General Ministry

Shawn is a pastor and speaker passionate about Jesus and people. He is also the author of "Ministering to Gay Teenagers." Shawn lives with his family in Ohio, where he helps pastor CMA Church.


This past week has been filled with headlines and blog posts about homosexuality, from laws being passed and vetoed, to students in our ministry and families coming out. Some important posts on these stories were written by friends of mine. Their thoughts and perspectives are worth your time checking out:

Additionally, I’ve been posting advice to youth workers on ministering to gay teenagers. The information I’ve shared is from my own life, ministry experience, and book, which by the way, is being relaunched with updated and expanded material this week.

I hope through these postings you have heard my heart, which beats a passion to see gay individuals reached for Christ. And in this, to see the body of Christ unashamedly arise to reach out and embrace those who identify as gay.

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Some say this is a lofty and unattainable goal. I totally disagree.

I’m one of the crazy ones who believes everything the Bible says, in particularly the commands and promises of God. If He says, make disciples of all people, and that with God all things are possible, then I believe Him. Is what I’m suggesting easy and without risk? No way. There will be huge risk involved and comfort zones will most likely become shattered. However, the end result is too extraordinary to bypass: people made in God’s image, redeemed and brought back from death to life through Christ, enjoying eternal fellowship with their Creator.

So, where do we go from here? Beyond the blog posts and conversations, what’s next? I want to offer some suggestions.

See gay people as people; not as a political issue, not as a sinful behavior, and not as a lesser person than yourself. The majority of rights gays and lesbians fight for are human rights given to everyone else. As Christians, we need to clearly discern what “battles” we choose to involve ourselves in, and how to see the deeper issue below the surface. The actions we take, the voices we raise, and even the laws we support, should all hold up and honor the work and commission of Christ – not ourselves, or, worse, not a political agenda.

Learn the art of listening & speaking less. What we think people need to hear is not always what they actually need to hear. Some of us truly need to stop speaking from a position of defense and anger, and speak from a position of humility and compassion. This isn’t to say we must deny and forgo our convictions, rather it means we imitate Christ in all situations without an “us vs. them” mentality. In fact, there is no “us vs. them,” there is only “us and Him.” So, when listening, we need to be attentive to what the person is saying to us and what God is saying. In hearing people through the ears of God, we begin to see people through the eyes of God. Jesus did this well; let’s imitate Him.

Cultivate community inside and outside the church. The Gospel is for all people, because Christ is for all people. Just as youth ministry and outreach, are important areas of focus in a church, so is a ministry to those who identify as gay. Here’s a bold statement that needs to be said: If the church continues to adhere to God’s view of sexuality and continues to declare that the only options for people with same-sex attractions are either celibacy or marriage to a member of the opposite sex, then the church must (as in not optional) provide a safe and nurturing community for gay people to be a part of—especially those who remain celibate. It is my conviction that gay individuals are a part of the flock Jesus is speaking about in John 10:16. Therefore, as churches, and as leaders, we need to be willing to change the way we “shepherd” people under our care.

These suggestions are just the beginning to a long journey before us. So, what other ones would you add?

With you,

Shawn / @611pulse

SYMC: Ministering to Gay Teenagers, Saturday, 3/8 starting at 2:30pm. Join us!

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  • Rev. I. David Byrd says:

    Sin is sin. All sin is an abondmination to God. See Romans 1:28 -30. We can’t justify some and not accept others. There are no big or little sins. I hope what you meant was “love the people, hate the sin.” Treat everyone with dignity and respect. As youth workers we must stay true to God’s Word and not change it to satisfy or justify certain sins. Love and minister to the homosexual kid the same way you do the alcoholic kid, the disobedient to parents kid, etc. Love them ALL through to the destiny God has for them.

  • Seth Dibblee says:

    I believe that gay people are also the ones Jesus spoke about in Matthew 19:11-12. Not everyone understands this, however.

  • Billy Hestand says:

    Hey Shawn I tottally agree that we need to make room for people who “struggle with homosexually”. I say it like that because we must ask the difficult question. Is there such thing as gay people or people who struggle with the perversion of homosexuality. Let’s mark a clear line and be careful not to compromise Gods word. Can I make a bold statement and say that if you put rapist or child molester in the place of gay person here you wouldn’t have the same approach. They are people to and oddly enough there is roughly about the same amount in our nation. My suggestion is this. Remember that Jesus said the path to him is narrow. Don’t be afraid to tell people what it takes to follow him. If they choose not to follow him and go down the path of destruction it’s their choice. Your right look at them as real people with real who need Jesus. I think approach is the real question I want to talk about. Are you saying we shouldn’t say homosexuality is a sin? Also, where do you stand on predisposition to this sin?

    • Hi Billy – thanks for commenting.

      Let me answer your two questions before going further. Engaging in same-sex relationships is against God’s design, and I believe this is what He refers to in the passages of scripture against homosexuality. God is against the actions, not the person. People are fully aware that Christians consider “having sex with the same-sex” to be a sin found in scripture. What gay individuals need to see and hear now from the church is the message of hope, grace, and freedom found in Jesus Christ.

      There are in fact some people who are gay, meaning that they are attracted to the same-sex. Some people are attracted to both sexes, and even some are not attracted to either. In regards to same-sex attracted people, there are those who want to fulfill a relationship with the sex they are attracted to (i.e. gay relationships). However, there are others who want to uphold God’s word, even if that means they are to remain celibate. I believe people are “gay” for multiple of reasons. Having same-sex attractions are not a sin, in and of themselves. Temptations are not a sin, in and of themselves. Acting upon our temptations is what creates the sin.

      I totally disagree with you in that my suggestions compromise God’s word. It seems that you are suggesting that gay people must “get rid of” their attractions before they can be considered Christians. Is this correct? Can you point to a passage of scripture that suggests this?

      In regards to the child molester and rapist, in God’s Kingdom, there is an abundance of grace even for them. In fact, I have worshipped with such men, and it has brought me to tears many of times. These men were repentant and worshipping their Savior in postures that I do not see in the common church.

      If you haven’t read the other articles I’ve written here, I suggest taking the time to read them. I think they will help clarify my positions. Also, check out my ministry site, http://six11.wordpress.com. There you can find more information, including my testimony.

  • Billy Hestand says:

    Hey Shawn thanks for you quick response to my questions. I think you read my statements a little wrong. Like I said I agree with some of the things you are saying here. I wasn’t saying that you are compromising Gods word I just think that we as a body need to be careful to not compromise God’s word. I feel like this happens a lot with this subject because it so sensitive right now. The reason I said what I said about child molesters and rapist is not assuming that you don’t love them the same. I apologize if thats how it came across. What I am saying is that we want to have this really sensitive approach to people who struggle with homosexuality but not with things like rapist and child molesters, which is a beautiful thing when both come to the lord like you stated.

    To answer your question about “getting rid of their attraction to the opposite sex” I would say yes in some ways they must. Lets not forget that you must repent to enter the kingdom of God. (Mark 4:17, Luke 13:3, Luke 17:3, Acts 17:30-31) I believe these verse point this out very well. Thats why it says what it says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    about all those that are that way can’t enter the kingdom of God because they must repent of their ways before doing it. I have a different thought then many who believe that homosexuality is disposition to sin. I think this is contradictory to Gods character because if this is so then God created them this way. In my opinion a lot of people are say this and some do it unknowably because they don’t understand their philosophies contradict (not saying yours do). Lets make sure what we say lines up all the way is what I am saying (again making a general statement not saying that is what you are doing).

    Here is a interesting fact that I don’t think a lot of people know. While approx. 4% of the world claim to be homosexual only .43% stay homosexual their entire life. Here is a great article on the Geno project and behavior genes http://www.trueorigin.org/gaygene01.asp. It basically states there is no behavior gene out there, its largely circumstantial the reason we have preference to certain sins. In short I will sum up what I am saying. People who claim to be gay have every ability to turn away from their sin as someone who is a liar, and adulterous, thief, glutton, murder, I think you get the point. Also, while being tempted is not a sin we must not forget that if someone looks at someone with lust they have already committed adultery in their hearts (Matthew 5:28). This line is not a gray one to me its clear as day. Those that follow Jesus will learn to hate their sins and be saintified because of it. While Jesus said everything in love he wasn’t afraid to call it what it was. I believe in all my heart that someone can overcome homosexuality because I have seen it happen many times. Lets treat all sin the same and hate it all. A good question is how do we do that? I think people are disgusted with the idea of spiritual therapy for people who are gay for some reason. What are your thoughts? Can someone who openly practices homosexuality and never repent truly have the holy spirit?

    I have a question about what you said about gay people being celibate and making a atmosphere for them as such. Are you suggesting a gay person can’t or might not want to become straight so we need to accommodate them? Just curious about that statement thats all.

    Like I said brother, I’m just stating my point of view like you did in your article. I enjoyed hearing your heart by the way. I hope I said everything out of love and clearly. I think these conversations can be great for sharpening each other like the word says to do “As iron sharpens iron so should you to one another” Proverbs 27:17.

    Blessings- Billy

    • Hi Billy,
      I’m not sure if you read the links I suggested in my previous post, hopefully you did as they will clarify a lot of what you’re asking.

      I have written these posts from my own experience as a man who deals with same-sex attractions, both as a teen and as a married pastor. The study you listed isn’t quite accurate with their percentage. If you are wanting a good resource, I would check out this book: http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Gays-Longitudinal-Religiously-Mediated-Orientation/dp/083082846X. The book is big and complex at times, but it gives a great look into the issue of change. In regards to people with same-sex attractions (and this is brought out in the book I mentioned), while there are people who do claim opposite attractions now, there are many other people who continue to experience same-sex attractions of some kind.

      I would fit into this group. I have been happily married since 2001. My wife and I have three kids. I have been in ministry for over a decade. My wife, though, is the only woman I am attracted to. I still deal with same-sex attractions on some level – though I have no desire to sleep with a man or to pursue a relationship. So what do you do with people in my situation? I wouldn’t call myself straight, cause what straight guy is attracted to other men? But I wouldn’t call myself gay either, because I’m happily married to a woman. I say all of this to say, this issue is deeply complicated and cannot be strictly a black-n-white issue.

      In reference to what the Bible says, I do very much believe scripture is clear concerning the act of homosexuality. But how we minister to people, how we support people, and how we deal with the varying aspects of homosexuality are more often gray than clear.

      Should I step down from ministry because my attractions are not considered straight? Is my relationship with Christ tainted because my attractions hasn’t changed to what is considered “normal?” Does my having same-sex attractions a result of my level of faith? I’ve done counseling, bible studies, retreats, conferences, prayer ministries; I’ve been anointed with oil, prayed over, and spoken over. While over time my attractions have lessened a great deal, I still have them. Spiritual therapy – as you suggested, is good as long as the aim is not changing ones attractions, but rather moving them closer to Christ via authentic relationship. See, Jesus Christ is the answer, and He is the end result we ALL should be running towards. In pursuing Him, we use discipleship, prayer, and sometimes counseling, but they are a means not an end.

      The church has to come to grips with the reality, some people are not attracted to the opposite sex. And no matter how hard they have tried and prayed, changing their orientation is not foreseeable. It is not that they do not want to change, it means they can’t – at least right now, or never. The church must be OK with this. And I deeply believe God is OK with this, too. We will not experience perfection until Christ comes again, and this includes a perfected body – inside and out. We live in a fallen world where things have been distorted. Christ will restore everything when He comes again … until then, let us live together as one in the church, holding up the cross of Christ, and walking towards His image and likeness.

      I appreciate the conversation, Billy. I apologize if it seems I’m coming down hard on you. I’m just really passionate about this issue. If you would like to chat more, please email and I’d be happy to talk further.

  • Billy Hestand says:

    Wow Shawn, I have to say I was not expecting that kind of honesty and it means a lot that you would be that transparent with me. I must say that made the gears churn in my head and really got me rethinking some of my philosophies! I’m sorry, you where right, I didn’t read the article and I will do that now. I really admire your passion for this subject because its very genuine. I think God can use your testimony in a big way, thanks for sharing!

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