Archives For homosexuality

If you haven’t had to deal with people dealing with sexual orientation issues in your church yet, you will. The coming years will bring more and more people who identify as a transgender, transvestite, transsexuals, and others that have, or have not, gone through sexual reassignment surgery. Same-sex attraction is nothing new. We even see the Bible addressing the issue. Culture in America has “normalized” it, though, and if your local church isn’t already wrestling through how they’d handle some of the more precarious and sticky situations, you’re already behind the curve.

I recently received this email from a fellow small groups pastor.

I have a transgender individual who is interested in joining a group. At our church we do not have co-ed groups, so I’m not really sure what’s the best way to proceed.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t have “the answer.” I’m not in the business of creating policies to handle things like this. Instead, I lead relationally, and on a case-by-case basis. That said, there are a few different questions at play here:

  • Is this a sin issue? What is the local church’s stance on this?
  • Is this a place (the local church AND the small group) where a transgender person feels comfortable pursuing Christ? (side note: the local church can believe that this is a sin issue, but still be welcoming)
  • Are they welcome as a small group member?
  • Would they be welcomed as a small group leader?
  • How will the small group respond? With shock and awe? Or grace and love?
  • How will the leader navigate difficult conversations?
  • Can the group accept that someone is “in process” and not make the group revolve around one particular sin?
  • Can the group balance grace AND truth?

Here was my response.

_______

Wow. That’s a tricky one for sure.

I tend to lean towards grace in these kinds of situations, and allow the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit’s going to do. If they claim to be a man, I’d allow them to join a men’s group, but I’d let them know where the church stands on the issue. I don’t want them to feel like we’ve “tricked” them into joining so that we can subversively influence them. There should be no doubt as to the church’s views, but also no doubt as to the church’s grace, and stance towards anyone: grace and truth.

At the end of the day, if they choose to honor Christ with their sexuality, they’re going to likely have to choose celibacy. But they’re not at that point right now. So minister to people where they are, and allow the Holy Spirit to change lives. The BEST place for someone to pursue Jesus is in the context of healthy, safe, truth-and-grace-driven community.

This all goes out the window if they’re disruptive. Group isn’t a chance for them to get on a pedestal and talk about their sexual choices. If it comes up, it comes up. But every week will not revolve around it. This needs to be made clear.

And group isn’t a chance for everyone else to “fix” them, either. It’s a chance to pursue Christ together. Everyone in the group has issues to work on, and I’d encourage that person to be open to the way God might call them to obedience. Radical obedience that could completely disrupt what they find their identity in.

Finally, I’d talk with the group leader whose group they may join know, and have a conversation with them to make sure they are comfortable (as comfortable as one might be in this situation) with this person joining their group. It’s a sensitive, difficult issue that not all group leaders could handle. It needs to be handled with much grace, care, and truth, giving space to pursue Jesus, and truth to wrestle with, that doesn’t revolve around one particular sin.

Let’s take another sin as an example. If someone openly struggles with gluttony, I’m not going to bar them from the group. Even if they don’t think that their gluttony is a sin. I’m also not going to structure group so that we talk about food and dieting every week. We’re just going to pursue Jesus together, and I’ll trust that God can change them through the power of the truth in the context of love.

At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit changes hearts. We can pray towards that end.

_______________

I’d love to know how you’d handle a situation like this. (this conversation heated up on Facebook. Feel free to click on over and see what people have said HERE.)

Can they join your group? Could they even lead a small group?

How would you structure your group so that this person has a place to pursue Jesus?

 

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Hindering the work of God

Ben Reed —  March 13, 2010 — 11 Comments

Would you ever ban somebody from being a part of your small group?

That question has been going through my mind after I read an article about some  American pastors who went to Uganda to speak against homosexuality.  They preached in support of a bill that

…creates a new category of crime called “Aggravated Homosexuality,” which calls for death by hanging for gays or lesbians who have sex with anyone under 18 and for so-called “serial offenders.”

The bill also calls for seven years in prison for “attempt to commit homosexuality,” five years for landlords who knowingly house gays, three years for anyone, including parents, who fail to hand gay children over to the police within 24 hours and the extradition of gay Ugandans living abroad.   ABC News article

So these American pastors are encouraging people to hunt down homosexuals because homosexuality is wrong and destroys the family.  They have also met with the Ugandan government and preached their message to them.

Is this the way the church should treat lost and broken people?

NO!

Even if you agree that homosexuality is a sin, and destroys the family, inciting a manhunt is not what God would have us do.

Here are a couple of tips on dealing with the lost and broken when they’re in our small group.  Though the sin of homosexuality may make you uncomfortable to talk about, I encourage you, for the sake of those who need your grace and love, to consider the following:

1. Remember that Christ didn’t die for you because you were good. He died for you while you were still his enemy.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

2. Remember that sanctification doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s a process. And processes take a lot of time to finish.  In fact, the process of sanctification won’t be complete in this lifetime.

3. Remember that God hates your sin. He hates it so much that He would deny you a relationship with Him, if it weren’t for Christ.

4. Listen. People appreciate when you ask them to share their story.  But they feel loved and valued when you actually listen and engage them while they’re sharing.

5. Speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth is good.  But truth without love is abrasive.  And hurtful.  And unhelpful.  It doesn’t have the other’s best interest at heart.  It’s self-serving and self-focused.  It’s un-Godlike.

6. Be open and honest about your own struggles. This helps you to fight against pride, and makes others feel more comfortable in being honest about their struggles.

7. Invite an open dialog. Instead of condemning the lost and broken, ask if they’d be open to thinking through what the Bible has to say.  And don’t let the conversation drift into a discussion that slams one sin, and minimizes another.  It’s easy to condemn the sins that we don’t struggle with.  It makes us feel better about the sins we constantly have to battle. Don’t fall into that trap.

8. Be quick to forgive. Those quick to forgive understand the true nature of their sin against God.  Those not quick to forgive don’t truly understand the nature of their own sin, and the loving mercy of God.

9. Offer prayer and further pastoral care and counseling to those open to it.

Notice that I didn’t say, “Ask them to leave.”  OR, “Point out every passage in the Bible that condemns their sin.”  OR, “Petition the government to hang them.” (see article above that does just that)

Those who are broken and lost don’t need our heaping condemnation.  They need our pursuing, relentless love. Jesus, to an adulterous woman, said these words:

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”John 8:9-11

A sin is a sin, no matter how small.

Do you treat some sins as worse (in God’s eyes) than others?

 

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