Dean is an important member of his local church. He is a deacon, and says he sometimes gets so busy with ministry that he has to shut off his phone so he can rest and not take any calls. Dean is also a former homosexual, who says sanctification – the process by which Christians are increasingly set apart for Christ through obedience – is a process that lasts a lifetime.
Dean, who is in his mid-40s and has been celibate for nearly eight years, agreed to speak with The Christian Post on Saturday on the condition of anonymity (his name has been changed) because of professional and social concerns.
"I no longer consider myself gay. I consider myself someone who has same-sex attraction," he said.
Eight years ago he was involved in a romantic relationship with another man, and he thought that relationship would bring him happiness, but after about a year he realized it had become stale and unfulfilling. His boyfriend was basically the perfect partner, Dean described, but after a while he began longing for the church life he once had as a child and young adult.
He began going to church again without his partner. Although he felt like a hypocrite, he felt he needed something better in his life so he began to pray and study the Bible in order to pursue God.
"One day it dawned on me that ... the most important thing in my life is my relationship with God. And I realized I didn't have that anymore. I had lost it in my 20s and I wanted it. And I also realized to get that back I had to end this relationship," he said.
He explained that in his youth he would feel "outraged" when he heard of the sexual misdeeds and romantic affairs of some preachers, and realized that he also had no integrity as a gay man who was part of the church.
He decided he needed to get out of the gay relationship he was in, but he wasn't sure how he should go about it. He felt like he needed an excuse to leave his boyfriend, so he began to pray. Several months later, Dean discovered that his boyfriend had been cheating on him, and he took the opportunity to start his new life of celibacy and living completely for God.
After turning away from his homosexual lifestyle, Dean lost contact with most of his friends. Outside of work, he said, 95 percent of the people he knew at the time lived the gay lifestyle. He later found a church that he liked, became a member after one year, and eventually felt called to the diaconate.
Today, Dean lives in Florida and participates in a support group for those who struggle with same-sex attraction called Courage. Courage is a Roman Catholic ministry and, although he isn't Catholic, Dean says it is a good fit for him because it upholds conservative Christian values.
There are a total of six members in his current support group. Two of them previously cheated on their wives with men, but today both of them are faithful to their wives. Another is a pro-life activist and Catholic who has committed himself to celibacy. Another was in a gay relationship, but today is devoted to his church's ministry to the poor.
Although the group's members still struggle with same-sex attraction, Dean says all of them have shed their gay identities.
"We were saying, 'You know, 10 or so years ago we were all involved in this horrible lifestyle, and now we're all pillars of the church!'"
Some people say a majority of those who are gay have been sexually abused or were prematurely exposed to sexuality, but Dean says he was raised in a "Leave It to Beaver" type of family as a child. His parents were loving toward him and regularly took their family to a Baptist church in his home state of New York. He has been a Christian since his youth, though for a span of nearly two decades he backslid and didn't pursue God.
In high school, Dean was attracted to girls – he even nabbed a date with the prettiest, most popular girl in school. But when he went to college his same-sex attraction became evident and he began living the gay lifestyle.
The only people he felt comfortable talking about his homosexuality with for a while were those who were already involved the gay community. He says if a Christian had come along and offered to listen to him and pray with him, even if they didn't know exactly how to help him with his situation, his life would probably have gone in a more positive direction.
Many of the gay men Dean has met over the years, he says, were involved in church life during their youth, and they often feel a sense of loss over not being a part of a church community any longer.
He thinks that the best way for Christians to reach out to homosexuals is through relationships. Simply listening and praying with the teenager in the church who struggles with same-sex attraction, for example, would be more effective than passing out pamphlets in the middle of the gay community, he says.
His advice for those who struggle with same-sex attraction is also simple: pursue a relationship with God.
"Do you know God can be a part of your life? And no matter what you are doing, no matter what kind of sinfulness you're in, no matter how trapped you feel, God wants you to be in a relationship with Him," said Dean.
One of the biggest misunderstandings people have, he says, is that Jesus "zaps" a gay person the moment they become a Christian and instantly makes them happy, healthy and heterosexual. Sanctification, he says, is a gradual process for everyone, and it can take time for individuals to overcome any number of sins in their lives, so they should not be discouraged while God is still working on them.