5 Marks of a Biblically Inclusive Church
By Pastor Tom Anderson
What does it mean to be an inclusive church? Are LGBTQ persons welcome? Yes. All people are welcome in our services. All people are welcome to participate in our ministries. All people are eligible to become members. This is because God isn’t interested in your past–what you were. God isn’t interested in your present–who you think you are right now. God is only interested in your future–who you are becoming. If your heart is pointed at repentance and faith in the future that God has for you, that is God’s interest. God wants the best for you. That is not your past. That’s not your present. It’s the future. Do you want what God wants for you?
A biblically inclusive ministry with LGBTQ people has 5 marks:
1. Clear teaching on the meaning and purpose of human sexuality. Jesus says “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The church cannot shrink from this task. Jesus’ teaching on marriage comes from Genesis. The Bible speaks with a single and consistent voice:. “Have you not read that he who created them made them male and female for each other.” “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Jesus precludes polygamy, adultery, promiscuity, prostitution, pornography, pediphilia, polyamory, and same-sex unions. It would be less than loving for us not to share what we understand to be God’s best for our lives: faithful Christian marriage or celibacy in singleness.
2. Safe sanctuary. Matthew 28:16-17: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” Some doubted and they were not kicked off the mountain. An inclusive church is a safe place to doubt and ask questions. Jesus was patient with the doubters and so is an inclusive church.. A man cried out to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief!” When people struggle with their unbelief we aim to help them not condemn them.
3. Radical discipleship. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me.” LGBTQ people are not singled out and saddled with an impossible demand. All are being challenged in equally the same way: deny yourself. Jesus not only loves you just the way you are; he has a plan to make something much better of you. Are you open to his transforming power?
4. Balance grace and truth. In John 8:1-11, an adulterous woman is brought before Jesus by a mob ready to stone her. Jesus says, “Let him who is without sin, throw the first stone.” They turn away, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. “Who is left to condemn you?” Jesus asks. “No one, sir,” the woman responds. “Then neither do I condemn you," says Jesus, “Go and sin no more.” The woman was included, but not her behavior. Jesus balanced grace and truth. For this reason, LGBTQ people along with all other sinners are welcome to become members of our church, to worship with us and to participate in our ministries.
5. Consistent accountability. Peter said in Acts 10:34, “God shows no partiality.” For God all sin is sinful. Whenever sexual immorality is listed in the Bible, it is always as only one item in a larger list of sins, e.g.: gossip, greed, rage, drunkenness, covetousness, anger, hatred–all sins should be of equal concern to the church.
And every church should have leadership standards. Leaders influence foremost by example. Thrive Church has leadership standards: attend worship, financially support our ministry, pray daily, serve in a ministry, witness by inviting others to faith. Be faithful in marriage or celibate in singleness. By modeling these faith practices, you are ready to lead.
The United Methodist denomination has lost its way. It's leaders no longer have any clear moral teaching on human sexuality. Two United Methodist Bishops are now living in open rebellion to God and the church--their number is growing. Bible-believing Methodists are not leaving the denomation--it's the denomination that has left them. For this reason Thrive Church membership will be holding votes on disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church and joining the Global Methodist Church on Sunday, March 19 at 4 PM.