Interview with Chip Ingram and Tim Walker with Christian Book Previews' editor, Pam Glass, regarding their book, Sex 180.
CBP: What led to your writing this book at this particular time?
Tim: Well, Chip had written a book called Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships, and a lot of those principles are translated into this book as well. But it was a problem of trying to take some of those messages and translate them for younger teens. Because the love and the sex are part of their lives, but the lasting relationships are not as much a part of the lives of teens in high school. And the way that Chip communicates and the way that I communicate, our real heart is to help people look between their life and Godís Word and connect them back so thereís not this disconnect. And in the area of sexuality thereís this huge disconnect, even for Christian kids. So the goal of this was to get them to not tune their faith out of this area, but to take a very biblical approach, and to look at not only how to view sex from Godís perspective and what He has to say about it, more than just the traditional ďWaitĒ messages or most of the messages that students are getting in church, but to take it a little bit deeper and to get face-to-face with Godís heart, and let Godís heart change you in a way. And then once that happens, then that begins to affect how you relate to other people, and to kind of walk them through that process of doing that.
Chip: So many books are about, "Letís produce a really good defense on how to protect our kids, tell them not to have sex, hereís some good principles, hereís how to date or not date." And we felt, thereís enough, they do a good job on that. This is a book about offense. This is a book about how kids who want to revolutionize their world live it out. And not so much all the exterior stuff, but letís start with the inside: whatís your whole view of God, sex. And then give them a manual, if you will, a game plan to make a difference.
CBP: Do you have a background in youth ministry?
Tim: Well Iíve been the editor of Youthwalk for a while and I work at my church as a youth volunteer. I teach Sunday school every Sunday.
CBP: So itís not just academic.
Chip: And the Youthwalk model is, they just get a zillion e-mails of kids interacting all over the country . . .
Tim: We have message boards. I mean Iíve had to deal with a lot of crazy things on our Youthwalk Website, things students are posting, asking us. The two questions we get asked the most are questions about sex and the second is faith. You know, "I donít feel close to God anymore."
CBP: From your time as a pastor, what do you think pastors could be doing to possibly teach their staff to teach young people? Why isnít this being taught to church kids at church? Why is there such a disconnect?
Chip: I think part of it is when you talk to these kids most of their parents are far more messed up than they are. Unlike even my generation, itís 24/7 sex bombardment. And many of the adults have been as conformed and think about it, and they havenít articulated it well. And thereís a pretty significant level among Evangelicals that, ďYou know, weíre going to keep nine out of ten. Godís not a prude.Ē Itís almost like we had this new freedom in Christ. We had, at Santa Cruz Bible Church, a very large church, and we reached lots of unbelievers. But when you wanted to get married we had a question: Are you currently living with the person you want to marry? I mean, this is a Bible-teaching church. I knew what they were teaching because I was teaching it! And 50% of all the people who came to get married at our church were currently living together.
CBP: Were these people that had been there 10, 15, 20 years?
Chip: No, a lot of them were new. But a lot of them were under the radar people who basically had learned to do what? Live with this dichotomy: I love God, I read the Bible, I try to be a good person, how can this be wrong when it feels so right? So I would say thereís been a generation where itís been hidden, letís not talk about it. I think now weíre in the generation where itís information, education. But basically itís, How do we keep our kids from having sex, drinking too much and taking drugs? And itís a very defensive, protective measure. And I think itís probably still taboo in some churches, although I think thatís changing. I mean, you can only get so many girls pregnant and guys with sexually transmitted diseases bore you realize we might have a problem here. So the question is, what can we do different? One is, youíve got to model it, number one. And number two, I think we have to move from a defensive Ė yes, thereís certain things we donít want to happen Ė but Iíll give you my word picture for this whole deal: Great youth groups donít feed pizza every Friday night, have a ping-pong table, pool table, show lots of videos and get lots of Game Boys because weíre going to protect our kids somehow from 13 to 23, and hopefully they donít all either get pregnant, get a disease, get drunk, get killed or something. There are a lot of people with, unconsciously, that mentality. If you want to build a great youth group, in our case in California, you go to Mexico for ten days, you build three houses, you lay on the floor, you love people that donít have any food, you get dirty, you get sweaty, and you realize that God uses you and thereís more to life than the latest CD, etc. And you build kids that have great convictions who go change the world. This book is about letís get off protecting kids with the equivalent of sex talks about pizza, ping-pong and ďsay this, donít say that.Ē Youíre not in the ball game. God has you in your school to transform your school. God has you in your youth group to live it. Well, how? And this book answers the question.
CBP: What is the single hardest concept to get across to young singles about this whole area, and is it different for the fifteen-year-old, the 35-year-old single, and the 60-year-old widowed or divorced person?
Chip: To grasp the concept that almost everything you see, everything youíve heard about sex and relationships is a lie, a fabrication, an illusion, does not work, and will destroy your life and thereís the evidence. But, there is a completely different way that is counterculture, counterintuitive, that promises not just physical sex but a life in genuine intimacy that is over the top, better than you ever imagined.
Tim: I think, too, that it seems that not only the message about finding the right person, but the message that seems to be the most pervasive in our culture too is that you can separate sex, that the physical, the emotional, the spiritual Ė all these things that God created as part of it. And this is for any age group. If you can justify having sex outside Godís boundaries then youíve somehow dissected that enough, and youíre buying enough of the lie that you can do that. And I think thatís a key element. Now how that plays out, a fifteen year old is at home under parental supervision, a thirty-five-year-old who is single and has their own apartment and nobody knows what they do, or a person whoís divorced and whoís out there in the dating area Ė the situations all change, but the principle is that you canít separate it. God created sex to be sacred. Thereís something very sacred and holy about that act that we donít talk about a lot. And to see it as both sacred and serious, it shakes up the way you see everything. You flip on the TV and see somebody on a talk show and they bring out ďHeís been having an affair with her!Ē Ė that kind of thing. And it just breaks your heart, not only because of the sadness, because of the situation that person is in and the shock, but itís not sacred, itís not serious. To these people it was just something physical. But not to the person who just found out theyíve been cheated on. Thereís nothing ďjust physicalĒ about it. And one of the most pervasive lies in our culture is that we can separate this. If you flip open any teen magazine, if you look at the movies, if you look at MTV, the biggest shaper of our culture, the consistent message is that sex can be just a physical thing. The ironic thing is it used to be very much of a guy thing, but itís very much of a girl thing now. For a girl to be strong and confident in our culture sheís a predator. Sheís the sexual aggressor. And thatís the message that they get. And girls who like to make the emotional connection are buying into this. They can just have the physical because this gives them the power.