Lead Into Light:
A call to pastors to talk faithfully and helpfully about same-sex attraction
The evangelical church in America struggles to speak clearly and compassionately to those who face SSA. Ministries like Harvest USA have been speaking a loving, biblical message for many years.
However, they are generally behind the scenes in most churches. We need a consistent voice proclaiming holiness and help from the pulpit, not simply from para-church ministries. How many pastors have preached a sermon series on homosexuality – a series that not only faithfully taught what the Scriptures say about SSA, but humbly and skillfully cares for those in the church who battle with homosexual temptations?
This call may seem unnecessary or overwhelming. With all the issues our churches are facing, why this one? Why now? Why in the church?
Let me share five reasons:
Homosexuality is nightly featured in the news and celebrated in the sitcoms. Politicians cannot escape the gay marriage debate, and in many high schools, homosexuality is a vital part of the sex ed curriculum. Yet beyond a periodic slam on gay activists, most churches seem muted. Homosexuality may be the most controversial social issue in our nation today, yet churches in general tend to polarize between condemnation and commendation with very little thoughtful communication.
One week a prominent news magazine announces the discovery of the “gay gene.” The next month researchers confess a more humble conclusion. “Homosexuality is a choice.” “You don’t choose to be gay.” “I was born this way.” “I am leaving the gay lifestyle.” In the psychiatric world, homosexuality has moved briskly from being viewed as iniquity, to an illness, to an identity. This relatively sudden surge from the bottom to the top has left many in our culture with the bends – a moral numbness, a vocal paralysis. What is true? How should we respond? We don’t know what to say.
A young woman recently sent me this email:
“I’ve been struggling with it [homosexuality] my entire life. For the longest time I denied it to myself and certainly did not want to come clean to anyone about it… It’s hard. It’s looked down upon so badly, which I guess is fair because it’s an unnatural thing, but it really stinks because I need help! I need people who will be behind me, supporting me with godly counsel so that I can make it out of this mess. I have only been a true believer for a little over a year now, so I am just beginning my walk with the Lord …. There is such a need in this area because people in the church don’t know how to deal with this issue. Homosexuality is just not talked about in the church, so it made me think that I was the only one struggling through this. This is a horrible place to be – thinking that you are the only one. Please help my brothers and sisters who may be struggling with the same things. . . .”
Imagine attending church year after year and never hearing hopeful, helpful words addressed toward your struggle. The sermons include application for those who battle with anger, fear, or marital conflicts. But your sin is different. Your sin fits into its own category, like the solitary confinement wing in a prison. We have a place for you… over there.
He spoke plainly and moved toward the shadows in order to speak truth and grace to the margin-dwellers. Many people who struggle with SSA feel like they are the equivalent to the lepers of Jesus’ day. They feel ostracized and alone. Remember, Jesus embraced the lepers, but he also transformed them! The men and women in our churches who struggle with SSA are often lonely, plagued with self-loathing and tempted to give up and walk away.
Does the gospel speak to them? Does the community of faith care about them? Do they have something to say to us? When I asked a lady in our church (who has been rescued by God from a lesbian relationship in her past) how people have responded when they heard her story, she explained, “Those I have told who have a rich view of grace and a personal understanding of their own sin are the most able to rejoice with me at what God has done. Those relationships have been unaffected or even enriched by my transparency.” Could it be that the way our churches respond to those who have/are struggling with SSA tests, manifests and matures the entire body’s understanding of the gospel?
Younger Christians and older Christians tend to view homosexuality differently. If pastors and ministry leaders don’t speak a lighted, loving word regarding SSA, the next generation will be left confused (at best) or deceived (at worst). Each generation is becoming more accepting of a gay lifestyle and more uncertain whether the Bible has a clear word on sexual identity. Now is the time to talk.
As church leaders, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions.
- Do we have a holistic theology of SSA (consistent with Scriptures, biology and experience)?
- Do we move toward the gay community in love?
- Have our churches featured testimonies of those who have been set free from homosexual bondage (or do we believe a different gospel than the Apostle Paul’s? 1 Corinthians 6:9)
- Do our sermons periodically include application and illustration that give hope to those who face SSA?
- Do our churches offer face-to-face help?
Pastors and church leaders, please consider preaching a series on homosexuality. We want to help. We have tried to map out a simple process to prepare your church to begin talking about homosexuality with faithful and helpful words.