Editor's note: This is part 2 of a 2-part series on the Church and speaking about sexuality issues. Part 1 can be read here.
As misinformation related to LGBT topics sweeps rapidly throughout our culture, it seems many churches have gone silent on these issues. Some pastors and Christian leaders are still effectively addressing these topics with both truth and love, but many are not.
Regardless of the reasons for the silence of the Church on LGBT issues, it should not be an option for Christian leaders. People need the help of their churches and Christian schools to navigate the bombardment of cultural deception. Here are some ways Christian leaders can begin breaking the silence:
Ask God to reveal whether or not fear is an underlying factor. Ask God to reveal internal obstacles to addressing these issues. Pray as David did, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me …” (Psalm 139:23-24, ESV). Fear might be a factor, even if there is no conscious awareness of it. As Paul said, “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me” (I Corinthians 4:4, ESV). If God reveals fear to be a factor, seek to walk in the fear of God, not the fear of men. Remember God’s words to Israel as they were about to take over enemy territory, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).
Maintain realistic expectations. God’s truths will sometimes be offensive, even when those truths are presented in the most loving ways. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19, ESV). Jesus clearly describes what we can expect. Being hated for the right reasons is part of the Christian life and Christian leadership.
Stay mindful of a shepherd’s role. In Ezekiel 34:4-6, God describes some of the responsibilities of spiritual leaders: to strengthen the weak, to heal the sick, to bind up the injured, to bring back the wanderer, and to seek out the lost. The leaders of Ezekiel’s day failed to do that, and God says of His people in verse 5: “So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered” (ESV). I see this among the younger generation who are deceived by the culture on LGBT issues, they have “become food for the wild beasts” and no one is seeking to bind them up, heal them or bring them back. They are scattered far from God’s design, and they do not even realize it because they lack shepherding in these areas.
Be specific in your teaching. Mark 6:34 says, speaking of Jesus, “When He went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things” (ESV). The culture is teaching many things about LGBT topics, but the Church has so much more to say on all of this. Teach what it means to be made in God’s image and why gender is important. Teach about complementarity in marriage and the beauty of God’s design. Teach biblical sexual ethics and the power God gives to live life His way. Teach on the importance of complete surrender to God’s plan, including in areas of sex and gender. Teach that living according to the flesh brings death, but living life in God’s way produces life abundantly.
Train your staff to understand these issues and to respond appropriately. Bring in experts who can explain to your staff some of the risk factors for same-sex attraction and gender confusion, how change happens, and how to minister effectively to this population. Avoid using speakers who emphasize love without truth or truth without love. Beware of those who capitulate to culture and silence truth in a faulty attempt to be perceived as welcoming. Steer clear of authors and speakers who focus solely on earning favor with those outside the Church, at the expense of providing biblical clarity and guidance to those inside the Church.
Invite guest speakers who have expertise in these areas. Expose your congregations and students to God’s perspective through personal testimonies of overcomers. There are many godly men and women with decades of experience in walking in freedom from these struggles. Speakers such as Joe Dallas or Anne Paulk share dynamic testimonies of God’s transforming work in these areas.
I have seen the powerful effects of testimonies. I have a friend, who as a teenager struggled with suicidal thoughts due to having unwanted same-sex attractions. Although she was a Christian, who grew up in a Christian home and attended Christian schools, she did not understand her attractions and did not know how to move forward. Finally, as a student in a Christian college, she heard a guest speaker share a testimony of overcoming lesbianism. My friend says the speaker’s testimony changed her life. For the first time, she learned she was not born that way, that there were reasons she had same-sex attractions, and that change was possible. That testimony marked the beginning of her journey out of confusion and hopelessness. Today my friend is married to a man and has three beautiful children. Testimonies are powerful. Revelation 12:11 says, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony …” (ESV). People need to hear more testimonies of God’s changing work in these areas.
Promote resources to educate on the specifics of these issues. Let church members or students know about the resources available for understanding these issues more fully. Resources can shed light on important aspects of same-sex attraction and gender confusion and can provide helpful insight to those experiencing these feelings. For example, I have a friend who grew up in a church where he was taught God’s Word, but he agonized over his unwanted same-sex attractions, baffled as to why he had those feelings. For him, simply learning about the cause of his attractions and discovering the process of sanctification were monumental. There are many great Christian books, videos, and other teachings available through Restored Hope Network. Promote these resources by way of church bulletins, e-mails, or other forms of communication.
In addition, schedule a time to show a documentary, such as, “In His Image,” produced by the American Family Association. This video features experts in theology and culture as well as personal testimonies. Or show a similar video to your congregation or class.
Offer tools for strengthening marriages and families. Family dynamics are an important factor in a child’s development. Healthy families are foundational in producing emotionally and spiritually healthy children. Help to build strong marriages and families. Empower parents to connect well with their children and safeguard them from destructive influences. Equip families to thrive in a post-Christian culture.
Keep in mind that God’s perspective on these issues is good news, not bad news. People are longing to hear that God loves them more than they can imagine and that He has a wonderful plan for their lives. God’s design is a good one, and living life according to His design brings true peace and fulfillment. Be confident, rather than apologetic in lovingly sharing God’s life-changing truths.
God’s Word, not culture, lights our path and guides the way forward. People need Christian leaders who will bring light to the darkness by teaching God’s Word. The world is searching for answers. Many are stumbling around in the darkness, and sadly this includes Christians. In the absence of understanding of what God says on the matter, many Christians are accepting the dominant messages of our culture. And yet, when Christian leaders share God’s truths in love, lives are changed. I pray God will continue to equip and empower His leaders to speak His life-changing truths in love to a world desperate to hear it.
Dr. Julie Hamilton is an advocate for healthy sexuality. She works as licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in South Florida. A former assistant professor of psychology at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Dr. Hamilton speaks on connecting with God and others as well as homosexuality and gender confusion.