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M2GT: Why Should I Care?

 —  February 24, 2014 — 8 Comments

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A few weeks ago, I shared some of my experiences as a gay teen in high school. I followed up that post with a plea to see gay teens beyond their sexual orientation. Both posts have sparked some great discussions online and offline, and that’s what I was aiming for. We need to be talking about this issue.

I’m going to assume, however, that there is a question being asked internally that needs to be discussed externally. The question isn’t a wrong one, and people asking it aren’t being ignorant. Like all questions surrounding homosexuality and ministry to gay individuals, this question needs to be discussed, too. So, let’s chat for a bit.

The question is: Why should I care?

Fair question. I think there are many youth workers who read this blog asking this question about gay teens. And maybe these are some of their thoughts: “I don’t have gay teens in my church or youth group, so why should I bother with this issue? .. The chances of a gay teen coming to our youth group is slim to none. .. I’m so tired of hearing about homosexuality – move on!”

Again, fair points.

However, I would like to offer three reasons on why every youth worker (and for that matter, why every church), should concern themselves with the issue of ministering to gay teens and adults.

First, just because you may not know about them doesn’t mean there are no gay teens or adults within your church or ministry. From 1996 to 2007, nearly every church I was a part of and worked in did not know about my past or present issues with same-sex attractions. And the main reason why was because I didn’t feel safe enough to tell people. For me, it was easier to hide away my secret than to lose friendships with people I really cared about. Though today I am sure they would have continued being my friend, back then it was a fear that gripped my life.

Second, the early church included people with same-sex attractions, so why shouldn’t our churches of today include them, too? Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 are mostly used when attacking or debating gays and lesbians. However, I want us to see something. In this passage, Paul is talking to people who were Christians (see 1:2, 10), and who were still engaging in sins that they had “died to” when they came to Christ. Paul reminds these brothers and sisters that this is how they used to live, and because Christ now lives in them they should live differently.

Notice that Paul doesn’t tell the Corinthian church to shun those with same-sex attractions. He doesn’t single them out, or even tell them their attractions must change in order to be good Christians. In fact, Paul is more concerned about people following Jesus, and the transforming work of the Spirit in people’s lives. In this letter, Paul calls for the church to be united, as one body. He calls the church to suffer and rejoice together, because everyone in the church matters (12:26).

You may not have gay people in your church, but you probably have some in your community. Here’s a question I would ask: why aren’t gay people coming to your church?

The third reason you should care about ministry to gay teens and adults, what if you were in their place? What if you were the one looking for a safe place to wrestle with things? What if you were gay and didn’t know Christ; wouldn’t you want someone to reach out to you, extending God’s grace and hope of salvation?

We are not country clubs. We’re not only for the elite. God’s church is universal. God’s salvation is for all people. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, through whom God makes His appeal, entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

It is only by God’s great grace we stand in the position we do as Christians. And this grace is not beyond anyone to be a recipient of. God has chosen us (the church) to be a vessel in which His grace flows towards all people. This is why we should care.

Thoughts?

With you,

Shawn / @611pulse

P.S. I would love to see you at my workshop, “Ministering to Gay Teenagers,” at this year’s Simply Youth Ministry Conference!

Shawn Harrison

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Shawn is a pastor, author, speaker, ministry consultant, and the founding director of Six:11 Ministries. Passionate about Jesus and people, Shawn lives with his wife and three kids in Ohio, where he helps pastor Greenville Alliance church.

8 responses to M2GT: Why Should I Care?

  1. Great post, Shawn. As I mentioned before, I’m preparing to teach on this subject. You’ve given me even more to think about and a few more facets to explore.

    To those asking why you should care, I’d like to expand on this statement: “You may not have gay people in your church, but you probably have some in your community.” Please remember folks that Jesus commanded us to GO and make disciples. It’s great that we have these nice buildings, smiling faces and warm handshakes in the lobby. That’s something I look forward to every Sunday. But if your mindset is we don’t have any gay people and we’re not expecting any to visit, then may I humbly suggest that you’re doing it wrong. Jesus did not ask us to put up a structure and see who shows up to ask about Him. If you are taking the command seriously to GO and make disciples, and by that I mean you are actually going to meet lost people where they hang out, you are likely to meet gay people in the process. Some of them will have been deeply scarred by their encounters with christians who were so focused on their lifestyle that they forgot to explain the gospel to them before they went and dove right into the sexual immorality verses. Some of them may be true seekers, but stay away from church because they have no idea that same sex attraction and same sex physical relationships can be rightly divided by the scriptures. The focus is always on the latter, which is clearly called immoral in the bible. I’m not suggesting that we ever say otherwise. But let’s not overlook the former- same sex attraction is a internal struggle, just like the struggle a straight person might have with an inappropriate attraction to someone of the opposite sex. There are of course many struggles our brothers and sisters in Christ have- sunstance abuse, anger, deceit, and my own favorite struggle, over eating (gluttony, if you prefer). We’ve all got stuff. Pastors, elders, and teachers have stuff too. When people come in with their stuff, we should show them love and as much understanding as we can first, and then we help them learn how to get mastery over their stuff. Teach ‘em how to pray and let the Holy Spirit change them. It’s not fair to hold gay people to a higher standard than the rest of us. If that doesn’t make sense, then maybe the following passage will:

    “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” – 1 Peter 3:15-16

    • ChristianPrincess February 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      I love this response. I love that you addressed holding people with same-sex attractions to higher standards than we do others and even ourselves. I know of no other group of people who are implicitly (and at times explicitly) expected to change their whole lives before they are a part of the “Jesus club”. It is our mission to invite all into the body of Christ so that He will transform our lives. It is our Biblical to make disciples, which mean that after they have accepted Christ, we walk alongside them through living out their faith.

      Coming to an understanding that ministry isn’t about us being comfortable, but about God using us to serve His people is integral to truly understanding why we do what we do for all of our students, families, and communities.

      Thank you for loving students and may God bless you.

    • Thanks for sharing Ken and Christian Princess!

  2. I’ve been thinking about how to teach this with our students for a while now. What are your thoughts in participating the day of silence (dayofsilence.org) as a way of giving our students an action to empathize and love on these students! Thoughts are super appreciate and greatly welcomed. Not sure how our Sr. Pastor is going to handle it and would love to have some feedback both negative and positive so I have an idea of the arguments that may be raised.

    • Jeff,
      I have participated in the Day of Silence, and I think it’s a good thing that allows peers to discuss this subject.

      I would definitely talk with your senior pastor, and maybe even parents, before inviting students to participate in this event at school.

      The Day of Silence could be seen as promoting homosexuality, and while it does in some regards, I think the bigger message being promoted is love, respect, and openness of all people between all people. Teens killing themselves because they’re bullied for being gay is a HUGE deal, and they need “straight” supporters standing in their corner saying “enough is enough.”

      Here are some other posts that offer some help:
      http://six11.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/doing-the-golden-rule/
      http://six11.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/enough-is-enough-part-2/

  3. It is very important that the parents of any children participating in youth group activities at a particular church have a crystal-clear understanding of the theological views of the youth workers there.
    I greatly admire church leaders who work hard to show grace, love and acceptance to everyone, but I would not want my gay child to attend activities at a church where the youth leaders might encourage him to change his sexual orientation. Those discussions could result in a lifetime of feeling unnecessary guilt, pain and confusion.

    • Debbie:

      Very good point. In fact, I would even add that it would be a big mistake in focusing on changing a teen’s orientation while neglecting the bigger issue which is allowing gay teens learn about Jesus. Or even teaching the youth to be more welcoming of other gay teens and not drive a wedge within the Youth Group. This can be a bigger issue.

      My 13 year old son who struggles with SSA and had been made fun of in a previous Youth Group, no longer attends. We put him in another Youth Group and now his peers are beginning to ask questions from my son’s older sister about his sexual orientation. Our fear is that he will not want to go to youth and not want to know more about Christ.

  4. I personally know many young people who are gay who no longer attend church. These are young people who grew up in the very church where I was a youth leader. One of the boys was extremely active in our youth group. These children recognize that they are not accepted for who they are – straight, gay, bi-sexual, etc.(the way God made them) but rather that people think of them as “broken-needing-to-be-fixed”. Many Christians use the phrase “hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner”, and don’t understand how extremely offensive that is. Nobody says that to straight people.
    I’m a registered nurse, so I also view this from a medical point of view. One quick Google search about inter-sexuality will teach you that human sexuality is much more complex than you might think.

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