Jon Tyson: ‘Run into the Controversy’

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Why the NYC pastor’s goal is “to winsomely offend everybody.”

For many preachers, it can be difficult to navigate how best to approach passages that name specific sins, command obedience, or contain exhortations for godly living. It can be especially tricky when you’re trying to push back against a perception that Christianity is another word for “being good,” or ministering to people who still don’t believe the good news of God’s grace. Then try doing it in a culture where everything from racial justice to face masks prompts outrage. How can pastors effectively preach obedience to Scripture’s moral imperatives?

Jon Tyson serves as lead pastor of Church of the City New York. A native of Australia, Tyson is a church planter with a passion for evangelism and renewal in the church. His latest book is Beautiful Resistance: The Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise. CT spoke with Tyson about how he approaches preaching on Scripture passages containing exhortations about sin.

When has it been challenging for you to figure out how to preach on a hard passage—a passage containing exhortations about sin or commands on moral issues?

I’ve been preaching in New York for 15 years, and in that time, I’ve preached on transgender issues, the gay community, war, violence, and so on. One recent example is a sermon series called “The Controversial Jesus.” I had a theological conviction that it was a form of selfishness and self-preservation to not lean into the hardest issues that our culture is grappling with. I felt like, What will nobody touch? Let me go right to the heart of those things.

In that series there were sermons on Jesus and privilege, Jesus and the gay community, Jesus and the transgender community, Jesus and women, Jesus …

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