This is one of the most commonly asked questions that I get lately: How do I evangelize homosexuals? It is such a sensitive issue as there are so many passions involved and a growing variety of opinions. The volatility could not be greater and I could not be dumber for writing on this! Nevertheless, I am going to do my best to answer here.
I have a family member who lives in an apartment that backs up to a homosexual bar. I can imagine that in the church, there are people who think this is wrong. It’s not that these would assume she might be a homosexual, but that why would she, being a Christian, even dare live in such proximity to such evil. I am sorry to say this, but its very sad—no, tragic—to say that the church is filled with such a mentality. Oh, they have their verses to justify it, but these are always based in unbiblical emotional passions that cannot ever be justified.
Hold on, it gets worse so hang with me.
I, personally, was pretty excited that she moved in there. Why? What a great place to live! It is filled with opportunity and excitement. It is filled with the possibility of having the power of the Holy Spirit work in a place that few in the church would dare to go.
Let me back up and ask the key question: How do we, as Christians, evangelize (give the Gospel to) homosexuals? Here we go . . .
If this family member were to ask me this question, this is what I would tell her:
First, what a great place you are living! What a great opportunity! But I think it would be best if we asked another question: what Jesus would have done in such a situation. Here are the steps I believe he would take:
First, he would go to the bar
I can hear the gasps! Jesus? . . . in a bar? Never! Why not? What is sinful about being in a bar? Is there something in the walls, wood, or foundation that makes the place unholy? I think you forget to realize that Jesus served as a bartender in John 2. Wait . . . that is not technically true. He served as a brewer in John 2. Don’t believe me? Go read it. He turned water into wine. No, it was not grape juice. It was an alcoholic intoxicating beverage. So, the first thing we need to do is go to the bar.
Second, he would sit down with the homosexual
I know that this should sound like an elementary no-brainer, but it is not for a lot of people. Some people distance themselves as far as possible from whatever they deem to be the worst sin.
I had an experience at a church one time where I was hanging out, “fellowshiping”) with some other believers. A guy walks in with a confused and somewhat scared look on his face. “Hey,” he said. “I have never been to church. I don’t really know what it is about. Can you help me?” We all were very excited and we sat down with him and began to talk. However, something terrible happened. Something so crazy, I am not sure you are ready to hear this. He cursed. Not only that, he was letting out f-bombs left and right. Right then one lady got up and said, “I can’t take this” and left. She even said it out loud! My question at the time was, How else to you expect an unbeliever to talk?
How much more would some of us leave if a homosexual couple came and sat in the pew next to you (man, I just realized the word “pew” dates me). But Jesus would sit down next to the homosexual at this bar. Remember, he came to seek and save the lost!
Third (and this is going to be crazy), but he would not automatically assume he was not saved
This all comes down to the question, Can a practicing homosexual be saved? Although I give the long answer here, let me give a shorter answer with a question: Can a practicing sinner be saved? If not, let me let you in on a little secret: you are not saved. Why? Because you are a practicing sinner! We all are. We are at the same time justified and sinners. This is the divisive teaching of Martin Luther.
Fourth, he would put his arm around the homosexual
Christ was the most scandalizing man that ever lived. He perplexed everyone. He perplexed sinners as he loved them and befriended them. And he perplexed the religious establishment that he would have such associates. Remember this verse:
Matthew 11:19: The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
Notice what he was accused of: He was a “friend of sinners.” What does that mean? It means that he was a friend of prostitutes, swindlers, and people who’s lives were controlled by alcohol! He had his arm around them. He would be caught laughing at their jokes. He probably handed them a beer or two, turning water into beer when they ran out. He was their friend before anything else.
We need to encourage people more to do the same thing.
Fifth, he would order a beer (or three)
Here come the gasps. I might be able to conceive of Christ drinking a little alcohol, but you said “three.” Well, let me get even more clear (and this is not the subject of the post so I will not spend much time closing this can of worms), he would drink until his heart was “merry” or “glad” (see Eccl 10:19, Ps 104:15, Judg 9:13, Matt 26:29). No, I did not say he was controlled by alcohol. Did I say he was inebriated? I will just stick with the biblical words and let you wrestle with it.
You don’t have to drink if you don’t want to. I am just saying that it might loosen things up a bit if you do.
Sixth, he would have them over to his house
Christ’s fellowship with sinners came through more than a “hit-and-run” Gospel presentation. You see, so many of us might concede things up to this point. But by the end of the conversation at the bar, we had better be convincing them of the wrongness of their lifestyle and pulling out a Four Spiritual Laws track. If they respond, great. If they don’t get out of there and never talk to them again. But I think that Christ would go so much further. He would be there for them, loving them, listening to their stories, getting to know their family and (dare I say) boyfriend or girlfriend.
This is just the way he was. Scandalous!
Seventh, he would wait for them to ask Him for the hope that is in Him
First Peter 3:15 says that we are to live our lives in such a way that unbelievers are perplexed and say “Why do you have hope! I don’t get it. Explain it to me.” There may be an immediate opportunity at the bar. It may take a week. It may take six years. But eventually, people will ask. But unless we are preaching a sermon to a general audience, we are to wait for them to ask this. And if you are living your life for the Lord, it will probably come pretty quickly. If you are not, it will take more time.
Ask yourself this question: how often has someone asked you for the reason for your hope? Or do you just push the Gospel on them immediately.
Eighth, he would give the Gospel
Wait, I want you to understand what I did not say. I did not say “Eighth, he would finally try to convert them out of their homosexuality.” I said he would present the Gospel. The sin of homosexuality may or may not come up. The issue here is to help people understand that they are sinners, not get rid of every sin. That comes later. That is called sanctification. The Gospel is that we are at enmity with God and that we need restoration. The Gospel is that God offers forgiveness free of charge and trust in him is all that is necessary.
John 3:16 does not say, “For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in him (and stops sinning) will have eternal life.” It says that only belief or trust is necessary.
Then when will the issue of homosexuality be dealt with???? That is what you are asking, right? Isn’t this about evangelizing homosexuals. Yes, but the way you evangelize homosexuals is the same way you evangelize all sinners. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to deal with their individual sins, and He has his own timetable. If the issue of homosexuality comes up, you stand up for the truth and let them know the Bible teaches it is a sin. Will they respond? Will the Holy Spirit fix them right then? Maybe, but maybe not.
We need to quit identifying them as homosexuals, as if their restoration with God comes though a different path than others. We evangelize all people the same.
Is this scandalous to you? Well, let me put it this way, if you are not scandalizing to a certain community in the church, you are probably not acting much like Christ. Yes, people will “get” you. Yes, they will look down their nose at you. You might even get brought into an elders meeting. But you are not to be controlled by these fears. You are to be controlled by Christ and your desire to spread his mercy.
I pray that the church would grab ahold of how crazy the Gospel is and how much mercy God gave and still gives to us. Then and only then are we ready to enter that bar.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]