Thursday, July 24, 2014

Help! How Do I Think About Homosexuality? :: Teaching Notes

[A number of people have asked me for a rundown of what I was sharing with the students and youth leaders at the EFCA's Challenge Conference earlier this month. Elsewhere, I have provided a list of the resources that were the most helpful to me in preparing. Here is an annotated outline and report of what I tried to cover in the 90 minute interactive "equipping labs."]

Help! How Do I Think About Homosexuality?
Teaching Notes for Challenge 2014 Equipping Labs

I. Introduction (Why We’re Here Today)
II. The Bible’s Story (Creation, Fall, Gospel, New Creation)
III. The Elephant in the Room (Causality) 
IV. Where Do We Go From Here?  (Relating to People Who Experience Same Sex Attraction)


I. Introduction (Why We’re Here Today)


I told the group that our time together was going to be serious and not a lot of fun. This is a very controversial topic, and it affects people's lives in important ways. So, if they wanted a fun 90 minutes, they might want to check out a different room. I told them how encouraged I was that we had such full rooms (325+ the first day and 350+ the second?) and that it said a lot about them to the good that they had chosen to spend the next 90 minutes thinking hard about this issue. And we prayed and then got right into the first small group discussion question.

Brainstorm/Discussion Questions:  Why did you choose this equipping lab this afternoon? Why are you here? 

After a few minutes on that, I asked them to share some of their reasons for being in our lab and asked for a show of hands for those who shared their reason. I was very encouraged to hear how many wanted to know what the Bible actually said about homosexuality and also how many wanted to grow in wisdom for relating to the people they love who experience same sex attraction.

During this time I made sure to welcome anyone in the room who experiences same sex attraction to any degree and told them, "We're glad you're here. We are not afraid of you. We are not angry at you. I want you to feel safe and loved in this room. This is not about politics today. This is about Jesus and the gospel and the story of the Bible and about love and holiness."  I tried to set the tone as being respectful and welcoming even though I would be saying hard things for some to accept and not be affirming of homosexual desire or behavior.  From reports and debriefing afterwards, I believe it was pretty successful.

Why I’m Leading This Equipping Lab

I told the group that it wasn't because I experience same sex attraction myself or that I'm some kind of an expert or even biblical scholar. I'm just a pastor who cares.  I care about what God thinks and I care about real people in real situations.

Then I shared some stories (all identifying details masked and some details change to protect people and relationships) of real people I've interacted with through the years that lead me to care about this topic.

The next step was to get back into groups and talk about why this topic is especially hard right now--the stories the culture is telling.

Brainstorm/Discussion Questions:  What stories about homosexuality is our culture telling right now? What are the arguments we are hearing? What stories does the culture think that we as the church are telling? 

Some answers I got back and we interacted with a bit:
Born that way.
Why would God care?
It’s all about love.
Gay is the new Black.
None of our business what consenting adults do in private.
Jesus was silent on this issue.

Then I introduced the goal for our time together:  Equip you to think biblically about homosexuality and how it relates to the Bible’s big story of the gospel and how to relate wisely and lovingly with those who experience same sex attraction.

II. The Bible’s Story (Creation, Fall, Gospel, New Creation)

I was really helped in this next section by the teaching coming from the mainstage at Challenge. In the course of the week, the speakers walked us through the God's Story of Creation, Separation, Promise, Silence, Rescue, and Restoration. It was so good, and even better, I didn't know they'd be doing that so it was God-thing (providence!) that my presentation dovetailed so nicely into what they were teaching us.

A. Creation

Large Group Question: Where in the Bible would you go to establish God’s design for human sexuality?

I taught from the following passages, drawing heavily from Trent Hunter's excellent article "Did God Actually Say?"

Genesis 1-2 

God made 2 genders.
These 2 kinds of human being complement one another.
When a man and a woman come together, they multiply.
Marriage unites man and woman in a complementary, comprehensive, exclusive, and permanent union.
Gender, sexuality, and marriage are real, good, and beautiful.

Matthew 19:1-12, esp. 1-6

Jesus was not silent. He affirmed Genesis 1-2.

Ephesians 5:21-33

The mystery that marriage has been pointing to all along.
Homosexual union cannot achieve the picture of Christ and the church.

B. Fall

Large Group Q: Where in the Bible would you go to discover how we got into our mess?

Genesis 3 (More from Trent Hunter’s Article, Did God Actually Say?)

Adam’s sin changed everything.
Men and women after the Fall are ashamed.
Men and women are at odds.
Our good sexuality is now broken in so many ways. (Not just in homosexuality!)

Romans 1:18-32, Leviticus 18:20-23, 20:13, 1 Timothy 1:10 
Homosexuality is a result of the Fall.
The mosaic law represented the moral law on this point.
The law of Christ in the New Testament reaffirms homosexuality as sinful.

C. Gospel

Large Group Q: Where in the Bible would you go to show someone the hope of the good news as it relates to homosexuality?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (Utilizing my message “The Surprising Truth of Homosexuality”)

1. Those who practice homosexuality (active and passive) will not inherit the kingdom.
2. Homosexual sin is not worse than other sins.
3. There is hope for change in the gospel (“washed”, “were”).

Yet, while we hold out hope for true change, it needs to not be a false hope.

The goal is holy sexuality, not hetersexuality.
Holy sexuality will look different for different people. (Celibacy for some, heterosexual marriage for others. Not necessarily quickly or easily.)

Then, as part of this section, I told the change stories of people I knew or are public spokespeople.

Brad Grammar (many years of exclusive same-sex attractions, years later happily biblically maried with kids)

Rosaria Butterfield (lesbian professor turned homeschooling mom)

Christopher Yuan (drugs, gay sex, prison .... now Bible professor)

Sam Allberry (

Jackie Hill (who was also at our conference sharing her poetry)

D. New Creation

Large Group Q: Where in the Bible would you go to get a picture of what the end of the story will be?

Revelation 21:1-9 (Again, utilizing Trent Hunter’s Article, Did God Actually Say?)

Heaven unifies us with God.
Heaven is filled with only good things.
Heaven will be utterly satisfying.
There is a direction and goal to history.

Brainstorm/Discussion Question: Now that we’ve surveyed the Big Story of the Bible what questions does that raise for you?

My strategy at that point was mainly to generate discussion. I didn't actually try to take their Bible questions at that point and answer them all. If we had, we would have run out of time and not gotten to the practical application. Hopefully, we had established a framework with the big story of the Bible within which the individual questions of details can get worked out.

III. The Elephant in the Room (Causality) 

The biggest item we hadn't really talked about yet was from where homosexuality comes. So, I took a little bit of time to talk about that issue.


The Bible places homosexuality as a result of the Fall.
Things like biology, environment, and nurture can shape and express our fallenness but are not the ultimate or most central and important cause.
The science actually bears this out if you read it carefully.
This will shape our terminology and labels (attraction, orientation, identity, gay).
The Bible’s story is different than the story the world (and some in the church) is telling.

IV. Where Do We Go From Here?  (Relating to People Who Experience Same Sex Attraction)

Brainstorm/Discussion Questions: So what? How should we relate to people who experience same sex attraction? What is biblical, wise, and loving?

In this last section, we interacted with their answers to this question. Lots of great thoughts from students and leaders!

I tried to make sure to hit these points along the way:

Become courageous and confident. Know what you believe and why and live it out.
Speak the truth in love. No hate words. Don’t use “gay” or “faggot” as a slur.
Become a safe person. Love people without affirming their sin. It's difficult but do-able.
Normalize their sin and recognize your sinfulness.
Walk with people where they are. Listen. Treat them as you would want to be treated.
Hold out hope. It’s unloving to not tell people about Jesus and invite them to follow Him. He’s worth it!
Be ready to be reviled. Don’t be a hater, but be ready to be called one.

I also brought out these 5 points from Sam Allberry:
Make it easy to talk about.
Honor singleness.
Remember the church is family.
Deal with biblical models of masculinity and femininity, not cultural stereotypes.
Provide good pastoral support.

I ended with stories of people I know who have spoken the truth in love and the responses they have seen, both positive and negative.

Then I stood around afterwards and talked to a line up of people to interact with their questions. I was very encouraged to hear stories back of how they'd been helped--even those who heard something they didn't want to hear.

If you were one of the people praying for me that week, I really appreciate it. I'm glad I spent the months preparing, super-glad I was able to interact with these precious people, and super-duper-glad that it's over.

One of my biggest highlights from the whole experience was being prayed over by the teens of our group from church. I had a splitting headache and was ungodly worried about my presentation. They laid their hands on my head and each prayed for me. When they were done, God answered with a clear head and heart at peace. Praise Him!

I pray that God will use the little bit of thinking and speaking into this issue that I've done to bring glory to Himself and good to His people through the gospel of Jesus Christ.


This sounds wonderful and very needed in our world today! I think you should write another book about this issue, because these questions are or should be asked by all Christians dealing in our world today. It is a struggle to know what to say or do with homosexual friends and family. Thanks for your counsel and encouragement!

Thanks, Heather! It is certainly an important issue. I don't think I'm the guy to write a book on this, but I definitely have good books to recommend.

Next Wednesday, I'll link to an article I've written for the Biblical Counseling Coalition of 17 resources that I found the most helpful as I prepared for this event.

The all around best book I've found to be "Is God Anti-Gay?" by Sam Allberry. Easy to read, written by someone who experiences same-sex attraction, and biblical.

On Amazon here:

Hoping this will be a sermon someday (soon), too!