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In Christ there is no tension between grace and truth, so we can show amazing grace without compromising truth.
 
 
 
 
 
Sexual Questioning and the Church

Hello Church Leader,

Bruce Miller has been the pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in McKinney, Texas since 1997. He speaks at churches, organizations, and conferences about the culture’s changing views on human sexuality and the impact on the church. Today, we are excited to share with you this article by Bruce.

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As a pastor, you’ve likely had these kinds of conversations with people in your church or ministry.

  • "Pastor," in tears, "my daughter just came home from college and told me she thinks she is a lesbian. We don’t know what to do."
  • "Pastor," in confusion, "a seventh-grade girl told her group she is bisexual and has a crush on another girl. Should we let her come on the retreat?"
  • "Pastor," in hope and trepidation, "my partner and I would like to dedicate our beautiful daughter, Charis. Would the church let us do that?"
  • "Pastor," with tears running down her cheeks, "I’ve lived with a woman for 10 years, but now I’ve broken it off and want to join the church and be baptized. Can I be?"

It would not be hard to list more, "Pastor, . . ." questions like these that test our spiritual discernment. If you have been in church leadership for long, you have already had to address complicated, soul-wrenching issues like these.
Ultimately the gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake because the unchurched, especially younger people, are keenly watching how churches respond to the LGBT+ community. It has become a litmus test for our love. My hope is that local churches will become:

  • Loving communities where LGBT+ people can feel wanted and welcomed, and can flourish in the life that Christ offers them.
  • Pillars of truth where the foundations of marriage are respected as being a lifelong one-flesh bond between a man and a woman.
  • Lights to the world who shine brightly with love and justice for all people.


I encourage you to think deeply about how to lead your church in these conversations. Here are some things to consider:

  • Spiritual leaders need to come to grips with our own personal "stuff" around sexuality. We too have sins to confess, including judgements we have made about others. Our calling is to be a model for others.

  • Church leaders need to provide clear theological leadership about sexuality. Few pastors have a robust theology of sexuality. In a full biblical theology of sexuality, we see that sex is a good gift, but it is not essential for a good life. This has huge implications for how we portray singleness. Most of us still do not honor singleness as an equal vocation with marriage.

  • As pastors, it’s important to develop our own convictions about being both a Christian and gay. There are five different ways the term "gay" is commonly used: sexual roles, behavior, identity, attraction, and orientation. Distinguishing these is crucial for ministering well in this area. We must make a distinction between temptation and sin. A person can be really mature in Christ and still face strong temptations. And in our churches, we should evaluate how we portray masculinity and femininity (gender). Too often our ministries act as if all men love hunting and all women love table decorations.

  • We can find guidance from three conversations Jesus had related to sexuality: the woman at the well (John 4), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), and the "sinful" woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7). Notice what he said and did not say. And notice the order in which he communicated.

  • Many church leaders are caught between two factions: those from conservative backgrounds can have a hard time showing grace to LGBT+ people, and those formed by today’s sexual ethic can have a hard time standing for truth. As a result, they judge each other. In Christ there is no tension between grace and truth, so we can show amazing grace without compromising truth and provide space for people to differ and to grow.

  • In order to practically lead churches to show grace and stand for truth in the messiness of a fallen world, we should consider our tone as well as our theology, our personal posture as well as our theological positions.

  • We can apply theological principles to practical questions. And we can gain wisdom on issues such as: church membership, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, dedicating babies, overnight retreats, and how to effectively minister to LGBT+ students. Our accurate doctrinal theology needs to be lived out in sound pastoral practice.

  • And we cannot overlook the notion of church discipline. Pastors must think about how to respond to ongoing sin in the church for all people. Are there levels of sin, in terms of seriousness? How can we be fair and equitable in how we pastor all the people in our church in all our various sins?

I invite you to this Leadership Network Masterclass that begins on January 14, 2020. We will talk through these challenging issues. I don’t have all the answers, but together we can find guidance for navigating our churches through these culturally turbulent waters.

Blessings,

Bruce B. Miller
Author, Leading a Church in a Time of Sexual Questioning


P.S. -- Because local church leaders need to be unified on this controversial and nuanced topic, I recommend you do this Masterclass together as a leadership team using the discussion questions after each session. The course will help you develop shared convictions and discover practical principles for your particular context. If you have not faced these issues already, you will.




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