Addressing Sexuality in Worship

Each time we gather as a congregation there are those among us who are struggling with sexual temptation. As worship leaders we are called to help God’s people present our struggles—even the ones we’d rather ignore—before God and receive God’s care. We need to come before God honestly.

Though RW subscribers and the denominations represented may have differing opinions regarding the practice of chastity and homosexuality, as followers of Christ we can agree that all are made in the image of God and are therefore worthy of our love and pastoral care. But how are we to address sexuality in the context of worship outside of a sermon?

Through conversations with students and staff, Paul Ryan began to identify some of the struggles facing those who are attracted to people of the same sex and found that many of these struggles are common to all of us. The call to chastity or sexual holiness is not just for a segment of our church body but for all of us, young and old.

What follows are brief thoughts on various aspects of sexual holiness, as well as appropriate songs to sing. It’s our hope that these resources serve as a beginning point in a larger conversation. How do we live holy lives in a sexually disordered world? As Paul Ryan points out, it begins with understanding our true identity in Christ. —JB

Christian Identity

As Christians, our identity is first and foremost in Jesus Christ. This is our baptismal calling. Our culture, however, places great pressure on us to find our identity elsewhere: in a sports team, a political party, a fashion magazine, or in our sexuality. We need to encourage one another to place our sexuality in the context of our baptismal calling and affirm our Christian identity.


“In Christ Alone” SWM 208
“Blessed Assurance: Jesus Is Mine” CH 572, PH 341, PsH 490, TH 693,
WR 426
“When We Are Living” PH 400, SNC 193, WR 415

Christian Community

Our identity in Christ is formed and nurtured in loving Christian community. We need to pray for communities that are hospitable, supportive, truthful, admonishing, gracious, and compassionate. Moreover, Christians need to ask for forgiveness where we have failed to act as Christ’s community. For those who struggle to maintain chastity, whether married or single, we need to pray especially for loving role models and friends to give meaning and accountability to their struggles.


“Beneath the Cross of Jesus” CH 320, PH 92, TH 251, WR 255
“We Are Members of Christ’s Body” SNC 178


We live in a sex-saturated culture that exerts constant pressure to be sexually active. All of us, and especially single Christians, need prayer to remain faithful in the discipline of chastity by the power of the Holy Spirit.


“Take My Life” PsH 289, SWM 226, SFL 74
“Christian, Do You Struggle” PsH 575


Christians do succumb to lapses in chastity. In our weakness,
we ought never to give in to defeat, but to find Christ’s
grace and power in repentance.


“Create in Me a Clean Heart” SNC 49, SWM 153, SFL 41, WR 378
“Nothing But the Blood” CH 337


Christians who wrestle with remaining chaste and particularly those with a same-sex attraction feel acutely the brokenness of our fallen world. They pray, “Lord, take this burden away from me.” Yet often that prayer is not answered as they desire. Along with them we implore, “Why, O Lord?” And we ask, “How long?”


“In Labor All Creation Groans” SNC 270
“We Cannot Measure How You Heal” SNC 69, WR 628


It is challenging for Christians to open up their lives to the love and accountability of others. Christians need great courage to speak of their sexual struggles to even their closest friends and family members.


“Made Me Glad” Blessed, Hillsong Music Australia
“Nothing Can Trouble” WR 421


Christ’s example of love and self-sacrifice is a challenge for all of us. Our culture promotes self-fulfillment above all and demands the satisfaction of all desires, especially sexual. We must pray for the strength to live in obedience to Christ’s life-giving Word, share in his sufferings, and bear our cross for the sake of his kingdom.


“I Surrender All” CH 596, WR 474
“O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” CH 665, PH 357, WR 589


Guilt and shame are a great weight to carry. Christians with a same-sex attraction often carry a great burden of guilt and regularly feel shame. Others feel the guilt and shame of secret lives, addiction to pornography, or broken relationships. Christ promises us freedom from guilt and shame and bids us to live in the reality of that freedom.


“For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free” SNC 66
“We Cannot Measure How You Heal” SNC 69, WR 628


All Christians need to pray for the Holy Spirit to help us hear God’s voice and obey his Word. The popular media bombard us with images and messages suggesting that our sexuality is solely governed by our wishes and desires. In addition, the personal experiences of homosexuals are powerful and cannot be dismissed. Christians need discernment to test what they hear with the Word of God and the Church’s wisdom, and courage to conform to God’s will.


“Speak, O Lord” In Christ Alone Songbook, Keith & Kristyn
Getty, 2007
“May the Mind of Christ, My Savior” CH 568, PsH 291, SWM 211,
SFL 72, TH 644, WR 464


As God’s children we are deeply loved. God loved us when he made us; God loved us when he saved us; and God continues to love us and renew us by his Holy Spirit. Many Christians, at one time or another, struggle to know and experience God’s love for them. Christians who wrestle with a same-sex attraction especially need to know that they are loved. Often they hear from the church a message of judgment or even hatred. We need to pray that all of God’s people know and experience the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.


“Power of Your Love” WOW Worship Green Songbook, Integrity
Inc., 2001
“O Love of God, How Strong and True” PsH 463, TH 81


In A Word: Chastity

In Heidelberg Catechism answer 109 (see p. 39) the writers intentionally connect holiness and chastity. When we define living a chaste life as being sexually holy in our actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires, it broadensthe responsibility beyond those who are single.

What the Church Confesses

“We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why he forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.”
—Heidelberg Catechism, answer 109

“The church is a gathering of forgiven sinners, called to be holy, dedicated to service. Saved by the patient grace of God, we deal patiently with others. Knowing our own weakness and failures, we bring good news to all sinners with understanding of their condition, and with hope in God.”
—Our World Belongs to God, stanza 42

“Sexuality is disor dered in our fallen world; grief and loneliness are the result; but Christ’s renewing work gives hope for order and healing and surrounds suffering persons with a compassionate community.”—Our World Belongs to God, stanza 47

Rev. Paul Ryan has mentored emerging worship leaders for twenty years at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he is the worship pastor overseeing daily chapels. He also is a resource development specialist with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Paul is married to Sheila, is father to two high school boys, and is coach to dozens of middle school track and cross-country kids.

Reformed Worship 85 © September 2007, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.