For six years of my life, I identified as a gay man.
But I was transformed after an encounter with the Holy Spirit on October,18th, 2009. I want to share my thoughts on how the church can be effective in ministering to the LGBT community without compromising the truth of the Gospel.
It is well known that the LGBT community has endured much hatred and judgment not just from society, but also from the church. I can relate with the pain LGBT-identified people are feeling and have felt. I know what it’s like to be rejected by those who should remain closest to you on the basis of sexuality. I know what it’s like to be verbally and physically assaulted, and told I am going to hell. I also know what it's like to feel unloved because of my sexual identity.
I recently stumbled across a video on YouTube of a street preacher, ministering the Gospel on the corner of a busy intersection in New York City. The viral video, which was published in April of 2019, begins with a passionate preacher, microphone in hand, sharing God’s view of homosexuality in the Bible. Many gathered around him, and he captured their attention. The very mention of the topic of God and sexuality often starts a fire in our culture, and especially starts a fire in the hearts of those who identify as LGBT.
What stuck out most to me in the video was a lesbian woman who pressed her way through a crowd of people to get into the preacher’s face. As the preacher continued his preaching, the woman began screaming: “You’re preaching hate! You’re preaching hate! You’re insulting the essence of my being!” I then gasped for breath, and it dawned on me.
What this woman stated is what the church has missed entirely with respect to this community’s experience. I was overwhelmed with sadness because this woman felt her humanity was being attacked by the preaching of our Gospel. This woman articulated that being a lesbian isn’t something she does. It’s who she is, she believes. She expressed same-sex attractions are at the core of her being, her identity.
When I identified as a gay man, I never considered same-sex attractions a part of my identity. I believed the attractions I had toward the same sex were a result of our fallen sin nature (Ps. 51:5).
But what I think, from a Christian perspective, isn’t what’s important, per se. What matters is what this woman and others who think and feel as she believes.
Any Christian who shares Jesus’s heart for all mankind to come to repentance and be saved (2 Pet. 3:9) desires to see the LGBT community saved. But sometimes our preaching to this community is detached from their experience. In order to understand how to help them, we should seek to understand them and their experiences, so that we can be effective in embracing a community of people for whom Jesus died.
But how can we if we don’t sit down and eat with them?
Identity becomes very apparent to someone who feels that the very fiber of their being is oriented for the same sex. People often construct their whole lives around this experience - their communities, workplace associations, places of worship, love interests - and when presented with the Gospel that requires repentance and a change in their way of life, it can be terrifying.
We must radically change our approach to this community if we are going to be effective in winning them with the love of Christ. Yes, we should continue to preach on street corners and tell the world of the Gospel that is able to save and deliver all from sin. But we must be intentional about meeting this community, and all people, where they are.
It starts with a patient willingness to understand someone else’s experiences and challenging our assumptions about people as to why they are the way they are. When faced with the reality of my own struggles, I met a man willing to get to know me, welcome me into his family, and disciple me holistically. To this day, he is still a major part of my life.
We don’t have to compromise the truth of God’s Word to love people. And if we can love them like Jesus, I am confident that we will see many in the LGBT community come to Him.
This piece was adapted from the The Greater Love website.