An American Warning to the Church Worldwide: Please Learn From Our Mistakes
On a recent trip to S. Korea, I had a private meeting with several key leaders, including government leaders and church leaders. They wanted to talk with me about a pressing moral and cultural issue in their country — specifically, the rising tide of LGBT activism — and their main question was simple: How can we learn from your mistakes?
I’ve had this same conversation with key leaders in other nations, and so, when I wrote a new preface for the just-release Korean edition of Outlasting the Gay Revolution, I felt it important to outline 5 major mistakes made by the Church of America when it comes to pressing LGBT issues.
Here then, is that new preface. And for those of us in America, I do believe it’s not too late for us to turn the tide in the right direction if we learn from our own mistakes.
A Warning From America
With great respect for the nation of Korea and with genuine honor for the church of Korea, I bring you a warning from America. When it comes to dealing with the question of LGBT activism, please learn from our mistakes!
For many years, I have said that the reason America is experiencing moral and spiritual decline is because the church is experiencing moral and spiritual decline, and the reason the church is experiencing moral and spiritual decline is because church leaders are experiencing moral and spiritual decline.
As the church, we need a baptism of love for these lost people, many of whom are sexually broken and many of whom have suffered great rejection.
Jesus has called us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16), and in a nation where there is a substantial Christian population, the nation will go the way the church goes. As for the church, it will go the way its leaders go. It is our responsibility, as followers of Jesus and as leaders in His church, to turn our nation in the right direction, which means in the way of life and blessing and truth. So again, I urge you: Please learn from our mistakes in America. Here are our main areas of failing when it comes to LGBT issues.
Our Areas of Failing
First, we failed to reach out with love to those who identify as LGBT, often looking at them as the very worst of sinners — almost as if we would catch some dread disease just by being around them — or judging all of them by the deeds and words of the radical activists in their midst. As the church, we need a baptism of love for these lost people, many of whom are sexually broken and many of whom have suffered great rejection. Without condoning their sin or their agenda, we must reach out to them with the love of God, remembering that Jesus died for them just as He died for us, and that all of us, outside of the cross, are broken and lost. Let us not be so self-righteous!
One pastor wisely remarked that when the older generation hears the word “homosexuality” they think of an issue, but when the younger generation hears it, they think of a person. In truth, it is both: We are dealing with issues that affect the whole society and we are dealing with people loved by God. We must always keep that in mind.
Second, we failed to realize that it was heterosexual sin in the church that opened the door for the gay movement to redefine marriage. I’m talking specifically about the rise of no-fault divorce in the church — meaning, divorce without any real biblical grounds — and the rise of sexual sin in the church, including sexual scandals among major leaders and the rise of pornography among church members. It is only because we weakened the sacredness of marriage in one generation that LGBT activists could come in the next generation and try to redefine it. We must repent of our sins before we call the world to repent for its sins.
Third, many church leaders, especially of large and influential churches, chose to save their lives by remaining quiet rather than lose their lives by speaking out, thereby rejecting the words of Jesus (Mark 8:35). What I mean is this: These leaders chose not to confront LGBT activism because they were afraid of the controversy and the consequences. They were afraid that if they spoke up about these issues that they would lose their people, their money, and their influence. And so, they made the worldly calculation that it was better to avoid the issues than lose their power, thereby selling their souls to worldly wisdom and political pragmatism. This is a guaranteed path to spiritual failure, even if you still look great in the eyes of the world.
These pastors knew that the moment you address LGBT activism, you will come under severe and constant attack. You will be branded a hater and a homophobe; your name (and your church name) will be mocked in social media and in the local newspaper; you will certainly offend someone in your congregation who has a gay family member, and perhaps the person you offend is one of your biggest financial supporters. Why get involved in something so messy when you can just “preach the gospel”?
The answer is that: 1) people in your congregation are dealing with these issues in their own lives — in particular, these issues are part of the everyday life of the younger generation — and they need your guidance and wisdom; 2) as the church, we are called to be the moral conscience of the society, and so, if we don’t speak up about things like the meaning of marriage and the importance of gender distinctions, the world will come to the wrong conclusions. You cannot rely on the society itself to make the right choices (even in Korea, you can’t rely on historic Asian conservatism; times really are changing); you must shine like lights in the darkness to help the society to see its way. So, addressing moral and cultural and social issues is part of the gospel too.
We failed to realize that appeasement will never work with the LGBT community, and that many of those who came out of the closet want to put us in the closet.
Fourth, in the name of love, we have engaged in compromise. On the positive side, many pastors and leaders recognized that the church often mistreated LGBT individuals, failing to reach out to them with compassion, as I stated above. Unfortunately, many of them swung to the other extreme, refusing to call homosexual practice sinful, trying to reinterpret the Bible to say that God does not oppose committed, gay relationships, and being so afraid to offend people that they end up offending God. In the end, as well-intentioned as this is, it hurts people more than it helps them. As for the witness of the Scriptures, we can say definitively that God opposes homosexual practice in any shape, size or form. The witness of the Word is unequivocal, and there has been no textual or archeological or linguistic or hermeneutic discovery in the last thirty years that would change that evaluation at all. What has changed is the world around us.
Fifth, and last, we failed to realize that appeasement will never work with the LGBT community, and that many of those who came out of the closet want to put us in the closet. For example, at one point we were told that gays would be happy with civil unions, but no sooner were those in place than they said, “You’re treating us as second-class citizens. If we can have civil unions why can’t we marry?” Then, when we considered granting them marriage, they said, “It’s fine for you to have your beliefs, but we just want the right to marry. It won’t affect anyone else.” Once they got that right, they said to the church, “You too must recognize our marriages, and if you don’t, there will be penalties.”
In the schools, we were told that we needed to be “accepting” and “tolerant” towards homosexuality, but once that became the norm, we were told that those attitudes, too, were homophobic, and that instead we needed to be “nurturing” and “affirming.” Now, even that is not enough. Today, we must “celebrate” homosexuality and transgenderism, otherwise we are branded homophobes and transphobes.
In the same way, Facebook, which works closely with LGBT organizations, came under pressure from transgender activists in America because they only gave the choice of male or female for their users’ personal bios. In response, they gave users a choice of fifty different gender descriptions, allowing them to use ten different ones at the same time. But even this was not enough, and instead they added another option: Fill in the blank. Now you can create your own gender definition completely out of thin air, and whatever you say it is, it is.
This same attitude in the society at large has gotten to the point where perception is mistaken for reality so that, in our schools, a fifteen-year-old boy who believes he is a girl can now play on the girls’ sports teams and share their locker rooms and changing areas. This is complete social madness.
The Good News
You can mark my words: If LGBT activists succeed in their agenda in your country, it will mean war with the church.
You can mark my words: If you take the path of appeasement you will have to apologize to your children and grandchildren.
You can mark my words: If you do not transmit your values in a real and living way to the next generation, they will go the way of the world and will become defenders of the values you so strongly reject.
The good news is that the church in Korea remains strong, that you know the power of prayer (in the end, this is a spiritual battle more than anything), and that LGBT activism is not so strong yet in Asia. But that activism is growing rapidly, and now is the critical time for the united church to take a strong but loving stand, following the word of direction I received in January, 2005: Reach out to the people with compassion; resist the agenda with courage.
What will you do?
I am cheering you on from America, where the church is beginning to wake up and take a stand, and I pray that this book will be used in your great country — a country which influences Asia and the nations — to help spark a positive moral and cultural revolution.