church part 4Part 4 of 4

It goes without saying that church leaders have a very demanding job with difficult responsibilities. Many concerns, fears and questions must be addressed. Our relativistic culture is both hyper-sexualized and politically charged. Can the church speak about sexuality at least as frankly on Sunday morning as popular culture speaks about sexuality everyday? Can church members be given the grace to bring their brokenness out into the light without condemnation?

Every struggle has its unique challenges. However, God’s truth applies to all situations and His Word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). The general suggestions I give here are meant to encourage and inform. Many are expounded upon in earlier posts in this blog.

Here’s an outline of today’s article:

  • Considerations For the Church Family
  • Considerations For Individual Church Leaders
  • Considerations For Youth Leaders and Teachers

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Considerations For the Church Family

  1. Talk about homosexuality (and other difficult subjects) in a sermon, a seminar or other church-wide series of lessons. Be honest about reality. Be open and factual. Communicate the proper tone. The church member who is struggling is observing from a distance how his minister approaches difficult issues. He or she wants to know . . .
  • “Will I be condemned or helped?”
  • “Will my confidence be respected or betrayed?”
  • “Will I be given simplistic answers or does the church leadership have a realistic perspective and grasp on my concerns?”
  • “Is it worth the risk to talk to this person?”

Letting secret strugglers know that church leadership is at least receptive is not the only objective for an open discussion. Another goal is addressing the self-righteous anger some may harbor. And how about the “we don’t have people like that in our church” argument? If a church has more than 40 members, it is probably does have someone “like that”. Be aware that practically every member knows someone who self-identifies a gay or lesbian in his or her school, neighborhood, workplace or extended family.

  1. Seriously consider an ongoing mentoring program (formal or informal). The concept is thoroughly scriptural (Titus 2:1 – 8). In addition, there is a lot of information available about the “how-to” of its development and structure. A word of caution however: make sure everyone directly involved is thoroughly trained and spiritually prepared. Opening wounds while being ill-equipped to handle difficult relationships, circumstances and emotions can be very damaging.
  1. Begin ministering to individuals with HIV disease or AIDS. Start by making your church a safe place. Remove the stigma. Present lessons on God’s compassion for the sick or start a HIV ministry. Start one or two services that require personal interaction with people who have HIV disease. In a word: help. Help with testing and counseling. Help deliver meals. Help with errands. Help with trips to the doctor. Visit on a regular basis. Donate food, money, time and/or your talents. Offer assistance to caregivers. We need to care about HIV and AIDS in our own communities. We really need to get a passion and a compassion for people regardless of how they became infected. Are we prepared to go the extra mile?
  1. Recommended Video Matt Chandler: A Biblical and Cultural Examination of Homosexuality (appx 2 hours). This sermon/seminar from 2010 is without a doubt one of the better presentations I’ve seen in a long time. The link takes you to my resource page. The video section is found near the bottom of the page.

Considerations For Individual Church Leaders

  1. Don’t think you can’t relate to the individual on some level. The principles of victorious Christian living that fits one situation can be effective in handling other situations. For example, the issues that underlie homosexuality (such as envy, deception, fear, isolation, rejection, etc.) are issues we all deal with from time to time.
  1. Humility goes a long way. Don’t push an agenda. Don’t be or project yourself as a condescending know-it-all. Use open-ended questions, sincerity, a godly lifestyle, perspective and genuine love to build bridges.
  1. Be a good listener. A person troubled by SSA is taking a tremendous risk in opening up to you. They have a lot to lose. Some may be desperate. Your attitude and demeanor (positive, negative or indifferent) will be remembered for a lifetime.
  1. Set healthy boundaries and clear guidelines in relationships. Emotional dependency and neediness tend to be a fairly common issue and concern.
  1. Be considerate, prayerful and tactful in your approach (especially in personal conversations). Talking about sexual issues (without being asked) can communicate that your relationship is based on how they act or that God will only accept them if they first behave a certain way.

Considerations For Youth Leaders & Teachers

  1. Christian teenagers and youth need a more proactive and a more complete education about sexuality. I’m ashamed to say that often the only place they don’t hear about it is at church.
  1. Set firm boundaries about how homosexuality is discussed in youth group. There should be no tolerance of gay jokes, insults, or derogatory terms. If there are teens who are struggling, make every effort to make sure that they are safe; that they’re being treated with compassion, respect and dignity. Also keep in mind that adolescents in our youth groups may have friends who may self-identify as gay.
  1. Which leads me to the generation gap. For many people born since the late 1980s, homosexuality is not a big deal (generally). In almost every aspect of modern and secular culture (and sizeable chunks of religious communities), tolerance and normalization is the reality. Young people don’t view gays and lesbians the same way as their parents and grandparents. They are much more apt to wonder why religious people are so judgmental, harsh and out of touch. As church leaders and religious educators, carefully (and prayerfully) consider how you will address this.
  1. Recommended Link “Six:11 Ministries” Resources for Youth Workers. This link takes you to Shawn Harrison’s blog. He is a youth minister and he has done an excellent job compiling and developing practical information for youth, their parents and youth workers to consider. This is a good place to start your own research.

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A Concluding Thought:

This quote is from “Turning Controversy Into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality” (by William Campbell). You can view my synopsis of this book by clicking the link . . .

Christian maturity is the nonnegotiable essential for Christian ministry. An immature church may launch into certain ministries and look good on the outside while being spiritually anemic within. No church should attempt ministry to people with sexual brokenness, sexual abuse, and unwanted same-sex attractions without putting the spiritual growth of its membership first on the list of priorities. Love for one another, transparency with each other, truth spoken with clarity, prayer for each ministry, and unity among leaders are essential foundations for this work.” – page 216

A Special Plea For My Readers . . .

Please, do not (in your attitude or actions) stereotype all LGBT people as militant, political activists or sexually promiscuous drug addicts. The politics, ideology, behavior or motivation of a few cannot (and should not) be generalized to an entire group or to individuals. Christians must acknowledge the legitimate needs and real hardships faced by LGBT people. We must offer real-life solutions. And it is okay for Christians to take a stand against the mistreatment of LGBT people.

Resource:

The following article by Shawn is one of the first I recommend to individuals involved in church leadership and youth ministry leadership:

Building A Restorative Community: The Church As A Restorative Community

“It’s one thing to reshape your student ministry to be a safe place where LGBT teenagers can come and experience Jesus. It’s another thing to help your larger church community to refocus itself in being a safe place. Therefore, it is very important for the entire leadership team of a church to lead and carry this vision, in order to effectively minister to gay teenagers and adults. If you’re a senior pastor or a member of your church leadership, I want to share some areas you need to wrestle with and process through, then give suggested answers and ideas that you can implement in your congregation . . “

To continue reading this article click here.

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Question:

How can the church reach out to the “forgotten wounded” – church members who are the family, friends and loved ones of gays and lesbians?

Your comments are welcomed below.

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© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2012.

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Image:
Cross by Josée Holland Eclipse

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