The other day we had friends over for lunch after church. These are good folks coming from a strong background in a Chinese American church.
Since they are new around City Church of Long Beach and have a lot of Christian experience, it struck me as the respectful thing to do to fill them in our our LGBTQ Study Team process. Typically, that’s not the sort of thing that evangelical Christians want to be surprised by after six months of connecting, serving and tithing – so I figured I would let them know up front. Thus, the lunch.
As their adorable boys were running around the sofa I said, “As I mentioned last week, I wanted to make sure you knew about our LGBTQ Study Team process. You guys are well grounded in the bible and theology and it seems wise to give you space to assess who we are as a church early on. I want to give you permission to ask whatever you want.”
Jeff jumped in first. “What’s your church governance structure?” Good question, but I’ll be honest, that’s not where I thought we’d start (or end, for that matter). Though not a sexy question, it made sense as that one unfolded into so many more – are there checks and balances for the pastor, is there shared leadership, what’s the vision of the church, etc. They wanted to know who we are as a church; governance, leadership and vision matter.
Then it was on to theology. “You guys don’t use the word ‘sin’ a lot when you preach,” Jon pointed out. “Why is that?” We unpacked what sin is and how to convey it to our unchurched context. Madeline breathed a sigh of relief when I mentioned I believe in total depravity, and there was really good conversation around total depravity not meaning that everyone is secretly an axe murder but that all of our actions and motives are tainted by selfishness.
From there it was questions about the Bible – is it trustworthy, inerrant, or what? And what is God truly like and how do we know God best? What’s the relationship between gospel and law, truth and grace, Jesus and God? And on and on and on. A great conversation. There was only one question that they didn’t ask.
They never asked about LGBTQ issues.
And it’s not because they were avoiding it. I just don’t think they needed to.
I could be wrong, but judging by the fact that they still worship with us, I think that they got enough of the answers they needed and are willing to go on the journey with us as we sort out the rest. A definitive stance on LGBTQ issues was not one of the answers required to determine if we are a faithful church who loves Jesus and lives on mission.