Let’s talk about the gray area that ministries have to navigate when we are called to love people where they are while serving a holy God.
First, allow me to remind you that I’m not a consultant but a coach. That means I don’t provide answers, I help you ask the right questions that lead to a discovery of what works best for you. Below are some of the coaching questions I would ask you in a few conundrums that will come up if you truly welcome and support LGBTQ+ inclusion (not conversion) in the church.
Side note: One of my favorite resources that I highly suggest you check out is Equip Community.
How do I approach the situation when an LGBTQ member wants to get more involved? What do you do when any member wants to get involved? Are the reasons you’re encouraging other members to get involved applicable to this person? (My guess is ‘yes’) Is your concern about them or the people they’ll encounter? What’s the worry that led you to ask this question? Is this even the right question to ask?
I personally think the most important of all these questions is why you’re asking? That answer will lead you to the internal or external areas that need to be addressed.
What happens if I offend someone? What do you do when you offend someone in any situation? (If you’re preaching the message of Christ, surely you’ve had experience offending someone.) What could happen that might be considered offensive and how can you prevent or prepare for it? Was the offense taken in response to the message or the messenger? (The truth of God should never be changed to placate anyone, but we have a lot of control and flexibility in what and how we communicate.)
Let’s first address that it will happen; we offend people everyday. Whether we realize it or not, offending someone is not new to any of us, so we can take a deep breath knowing that we’re already experts there. The important thing is doing your part to avoid the avoidable. The first step will always be humility. True humility will cover many, many wounds and missteps.
I don’t know all of the terminology and I don’t have anyone to ask. What resources do you have access to? What specifically do you need to know? (You don’t need to be fluent in French to have a conversation with someone from France.) In the heat of the moment, what knowledge/skills/commonality do I have with this person that I can use to form a genuine connection? What am I doing now with what I have?
First of all, pick me! I’m an available resource. More importantly, remember that you have an overwhelming amount of access to information even if it’s not your preferred method or source. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to learn everything; it’s impossible and unnecessary. Remember that they/we are people too so no one person is completely foreign to another.
What if they want to serve in a leadership position? What is the source of any push back or hesitation; is it conviction or discomfort? Are they being held to the same standard as any other person pursuing a leadership position? Does this position introduce them to more opportunity to grow more like Christ and encourage others?
This truly does have the potential to bring about some hard conversations, but I encourage you to double check your motives in all allowances and rejections. “Is this pleasing to God or man?” If you are upholding what you know to be right, then stick to it no matter the response. You’re headed in the wrong direction if the choice is based on what will make you/your ministry popular or most comfortable.
What if I’m asked to do something I don’t support? What do you do when someone else asks you to engage in something you don’t support? Why don’t you support it and are you being upfront with yourself and that person about those reasons? What’s at stake if you do or don’t support them and is it worthy of the decision? Is there another way to support them that you are willing to do?
Despite what #cancelculture tells you, you have a right to say yes or no and it’s OK not to do something you’re uncomfortable with for any reason. As a follower of Christ (individual or as a community) we have a responsibility for our decisions. No relationship is worth disobeying God.
What if I don’t know what I believe about same-sex attraction and the Gospel? What do you know about the Gospel and what do you know about same-sex attraction? Do you need to be certain to do what you’re called to do? How does your uncertainty affect how or if you approach the subject or people? What’s the source of your uncertainty?
From the bottom of my heart, I think this is where most people find themselves. The aggressively homophobic and Christian-bashers are just loud outliers speaking for the crowd that fall in the middle. These are things I encourage you to wrestle with, not because your salvation depends on it, but because it could affect someone else’s.
These situations and questions can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean they have to challenge your faith. These remind us to know God and what he says rather than what tradition and legalism preaches. Sometimes the ‘right’ answer is freeing, but sometimes it’s heavy.
A reminder of one of my foundational beliefs: we are here to serve, not save. Free yourself from judgement, both giving and receiving. Don’t let what you don’t know keep you from following the things you know to do.