What the Church Gets Wrong About the LGBTQ Conversation

The following is a version of an editorial that first appeared in the Dallas Morning News.

In many ways, the Church has failed the LGBTQ community. Last week in St. Louis, we saw the latest example of this as the Methodist church remained divided over issues related to LGBTQ inclusion and corresponding discussion about same-sex marriage. Confusion and vitriol remain high, and God calls His people to bring clarity and compassion in times like these.

Historically, the Church has done a poor job of engaging in this conversation. It either speaks with hypocritical judgmentalism and condemnation or with a perverted view of compassion by embracing behavior that compromises human flourishing. Often, kindness and truth are abandoned, and civil discourse happens only after we taste the disastrous results of talking at one another instead of humbly listening to one another.

As has been said, the double trouble of the fool is always an open mouth and a closed mind.

While there are many I could list, here are four things I believe the Church gets wrong about the LGBTQ conversation:

  • Making LGBTQ behavior separate and more significant than other sins
  • Supporting the use of reparative therapy or gay conversion therapy
  • Staying silent in the face of sin
  • Affirming an LGBTQ lifestyle as compatible with Scripture

Simply put, God does not put a hierarchy on sin. God looks on heterosexual immorality, materialism, gossip, drunkenness, pride, or the idolatry of work with just as much sadness as He does same-sex sexual activity (Note: I did not say same-sex attraction/temptation). God intends for His Church to be salt and light. This means the Church must, among other things, work to prevent societal and moral decay. It must be a beacon of truth and grace amidst the darkening of conscience that occurs when we drift away from God’s plan for His people. However, the Church cannot fall into the trap of highlighting particular sins to the exclusion of others. If your church is willing to denounce LGBTQ behavior but says nothing of “no-fault divorce,” racism, or greed, then your church is failing to communicate God’s truth to the world. We cannot pick and choose which of God’s commandments to care about. “Churches” like Westboro Baptist are destructive to the cause of Christ and should be admonished for it.

Sadly, too many churches implore LGBTQ individuals to attend reparative therapy (or gay conversion therapy). Conversion therapy is defined as a psychological treatment designed to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual/bisexual to heterosexual. Conversion therapy, therefore, is biblically unnecessary, unhelpful, and harmful. It is worth clarifying since it has been incorrectly reported as such that this has never been endorsed or practiced at Watermark.

God’s Word does not call us to change a person’s sin struggle, but it does call us to proclaim God’s forgiveness for sin and to equip His people to struggle well against sin. We do not believe you can “pray the gay away.” We do not believe that Christians should strive to change anyone’s sexual orientation, but rather reorient a person’s affections for God through a proper understanding of the gospel. The goal is not that we would be free from certain forms of temptation, but rather that our hearts would increasingly love what God loves and choose His goodness above our own desires.

Temptation, in all forms, is a human condition – but it is not a terminal or self-defining one. The goal isn’t heterosexuality – there are a myriad of ways heterosexuality practices are sinful. The goal is holy sexuality.

When it is at its best, the Church enters into the LGBTQ conversation because it loves LGBTQ people. But it is never loving to stay silent in the face of sin. This is why refusing to address the LGBTQ conversation is just as unbiblical as addressing it poorly. The Lord asks His Church to stand firm in its convictions and beliefs. He is the source of truth and the way to life. It is a privileged job to call others to it. If there is an affront to truth and the biblical way of life, the Church must speak up. If we remain silent, we cannot say we truly love others. This means we communicate what the Scriptures say even if it makes us unpopular or misunderstood. Jesus was despised and ultimately killed for His faithfulness to the Father. We are okay with being criticized for ours.

The Church cannot change what the Bible says based on preference, political opinion, or the changing times. We fail in any conversation when we forget that the Bible is God’s Word and stands the test of time and culture. God’s people must stand with Him and do the same. In order to understand why the Bible does not affirm living an active LGBTQ lifestyle, we must look at what the Bible affirms:

God-ordained marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-9; Ephesians 5:31-33). Those who accept and live within God’s design for sex, biological gender, and marriage experience the blessing of His good design (Psalm 1:1-3; 128:1-4), and decisions to change, alter, or modify God’s will in marriage, sex, or gender are part of man’s brokenness and lead to despair (Romans 1:21-22; James 1:14-16).

We must hold fast to what the Bible says is true. Truth stands the test of time and culture, and God’s people stand with Him in every time and in every culture.

These are just a few of the ways the Church often fails to communicate clearly and compassionately about this topic. Thankfully, Jesus Christ offers everyone forgiveness and new life. He loves you and died on a cross for sinners like us. God is far more concerned with your heart than your behavior, but a heart that is transformed by His gospel leads to a transformed life. If you have felt betrayed or hurt by the Church’s response to the LGBTQ community, we invite you to come and see. Come visit us any day of the week. We would love to talk with you, not at you.

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Todd Wagner is the Senior Pastor at Watermark Community Church and the author of Come and See. Follow him on social media @wordsfromwags or email him at pastoraloffice@watermark.org.

Other Resources:

RTRQ: Can You Be a Gay Christian?

RTRQ: Is God Anti-Gay?

RTRQ: Should Christians Support Gay Conversion Therapy?