Should a Church Host a Small Group for Christians Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction?

When I speak at certain events, I’m asked a myriad of questions about sex, homosexuality, and other gender-related topics. Recently, I was asked by a young woman whether I think it’s permissible for her church to host a small group devoted to Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA). Apparently, she suggested the idea to her church, but it was opposed. She wondered whether there was a good reason behind her church’s rejection of the idea.

Keep in mind what is meant by a “Christian who struggles with SSA.” This refers to a professing believer who experiences romantic attraction to the same sex. This Christian, though, does not consider their SSA to be good or healthy. They do not identify as gay or queer. They do not call themselves a “gay Christian.”

Rather, they believe their SSA is a result of their sinful nature. They know that to satisfy their SSA—either through sexual fantasy or through homosexual behavior—is to commit sin. They want to obey Scripture, follow the commands of Christ, and never succumb to their same-sex sexual temptations. That is why this person is referred to as a Christian who struggles with SSA. They are struggling and fighting against their same-sex sexual temptation to sin. Sometimes, however, they give in to their temptations—either in thought or deed—and commit sin. In the event of such a failing, they confess to God, ask for His forgiveness, notify their accountability partner, and then pray that God would help them flee from further temptation. In other words, they are repentant of their sin and sinful inclination. I know of countless Christians who have shared with me that they experience what I just described.

Such a person, I would argue, is exactly the same as any other professing Christian. Every believer experiences some desires (whether sexual or other) that, if they yielded to them, would be considered sin. So, there is nothing unusual about a Christian who struggles with SSA. They are a normal Christian believer in every sense of the word. The only difference is that they experience a different kind of temptation. Of course, we all experience our own unique temptations.

Should a Christian who struggles with SSA have a small group available at their church where they can connect with others who have a similar struggle? I had two thoughts when the young woman told me about the resistance she experienced at her church.

First, it’s possible that church wrongly considers homosexual behavior to be the worst sin. If so, then the church’s opposition towards homosexuality could rise to the point where the leadership is resistant to anything related to that particular sin. But as I’ve written in the past, homosexuality is not the worst sin.

Second, it’s also possible the leadership fears that bringing believers who struggle with SSA together within a group will lead to moral compromise. Of course, we don’t want to create an environment that promotes sin rather than works to prevent it. That’s why whenever I’ve talked to people involved in these groups, they tell me that they have mature believers who facilitate the group. It’s not just a free for all. They have a leader who directs the group towards spiritual maturity through Bible study, instruction, book reading, prayer, accountability, and other activities that nurture everyone’s faith. They set up systems to keep contact information confidential and limit outside exposure so people’s privacy can be respected. To be honest, these are the same things I see in other small groups that serve a targeted group of people (e.g. those who struggle with porn, substance abuse, etc.).

I understand that many people are neither knowledgeable about nor comfortable with homosexuality and consequently don’t know how to properly respond. But brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with SSA are just like other believers. They would greatly benefit from a small group that is filled with loving and compassionate Christians who can walk with them through their challenges. A small group will give them an opportunity to be vulnerable, confess their sins to one another, hear from others who share their struggle, be held accountable, get continual prayer for their challenges, and be supported by those who have walked this journey before them.

Ideally, however, I would love to see Christians who struggle with SSA in a “regular” small group—not one specifically for people with SSA—and feel comfortable sharing their struggle. Everyone in the group would simply be seen as a believer who struggles with some sin. Everyone in the group would accept everyone. Everyone would pray for and encourage others. They would “all be one,” just as Christ prayed (Jn. 17:21).

Small group settings have been incredibly powerful in my own life. My wife and I have hosted small groups for 20 years and found the vulnerability, accountability, prayer, and friendship to be life-giving. We had the privilege of creating a group that gave those who struggled with SSA the freedom to share their struggle and feel just like any other believer (because they were). I realize not every corner in the church may be there just yet. In time, however, I think it’s possible. For now, we should allow churches to host groups that support and encourage believers who struggle with SSA.

Alan Shlemon

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