Churches should follow James 1:19 when ministering to those with LGBTQ+ issues

by Teresa Young on July 17, 2023 in Annual Meeting

Following the principles of James 1:19 can guide individual Christians and churches in ministering to those who struggle with LGBTQ+ issues, noted Dr. David Sanchez, Director of Ethics and Justice for Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, in a workshop during the 2023 Texas Baptists Family Gathering on July 17.

“We titled this workshop ministering to those in our pews who struggle because we have to reach those inside before we can know how to reach those outside,” Sanchez said. “We’re fooling ourselves if we think there is no one inside our churches who is struggling with this, even if they are not saying much.”

After sharing a few testimonies of individuals coming out of this lifestyle, Sanchez referenced James 1:19 in guiding his discussion: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” He encouraged believers who may encounter these individuals to first listen to understand before giving any advice.

“When I don’t know what to say, it’s because I don’t know enough yet,” Sanchez said, noting that if someone shares they are gay or transgender to ask them what that means to them. “In many ways they are their own people group, and we need to learn about that culture and the terminology.”

He also said believers should not assume the person is sharing because they want to be cured, and he encouraged the group to ask the individual why he or she felt the need to share and when those feelings first started, without presuming to know the reason. While Sanchez said many of these individuals have experienced traumatic and abusive pasts, that cannot be assumed in every case.

“They may be sharing to see if you will still love them after they shared. If the first words out of your mouth are ‘I’m going to be praying for you about this,’ it sounds like your love is based on a condition of whether or not they change,” Sanchez said. “Don’t assume sharing Scripture condemning LGBT-related sins will be of help to them right away. These issues are so important because of the way we are experiencing identity in our culture. But this isn’t the most important issue.”

Instead, Sanchez presented a series of questions related to the individual’s perception of their own Christianity and what they believe about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said identifying whether the person is indeed a believer will help guide the discussion and establish their faith stance.

Sanchez said many pastors ask how they can preach on LGBT issues from the pulpit in a way that would not discourage someone struggling from sharing with a church leader. While he said First Corinthians 13:7 does indeed say “Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth,” he also noted that pastors would be wise to read back to verse 4, where Paul says “Love is patient … and not arrogant.” Assuming that posture will prevent those struggling with closing down and feeling unable to share.

To assist pastors and other church leaders, Sanchez provided a set of points and Scriptures about God’s model for marriage, how it reflects the relationship between Christ and the church, issues of gender identity, sexual purity in all instances and the gift of singleness to guide messages around this sensitive topic. He made a point to deal with the question of sin.

“Homosexuality is one of many sins in a list. I’ve looked at the Greek; it’s not first, and it’s not in bold or italics. God calls us all to sexual purity, and we all have to deny desires that are not God’s best for us,” he said, then referenced 2 Timothy 2:22. “We don’t have to struggle alone, however. Satan loves when we deal with our sins this way, by ourselves and trying to run without direction. We have to flee and pursue righteousness and not by ourselves.”

Sanchez wrapped up the workshop with some points on how churches can be welcoming to those struggling but not necessarily affirming. He suggested singles ministries consider the unique needs of those struggling with same-sex attraction, and that men’s and women’s ministries reflect less stereotypical activities for church members to have a wider reach.

He encouraged churches to care for the whole person, not solely on the LGBT aspect, and to show the steadfast love of Christ in the midst of the ups and down while ministering to these individuals. He reminded that walking someone through these issues would take time, and the healing needed would not happen overnight.

“There must be a concerted effort to show we can still care for those with whom we disagree,” Sanchez said. “The world says ‘if you don’t agree with me, you don’t love me.’ We can’t argue them out of their lifestyle, but we have to prove that love.”

Finally, Sanchez said churches need to have clear guidelines on church involvement, membership and leadership related to LGBT issues. And he noted that there cannot be a compromise on biblical truth and God’s design in order to show care. If expelling an immoral person becomes necessary, he strongly encouraged churches make sure they were fairly enforcing that standing on all sexual sins among members.

Sanchez provided a list of suggested books as resources for learning more on the subject and how churches can address this issue in ways that both honor God and the individuals struggling. He also noted his presentation is available in a four-hour workshop format that can be given to churches or associations for a wide range of audiences who wish to dive deeper into the topic.

He is available for contact on resources or speaking at david.sanchez[at]

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