Last night, while Detroit was digging itself into a deep hole it could not climb out of—I mean the Tigers, not the city—my class of urban pastors turned a session on church government into a spirited conversation on homosexuality. I was surprised by their level of passion, because I had naively assumed that homosexual practice was not a huge problem in the black community. They said they knew of several black churches where the members of the worship team are practicing homosexuals, and this is overlooked because of their ability to sing.
Here are a few takeaways from the class:
1. We absolutely cannot tolerate sin in our churches. Whether it’s homosexual practice, heterosexual immorality, gossip, or lying, we must confront sin and call sinners to repentance. This is a gospel issue, because if we don’t call out sin then we can’t meaningfully talk about the One who saves us from it.
2. We must find a way to lovingly confront sin. The students said they knew of several pastors who thundered against homosexuality in a way that didn’t convey love for the person. On the other hand, they also knew of pastors who tolerated practicing homosexuals on their worship team. The right stance is clearly in the middle, where we confront sin—including ours—in humility, knowing that we can also fall (Galatians 6:1).
3. I’m still amazed that we are having this discussion. If you had told me two years ago that seasoned pastors would express a burning need to know how best to confront the sin of homosexual practice in their churches, I would not have believed it. But here we are.
4. It is becoming more difficult to minister to homosexuals because they can easily find churches that will accept their sin. Why would they come to our support group if another church will use the same Bible to say they don’t need to stop what they are doing?
5. If we’re going to insist that gay people remain celibate, then we must become the family they are never going to have. Many homosexuals practice their lifestyle because it’s a way to feel accepted and loved. There are some advantages to being in a gay relationship. After all, it is a relationship. If we believe God is calling them to turn away from this sin, then isn’t God also calling us to provide the love and support they are going to need?
6. We should weep for the people who are caught in this sin. One youth pastor noted that so many young people today are looking for anyone to love them, and so they carelessly hook up with whomever will have them. Sin is more than brokenness, but it is not less. Our hearts must break for the many people whose desperation leads them into sin, which ultimately leaves them feeling more desperate, which leads into more sin.
7. It’s easy to become depressed by our quickly deteriorating culture, but I’d rather look on the bright side. Because our culture has become so depraved so fast on this issue, it is fairly easy for us to stand out. You don’t need to have an exceptional marriage and family to look like a superstar in this culture. Just love your spouse, discipline and love your kids, and people will ask about your secret. Perhaps the culture will never believe that we love rather than fear homosexuals, but they may be attracted to our loving, godly homes. But only if we get our act together. This plan won’t work if we continue to sleep around and divorce at our current rate.