Mike Williams gives his top tips to families on how to navigate tricky encounters and conversations on LGBTQ+ issues
Have you ever wanted the ground to swallow you up? As a Pastor, I’ve had this feeling many times. When sharing the gospel is concerned, the question of ‘What about same-sex relationships?’ is never far away. It’s In these moments the desire for a sinkhole can increase rapidly.
On one occasion, a family member asked my view as a Pastor on same-sex relationships. I sensitively gave a short reasoning as to why I could not see any relationships permitted other than between one man and one woman in the Bible. Although I emphasized the love of God for all people, he replied, “Oh so you are a homophobic Pastor”.
Whilst said in jest, this is often the conclusion many will come to of Christians who cannot affirm same-sex relationships from scripture. Yet, this could not be further from the truth… most, like me, want to affirm the LGBTQ+ community. Why wouldn’t you? I have both close friends and family who identify as gay and transgender; I adore them and would love to celebrate their relationships. My stance has nothing to do with prejudice or phobia… It all comes down to scriptural integrity and my love for God and humanity.
So, how do I advise my congregation as a conservative pastor on LGBTQ+ issues?…
Your Pastor’s role is to bring clarity, not passivity.
There are many men and women of the cloth spread over an ocean of denominations, all claiming to sit under the same bible. Why then, are so many of the Lord’s sheep wandering in different directions, confused by the plethora of differing instructions?
Could it be, the shepherds are more interested in being popular than pleasing God? Maybe some are embarrassed by God and feel the need to rescue Him by reinterpreting His instruction in a more palatable way. Some may not be confident in the theology of LGBTQ+, and others may be fearful to be counter-cultural.
“Be brief, be clear, be gone” – These were the words of my boss when I was a banker. It seemed rude at the time, yet perhaps helpful these days. Ministers of all denominations seem to be fluffing their lines when it is our role to bring clarity to believers. The words God spoke of Levi, Israel’s priest, should challenge every Christian leader:
“True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness and turned many from sin. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth” (Malachi 2:6-7)
To be brief is to present our flocks with key biblical understanding on the issue of LGBTQ+, it is not to stay quiet or to engineer some philosophic reply that doesn’t answer the question; or worse, to focus excessively on the issue of LGBTQ+ through podcasts, books, articles, denominational consultations…yet being unwilling to accept our findings.
To be clear is to take what the whole bible has to say on same-sex relationships, look at the original context, unpack the original language, ignore the temptation to please culture, and ask ‘What does the Lord require of His people, who are called to be Holy as He is Holy?’. Then we must teach it, and commit it to our church statements of beliefs, membership packs, and whatever else to bring clarity to an already confused people.
Finally, be gone… put simply: move on with the mission. The gospel isn’t about LGBTQ+ alone, and it can’t become the center of every conversation. There are people to be saved, fed, healed, delivered, and rescued in all kinds of situations…they need Jesus too…
Yet concerning the LGBTQ+ community and the gospel, how can we be helpful?
Live by love
I remember a time when an openly gay couple entered a church, I served in. The reaction from Christians was embarrassing. Eyebrows raised, you could hear the whispers, and it seemed a priority to let the pastor know – “We have a real gay couple in the house!”. My advice to our church is not to act like a rabbit caught in the headlights, be normal!
It’s essential that we love all people, regardless of who they are and what life choices they make. I meet fortnightly with a gay professing Christian, and although we may not agree entirely, we are friends! My cousin is gay and married, I love him dearly! and I minister to a transgender friend.
Jesus met many people whose lifestyle and life choices He didn’t agree with, yet this did not change how He treated them. Always, He gave them His time, He showed warmth and hospitality, He was unworried by interruptions that might alter his agenda, and he was patient with them. He never once condoned sin, but he always loved the one who had fallen into sin. We must never forget that Jesus stepped down into this world to save it. Why? Because God so loved the world! (John 3:16).
God loves individuals who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community, even if He doesn’t affirm their choices. Never forget that his Son spread His arms wide on the cross and invited every single one of us to turn to Him through repentance, meaning a new way of life, so that we could all receive eternal life in relationship with Him. So let us love and point people to the cross of Christ.
Believe in the Holy Spirit and one-to-one discipleship.
I love the story of how Victorian preacher, Charles Spurgeon came to faith. A man who knew the church and the bible but couldn’t find peace with God. That changed when he heard what he described as an unimpressive preacher speaking on Isaiah 45:22:
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (KJV)
At one point the preacher spoke as if he was speaking the words of Jesus, continuing to say “Look unto me”. At that moment, Spurgeon had a revelation, all his life he’d been trying to save himself, to be good enough, rather than looking to Jesus.
This revelation was not from himself, it was what Jesus described to Nicodemus as being ‘born again’ meaning born from above.
The truth is, we are unlikely to convince the LGBTQ+ community to see things from our conservative understanding. Therefore, we must believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s will for His people. That is why Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44 NIV).
What then is our role? To love and to make space for God’s Holy Spirit to bring revelation, through hospitality and a commitment to one-to-one discipleship.
Pray for Revival
We need to realise evangelism isn’t about getting people into the kingdom, it’s about getting the kingdom into the people. We can’t reshape the Kingdom of God so that people buy it, the Kingdom of God must reshape the believer so that they may stand before God having crucified the flesh including the idol of sexuality; remembering that in heaven sexual relationships will cease (Matt 22:30).
So, the things that seem so important in our short earthly life will cease. How then do we help people gain an eternal perspective whereby they will sacrifice their desires in this life in favour of His will?
A friend of mine told me a story of spending time with an elderly lady who experienced the Hebridean revival. On one occasion, they asked the lady how the revival started for her. She replied, one evening, whilst relaxing at home with a friend, they heard a sudden scream. When they ran outside, they found her father on his knees in the front garden praying a prayer of repentance. He had been unexpectedly overcome by the Holy Spirit and fell to his knees at the realisation of the weight of his sin before God. Can you imagine this happening today? In a time where the world seems to be kicking God out of every part of our world? Why not? Prayer is the key!
You can learn more of Mike’s thinking in his book, Sexuality & Holiness – Remaining Loving and biblically grounded in a rapidly shifting culture.