By Garry Ingraham-
In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus was spelling out his earthly purpose in contrast to the work of the spiritual darkness of “the thief” who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Unfortunately, every morning we are subtly – and not so subtly – reminded of the work of “the thief” as we watch the news.
As Christians, we need to keep the abundant life that Jesus spoke about at the forefront of our thinking and ministry. This abundant life depends on an inward spiritual transformation that reaches every aspect of who we are as men and women. We are all in need of this new life.
Though I grew up in a Christian home, I was in need of that spiritual transformation. Around puberty I discovered that I was same-sex attracted. Despite years of prayer and enrolling in a Bible College, I felt as though I was struggling alone. At this stage in my life, I was addicted to porn and hated God and the Church. It seemed as though there were no answers or help for me.
I eventually became a bartender at a gay club and felt like I’d finally found my people. Still, in all my sin and rebellion, God never stopped pursuing me. When I crashed, He was there to catch me and draw me to Himself.
The one organization entrusted by God with real answers for healthy sexuality and confident gender identity is the Church. Unfortunately, it has been embroiled in controversy and mired in politics rather than ministry devoted to transformation. The Church, through Christ and the inspired word of God as well as the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, has been given everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
Every single Sunday we have men and women and youth in our pews who are seeking the abundant life Jesus spoke of and are looking for deliverance from sexual bondage — whether it is heterosexual or homosexual — to temptations such as adultery or porn. Because of our fear, or our own struggles, or simply out of ignorance, the Church has not been active in offering healing for those who struggle with their sexuality.
Through community and confession, we can find redemption. We can discover His image in us and His incredible design for sexuality – a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman.
There is a desperate need for churches to stand in the gap of our confused, empty, and sex-saturated society.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed,” writes the Apostle James. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (5:16). If Christians would learn to become transparent with one another in this way, we would see a deep and profound healing in the Church. That healing would position us as “wounded healers” to reach out to our troubled world.
Our church would receive a jolt of Holy Spirit-infused new life if believers shared scriptural truth in love and offered friendship and a healthy emotional connection with those who are struggling with sexual brokenness.
Within the church, for example, the pervasiveness of porn is overwhelming.
The talons of porn have latched on to Christian men, Christian women, Christian young people, pastors and leaders. To be effective witnesses within the world, we need the Holy Spirit to first set us free.
For the last 40 years, The United Methodist Church has battled internally over its moral teachings about marriage and human sexuality. That is what draws controversial headlines. But beneath the public skirmish is a conflict over the abundant life that Jesus spoke of and the promise of transformation through the lordship of Jesus Christ. Some United Methodist leaders say this is all simply a disagreement about the interpretation of a few passages of Scripture. For me, however, it comes down to a decisive difference over St. Paul’s declaration: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (II Corinthians 5:17). In this time of theological confusion and disagreement, what gospel is the church promoting and what Jesus is the church proclaiming?
Coming out of homosexuality was the hardest thing I have faced in my life. My wife and I know of many transformed men and women who have chosen to surrender their sexuality and LGBT identities to the Lordship of Jesus. They find in Christ and his authentic, loving community more than enough to meet their deepest needs.
Transforming Congregations (a program of Good News) has been a renewal ministry and witness within The United Methodist Church for nearly 30 years. We focus our work on equipping United Methodist pastors and leaders on how to develop environments that foster transparency throughout the church.
Transforming Congregations provides ministry through:
1) preaching and teaching
2) conferences and retreats
3) leadership team meetings
4) personal mentoring for Christian leaders struggling with sexual sin
5) coaching men’s and women’s groups to get beneath the surface
6) helping develop friends and family groups for people with LGBTQ loved-ones
7) coordinating an inner-healing program called Living Waters
Through these primary methods, Transforming Congregations works with leaders to develop positive growth in transparency and a corporate life-style of confession and repentance, ultimately impacting the DNA of the congregation. We help churches to shift the emphasis away from a spectator/consumer mindset to become more of a teaching hospital or M.A.S.H. (mobile army spiritual hospital) unit for the sexually broken. We want to be involved in developing churches that a lost community comes to value and depend on for support, compassion, gospel truth, and a way out of their empty lives, to discover the true Jesus.
If our values, purpose, and methods resonate with your heart we would love to connect with you regularly. Would you sign up to receive our email updates (fill in your name and email address and check the box marked Transforming Congregations on the right side of the web page) and consider partnering with us by providing prayer-covering and financial support? You can also find additional details and resources on our website. In so many ways, we are standing in the gap, offering unpopular but essential truths, communicated in love, that God calls out for this generation.
Garry Ingraham is a layman who has been the executive director of Transforming Congregations since 2016.