The Culture May Change the Bible Does Not

This is the story of my resignation from Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Weed, California, a pivotal moment shaped by the clash between timeless biblical truths and contemporary cultural shifts, emphasizing a renewed dedication to navigating ministry with both conviction and compassion in a changing world.


Justin Hoke

2/24/202411 min read

Beneath the majestic gaze of Mount Shasta, nestled in the fertile landscape of Northern California, lies the small town of Weed. It is a place where the sky stretches wide and the sense of community is as tangible as the pine-scented air that fills the lungs with each breath. In this tranquil corner of the world, Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church stood—a modest edifice that was far more than just timber and tile. It was a spiritual home, a gathering place for those seeking solace in the word of God, and until January of 2019, it was where I shepherded a flock steadfast in their faith.

When I first assumed the role of pastor at Trinity Bible, my heart was alight with aspirations. I envisioned a ministry rooted deeply in the rich soil of Scripture, flourishing in the warm embrace of fellowship and growing steadily under the nourishing light of Christ’s love. Our congregation was a mosaic of lives woven together by shared beliefs and mutual trust, and I was honored to be the one to lead them in worship, to guide them in understanding, and to support them in their spiritual journeys.

Weed, California, seemed to me like a small patch of God’s kingdom, an ideal setting for a ministry intended to not only uphold the truths of our faith but to reach out to the broader community with compassion and grace. The simplicity of life here, the beauty of creation all around, and the genuine smiles of neighbors and congregants alike were daily reminders of God’s grace and the peace that comes from living in a close-knit community.

But peace, as I would come to learn, is often a prelude to a storm, and storms, while fierce, can cleanse and reveal truths that might otherwise remain unseen. Our little church was about to become the epicenter of a tempest that would test the very fibers of our unity and resolve.

It began with a sign—a simple, unassuming structure at the front of the church. It was here that I chose to express a truth we held to be self-evident, a message derived from the Scriptures upon which we stand firm. It was meant to be a declaration of our steadfastness in the face of a culture rapidly shifting beneath the sands of relativism. Little did I know, this sign would be the spark that ignited a blaze, challenging the serenity of our church and the cohesiveness of our beloved town.

In the calm before the storm, I took solace in my daily walks through the quiet streets of Weed, the smiles of passing neighbors, the robust discussions that enlivened our Bible study groups, and the fervent prayers that rose like incense during our worship services. These were the moments that defined our ministry, the fabric of a community knit together in faith. Yet, in the stillness, there was a whisper of change on the horizon—a change that would call into question the very essence of what it meant to lead, to follow, and to stand for one's convictions in an age where such stances are often met with resistance.

As a pastor, I had always prayed for wisdom to guide my congregation with grace and truth. As the events unfolded, it was this wisdom I sought more than ever, for I knew that whatever the outcome, our little church and the community it served would be forever changed.

The Sign and its Message

In the waning days of December, as families gathered to celebrate the birth of Christ, a stirring in my heart impelled me to craft a message that would challenge both our congregation and our community. The sign, standing on the church lawn under the shadow of Mount Shasta, was simple in design yet profound in its declaration: "Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still a sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not."

This message, while stark, was birthed from a pastoral concern for the truth—a truth that seemed increasingly obscured by the shifting sands of cultural relativism. It was not borne out of a desire for controversy but out of a deeply held conviction that the church must be clear about what Scripture declares, especially regarding matters that society has grown more accepting of, contrary to Biblical teachings.

I pondered the lives of those we aimed to reach, the souls ensnared by the prevailing winds of doctrine that clashed with the Word of God. The sign was a clarion call to those lost in the cacophony of modern narratives, a beacon pointing back to the unchanging truth of Scripture. It was also a testament to our congregation's commitment to upholding the doctrines that have undergirded the Church through the ages, standing firm as a lighthouse stands against the storm.

As expected, the sign was a catalyst. It sparked conversations, ignited debates, and shone a light on the chasm between the steadfastness of divine revelation and the fluidity of human philosophy. Some parishioners expressed their support, feeling a sense of pride that their church was taking a stand. Others approached me with furrowed brows and concerned whispers, questioning the prudence of such a public declaration.

The broader community's reaction was immediate and, at times, intense. While some appreciated the unwavering stance on Biblical truth, others were incensed, perceiving the sign as an affront to the inclusivity and diversity celebrated in our society. I had anticipated some backlash, but the fervor of the response was something I had not fully braced myself for.

As the pastor, my intention was not to erect a battleground but to affirm the church as a place of refuge for the truth. I was reminded of the apostles in the Book of Acts, who, when faced with the commands of man that contravened the commands of God, declared, "We must obey God rather than men." In our small town, this ancient tension between divine law and human desire was playing out afresh.

In the days that followed, I spent much time in prayer and in the study of the Word, seeking wisdom and discernment. I knew that the sign was more than plastic and steal; it was a symbol of our identity as a church—a community called to be in the world but not of it, a community that proclaims salvation through Christ alone and calls all to repentance.

As the pastor entrusted with the care of souls, I was acutely aware of the responsibility that weighed upon my shoulders. The sign was a reflection of this sacred duty—a duty to preach the Gospel in its fullness, confronting sin with the hope of redemption and restoration through Jesus Christ.

In crafting the message, I was not naive to the cultural philosophy of the day that championed a gospel of self-fulfillment over self-denial. Yet, the call to speak the truth in love was clear, even if the love we spoke of was a hard love—a love that does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

The Community’s Reaction

The day the sign went up, it was as if a stone had been cast into the still waters of our small town, the ripples disrupting the tranquil equilibrium we had known. The words, intended to affirm our scriptural convictions, became a touchstone for contention.

The protestors, a mix of community members and activists, stood across from the church's lawn with signs of their own, their faces a canvas of emotions ranging from hurt to defiance. They claimed their rally was grounded in love and inclusivity, but the air was thick with tension and the undercurrent of their actions suggested otherwise. The stark contrast between their declarations of peace and the defacement of our church sign painted a complex picture of the situation at hand.

Internal Church Dynamics

Within the weathered walls of our church, a different storm was brewing — one not of signs and chants but of furrowed brows and whispered concerns. Our congregation was small; its fabric woven tightly around a single elder besides myself, and the unity that had long been our strength now quivered in the balance. I was resolute in my stance, yet I could not ignore the growing disquiet among the flock I was called to shepherd.

The elder and I, once aligned in our mission, now stood on a precipice. Conversations that were once marked by fellowship and forward-looking plans were now laden with the weight of our congregation’s future. There was a palpable sense of grief in acknowledging that the unity we had nurtured was fracturing under the pressure of external scrutiny and internal discord.

The Decision to Step Down

A mere week after the protests began, I found myself at a crossroads that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere yet had been long in the making. The decision to resign was not arrived at hastily. It was a solitary journey of prayer, introspection, and, admittedly, a confrontation with my own immaturity. The realization would come years later that this ordeal could have been mitigated, perhaps even avoided, had I approached my pastoral duties with a gentleness that I had not yet fully grasped.

The aftermath was as swift as the decision itself. The eventual closure of the church was a sorrowful epilogue to my tenure, a stark reminder of the cost of division.

In recent days, my heart has sought to bridge the chasm that was formed in those tumultuous times. I have reached out to those who have since gathered to form a new congregation, an olive branch extended in the hope of healing. I remain hopeful that the same grace that covers our shortcomings will pave the way for future reconciliation.


In the solitude that followed my resignation, I found myself navigating a desert of introspection. The landscape of my ministry was irrevocably altered, not merely by the sign itself but by the deeper implications of my approach. It was a reflective journey marked by a gradual, sometimes painful, awakening to a more Christlike demeanor.

As I sought the Lord's face in the quiet, I realized that my fervor for upholding truth had not always been matched by an equal commitment to embody grace. The Scriptures I had long preached took on a new dimension as I pondered passages about gentleness, kindness, and the ministry of reconciliation. Phrases from 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 became my constant meditation, reminding me that we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.

In those moments of prayer and study, the Holy Spirit began a delicate surgery on my heart, excising the rigidity that had hindered my ability to love as Christ loves. He impressed upon me the model of Jesus, not as one who cast stones but as the One who knelt to write in the sand, calling for self-examination before condemnation.

Through the counsel and fellowship of believers who walked beside me, God revealed the vital distinction between the righteous indignation Jesus displayed towards the religious elite and the compassionate engagement He offered to the lost. I had misapplied the former when the latter was called for. It was a humbling realization that led to deep repentance.

This year, I wrote a letter to my former congregation expressing my sorrow for how things went and my desire to make peace. As I sought forgiveness for the unintended wounds I had inflicted, I did so with a profound sense of contrition for the disunity and hurt that stemmed from my actions. This act of reaching out was not just an attempt at reconciliation but a declaration of a transformed understanding of pastoral care.

In this process, I have learned that God's justifying work in the gospel is not a blunt instrument of correction but a tender hand of restoration. The Gospel does indeed call sinners to repentance, but it is also an invitation to be embraced by the unfathomable love of God. It beckons with a gentle whisper rather than a thunderous demand.

The sign, a symbol of my previous stance, had indeed brought pain. In retrospect, it was not the message of truth that was at fault but the mode of its delivery. I missed an opportunity to extend an olive branch of peace in a divisive time, an error I deeply regret.

The years have taught me that growth often comes dressed in the garments of pain and humility. The divisions that once seemed like failures have become the furrows in which my pride was buried and from which humility has blossomed. The Lord, in His wisdom, used this trial to sanctify me, softening the soil of my heart to be more receptive to His leading.

Now, as I look back on that time, I see not just a trial but a transformation. The Lord lifted me from the mire of my mistakes and set my feet upon the rock of His grace. He used the very Scripture I had preached with such conviction to mold me into a more faithful servant. He used the prayers of those who stood with me and the gentle rebuke of the Spirit to guide me back to the path of pastoral tenderness.

I am grateful for this season of growth, however difficult it was to endure. The reconciliation I seek with the congregation is the same reconciliation God has granted me through Christ. It is my prayer that the unity of the Spirit will bind us once more, not just as a former pastor and his former flock, but as fellow travelers journeying towards the grace that has called us all.

In this renewed spirit, I move forward, not forgetting the past but learning from it, allowing God's grace to be the lens through which I view ministry, the church, and the precious souls I am called to serve.


The lessons etched upon my heart through the trials of my ministry are not merely for personal reflection, but also for the edification and guidance of those who may find themselves in similar valleys of decision and consequence. To my fellow pastors and those discerning the call to ministry, I offer these gleanings from my journey.

Pastoral Wisdom:

  • Embrace Grace and Truth: As shepherds of Christ's flock, we are called to uphold the truth unapologetically, yet we must do so through the lens of grace. Let us not be swift to wield truth as a sword to cut down, but rather as a scalpel to heal and bring life.

  • Seek Unity in Love: Strive always for the unity of the church. Our role is to be peacemakers, uniting believers in the bond of peace. This may require personal sacrifices, but such is the way of the cross.

  • Be Quick to Listen: In controversy, be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. The wisdom of this biblical counsel cannot be overstated. It allows for a pastoral response that is measured, considerate, and ultimately more reflective of Christ’s own heart.

For the Aspiring Minister:

  • Count the Cost: Ministry is not a path chosen for earthly reward or personal glory. It is a calling that will test the very core of your being. Count the cost and then, if called, step forward in faith, willing to lay down everything for the sake of the Gospel.

  • Cultivate Humility: Remain humble, always ready to learn and grow. The moment you believe you have mastered the pastorate is the moment you have lost sight of its true nature. It is a role of servanthood and sacrifice, mirroring the one who washed the feet of His disciples.

  • Build on Prayer and Scripture: Let these be the twin pillars of your ministry. Prayer connects us to the heart of God, while Scripture provides the unshakable foundation upon which we stand and proclaim the hope within us.

Navigating Cultural Shifts:

  • Engage with Compassion: Our culture is in constant flux, and as ministers, we must engage with it compassionately. We stand in the gap, not as judges or executioners, but as ambassadors of reconciliation.

  • Maintain Biblical Integrity: While methods and approaches may adapt, the truth of Scripture remains steadfast. Hold fast to its teachings, for they are the bedrock of our faith and the hope for our world.

Reflections for Reconciliation and Growth:

  • Pursue Reconciliation: Where there has been hurt or division, make the first move towards reconciliation. It reflects the heart of the Gospel and the character of Christ.

  • Embrace Growth: Allow every trial to be a teacher. Growth is a sign of life, and stagnation a harbinger of decay. Embrace the process, for in it, we are conformed to the image of our Savior.

As I pen these teachings, it is with a heart that has been broken and mended by the grace of God. The Lord has used my own shortcomings to teach me lessons of immeasurable value, lessons I now impart to you with the prayer that they will fortify your heart and ministry.

In conclusion, my earnest charge to you is this: Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:9-10).

In this love, may your ministry flourish, and may the body of Christ be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, growing to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:13).

In His service and at His feet,

Justin D. Hoke

For Further Study
DIALYWIRE Article By Frank Camp
Miami Herald Article By Don Sweeney
Los Angeles Times Article By Brittny Mejia