual Assault and Rape
- Childhood Sexual Abuse and Molestation
- Same sex attraction and homosexuality
- Sexless marriage
The facts and sensitive counsel he gives under each of these topics was, I thought quite helpful. It may just be me, but his own distinctive voice in the language sections just felt different from mine and sometimes the connections to the passages felt exegetically forced. However, the example of candor and charity that invites people to healing conversations was refreshing. I would have liked more focus on sexual and physical abuse between partners, which also must be named and is startlingly prevalent in our congregations. The concluding challenges to churches are one a church leadership board should consider as well as every pastor. One I found particularly striking was to ask about sexual history and behavior in any counseling situation. The extent of woundedness in our post-sexual revolution culture warrants this and often is a significant contributing factor in many of the issues we confront.
As Serio says, it is far too often that we ignore or abhor. Instead we need to sensitively care for and pastorally restore the sexually hurting. This book helpfully connects preaching and pastoral care for those ready for this ministry.
This book was the winner of the 2016 The Gospel Coalition Book Awards in the Ministry category.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.