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.


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?

What Is the Great Commission?

What is the Great Commission? I share some thoughts on this episode of Real Truth. Real Quick.

Show Notes

1. George Barna’s study on The Great Commission

2. Is God Ever Pleased When a Church Shuts Down

3. Do I Have to Be Baptized to Go to Heaven?

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Click here to view our entire archive of questions and answers.

19 Resources to Help You Think Biblically about Sign Gifts and Speaking in Tongues

spiritual signs sign

From time to time I receive questions about the “sign gifts;” specifically “speaking in tongues.” Below you will find several resources to help you work through what the Bible says in regards to these topics.


  1. Baptism of the Spirit, Tongues of Fire and the Beginning of the Church
  2. The Gift Of Tongues – Part 2
  3. The Low Down On Filling Up
  4. The Gift of Tongues: What Is Always Is, What Is Never Has Been, and Is It for Today?

Real Truth. Real Quick.

  1. What Is The Baptism Of The Spirit?
  2. How Do I Know If I Have The Holy Spirit In Me?
  3. What Is The Gift Of Tongues?
  4. Are Tongues A Private Prayer Language?
  5. What Is the Gift of Prophecy?


  1. Baptism & Fullness
  2. Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God
  3. Charismatic Chaos
  4. Christianity in Crisis
  5. Counterfeit Revival

Additional Resources

  1. Downloadable Handout: Spiritual Sign Gifts
  2. Interpretative Analysis of 1 Corinthians 14:2
  3. Counterpoint: Are The Sign Gifts For Today?

Five Biblical Truths About The Biblical Gift Of Tongues

(The following points come from the message, “The Gift of Tongues: What Is Always Is, What Is Never Has Been, and Is It for Today?“)

  1. Tongues have never been normative. (1 Cor. 12:30)
  2. Tongues are not necessary for spiritual maturity.
  3. Tongues are not never ending—the gift of tongues will cease (1 Cor. 13:8).
  4. The gift of tongues is not nurturing to others (1 Cor. 14:2) which is the purpose of Spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:30).
  5. Tongues were never intended to be a new form of prayer language.

Five Reasons Why We Don’t Believe It Is Wise To Use A “Private Prayer Language” – Even If You Keep It In Private.

(The following points come from the message, “The Gift of Tongues: What Is Always Is, What Is Never Has Been, and Is It for Today?“)

  1. What’s the point? (1 Cor. 14:15-16) It doesn’t edify others or involve your mind.
  2. What’s the possibility? (2 Cor. 11:14, 1 John 4:1) It could be of another spirit.
  3. What’s the primary justification? Experience should not inform Scripture but Scripture should inform experience.
  4. What it prevents. It can prevent true intimacy with the Father.
  5. What it promotes. Pride/division/disappointments/elitism.

What My Father Wore

what my father wore

At last weekend series I read the poem, “What My Father Wore” poem during my message on parenting, you can find the poem in its entirety below.

What My Father Wore

“What My Father Wore”

-Bret Anthony Johnston

What my father wore embarrassed me as a young man. I wanted him to dress like a doctor or lawyer, but on those muggy mornings when he rose before dawn to fry eggs for my mother and me, he always dressed like my father.

We lived in south Texas, and my father wore tattered jeans with the imprint of his pocketknife on the seat. He liked shirts that snapped more than those that buttoned and kept his pencils, cigars, glasses, wrenches and screwdrivers in his breast pocket.

My father’s boots were government-issues with steel toes that made them difficult to pull off his feet, which I sometimes did when he returned from repairing air conditioners, his job that also shamed me.

But, as a child, I’d crept into his closet and modeled his wardrobe in front of the mirror. My imagination transformed his shirts into the robes of kings and his belts into soldiers’ holsters. I slept in his undershirts and relied on the scent of his collars to calm my fear of the dark.

Within a few years, though, I started wishing my father would trade his denim for khaki and retire his boots for loafers. I stopped sleeping in his clothes and eventually began dreaming of another father.

I blamed the way he dressed for my social failures. When boys bullied me, I thought they’d seen my father wearing his cowboy hat but no shirt while walking our dog.

I felt that girls snickered at me because they’d glimpsed him mowing the grass in cut-offs and black boots. The girls’ families paid men (and I believed better-dressed ones) to landscape their lawns, while their fathers yachted in the bay wearing lemon-yellow sweaters and expensive sandals.

My father only bought two suits in his life. He preferred clothes that allowed him the freedom to shimmy under cars and squeeze behind broken Maytags, where he felt most content.

But the day before my parents’ twentieth anniversary, he and I went to Sears, and he tried on suits all afternoon. With each one, he stepped to the mirror, smiled and nodded, then asked about the price and reached for another. He probably tried ten suits before we drove to a discount store and bought one without so much as approaching a fitting room. That night my mother said she’d never seen a more handsome man.

Later, though, he donned the same suit for my eighth- grade awards banquet, and I wished he’d stayed home. After the ceremony (I’d been voted Mr. Citizenship, of all things), he lauded my award and my character while changing into a faded red sweatsuit.

He was stepping into the garage to wash a load of laundry when I asked what even at age fourteen struck me as cruel and wrong.

“Why,” I asked, “don’t you dress ‘nice,’ like my friends’ fathers?”

He held me with his sad, shocked eyes, and searched for an answer. Then before he disappeared into the garage and closed the door between us, my father said,

“I like my clothes.”

An hour later my mother stormed into my room, slapped me hard across the face and called me an “ungrateful little twerp,” a phrase that echoed in my head until they resumed speaking to me.

In time they forgave me, and as I matured I realized that girls avoided me not because of my father but because of his son. I realized that my mother had slapped me because my father could not, and it soon became clear that what he had really said that night was that there are things more important than clothes.

He’d said he couldn’t spend a nickel on himself because there were things I wanted. That night, without another word, my father had said,

“You’re my son, and I sacrifice so your life will be better than mine.”

For my high-school graduation, my father arrived in a suit he and my mother had purchased earlier that day. Somehow he seemed taller, more handsome and imposing, and when he passed the other fathers they stepped out of his way. It wasn’t the suit, of course, but the man.

The doctors and lawyers recognized the confidence in his swagger, the pride in his eyes, and when they approached him, they did so with courtesy and respect. After we returned home, my father replaced the suit in the flimsy Sears garment bag, and I didn’t see it again until his funeral.

I don’t know what he was wearing when he died, but he was working, so he was in clothes he liked, and that comforts me. My mother thought of burying him in the suit from Sears, but I convinced her otherwise and soon delivered a pair of old jeans, a flannel shirt and his boots to the funeral home.

On the morning of the services, I used his pocketknife to carve another hole in his belt so it wouldn’t droop around my waist. Then I took the suit from Sears out of his closet and changed into it. Eventually, I mustered the courage to study myself in his mirror where, with the exception of the suit, I appeared small and insignificant.

Again, as in childhood, the clothes draped over my scrawny frame. My father’s scent wafted up and caressed my face, but it failed to console me. I was uncertain: not about my father’s stature – I’d stopped being an ungrateful little twerp years before.

No, I was uncertain about myself, my own stature. And I stood there for some time, facing myself in my father’s mirror, weeping and trying to imagine – as I will for the rest of my life – the day I’ll grow into my father’s clothes.

Photo Credit: nouveaustar via Compfight cc