Two Completely Different Theologies… both Reaching LGBTQ Kids

Posted on: 08/2/18 3:30 AM | by Jonathan McKee

In the last few months, in preparation for our upcoming Anchored Leadership Conference, I’ve been conducting interviews with people who are effectively reaching out to young people identifying as LGBTQ. I’ve been engaging in these conversations for several reasons:

  1. I want to learn as much as I can about how to help this hurting group of young people.
  2. I want to know how loving ministries can answer tough questions, like, “Are you judging or affirming?” (because apparently those are the only two choices?)
  3. I’m keeping my eyes open for panelists for the conference. I want attendees to hear some actual “real world” examples from people who are actively reaching LGBTQ young people now.

These interviews surprised me, because I almost expected some pushback from people if our theological stands didn’t match. But instead, and to my relief, most of these “front line” youth workers were more focused on helping lost kids instead of debating about theology. (Whew!)

Two ministries stood out in particular as particularly effective, and it was intriguing… they were completely opposite in their theological stand about homosexuality.

The first guy runs a drop-in center for young people identifying as LGBTQ in Illinois. Their doors are open four nights a week with support groups for parents, for young people, mentoring & tutoring programs, and Bible studies.

His goal is to introduce kids to Jesus. “If they rub elbows with Jesus enough,” he said, “Jesus will make changes.”

The ministry has seen many kids come to the point where they say, “God, I give you my sexuality and my sexual behavior.”

“Whenever I hear that,” he says, “that’s a win for the kingdom.”

I asked him his belief about what scripture says about homosexuality. He believes that the seven passages in the bible don’t interpret well, so he has a hard time believing that homosexuality is wrong.

“So do you believe in monogamy?” I asked.

“Absolutely. That’s what the Bible teaches.”

“What about sexual activity before marriage?”

“Nope.” He said.

“So what do you think of this ‘do whatever feels right’ mindset we’re seeing prevalent in this culture?” I asked.


“So,” I clarified, “It sounds like you believe in Jesus, self control, abstinence, and monogamy… but homosexuality is okay within a monogamous marriage relationships.”

“Exactly. That doesn’t mean we’re affirming their lifestyle, we’re just reaching hurting kids and pointing them to Jesus. They need Him. As a mental health clinician I get to speak on school campuses about drugs, alcohol, etc. and LGBTQ are a high risk group. LG kids are 3 times more likely to commit suicide, B 6 times, T 12 times. Lots of these kids are self-medicating. Some are homeless. We’re just trying to keep them alive.”

“And from what I hear,” I affirmed him (no pun intended), “you’re doing a great job.”

But then I encountered another individual who ministered to LGBTQ kids in Minnesota, a guy from a much more conservative background. A youth pastor friend told me about his ministry. She said, “You have to interview this guy. He’s a youth pastor doing amazing things reaching kids identifying as LGBTQ.”

So I contacted him and asked him if I could pick his brain.

Sure enough, this guy had an amazing heart for all lost kids, and he specifically wants kids identifying as LGBTQ to know they are loved.

After hearing about his ministry, I asked him the same question I asked everyone, “What do you believe the Bible says about homosexuality?”

This guy had the complete opposite view on whether homosexuality was a sin, but the exact same view on caring for the lost.

“I’ve studied all the passages that talk about homosexuality,” he said, “in both the Old and New Testament. I wish I could find a biblically defensible way to say that it isn’t a sin. That would make my life a lot easier. But I can’t, and following Jesus means I have to live how he says to live instead of doing my own thing. It means putting what God says over what I wish he said. It’s hard, and people I respect disagree with me, and I continue to study it because I want to be sure. One thing I am sure of, though, is that nowhere does the Bible say that we should stop loving people for any reason. So at the end of the day, my job is to tell everyone they are loved, and to help them get closer to Jesus, and if it’s a problem for Him that someone is gay I believe He will bring it up as they follow him.”

This young pastor’s ministry has a reputation in the community for creating a safe place for anyone identifying as LGBTQ. In fact, he’s had other conservative churches blame him for being soft on the issue.

“These other ministries never ask me what I believe,” he told me. “They just assume since I am hanging out with gay kids and transgenders that I somehow am affirming them or giving their lifestyle a stamp of approval.”

I guess those churches missed those stories about Jesus (like Matthew 9: 9-13).

In fact, once a hate group came to his town to protest people identifying as LGBTQ. This pastor made up buttons that read, “Loved by God” and gave them to all the kids in his ministry to pass out to everyone. Kids wore them all over the high school campus that day.

The funny thing. Every single one of these young people identifying as LGBTQ knows where this pastor stands theologically. But he doesn’t feel the need to wear it on his vest, like, “I love you… but you know you’re a sinner, right?” Whenever he encounters a passage that deals with God’s plan for sex and intimacy, or “our identity in Christ,” he teaches as written.

And they listen.

He’s earned the right to be heard.

Two incredibly effective ministries! (I can’t wait to hear this panel at the November event!)

I think the more I interview people who are effectively reaching young people identifying as LGBTQ, the more I hear the same thing: these kids need Jesus! Let’s introduce them to Him and let Him sanctify them, in the same way he’s sanctifying all of us!

What are you doing to reach this needy group?

7 Replies to “Two Completely Different Theologies… both Reaching LGBTQ Kids”

  1. Thank you for your interview on Focus! I am the mom of 3 young men, 20, 18, and 15. They just got their first smart phone because they were travelling. I have TrueVine filter on my computers and will be loading onto phones.
    My question is, beyond reading your books together, how to talk to them without them feeling like I don’t trust them? Do we go through book together?
    Also, regarding the LGBTQ ministries you mention in your blog, can you send me their links? A pastor friend is dealing with this with his daughter.

    1. Good question Sean. I think that’s where we follow the example of Jesus who loved people unconditionally. For years I’ve worked with young people who decide to live life their own way. I always love them regardless.

      1. But they are still the sinner and going to hell, but of course you’re not going to tell them that. You’ll just say what the Bible says, and say your the nice guy.

        To me this is no different than the one dude who came to the defense of the “hurting sinful gay youth” when more aggressive anti-gay folk decided to start some trouble. You’re friend is in a way simply saying, “don’t use hate, be more clever. Be patient. Be a friend. Use god to do the work for us.” He didn’t have to wear a shirt that said, “I love you, but…” it was already clear.

        That’s an exaggeration I know, but the point is That whether you’re being mean or nice about it’s all saying the same thing. You’re going to have this big conference or what not in September, right, and it’s all about how to help “troubled” youth “struggling(what if they aren’t struggling)” with feelings for the same sex or gender identity see things “God’s” way without using hate speech. To preach “biblical” truth. Hopefully at least some of the youth who have to deal with this at least are smart enough to realize there are ulterior motives to the nice Christian youth worker who says he’s your friend, but has a bigger objective in mind.

        I’m glad to be someone who when i’m Told by someone they’re gay that no negative thought crossed my mind. I simply say “okay”, and treat them as friend. Never once in the back of my mind going I need to turn them, I need to turn them.

        I also like how you said, “decided to live their life own way,” which can easily be interpreted “which dwindles down homosexuality as the same thing as love of porn, drugs, etc.

        1. So let me get this straight. If I believe my straight friend who is sleeping with his girlfriend is actually doing something outside of God’s design (or a “sin”), then even if I decide to just love him and be his friend, then I have “ulterior motives” because it we ever talked about sex, I’d state my beliefs? Same thing with someone LGBTQ. I’m basically hearing you say that we don’t even have the freedom to believe what we believe, even if we serve them and treat them the way Jesus would have treated them- with love and grace? It’s a little ironic, because I think you’re trying to hint that we’re intolerant, or hypocrites or something… but yet we’re the ones who want to show love, and you’re the one who seems all bent up about us because we believe different than you. Not sure what you want… other than for us to forsake our God and mindlessly say, “Everyone’s right!” (which philosophically is not only a weak argument, it’s impossible)

  2. It’s one thing to tell a friend you love them, but they are living against the tenants of your religion. Entirely another to have to have an entire seminar built around trying to find clever ways to get someone who’s gay or trans to stop living that life style, just be nice about it. All that work, because you know there’s that fine line between teaching truth and love and that of manipulation.

    I’vebSeen some go from feeling welcomed by their new Christian friends only to feel animosity when the true motive peeks its head. People want to be accepted for who they are, and your religion prevents that. You can give them a pat on the back and tell them you love them and that’s it.

    Christians love the sin of homosexuality more than any other. It’s the one you hate that you lost the most. You treat it as a sickness. And believe me you treat it far more importantly than sex out of wedlock.

    Don’t think the gay youth you may teach don’t see this too. If they love your god enough, they’ll keep calm, and deal with it, but still be who they are and still love God.

    1. I’d love to tell you that you’re wrong.. but you’re right that countless Christians have treated people identifying as LGBTQ poorly. They’ve treated them as if the gay lifestyle is a unique sin. If anything, these Christians look more like the Pharisees than Jesus. Our goal of the conference is to simply help kids- all kids- meet Jesus and experience his love and truth. I assure you our conference isn’t about trying to find clever ways to “take the gay away.” We just want them to experience the love and truth that Jesus offers. And yes… people will disagree on truth. But of course we’re going to share what we believe. (Isn’t that what you’re doing in these comments- sharing what you believe? It would be nice if you extended us the same courtesy.) The cool thing is, the ministries mentioned in this blog BOTH are showing love and helping people in need. The LGBTQ kids they are reaching would attest to that.

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