To Grace Midtown Church, to my beloved brothers and sisters who I care for tremendously. From Housefires worship night to CONNECT Team to softball games, we are family now and forever. I write to you with a heavy heart that has been increasing in weight for two years now. It is important to note that this letter comes after talking with the three main church pastors (two of whom I met with twice) and ultimately informing them that I will be telling others.
There is no perfect church or person. My fear of the Lord causes me to love the people of Grace, the pastors of Grace, and the LGBTQ community so much that I cannot be selfishly silent on this any longer. It does not bring me joy to write this letter about what is occurring in our church. The tearful wrestle to write this comes after continual unfortunate instances of sin and false teaching from some of our church people.
I do not write this while pridefully standing on a mountaintop, but I write this while kneeling in a valley crying next to a cross.
This is not a letter of judgment or condemnation. It is an informative, cautionary letter to us all. Let us remember James 5:16, 1 Corinthians 5:12, Proverbs 27:17, and especially Luke 17:1-4. God doesn’t want modified behavior. He wants to transform the heart so that the out-coming behavior is different. He does this via the Holy Spirit AND Gospel community.
What is happening?
For summation sake this will focus on homosexuality (although sexual sin, drunkenness, universalism, and a lack of qualified leadership are all serious worries that have been brought up to the church staff by myself and others over time).
Note: The universalism piece is huge but will not be addressed. However, we have several people in church claiming that Jesus is not the only way. Some others claiming that there isn’t a Hell. But I digress.
As we may or may not know, our church, for various reasons, has no “official stated stance” on homosexuality. But silence alone can be enabling. For example, to not speak against racism is indeed allowing racism. It is sin from omission. This passive avoidance on the topic (coupled with sexual sin and a lack of accountability) has caused many damaged hearts and frustrated souls over the years. With there being silence on this topic you’d assume the pendulum to be in the middle “neutral” zone. To the contrary, there are MANY examples where people in our church aired on the side of embracing acts of homosexuality and same-sex relationships. Here is a major one:
- There was an unofficial Housechurch formed months ago that calls themselves “Open Table Housechurch”. It is explicitly stated to be open to gay, lesbian, transgender, straight people, married and singles. At one point the gatherings were held at a pastor’s house. At surface level, it is may seem innocent. I mean, how great is it for people to get together who share a similar struggle and form community together to overcome it? Unfortunately, this is far from the case. There is a strong, unbiblical agenda being pushed.
One of its leaders is an openly gay male who is a staunch advocate for the acceptance of the active homosexual lifestyle in the Church. He is both a blogger and podcaster on the matter. He has, to quote him directly, “been blogging for over three years, with an emphasis on the intersections of faith, sexuality, and American Culture”.
This “Open Table Housechurch” has people that volunteer at Grace Midtown events AND are involved in other “official” Housechurches with an intent to invite others to come check out theirs. Or simply just believe what they believe … in some ways it is working. They are recruiting. The goal of this Housechurch is not to unify under Christ to conquer sin. No, there is no wrestle with whether practicing a homosexual lifestyle is a sin. Instead, there is strong advocacy on an emotional and intellectual level that embraces these lifestyles. That is drastically different. As the Apostle Paul would say, ‘they have plausible sounding arguments’ that are leading our potential/current brothers and sisters astray.
This is not analogous to the biblical practice of repentance of what the Bible clearly lists as sin. Is this really our millennial generation? Would we rather be deceived and think well of ourselves? An essential part of the Gospel is repentance – without it, it is an incomplete Gospel. Sometimes repentance isn’t just repenting of things I know are wrong. Sometimes it is also repenting of things I thought were my virtue.
What have been some of the outcomes?
Acts of heresy and false teaching are repeatedly warned against in scripture. In my two years at Grace Midtown I have watched spiritually mature Christians leave most times due to either the lack of addressed sin or the skewed leanings of the biblical understanding of homosexual sin. This past summer some of them saw online two women get engaged to one another. At the engagement celebration one of Grace Midtown’s pastors was seen/tagged in multiple photos on Facebook and Instagram joyously celebrating with them. They have seen or heard as a few Housechurches have said that homosexuality is not a sin. They saw many things over time until it was too much to handle.
I know a solid chunk of people who have left. These are warm-hearted, doctrinally/spiritually sharp believers who now must find community somewhere else. This makes things tougher for us at Grace Midtown because we could have used them for discipling others and in leadership roles. They had awesome communities at Grace but, at the same time, had deep, biblical convictions that begrudgingly caused them to leave. And this is continuing – even people in my own Housechurch because of this ongoing matter in our church. This directly makes it hard for me to lead my own people.
Something I have noticed in the culture of Atlanta churches, including our church, is the awareness of sin and accountability being a somewhat foreign concept when it comes to living out. Hence, the increasing occurrences of sexual sin, lack of Biblical accountability, and allowing of heretic teaching. This will cause various types of backsliding for our church as this continues to gain momentum … unless we act. (This is one of the reasons the average age at Grace Midtown may likely remain predominantly young.)
There is a stark difference between having an open door church policy versus an open philosophically/theologically subjective church policy. Interesting how the latter ends up forcing some people out.
Aren’t the pastors supposed to correct this, not us?
That is a complex question with complex answers. It’s funny, in today’s churches the role preachers are expected to play for their congregation is teacher, babysitter, spiritual EMT, Holy Spirit, and chef all-in-one. Though the church staff is required to play a major role in shepherding the flock & equipping us (Ephesians 4:12-16, 1 Peter 5:2), they cannot physically do everything for us. We play a part. Biblically speaking church is a group of people walking together, coveting with one another to do life together for the glory of God, for the sanctification of their souls, and the fullness of Him. The involved communion, worship, teaching, sometimes discipline and sometimes rebuke (both receiving and giving). Churches are sometimes a joke because we live like the world. We are to be counter-cultural when it comes to our approach to money, power, and sex.
What does the Bible say would happen if we do not act?
We must act against false teaching (unknowingly or knowingly) of any kind or, as Revelation 2 would forecast, our church could be in danger of having its lampstand removed (i.e. The Holy Spirit). We must learn from one another and be honest with where we are. Our great church staff are truthfully a busy bunch. But what the church staff has shown through the course of time is that their concern for the matters of sin is partly reactionary. What they care about consequently depends on how much we care about those matters (ex. porn addiction, letting anyone become Housechurch leaders without vetting in the past, etc.). They tend to be more reactive than proactive.
Thus, the foundation of our church is on emotion. Unfortunately, reason is increasingly losing ground and emotion happens to also be the primary weapon being used in the world in favor of homosexuality. Emotion is the familiar language in both camps. No one wants to be viewed as hateful or a bigot. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it. Once emotion is the controlling factor over reason, societal chaos ensues.”
How did this happen in our Church?
Every church has different niches. One of ours is that we are openly organic. An issue which arises from a very organic methodology of church is that it opens the door for anything thing to come inside without the ability to push people toward correction or truth. Now on the opposite far side of the pendulum you have some overly structured churches that shut the door people who don’t initially follow their rules. Both are wickedly damming and unbiblical. The answer is in the middle.
Why write this letter?
A primary goal of this writing is not only to inform people but to also make you aware enough to talk to one another and the church in the context of biblical truth. Please be watchful. Be on guard. We will always be at war with Satan and our flesh. Fight for our brothers and sisters. Fight for the souls of those teaching falsely because we ALL need grace. What we do not only matters today and next year, but we are to always operate with reality of eternity in mind. We can say some of the right things in church but not act on them. “For many on the final day will say Lord Lord and he will say ‘depart from me for I never knew you’ (Matthew 7).
In life when we air toward passivity we give family, church, city, and life over to destruction. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty. Let this one day be one of our finest hours.
So I say what the Apostle Paul says, in Acts 20:26-31, that my heart and conscience are innocent by telling you; that I have done my part. I have nothing to personally gain from writing this letter. I risk being vilified, accused of causing disunity, or being misinterpreted. In the end those possibilities are light and momentary in comparison to the eternal weight of God.
I love you, I love you, I love you all.