Local Church Teamwork is essential to the sanctification of Christians. Usually teachers and pastors of local Evangelicals churches are the ones who guide the local Church culture. We know churches are good and bad at addressing certain cultural topics.
We are all growing and learning.
So lets start with what Church leader’s shouldn’t say to those struggling with homosexuality. I don’t believe Church leader’s have bad intentions, but I am learning church leaders do not know how to communicated helpful advice to someone who struggles with homosexuality, and local Churches are expecting them to know the answers to this topic.
Here are some pointers
1. Don’t tell them to pursue a life of celibacy.
Celibacy is a lifestyle the Holy Spirit gives to someone for the sake of the gospel for the local Church. As Wesley Hill Beautifully Wrote:
“I suggested that celibacy is an important reminder that love isn’t reducible to what we do in bed or over a candlelit table for two. It is a reminder that love exceeds the boundaries of the nuclear family. Celibacy is not about a heroic feat of willpower. It’s about giving up one way of expressing love in order to be able to love widely, profligately, indiscriminately. It’s about foregoing a spouse in order to love a community. It’s about giving up the possibility of children in order to become a spiritual father or mother in the family called “church.” It’s about being a little less entangled in the life of the world in order to be a little more free to celebrate the coming kingdom of God, in which none of us will be married and all of us will be spiritual friends with everyone else in the new creation that God will usher in. In the words of Ronald Rolheiser, “Celibacy, if properly lived, can be an important way to keep alive, visible and in the flesh, that part of the incarnation which tells us that when one is speaking of love, the human heart is the central organ.”
Many Christians misunderstand the life of a Christian Celibate and mix it up with the command to abstain from sex before marriage. Telling someone who struggles with homosexuality they need to pursue a life of celibacy is putting a calling on them that they may not be called too. However, they need to be encouraged to pursue righteousness and healthy intimacy within Church community (The 4TS). So Pastors, you don’t need to tell someone who struggles with Homosexuality they are called to Celibacy. You do need to encourage them in their decision to abstain from sex, but don’t focus on that as much as focusing on encouraging your church to love each other intimately. Encourage them to live life together like having holidays together, living together as roommates (singles with married folks and kids), having dinners together, vacations together, giving each other hugs and kisses like the apostle Paul told his churches etc. Basically the 4TS. Don’t put the calling of celibacy on them, that is not your call. The Apostle Paul didn’t so you shouldn’t.
2. Don’t tell them to go to God for their needs.
Jesus established his Church on Earth to be the primary means in which the Holy Spirit will fulfill the Father’s will on Earth. The Church is God’s hands and feet. It is the light of the World! It is the Salt of Earth. It brings flavor. When someone who struggles with Homosexuality is told to go to “God,” what is really happening is they are being banished to an emotional, spiritual, and physical place of isolation. If God didn’t find it good for Adam to be alone with him, why should the church send people to “God” to be alone? We misunderstand the importance of the Church if we are sending people to “God” to get their needs met. The Church is the hands and feet of God. Lets do what hands and feet do. We can TOUCH people with long hugs, give affectionate kisses like soccer players give each other, we can make dinner with them, share beds with each other, lay in each others bosom like Jesus did with his disciples. When it comes to feet, we can move our bodies where they go. We can live with them, we can go on walks with them, we can travel with them, we can share the gospel with them.
We can give them the 4TS.
3. Don’t tell them, “I hope that one day you can get married.”
In the New Convent God doesn’t seem to make marriage a priority anymore the way he did in the Old Covenant. God stressed family in the Old Covenant because that was how he was going to show the World who he was. So the Old Testament (which is the Jewish narrative of how God was using them) illustrates how God wanted to use Israel to be a light to the world, but they failed, so Jesus came into the picture. With Jesus came a new convent and now God uses the Church to be a light, not the Jewish family. The Church is the family, and this family is made up of married and single people. And the Apostle Paul thought single people were able to do more for God’s Kingdom and I agree with him. So maybe you should say, “I hope we can walk alongside you as you fulfill the great commission in our local church.” Marriage doesn’t magically meet all the needs of someone who struggles with homosexuality. But it can help a person just like a strong church family and friends can.
4. Don’t tell them, “I hope God makes you straight into a heterosexual.”
Straight people are screwed up too, why would we want to be straight? Heterosexuals and homosexuals are both screwed up. Lets not elevate one screwed up people group over the other. I hope you say, “Lets pursue holiness together. Married, single, homosexual, heterosexual, lets hope we can all pursue a holy godly life together in whatever context you are in.”
5. Don’t tell them they cannot be in ministry!
They belong to ministry! They need to be in ministry! They belong to children ministries, middle school ministries, High School Ministries. Mens Ministries, Women ministries. Those who struggle with homosexuality are not child molesters. Most straight guys I see in ministry worry me because they are teaching their male students really bad views of masculinity that screw up their life. In general, I think local churches need to rethink what masculinity is for their church culture and community. But those that struggle with homosexuality are biblically not band from ministry. If anything, a church that does this will harm them in huge ways that is far worse than struggling with homosexuality. Because what you are saying is that their sin is worse than others. Why is an alcoholic or drug addict who is sober allowed to work with children? but those that struggle with this are not allowed? Lets not put sins against sins. Obviously we need to watch anyone whoever works with kids, but those that struggle with homosexuality are completely fine working in Children's ministry.
6. Lastly, don’t tell those that struggle with homosexuality to stay away from men they are attracted too, male locker rooms, male dorms, etc.
Men who struggle with homosexuality belong to male friendships (whether they are attracted to them or not) and male areas such as locker rooms, Bible studies, skinny dipping with the bros, any context in which healthy male nudity takes place. You should encourage them to see men the right godly way. They need to be told to let the Holy Spirit sanctify their views of men. Not to run away from them. That doesn’t help anyone. That isn’t dealing with our sin or waging war against it the way the apostle Paul encourages Christians to do.
Obviously there are many more topics we can address when it comes to church leaders counseling their fellow teammates who struggle with homosexuality, but here are a few that I thought were very common experiences that many who struggle with homosexuality have to hear from their church leaders.