Ethics and Religious and Liberty Commission
I was sharing with the elder body of a large, progressive, growing, life-changing church about my vision for the church to become the place of healing and restoration for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, when one of the elders expressed a sentiment I have since heard many times. He said “We don’t know what to do to help those people. If they start coming, we won’t have anything to offer them.”
My first response was one of frustration. But after dealing with similar thoughts many times, from many different pastors and churches, I began to really think through how I could help equip the church to minister effectively to the sexually broken. As I thought and strategized, I kept coming back to the answer that always seemed too simple, but over and over has been confirmed in my mind, heart, and in the testimonies I hear. The church need not have special programs and ministries. The church must simply be the church.
The changes in my life did not take place in a ministry focused on those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions and feelings. I did not go through ‘reparative therapy,’ or any other kind of specialized therapy. Primarily, I walked out of an old identity and into a new identity in the local church. The first church my wife and I got involved in as we began the restoration of ourselves and our marriage was not a place where I felt comfortable sharing my struggle. But it was a church that offered me three important components of sexual healing and restoration. It taught Truth at all levels, it offered some level of community, and it encouraged us to serve. God worked amazingly in my life during that time – through the Word, through community, and through service.
We eventually became part of a new church start, and that church became the place for the next stage in my healing process. While the first church laid a good foundation, this church became the place where I would grow exponentially. This church too offered Truth, but it was more than just Truth. It was Truth applied to the reality of life. It was this atmosphere of reality that fostered the freedom, for the first time in my life, to share my struggle with my pastor, and ultimately the entire church body. It offered real community – community that was more than prayer for distant relatives, but was about being real and sharing the hard parts of life, and walking the Christian walk together. And it was a place to truly serve, where much was expected and the rewards were great.
I’ve come to realize that for those of us who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions, the answer is not so much in the change of our sexual attractions, feelings or orientation. The answer is to become a disciple of Jesus, with all of the wonderful challenges and joys that journey entails. This is what the church has to offer – to all sinners, and all strugglers, and all broken people.
So I say to the church – just be the church. Welcome all people, love all people, teach the truth, be real, equip people to serve – make disciples. Change for people like me may or may not include changes in feelings and desires – but it always includes a change in what I seek in life, in what I follow, in what I make sacrifices for, in what I pursue, and in what brings me true and lasting joy. I can be a disciple of many things, including my feelings. Be the church – walk with me as I become a disciple of Jesus, and all else will fall into place.
Mike Goeke currently serves as Pastor of Counseling at Stone Gate Fellowship in Midland, Texas.
This editorial was used with permission of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.