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First Thoughts

Four Kinds of LGBTQ+ Churches

Mitigating the Shock

Since the media began publicizing the First Baptist Statement on Biblical Sexuality, one of the most common reactions we have received is shock. Some have expressed shock that a Christian church would describe any biblical limits on sexual expression. Others are shocked that, believing such limits exist, we would say so.

A response of shock comes to someone caught off guard. Likewise, shock at our statement comes from people who do not really understand what is going on regarding the church’s interaction with issues of sexuality.

Every church out there has a position regarding LGBTQ+ issues. I want to make clear what the positions of those churches are in an effort to minimize the sense of shock that many feel. Every church out there fits into one of our options available.

Open and Affirming

Churches are open and affirming when they embrace the LGBTQ+ lifestyle. This is different than an embrace of LGBTQ+ persons; it is an embrace of what they do. It is an embrace of their sin. Churches that are open and affirming embrace the sinful lifestyles of sinful people.

The upshot of being a church like this is that the world loves you. When the secular media does stories about the LGBTQ+ community, they project you in a favorable light, and you get to look loving and kind.

But this benefit comes with a terrible downside. Because this embrace of human sinfulness is itself sinful, you lose the right to call yourself a church in any New Testament sense of the word. The sign in front of your building might describe you as a church, but you are a counterfeit and don’t know the living Christ (Matthew 7:26).

More than that, Jesus says, “If you don’t repent, you will perish” (Luke 13:5). Jesus’s message of life and salvation comes to those who turn from their sin and trust in Jesus. The terrible fate awaiting all those who persist in sin will not be nearly as bad as the fate of those faithless prophets who assured them all was well.

Cautious and Quiet

A church is cautious and quiet when they believe what the Bible teaches about human sexuality—including everything about LGBTQ+—but they attempt to stay quiet about it. They don’t want to rock the boat, don’t want to appear unloving, don’t want to look legalistic, don’t want to draw fire on such controversial issues.

In controversial times I understand the desire to put your best foot forward and emphasize love and grace.

But I have bad news.

First Baptist was not trying to emphasize this issue either.

We were not looking for publicity on this and did not seek to have this be the very first thing our community knew about us. We want people to know the love of Jesus that initiated our love for him. That is why we spend most of our time talking about how Jesus and the Bible relate to things other than LGBTQ+ issues.

On this issue, we were simply trying to be clear and faithful about an internal matter with an email to our members. That email was leaked to the media, and, in a matter of days, I was being interviewed by everyone from local reporters to Rolling Stone Magazine, and our church was featured on news outlets as far away as England and Asia.

Am I embarrassed that we got caught believing the Bible? Of course not. I am not a cautious and quiet Christian, and I do not lead a cautious and quiet church. But there is an important message for every Christian who is.

The fact of the matter is that there is nowhere to hide on this issue. The sexual revolutionaries are looking for anyone who does not submit to their agenda. They are looking for you. They will find you.

The coming exposure means you must address your nervousness now. Your nervousness about what the Bible says leads you to be cautious in how you declare the truth. Such caution is a bad sign. You are just a short step from being fully ashamed of God’s Word. Your next stop will be a faithless denial of God’s Word.

Any church that is cautious and quiet won’t be able to stay that way for long.

Faithful and Loving

A church is faithful and loving when they stand on everything the Bible has to say about the sinfulness of human sexuality and when they also stand on the grace of Jesus Christ that exists for all sinners. The Apostle Paul understood it perfectly when he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul knew that every human being is a sinner in need of salvation, he was more familiar with his own need of salvation than anyone else’s, and he knew Jesus was the only hope any of us have of escaping a sentence of death for our sin.

Churches that are faithful and loving know that we must preach the truth of sin to a lost and dying world. They know we must preach that truth as it relates to the popular sins of our age, such as LGBTQ+. But faithful and loving churches know more than that. A church full of redeemed people knows that the resurrection of Jesus from the grave means we can never talk about the horrible penalty for human sinfulness without talking about the forgiveness available for everyone who believes that Jesus gave his life for theirs.

A corrupt and confused culture will be blind to the compassion that flows from such faithful and loving churches the way an alcoholic is blind to the love of a family intervention. That blindness can never lead such churches to stop being faithful and loving. Instead, it urges us to increased prayer and increased care.

Judgmental and Rejecting

Churches are judgmental and rejecting when they see the sinfulness of homosexuality but fail to have love in their hearts for people who practice homosexuality. Churches that are judgmental and rejecting wrongly place homosexuals in a different category from other sinners, viewing them as somehow more separated from God than other transgressors. They fail to see the sinfulness in their own hearts and lives and so arrogantly stand in judgment on sin in the lives of others.

Judgmental and rejecting churches are on the opposite end of the continuum from churches that are open and affirming. Embracing a twisted view of love, open and affirming churches seek to emphasize love while obscuring truth and so block people from eternal life. Judgmental and rejecting churches use the truth of the sinfulness of homosexuality as they would wield a club devoid of any kindness and compassion. They block people from eternal life by obscuring any hint of the great love of God for sinners.

Which “Church” Will You Join?

Those are the choices. The church you are attending or are thinking of attending is firmly situated in one of those positions.

But those positions are not all created equal.

Christ only has one true church with one message of faithfulness on this issue. It is that church alone that he has promised to build (Matthew 16:18). The right side of history and the blessing of Christ belongs to those who are faithful and loving in these days.

This is no time to be wrong, quiet, or mean. It is certainly no time to be shocked. It is time to be clear, faithful, and loving.

Join us at First Baptist as we seek to be faithful and loving in these dark and cruel days.

Dr. Heath Lambert is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of several books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World. 

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