Blog Archive

As the church steps into the trenches of the sexual struggles with which her people are wrestling, it is encountering a new reality and new challenges in how to do faithful ministry. As the culture continues to push into the church, the following “givens” impact how Christians are thinking about sexuality:

  • Increasing cultural acceptance of homosexuality, especially among millennials
  • Growing acceptance of a gender-fluid and genderless society
  • An awareness of Christians who experience same-sex attraction (SSA), but confusion about how to help them
  • Legalization of gay marriage
  • The encroachment of pro-gay theology and its inroads into the evangelical church
  • The trend toward casual sexual relationships and co-habitation
  • The ubiquity of pornography and the steady erosion of biblical sexual ethics

All of the above signals the need for churches to think strategically about how to “do ministry” as the culture continues to push into the church. John Freeman has spoken to church leaders and presbyteries, helping to bring awareness of the pressing issues that need attention. John highlights four things churches must address.

1. Leadership—insuring everyone is on the same page

While leadership certainly means your key leaders – pastors, elders, deacons, etc. – it also includes your leadership volunteers like women’s leaders, youth leaders, Sunday school and adult teachers, small group leaders, and so on. The importance of all leaders being on the same page, theologically and pastorally, has never been more critical. Asking the following questions will (hopefully) result in dialogue and clarification.

Do you know your current leaders’ views on sex and sexuality? Considering the “givens” listed above, how do you approach your leadership in determining what they believe, and where they might be feeling pressure to change? We used to take it for granted that leaders would adhere to biblical sexual ethics, but some are changing their views and remaining silent about it. How do you get everyone on the same page?

Do you know if your leaders are struggling here? As important as what they believe, do you know if some of your leaders are struggling here? People, and especially leaders, hide sexual struggles. How can you call them to be honest, and in what ways do you help them? We know that when leadership falls sexually, it deeply injures the church and how people see Christ.

How will your leaders approach sexual issues pastorally? Key leaders have the greatest influence, so it’s more important than ever to make sure they believe fully in what the Scriptures say and will speak that compassionately to those who struggle. Sometimes that’s not easy to do, but true compassion is grounded in speaking God’s truth, not in defining truth as we wish it to be.

How would your church address a leadership candidate who experiences same-sex attraction? As we call believers to openness and honesty about their sexual struggles, we should expect to find men and women who live with same-sex attraction and are living faithfully according to Scripture. When they pursue leadership roles in the church, what help and assistance do they need?

2. Membership – confronting complex issues

The culture greatly influences church members. Confusion is growing as pro-gay theology, rooted in secular thought, influences believers who know too little of Scripture. How will your church in this new reality address some of the following scenarios?

What if someone identifies as a gay Christian? Is this a private matter known only to some, or is this becoming public? Do you know what this person means by adopting this identity label?

What about someone who supports gay marriage and homosexuality? Again, is this a private opinion or an advocacy position? What is a pastoral approach to members whose views are in opposition to Scripture? What if someone with these views wants to join your church?

Are you talking about sex and sexuality to prospective members in your membership classes? Do you approach the issue from a discipline angle, or first from a Christian worldview perspective? Or do you not mention the topic at all, and if so, why not?

What if a same-sex couple comes to faith (one or both)? What if they are legally married? How do you approach the complex situation of pastorally shepherding a family, particularly when there are children, when the parents are legally married?

What about church discipline? While recognizing the complex issues involved with sexual sin, where might church discipline come into play as someone is being shepherded through the ups and downs that go with this struggle? Is there an approach that is more helpful, or less so?

3. Church Culture—what kind of church culture do you want to nurture?

Do you have a sense of the culture in your church in how it relates to the culture “out there?” How does your church address the new reality of sexual issues that are prominent in the culture? How do you speak about them publicly, from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, in the things your church writes? There is a big difference between churches that speak harshly about sexual issues and those that say hardly anything at all. The first approach leaves people hiding, and the other leaves people in confusion. That we need to talk about these issues has never been more critical, but the words we use (or do not use) are equally important. How do you speak to those who are opposed to his ways; and to those who are confused about what Scripture says; and to those who want to obey but struggle to submit to the Lordship of Christ in this area? Our approach, our words, our faithfulness to Scripture, and our presence with those who struggle are the many ways we show who God is to them.

4. Policies and Procedures—possible dangers ahead

Two seismic changes have transformed the landscape for ministry: the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the use, or threat, of non-discrimination laws and regulations, known as sexual orientation and gender identity ordinances. Churches with a history and tradition of opening their doors to the community for weddings and receptions, local community events, outside groups that use the church to meet – all of these connections may become problematic in light of the increasing use of anti-discrimination ordinances.

These new laws and court rulings mean that churches must carefully think about ministry in three key areas.

Weddings.
While this issue gets a lot of press, the reality is that the First Amendment seems quite solid in protecting ministers from performing same-sex marriages. However, the matter is more uncertain if your church has been open to hosting outside weddings and receptions. What steps can your church take to remain open to traditional weddings while not hosting wedding events that oppose biblical truth?

Building usage by outside groups.
Apart from weddings, building use for other outside events might become more difficult, particularly for churches that rent their facilities or allow them to be used by the community. The challenge for churches that want to remain invested in their local community is to determine how to both invite and define that involvement, in ways that will avoid potential lawsuits.

Staff behavior.
Anti-discrimination laws regarding employment are another new reality that is increasingly stepping on religious turf. Churches that discipline ordained staff for misconduct are again protected by the First Amendment. But addressing non-ordained staff behavior is not so clear. What if a staff person comes out as transgender, or a staff person legally marries someone of the same gender? Gender fluidity and sexual orientation are major battlegrounds for employment law today. The area of employment law for religious groups seems to be up for grabs today. How churches will be affected is not yet clear, but they should now find ways to try to protect themselves while also shepherding staff who are struggling in these areas.

We’ve just scratched the surface on a few of the crucial issues churches are facing with these new realities. Harvest USA can help! We can help you think through these issues and conduct a healthy conversation among your leaders.

Contact John Freeman at [email protected] to get the conversation started.

Click here for the first part of this two-part blog post: When Women’s Friendships Turn Sexual – Part 1; where Ellen describes the kind of friendship between women that crosses over relational boundary lines into emotionally and sexually enmeshed relationships.  

God’s Word brings clarity and a new direction

God’s Word speaks hope and clarity to women who find themselves in relational lifestyles of emotionally-enmeshed and sexually-unholy same-sex attachments.   John 15 reorients our hearts as we long for a safe place to call home.

Our true home is a person: Jesus Christ. 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.  (John 15: 1-17 ESV)

In this passage, Jesus describes himself as the true vine, and we are to be intimately connected to him as branches.  He is the only one in whom we are to dwell in such intimacy and closeness.   Female to female emotional and sexual entanglements are a distortion of John 15, as two “female branches” seek to make their partner the vine from which they draw their life.

The key to understanding the metaphor of vine/branches is first found in John 14:23 when Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Then, in the next chapter, Jesus explains this new “home:” it is a home that gives hope to women who long for deeper relationships.  Women can be wonderful friends, Christian sisters and spiritual companions to each other.  They are meant to be branches living closely alongside each other.  But branches are meant to be branches, not vines!  Branches make lousy and destructive vine replacements!  Only Jesus Christ is true Life, Security, Savior and a HOME in whom we live and move and have our being.

Consider some biblical realities from Jesus’ words about what deep connection with Christ looks like and apply it to yourself or the woman you know who is living somewhere along the spectrum of female homosexuality.

  • I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (v.5). Jesus explains that he is the vine and source of true life and what a life in God is meant to be. In him, we are branches and are created to remain/abide/dwell in Christ. This language speaks of our deep connection with Jesus and the promise of John 14:23 being true in a person’s life.

Women who are drawn into these same-sex relationships are in one way or another seeking from another woman the kind of deep connection that should be reserved for God alone.  Of course, this applies to heterosexual relationships, as well.  Branches are not meant to abide in one another or in isolation from one other. God’s healthy boundaries for relationships affirm intimacy and closeness, but when two women shrink their relational world to an entangled twosome, the relationship becomes an idolatrous, life-dominating focus.

Thoughts to ponder if you are a struggler:

  1. What initial steps can I take to disentangle myself from this woman?
  2. With whom can I talk to think this through, and pray?
  3. How do I need to grow in my understanding of remaining (abiding, dwelling) in Jesus Christ?
  4. How do I need to let women off the hook for being a Jesus replacement in my life? (see Psalms 16 and 146, Colossians 3:1-17, James 5:16)
  • If you remain in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples (vs. 7-8).  Jesus gives a promise that comes from obedience to his command: as His words and truth make a home in us, our desires will increasingly be conformed to His will and purposes. Our thought lives will increasingly become free of obsession with one person as we learn to focus on Him. Our affections will grow in being outward- focused on others, rather than on comforting ourselves through one intense relational connection. Our lives will grow in being increasingly uncluttered from the emotional prison of an enmeshed and dependent (idolatrous) relationship with another woman.

Thoughts to ponder:

  1. What fills my thoughts and to what degree am I enslaved by fantasy or fear related to this friend or lover?
  2. What steps do I need to take in learning how to have God’s Word become a home in me?
  3. Who can I ask for help to learn how to have my mind transformed and my thoughts cleansed from so many sexual memories? (see 1 John 1:9, Romans 12:1-2, Phil. 4:4-8, Psalm 86:11)
  • I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more Fruit. . . As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (v. 1-2, 9-10). These verses offer promises for those who are in Christ (the cut-off branches refer to those who reject salvation in Jesus). Our loving Father is committed to shaping our lives to increasingly reflect the character of Christ. His pruning process is painful, and it will lead through valleys of loss, grief and emotional pain. The road away from an enmeshed homosexual relationship is one that is painful and full of loss. Anguish and grief are real as a woman surrenders to the merciful pruning of Father God, turns from the Jesus-replacement in her life, and takes steps of loving obedience as an act of worship and trust, learning to abide in Jesus’ love.

Thoughts to ponder:

  1. Pray for courage and strength to walk in obedience! If God is calling you to let go of an unholy relationship with a woman, is there a mature Christian you can go to for help, encouragement, prayer, accountability?
  2. Jesus speaks of loving obedience and obedient love. Ask him to give you a desire to obey him and to grow in trusting His love for you. Jesus said one of the reasons he came is to heal the brokenhearted (see Isaiah 61 and Luke 4:18-20). It is through relationship with him that your hurting heart, and the places of pain in your life that have influenced you towards homosexuality, can be healed.

Although this article focused on one aspect of the female homosexual experience—the pull of emotional idolatry between women—there are many other facets that this blog post cannot totally describe.  The next blog post will give a testimony of one women’s story.

Please feel free to drop me an email to talk about these things, [email protected]

Discovery Support Group – This biblical support group builds on the Foundations group, helping men further process their struggle with sexual sin and learn to embrace Jesus in the midst of life’s challenges, rather than medicating through their sexual behavior. An initial visit with a staff person or intern and completion of the Foundations group is mandatory before entering the Discovery group.

Philadelphia:  This group meets every other Tuesday night, beginning at 7:00pm

Please call the office at 215-482-0111 to set up an appointment.

 

For information on our Foundations Group please Click Here!

For information on our Open Support and Accountabililty Group please Click Here!

Discovery Support Group – This biblical support group builds on the Foundations group, helping men further process their struggle with sexual sin and learn to embrace Jesus in the midst of life’s challenges, rather than medicating through their sexual behavior. An initial visit with a staff person or intern and completion of the Foundations group is mandatory before entering the Discovery group.

Philadelphia:  This group meets every other Tuesday night, beginning at 7:00pm

Please call the office at 215-482-0111 to set up an appointment.

 

For information on our Foundations Group please Click Here!

For information on our Open Support and Accountabililty Group please Click Here!

Foundations Support Group – This is the introductory level biblical support group for men seeking to overcome struggles with pornography, promiscuity, unwanted same-sex attraction, sexual addictions, masturbation, etc. This group focuses on the work of Christ – applying the gospel to sexual brokenness – and examines the importance of community, as well as taking personal responsibility, to overcome sexual sin.

An initial visit with a staff person or intern is mandatory before entering this group. 


This group will run: August 27, 2015 to December 17, 2015  – Excluding 11/26/15

 

For information on our Evening Open Support and Accountability Group Click Here!

For information on our Afternoon Open Support and Accountability Group Click Here! 

For information on our Discovery Group.

Location: 3901B Main Street, Suite 304, Philadelphia, PA 189127

Contact: Dave White: 215-482-0111, Ext. 119 or [email protected]

Foundations Support Group – This is the introductory level biblical support group for men seeking to overcome struggles with pornography, promiscuity, unwanted same-sex attraction, sexual addictions, masturbation, etc. This group focuses on the work of Christ – applying the gospel to sexual brokenness – and examines the importance of community, as well as taking personal responsibility, to overcome sexual sin.

An initial visit with a staff person or intern is mandatory before entering this group. 


This group will run: August 27, 2015 to December 17, 2015  – Excluding 11/26/15

 

For information on our Evening Open Support and Accountability Group Click Here!

For information on our Afternoon Open Support and Accountability Group Click Here! 

For information on our Discovery Group.

Location: 3901B Main Street, Suite 304, Philadelphia, PA 189127

Contact: Dave White: 215-482-0111, Ext. 119 or [email protected]

Evening Support & Accountability Group – Every other Tuesday evening there is an open support and accountability group for men in Foundations and Discovery who would like additional support. New men awaiting the beginning of the next Foundations group may also participate. There is no curriculum for this group – a staff member or intern will lead a discussion based on a Bible passage and men will have the opportunity for accountability and prayer.

 

Although this is an “open” group, an initial visit with a staff person or intern is still mandatory before attending.
Please call the office at 215-482-0111 to set up an appointment.
Evening Support & Accountability Group – Every other Tuesday evening there is an open support and accountability group for men in Foundations and Discovery who would like additional support. New men awaiting the beginning of the next Foundations group may also participate. There is no curriculum for this group – a staff member or intern will lead a discussion based on a Bible passage and men will have the opportunity for accountability and prayer.

 

Although this is an “open” group, an initial visit with a staff person or intern is still mandatory before attending.
Please call the office at 215-482-0111 to set up an appointment.

Foundations Support Group – This is the introductory level biblical support group for men seeking to overcome struggles with pornography, promiscuity, unwanted same-sex attraction, sexual addictions, masturbation, etc. This group focuses on the work of Christ – applying the gospel to sexual brokenness – and examines the importance of community, as well as taking personal responsibility, to overcome sexual sin.

An initial visit with a staff person or intern is mandatory before entering this group. 


This group will run: August 27, 2015 to December 17, 2015  – Excluding 11/26/15

 

For information on our Evening Open Support and Accountability Group Click Here!

For information on our Afternoon Open Support and Accountability Group Click Here! 

For information on our Discovery Group.

Location: 3901B Main Street, Suite 304, Philadelphia, PA 189127

Contact: Dave White: 215-482-0111, Ext. 119 or [email protected]

Foundations Support Group – This is the introductory level biblical support group for men seeking to overcome struggles with pornography, promiscuity, unwanted same-sex attraction, sexual addictions, masturbation, etc. This group focuses on the work of Christ – applying the gospel to sexual brokenness – and examines the importance of community, as well as taking personal responsibility, to overcome sexual sin.

An initial visit with a staff person or intern is mandatory before entering this group. 


This group will run: August 27, 2015 to December 17, 2015  – Excluding 11/26/15

 

For information on our Evening Open Support and Accountability Group Click Here!

For information on our Afternoon Open Support and Accountability Group Click Here! 

For information on our Discovery Group.

Location: 3901B Main Street, Suite 304, Philadelphia, PA 189127

Contact: Dave White: 215-482-0111, Ext. 119 or [email protected]


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