Of the Church, but Not In.

I have held off for awhile writing about this, mainly because I don’t want it to come across as I’m throwing a fit.  So, while this is a personal post, I do think it raises some questions (for us the Church) that need to be talked about.

As some of you readers know, I have been in youth ministry for over 12 years.  I love student ministry.  It’s my calling.  It’s in my blood; more importantly thought, it’s in my heart and passion.  So, it’s a bit of a let down that I’m still an “unemployed-youth pastor.”  I put that in quotes, cause even though I am not getting paid to love on students, I’m still doing it … cause it’s what I do best (still, I am also aware that I can’t support my family in just doing volunteer work … I wish I could, but I can’t).

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a letter Paul might have received from today’s mission board.  The letter basically rejects Paul as a missionary because his ethics and experiences are too out-of-the-box for the seemingly conservative group.  I posted it because I can relate to it.

Many (… ok, 95%) of the rejection letters I have received from recent church’s, that I have applied to for a youth ministry position, have sounded like this:

Dear Mr. Harrison,

Thanks for applying to our church’s youth ministry position.  While we love your passion for students, we think you are experienced, and we love your zeal for the Lord, we have decided to look at other people who might fit our church demographic better.

You’re story (i.e. testimony) is great, but we feel that you would be better suited some place else.  We are sure God is going to use you in mighty ways.  Good luck finding that place.

The Church

This is the (honest) basic sentiment that I have received.  Now, you may say that I may be assuming things, and maybe you’re right, but then again, what would you assume in receiving letters like this time and time again – coming from a background that I do?

So, I began asking myself: what’s the deal?  Is it that impossible for an “ex-gay” youth pastor to get a position within the Church?  And if it is, why?  Has the Church stopped believing in doctrines such as Grace … Redemption … Sanctification … Love?

I posed this question on our facebook fan page: why are some Churches reluctant to hire an “ex-gay” youth pastor? Below are some of the responses:

  • They are scared and don’t understand [the whole gay issue]
  • If they are reluctant to hire an ex-gay youth pastor would you really want to work there anyway? The message won’t be getting out clear if they are stuck on evaluating people by their past sins.
  • They don’t understand fully the grace of God that can change a person or they subscribe to a performance based Christianity.
  • Share scriptures with them such as Jesus eating and drinking with the outcasts and sinners, His encounter with the woman at the well, etc. Share with them that In all the gospels, Jesus never once chastised a sinner but he sure did chastise the self-righteous religious leaders.
  • We need to remember that to Jesus, a sin is a sin is a sin. No sin is worse that another, yet we have made this category of sin much bigger than, say, a guy and girl living together and having premarital sex, which is no different than homosexuality. To Jesus, it is ALL sin, yet we seem to accept the girl/guy thing as normal living now days.
  • Remind them of the Life and Times of Paul. Who set out to murder Christians, and yet he not only was accepted, but now Highly regarded in scripture.  Just think if his past held him back.  [This answer led me to post Paul's rejection letter, and then this post.]
  • The Bible gives us so many examples of Christ’s blood washing US clean, allowing us to minister to where we’ve been. the woman at the well, the lepers, Paul, David. in being washed the next commandment is to go & share the good news! ouch, to all of us who have been sharing our GOOD news with the nations. praying for you!! your ministry & passion for the Lord is phenomenal!!
  • I have issues with “religious” people who want to judge people when they themselves have sins. Stones should not be thrown by those who also have sin. Hypocrites are the biggest enemy to Christianity. The only thing that can make them understand is God himself speaking to their hearts. We know from the time of Jesus how difficult that can be. They crucified the only perfect man who ever lived. I love all people and choose not to judge anyone.
  • And not only that – but the ex-gay youth pastor has it double difficult. There are those who would blast he or she by saying there is no such thing as ex-gay and there are those who would say gay is a sin. The youth pastor is getting heat from both sides and both sides are doing the very thing they don’t want others to do to them – JUDGE!

Please hear my heart on this: I do not hate or hold anger towards these churches; I do not hate the overall Church.  Instead, these responses have deepen my love for the Church, in that I am more passionate in seeing the Church be restored to what Christ first called us to be.  I know that God has a place for me … I’m not worried about that – I may struggle with doubt a bit, but I am confident that my Father will not leave nor forsake my family and I.  Therefore, I share this experience to say this:

Dear Church,

The Spirit of God wants to invade all places and be imparted to all peoples.  It’s time to let Him do what He wants to do.  Open your doors … the flood is coming!

I still love you,

Shawn

I am reminded of the story of David and Samuel – their first encounter.  God tells Samuel to go and anoint another King for Israel.  He tells him to go to the tribe of Benjamin, to the family of Jesse.  Samuel does, and upon entering Jesse’s house, he finds seven strong and capable men who are great candidates to be King.  Though as each one passes before Samuel, God rejects them, saying:

Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7

What a wake-up call to Samuel … to us, the Church.  God had told Samuel before, “I will tell you who to anoint,” yet seemingly Samuel was basing each man on who he thought should be King.  When Samuel eyes up David, he sees through the eyes of a man: too skinny, too little, too young, too inexperienced; but God looks at David and sees a man after His own heart.  When it comes to people coming into the Church – either to fill a position or to fill a seat in the pew – we need to have the same attitude as the Lord gave above: not rejecting a person because they do not fit our “expectations”; rather, we must learn to receive the person who has come to serve the Lord out of a passionate and called heart.

To do otherwise would be to reject one whom the Lord has anointed.

I am sure some are saying, “But wait, are you saying we should just hire anyone, just because they claim to be called by God.”  No.  I believe the Spirit gives clear discernment for all who ask and are open to it.  What I am saying though is that we stop allowing fear to guide our decisions.  Too much fear is pushing the Spirit out the door … this is what needs to stop.  We need to stop “building churches” that serve us, and start being the Church that serves Him.

Thoughts?

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4 responses to “Of the Church, but Not In.

  1. It’s a tough position to be in, what with most churches being skittish on issues of homosexuality, and falsely assuming that someone who has ever experienced same sex attraction is a threat to engage in immoral conduct with the youth of the church. This is probably why the Catholic Church discourages its clergy from saying anything publicly about their orientation. And “gay-friendly” churches, which wouldn’t have that fear, are probably prejudiced against ex-gays.

    As for openings, I’m afraid I don’t know of any. So all I can do is pray that God will guide you to a position where you can minister effectively.

    • Agreed. The biggest struggle: who do I feel sorry for … myself or the Church? You would think things would be different. But like I said, this really spurs me on to love the Church even more. There’s work to be done; who’s with me?

  2. hey Shawn,

    i saw the link on your facebook and it got me thinking before i had even read the post: If the churches that demand a homosexual have reparative therapy or some sort of repentance and cleansing for their homosexuality wont hire an ex-gay DO THEY REALLY BELIEVE IT WORKS? if they believed it worked wouldn’t they be happy to allow someone of good standing into leadership at their church?

    you know where i fall in all of this discussion, and i also believe that you know someone close to me has told me i could not be around their kids due to my orientation. please know that i am praying for His will to be done and that He would lead you to where you are called soon.

    all the best in Him,
    alex

    • “Do they really believe it works?” … that’s an interesting question Alex. I don’t know. I think, though, that most churches fear the whole “gay issue” – as Naturgesetz says above. The fact that my testimony involves a gay past scares people. Just the same, I’m sure that hiring a pastor who has been divorced scares people … or hiring anyone who has a “bad” past. Though, I am still willing to bet it would be easier for a church to hire a twice-divorced pastor than to hire a guy who used to be “gay”. It doesn’t make sense … but I’m starting to live with their decisions.

      Now, what has happened to you (what your friend said – and no, I don’t know who that person is), that is just plain S.A.D. I am sorry that this was said Alex. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you cannot (nor should not) be around kids. You’re still a person … a person who loves.

      You can hang around my kids anytime, Alex!

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