I received a phone call late last week to inform me that some members of my church had reached out to a lesbian couple who live in our community. They invited them to attend our church’s worship service. It was said that when they visited, they were going to be directed to attend the Sunday School class that I lead. This is a first for me.
I emailed my group members to let them know what might happen this past Sunday (Mother’s Day). The couple did not show up, but it allowed my group to talk through their thoughts and feelings about having such a couple visit our Bible study group. The conversation was all over the map. Some people were happy that we’d have an opportunity to minister to these ladies, sharing God’s truth and building relational bridges to them. Others in the group were incensed and almost did not attend class when they learned that these ladies might be present.
So today’s blog post is very different. I need your wisdom. What would you do in this situation? Should they be allowed to attend worship? Sunday School? Join the church? Yes they are living in sin, but so are others who are divorced and remarried for unbiblical reasons; so are people who are gluttons; so are people who lie, people who speak falsely about others, and the list goes on. What if we had a doctor in our church who was a top giver but performed abortions…do we allow him to be a member?
I’m stirring the pot just a little so that we think this through. What would Jesus have done? What did he do? Would he approve of us hanging out with “sinners and tax collectors”?
On your mark, get set, go! Respond back with your thoughts and how you and your church would handle this kind of situation. What would you do if two lesbians walked into your group and wanted to participate in Bible study?
Shoulder to shoulder,
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Their sin is the same as others’ sins except that they are non-repentant because they do not recognize their behavior as sin. That is why so many homosexual couples do not attend church at all: they don’t want to be told that what they are doing is sin. Jesus came for sinners–and that’s all of us. We cannot be so self-righteous as to designate sins into “better” and “worse” categories, and we have to realize that all of our sins separate us from God. These ladies need God as much as the rest of us, and maybe the fact that they talked to someone in advance about a possible visit indicates that they are seekers, and they are seeking the companionship of other Christian sinners (all of us check that box!). They need to feel loved, and they need to hear truth spoken. Some lessons will be awkward–but Truth is truth, and it cannot be watered down and should not be skirted for the sake of political correctness; we are searching for spiritual correctness instead. You may lose some Sunday School members, but it will be for such a wrong reason if they leave! Jesus loved Zacchaeus and the Woman at the Well, and because He reached out to them, their lives were forever changed. We must reach out to the unlovable because all people can without difficulty love others who are just like they are. Only Christians can without difficulty love others who are markedly different. The world is watching us to see if our message of love is authentic or selective. We have to show them that what we teach and say we espouse is real. I hope those ladies do come, and I hope your class is ready to model Christianity in all circumstances. We already know what Jesus would do.
Susie, you are spot-on. Thanks for your wisdom and insight.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s conversation about this in staff. Let me know if you get any kind of insightful responses.
Tod Tanner, Ed.D. Pastor Fair Haven Baptist Church
(931) 680-9803 2726 Highway 231 N Shelbyville TN 37160
Everyone should be welcomed into a Sunday School class including lesbians. Sunday School is an “open group,” not a closed group. Sunday School is the outreach/evangelistic arm of the church. Sunday School is supposed to be the church organized to accomplish the Great Commission. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” These ladies need to be saved, therefore, they must hear the Word. Jesus would invite them to attend if He were in the class. There’s my two cents worth.
Agreed my friend! Thanks for your wisdom and for reminding us that we are to be the outreach/evangelistic arm of the church!
Great question. Unfortunately, it is not a new topic and is becoming more prevalent with those churches that are effectively engaging the culture. As a pastor, I can tell you that I WANT lost people near the church community. We encourage our church members to invite lost friends and neighbors to visit the church, participate in groups, and experience the community. Of course, we would not baptize or welcome to membership anyone who was unrepentant regarding sin. We never know the heart but if something is evident of a perpetual sin issue, we would use this as an opportunity to discuss God’s plan and purpose and call our friends to repent and believe.
The church will lose its ability to impact a community if it cannot learn to interact with that community in order to engage it with the gospel.
Agreed, Chris! Thanks for jumping into the convo
Ken, we have discussed this a lot in some of our church. We know we would accept them and love on them, however, we can’t condone their lifestyle. Our church believes God created male and female and God brought them together in marriage. Having said that, we don’t believe couples should be living together who are not married. Would you accept a cohabiting couple? Or how about an alcoholic or a drug addicted person, a guy addicted too porn or a homeless person? We have and would accept all of these people and we would love on them but we won’t condone their lifestyle. We had one very talented cohabiting couple come to our church. She had a lovely voice but our praise team director would not allow her on the praise team. Know why? Because being on the praise team would have been an image that what she was doing was okay. Being on the stage each Sunday is a projection and representation of God’s ministry. Our praise team director visited with them and explained and he did so in such a way that they continued to attend.
People who have different lifestyles need to be in church. Allow the Holy Spirit to minister to them and be His vessel. I hope you can convince the nay sayers in your class that these ladies were created in the image of God just like the rest of us but they don’t have to condone the lifestyle.
Blessings on you Ken and on your class.
Hello Ken. I believe that they should be invited to SS and worship. God loves all people…period. While my denomination does not ordain lgb…. people that you reference below…I am praying that one day that will occur. All we are asked to do is share Jesus with all people period.
Our church regularly invites all people to our church and we have several openly lbg… members and leaders. I am praying!
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Thanks, Sharon…thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!
I agree with the sentiment expressed in your blog and in the comments. Sunday School classes should be purposely lead to be open groups. We should expect new people to come each week. We should not expect these new people to be without sin.
I think we should also have the expectation that our class members would be warm and friendly to these new people. They are welcome
so many other places where they won’t hear God’s Word. Let’s welcome them where they will hear the gospel. As long as we don’t
allow it to change the Gospel/Bibilcal message they may be offended. That being said, we ought to love them. Doing student ministry we had some openly openly homosexual students come and they heard the gospel. In my ministry I’ve lead 2 different people in that lifestyle to Christ.
This is not a challenge to your decision, but merely a question- What prompted you to email your class that these ladies could be coming? Why did you feel that they needed to be prepared for that potential? Maybe I should have done that or should do it in the future.
Ben, thanks for your well-thought-out response. To answer the “why” question about emailing my group, I did it for two reasons: (1) so that my group members would not be caught off guard and (2) by being caught off guard would potentially say or do something offensive (roll eyes, cross arms, say something)…I want our group to have a place for all kinds of people who are seeking God. Let’s get them around believers, share the gospel, challenge their thinking as we earn the right to be heard, and build relationships with them. That’s why I let my group know there was a possibility of their visit.
That makes a lot of sense. It’s a teachable moment for your people, and sets an expectation that these people ought to feel welcome. You want many more like them to come and hear the Word of God.
Absolutely! Thanks for following the blog. Appreciate your comments now and earlier today.
Great article. Had to weigh in on this one. Would definitely embrace them in Sunday School and Worship. Church attendance is different matter. Sad to say we tend to polarize certain “sins” over another but this situation along with some others should not go unnoticed. In regard to members caught up in errant steps, a healthy (Gal 6:1) means is needed to come alongside a fellow believer to point out, correct, nurture as needed. The church has failed to follow a healthy Biblical model of church discipline. Tomorrow’s article needs to address the question about church membership in states with legalized marijuana.
Thanks for chiming in, PK. Good points.