Relating effectively to LGBT+ people begins with a desire to do so, but that desire must translate into practical change in our churches. Here are 8 practical ways to begin loving LGBT+ with humility as a church or ministry leader.
1) Humbly Confess Mistakes.
When churches leave decades of mistreatment of LGBT+ people unattended, any claims they make about moral truth tends to be called into question. As a representative of Christ and of His church, humbly confess mistakes the church has made, you have personally made, or that people like you have made. Attend to past injustice in your actions and words, and the rest of your actions and words will gain greater credibility and trustworthiness.
2) Gain an Understanding of LGBT+ People.
Doubling down on preaching “at” people whom we do not understand simply never works. Christ-followers who truly walk with the mindset of a missionary are not shocked at people — and they do not mock vulnerable people. A missionary will spend time learning the unique language, history, and culture of a people group in order to take the gospel to them where they are, as they are. Yet we have failed to bring this mindset into our attitude toward the LGBT+ community. Learn about the personal and historical experiences of LGBT+ in your community, and learn what barriers they experience to knowing Christ and finding fellowship in church.
3) Develop Team Missional Skills.
People with a mission mindset must understand a people’s history, culture and language. Every missionary knows that “proximity” is key (bringing Jesus in us to people where they are). If you are a church leader, this is something your entire church staff should be equipped to do. Ensure an LGBT+ person in your church will be cared for no matter what ministry they interact with.
4) Build a Flexible Inclusion Model.
Missionaries do not consider people with unbiblical beliefs to be a “grave threat” to the Gospel. None of us comes to Christ with a complete and perfect understanding of God — but if we can’t grow in Christ within Christian community, where else can we go? Inclusion in fellowship with Christ-followers is a practical and necessary component of healing historic wounds of disownment and exclusion.
5) Convert Teachers (Tellers) into Listeners (Learners).
Imagine if every single Christian you knew began every single conversation bringing up what they thought needed to be fixed in your life. It is not every Christian’s responsibility to confront and correct LGBT+ people. We need more missionaries and fewer “older brothers” trying to fix LGBT+ people.
6) Invest in Justice to Preserve Orthodoxy.
Biblical truth that is short on love is not orthodoxy at all. It’s Pharisaic legalism. Orthodoxy is a combination of my beliefs, my personal holiness, and my treatment of others (justice). May I so hate my own sin that it causes me to humbly repent of wrongs toward God and toward my neighbors. May I be brought to a posture of humbly learning from God and others, modeling this way of life for other believers whom I lead. May I recognize the potential that I may be personally taking part not only in personal sin, but systemic injustice.
7) What About Transgender People?
Stop worrying about “colluding with their illusion” and other denigrating concerns. We need to lose false power that our actions or inactions can (or should) manipulate people into feeling or directing their lives in a certain way. We have to reach people where they are, because we can’t reach them where they aren’t.
8) Yield to Next-Generation Skills.
Sooner or later, Boomers and Gen-Xers will “age out” or die. Like it or not, the Gospel will pass down to a justice generation. These generations can approach this reality with fear, anxiety and despair. But we would do better to recognize and honor the timely gifts God is building into the next generation. Rather than wait, let’s get ahead of the curve, celebrating the gifts of the next generation while joyfully and humbly sharing our own gifts.
Want in-depth practical insights on loving LGBT+ people as a church or non-profit leader? Lead Them Home offers a top-down training seminar and course called Posture Shift, built especially for equipping Christian leadership teams on biblically sound LGBT+ inclusion and care. Download our informational brochure and share it with your senior leadership.