“Even for those Christians who agree that homosexual practice is contrary to the will of God, there is very little agreement on how we ought to speak about it being contrary to the will of God or how the church speaks to this issue.” (Kevin DeYoung)
So here are seven ideas for you to bring to the leadership of your church, to speak confidently, boldly, biblically and with grace. We need to move from being reactive, to being biblical thought leaders on the subject of homosexuality.
1. Urge your leadership to write a Statement on Human Sexuality.
This statement should be more than a statement about what your church believes. It should include a blueprint for how your church desires to respond to LGBT Christians and the greater LGBT community. (Some of those ideas I’m proposing in the balance of this blog.) Here is a link to the official Statement on Human Sexuality by the Evangelical Free Church of America, that I really like. (http://go.efca.org/sites/default/files/resources/docs/2013/05/a_church_statement_on_human_sexuality_3.pdf) 2. The overarching message of the church toward culture must be a desire to love, intentionally welcome, and shelter people who struggle with homosexuality.
That message should be primary, and overshadow the message of concern about the trajectory of culture, especially if your church speaks up on political/legislative issues related to homosexuality. It’s not wrong to speak up on these issues, but it can no longer be the church’s primary response and message.
The truth is most Christians want nothing to do with homosexuals, Christian or not, and LGBT people know it! That has to change. And that admission and call to change must come from the leadership of your church – boldly and repeatedly. I’m confident loving them into our church, without condoning their behavior, is exactly what Jesus would do.
3. Your leadership must understand and teach the difference between same-sex attraction and homosexual relationships and behavior.
Can we agree that like any temptation, same-sex attraction is not sin? Yes, all impure sexual thoughts, heterosexual or homosexual, are the result of our sin nature, which the Bible warns all Christians against. And dwelling on those thoughts, beyond a brief temptation, is also sin. But it’s ultimately the giving in to those temptations without remorse and repentance, is the primary sin the church must address.
And while there are examples of individuals who have prayed deeply, some for many years, to lose their same-sex attraction, and we ought to encourage everyone who comes to us to do so, statistically very few LGBT Christians are able to lose that attraction. In the same way, not every Christian who prays to be healed of cancer, is cured. Not every LGBT person who begs God to remove this attraction to members of the same-sex, is cured.
Living in holiness, even with an ongoing temptation is the true measure of devotion for all true Christians. Shame has no place in the body of Christ towards LGBT Christians who call same-sex, sex a sin and who are committed to struggle against it, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
4. Foster an environment in your church that makes it safe for people to confess their struggle with sin.
Get the message out to your congregation that anyone struggling and even failing, with any sexual temptation, even those who’ve given in to that temptation, heterosexual or homosexual, are encouraged to call and meet with a staff member in complete confidentiality. Create a culture in your church where people know they will be safe.
Prior to that announcement, prepare your leadership, not just core staff, but elders, deacons and small group leaders as well, to respond in an educated, caring way to the potential of someone’s confession. Identify a local, Bible believing professional counselor to whom you can refer LGBT people. Be prepared to address the need some LGBT people will have for counseling if they cannot pay for it, or are too embarrassed to apply for insurance benefits from their employer.
Institute a culture of empathy in your entire congregation, just as you would for a member or visitor who admits a struggle with alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex outside of marriage, and asks for help. Empathy is not approval of their behavior. It’s the understanding that every Christian wrestles with behaviors that God has prohibited, but has been given the ability to resist that sin, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
5. After developing a grace-filled approach toward the topic among leadership, talk about it in your church.
Equip your body to respond in accordance with this new culture your church is wanting to establish. Make sure every adult member of your church has a copy of your Statement on Human Sexuality. Encourage your senior pastor to teach through it and address it often enough that the culture of your church begins to change.
Be prepared for criticism. Some Christians will accuse your leadership of “going soft on sin.” But have the courage to stay true to your mission, loving LGBT people into the Kingdom, without once approving of their sexual behavior.
6. Begin educating your entire congregation on the practical implications of living in a culture where the LGBT influence will force them to make some choices.
Every member of your church will someday be invited to a gay wedding, or funeral, or will have a family member or friend, “come out” and will want you to accept them and their lifestyle. This is an issue that sooner or later, will affect every family in your church!
If you’re going to change the culture of your church from being reactive to being proactive, they will need to be educated beyond a few sermons. Urge adult Sunday schools to study books or blogs that have been approved by the church leadership that are true to both the theology of your church and the tone you wish to set. Give them ideas how other Christians have addressed these new cultural changes biblically, but with grace.
Purchase and distribute widely one or both of these books, When Homosexuality Hits Home by Joe Dallas What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung
Joe Dallas’ book, does an especially good job of giving practical guidelines for handling all kinds of potentially awkward or sinful social situations. This book ought to be on every staff member’s bookshelf.
7. Recognize the fact that not all LGBT people are the same and tailor your church’s response to them accordingly.
We heterosexual Christians tend to lump “gays” into one category. That’s a mistake that will keep you from responding biblically and effectively. Begin tailoring your approach differently for these three groups of LGBT people.
Non-Christians Paul says this about non-Christians in 1 Corinthians 5:12,13; “What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church? Are you not to judge the inside? God will judge those on the outside.”
Our primary goals for this group of LGBT people, is to love them unconditionally and introduce them to Jesus – NOT correcting their behavior! Without being born again, the scriptures tell us they cannot understand! Without salvation through Jesus Christ, their sexual behavior is the least of their problems. Love them into the kingdom. Then teach them what God requires.
LGBT Christians who believe the Bible allows same-sex marriage or life-long monogamous loving relationships Your church should treat this group of Christians as you would any Christian who is making sinful, sexual choices. (i.e. – adultery, unmarried people living together, etc.) You call sin – sin. You try to counsel, teach what the Bible says about the nature of their sin and expect them to repent of it and stop. If they do not, exercise church discipline if necessary.
But do not treat LGBT Christians any differently than you would any other sexual sin prohibited in scripture.
LGBT Christians who are committed to celibacy or committed to a heterosexual marriage. Depending on the size of your congregation you may have an LGBT person already secretly married to a straight person. Is your church okay with that? I hope so and if you are, make that known in the church, so that if and when they “come out,” they know they will be accepted by your church.
Also, your church leaders should make it clear that you embrace all single, celibate LGBT Christians as your brothers and sisters in Christ and therefore they are encouraged to participate in any ministry, any other member would be qualified to serve in. If, in reading this, you’re having real reservations, examine why? The goal of your church should be having this group of LGBT Christians, find full acceptance and be fully integrated in to the body of Christ.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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