Step 1: Have Your Convictions Settled
On Sunday, September 20, 2009, I walked into an evangelical church in Hollywood called Reality LA as a self-proclaimed atheist and a gay man; two hours later I walked out a born-again Christian who no longer identified as gay. The power of the gospel utterly transformed me during that service. After living a homosexual life for two decades, I finally understood in my heart of hearts that homosexual behavior was a sin, and it was no longer who I was. And the Bible, of course, supported my new convictions. From that day on, I was happy to live as a single, celibate man. Denying myself and following Christ was more than worth it.
Having your convictions settled concerning this issue is crucial. I believe this is the first (and probably most important) factor for a pastor to come to terms with. The current narrative of the culture can be quite powerful and overwhelming. But just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to compromise God’s word by one iota in a hostile culture, even when facing a horrific death, pastors today must also commit to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture when it comes to this thorny and volatile issue.
Step 2: Model Transparency
Tim Chaddick, the pastor who preached that inspiring sermon that day in 2009 that forever changed my life, created a culture of transparency in our church. His vulnerability and transparency from the pulpit created a welcoming environment where congregants felt comfortable confessing their sins to one another and being honest about the daily struggles of following Christ.
“We’re all broken, and we need Jesus” was the perennial motto at Reality LA. We all knew when we came through those doors on Sunday, we could be utterly honest about our failings that week. This culture of transparency, confession, and forgiveness gave all of us the license to be real. It enables those in the church who struggle with homosexual sin to seek help from pastors or other church members without fear of rejection or judgment. How can we bear one another’s burdens if we don’t know what they are?
Step 3: Speak the Truth in Love
Homosexuality is so deeply tied to one’s essence that it’s very difficult to untangle this particular sin from the person who is engaging in it. It affects the whole person: the mind, will, emotion, and body. This is why we see gay pride parades and not greed pride parades. It takes a lot of love and patience to work through this intractable sin.
One of my professors in seminary at Talbot School of Theology, Dr. Mark Saucy, confessed that as a young pastor he would become very impatient with congregants who would come back to him repeatedly with the same sin issues. “Just read this verse and do it!” was his attitude. As he got older and wiser, experiencing little success in this strategy, he learned to be more patient and loving while walking through stubborn sins that some in his flock seemed to be dogged by.
Pastor Tim did a great job of modelling love and patience, especially to those in the church who struggled with this sin. Having grown up near San Francisco, he was no stranger to gay culture. This immersion in the unconventional world around him helped mold him into an exceptionally empathetic pastor, especially when it came to homosexuality. (Obviously, today we are all more or less immersed in gay culture, so one needn’t have grown up in a place like San Francisco to be acutely aware of and more sensitive to this issue.)
Over the years, I witnessed Tim interacting with those in the church who struggled with same-sex attraction to those just coming out of the LGBT community and coming to Christ with such grace and compassion. He was clear about his biblically orthodox convictions, but he spoke “the truth in love” and that made all the difference.
How to Use Book
Part memoir, part apologetic, this is an astute look at what the Bible says about homosexuality. A Change of Affection will help pastors and congregants alike to navigate this controversial subject while strengthening the convictions of believers who have been bombarded and persuaded by the lies of our culture. Many of the chapters in the book could be used as a study guide to stimulate lively discussions in Small Groups. For example, a chapter called “Just the FAQs” examines common questions such as: 1. “Aren’t you born gay?” 2. “Isn’t it unfair that you have to be single for the rest of your life?” 3. “Didn’t God create you that way? 4. “Can you be gay and Christian?” And so on. As someone who has been on both sides of this issue, I hope this book will educate the Church on one of the most pressing subjects of our time.