Too Many Hoops to Jump Through: Pre-Marital Counseling, Ellen, and Gay Dudes

by ShaunKing on November 14, 2009 · 84 comments


(My thoughts below are a work in progress and I am hoping they will spark a warm, tough, loving conversation.)

I love Courageous Church.  The people I pastor are a total mess. I mean that in a loving way :-)

I need them.  They need me.  We need each other.  In so many ways this is just the church that I imagined pastoring.

Alcoholics. Porn Watchers. Gay. Oversexed.  Shopaholics.  Addicts.  Educated. Uneducated. Churched. Un-churched.  Married. Divorced. Single.


As I prepare to begin pre-marital counseling with several couples in our church (can’t wait) I noticed how many churches absolutely will not marry men or women if they are living together.  If you are living together, they ask that you move out for up to six months first.

Forgive me if I sound unholy, but I found this to be a bit preposterous.  Imagine this…

John & Jane didn’t grow up in church. Unsaved.  They have lived together for ten years.  They have three kids and love each other and the kids a great deal.  They come into a relationship with God and the church and decide they want and need to get married.  You are telling me that Dad needs to move out of the house before the church will marry them?

I kind of catch the logic, but I just think it is one too many hoops to jump through.

In fact, I think that all of the hoops that we make people jump through in the church are a major problem!  I’m not saying that we lower our standard or quit asking people to leave some things behind to follow God, but I think we are getting pretty carried away.

Daytime Emmy Awards ShowI was watching Ellen Degeneres (and her wife) on the Oprah Show recently.  VERY INTERESTING.  Ellen clearly is not a Christian based on her comments on the show.  The thing is – most churches I know would not welcome Ellen or her wife there. Period.

But is this right? Doesn’t Ellen have 1001 other things to learn about how to be a great Christian?  I think so, but in order for Ellen to learn anything about grace, forgiveness, or generosity from a Christian perspective she must first change?  I’m not sure that’s the right order of things.

For years I have told folk that you don’t get your life together and then come to church, but you come to church and then get your life together.  Does this just apply for certain sinners?

Courageous Church is in Midtown Atlanta – the gayest part of our city.  We have a few gay dudes that have started to attend.  Do they have to stop being gay before they serve as an usher? Sing a song? Play an instrument?

How about join a small group?  Attend Sunday service?  How about attend a class for couples?

Here’s my point – I understand a hoop here and there, but I am afraid our hoops are too arbitrary and too plentiful.

After all, Jesus said in Matthew 11:28  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

What do you think?  Let’s talk this out! What hoops that I discuss above are right or wrong?  How do we choose the hoops? Why have them?

  • Deneen

    Wow, Shaun. Reading this post makes me want to move to Atlanta and become a part of your church. No joke.

    I'm a Christian…have been for the bulk of my life. The church drives me absolutely insane with all of the requirements. I've asked more than one pastor if they can show me, in the Bible, where the requirements that they are putting upon me and other are, and it usually ends with them frustrated with me and me frustrated with them.

    Jesus didn't come for the well but for the sick. I know that eventually the sick have to want to become well, but that won't happen if they feel judged for how they walk into the sanctuary.

    Thank you for this post!

  • EducationCEO

    HEY Shaun, (1 of 2)

    I saw your initial comment in Twitter and was waiting for you to post to see what you read! You, MY MAN, are a exemplary example of a Christian. You know HOW we are supposed to live our lives, but you DO NOT condemn those who are not living the way GOD meant. Likewise, the doors to your church are always open to EVERYONE! I love that about YOU! Courageous is so lucky to have you. Midtown is lucky to have you. Just imagine how many more 'messed-up' people (I mean that in a good way) would go to church and develop a relationship with GOD if other pastors were as open as you? I was actually watching The View one day last week ( a day I decided NOT to go back to sleep after putting the kids on the bus) and Joel Osteen was on there. I know a lot of people do not like him but he is such a positive person and every time I see him smile, I feel better and more positive. He has that affect on me…call me crazy!

  • EducationCEO

    2 of 2

    Anyway, the ladies asked him about homosexuality and I think his response caught them off guard. I am sure they were expecting him to start preaching and bashing homosexuality but he did not. He simply stated that he knows what the bible says about it and it is not according to GOD's plan, but he has friends who are homosexuals and he still loves them and welcomes them into the church! WHEW! Them worldly, non-believers could not understand his answer! I was laughing because they just thought they could bait him but he didn't fall for it. One of them (Joy) also couldn't understand the concept of 'faith' but that's a whole nother post! I look at it this way: I know people who are homosexual and I have family members who are but I still ove them and I won't turn my back on them because I am not supposed to..I know that's somewhere in the bible too!

    Again, thank you for being honest, open, and welcoming to everyone


  • Randy

    I think all should be allowed to come to church! But what do you do with Paul's passage in 1 Cor 6 as it relates to condoning sin? what does he mean "a little leven levens the whole lump? We have to create an environment where they are welcome without giving them the idea that any of us can be right with God while continuing to live a life of sin (see 1 Jhn 3). Would you allow a couple in your church who was actively and openly having an affair sing a song or play an instrument? It seems everyone runs to extremes. Either harsh condemnation or a live and let live attitude. I don't believe either of those reflects a "Jesus heart" however noble we try to make it. Jesus told the women caught in adultery without condemning her to go and stop living in sin!

  • Danni

    Pastor Shaun,
    This post has come at an excellent time. I am working on a paper/presentation concerning the Biblical ethics behind gay marriages, and I am wrestling with my beliefs and that of other "christians." When I typed up my entrance essay into graduate school, they asked up to speak on something that weighed heavily on our hearts (an area in which we want to focus in our own ministry). Without hesitation I wrote about homosexuality in the church. I am SICK and TIRED of churches turning men and woman away because they are "openly sinning" as a homosexual. Let me tell you something, I openly sin EVERYDAY. On purpose? Not usually, but I do: It's inevitable. But, because I am attracted to men I am allowed within the confines of most (if not all) churches. I disagree with these practices.

    I feel for my gay brother's and sisters. I know what the Bible says about homosexuality; I also know what it says about lying, stealing, pornography, and pre-marital sex. However, the people practicing the latter walk through church doors on a daily basis; they serve on the board, the worship team, and as small group leaders. It hurts me to think that this privilege might not be offered to someone who is a homosexual. I am aware of the arguments that the church expresses concerning their reasons for preventing leadership roles, and a part of me understand that. However, WHO AM I to turn someone away from serving the Lord? At the end of the day, so FEW people are stepping up to serve; why would I turn someone away because of their sexual preference?

    If there is one thing I know, it's that homosexual men and women NEED to be in church (just like me). Not to be chastised and preached to about their wrong-doing and sin (they can read about that in the Word) but to be a part of the BODY that Christ commanded us to form. What is a homosexual man or woman is the key to unlocking a problem in a particular church? What is that person is the exact person God sent to do a job no one else could do? I turn them away because they're gay? No thank you! Also, if you look back on all the people God used in the Bible (Old and New Testament) each of them had a flaw (or several), sinned (usually multiple accounts of it), and was imperfect.

    My dream for the church I one day will pastor is to welcome ALL people who WANT to be there. When I meet God, I refuse to pay for turning anyone away from the Lord that I could have welcomed with open arms.

    My question to others who read this: where in the Word does it say that homosexuality is worse than ALL other sin? I know some variation of this exists, don't know the verse though. If you find it or know it, please enlighten me.

  • Daniel

    Great post sir. I feel like the church has focused more on teaching us how to be good Christians rather than teaching us how to be more like Christ. Crazy concept right?!?! At one point at the church that I am currently a member relieved me of my serving duties because I was in a living situation with one room mate who was female. A female in which I had no attraction to, a female whose relationship was strictly business and platonic. Needless to say, according to them you had to basically be perfect in order to serve. I feel like its pretty silly, but rules are rules right?

    I guess the whole mess behind all of this are their interpretations of the "stumbling block" (1 cor 8:9) and "above reproach" (Titus verses 4-7) scriptures. I am all for being above reproach and not causing my brother to stumble, but perfection?… Let's be real. We are all human, full of flesh and full of imperfection… but that's neither here nor there.

    To answer your original question about hoops. I feel like order is definitely needed. I feel that the bible sets the stage for what hoops need to be in place for us to be Christ-like and serve as he did… i.e. belief/ salvation, a heart for service, faith, and dying to your flesh daily. I mean, I know it may not be THAT simple (for most), but I feel like these are the bare necessities to be a Christian. Can you be gay and serve Christ? In reality you can profess it, but you need to be making some changes in the direction of deliverance. I guess that what it all comes down to for me.

  • Carl Thomas

    I guess you have to define "gay." Are we talking about someone battling same sex attraction? I say come serve God while you work it out. You talking about someone living with someone they are not married to (gay or straight)? Then: Do they have to stop being gay before they serve as an usher? YES Sing a song? YES Play an instrument? YES How about join a small group? NO Attend Sunday service? NO How about attend a class for couples? Not with your gay mate.

  • brian

    Don't compromise God's Word. Its really all you have. I am a believer, not a debater…intellectuallism is not the way folks. These are the last of the last days- Be careful of churches that compromise.

  • Gloria

    If we are going to adhere to the rule that if they confess their sin or if you become aware of the sin then they can not serve in certain ministries then if we take this argument to the logical conclusion that means that once the church finds out that you are a lier, gossiper, slander, are envious, then you can not serve and you must be removed from your position. But we know that is not how most churches work. We will overlook some sins for the sake of expediency and will declare that others are the worst or big sins. Don't get me wrong , I believe there must be some standards for service and some positions may require a higher standard. There is currently more of a problem with adultery and divorce in the church today than the "BIG" sins we like to focus on. I don't see any one sitting half of the congregation down because of their sin, Pastor Shaun I praise God for your wisdom and insight.

  • Harriet Bradley

    Hi Shaun,
    You addressed some key issues that the church must face. If we are telling people to get married and we won't marry a couple that has been living together how can they get married? I believe that there needs to be a counseling session or two but to say I believe that we ministers need to marry them!
    Concerning gays attending and working in the church. The Word of God and the Spirit of God is going to either draw you or drive you. A person that is in the gay lifestyle will not be able to stay in a church without the Holy Spirit causing urging them to make the change. I believe that a person that is in the gay lifestyle should sit under the word but shouldn't be allowed to usher or sing or go out and witness. By allowing them to participate in the structure of the church, it is saying that their lifestyle is ok.

  • Danni

    Question: is the church’s problem with homosexuality simply that it’s wrong or that most people who define themselves as gay don’t think that it’s wrong? Is the problem that they aren’t willing to change and turn away from their sin OR is the problem what they are physically doing?

    I am interested in hearing people’s oppinion on this.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve read this post about five times to make sure I understood the obvious and underlying questions being addressed before I commented…

    It’s not the pastor or the congregation’s job to provide a PHYSICAL CHALLENGE for people who sin (i.e. move out, eat paste, stick a crayon up your nose, etc.). God has already said that it’s practically impossible to get into Heaven, which is why we ALL need Him. Why do we feel like adding hoops to it helps?? Answer: It doesn’t…

    It is arrogant to assume that God needs OUR help to reduce sin emissions or create sin prevention programs. It must be made known to everyone that they have and always will have A CHOICE to do what God has defined as pleasing to Him. At the same time, God’s people have A CHOICE when they unilaterally decide to increase the difficulty for someone else to find/know/love God by asking them to walk to Brooklyn and bring back a sugar cookie…

    Making those who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God accountable for what He expects of us is all that is required. At that point everyone has a choice to either live a life to love God or just to live until life ends.

    We should really stop appending our thoughts to God’s word…

  • think about it

    The image of the Lord has been replaced with by a mirror…

  • Kemberly

    I certainly don't know how to begin to answer to these questions. However, I posted this quote from a T.D. Jakes book that I'm reading "Before You Do" on my facebook about a week or so ago, because this is one of a few real definitions of what I feel a church should be:

    "Church is not a museum for perfect people, but rather a hospital where injured souls unite to recover.

    I think it applies to the "hoops" mention here.

  • Randy

    As I read through the posts I'm struck by the fact that few if any referred to any scripture at all…only opinion.

  • James

    Romans Chapters 1 and 2 disagrees with you. Paul said those who practice such things…not identify themselves as.

  • DARE-2-DV-8

    This is so true because I believe that those who are not in the faith might have a false assumption that it is ok to be gay… God's word is not an either/or situation, It is what it is. Long before the world became infiltrated with homosexuality, God had already addressed it in the word. It is not something new, homosexuality isn't and neither is adultery or any other related sin. We must stop making justifications to what has been wirtten in the word

  • Josh

    Shaun, I (mostly) agree. And so does the Bible.

    Acts 15: 19"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

    The Council at Jerusalem determined the church leaders should not make it difficult for the new believers to turn to God. Why should we?

  • Kyle Reed

    Good thing we do not have to jump through any hoops to receive grace from Jesus. We would be in some trouble.

    My Dad has married some people that have lived together and obviously were not married. The stories he tells me about how they have went to several churches trying to get married and have been turned away as well as passed judgment on is amazing.

    It seems that we like to put conditions on things because we are afraid. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we have misconceptions about how things are going to turn out and fear runs our decisions. For example: what if someone finds out I married a couple that was living together and were having pre-marital sex? Will they start to doubt my teaching and guidance and say that I was condoning something that I said was wrong? Or what if I allow gay people to serve? Am I telling others that it is ok to be gay?

    There seems to be a great fear about what others think, when in all reality it is only about what God says and judges.

  • Clare

    I stayed away from church for years because I thought I had to "fix" myself before I was worthy to go back. I'm so glad I had friends who helped me see that I couldn't fix myself without going back to church.

  • Sinead Roy

    A couple of years ago,we had several families join the church who were living common-law with children. Some were back-slidden Christians, others were first-timers. After a few weeks in church, most of them came forward and expressed the desire to be married. How did we handle it?

    1. We offered to "marry" them on the spot..or within a few days at least. This took place often in our kitchen, or in the local coffee shop. Marriage before God is a spiritual convenant. The Bible does not reguire a legal sanction for a covenant between God and man to be binding. However, God would take it very seriously if man took it lightly because it is not "legal"

    2. Once the couples were bound together before God, we took the steps to make it legal. We understand that God is not impressed with receptions, dresses, flowers and the likes…but family often is, especially unsaved family. No-cost weddings were provided. All the musicians and ministered provided their services free of charge. The reception was either held at a local restaurant where everyone paid for their own plate, or in cases where that was too expensive, the whole comgregation got together and brought food to share at the church for the newly weds and their guests. At the "offical" and legal ceremony, we explained to the congregation that this was the second "wedding" and how the first wedding took place, thereby exonorating the couple from the accusation of "living in sin" before their legal marriage.

  • Jimmy


    Thanks for raising these questions. I have asked why some churches refuse to marry persons who are living together. It seems antithetical to scripture. Why would a church discourage marrying and encourage, essentially, continuing to live in sin? What about the people the church marries and are essentially doing the same things as those who are living together? Practically, it doesn't make sense. Or is the church more worried about outward appearance than true spiritual growth?

    In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul writes simply, "It is better to marry than to burn with passion." 1 Cor. 7;9. Here, he seemed to be answering a question regarding what behavior is correct for unmarried persons. First, Paul advocated that persons who can control themselves (assuming sexually) should remain unmarried. However, those who could not, should marry as opposed to "burn[ing] with [or because of unchecked lust or] passion."

  • Sinead Roy

    The second issue is a little more complex. I believe the real issue at heart here is not, do we distinguish homosexuality as a "worse" sin than others, but rather, what is our attitude to the authority of the Word in general, and to those, especailly in a leadership position, who recognise sin as sin, and refuse to repent. It really does not matter if the sin is lying, stealing or sex. All of us sin, and will continuie to do so as long as we remain in this body, but what is our attitude? Is it something we grieve over, and ask God to deliver us from, or is it a case of "well, everyone sins, and this is just my sin". I don't believe that the Word sanctions us to allow anyone to be in a leadership position who is unwilling to at least proclaim their desire for Jesus to be Lord in every area of their life. There is a difference between loving those who fall, and even those who are ignorant of their fall, and placing those people in leadership positions

  • Jimmy_C


    As usual there are topics you think and work through that catch my interest. This one is very timely not only to Courageous Church, but the USAmerican church in total. For over 20yrs I have thought about, prayed over, struggled with and stumbled over this topic. I have made bad decisions in the past and still have seen and experienced God's grace/mercy/love for me and the people I am trekking with. Here is where I am today: there is only one hoop…"I am the way, the truth and the life. No man(woman, boy, girl, gay, straight, druggie, shack job) comes to the Father except through me." I want folks to jump through that hoop and experience extraordinary life.

  • shaunking

    Haha! Thanks Deneen! I am fine with churches holding people to standards found in the Bible, but we too often have double standards or impose standards that I just don't get.

  • shaunking

    RIGHT! One or two key hoops make sense, but we take it to a whole nutha level!

  • shaunking

    I see the distinction Sinead! So, if someone has a secret sin and we don't know about it…that's not really our fault as leaders, right?

  • shaunking

    My wife and I read that same passage when talking about this topic man. Essential.

  • shaunking

    I LOVE THIS Sinead. I will really think about that way of doing things.

  • shaunking

    We must do everything we can to make sure that everyone knows they are welcome to come be a part of our family. After welcoming them and loving them, we can then begin to encourage and empower people to grow.

  • shaunking

    Kyle – I am afraid you are right man. Many pastors and leaders are very much driven to do what they think will please the most people. I understand this fear and think all of us have it to a degree, but it cannot guide our most urgent decisions.

  • shaunking

    Thanks for sharing that passage Josh. That really helps me.

  • shaunking

    Hey Randy…thanks for that prompt. Read many of the posts below. Some good passages.

  • shaunking

    Thanks Kem! Great thought.

  • shaunking

    Great questions Danni. Probably all of the above IMO.

  • shaunking

    Thanks Gloria. I love your perspective on this.

  • shaunking

    Hey Brian – I agree with you. I would love your thoughts on some of the questions I asked in the post.

  • shaunking

    Hey Dare,

    I would love your thoughts on some of the questions I asked in the post.

  • Legal Eagle

    I think you may be too liberal ( I say that lovingly). Your illustration about living together before marriage is why the United States (and other countries) developed the "common law" (law developed from past court decisions). People realize that laws/statutes are not adaptable to every situation. And creating a statute with 5,000 exceptions is more confusing than it is helpful. So the law is: you cannot commit murder. But what if the person breaks into your home? What if you think they are going to kill you? What about if you think they are going to kill a family member? What if you thought they were going to kill you but they didnt have a weapon?

    Nevertheless, although we realize that there are exceptions to every law, we dont throw out the law in its entirety. Similarly, I wouldnt throw out the rule prohibiting couples from living together before marriage. Of course, there will be times where this rule would cause more bondage than liberation. In those cases, like the self defense points above, you use discretion (like judges do). After all, I imagine the spirit of the rule is intended to help couples go into marriage free of fornication.

    As to the question about ushering, choir, etc for people in violation of God's commandments, I am split. I come at it differently than you but we may reach the same conclusion. I dont think that if one is struggling with some type of addiction that taking a leadership role in the church is the best example. In my mind, it would almost give me the impression that it's ok (imagine the choir director a known Coke addict). That's why you, the pastor, must have the utmost character.

    The reason I dont know what the proper answer is based on the sneakiness of sin. For instance, a woman who is pregnant out of wedlock might be banned from the choir because we see the manifestation of her sin (big belly) but the dude who impregnated her is lead usher. That doesnt seem like a fair outcome.

    That said, there can be an idea that once you ferret out the person who isnt setting a good example then they are removed from leadership. So if you find out that the unmarried, male choir director is sleeping with women (or men) then they are removed.

  • shaunking

    Let me push you just a bit Carl. Why should an actively gay person not sing a song in church? Did David only sing songs to God when everything was right?

  • shaunking

    Loved your balanced thoughts on this Daniel!

  • shaunking

    Hey Randy,

    Great thoughts man. Are you saying that allowing people to function in the church that are "sinning" condones it?

  • shaunking

    Thank you so much for your comment sis! My wife and I love Joel too.

  • Kyle Reed

    Totally agree.
    Fear is a very dangerous thing that can control even the strongest man. Look at King Saul.

    I have got an idea that I am working on that I think your church would be really interested in. I would love to chat with you about it sometime if you are available.

  • shaunking

    Great thoughts man! What makes you think I am liberal? I am a pretty moderate dude. I own guns. Against abortion. I am also against the death penalty and believe in global warming though.

  • Dona

    It is absolutely true that WHOSOEVER may come to Jesus for salvation with out fear of rejection. That is our example. EVERYONE should be welcomed and encouraged to come to church/ Jesus, and expect to be received with love.

    Beyond that, there are many principles that are to be considered regarding the many questions you pose. What you might call hoops, I might call biblical standards for God's church, God's way. In regards to marrying those who are living together. What does God say in regards to marriage? What is the message you want to send to the children in that relationship? God is a God of second, third, etc. chances, but for those who truly seek to honor Him, can the effort be made to demonstrate that God's way is best? Is a short time of separation too much to ask? ( this hits home– I understand the difficulty of this practically speaking).

    As for leadership positions, you have only to read I Tim.3 to see that God has definite standards for "those up in front."

    Everyone can serve God from where ever they are in their journey. They can share what Jesus has done for them, serve others, etc. Do we always need a title, or office? With the title comes some hoops, I think. Yes, love everyone, invite everyone, accept everyone., But God does expect purity of the church (as body of Christ). In the pursuit of purity, some choices and changes are usually needed by everyone. We are all in this together as we encourage one another in the Lord. We can do this in a non-judgmental way as we remember that we are all just sinners saved by His amazing grace.

  • Dan S

    I pastor a church in San Diego. Just last week we had a gay couple attend for the first time and after the service they asked if they can serve as greeters this coming weekend. Greeters is one of the 1st level service teams we have, meaning that most anyone, if they can smile and eat a breath mint can be a greeter.

    I am struggling a bit with this issue. It's not because they have sin in their life… these people are brand new to church… it's more because they find their identity in their sin. They introduced themselves as "Sally & my wife Suzie" (not real names). For me, that is one thing that makes it hard to deal with homosexuals in the church. It's not that their sin is any worse than other sin. It's just that most people who have sin in their life, don't find their identity in that sin. They don't embrace it as who they are.

    I don't want them introducing themselves to attenders & guests as wife and wife… I also wouldn't want an alcoholic introducing himself as Jim Beam or Jack Daniels.

    Ultimately I want to see them set free from the bondage of sin just like I want to see the liar, the gossip, the alcoholic, the abuser and the addict be set free.

  • Legal Eagle

    That was a leap that I made, in calling you liberal. Conservatives believe in "conserving" the status quo. As such, they usually dont embrace ideas of change– such as expanding the tent. Whereas, since I have known you for almost a decade, I always associate you with being inclusive. You are always trying to make people feel welcome, which I associate with liberals. But, it is true, the opposite of conservative is not necessarily liberal.

    But with all labels there is imprecision. I myself am liberal but I dont believe in abortion, taking prayer out of school, legalizing marijuana, etc.

  • Jay

    We shouldn't be so arrogant as to believe what we think actually matters. The question is:

    "What does the Bible say?"

    That's where it begins and ends. Now, with these questions still comes context. Let's look at the issue of a person being gay. I have spoken with people who are in the clinical field and said there are people who are gay and saved. The one person I spoke to is a psychologist and said that some people will have their homosexuality buried so deep within their psychosis that they will never completely not be gay and won't until they receive their glorified body upon going to heaven.

    Should a church keep a person such as this from serving in a ministry? Of course not.

    But now what about the gay person who continues to flaunt their behavior and openly continues in relationship with somebody of the same sex? Well now we're getting into a different example. The bible says in 1 John 2:15-16:

    "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world."

    This could apply to anything, not just homosexuality. If you're engaged in sin, the Spirit is going to convict you. If you're not convicted or if you're of the mindset that your sin is "no big deal" then you have some serious soul-searching to do.

    Does this mean churches should have these standard arbitrary tests to determine whether or not somebody is worthy of being part of a ministry? No. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We're all not going to have a conversion like Paul where we're suddenly transformed (though it does happen). However, if that sin is ongoing and it's common knowledge, then church leaders at some point have to step in and take action. We had a person in our church praise team that has a substance abuse problem. There were times he fell off the wagon and after cleaning up was welcomed back to the team. But finally it happened one too many times and he was told he would have to step out of that ministry and that it would be some time before he was allowed to serve in a ministry again.

    It's all not black and white.

  • P.T. Ngwolo

    Sean, the question, I would have is, what does it take for MEMBERSHIP in your church (not attendance)?

  • Karsten

    Tough questions that you've raised, Pastor. On one hand, Christ freely accepts all who come to Him; Salvation is not for the perfect, but for the imperfect.

    On the other hand, one of the marks of every good leader is accountability. If I'm a habitual curser and I find no sin in it, should I function as a worship leader? What message does that give to the people? If I drink daily to get drunk and find no sin in it, should I be head of the deacons? If I'm openly cheat on my wife, and see no sin in it, should I pastor God's people?

    I think a big difference is people who sin, are being convicted of it, and praying/working to get out of the sin, and then those who sin and find no fault in it. That could mean that they are not truly under the guidance of the Spirit, for whom God loves, He chastens. When you assign people to be leaders, you're laying a great responsibility on then.

  • Carl Thomas

    Well, I say if the Prophet of Israel pours a flask of oil on the head of one of your singers and declares them king or queen (no pun intended) of Israel, then they slay the giant that has the whole army at bay, let them be on the worship team till Jesus returns. Short of that there is going to have to be some standard on who gets to minister.

    At The Mission, everyone who sings is ministering. I expect that person to be minister with clean hands and a pure heart. In other churches, singing a song is just singing a song. And with that in mind there may be lower requirements on who can sing. But I would rather a person with a clean heart before God then a person with an amazing voice who is rejecting the conviction of the Holy Ghost.

    A big part of our message is that through Christ, you can have power over habitual sin. Lots of folks in my church walked away from church as children because they said that so many of the ministers were hypocrites. For me, this would be hypocritical.

    And again, I am talking, not about the person dealing with same sex attraction, but the person who has identified themselves as gay. I would not allow a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a man who beat his wife, or a pornographer, or even a bartender.

    We had a girl as our greeter last week that was standing at the door handing out bulletins wearing her Bob Marley t-shirt. It made every religious bone in me quake but I was not going to stop her because I know she is going after God. But before I put her on stage she has to get a revelation the offense that might cause.

    I would not tell her to change to be religious, but there is a maturity in Christ that I require before I make someone a minister.

    Do you mind a little push back? Would you allow a guy to lead a song while sporting his brand new aryan brotherhood t-shirt? I wouldn't.

  • Britni

    There is nothing wrong with a sinner of any matter entering the church, what we have to realize is that we as Christians, Children Of Christ, those who hold positions in the church can not and should not compromise with anything that denounce the Word of God. There is a difference in a homosexual person who enters the church and realizes that their lifestyle is not acceptable to God’s standards and that he or she truly wants to change their life and repents for their sins and asks for guidance. However it is not acceptable in the eyes of God to accept the sin and tell them that this is acceptable in God’s eyes. This goes for the alcoholics, drug addicts and prostitutes, liars, cheaters etc.. Compromising the Word of God in essence is a sin, are we ashamed to speak the TRUTH of the gospel? The word speaks "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38).
    We as Christians are willing to jump through hoops for jobs, careers, society, people and for worldly possessions but yet we can’t do this for the one who gave us life, who died on the cross for our sins. Its not jumping through hoops, its living a holy and righteous life according to the Word of God.
    Is so easy for Christians to get “religious” with the relationship that we should have with God. We twist the Word of God to make it “easy” to live in sin, to not make us feel bad or hurt our feelings. Don’t make excuses for your sins people of God, if you have done wrong in the eye sight of God repent and ask for forgiveness not compromise the word to fit your sin. Tell me anywhere in the Word of God does it say to compromise with sin? I am not the perfect Christian, however I am not FAKE either. I accept my wrong doings and convictions when I have done wrong according to the Word of God. We compromise the Word of God the for the acceptance of the world. Matthew 16:26- And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? This goes for the believers of Christ also. We as Christians have to get back being Christ Minded and not having the mind, logic or ideals of society or of our own opinions and beliefs but we should carry the beliefs and values of God and God alone, and this is something we are losing in our churches and among Christians today.

    I was studying two scriptures that would sum up what I am trying to get across through the Word of God, but not my own.

    2 Timothy 3:14-17 (New Living Translation)
    14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

    Romans 6:23
    23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

    And there is NO getting around this people of God!

    Be Blessed!

  • Jay

    This is certainly from the 21st century church. This type of grace and mercy talk breaks all traditional order, it raises the pharisees eye brows!!! I think what have done is we have forgotten where we have come from, and the gracee it took for us to get here.
    I am an elder in my church. God has opened so many doors for my ministry. He has anointed me to be a prophetic voice for my generation. I am happily married and blessed with two beautiful girls. Would not trade my life for anyone. But before I got here i fought through homosexuality, low self esteem, anger, resentment. I fought through a broken home, forcing me to grow up fast to help my mom. What God me free is a little baptist church that loved the hell out of me. That did not turn me away hbecause of my sassy ways. I directed a 50 youth choir. God's hand took a 20 voice group and used me to raise it up to be one the most asked for groups in our city. I was leading and still struggling! When that broke inside me, I wasnt even aware of it. I knew my appetite for old sin changed. My attire changed, expressions were different. My friends were changing. This blog is a true, and I am the testimony! Thank you.

  • Ashon

    The message of salvation is for the world. So we should welcome all to attend services and of course small support groups for set up to help us deal with specific issues and sins.

    I'm not opposed to having shacked up couples separate for a time before marriage, especially those that don't have children. I say separate and abstain from sexual activity. As someone who was sexually active before marriage, I know how sexual pleasure is powerful and can cloud judgement. For couples with children, marry them on the spot and take care of the counseling and legal stuff later, or separate (and abstain from sex) to marry after a period of time — whichever is more practical. In either case, put an end the sinful situation.

  • Ashon

    As for a man and woman that are just roommates, but not involved in a romantic or sexual relationship, I don't think they should be disqualified but encourged to exit that situation as soon as possible. The Bible doesn't say explicitly that a man and woman can't live together in this situation. However, the Word says that we should avoid even the appearance of sin (2 Thes. 5:22).

  • Ashon

    As far as leadership, the Bible is very clear about the standards of leaders. I think that even those that sing in the choir, praise team, play an instrument, usher or greet, or serve on any committee should set the same standard for themselves, even if it is not biblically required. We should follow Jesus's example. He was very welcoming, but not compromising, with sinners. But, He often called leaders to the carpet on their hypocrisy, forcefully if needed. We should do the same. I also think the emphasis on sexual immorality reflects the emphasis on it in the Word. Not that it is worst than lying or gossiping in the eyes of God. It's just that sexual immorality affects us in a much deeper way than other sins don't. Sex involves the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. And we bear penalties of sexual sin in all those areas. I know from experience.

  • Ashon

    At any rate, the Word says Jesus the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 4:24-25). God's standards don't change just because society's standards change. And the meaning of His Word doesn't change based on our opinions of it (2 Peter 1:20). We are suppose to be the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13)– in other words we are suppose to preserve the standard of God, no matter how society changes and pressures the church to change. We can make people feel welcome while not compromising like Jesus did.

  • Ashon

    We can do that by being transparent about our struggles (even at the risk of being talked about negatively) and telling our own stories about how God saved us and continually shows mercy. We should also hold leaders accountable to the standard God set in His Word, just as Jesus did. If the don't meet God's standard for that office, they shouldn't be appointed in the first place. And after appointed, the should do like Paul and beat their bodies and make it their slave so that after they have preached to others, they themselves will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinth 9:27).

  • clythgoec

    What about the idea that homosexuality is not, indeed, a sin? Can anyone point to a specific passage in the Bible where homosexuality is directly condemned by God, rather than a culture? Does anyone have a fresh interpretation of the Bible? Check it out:
    * What do you think?*

  • shaunking

    Great question PT. Our church does not yet have membership. We are brand new and are working through this now. What do you think a church should require?

  • shaunking

    Wow Dan! Very tough situation. How are you going to handle it?

  • shaunking

    Thank you for sharing your story Jay. Let me ask you a question.

    In your opinion, how should a church work with men or women that may want to leave behind being gay?

  • Sinead Roy

    Obviously, we can't be responsible for sin in other people's lives. Only in our own. The challenge is…how do we deal with "leaders' whose "sins"…whatever they may be…are no longer secret. I can only say, that God never brings things to light unless he has a plan of restoration. That plan is often far greater than the one we might be trying to chart for ourselves. It is those who have fallen, and found restoration, that know how to restore others

  • Sinead Roy


  • Desiree

    Hey Pastor Shaun and everyone else :) So I've really taken the time to think and pray about this blog and my sentiment and stance on it all…and what I realized is that I couldnt write my concerns or thoughts on a comment page…it'd be entirely too much, so I wrote my response on my blog,and I'd love for ya to take a looksie when you get the chance at

    I appreciate you for making me think about the things that I stand for, and your teaching. You definitely accomplished what you said in the beginning about warm, tough loving conversation :) But it's great stuff though…

  • shaunking

    Amazing blog post Desiree. I really appreciate the time you took to think and pray things through. Hope to comment on your blog soon.

    So honored to have you a part of our community.

  • terry

    As a Christian homosexual in a committed relationship, I do not look at that label as a contradiction in terms. I do not consider my God given homosexual orientation as a sin, but know that I am a sinner each time I do not love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and my neighbor as Christ loves me. Although I appreciate the option of being welcomed in your church, I would not appreciate being considered a sinner for whom I have a loving committed relationship to.

  • nadine.w

    THANK YOU for your post. I agree with you completely!!!! There's a lot of traditional thinking on this and it's easy to quickly jump to an answer…often times based on comfort and tradition. I agree with you though: How can we impact the world if we're too afraid of their mess? (and as though we don't have our own mess already!) Jesus wasn't afraid of this…at all! Tthe church in Jesus' day got offended over and over at how Jesus related with those they thought to be unworthy! I think your post describes more of Jesus than the current church norms! Church/Christianity was never intended to look perfect…it's messy business! We're all on our salvation journey and for some reason we think it starts for us when we believe but it only starts for gay people when they change their actions. How is this consistent?
    P.S. I saw someone comment that you shouldn't compromise…but I don't think you are. I dare to question if they're the ones compromising God's Truth or a soul saved…with their perspective?!

  • Tracey Axnick

    Excellent post, Shaun. I love the fact that you never (NEVER!) shy away from the tough stuff. LOVE that!

    Bottom line: it's all about GRACE. We ALL need to remember that Jesus hung out at the "back of the line" with society's outcasts… I think we, as modern-day Christ-followers, have absolutely no right to exclude anyone (ANYONE) from seeking out Jesus' face, and seeking to know Him.

    It's all about grace.
    Not legalism.

  • Ronda

    Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. And then there's the destruction of Soddom and Gomorrah…

  • Ronda

    I don't think anyone's saying the salvation journey "only starts for gay people when they change their actions." They are say leadership should and I think people are confusing salvation with leadership in the church. You can be "on your salvation journey" without being the youth pastor or minister of music.

    At my church, if someone is openly gay and in a relationship with someone of the same sex, they would be welcomed into the church with open arms (in terms of attendance and membership) – but serving in a leadership position? I can't see our co-pastors going for that. If they acknowledged homosexuality is a sin and removed themselves from the relationship, but were still struggling with homosexual feelings/thoughts, that would be different. But not if they had an unrepentant "I don't think homosexuality is wrong regardless of what the bible says" attitude. But that's only the requirement for LEADERSHIP – not membership, not attendance. So I guess it depends on what the original question meant by "stop being gay."

  • Ronda

    Part II to above post –
    Same goes for other sins – there are people who are in the music ministry and other ministries at our church who have gone through different issues and are working on their issues (whether it was drug addiction, alcoholism, etc.) but for someone to say "I'm a drug addict, I'm not going to change, and I want to be in a leadership position" that wouldn't be okay.

    In regards to people living together and wanting to be married, I think the church should marry them immediately, and go through the pre/post marital counseling at the same time. It doesn't make sense to say "we require 10 pre-marital counseling sessions, which means it will be another 2 months before you can get married, so you need to move out." That's what I consider jumping through hoops. Putting time frames like a 6-month waiting period while you're not living together is definitely jumping through hoops.

  • Ronda

    This article is problematic for several reasons – first, it negates parts of the old testament on the basis of others not being followed. Pointing to other scriptures that are not followed does not make homosexuality acceptable. Second, it talks about homosexuality from the perspective of man's opinion, when in Leviticus it is clearly God condemning it. Third, 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10 ARE clear; they just don't support this author's position, which is why he wants to "put these texts to the side." Fourth, the bible doesn't make a distinction between "sexual orientation" and "sexual behavior." We're making distinctions where they shouldn't exist. Finally, the scriptures in 1 Corinthians and Luke 12 are talking about legal disputes (if you read them in context – i.e. the scriptures before and after the ones he picked out to prove his point). They're not talking about picking and choosing which of God's laws you want to follow based on what you think is right.

  • Ronda

    We can't keep trying to get around things on a technicality. Technically, God didn't tell Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he just told Adam. But they were both considered sinners, and they were both punished. And yet we sin "on a technicality" every day. "Where EXACTLY does God say that homosexuality is wrong? Well, when He said it was wrong in that scripture, he was referring to sexual behavior and not sexual orientation. 1 Corinthians is unclear…" etc. etc. It's all trying to justify sin by putting the blame on God for not being "clear," when the reality is, just as with Eve, we will be called to account for our sins whether we thought we got away with them or not.

  • christiaan

    I couldn't agree more, Shaun. Grace is messy. I kinda like that! Well said!

  • Guest

    "Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, "

    That (and 1 Thessalonians 4) pretty much cover it. Any kind of sexual immorality needs to be repented of. Let the person hear the good news and respond to it… and then let them be discipled by someone in the Body who will tell them that sexual immorality is not to be named among us– that we are called to be holy. 1 Corinthians 6 says that those who practice sexual immorality (among other sins) will NOT inherit the kingdom of God. It also says, "And such WERE some of you… (not ARE some of you). God loves it when His children pursue righteousness (sanctification) even though we are positionally given that gift by the Lord. I have heard that truth without love kills. I have also heard that mercy without truth seduces– and that is another way to kill another person, Proverbs says.
    Let the sexually immoral be discipled by someone who will help them turn from all sexual immorality.
    That is part of the requirements Gentile believers were given in the above passage in Acts.

  • Sara

    Unfortunately – yeah, they can. You guys are really not talking about the REAL elephant in the room. I challenge you to bring it up Shaun.

    A gay person comes to church, comes to Christ – or believes it anyway (Whatever you want to call it – Christ is their confession). Do you consider them a "Sinner" still? If their attraction does not change with programs, workbooks, prayer sessions, fasting, therapy – are THEY the failure? How can they still be considered "Ineligible"? I doubt anyone in your church would know WHY God didn't answer their prayers to "Stop feeling this way". So they're waiting for a divine powerful encounter but they can't MAKE that happen. So when do they stop being the "Sinner we are showing Grace" and start being the "Brother in Christ eligible for praying with people and leading"?


  • EL D

    Part 1…
    I don't dispute the word…It says don't make it difficult for new believers to come to Christ…but it also tells us not to be quick to put new converts in a position of authority…The word sets standards for those in leadership positions…Anyone living a life of habitual sin…gay or straight…with no desire to disagree with that sin…should be removed from a position of authority…My prayer is that before they were put in that position, the pastor did not rush to judgement and that the person was found qualified in the first place. Read all of 1 Tim 3… Here's an excerpt….1 Timothy 3:6-7 (NKJV)
    6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
    7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
    The Word sets the expectations for leaders…and the standard is higher than the new convert….
    So yes…recieve the sexually immoral(gay, fornicators, adulterers, etc), recieve the

  • EL D

    Part 2…
    liars, recieve the coveters, etc…but don't put them in a position of ministry…You minister to those spirits…Don't let those spirits minister to you…Ushering is ministry…Singing is ministry…Please be mindful of what goes before God's people…Everything is spiritual…Don't be fooled by the appearance of something that doesn't seem to be doing any harm…I have gay friends…and while I love them with everything in me, my prayer above all things is that they be saved, not seperated from God by sin (even one) that they refuse to repent of…I try to love them to life. I love them but they are aware I don't love that spirit of homosexuality that is a stronghold in their lives. And yes…it's a spirit…Which is why I can love them and rebuke the work of the devil in them.

  • keshia

    You are right the word of God says we are to worship God in spirit and in truth john 4:24 when we work in a position for God we must be qualified in 1 samuel God qualifed samuel in romans 8:28 it tells us we must be called by God we cant get in a position because we want it.

  • keshia

    amen the word of God says lay hands suddenly on on no man 1 Timothy 5:22 we have to allow God to do a work in them and deliver them and then guide the leader the to put them in a position in God's appointed time. Being like a city set on a hill that cannot be moved is living a holy life that is pleasing to God The word of God says in matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

  • Melissa Foiles

    Danni, I have been called many things because I agree with you on this topic. (Most of those things aren't very nice!) Wondering when the church will grow up and learn to love likeJesus loved.

  • http://Website Jessica Bergeron

    My husband and I do not attend church because of this very reason. We both love God and Jesus; I teach my children that Jesus loves them and died for their sins. But I absolutely refuse to expose them to an environment where they are taught, implicitly or explicitly that they are ‘better’ because they aren’t a certain type of ‘sinner’. That is the implication if you are refusing certain ‘privileges’ related to certain sins. In our house, we teach about charity and social justice which are both fundamental messages from Jesus. I just wish sex and sexually related topics didn’t permeate the church. I believe it teaches my children the wrong message, especially my girls. Who we are, what we are worth is defined by helping others. Church, to us, has totally lost this message amidst pointless debates about gay marriage. Why does ‘Christianity’ need to be defined by where you stand on the ‘gay’ issue? What about where you stand on protecting children? Where you stand on war? Where you stand on acquisition of money and power (greed)? Where you stand on social justice? Where you stand on protecting the earth? What’s our obsession with 10 percent of the population who have nothing to do with me? Can my church ‘leadership’ be a group of people who can teach me to be a more loving, giving person who will stand up to injustices everywhere? It’s a shame when I can’t get these answers in church; I get more sermons about homosexuality and ‘fornication’. I don’t live in Atlanta, so I don’t know about churches there. But I’d like to go to church where I can teach my children to be activists; to stand up for the helpless; to understand that they are no better than anyone else. Tell me where that church is and I’ll be there every Sunday.

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