Dear Friends and Partners in Ministry, March 15, 2017
Your prayers and financial support are the underpinning of our ministry and an essential reason that we always have some pretty awesome God-stories to share with you. Thank you!
Each time I send out a ministry update I hear back from a few of you, usually offering a lot of encouragement or asking questions and sometimes disagreeing. If we haven’t connected yet, I would especially love to hear from you.
Last month I sent out an email update describing a full week of ministry all over the New York City area as well as a great opportunity to exhibit our ministry at a discipleship conference of about 1,200 people in Memphis TN. As a direct result of displaying our ministry at the conference, several large churches and organizations have asked us to provide leadership development to equip their teams and organizations so they can more effectively address heterosexual sin struggles and LGBTQ issues, engaging in the process of restoring men, women, and young people to relational and sexual wholeness – exactly where our heart is.
This is just one of many examples of how your partnership and financial gifts provide funds for travel, lodging, and development of professional materials that communicate the practical and strategic ways we are able to come alongside the Church, Christian educational institutions, and ministries on secular campuses. Of course, that’s just the beginning, sort of our “resumé” that opens up the conversation with leaders for the real and difficult (but rewarding) work that lies ahead.
You may have heard this quote before. It’s one that I love from Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of the Chicago area mega-church, Willow Creek: “The Church is God’s plan A for the world, there is no plan B.” For this reason it’s vital that the Church become well-equipped to live and walk within the tension of both love and truth pertaining to human sexuality, particularly with regard to the LGBTQ community and the many people who experience unwanted LGBTQ feelings or attractions.
As I begin this letter to you, it’s Ash Wednesday. A couple days ago I was provoked by an article I read on Patheos.com… “Glitter Is Serious Business: The Story Behind Glitter Ash Wednesday.” You can check it out here http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2017/02/glitter-serious-business-story-behind-glitter-ash-wednesday/
After reading this article I was reminded of an incident that occurred at The United Methodist General Conference last year.
As the delegates and entire assembly were about to participate in communion, the LGBTQ group offered a separate communion service in front of the area I happened to be sitting in, unfurling a banner (printed in rainbow colors) which read “Remember Me! Queer Communion Where Love Prevails.”
Corporate communion and the words of Christ, “Remember Me,” were used as an opportunity to draw attention away from Jesus, onto the ideology of a group that stands in opposition to scriptural teaching, while demanding recognition, blessing, and full inclusion within The United Methodist Church. Of course, this push for inclusion is happening in many other denominational and non-denominational churches as well.
Even with scientific evidence (such as identical twin studies) pointing in the opposite direction, homosexuality and transgenderism have been mischaracterized as immutable identity and promulgated throughout every corner of western culture, until the masses have come to believe theory as fact.
As a once self-identified gay man who lived a life that felt hardwired and immutable, I understand the motivation and movement to normalize and even glamourize all things LGBTQ. It takes a lot to actually shock me, but these days I do find myself shaking my head, not at the world, but at the Church.
What I’m about to write is abrasive, but needs to be said… to the pastors and Christian leaders I read about or listen to over the internet who are affirming LGBTQ behavior and choices, I simply want to say that I’m so grateful you weren’t walking with me while I was agonizing through and struggling with my sexuality and identity, when I was unclear.
I had enough of a battle against my fallen flesh, the world, and Satan’s affirmation of sin, without adding misplaced encouragement from the Church to embrace “who I was” – even though I would have given anything to hear those words back then.
You would have given me permission to do the “easier” thing: a little gospel, a little serial monogamy, spend the rest of my days pursuing the elusive Mr. Right, until I would likely be old and alone, having wasted the best years of my life and squandered my purpose in the Kingdom.
I certainly didn’t need you, the representatives of Christ, throwing me an anchor when I needed a lifeline. I needed a true gospel that called me to repentance of sin, to embrace surrender to Christ, and “denial of self” (Luke 9:23-25), not the counterfeit “gospel” of self-gratification and personal comfort proclaimed in many places today.
C.S. Lewis said it best: “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven-a senile benevolence who, as they say, liked to see young people ‘enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. “
I love the Church. God used a whole-enough local church many years ago to love me authentically, and rescue me out of a pit of identity confusion, despair, and addiction. So, as an ex-gay man, I’m appalled by the well-meaning but misplaced “love” many within the Church are offering these days. I’m saddened by one story after another that reveals the decline and cultural confusion within the Church surrounding issues of human sexuality, particularly as it relates to LGTBQ matters.
Many churches have lost their “saltiness” altogether and have ceased being a “light” in a dark world on these matters (Matt. 5:13-14). Instead, they’re affirming patterns and celebrating practices that are against God’s clear design for His creation, not leading us toward authentic life, but rather toward spiritual death. These church leaders aren’t calling people to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) of surrender and coming under the Lordship of Jesus. Rather, they offer a type of “gospel” without surrender and a walk that makes sanctification optional.
This isn’t the Good News that Jesus has set us free from the dominion of sin, but instead it’s the “good news” that we can just keep on reveling in sin. This isn’t the authentic gospel (Gal. 1:6-7).
I certainly understand why LGBTQ desires feel so powerful and feel inborn, and I don’t fault the LGBTQ community or secular culture. I fault the Church for not loving well enough to compassionately offer safe environments within our families and within the Body of Christ for non-believers who are seeking to experience the radical, transforming love of Christ. I fault the Church for neither clearly nor compassionately calling people out of a life of sin or providing them meaningful discipleship relationships.
Fornicators, adulterers, alcoholics, thieves, liars, gluttons, gossips, the transgendered and gay couples, etc., who attend our churches should experience genuine warmth, interest, and love from Christ-followers, as this is what all of us were, and many still struggle with. As relationship with God develops, people also need to learn the truth about God sending Jesus to rescue us from bondage to sin, and the freedom He can bring – even in the area of homosexuality.
Mixing glitter and ashes for Ash Wednesday is just another way of “center staging” the LGBTQ cause, stepping in front of and obscuring the One who deserves our full attention for Lent. The far greater problem is that many churches are applauding and supporting this initiative.
Research indicates that sexuality is much more fluid than was once thought. Even a number of gay-researchers are now saying that the “born that way” ideology – the “holy grail” of the LGBTQ movement, does not square with good science. This false belief has supported the claim of special legal rights and protections based upon immutability.
Read an excellent article drawn from the research of lesbian activist, Dr. Lisa Diamond, about sexual fluidity: http://www.aoiusa.org/american-psychological-association-course-correction-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-not-fixed-after-all/
In fact, did you know that researcher, Dr. Neil Whitehead concludes that about half of the homosexual/bisexual population moves towards heterosexuality over a lifetime? Based upon his extensive research he states that “about 3% of the present heterosexual population once firmly believed themselves to be homosexual or bisexual. Sexual orientation is not set in concrete.” You can read the details in his report: http://www.narth.com/gay—born-that-way
In other words, half of the men and women, like me, who once exclusively identified as gay or bisexual now identify as heterosexual. Activists within the LGBTQ population and their media supporters mock the idea that any form of change is possible. They completely ignore the fact that we exist and according to research, our numbers are equal to or slightly higher than theirs.
If even a small percentage (let alone 50% ) of any population can change and experience transformation over their lifetime that certainly should nullify the immutability argument, special rights sought on that basis and the forced coercion of others who for reasons of faith and conscience can not embrace and celebrate LGBTQ ideology.
As Christians though, our purpose isn’t to win arguments. We should be about winning souls and rescuing lives. But rescuing them to what? A merely “nice” false gospel is not regenerative, nor can it save a life from the dominion of sin.
I haven’t included research links in this ministry update in order to wrangle with or try to convince an LGBTQ audience. Facts alone will not accomplish that. I’m writing to believers and the Church, seeking to offer biblical truth, a personal narrative of life-change, and some research-based evidence.
Churches that affirm a homosexual lifestyle and transgender confusion are ultimately neither compassionate nor clear.
Of course, the opposite is also true. The self-righteous “church” that fits into the Westboro Baptist mold of “God hates fags” is genuinely hateful and anything but a reflection of Christ’s heart of love and truth.
I’m forever thankful for the authentic Church that doesn’t speak or use truth to tear down, but to call up and out, to love alongside strugglers. Out of that foundation of biblical truth the Church can actually love in powerfully life-giving, transformative ways. Isn’t that the kind of church you want to be a part of too?
As someone who grew up in the Church: feeling different, rejected, unsupported, and alone in my struggle, and now in full-time ministry to help equip the Church and Christian leaders on how to effectively minister to the masses of Christians struggling with sexual brokenness, I’m so tired of the mischaracterization of a Church that is hateful and damaging simply because we believe biblical truth.
Actuality many churches are extending grace and love toward all people-including LGBTQ – and they believe that transformation over time is not only possible, it’s the norm for all those who are surrendered to Christ’s Lordship. They are committed to loving well while believing and living the truth of God’s word, without affirming brokenness and sin. I’m so thankful for these godly churches and loving Christians who are the hands and feet of Jesus.
For those who turn to the Church for answers and support, will they find the loving and informed help they need? That’s what Love & Truth Network is all about: equipping the Church in these essential areas of need.
Will you join with us? Will you partner with us through your prayer covering, by becoming more equipped yourself, and providing much needed financial support?
As you’ve read our ministry updates, you’ve seen that we’re having real success in helping to equip Christian leaders and communicating the message that God has put in our hearts – a message of hope and freedom from sexual brokenness of all kinds, as well as gender and identity confusion, but that’s just the beginning. To have a deeper, more expansive impact around the country we desperately need to expand and bring in some other called and gifted people to work with us.
Unlike many other organizations, our primary support does not come from tangible items offered for purchase. We’re also not like the amazing hunger-relief organizations that are able to quantify something like $20/month to feed a hungry child – so needed and highly motivating.
What we have to offer the Church and Christian leaders is ourselves; necessary time away from our families, our willingness to travel around the country, stand on the front-line and share our stories of God’s life-change, call Christian leaders to a remembrance of clear Biblical truths about human sexuality, make ourselves availability to preach and teach, lead conferences, meet with leadership teams, etc…
Of course, it was never God’s intention for us to do this work without you. We need your partnership. Could you invest $10 or $20 or $50 a month to partner together for the Church and those being prepared for ministry in Christian colleges, universities and seminaries? Perhaps you could invest $100 or $200 a month, or provide a one-time gift to undergird this work? Whatever God calls you to, we deeply appreciate your investment and will use it wisely. Nothing is too little to make a big difference.
Have you ever considered the ways that you, your family and many of your loved ones have been deeply wounded or affected by relational brokenness, pornography addiction, and sexual sin – whatever the particular object of desire or attraction may be?
To our dear partners who have been investing in Love & Truth Network and sacrificing to see our purposes and ministry move forward, thank you! You’re truly a vital part of ALL that we, together, have achieved so far!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if more and more evangelical churches had real answers and life-changing solutions for sexual and relational strugglers? Your prayers and financial support help to make that possible.
You probably realize there are so many hopeless and shame-filled men, women, and young people who are struggling alone all around you in your church. Possibly you’re one of them.
Wouldn’t you love for the masses of Christians who are sexually struggling to experience a well-equipped church and transformation over time, through the power of Christ, the Holy Spirit and community of the body of Christ?
When you invest in and partner with Love & Truth Network this is what you’re helping to provide… and it’s desperately needed.
Ever grateful for you!
Garry Ingraham, Executive Director
Love & Truth Network