Collaborative Review of “Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot” by Mo Isom

This is my first ever collaborative review which I am so excited to share.  Just as I began this read, a friend, mentor, minister, and coworker (?) shared she was reading as well.  We have recently begun meeting together for lunch which make up some of my favorite days.  So we met together to discuss this read and coauthored our review.

But let me start with my manners and first, introduce my friend Erin to you.

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Erin Moniz, M.Div. serves as the Assistant Chaplain and Director of Student Ministries at her alma mater, Berry College.  I first met Erin as a student and have since had the privilege of leading many ministry events and experiences alongside of her working in college ministry.  She has commiserated with and encouraged me in the Master’s of Divinity process while also serving as a safe place when those classes are not always the most welcoming for women.  I recently overheard a student in my kitchen describe Erin stating, “Ya know, she is the most badass minister I know.”  And I’m convinced nothing could describe her better.

Discussing Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot with Erin was a great dialogue as we approached this book both as women raised in the Church, working in ministry, yet one of us married and one of us single, both with different stories and experiences we brought to the literal table we were dining at.  Not to mention, I am an Enneagram 2 and Erin an Enneagram 8, so the balance was extremely beneficial and occasionally ironic.


What we loved about Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot was its honesty and candidness, specifically bringing into the light that Christian women struggle with pornography, masturbation, and sexual desires in general.  So many “struggles” of sexuality have been gendered as men’s issues in the Church, yet as Isom shares her story she openly reveals these are not only issues guys face and they are temptations girls are facing at extremely young ages.

Furthermore, Isom elaborates on the emphasis of abstinence and purity culture in the Church.  She shares from her own story that she crossed every line imaginable, yet sought to keep her “purity” in tact by only avoiding vaginal penetration.  While some may drop their jaw we just used such words on a blog, this is a common misconception that we have both heard from girls, describing their physical boundaries in dating relationships.  Isom highlights sexual purity is so much more and begins so much sooner, reaching to so many different areas of our lives.

We were thankful that Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations The Church Forgot acknowledged singleness, upholding its value as Scripture describes.  Yet, (Emily Katherine here-) Isom seems to explain singleness from the point of view of chosen singleness, never addressing those of us in a season of singleness that is not chosen or preferred.  She describes a season of singleness when she felt closer to the Lord than ever before and free of so many complications and complexities- yet this is more a chosen fast from dating and her only time of singleness according to her story.  (My single sisters, here’s your trigger warning.)

“We don’t need a partner to assign us value when we feel worthless.  We need a soul reawakened to its worth in our Father’s eyes.”

I, (Erin here-) valued Isom’s explanation that sex in marriage is not a magic thing that comes together just because you followed the rules of purity culture.  While Isom lacks a full emphasis on how a theology of intimacy creates the way for success in marriage, she at least dispels this HUGE myth we are still trying to sell people.

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations The Church Forgot is a valuable read I have already recommended to mothers, small group leaders, and student ministry workers, specifically those who work with girls.  Yet, Erin and I ended our conversation by summarizing while we are so thankful for this book and the great conversations it has begun, this book is only an appetizer for what we were looking for.

Isom leads openly and honestly with her story throughout the text.  I (Emily Katherine) so valued her rawness and authenticity, yet this story driven nature sometimes led to theological points which drew me to check for her seminary education on the back of the book.  The story driven nature of Isom’s book to me (Erin) somewhat limited the issues that could be addressed by leaving out the narratives of victims of sexual abuse and narrowing the focus to one persons’ story, limiting the Church’s ability to respond with better conversations pertaining to sexuality.  The author takes so much personal responsibility for her struggle with sexual sin that she overlooks affects of her environment and family, perpetuating the Western narrative of private salvation overlooking the fullness of the message of the gospel which openly points to the effects of environment and generational sin, along with the Church’s role in sanctification.  Erin and I also discussed many students we counsel’s stories of sexuality include same sex attraction or wrestling with gender identity which were not even acknowledged as this book focuses on Isom’s story rather than issues of sexuality and Christianity as a whole.

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Erin and I were extremely thankful, Isom aims a few arrows toward purity culture and offers some great examples of how it is falling vastly short in the conversations the Church offers regarding sexuality, especially for girls.  Yet, as Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot is driven by Isom’s narrative, it lacks in undoing some of the conversations the Church has had regarding sexuality, and providing recommendations of conversations the Church should be having.  Isom explains feeling isolated and alone, trying to fish for her Mom to see how many questions she had, offering a charge to the Church to step up, but between the pages I (Emily Katherine) found Isom less often explaining how the Church can better communicate about sexuality and rather continuing to describe through vivid details of her own story why sex outside of marriage is wrong and damaging.  And if I’m honest, that’s a conversation the Church has overdone.

We need a theology of intimacy.  A healthy and honest theology of gender, sexuality, identity, and a lack of fear of what is appropriate because individuals beginning at early, early ages are being told from every avenue what to believe about these things.  We have to stop separating boys and girls and using clichés, hoping their parents explain more.  Church, we cannot be silent in a sexually saturated culture.

Erin and I are thankful for Mo Isom’s courage to open up this issue and direct our attention to how the Church is or is not addressing sexuality and honored by her rawness in Sex, Jesus, and Conversations the Church Forgot.


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My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

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What a College Student Needs from the Church

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to share a guest blogger with you, but I am overjoyed for that guest blogger to be Miss Erin Jagus!  I had the privilege of getting to know Erin last year as she is a Berry College student and have loved learning more about her heart to love the people around her fiercely.  Erin shared her experiences on what she’s learned college students need from a church congregation.

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I have had the wonderful blessing of being a part of a revival that is taking place at Berry College this year. With the scholarship that I have, I live on Berry’s campus year-round (yes even summer and most of winter break) and work. This past summer, a student started to lead a worship night in our dorm’s common space. It was simply a night to come and worship each week. A friend of mine, and a LifeCast (read more about LifeCast here) short term intern last year, was on campus during the training week before LifeCast. On that Thursday, he came to the worship night and the Lord gave him a beautiful vision—to keep this going even when the school year starts. When school started, my friend asked me to speak. We were expecting maybe 20 people to show up, but the Lord had other plans. Fifty-nine people packed into a common space on campus that first week. Since then, we have continued meeting under the name “Common Worship” in different spaces across campus each week and the Lord has been moving in mighty ways. Now, I get to do more behind-the-scenes work along with seven others who have a heart of leadership and a passion for seeing our community grow closer to the Lord.

Part of being behind-the-scenes means that I get to sit in on a lot of meetings. A lot of the meetings thus far in the semester have been discussing whether Common Worship needs to become a Student Organization. When we are asked this, we always are told to be thinking of how to answer the questions “What need are you meeting on campus?” and “How is what you’re doing any different from what other religious groups are doing?”

This is a slightly weird thing to think about, because in simple explanation, it might sound similar to any other religious group meeting. We gather, pray, sing, someone speaks, we sing, pray, and then we disperse. Why is what Common Worship is doing different? What need is Common Worship meeting? To be honest, I don’t have a clear answer. Common Worship is completely student-lead and most of us are under the age of 20. In talking to the leadership team and those that come every week, here were some of the common themes:

 

  1. Prayer: Priscilla Shirer would tell you that prayer is part of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 (see verse 18), and I would wholeheartedly agree with her. Instead of having prayer be the last thought, God is teaching us to make it one of our first responses to any situation. In preparation for our weekly event, the leadership team spends a great deal of time on our faces—both as a group corporately thanking Him and asking the Lord to have His way in us, then individually asking the Lord to guide us and make us bold. One of the sweetest parts of my week is after Common Worship is over. After hanging out and packing up, we go to next week’s location and just pray over the space, the speaker who will share, and the community that will come. We know that our gathering only happens once a week, but we believe that the Lord is working in the hearts of His people always.

 

  1. Community: A huge part of the college experience is finding where you belong. A huge part of the human experience is wanting to feel known. Our hearts were made for connection; our souls were made for community. One of my personal passions is a community that is intentional. Not just a community that knows names and faces, but a community that knows each other’s joys and sorrows. A community that does not just come together once a week, but a community that does life together. College students love coffee, love food, and love conversation. Conversation leads to connection and connection leads to community. I think intentional communities give us a small taste of heaven on earth.

 

  1. Authenticity: Everyone wants to know that they are not alone in what they are going through, genuinely and really. No one wants a performer, someone who will put on their “Christian mask” for a night and play a role. Be willing to stop pretending like everything is alright. Be honest. Be open. Be genuine. Be real. We learn from each other’s stories. I love how the Lord teaches through trials and pain but does not leave them to be painful. He uses them for His glory in His timing. What I love about an authentic environment is that it spreads—from one heart to another to a community to the world. I think authenticity is the place where shackles of religion break off and lead to a real relationship with the Father.

 

There are people who regularly attend Common Worship each week who do not regularly attend a church in Rome. To be completely honest with you, I am still on a journey to find a church to attend and serve.

But the church is not just a building to attend each Sunday and Wednesday. We are the Church. You are the church. I am the church.

As believers, we are image bearers. A synonym for bearer is “bringer”. We bring the image of God, the kingdom of heaven, to the Earth through the power of Christ at work within us.

I cannot express to you enough just how in awe I am of what God is doing here. He is reviving this campus, realigning our heartbeats to His. He is preparing the hearts of this campus for greater things. Getting to serve at Common Worship makes me feel alive—body, mind, and soul. Getting to worship with fellow college students at Common Worship makes me feel alive—body, mind, and soul. Our generation is yearning to know the Lord. Our generation is asking the Lord to lead us from dead religion to dynamic relationship.

When you don’t want to open your Bible

This was a message I got to share to the students in the WinShape College Program at Berry College in Rome, GA where I am on college ministry staff.  Our focus this year has been on “A Word Centered Life”.  Here is my story on struggling to have one for the past year.

Books quoted: ESV BibleWhen I don’t desire GodHaving a Mary heart in a Martha worldShe Reads Truth: Open your Bible, and Love Does.