Most often, when ministers speak of a missionary going out from their church, they are communicating about a person or group which will be going to do a work of evangelism to spread the Gospel of Jesus. Usually, they are talking about a work of evangelism to another country. Sometimes the church supports many works of social justice like feeding hungry children or digging wells for people without water. Many in the Church will talk about missions with exotic descriptions of going off to a far-away place or going into a country that is dangerous. Then, as we talk about missions, there’s usually that pause and plea for great resources to meet the need and, of course, a call for covering in prayer! These are all beautiful and necessary works of the Church.
I have myself have gone to exotic places on mission trips. I’ve been to Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, and Israel on different types of missions to teach, to testify and to minister to the hurting in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, our missions are not expressed in the more traditional approach to gospel evangelism. The vision and mission of First Stone is to bring the true Gospel of Jesus conveying clearly the transformation of souls in need of the freedom that God’s grace gives to the sexually and relationally broken. Our ministry across our city, our state, our country and to the world has been in line with that vision and mission.
First Stone Ministries is a different kind of mission. Everyone on our staff is this “missionary of another kind.” Quite frankly, our mission is one the Church at large has had difficulty getting excited about. Our mission is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of sexual redemption and transformation to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers (as they call themselves now) and your everyday run-of-the-mill church pornographer. The First Stone staff of missionaries have, over the last 27 years, been in a culturally-challenging, front-line work in a mission field that is filled with demonic activity. Working for the sexual redemption of the Church has always been our purpose—teaching, exhorting, educating, ministering and working in the field of souls to see life and maturity and fruitfulness grow in human hearts.
For years people would avoid our table and booth at most Christian conference events; however, that has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Sincere Christians who love the Bible and people who have loved-ones trapped in all things LGBTQ+ really embrace First Stone now, more than ever. There is more interest because the message of all things LGBTQ+ is more prevalent than ever before. The “gay Christian” revisionist messaging is also more rampant in the Church than ever before perverting the full Gospel. Unfortunately, the Church at large is still doing a poor job of navigating these issues of ministry with clear understanding. It seems that the Church is as unbelieving as the culture and is falling away from a hopeful Gospel message of repentance and God’s ability to really transform even the most hardened soul. So many of the Church are becoming pushed to the far sides of the conversation, either to compromise and complete acceptance of sexual sin in the name of love and kindness OR, equally wrong, is the hard turn to legalistic unkindness, fear and refusal to carry the hope of redemption and transformation. Yet another, distorted part of the conversation is for the Church to embrace the perverted message of antinomianism with “gay Christianity.” The critical need today is for a consistent truth-filled compassion message of love without compromise to deliver the real hope of a power-filled Gospel of transformation
I wanted to give some insight to the “Different Kind of Missionary” found in those who give of their lives for Jesus in an “ex-gay” ministry. I want you to really think about what the ministers in “ex-gay” ministry are facing in this day as a very different kind of mission!
First Stone Ministries, along with 40 ministries like ours, and several counseling agencies within the Restored Hope Network, are laboring together in helping individuals, churches, families, and friends to process through all the cultural ambiguity, misunderstandings, and lies about the sexual revolution of all things LGBTQ+. It is overwhelming! It really takes some sound Biblical and relational education on this topic to help. First Stone staff and others in “ex-gay” ministries put their energy first and foremost in applying full and mature biblical counsel through the Gospel of Jesus Christ—applying biblical truth and a devoted relationship with Jesus Christ to fully address some of the most complicated issues of sexual behavior, emotions, feelings, belief systems, and traumatic histories. Many hours of pastoral care and energy go into helping every form of abuse and sexual perversion you could imagine and then some! The level of spiritual preparedness that ministers in an “ex-gay” ministry need usually takes years of spiritual maturity and on-the-job training (the front-line mission field) to be effective. Most ministries like First Stone require that the ministers and staff get an education that fully trains and brings an understanding in several areas.
This different kind of missionary must take-on learning effective pastoral care for deep soul needs. There is a need for a good understanding regarding human sexuality and development, and sociology pointing to the Biblical divine intent of human sexuality which is only healthy in a committed male/female, man/woman marital relationship.
It can take years of experience to help people find the deep inner-healing that is necessary. Sadly, many churches today are ill-equipped to do more than a superficial job of discipleship in pastoral care for the real healing of souls who have been deeply wounded—like the folks coming to Christ from the LGBTQ+ community or from this sex-crazed culture breeding men, and now even women into porn-addicts.
The need to address the idea of bringing hidden things and unresolved pain into the open is a very messy ministry that is generally not appreciated or done in the Church at large. Of course, there are good reasons for some to be skeptical given the new levels of people falling away and going back to broken sexual identities.
This is the very reason Exodus International closed under the failed leadership of Alan Chambers. The depth of real spiritual maturity, real sobriety, an understanding of the demonic warfare in the feelings, emotions, attractions and the stark unbelief in antinomianism without a clear Biblical Orthodox theology is what brought about the internal implosion and failure of Exodus’ mission. It truly takes skilled pastoral care professionals in “ex-gay” ministry to help people find lasting freedom.
Our availability in this mission is to come beside the Church in accomplishing her goal to make real disciples of Jesus Christ as Lord. Many hours are given to help process pain in souls of those who have been sexually abused, as more than 50% of the people participating in “ex-gay” ministries have been terribly abused. Many root problem-areas of the soul must be thoroughly processed in pastoral care to identify painful abuse, shame, and to uncover bitter-roots so as to really forgive from the heart. Some of the most wounded, abused people I’ve ever met are lesbian women who have been brutalized by men! It really takes a different kind of missionary to press-in with these kinds of secrets and traumatic life problems! It takes a lot of patience and love to navigate the unpacking the secrets of men’s hearts so that they really come to freedom.
Most places in the Church at large do NOT allow for this level of transparency as it gets really messy. There might even be a demonic manifestation or perhaps, expressions of rage with transference issues coming from areas of great pain. Toxic shame, rejection, and addictions may hinder people who struggle with same-sex attractions and take several years to break these cycles.
Remember, people are often recovering from tragic sexual abuse which requires rebuilding and restoring their innocence, their feelings of security, and solid holy identities. The mind, emotions, and will of the soul may take many years in renewal and recovery. After all, we share in Jesus’ mission to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18b-19 NKJV) Even teaching how to be disciplined as a follower of Christ in spiritual warfare within the Church is very difficult. Now, multiply that by 10 times and you might be getting close to understanding the difficulties and challenges for those who have been in homosexuality and all things LGBTQ+ and the many underlying problems they need to work through.
Most of this work is done in confidentiality and hidden from the Church at large and often goes unappreciated and unacknowledged. Ex-gay ministers and this “missionary of another kind” are often the most overworked and underpaid of any group of professional helpers of caregiving to needy souls.
Now, add to the work of caring for souls the further work of responding to the cultural and Church conversation regarding all things LGBTQ+. The ex-gay ministries must be well-prepared in some of the sciences. However, first and foremost a good Biblically Orthodox Theology is a must. Then, some sound understanding in biology and psychology is a required. It’s necessary to have clear anthropological and Biblical understanding of male and female is a must. A good understanding of all these things is required so that we can make a defense of the hope that is within us and within the Gospel to debate with a hell-bent culture that is aggressively seeking to close pastoral care ministries like First Stone and to defend the Church against forces that are demonically driven to deny that hope as well. Many are also called to give an answer of our hope to the media, which is another layer of pressure for this hard-working missionary of another kind.
I want to remind people that ex-gay ministers and these missionaries of another kind are serving in a hard, front-line battle every day now. It would be good to encourage a local Restored Hope Network Ministry leader or counselor, or pastoral caregiver in this type of mission. Remember, the people they serve were at one-time someone’s precious little child. These are people who have been deeply wounded as children and now receive ministry to go on to follow Christ fully. Will you remember First Stone’s staff today—Laura Leigh Stanlake, Director of Women’s Ministries, Joseph Thiessen, Administrator, and our new intern, Jim Farrington, and myself? Will you remember the several hundred other ministers and volunteers across the United States in the Restored Hope Network of ministries? We need prayer covering! MORE today, than ever before! Thank you, Sincerely in Christ’s Love and Service, Stephen Black, Executive Director and one of the seven Founders of the Restored Hope Network.
For further reading, see Dr. Michael Brown’s article: “Which is the Smallest Most Rejected Minority in America?”
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.