This is a blog post written by Dr. Eric Mason who is the lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia and originally featured here. This subject is very near and dear to my life as we try to model this to others in our spheres of influence.
I have been out and about for the last few weeks and I asked for a friend of mine to write a post for me. Unfortunately, because of the state of the church I have chosen not to reveal my guest name but I will say that shamefully, this is my bravest post yet. Please take a few minutes and read some of the bravest and honest post I have read in a while and then lets please begin this conversation. I look forward to your comments below.
My father sits across from me. He points at me, and his voice makes it clear that he can’t imagine the possibility, even as a joke. “You’d better not be one.”
He doesn’t know.
Two older men in church, whom I respect greatly, nod in solidarity. “I wouldn’t allow those people as members.”
They don’t know.
A dear, kind woman looks at me in shock. “You don’t believe in that, do you?”
She doesn’t know.
My own convention expresses its ‘continued opposition to and disappointment in’ the Boy Scouts for allowing boys like I used to be membership.
They also act with great care to declare their love in Christ for people like me… regardless of ‘perceived’ sexual orientation.
They don’t know, but now you do. I’m a firm follower of Christ, and I’m also a homosexual man. I’d like to talk about how I feel in the church, and why I believe the church should be doing better.
A few years ago, in response to an increasing number of homosexual teens committing suicide, the “It Gets Better” campaign was started. The message was a simple one: offering hope, in the form of promises that the pain those teens were going through was temporary, and that life got better. It was a tremendous success, and that phrase has become a byword for anyone facing bullying and rejection.
Contrast this to my experience with some parts of the Christian community. Shame seems to be the dialogue objective, focusing exclusively on that one facet of life. With the usual combination of selective Scriptural sniping and heated argumentation, the Christian seems to desire driving away the listener, rather than drawing them closer to Christ.
Christians have forgotten that sin can’t be shamed out of someone. They have confused changing behavior for changing hearts, and the disapprobation of the Church with the conviction of the Spirit.
The world offers pride and celebration, the church shame and rejection.
We have to change that. We have to be a place where anyone can show their imperfections and temptations.
It works. Despite the above conversations, there have been those, like my pastors, who have welcomed me in church, who honor the difficult choices I’m being asked to make, and who will be there when times are rough. Their love in Christ is based on who I am, not who I am perceived to be.
Let’s start there.
A few years ago (in a different life) I had the pleasure and privilege of working with, and ministering to a young woman with an amazing story and heart of gold. Her name is Crystal Renaud and she is the founder of a ministry called “Dirty Girls Ministries” and author of a book named “Dirty Girls come clean” which are both aimed at providing help, hope, and healing for women dealing with pornography and sexual addiction. The other day she tweeted this,
Oh dear. I’ve been bit by the idea bug. The only cure is to stay up for many more hours to see if said idea becomes nothing or something.
— Crystal Renaud (@crystalrenaud) November 20, 2012
Crystal is a dynamic, honest and very creative young woman and the idea from that tweet reflects this reality. I pray that you don’t just read this post but get involved!
Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. How about Give Back Wednesday?
As we know, Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks for all the blessings we’ve received over the last year. But it seems like for many of us, we go from giving thanks for all we have to the very next day
shoppingfighting for everything we don’t. And this year, Black Friday is beginning on Thursday (which, can you still call it Black Friday?).
What if before the big bird is carved and the big screen TVs go on sale, we all took a moment to give back to the ministries, organizations and individuals who serve others all year long?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with shopping this weekend and getting in on the great deals. But consider giving back on Wednesday first and support the causes that rely on your generosity to keep them going. Check out the “GIVE BACK” tab above for some organizations that would greatly appreciate your donation. If you would like to add to this list, please reply below with the name and website you would like for us to add.
Share this idea with your friends using the social media links below (#gbw). If you decide to give back, please leave a comment on the “I GAVE BACK” page. We’d love to track how many organizations are impacted by this effort.
Below is a list of causes who would greatly benefit from your donation. Click a link to visit their website for more info and to donate. If you would like to add to this list, please REPLY HERE with the name and website you would like for us to add. Non-Profit Organizations/Tax-Deductible Giving only, please. If you decide to give back, please leave a comment on the “I GAVE BACK” page. We’d love to track how many organizations are impacted by this effort.
- American Family Assoc. of KS & MO
- Birthday Blessings KC
- Blood:Water Mission
- Compassion International
- Dirty Girls Ministries
- Exodus Cry
- Food for the Hungry
- Hookers for Jesus
- Invisible Children
- Mercy Chefs
- Oceans of Mercy
- People of the Second Chance
- RefineUs Ministries
- Shiloh Restored
- The A21 Campaign
- The Mentoring Project
- To Write Love on Her Arms
- 88.5 KLJC
Founder of Dirty Girls Ministries
If you have missed the firestorm that Chic-fil-A has found itself in after the comments of her President Dan Cathy let me get you caught up. Cathy’s remarks last week to a Baptist Press site, which he affirmed the company’s belief in “the biblical definition of the family unit,” went viral Wednesday. He said, “”We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles”. Supporters and opponents of gay unions immediately weighed in and did so heavily. From Twitter campaigns, petitions to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino telling the Boston Herald he would work to block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in the city. “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population.” and this is where my interest peaked.
I am a Chic-fil-A fan. Not the food, in particular, but the service. I have worked in restaurants most of my life and they have a culture that I think many others should look to and follow when it comes to service. I honestly was bothered by the calls for boycotts and, death threats that went out against Dan Cathy. I mean I thought this was America, the place where we have freedom of speech or have I move somewhere else?
This weekend I was reading The Atlantic and came across an article from author and blogger Jonathan Merritt. I’m only going to give portions of it but he said in these few paragraphs what many were thinking.
Should they swear off the legendary chicken sandwiches to support gay rights? Or could they eat one of the filets anyway, knowing their dollars would be but a drop in the bucket for a chain that has more than $4 billion in annual sales and donated a pittance to groups they may disagree with?
I’d argue the latter — and this has nothing to do with my views on gay marriage. It’s because Chick-fil-A is a laudable organization on balance, and because I refuse to contribute to the ineffective boycott culture that’s springing up across America.
First of all, Chick-fil-A is not a hate group. In a statement released yesterday, company leaders made their commitment to equal service clear, “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
As a native Atlantan, I’ve dined at the chicken chain more than I’d like to admit over more than two decades and even interacted with its leadership team. I’ve never witnessed any customer refused service or even treated differently. On the contrary, Chick-fil-A is known for offering world-class customer service to each person that walks through one of the restaurant’s doors.
Additionally, the organization gives millions of dollars each year to charitable causes — and not just to “pro-family” groups. It funds a large foster care program, several schools of a higher learning, and a children’s camp. It has provided thousands of scholarships for Chick-fil-A employees to attend college and grow past the service sector where they got their workplace start. (On Friday, the company provided free meals for Aurora, Colo., policemen.)
And the company’s leaders claim to do all of this out of convictions rooted in the Christian faith. Anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of the company should know that it does not hide its commitment to biblical values. Its corporate statement of purpose since 1982 has begun, “To glorify God…”
Given this, that anyone was surprised by Cathy’s statements is, well, surprising. Like many conservative Christians, he does not support gay marriage.
I’m flummoxed that so many consumers are so quick these days to call for boycotts of any company that deviates from their personal or political views. For one thing, boycotts rarely cause actual pocketbook – rather than PR — damage. Most consumers don’t care enough to drive an extra mile to get the same product from someone else. And that’s especially the case for companies as large as Chick-fil-A, which has prime locations on many college campuses where there is little head-to-head competition.
But my bigger question is this: In a nation that’s as divided as ours is, do we really want our commercial lives and our political lives to be so wholly intermeshed? And is this really the kind of culture we want to create? Culture war boycotts cut both ways and are much more likely to meet with success when prosecuted by large groups of people, such as Christian activists, who are more numerous than gays and lesbians and their more activist supporters.
Gay and lesbian groups were famously rankled when pro-family activists reacted against Kraft for posting a photo of an Oreo cookie with rainbow-hued filling last month in honor of Gay Pride Month, and also when similar groups protested JCPenney for announcing lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres would be its next spokesperson.
So should the 45 percent of Americans who oppose gay marriage opt for Chips Ahoy! instead of Oreos? Should they begin shopping at Belk instead of JC Penny? If they did, it wouldn’t make any more sense than the endless failed calls for liberal consumers to boycott Urban Outfitters, because its owner is a conservative and Rick Santorum donor, or to not order from Domino’s Pizza, because it was founded by a Catholic conservative who helped fund anti-abortion causes.
Please read the rest of the article here The Atlantic and please let me know your thoughts on the subject.
Will you boycott Chic-fil-A or will you eat more chiken? Why?
**Once again I’m out of the office for another week but I wanted to provide you with some food for though by a good friend of mine named Pastor Brad Mann. I had the privilege of working Pastor Brad in my time at Westside Family Church as he serves as their Speedway Campus Pastor. He is an amazing man and I really hope that you enjoy what he has to say to you today.**
If you are like me you wonder why you have to endure times of struggle or strife? I mean, life should be easier as a Christ follower, right? Do you ever wonder why sometimes God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers the way you thought He should? I’ve been asking these questions a lot lately. Although, I am a firm believer that God has a purpose for every situation or circumstance and that He does answer every prayer we pray, I still wonder what in the world He is thinking most of the time!
Six years ago at the age of 28 I was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Not only was this a major surprise, the timing seemed way off to me. I had just been called into my first full-time ministry position and my wife was 6 months pregnant with our son. I mean, how could God allow this to happen? He knew that I had work to do. He knew I had a pregnant wife to care for, a little boy that was going to need a “daddy”, let alone ministry duties that needed to be tended to. What was He thinking? What was He trying to do?
Then, I recalled praying a dangerous prayer years and even months before the trial. It was a prayer, I prayed often. It was simply, “God, make me more like you. Make it less about me and more about you.” Not a bad prayer, right? You’d think with Him being God that He could just choose say the words and it would be done, right? Well, He could…but, He chose not to do that with me. He chose to use the struggle of that time to change my heart and give me a better perspective of the life He had given me. How could God change someone’s heart for the better in the midst of suffering? It’s a mystery to me, but He most certainly does. I’m reminded of what Job said in his Old Testament writings. One of my favorite verses is found in Chapter 23, verse 10 where Job says, “But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Gold? Gold is a good thing right? Gold is desirable and valuable, isn’t it? In my study of this passage of scripture, I also decided to research gold. Gold is one of the world’s finest resources and has one of the greatest values of all elements. When it is found raw, it does not have much value due to it’s impurities. However, when the goldsmith gets a hold of it, he puts it over an intense fire in order to draw out the impurities. This is known as the refining process. The key thing for the goldsmith to remember is to only keep the gold over the fire until he can see his reflection in the element. It is only after the refining process that the gold has its greatest value due to having the . I think this may be what Job was trying to say in his writings. In order for our lives to have the greatest value for His Kingdom, He has to draw out the impurities or sin in our lives.
Why does it have to work this way? I have no clue! I may never understand this side of heaven because my ways and my thoughts are not like His (Isaiah 55:9). However, I can experience a peace in the midst of any “fire” when I am truly resting in His promises for my life. Even as I write this, I am enduring yet another “fire”. Several months ago I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and will undergo chemotherapy treatments to try and rid my body of a disease. There have been times of confusion, uncertainty, anxiety and every other emotion that comes with a diagnosis like cancer. However, my faith remains in Him who is more than able to take care of my every need. My trust is in the one who has given me a peace that goes way beyond my understanding (Philippians 4:7).
I continue to rest in the promises He has revealed to me through this recent “fire”, but I also draw hope in what the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter Chapter 4 as he spoke about our sufferings here on this earth. In verses 1 and 2 he says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” My prayer is that this “fire” and every other “fire” I have to endure from here on out will burn away the “Me” so that He can be more clearly seen.
Well if you have not figured it out by my silence lately I have been overly pre-occupied with moving our family to Jefferson City. I have had many thoughts and ideas that I would love to share with you but I just don’t have the time to write them down but I have asked a friend of mine named Coleman Barbour. Coleman was a classmate of mine at Midwestern and a former co worker at Westside Family Church. Over the years Coleman and I have grown close and I have had the chance to see him grow into a man of God that honors God and his family. I pray you learn from him as I have over these last few years.
So recently I heard the kingdom of God compared to medieval earthly kingdoms and my mind went wild. See I am somewhat of sci-fi and fantasy geek so I was immediately lost to everything else that was said in that sermon, but I still think it was a good thing. As I began to flesh out the analogy in my mind I realized how deep and complex it is. After a while I realized that it didn’t stop and that it wasn’t really an analogy. God has chosen to reveal himself to us as King since the beginning.
In Genesis He sets himself up as king of the universe by speaking it into existence. The same way that a king says that a man will live or die, God says to the universe to exist or not exist. At the root of this idea is rule and power. God refers to Himself as the rejected king of Israel in I Samuel. I think that the idea of a king is something that we in the USA don’t really get, but imagine you are in a medieval style kingdom. In a kingdom model, people give allegiance to a king. Well imagine a kingdom full of usurpers. Everyone committed treason to the throne. See, a good king would normally sentence all the rebels to death and/or exile. So that is just what happened. Now imagine that this king, being good pursued you as a rebel, sentenced to death. His knights come riding on horses and you can only hide in shadows, stealing for your own survival from the king. You run and hide, but they catch you in an open field. You are taken to the castle and hanging from the wall is the corpse of the prince. You know the king is in an outrage at the death of his son. They throw you at the feet of the king and he draws his sword. He raises it to strike and you know it’s over when you feel the cold kiss of metal on you neck. Then, you feel it on the other side. “Rise” says the good king. You rise and he calls you a knight. He gives you lands and even more so he calls you child. “How?” you ask. You find out that your debt has been paid by another one’s death; the death of the Prince. You now have life and a royal inheritance. And all this because the Prince died in your place.
The stories are all true. The king is mighty and awful, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good. So given the two choices, inheritance or banishment, which do you choose? Where does your allegiance lie? Do you go willingly to the good and mighty king or do you live in fear and run from him forever? It’s all about where your allegiance lies.