Grace and Truth in LGBT Engagement

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TylerR's picture

This is from the transcript (at the link, above), where the interviewee describes the time when he finally convinced his lesbian mother to accompany him to church one day:

I kept on trying to convince my mom to come, and she came one Sunday. And our church attendance spiked to 26. It was a huge one for the books. And the next Sunday when I showed up, two elders were waiting for me and took me in the back room and said – this is all before the sermon – “If you want to keep preaching here, don’t ever bring somebody like that again. We don’t like those people.”

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

From the transcript:

And I think also, at the same time, Darrell, I think that we need to understand people from their perspective. If a missionary goes overseas and is gonna share the Gospel with a particular culture, they have to do contextualization. They have to learn culture. They have to engage culture – not as a means to water down the Gospel, but as a means to use culture as a vessel to share the Gospel, to communicate it.

And I think that a lot of Christians are not, for one reason or another, willing to do that when it comes to certain people, including the LGBT community. I remember a conversation that I had with my mom one time. And this is awkward; nobody wants to have this conversation with their mom. But somehow she told me, “You know, Caleb, Vera and I, we were not intimate the last several years of our relationship.”

And that blew me away. I said, “Well, then why do you still call yourself a lesbian? You’re not a lesbian.”

And she said, “Well, sure I am. That’s my community. Those are my people. I have acceptance; I have relationships. I’m part of a cause and a movement.”

And I said, “Well, Mom, you just described the church.”

And she said, “No, I didn’t. Why would I go somewhere that would make me feel less about myself?” And it really dawned on me then that the biggest issue – and I think the biggest cultural issue that we have in our society today – and maybe we always have had – is the issue of identity. That’s why we have Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner, and that’s why we have the leader of the Northwest NAACP who was Caucasian, but she still says she identifies as African-American.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Susan R's picture

I do alot of marketing, and I see this message quite frequently. We are no longer primarily connected by our neighborhoods, but by our interests. People go to meetups, and join clubs and online groups to find meaningful relationships, and share understanding based on similar interests and experiences. They are looking for their "tribe". The attraction of the LGBT community is, among other factors, that sense of unconditional belonging.

The reality, however, is much different. People are, underneath all their labels, still human beings. Even in the LGBT community, there are still folks jockeying for position and power, and there are horror stories in their ranks, just as there are in any group.

IMO, the way to reach people is to think of them as people, instead of trying to label them by whatever obvious behaviors they exhibit. Whether someone has committed a crime or is confused about sexuality and gender, they still feel joy, sorrow, pain, compassion, envy, pride, ambition... and they still want the same things as all of us do--to be cherished, to know one's place and purpose, to find meaning, to be part of something important. I think we'd be much more successful in reaching people with the message of salvation if we tap into that, than painting targets on people committing a particular sin or holding to other beliefs.

But washing feet is not nearly as fun as shooting fish in a barrel. 

Ron Bean's picture

So if two men love each other and don't engage in intimacy or have sexual relations, are they gay? (Added) What if they lived together?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Susan R's picture

David and Jonathan's relationship is often used as an example of a deeply loving relationship between two men. Or how John was physically affectionate with Jesus at the Last Supper. IMO, the line would be sexual attraction, not love--or showing physical but nonsexual affection.

Bert Perry's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

So if two men love each other and don't engage in intimacy or have sexual relations, are they gay? (Added) What if they lived together?

Probably better to use the word homosexual instead of gay, and really, the answer to your question lies in the very word used to describe it.  If it's not sexual, it's just David and Jonathan, Lincoln and Joshua Speed, etc..

Now they might describe themselves as homosexual, per what Tyler notes and the original writer noted, but I would argue that a "genuine" homosexual must at least have that same sex sexual attraction. 

TylerR's picture

I am increasingly realizing that many people frame the Gospel much differently than I do.

I frame it as the Good News which saves us from ourselves, and brings us into right relationship with God through repentance from rebellion, and faith in who Jesus is and what He's done. We're forgiven, adopted into His family, and made citizens of His coming kingdom - and we live and exist to serve Him.

The author Bock interviewed frames it in the context of community relationship and "belonging." The author described his conversation with his lesbian mother, about why she still "self-identifies" as a lesbian:

And she said, “Well, sure I am. That’s my community. Those are my people. I have acceptance; I have relationships. I’m part of a cause and a movement.”

And I said, “Well, Mom, you just described the church.”

I don't think a congregation is primarily about community, acceptance, relationships and a "movement." It includes those things, of course, but I'm not at all convinced the Scriptures frame it that way. The Apostles didn't frame it that way in the Book of Acts. Jesus didn't frame it that way. Did He?

I'm truly looking for some insight. This way of framing the Gospel is very, very popular. I believe it contains elements of truth, but it's missing the big picture, stumbling around in the dark. God is the big picture, and we're saved so we can serve Him. It's about Him, not us.

Peter told Christian slaves God saved them so they could do right, and suffer, and endure it patiently (1 Peter 2:20-21). This is a perspective that's missing today.

This "new-fangled" way to frame the Gospel seems very selfish to me. Am I off base?

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ron Bean's picture

What if two women/men live together and genuinely love each other but have no intimacy or sexual relations? How do you label them? Can they join your church?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Susan R's picture

I agree that the salvation message itself is primarily Christ, and not us. But I think where we as Christians often err is that when we share the Gospel, we somehow make it about us, and not about them or about Christ. Which is why, IMO, we get into labels, as if sharing the Gospel with a homosexual/transgender is different than when we share it with Joe Sixpack or Suzy Homemaker. If it's all about Christ, what difference does it make if they are gay?

M. Osborne's picture

TylerR wrote:

I don't think a congregation is primarily about community, acceptance, relationships and a "movement." It includes those things, of course, but I'm not at all convinced the Scriptures frame it that way. The Apostles didn't frame it that way in the Book of Acts. Jesus didn't frame it that way. Did He?

I'm truly looking for some insight. This way of framing the Gospel is very, very popular. I believe it contains elements of truth, but it's missing the big picture, stumbling around in the dark. God is the big picture, and we're saved so we can serve Him. It's about Him, not us.

Just an observation: the outline of Romans flows from the "gospel" (1:16) through sin (1, 2, 3), justification by faith (3, 4, 5), hope for the future (5), hope and transformation in the present (5-7), more eschatological hope (8)...and then gets down to issues of Jews and Gentiles, the idea of belonging to God's people, and then flows into issues of transformed living, unity amidst diversity (14).

Ephesians 1-2 do something similar: the unity of God's people flows from God's plan to redeem them and unite them under Christ.

In 1 Peter 2, the purpose of the "peculiar people" is to proclaim the praises of the one who called them out of darkness into marvelous light. It is God's mercy that moves us from being not-a-people to a-people.

In short: I don't think you can get to a proper understanding of "community" without a proper understanding of redemption, reconciliation with God, etc.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Greg Long's picture

Andrew T. Walker, in his excellent book God and the Transgender Debate, said all of us have to wrestle with finding Identity (Who am I?) and Community (Who will accept me?)

This was tremendously helpful to me in understanding the individuals involved in the LGBT lifestyle.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

M. Osborne's picture

Greg Long wrote:

Andrew T. Walker, in his excellent book God and the Transgender Debate, said all of us have to wrestle with finding Identity (Who am I?) and Community (Who will accept me?)

This was tremendously helpful to me in understanding the individuals involved in the LGBT lifestyle.

It's certainly true that with any other kind of sin I can think of (theft, adultery, gossip), it's rare to have the sinner object, "But this is just who I am." Calling a sinner to repentance is one thing when they already have a notion that it's sin; calling a sinner to repentance is another thing when they think the sin is part of their identity.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

M. Osborne's picture

Susan R wrote:

If it's all about Christ, what difference does it make if they are gay?

Theologically, yes, sin is sin and the gospel is the gospel. But a person who is thinking in terms of identity may hear the call to repentance differently.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

TylerR's picture

To echo M. Osbourne's comments, above, the Apostle Peter tells us a Christian's most fundamental identity is as a priest for God (1 Pet 2:4-10). We're individual, living stones who have been taken out of the world and placed into His spiritual house. He did it so we'd be priests for Him, representing Him and making Him known to the pagan world we live in. Peter quoted Hosea 2 for a reason; we weren't a people, but now we've become God's own people, and we wear His royal insignia as we go about our daily lives.

This is the sense in which "community" is an accurate way to describe a church, but that's not at all what the author was referring to. We're a community of people allegedly united in our mission to represent Yahweh to the world, by preaching the Gospel. We're should focus on that aspect much more than the horizontal (i.e. friendships, "belonging," etc.). These are important (and biblical) but they flow from our mission as God's priests first.  

Whatever "self-identity" people want to take, the only one which matters is the one Peter talked about (1 Peter 2:4-10). That is who we are - nothing else matters. Any other "self-identity" construct is wrong, and should be cast away. And, if you're not a Christian, the only "self-identity" construct you really have is that of a terrorist insurgent (i.e. a rebel sinner).

Now, there is a more winsome way to put this, but you'll have to get down to it eventually. The trick is to show love and compassion, without compromise.  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Greg Long's picture

I would argue that identity is not as unique to LGBT issues as we might think. All of us justify our sin to a greater or lesser extent by saying some form of, "Well, that's just who I am." (Now the reasons a person thinks they are who they are vary from biological to environmental to cultural to parental, etc.) An alcoholic excuses his sin by saying "that's who I am." A person prone to anger says "that's who I am." And so on.

Yes, the LGBT situation is unique in some respects because the sexual revolution is fighting for rights and recognition for sinful behavior based on the idea of identity, so I will grant you that. But I'm simply saying that although homosexuality is shameful, vile, and unnatural (Rom. 1), it's still sin. Sin is sin and sinners are sinners (when Paul describes in Rom. 1 how God's wrath is revealed against all ungodliness, he doesn't culminate with homosexuality, but rather with a laundry lists of sins on which we can all find ourselves). We are all searching for true identity and true community, and so that should make us somewhat sympathetic to the LGBT person rather than rejecting them as somehow more broken than any other sinner. True identity can only be found in Christ, and true community can only be found in the body of Christ.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

TylerR's picture

Greg wrote:

I would argue that identity is not as unique to LGBT issues as we might think. All of us justify our sin to a greater or lesser extent by saying some form of, "Well, that's just who I am." (Now the reasons a person thinks they are who they are vary from biological to environmental to cultural to parental, etc.) An alcoholic excuses his sin by saying "that's who I am." A person prone to anger says "that's who I am." And so on.

Perhaps, but is that the way we should think about our sins? Is it intrinsic to "who we are?" I think a better way to frame this would be to admit, "Yeah, this issue (insert sin here) is my problem."

The sin is not who you are; it's simply a particular problem for you. I think any attempt to equate acts of sin with "self-identity" is going down the wrong road.

It may be "who you are" in the sense that this particular sin happens to be your particular "thorn in the flesh." But, it's hardly "who you are" in an intrinsic sense, is it?

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Susan R's picture

M. Osborne wrote:

Susan R wrote:

If it's all about Christ, what difference does it make if they are gay?

 

Theologically, yes, sin is sin and the gospel is the gospel. But a person who is thinking in terms of identity may hear the call to repentance differently. 

I agree, as long as we are trying to bridge a communication or understanding gap. Although the LGBTQ label is one people apply to themselves, I think quite often we are guilty of using labels to keep others at arm's length.

Greg Long's picture

TylerR wrote:

Greg wrote:

I would argue that identity is not as unique to LGBT issues as we might think. All of us justify our sin to a greater or lesser extent by saying some form of, "Well, that's just who I am." (Now the reasons a person thinks they are who they are vary from biological to environmental to cultural to parental, etc.) An alcoholic excuses his sin by saying "that's who I am." A person prone to anger says "that's who I am." And so on.

Perhaps, but is that the way we should think about our sins? Is it intrinsic to "who we are?" I think a better way to frame this would be to admit, "Yeah, this issue (insert sin here) is my problem."

The sin is not who you are; it's simply a particular problem for you. I think any attempt to equate acts of sin with "self-identity" is going down the wrong road.

It may be "who you are" in the sense that this particular sin happens to be your particular "thorn in the flesh." But, it's hardly "who you are" in an intrinsic sense, is it?

Perhaps I wasn't clear. I wasn't arguing that this is the correct way to think about sin, I'm simply saying we should understand this is how people view themselves and their sin. This is especially true of the LGBT community. I think it is helpful to understand this, as it helps me as I interact with and share Christ with them.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Ed Vasicek's picture

Tyler, I so appreciate your comments and thoughts, but I wanted to address what I believe is an important nuance.

Tyler R said:

I don't think a congregation is primarily about community, acceptance, relationships and a "movement." 

The church may not PRIMARILY be about community, but it is certainly an important secondary purpose.  The church is many things (I am not going to give references, most you are familiar with these quotations, and, besides, I am feeling lazy:) ) -- the household of faith, the pillar and support of truth, the body of Christ, members of the Body of Christ, brothers and sisters, saints, friends, etc.

I would argue that a more Biblical term for community is "fellowship" or its alternate translation, "participation."

This refers not just to an activity, but the group of people who participate in the activity, bonding, sharing, and all the 'one anothers" that the New Testament emphasizes -- greeting one another, praying for one another, etc.

Certain aspects (of what the church is about) get the spotlight depending upon the need, the culture, etc.  In addition, some churches do have more actual "body life"  than others, some are more of less emphatic about defending the truth, etc.  The Puritans, for example, did not have to be as aggressive at fighting liberalism as we might be today. At one time, churches pushed evangelism on Sunday nights because bored lost people were willing to attend evening services.

Many of these terms for the church are relational and horizontal and speak of community.  As a matter of fact, the rubric for what is to happen in church is clearly stated in I Corinthians 14:26b, "Let all things be done for building up." This reinforces the idea of both vertical and horizontal concerns. We are a peculiar people who are building up and nurturing other believers.  This is very relational, and many Christians have always found their primary sociological identity as part of the household of faith.

So I would argue that the church is partly about community and that community is important.  I also think that including lost people in our fellowship (not as members) is a good thing. Many people come to know the Lord gradually (although regeneration is at a point in time).  I Corinthians  14:24 implies that unbelievers should be welcome.

On another note, there is an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.  What about Christian parents who view the church as modeling a godly, proper lifestyle?  Moms and dads are concerned that their children reach adulthood without gender confusion.

Anyone want to discuss this aspect?  Or is it an issue of days gone by and no longer relevant because of our nation's "empty closets."

 

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

I think you're right on the community aspect, and I believe we're saying the same thing. My problem is that I believe the goal of the horizontal aspects of the church community is to support the primary mission - to know God better, and to be better and more effective witnesses for His Gospel. So, the "community" aspect serves to support the real core mission.

My concern is that, today, many people give lip-service to "the mission," while up-playing the horizontal aspects to be the "main thing." This is what the interviewee appears to be doing. He is pitching the church as a place where people can belong, be a part of a movement, and have relationships. This is all true. All of it. But, and this is where things get slippery, the problem is the emphasis. This is a self-centered way to frame the Gospel, and God's coming kingdom.

It's difficult to get this across, because the differences between these two approaches is very subtle. It's presuppositional, at a very basic level. Some people are more touchy feely - and I realize that's not me. These folks are more prone to emphasize the community aspect of church life, and frame the Gospel that way, too. I'm more of a doctrine-oriented person, and I dwell on God's holiness - that informs how I frame things.

Both approaches have potential pitfalls:

  • My approach can risk being cold, aloof and icy. I know this, and try very, very hard to not do this. I think I succeed.
  • The other approach can be wimpy, weak on calling for repentance, and altogether wishy-washy.

Overall, I think people trend towards the second option. I'm not sure that's a good thing at all.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Paul J's picture

So TylerR, you've spent significant time pointing out what's wrong with what Caleb said are you saying then that we can gain no value in what he is saying?  It seems he is using his story, the one God's allowed him to live, to help Christian interact with those in LGBTQ community.  I've read his book, listened to the complete video cast and spoken with him personally.  I agree with the broad point you are trying to make but a bigger question is how can we benefit from what he has to say to us?  We clearly know that the contemporary church has done a terrible job in interacting with these people.

So, please speak to what you've learned from watching this video and how it might impact you as you engage your community there in the Northwest?

TylerR's picture

Paul asked:

are you saying then that we can gain no value in what he is saying?

Nope. Not saying that. Instead, I'm looking to learn from and interact with what he says. Well-intentioned pushback doesn't always equal "criticism" in a nasty sense - it certainly doesn't here. 

My aim wasn't to criticize Caleb; it was to discuss whether it is appropriate to frame the Gospel as a call to earthly relationship - specifically whether we should use the "church = relationship with others" model as a way to minister to people in rebellion against God - no matter what their particular pet sin is. I'm using Caleb as a foil for a larger issue.

In general, I think the LBGTQ issue isn't nearly as complicated as the culture warriors make it out to be. How do you engage these people as you come into contact with them? The same way you engage anyone else:

  1. Be kind and loving
  2. Be willing to develop friendships with an aim to preaching and explaining the Gospel and its implications
  3. Don't shy away from the hard truths - homosexuality is an abomination and a sin Jesus died to rescue and forgive people from. Repent of your rebellion, forsake your sin, and believe in who Jesus is and what He's done

Any Gospel proclamation which gives in to the modern concept of "sin = self-identity" is making a terrible mistake. Again, my larger issue is whether we're framing the Gospel correctly if we make it about horizontal relationships.

What are your thoughts on the framing issue?

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Paul J's picture

TylerR Regarding "What are your thoughts on the framing issue?"

Appreciated what you are saying but with all graciousness I'd like to say you are looking at this simplisticly, not that it is a simple consideration because it is not.  But your are looking at it through the lenses of the community beng Christians and that's sort of "insider local church".  So yes, but in our current climate here in the states we still have an attractional opportunity within the weekend activities of our churches.  Those activities include insiders, Believers, but also outsiders non-believers.  So, for our church we plan the teaching in our gather for Christians but plan for non-Christians to be in attendance.  We always have people in our gathering who are not yet Christians.  They may begin to identify themselves with our church before they actually believe, so they would be part of our community before they are truly part of the Church.  We always have LBGTQ folks along with adulators and alcoholics and drug abusers attending so we wrestle with and expect we are going to be dealing behaviors that are going to be uncomfortable.  I wish I knew more about the church in Corinth then what we do as I think they were working through these things too.  So I think there is a communal aspect of the church as spoken of in Acts and their is the "Called Out Assembly" which should be looking at this through the two planes.  Some day we might be meeting is secret and then things will look a little differently then they do today on a Sunday. Just my thought.  Once again I appreciate what you are saying but thought the direction the conversation went one way and had taken sort of took away the learning opportunity of listening to Caleb's story as someone who is dealing with this issue daily with real people who know and are known by his church.

The think I wrestle with is handling non-Christian LBGTQ and those that identify as Christian.  Those are two very different conversations and super messy.

TylerR's picture

Paul:

No doubt, people who struggle with LGBTQ+ (etc.) sin are a challenge. I just don't believe it's as big of a hurdle as we're often told it is. It's deeply personal, because this sin revolves around sexuality - perhaps the most private, intimate and "personal" aspect of our lives as human beings. In that respect, this issue can be more difficult to handle.

But, as I believe Caleb pointed out, everybody has to contextualize depending on his audience. The question is this - when we contextualize the Gospel to a particular situation, as we speak to a particular person, am I translating the Good News in an accurate way?

This is where the morass begins. Every situation is different, and evangelism is really more of a process than an event. Example:

  • Just this morning, about four hours ago, I was chatting with a female co-worker over coffee. She's 50, a single mom with a 28-yr old daughter. She's never been married, and she's a very tough woman. Self-reliant, cynical, nice, etc. You get the picture.
  • I asked her how she likes her work here so far (she's approaching her one year anniversary). She replies, "You know, I'm a religious person, but I still believe we create our own destiny. But, in this situation when I came here, I really think a higher power was involved in how well everything worked with my move here, to take this job."
  • I ponder this statement as we continue the discussion into safer territory. After a few minutes, I ask, "What do you mean when you say, 'I believe I control my own destiny'"?
  • She explains this means she is responsible for her own decisions, and her own actions. I get that - she's reacting against a faulty view of God's sovereignty - where He's the puppet-master and we respond like robots.
  • I explain that, in one respect, the Bible agrees with her that she's responsible for her own actions, and the consequences of those actions. I take the opportunity to explain that God determined He would send Jesus, and that He would die (I also made sure to give a Cliff Notes version of Christ's passive and active obedience, too), and yet the folks who did the deed wanted to do it, and were held responsible. In short, I told her about compatibalism.
  • She was intrigued, and wants to chat more about this.

My goal is to get to the point where I can have a serious conversation with her about the Gospel. Today, I contextualized the Good News according to what she said, and the short time I had to chat. It's almost impossible to give specific pointers about how to contextualize the Gospel, because every context is different. Thus it is with ministering to people struggling (or glorying in) their LBGTQ+ sin.

I don't believe LGBTQ is an issue that requires more kid gloves, more tenderness, or more empathy than you show in any other context. It requires those same skills. In large respect, I believe this has "become" a tough issue, when it really isn't one, at all. It isn't as hard as so many make it out to be. It's just as hard as all the other people you need to reach, which is plenty hard enough, all by itself!

Whomever you're speaking to, you have to contextualize and take advantage of the time you have - without diluting or distorting the Good News. Whatever else needs to be said, those principles are universal.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Paul J's picture

Yes, yes, I agree with you completely.  You did two things, one you had the conversation.  How many times do we just miss that.  Second you answered to question at hand that will allow you to speak more fully at another time and maybe in a better environment to help more. I think the Apostle Paul was an amazing example to us on contextualizing.  My point on the difficulty in speaking to a person who is making choices that are not aligned with our identity in Christ who are not yet a follower of Jesus you can talk to the point of finding your identity in Jesus. Someone who claims to follow Jesus has just been much harder conversations for me in my experiences.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Good, intelligent conversation, everyone.

But I just can't leave this community thing alone. The Dallas guys are right, IMO, with all due respect.

My issue here isn't primarily with the LGBT as much as it is the very nature ot he church.

Tyler said, the horizontal aspects of the church community is to support the primary mission - to know God better, and to be better and more effective witnesses for His Gospel. 

Therein lies a great divide.  Many would agree with this idea.   My problem is that being part of a church is much more than getting a job done.  And, although I am a big believer (as are probably all of us) that the church needs to deeply teach the Word, those things are only a part of the whole.

Sometimes a church can put effort into loving someone (say a widow or someone who has lost a child), and the primary motive is not evangelism nor is it to get to know God better (although with imaginative thinking, one could conjure such a motive).  To love your brothers and sisters JUST TO LOVE THEM can be an end in itself, at least at times.

People who are achievement oriented tend to emphasize achievement (like Martha), people who are relationally oriented emphasize the importance of loving and relating to others in ways other than evangelism (like Mary).  Others favor passion or deep thinking.  They all have a part to play in church life.

There are certainly more commandments or admonitions about internal fellowship, internally relating to one another, being a spiritual family, etc. in the New Testament epistles than there are about external things like evangelism or even being a good witness.  That is not to say that all these commands/admonitions are equal.  The epistles tended to address problems within church families (i.e. local churches).  We might be right to elevate commands to evangelize, be a good testimony, etc., above greeting one another, weeping and rejoicing with one another (the family-like things), but we are wrong to dismiss them as negligible or not part of what the church is about.

The church lost its community/fellowship aspects when it became the accepted religion of the Roman Empire, and the Reformers did not reclaim it.  Yet lesser movements (Plymouth Brethren, Anabaptists, Gene Getz, Ray Stedman etc.) have done so -- but they have never been the mover/shaker churches that get watched and imitated.  But I would argue that, strictly from a New Testament viewpoint, the church is intended to be a true spiritual family, a group in which to find ones social identity.  I agree with Tyler's earlier remarks, that the church is not PRIMARILY about this, however.  But it should be more the case that we typically see, IMO.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jay's picture

I don't believe LGBTQ is an issue that requires more kid gloves, more tenderness, or more empathy than you show in any other context. It requires those same skills. In large respect, I believe this has "become" a tough issue, when it really isn't one, at all. It isn't as hard as so many make it out to be. It's just as hard as all the other people you need to reach, which is plenty hard enough, all by itself!

Whomever you're speaking to, you have to contextualize and take advantage of the time you have - without diluting or distorting the Good News. Whatever else needs to be said, those principles are universal.

If anyone on this thread hasn't read Rosario Butterfield's book "The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert", and you have any serious interest in ministering to the LGBTQ community (or even if you aren't), you should stop everything you're doing, put the computer down, and go buy and read it.  Now.

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Seriously, there's no 'magic trick' for counseling LGBTQ people.  You have to suppress whatever self-righteous gag reflex that you may have towards people who are trapped in sin, admit that your heterosexual sins are just as morally repellent and offensive to God (including said self-righteousness) as theirs are, and act like you care about them like people instead of straw men, 'the enemy', or whatever other objectified category you put them in. 

If you do that, you'll be able to minister to them.  If not, well, enjoy your self-righteousness, but keep in mind that God doesn't.

This is not hard.  Intimidating?  Sure, but no harder than anyone else you should be counseling to overcome sin.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Greg Long's picture

Yes of course in a sense LGBT people are sinners just like everyone else, and in a sense our Gospel witness to them is no different than it is to everyone else.

And yet, we must be aware of the unique temptations that they face and consider that as we evangelize and minister to them. This article makes the point perfectly.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/an-alternative-script-for-same-sex-attraction

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University