In The One Thing series, I stressed the importance of church leaders offering a message on homosexuality that goes beyond theology to address the practical needs around this issue. One such need is openness – a commitment to be vulnerable about our real struggles. When we deal with sensitive issues like homosexuality from personal experience, our message inherently becomes more thoughtful, humble and redemptive.
Rick, the senior pastor of a large evangelical church in Houston, Texas, probably never intended to become “Exhibit A” for my series. He might have preferred to speak about homosexuality from a distance; or limit the discussion to theology. Instead, he began his message by saying to his congregation, “It’s our issue.” He noted that – statistically – there could be 30 to 50 people (or more) in his congregation who know what it means to experience some form of same-sex attraction or gender identity issue.
After speaking with Ricky Chelette (Executive Director, Living Hope Ministries) about a host of theological and pastoral care issues, Pastor Rick comfortably transitioned the conversation to a personal level. “This issue is very close to our family,” he said as he invited his son Justin to the stage. The two spoke in a beautifully open way about Justin’s struggle with same-sex attraction. Their raw and honest exchange revealed a father’s compassion for his beloved son; and a son who has been deeply touched by Jesus.
Pastor Rick closed by offering a word of encouragement to parents who have teens and young adults dealing with same-sex attraction. “They don’t need another lecture,” he said. “If they give you the permission to hear their questions and hear the process and hear the journey, there’s a way that maybe you can be of influence in their lives.” He then turned to his son Justin: “You have been a model of courage to me.”
This pastor/father and son are a wonderful model of courage for other evangelical leaders and parents in similar circumstances. Many are tempted to hide this one thing. We do not want to “out” our children against their wishes; however, the desire for privacy can be rooted in unhealthy motivations. Being open – with your child’s permission – is an important step that parents (and pastor/parents) can take to maximize support for their loved ones.
Pastor Rick and Justin, your example is awesome. Well done.
POST NOTE: Join me next week for a special series dedicated to Pastor’s Kids (PKs) and other young evangelicals who experience SSA. Next Friday, you will hear from Justin in his own words. Until then, watch Pastor Rick and Justin via video link below. Please note how Pastor Rick reaches out to those in his congregation who struggle with sexual and gender identity. He says, in effect, we know you are here; we care about you; and we are committed to walk in fellowship with you. Amen.
EXHIBIT A: Pastor Rick and his son Justin
1. Connect to http://bit.ly/bFeGCj
2. Click “Audio” or “Video”
3. Click 8/1/2010 message titled “Homosexuality”
Review our doctrinal beliefs at http://bit.ly/azho1g.
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