If we're honest, the issue of homosexuality intimidates most church leaders. It makes us feel helpless. When someone pulls us aside and confides in us that he or she struggles with same-sex attractions, we diligently put on our "leader face" while we shrivel on the inside, feeling absolutely incompetent to address the situation.
Nothing could be further from the truth. If you believe God's Word to be true, then you automatically have the needed tools for effective ministry, since all Scripture is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV). Therefore, we are equipped as the church to minister to anyone who walks through our doors—homosexual or not.
Unfortunately, intimidation and partiality often attempts to rob us of the opportunity to minister and experience the full gospel. A healthy church already has what the same-sex struggler needs; we just have to realize what those things are:
Compassionate truth. Many of those wrestling with homosexual feelings have had negative experiences in the church and may be mistrusting of leaders. I've heard too many terrible stories of leaders condemning these individuals for their struggle and asking them to leave. They need to know that the church is a safe place where they can be open about their struggles without fear of ridicule or shame. This doesn't mean we shy away from teaching what Scripture says about homosexual behavior.
On the other hand, some may have been exposed to erroneous teaching that advocates homosexual behavior, while others may be convinced that their eternal security is in jeopardy because they have same-sex attractions. The church must provide a compassionate compliment of mercy and truth.
Discipleship. Many same-sex strugglers come in with spiritual and emotional immaturity. They may have never been taught how to cultivate a relationship with Christ or even where to begin. Most will have little understanding of their identity in Christ and will have a wrong perception of the Father's heart (often it will resemble their perception of their relationships with their own fathers). They need to be taught how to walk in true intimacy with the Lord and allow Him to transform them into mature disciples.
Community. This has the potential for the most immediate impact in the lives of those struggling. Often their relational and family systems have been significantly dysfunctional. Take on a spirit of adoption and make them a part of your family. Show them what a healthy family dynamic looks like and how to develop healthy relationships with the same gender. I work with a number of young men in their 20s and many of them need help with their finances, finding a job, buying a car, finding a place to live, etc. These practical needs can serve as opportunities for relationship and ministry. Many will be eager for an older man or woman to become involved in their life and embrace them as a son or daughter.
I remember what it meant to me to be invited to a family's Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and watch them truly honor, appreciate and love one another. I remember being loved and encouraged for who I was without the stigma of my struggle; they related to me rather than my issue. My life was forever changed as they helped me see God's glory in me and discover His purpose for me. We can all do the same for those in our community. This is the power of the body of Christ.
Jeff Buchanan has spent more than 10 years in church ministry and is the director of church equipping for Exodus International, the largest worldwide Christian outreach to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. MinistryResource Beyond hosting a variety of conferences, Exodus International boasts the world's largest information and referral ministry to those struggling with homosexual issues. Its Web site (exodus.to) is a great starting place for both ministry leaders and those seeking a way out.