Defining 'Coming Out' Ministries
When we do a Google search for the name of our ministry, we quickly see that there are many misconceptions about our focus and purpose. For this reason, I wanted to use this first blog as an opportunity to clear the slate, and give you a first hand account as to where our focus is and how we approach the “LGBT” subject.
‘Coming Out’ of What?
I think most all of us have heard the term by now. We’ve heard it to varying degrees over the years, in the intensifying buzz of recent news, or for some of us, we have heard it from someone whom we deeply love and respect. And maybe, just maybe, we’ve even spoken these words about ourselves. Each of us in this ministry spoke them from our own lips. Coming Out… out of the closet. Stepping out of the need to pretend like I’m something I’m not. Finally coming out with the words “I’m Gay, and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
Announcing our “true selves” was revolutionary and liberating… or so we thought. We walked in the identities we had accepted for many years. But eventually, one by one, we each realized that the paths we were on would never lead us to the place we truly desired to go. We finally saw that we were walking out into a winding darkness. Nevertheless, it was there that we each found a perplexing truth that we could not deny: this path was not revolutionary, not liberating, nor fulfilling. It was enslaving. It was consuming... It was a dead end.
But what now? What does this mean? How could I possibly walk away from the identity that I had carried so proudly? Sexuality was not something I did behind closed doors in the privacy of my own bedroom! My sexual identity had become WHO I WAS! It was the central pillar of how others viewed me, how I viewed myself, and how I lived my life. I couldn’t just walk away from ME. Yet again, by that same small voice that had revealed the true nature of my wayward path, I was redirected toward a new “Coming Out.” Out of darkness, into His Marvelous Light! God met me on that sullen road, despite the fact that I had walked so far down it. He risked so much to meet me there. He risked rejection and humiliation. But He didn’t just risk it, He endured it! All to extend again the invitation which I had already despised so many times before. He never gave up! He was consistent when nothing else in the world was.
The True Purpose of ‘Coming Out’ Ministries?
‘Coming Out’ Ministries has never promised to change a person from gay to straight; into a gender confident heterosexual. It is not the work of our ministry to accomplish this for anyone! We do not administer conversion or reparative therapy. Instead we simply share the stories of our own personal journeys, and what we have learned along the way in efforts to connect the hearts and lives of all who will hear, both gay and straight, with a deeper and more intimate connection with Jesus Christ. We lift Him up in efforts to reveal Him as the source of hope, healing, and lasting victory. Because we recognize that this is the only relationship that can truly satisfy the human heart, and that every person struggles with an insatiable emptiness as long as Christ is not the central pillar of their life, we place the focus on Jesus Christ and the need within every person to have an insatiable love for Him. And as this love is cultivated, growing within, the Spirit of God will convict the heart, change the mind, and we will begin to live in harmony with His desire for us.
Sledge Hammer Theology?
Many people assume that we approach this topic in a dogmatic, judgmental, and condemnatory manner. This assumption could not be further from the truth. We do teach that same-sex intimate relationships and gender blurring are not given to man from God, and that these practices are harmful to us physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yet we also understand the immense struggle these thoughts and feelings create in the human heart. We know from personal experience the pain that these people have to go through. No one really chooses the attractions that come into their lives. But we all do make a choice as to whether to indulge those attractions or not. Our approach is invitational, just as Christ’s approach was, and still is.
We see each person as a child of God, for whom Christ died, therefore they hold infinite value, so our approach is out of this kind of Love! But “love” doesn’t always mean “permission”. When I was growing up, my mother didn’t give unconditional permission for me to do absolutely anything I wanted. Why? Because she loves me! And she saw some things from a perspective that I couldn’t understand at the time. Just the same, God doesn't always give permission, and yet He IS Love. Those of us in ‘Coming Out’ Ministries have chosen the love that the Lord extends in exchange for the love that the world offers, and we couple the evidences of our lives with His eternal Word to validate His promises in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Philippians 1:6.
Only the LGBT Can Relate?
Many people assume that the target audience for our ministry is specifically the LGBT community; that we hold meetings that draw in groups of individuals who are currently identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered in efforts to guide them along the same path we have chosen. But this is not an accurate picture of our ministry.
We do sincerely hope, above all, that those who identify as LGBT will be touched and moved by our ministry! By God's unmerited love and divine power, many have been. And while we do have a vision of providing greater resources for those individuals as time goes on, our focus now has been more toward educating and preparing the church. This is our focus for two reasons.
First, we see and acknowledge that Christians haven’t always done the best job at representing Christ, especially to this community. It is sometimes easy for us to simply lump everyone together and assume that if a person is not living in harmony with the Bible’s rule, then they are all just trouble-makers who have chosen rebellion and want nothing to do with God. But we can’t have that kind of mentality toward people. Ron, Wayne and Michael all experienced this kind of judgement first hand, both as they walked away from the church, and again when they came back years later. As a result, understandably so, they were apprehensive to invite other hurting people into similar experience to theirs. So in forming this ministry, these men had a burden to help the body of Christ to first better understand the dynamic struggles which LGBT persons face, and in doing so, to better equip the church.
The second reason our focus is more toward the church is that we acknowledge the fact that many LGBT individuals have a wall up toward Christianity. Maybe they have heard that the Bible speaks unfavorably regarding homosexuality and gender fluidity. Some of them may have been wounded by “well meaning” or “so called” Christians in the past. Others are well versed in the Bible, but have come to believe that God will excuse their same-sex relationship because they think He approves or that He doesn't care. Or, of course, some of them simply aren’t interested in God or the Bible at all. Whatever their case may be, many hurting people have built a wall to “protect” themselves from the word of God. To reach a community like this, you have to build a bridge of trust before you can share the the benefits of what Jesus offers to them.
So essentially, our greatest desire is to bridge the chasm between the Christian church and the LGBT community. We hope that our seminars will cultivate compassion in the hearts of our Christian community, and that this love will kindle within them a burden to reach the hurting individuals within their spheres of influence. We speak most often at churches, Pastoral retreats, academies, youth gatherings, and camp meetings.
Sometimes people in the churches where we speak decide not to come to our meetings because they don’t struggle with same-sex attraction or gender confusion, and they think they don't know anyone who does. If this is your presumption regarding our ministry, I challenge you to reconsider. Many who have come to our meetings have approached us afterwards and said “I thought this was going to be about homosexuality, but this was for me!” Our presentations are all Bible based, containing tools and encouragement toward a life of total purity for all people. So our words speak hope to everyone who is desiring a life wholly surrendered to the Savior.
When we look at the people around us, do we ever try to imagine just what they have to leave behind in order to follow Jesus? And what about the void that will be left in their lives? For many, to walk away from their old life means to walk away from a sense of community with which they have identified. If we strive, we can create a community within our churches that is warm and welcoming, even to those who we don’t understand. We can’t keep turning from the hearts who need our sympathy and compassion the most. We have to believe that they are doing what they sincerely believe is right with the information they currently have. And as we do this, we must pray for them with a burden for their souls. Are we willing to honor their vulnerability and transparency by being vulnerable and transparent ourselves? And can we step out of our comfort zones in order to walk with them through the process of their spiritual journey?
Nevertheless, as we take this approach we cannot neglect to provide a safe place by mingling compassion with the truths of God's word. This must be presented in the most gentle way possible and in the timing of the Holy Spirit. True love does not compromise principle in order to be maintained. Only when we take this balanced approach will we begin to experience healing in our families, churches and communities.