When I first came out to my local church about my experience with bisexuality and my struggle with same sex attractions, I received a lot of mixed reactions. Most were excited that God had set me free and was encouraged by my boldness to share such a taboo testimony. But some began to treat me differently.
Certain ministers began to criticize me for what I wore (fitted shirts, skinny jeans, stud bracelets), and certain colors that I wore (pink and purple). I would sometimes wear an EX-Bisexual t-shirt to church that I received from a Los Angeles ministry called P4CM. One day, an elder in church walked up to me and told me to cover up my shirt because no one needed to know that part of my life. I was told not to share it because it was considered “reminiscing on my past” and “giving glory to the devil.” I was told to forget my past (my testimony) and just focus on my current life.
After sharing my story, some of the guys in the church didn’t want to sit next to me or hug me intimately. They would only accept a firm business handshake. And if they did hug me, it wouldn’t be a warm embrace but a quick man hug accompanied with a few pats on the back. Certain guys I would compliment would get offended. They thought my actions were suspect and mistakenly assumed my friendliness was a way of me trying to flirt with them or come on to them. One brother told me he was warned to be careful in his association with me to prevent others from assuming that we had a fling, and to keep my “gay spirit” from leaping on him.
I even had another guy tell me that he grew a dislike for me after he found out what my struggle was because he was homophobic in the world and hated gay people, and although he had gotten saved, he never confronted that area of his heart because he never ran across someone in the church who dealt with that struggle, until he met me. When I would invite a male friend to church, slanderous rumors would spread around the church that my visitor was most likely someone I was sexually involved with, and the rumor would eventually get back to me, but no one would tell me who started the rumor.
I would have this repetitive dream of me walking down the center aisle at church toward the altar, and everyone would be sitting in the pews facing forward. Then the lights would turn off and I felt dozens of knives stabbing me all over. Then the lights would turn back on and everyone would be in their seats again, facing forward as if no one had moved. I was hurt and wounded, but wasn’t able to tell who had backstabbed me.
I lacked trust for everyone, because when I would confess a struggle or a slip up to someone I confided in, they would gossip. I already struggled heavily with rejection in the world, and now, it followed me into the church– the one place I thought I would be able to find safety and rest. I wanted to leave my local church so bad because as someone who was trying to walk away from LGBT influences and integrate myself within the church, I felt judged, isolated, embarrassed, neglected, ostracized. I felt like I didn’t fit in.
I was one who would run away from my problems rather than stay and try to resolve them. But just like the angel of the Lord told the runaway maidservant, Hagar, to return to her master, Sarah, even though Sarah had harshly mistreated her (Genesis 16:6-9), God told me to stay at my church, even though I felt mistreated. He reminded me of my great High Priest, Jesus, who could empathize with me. He reminded me that even Jesus experienced church hurt when he was rejected and despised by his own, and was talked about and demonized by the religious order. But Jesus didn’t allow that to stop him from walking in love. Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who knew not what they do.
God told me that he was going to use the rejection to mature me, and to teach me how to extend grace and show love to those who didn’t know how to love me back. Only then would I be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48). He told me he wanted to use me to break the stronghold of hatred, fear and ignorance that the Church had concerning homosexuals. God had me to hug people that wouldn’t hug me back, call people on the phone who would have never called me first. I had to pray for those who spoke against me, bless those who cursed me and love those who didn’t feel comfortable saying it back. God said in order to make a friend, I have to practice being a friend. After a while of doing this, the stronghold in the church was broken.
Now, having been at my church for 10 years, it appears that everyone wants to be my friend. Some of the same guys who treated me differently see me as one of the most respected members of the church. When greeting me, the guys now pick me up, spin me around, give me long hugs, holy kisses on my forehead or neck, and call me just to check on me. They are even the first to tell me that they love me. Some have apologized for the homophobia and posture of heart they once had toward me, stating that if I’m a new creature in Christ, they shouldn’t hold my past against me. Some have shared that the lack of affection and intimacy they had toward me had nothing to do with me personally or my sexuality. It’s just that in the culture they grew up in, it was void of affection and love. So it was challenging and uncomfortable for them to give me something they’ve never experienced or was taught growing up. The elder who forbade me from sharing my story broke down and cried in front of me one day. He said the reason why he didn’t want me talking about my struggle with homosexuality is because his son is gay and he didn’t want to be reminded of it. I got to minister hope to him concerning his son. If God brought me out, He could bring his son out.
Because I stayed in position and didn’t allow church hurt to cause me to leave, I eventually received a ministry role in the church as the pastor’s official armor bearer and I’m also his narrator who reads the bible for him as he preaches. I’m one of the only ones allowed to sit in the pulpit with him. When I travel with him to different churches he’s been invited to as a guest speaker, if they collect an honorarium for him, he shares a portion with me.
I’m also now married to a sister in Christ who I met in the church, and some of the guys who I felt dismissed me are now seeking relationship advise from me. Most of these guys have a history of experience with women, and my wife is my first real relationship with a woman, but everyone seems to find me credible, or experienced enough to give relationship advise; and some of them have even asked me to serve in their weddings as their best man or groomsman when they get married.
Furthermore, after I came out about my struggle, others from my church told me they have now gained the courage to come out and share about their experience with same sex attraction, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, or sex addiction. Mostly women, but a handful of guys, too.
Also, whenever a church member comes across a gay friend, family member, co worker, etc., they ask me for advice on how to minister to them. If they invite said individual to church, I’ve noticed that they would introduce the person to me after service in hopes that I’ll get their number and minister to them about their struggle. Instead of questioning my deliverance, they now use me as a resource and an example of deliverance.
It was so hard to endure all of what I had to suffer. I have cried, struggled with resentment and distrust. I wanted to leave, to stop extending forgiveness, grace and love. But God gave me the strength to persevere. And it paid off. I did not share this testimony to bash the body of Christ or to paint the members of my church in a negative light, but I just wanted to share my experiences, how I internalized them, and how God brought healing to both me and all other parties involved. This testimony is also intended to bring awareness to the Church of how their actions affect others. Please be mindful of how you treat LGBTQ people who come into the church, and who are trying to leave the gay lifestyle. Don’t judge, criticize or shun them. Don’t stereotype or stigmatize them. Befriend them. Don’t assume you know their story. Ask them questions. Try to understand them. Walk with them through their deliverance process and don’t be afraid of how others would perceive you for hanging out with some one who is or used to be gay. Jesus sat with tax collectors and prostitutes throughout his whole ministry, and because of his associations, many thought he was a sinner just like them, but Jesus didn’t seek to save his reputation. He knew who he was in God and what his purpose was–to come for the sinner, not the righteous, and to lead them to repentance. Many who are LGBT or same-sex attracted are already standoffish with Christians and have a wall up because of past church hurt. Don’t add on to it. Be part of the solution, not the problem!
Also, if you experience SSA or have come out of the LGBTQ lifestyle and are reading this, and share a similar experience, I want to encourage you that the present suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed! Just like Hagar, if you know that God has sent you to your local church, stay and serve. Don’t expect the church to be perfect and don’t place your hope in man. Place your trust in God! Take up your cross and die for your local church so they may live. Learn to extend grace to those who have not yet learned how to extend grace to you. Let your experiences mature you so Christ may be formed in you. Then others will see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Above all, walk in love, not offense. LOVE always wins!