New Ministry Equips the AG to Engage LGBT Challenges
I think I might be gay. My wife left me for another woman. My friend’s church says the Bible approves of homosexuality. My teacher says transgender desires are natural. I’m attracted to the same sex and I don’t want to be — help me!
For pastors, leaders, parents, or peers who have had these kind of encounters, the question is, “How do I respond compassionately, but effectively?”
The Assemblies of God has endorsed a new ministry, ReStory Ministries, that offers AG ministers and members services, education, and support on how to effectively minister to those who are affected by, tempted with, or already embrace a gay or trans identity, while not approving of it.
According to author, speaker, and ordained pastoral counselor Joe Dallas, who is a member of the ReStory Ministries Board of Directors, the focus of the ministry is to equip the Assemblies of God, from pulpit to pew, to effectively respond to the current cultural affirmation of homosexual practice and gender confusion.
“It’s all about equipping,” affirms Dallas, who is a member of Newport Mesa Church (California) AG. “We want to see our leaders well-equipped to preach, teach, and offer pastoral care on these issues.”
“There is a lot of misinformation out there in the culture, based on a non-biblical worldview,” states Jim Bradford, AG general secretary and official advisor to ReStory Ministries. “We need to be able to speak both clearly and compassionately to the issues of sexual purity, wholeness, and freedom. Silence will lose the battle for us.”
Dallas explains that in the past, homosexual practice was readily identified as a sin by Christians and was viewed negatively by the American culture, but today it is one of the very few sins clearly condemned in the Bible that is largely celebrated by the culture and an increasing number of those identifying as Christians.
ReStory Ministries aims to prepare church leaders and families to respond to the challenge of clearly explaining what the Bible teaches about homosexual practice — that it is a sin — while at the same time effectively pastoring those who experience same-sex attractions.
However, Dallas points out, these issues impact nearly everyone — from grade school children (who are exposed to pro-gay teachers and curriculum, TV programming, and Internet sites) to grandparents who may have friends or family members who embrace a gay identity. The need for church leaders and families to be ready to respond at all levels is difficult to overstate.
ReStory Ministries’ three-fold purpose begins with service. One of the first services the ministry is offering are topical webinars.
The monthly webinars begin Tuesday, Dec. 5, with Dallas leading the initial session titled, “Homosexuality and the AG: Where Do We Go from Here?” Other seminars to follow each month include: “Ministering to Those Affected by Transgender Issues (Linda Seiler), “When Homosexuality Hits Home” (Ginger Haan), “Ministering to Those Affected by HIV/AIDS” (Ron Magno), “When Homosexuality Hits a Marriage” (Renee Dallas), “Pro-Gay Theology: What It Is and How to Respond” (Joe Dallas); and more.
The webinars are free and open to all AG pastors, leaders, and members, but registration is required — simply register by clicking on the webinar event name, scroll down, and sign up.
In addition to the webinars, ReStory offers a blog and educational tools (books, CDs, and videos). The ministry also provides speakers who offer seminars for churches to educate and equip believers and church leaders, along with sermons for Sunday services. Joe Dallas, Ginger Haan, Renee Dallas, and others from the ReStory board are available to speak to local churches , district councils, and conferences.
Various ReStory board members have found one-day seminars to be highly effective. Following the seminars, many people have commented on how they now understand things at a deeper level and feel equipped to have conversations with their congregation or people in the community.
The ministry’s leadership also recognizes how vital it is to reach youth with the truth of Scripture. Youth pastors and leaders consistently express the need for resources in this area.
“I can’t tell you how many Bible-believing churches with Bible-believing youth I have spoken at, who don’t understand why I believe homosexual practice is a sin,” Joe Dallas says. “This speaks to a huge gap that we have not addressed properly with our youth, but believe me, everybody else has — the school system, Hollywood, the music industry, even the psychiatric industry — they all want to talk to our youth; why wouldn’t we be talking to our youth?”
One of the key goals of ReStory is to develop a network of church-based ministries equipped to address homosexuality and gender identity.
“We’d like to see AG churches largely equipped with their own in-house ministries,” Dallas says. “I’m talking about equipping and networking people who can disciple, mentor, teach, and encourage people who struggle with their sexuality and to provide support for family members.
ReStory would also assist in networking the leaders of the in-house ministries as a form of community, support, encouragement, and growth.
More than a half-century ago, AG-icon Ralph Harris wrote a book called, Now What? A Guidebook for New Christians. The book is still in print because of the necessity for clear instruction on what to do next. ReStory Ministries’ purpose is to prepare AG ministers and members to be able to respond to “Now What?” questions and challenges about homosexuality and gender identity with the same type of clear, compassionate, and biblically accurate responses — and more.
But time is of the essence. Dallas communicates an additional sense of urgency as he says some U.S. states have already made it illegal to offer
therapy for teens who struggle with same-sex attractions or gender confusion.
“The local church is going to become the last place of refuge for someone who is wanting to have help,” Dallas says. “We need to be ready for that.”