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As someone who speaks from time to time on issues related to sexuality, and as a pastor who has written a book on homosexuality, I’ve been asked the question many times: “How can our church reach out to the gay community?”

I’m never sure how to answer the question. For starters, I’m no authority on “reaching the gay community.” Our church has always had men and women in it who struggle with same-sex attraction. We have some good stories to tell and some disappointing stories, but experts we certainly are not.

The other reason I’m hesitant to answer the question is that it’s one of those questions that can only be answered with more questions.

What do you mean by the gay community? Are you thinking of Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction? Or do you have in mind a particular neighborhood where a number of LGBT persons live and work?

What do you mean by reaching out? Do you have your theology squared away? Do you have a biblical view of marriage and sexuality? Do you have a biblical view of the image of God? Are you reaching out to condemn, reaching out to be open and affirming, reaching out to share the gospel, or reaching out to make a friend?

What do you mean by our church? Are you hoping to start an official church ministry? Do you expect your Sunday services to change? Or are you thinking of what you and a few other members want to do?

After clearing up those definitional issues, there are other questions to ask.

Why do you want to reach this community? Everyone needs the gospel, so why do you feel led to minister to LGBT persons? Are they your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family members, or are you hoping for street cred and a cultural apologetic? What relationships do you have currently have with people who identify as gay or lesbian? How has God helped you develop a heart for those who struggle with same sex attraction?

What are things like in your church community? Do people know how to speak the truth in love? Does the preacher only speak of the LGBT community in adversarial tones? Will church members think of those with same-sex attraction as an alien people or mainly as people like them who have joys and sorrows and sins and struggles? Who in the church has the gift of hospitality?

And what about you? Are you open about your own sin and your need for a Savior? What have you repented of lately? Are you mainly looking to love or mainly looking to get something by loving these people? Are these people only these people, or are they individuals made in the image of God who need faith and repentance, justification and sanctification, love and friendship, warning and assurance?

Don’t get me wrong. I think “reaching out to the gay community” can be a wonderful thing. But we must be clear in our own hearts about the why and how of what we’re doing. We shouldn’t expect people to be eagerly awaiting the church to “reach” them. And we shouldn’t expect the reaching to go anywhere without the Spirit of Christ working with us, the gospel of Christ coming from us, and the love of Christ--shown in hospitality and friendship--flowing through us.

There is no secret to reaching out to any community--gay, straight, or otherwise. Don’t be scared and don’t be stupid. Talk to people as real people. Get the gospel right and get the gospel out. Be friendly and make friends. Love people because you love them. And then tell them about the God who loves us in Christ more than we can imagine.

 

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11 thoughts on “How Can Our Church Reach Out to the Gay Community?”

  1. Brian says:

    Thank you Kevin. What I want to share is right along with what you are saying. When we say that “we want to reach the gay community” we are then agreeing with how the culture oks their identity. How about we just love and care for people and not make their sexual identity the reason to connect. As Christians, we know homosexual behavior is sinful. Some will argue that the Bible isn’t definitive on it. My response is often, “ok, so show me where in God’s word that He is ‘ok’ with it.” If we start trying to reach people based on their prominent sin (adultery, pride, cheating, deception, fornication, gluttony, etc.) we miss the point. The scripture tells us “all have sinned”. As Christians, sin is already a known issue for all of us. We would never say “let’s focus on reaching liars. Let’s have a ‘reach a glutton’ day.” No, let’s love people because Jesus loves them. Let’s be intentional with reaching because people need the gospel. In that way, we will not fall to what the culture has done – ‘okaying’ a homosexual preference label as a person’s identity. A sin group isn’t how people are to be identified. How about seeing people as people in need of a Savior?

  2. Curt Day says:

    Some things confuse me here. First, how can we ask what we mean by the gay community when we so easily refer to our church community? Our church communities are not defined by location. They are defined by membership that is based on common core beliefs. So isn’t the gay community then identified by those who share the same sexual orientation, regardless of any faith, rather than by location? However, we should note that the gay community, like our own church community, is not a monolith.

    The following line is also confusing: ‘We shouldn’t expect people to be eagerly awaiting the church to “reach” them. ‘ Why is that even a question to those of use who have been charged with fulfilling the Great Commission?

    Finally, what does it mean to reach out? Part of reaching out would be to defend the rights of the gay community in society simply because religiously conservative Christians, both in the past and present, have sought to suppress those rights. And just as the PCA reached out to the Black community by issuing an formal apology for its part in promoting and maintaining harsh discrimination and oppression against Blacks, so shouldn’t our reaching out to the gay community include apologies for past abuses and actions to correct those abuses?

  3. Allen says:

    Good questions. As someone who’s lived with same-sex attraction most of my life – and a “fan” and frequent reader of your writings, I respectfully and sincerely hope this is only “Part 1” in which the answer to this question is attempted to be answered – rather than be like what’s said about the weather: ‘Everybody’s always talking about the weather but nobody’s doing anything about it.’ Thanks for asking, and trying!

  4. Those who ask that question are usually asking from a presumed position of moral superiority and use an accusatorial tone. Also, why should the church target to LGBT community specically when there are many other sub-groups that are lost and in need of the compassionate sharing of the gospel. Once again, we have that “special” status applied to those who identify as LGBT. The church, as Christ’s body, should be concerned with how to reach all the lost and not have special plans to reach out to only one sub- group of lost people.

  5. Bill says:

    And as you do what Kevin says at the end of his blog, some of the people you meet might be straight, some of them might be gay. If they are gay, that might not be the first thing you find out about them.

  6. Allen says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that the “LGBT community” is but one of many sub-groups who are lost and need the Gospel. And I agree that no “special” status should need to be applied to those LGBT. HOWEVER, how many sub-groups has Christ’s church succeeded in alienating like they have those of the “LGBT community”? Few, if any, that I’m aware of.

    According to 2 Corinthians 5 we are Christ’s “ambassadors”. “The church” must reconcile herself to the LGBT before she can reconcile them to God. It is my opinion that the church must (1) clearly and specifically articulate and live out the Gospel with those wrestling against same-sex attraction and (2) genuinely and from the heart, warmly walk with and welcome into the everyday life of the church those repenting of such sins. In so doing she might find herself better reconciling to God not just the LGBT – but people in ALL “sub-groups” He sends her way.

  7. Hello Brothers! I’m one of those people that struggle with same-sex attraction, and I was converted in 2013. I’m so glad about this post, and I want to translate this for Brazilian Portuguese, and I need ask the Gospel Coalition and the Pastor Kevin DeYoung the permission to do that and share this, is it possible?

  8. I’ve always said: “Love them for real, and Tell them the deal.”

  9. Macky diaz says:

    It’s always a bit of a challenge for me to share my life story. I lived a life of broken relationships until I fell in love with Jesus, one day, as His love surrounded me. I couldn’t avoid it, and I KNEW it was Him. Since then, my life was changed, supernaturally. I can’t take credit for not having girlfriends anymore, because I don’t feel that I have the self-control to choose that. But I assure you, it is all gone. My heart is FULL, and when hat happens, there’s no more room for anything else. I can tell you that it was thanks to a church, who didn’t judge me as I came in, or told me what I was doing wrong. A few sat with me and listened to me, but mostly, they LOVED me well, and I kept coming back. One night, in the middle of the night, I knew that I could never live without His presence again.
    If we would only understand tHe power of love, we would see that it builds a highway for Holy Spirit into the hardest heart. Jesus, only wants us to believe in faith, that He can, and will, bring anyone into Him.

  10. Christina Blaney says:

    I totally agree that the key is loving as Christ has loved us. We have to remember to take the log out of our own eye before we take the speck out of our brother’s eye. Celebrate Recovery has really helped me where I tend to be judgmental. In the past, I’ve been guilty of “beating the Bible” over someone’s head. I didn’t realized they needed love just as much as I have needed love.

  11. ransomovitch says:

    curt day, you CANNOT equate the homosexual battle for equality with the black struggle for equality. to do so demeans and trivialises the centuries of godless discrimination towards people of a different colour. they did not choose to be born black. there is overwhelming evidence that the homosexual house is a rebellious house needing to be reminded of their sin which they CHOOSE to do. predominantly though, this house must be reminded of God’s continual love. but if you equate the black struggle with the homosexiual ‘struggle’, you have already bought into the lie

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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