The last five years has been an amazing journey. Our family entered full-time ministry in early 2006 with a clear ministry vision, and a savings account to bridge the financial gaps of a start-up ministry. We anticipated some degree of financial challenge along the way. The economic downturn made sure we deeply felt these challenges beginning in our third year of ministry.
On the front end, my biggest fears were that my own community – the evangelical world – might find our ministry to be a theological compromise. Instead, I was reassured by consistent support for our vision. Church leaders would say things like, “Yes this is biblical. The church must find humility on this issue. We have work to do; we just do not know what to do.”
There have only been two occurrences when my ministry was essentially “booted.” In one such situation, an elder of a church I was speaking at became deeply offended that I used the term “Southern Baptists” to describe the people I most feared during the years when I identified as a gay man. He could not differentiate that I was describing my feelings over 15 years ago. He disrupted the Q&A session by lecturing me for nearly 30 minutes. He told me privately after the event that he had disrupted the discussion in order to prevent Satan from polluting his church. In other words, he felt that I was being used by Satan. For the record, I was deeply hurt but from my heart I forgave this man. I understand his passion. More importantly, God taught me that being a peacemaker is not a unilateral mission – it is a way of life.
I equally feared that LGBT+ people would call me a wacko, right-wing, hatemonger. A few did just that. There is so much fear and expectation of judgment that cultivating dialogue around homosexuality necessarily requires that trust be earned with LGBT+ folks. This takes time, so relationships must be able to withstand discomfort – and wait upon breakthroughs. My gay friend Josh and I have discovered such breakthroughs. Our early interactions were coated in suspicion of one another, but today we are treasured friends who deeply appreciate one another. This trust is not always easy to cultivate in gay-evangelical relationships.
I was “booted” by the LGBT+ community only once. After being invited to speak at a university in Ohio, the dean of student affairs pulled the plug on my speaking event at the last minute. We traveled to Ohio anyway, and I had the opportunity to meet him. In a tone that resembled the distrust of that Southern Baptist elder, he angrily declared – “I will be the gatekeeper to protect my students from your message of hate.” Through an impromptu reconciliation meeting between the evangelical and gay students that I was invited to attend, much of the frustration was diffused through peaceful dialogue. In short, I was not coming to deliver the hate speech they anticipated. I never held a grievance toward this dean – I could understand his passion too. And: it was his campus…
These two events – one in the evangelical community and one in the LGBT+ community – took place in our first year of ministry. They reflect the binary “on-off” switch that accompanies the culture war. If I love gay people where they are, I am a heretic. If I hold to a view that scripture forbids acting on same-sex attraction, I am a hatemonger. It was an “either you are for me – or you are against me” kind of world in 2006. These two failures also reflected my weaknesses – I had a sincere heart, but much to learn.
Since then, Lead Them Home and Lead Them Home Radio have grown to equip over 150 churches; counsel over 400 evangelical families; speak at over 60 university campus events; train over 400 church leaders; and air over 350 radio shows throughout the Northeast. We are grateful for our Lead Them Home podcast listeners and blog readers – many tuning in from around the globe. We have held faith-and-sexuality peacemaker dialogues between LGBT+ and evangelical students at some of the most prestigious universities in the Northeast. The Associated Press covered one of these events. God has opened the door to bring the peace of Christ into all of these settings.
For the record, our theological convictions have not budged in the midst of all this work; and holding to these convictions has not caused our compassion to fade.
If you would like to help us, we have no savings account left five years later. Due to the economic climate, our current funding is at about 60% of our annual budget requirement. To close this gap and remain in ministry full-time, we need to raise an additional $40,000 in 2011. To expand Lead Them Home radio, it will require special Kingdom-centered investors who can help us generate an additional $60,000 per year. In whatever way you can play a role, we appreciate your prayers, financial support and promotion of Lead Them Home and Lead Them Home Radio. I am happy to provide more information to any interested parties.
Join me tomorrow for a few special words about the future of our mission.
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