Being a Church Where Same-Sex Attraction Singles are Welcomed

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At Table for One Ministries we want every church to have an environment in which those struggling with homosexually or acting on their earthly desires can come to find the truth of God’s Word regarding the issue. We have asked those who struggle with same-sex attraction what environment they were in when they shared their struggle and reached out for help. We also asked what the church can do to reach out to men and women like them in an effort help them fight against this struggle.

 

One shared his struggle first in a group setting of 10-15 guys that had been sharing about sexual struggles they were having. He met with this group for over a year before also admitting he struggled, but in a same-sex attraction way. He shared his experience because another member of the group shared about his same-sex attraction issues. He first talked with a person one-on-one before coming out to a group of men for accountability. All of these guys shared with people they trusted and did not feel like they would be judged or cast off for doing so.

 

Accountability is a key component for any follower of Christ to grow closer to the Lord. James 5:16 promotes the idea of sharing our sins with one another for the reason being healed through prayer. Like any sin, same-sex attraction needs a group of strong supporters praying for the healing of that person to turn from that sin. Without this network of prayer, the one struggling is left alone to fight that sin. Accountability is also a hard thing to describe. Accountability is not just merely sharing sins to one another, but the act of another believer challenging a person to grow and take positive actions.

 

While every believer must confess their sins to the Lord and acknowledge Jesus died for those sins, an accountability partner can serve as reinforcement of the commitments we make to the Lord. In these cases, the 10-15 person home groups were broken into assigned accountability partners. While this is a great way to emphasize the importance of accountability, it can lack the cohesiveness needed with a pair of believers to share openly with one another. Accountability through home groups or an intimate setting is the first environment needed to help those struggling with same-sex attraction and have a safe place to share that challenge.

 

The second environment needed is one that apply too many areas and set by the leader or minister of the group. All participants communicated that the reason they stayed and eventually sought help at a particular church was because their leader mentioned same-sex attraction as one of many sins. This minister made it known it was no worse than any other struggle or sin people face. By him taking time to list struggles that included same-sex attraction, they knew they were in a place to find help. While an environment of trust and awareness needs to be built by a minister, it can also be talked about too often and lose its effect.

 

Lay leaders also play a supportive role in allowing those with this sin to find a place of healing and accountability. Ministers must train their leaders adequately in what it means to disciple a person and hold them accountable. Both of these can take different amounts of time for each person and require dedication from every leader to seek out intentional relationships with others for the intent of discipleship. For one single adult, a lay leader took time to friend him and ask how he could pray with him and help him in his walk with the Lord. It was during that one-on-one relationship that he shared his struggle and finally started down a road to end the sinful behavior.

 

If the church is going to be open to helping those who struggle with same-sex attraction and those in the LGBT community, they must provide environments and awareness for their leaders to do so.

 

Does your church have a place where this type of accountability can occur? If not, what could you do to start such a group?

Sunday Single Selection

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It is Saturday night and you know you should go to church tomorrow, yet you have reservations in your heart about where to go or if you should find somewhere new to go. You want to Worship and hear the Word preached, but the church you go to does not seem to get being single or you can not find a church with a singles group. Many singles have this Saturday night emotion, wanting to go to church for all the right reasons, but still desiring more in community with other singles like yourself.

Many churches don’t have a targeted group for singles, if they even seem to acknowledge they are present. Those that do have singles groups may not feel like they are targeted at people like yourself. While the emotions are valid, your response to these issues should have only one outcome and that is to go Worship with other believers. Worship is not a self serving activity where you get something for doing something. Worship is about praising God for who He is and learning more about Him through that experience. So here are a few encouragements for singles with regards to church selection.

  1. Base your selection on if the church Worships God and honors His Word.
  2. Connect with a congregation close as possible to enhance your ability to participate.
  3. Look for churches with existing singles ministries listed, if none are found it may be time to start a singles ministry in your area. Chances are there are several people like you looking for a place to connect.
  4. Bring or invite a friend to help you select a church, it helps to debrief with someone over lunch after Worship.

Finally, choose! Go to a church where God is calling you, make roots and serve. Don’t spend all your time looking when you could be connected to a church and start building a singles ministry for people like yourself. Your efforts to do so will not return void and God will honor your commitment to serve Him.

 

Marriage isn’t the Finish Line

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The big day is here! Here comes the bride all dressed in white. The groom dressed to the nines in his rented tux stands fidgeting at the front to begin a ceremony that moves even the hardest of hearts to tears. Then comes the reception including a toast from the father of bride of just how proud he is that his little girl found a man, almost implicating that a secret achievement has been unlocked allowing the happy couple to continue in the game of life, side-by-side.

Singles. Get. It.

At the same time you are happy for another couple. Everyone is celebrating a monumental achievement in the lives of your friends. But in fact, is marriage the finish line? Singles often are looking to the next milestone or marker in life. At some point, it starts to feel like the only milestone left is marriage.

But the reality? It is not the finish line of achievement.

For married couples the next bombardment of expectation is kids. And while having a pet or three helped for a while, the next finish line of life is having a baby. Once that is crossed and no less than a day after the first child, there are questions of when the next baby will arrive. After baby two, the next quiz is will there be three. Have four, and comments of birth control fill the air. Then there is college for the kids, jobs for the young adults, and future weddings! The cycle starts all over again.

Here is the point.

The finish line is defined by a relationship, just not the one you may have thought or felt from your surrounding friends and family.

Being Complete in Christ is the only relationship that will leave you complete. All other relationships build off of that relationship and running a good race is defined by it. Keeping the faith and living for God is grounded in a relationship with Christ.

Singles, always keep in mind your life not measured by this world, but by following the One who paid our sins in full–Jesus–so we can live life more abundantly.

Not an Option

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When is the last time you made something “Not an Option”? Truly, 100% said to yourself that under no circumstances will I ever ____. Everyone has things that are not options in their lives, such as the clothes worn to work or the food we choose to eat that may cause allergic reactions. Everyone makes choices everyday that make things “Not an Option” in their life.  Yet, somehow, we are still tripped by the same sins.

Jesus, at the Sermon on the Mount, told people to be radical in their actions in order stop from sinning. Though He was being figurative, He suggested it is better to lose a hand than to keep it and continue a life of sin (Matthew 5:29-30). It is better to not have a hand and live for God than to have two hands and not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Single adults have a lot of time alone and, in those alone times, it is easy to slip into temptations. For any of us to be obedient to the Word of God and follow Him, we have to make certain things in our lives “Not an Option.” Doing so will glorify the One who sent His only Son to die on a cross for our sins and allow us to live a life honoring to Him.

What things in your life do you need to make “Not an Option”? Addictions? Gossip with friends? Temptations? Some may think you can’t change or overcome the struggle. That is not the case!

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

God is on your side and will not let you be tempted, tested, or go through trials that you cannot have victory over! He loves you so much that He always gives an alternative for you to choose and make something “Not an Option.”

End of the Rope with Addiction

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Do you ever feel torn between doing what you know is right, and then doing the wrong thing anyway? Choosing to continue in a sin that you should be able to be free of, yet you keep making the same mistake. We have some comforting words for you, the apostle Paul had this same struggle in Romans 7-8 regarding the Law. The Message translation Bible is not intended to be an everyday Bible, but what it is great at is expressing things in a new light with the same Biblical meaning. This could not be more true of this passage! Here are the phrases Paul uses in his struggle with sin.

  • I need something more!
  • I know the law and yet I can not keep it
  • Sin keeps sabotaging my best intentions
  • I obviously need help!
  • I have the will, but I can’t do it!
  • The moment I decide to do good, sin trips me up
  • I have tried everything and nothing helps, I am at the end of my rope

You should take time and read this entire chapter out loud and hear the urgency and distress in Paul’s voice. Go ahead, read it out loud.

Romans 7 Message Translation

Have you ever felt that way? When it comes to sin in your life like getting drunk, sex before marriage, drugs, lust, porn,and on and on? Have you been at the end of your rope with sin? Do you feel like there is nothing anyone can do for you? Well, there is great news! Romans 7:25-8:1-4.

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

Struggle with your addictions and then give them all to God. Make a stand in your life for sin to be “Not an Option!” Have you reached the end of your rope with sin?

LGBTQ Adults are Single Adults

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It is Table for One Ministries’ intent to have an open dialog for the local church to discuss how to effectively and lovingly reach the homosexual/same-sex attraction community. The premise of this blog is the following: marriage is between one man and one woman, all homosexual activity is a sin, every person is worth reaching, and Christ died for all. With this base in place, this writing does not seek to argue the vast points that can sprout from within these statements, but to look beyond them to find an effective means to reach the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBTQ) community.

Single adult ministry is broken down into seven areas of singleness– never married, engaged, same-sex attraction, formerly married, widowed, single parents, and separated adults. Within these categories is a wide expanse of reasons for why adults find themselves categorized as single. Some adults are single because they never found the right person, their spouse left them by choice or by death, or those who choose to forgo a typical marriage relationship for co-habitation. However, there are those who feel an attraction to the same sex. By Biblical definition, homosexuals cannot be considered anything except a single adult. If a homosexual couple considers themselves married, even in a state where the government recognizes this action, the church with a Biblical definition of marriage cannot recognize this union, and therefore, within the church, they are considered single adults.

It is Table for One’s opinion that the church should be welcoming to all people of all backgrounds in order to reach the lost for Christ. That means that the church should and will have homosexuals coming to its building and it needs to find a group to connect them with others in their life stage. This is not just those who are openly homosexual, but those who struggle with the idea of same-sex attraction and fight to not act upon it.

A scenario such as this has played out in churches across America; a homosexual couple comes in the doors of a church and asks which Sunday School class they should attend. If the church directs them to a married adult class, that action validates the sin they are committing and actually enforces it with church resources. The church should not and cannot take this action unless it compromises its view of a Biblical relationship. However, by sending the same couple to a single adult class the church does not compromise its stance on a Biblical marriage while offering a place for them to attend. Will this action offend the couple in the scenario? Maybe, but for those that have chosen to come to a church with a Biblical stance on marriage, the church demonstrates a place for them to still attend.

This single adult class referred to above is not a group focused on the conversion of every homosexual that comes in the door, rather it should be a place where any sinner can enter to find fellowship, Biblical training and the Gospel presentation. For this model to work, the church must embrace the idea that the act of homosexuality is not grounds for church banishment. It is a plan of action to accept any person and give them the Biblical foundation for a life in Christ. Its discipleship plans and programs are the same regardless of the type of sinner in attendance.

Why Would God Allow Me to be Born Gay

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Every week, Table for One blogs generate questions. Recently, we’ve received questions about our stance on same-sex attraction and how or why God would even allow someone to have that struggle in our lives.

Our immediate response is to say that homosexuals are not alone in their battle with sin.

Every person ever born has a sin nature and is prone to sinful desires. Each one of us could ask God the same question: why was I born with sinful desires in my heart? Why do I have the desire to take someone’s life? To lie? To commit adultery? To gossip? To be a glutton? To be prideful?

To sum it up: “We are with you.”

We are all sinners. Same-sex attraction is not “special”, it does not warrant its own category of sinfulness or depravity. All fall short of the Glory of God. Being attracted to the same sex does not mean you have to act on it: just as gluttons have to choose not to eat and gossipers choose not to speak. It’s a choice to engage in sin, regardless of the debate about the source of those feelings.

No sin is so big that it cannot be overcome. You can have victory over this struggle like other struggles we all have. The point to remember is that victory does not necessarily mean having a heterosexual marriage and kids.

Victory is first and foremost an abiding relationship with Christ!

Christ died to release us from the bondage of our sinful desires. Our responsibility towards those who lead a gay lifestyle is not to try to “change” them, but to pray for them and share the gospel. Those who experience God’s grace and turn to Christ as Lord and Savior are released from the condemnation of sin. This does not mean the desires will cease to exist. We all know from life experience that the desire to sin never leaves us; but neither does Jesus Christ–He will never leave you or forsake you.

So we cling to Him daily and make HIM (not our desires or our lifestyle) the first priority in our lives. As we do this, He will stand beside us in the struggle and give us the power to live the life we were called to experience.

God loves strugglers.

The Non-Practicing Homosexual

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Table for One Ministries reached out to friends who had mentioned their accountability group included men who struggle with homosexuality. Intrigued by that situation, we set-up a meeting with two such men to find out more about what it meant to struggle with homosexuality and why they felt comfortable in their current church to speak about that struggle. Their names have been changed to respect their privacy.

Jim grew up in a “normal” Christian home with a loving family and support from both his parents. At a young age, Jim remembered being touched inappropriately by a male close to the family. While this abuse has gone unreported for decades, from that young age, Jim was curious about same-sex relations. As Jim grew older he knew those feelings were deviant and suppressed them, pretending on the outside to be just like any other male adult. He never once took physical action towards homosexuality; it was a struggle in his thoughts and visually in the world around him. Jim has a deep commitment to the Lord and through the years tried to stop having these deviant thoughts. One day in a church-sponsored accountability group he revealed his secret to the group. Immediately he felt a wave of relief that others knew his struggle and could support him as he continued to walk away from thoughts he knew were wrong. Through this group, Jim was empowered to end this struggle and has since gone on to have healthy heterosexual relationships. The church provided Jim a place to be accountable to God’s Word, and His Word finally changed Jim’s sexuality.

Sam’s story is different than Jim’s. Sam was raised by his mother, absent of a father, and for years struggled with feminine behaviors. To combat this, Sam continuously would do “macho” activities and sports to try and fool the world to who he truly desired to be. While thoughts of the same-sex were prevalent for Sam, he too was in church every Sunday like Jim and no one would have suspected he struggled with those thoughts. Sam came to the same accountability group as Jim and would confess his deviant thoughts to the group. Since then, Sam has actually become more feminine in his behavior. Yet, his desire to act out as a homosexual has lessened. He described this as becoming who God created him to be, while being what God desires him to be. Sam does not foresee a time when he will be attracted to the opposite sex, nor does he ever intend to let homosexual behaviors drive his attraction. Sam is what Jesus talks about in Matthew 10:12 “those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.” He is choosing not to act on any sexual behavior for the sake of the Kingdom and God is glorified.

Both of these stories point out something that is troubling in our churches today. The church may think there are no homosexuals within its walls, but it must assume there could be a few sitting in the pews every Sunday. It is troubling to think churches do not consider this an issue in their church. One study shows that while the perception is there are an overwhelming amount of homosexuals in America, there is actually only 4% of the total population in the LGBTQ[1]  community. The same study also shows that 11% of the population (25 million) acknowledges some same-sex attraction.[1] This information leads this writer to conclude that while the perception is same-sex attraction is a rapidly growing demographic, statistics reveal more people struggle with the idea of same-sex attraction than thought.

Therefore, it is the role of the church to education both these segments, but particularly those considering same-sex attraction a way out of that feeling. That way out is through knowledge of God’s Word, accountability to another Christian, and most of all the power of the Holy Spirit though the regenerated life of a believer to accomplish anything for the Kingdom. Targeting those who struggle with same-sex attraction but have not chosen the life of homosexuality will make a more fruitful ministry as these seekers are open to walking away from those feelings. While the 4% in the LGBT community have made a choice to act on those feelings and can change, a more challenging road of change awaits them due to their actions and current lifestyle.

So do you agree in such a thing as non-practicing homosexual? Is it possible to love God, honor God, struggle against same-sex attraction feelings, and be a Christ follower?
[1]. The Williams Institute, How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?, http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf (accessed October 3, 2012).

Same-Sex Attraction Singles are in YOUR Church

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In the Christian community we often find “super sins” that the majority of believers find to be so offensive that they are unwilling to reach out to anyone who has committed them. Homosexuals are often placed in this category of “super sin.” Many believe that the person with such an open sin against God cannot know God while struggling with or acting on that sin. Are these sins really so offensive that one cannot find God or even be a Christian and commit them or have committed them in their past? Is the same-sex attraction lifestyle one that it is not worth reaching unless a person has fully turned from that life to enter the church? Table for One Ministries asserts that church members are quick to welcome drug addicts, alcoholics, adulterers, even murderers before openly welcoming homosexuals. We at Table for One could not disagree more with this attitude of focusing on one sin differently than others.

Denominations have compromised Biblical integrity, for the sake of love, in order to welcome the LGBT community in its doors. The church should not bend its moral mandates in order to be open to all styles of life and preach the Gospel of love with no refinement of becoming like Christ. Christ came so that every person may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Christ died for whoever would believe in him would have eternal life and not die (John 3:16). So, when Christ commissions the church to go and make disciples and baptize them, the church must reach out to the LGBT community for the sake of making disciples and baptizing them (Matthew 28:19-20).

But how does the church interpret those in the LGBT community who claim to have a relationship with Christ and still continue to practice homosexuality? Several Scripture passages inform followers of Christ that they are not to judge another person’s faith commitment, yet their faith commitment can be measured by their actions and keeping the Lord’s commands (1 John 5:3). We protest that a commitment to Christ is only judged by God. Every person walking through the doors of a church should be treated the same, as a sinner separated from God and that separation can only be healed through acceptance of Christ. For a church to truly embrace the LGBT community, it must embrace the idea of bringing any type of sinner into its church. Only then can a church reach out to that community and others in aspirations of the Holy Spirit changing their sinful behavior.

Lastly, it is our belief that the only way a homosexual will change their sin is with the Holy Spirit working in their lives. For that to happen, the church needs to provide a place for homosexuals to learn about the truth of God’s Word and allow the Spirit to speak into their lives for change.

Some in the LGBT community who attend church will be those who professed Christ at a young age and still do. It is then the Church’s place to do what Christ has instructed–make disciples of each and every person within the church. It is the hope of any minister that those in their ministry will turn from sin and draw closer to Christ. Dealing with homosexuality is no different; the same prayer should be offered–that the person will turn from their sin and follow closer to Christ. The difference in this approach is to not isolate one specific sin which would only isolate the person. Giving the same grace to every sinner, no matter the sin, allows an environment for the Holy Spirit to work in all people’s lives to draw nearer to Christ.

So what do you think? How can the church be a place where those struggling with same-sex attraction can feel welcome to walk through the doors and hear the Word of God?

#LOVEWINS? The Attempt to Silence Truth

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No doubt you have seen the hashtag #LoveWins attached to many a Facebook status and tweet. At first glance you might assume that it is just another way to celebrate the SCOTUS decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. You may interpret it as declaring love wins because now you are free to love whomever you please, but we have always been free to love everyone. However, to truly love anyone, you must understand the meaning and nature of love, but that is the subject of another blog.
Today we are going to talk about the not so subtle message that the hashtag #LoveWins really communicates. It is the same tactic that has been so effective in shutting down opposition to anyone who opposes the redefining of the institution of marriage. You see if love wins then hate lost, or at least that is what we are suppose to believe. As a society we have been given only two options from those who support same-sex marriage. You can either choose love and support same-sex marriage, or you are a hater and a bigot. There is no middle ground, or at least that is what we are led to believe.
It is an effective way to shut down the debate, because for most, there is an aversion to being labeled as a hater and a bigot, so one remains quiet. What is worse, and very dangerous, is that many Christian have begun to believe the lie that to oppose this issue or any other viewpoint that is counter to the Bible is equal to hatred.
As one meme I saw yesterday stated, “It is God’s job to convict, it is my job to love.” Even though the individual facts of the statement are true, the subtle message of those who posted it was “Shut up! Don’t tell me I am wrong. That is God’s job, you are just suppose to love me.”
But there is a real problem with that kind of logic. Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14; the example of every prophet and apostle tell us that we must speak Biblical truth. We cannot be worried about how the message of the cross will be received. We are to speak. God will use the words we speak to convict, and yes, we are called to love. Love like no one has ever seen before! Love enough to face name-calling, disparaging remarks and jail time, and even death if necessary. Love enough to tell someone they are wrong. Remember the story of John the Baptist? He spoke out in defense of marriage and was thrown in jail, and eventually beheaded.
Need more convincing? Did Jesus hate the Pharisees when he pointed out their arrogance? Did he hate the woman caught in adultery when he told her “Go and sin no more?” When a parent corrects a child, is that an act of hate or love?
I want to be perfectly clear, disagreeing with someone does not equal hate. Telling someone that their lifestyle is not part of God’s design, and that He wants so much better for them is not hate. Standing up for God’s design for marriage is not hate.
God designed marriage to be an example of the gospel to the world. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church Marriage is the vehicle through which mankind was meant to populate the earth with loving children supported by a man and a woman. In order for marriage to fulfill its purpose, it must remain as God designed.
With this understanding, drawn from Biblical truth, I ask you to love like very few are willing to love. Love the truth of God’s Word. When the world tells you to sit down and shut up, love enough to speak the truth. Love enough to cry with and support those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Love enough to listen to our LBGT friends and invite them into your lives. Love those who are like you and those who are not. Love those who agree with you and those who don’t.
Love, but don’t be silent, because that is not love at all.