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I am thrilled to be a part of the Body of Christ. Though imperfect, I see a tremendous groundswell of truth, compassion, grace, and service, which accurately reflects the heart of Jesus Christ.
Contrast that to 1991, the year I sought support for my struggles with sexuality outside of the four walls and community of my local congregation. I was afraid of being cast out because my story was different. I had no confidence in the church’s ability to treat me kindly or extend grace. I will never know whether my perceptions of them were right or wrong. I simply couldn’t risk what I believed would be my reality if I “came out” to them. So I sought help from Exodus International.
That is a common theme interwoven into the history of Exodus and has made us the overpopulated ministry that we have become. It is in this black sheep church ministry that the majority of Christians with SSA, and those that love them have shared their stories of shame and loneliness. Like most who have found Exodus to be a refuge, I am grateful this ministry was here during those desperate and lonely days.
Today the need for Exodus remains great, but for a different reason. Many churches do a phenomenal job of reaching out equally and graciously to those in need. In most cases it isn’t a big deal whether someone comes in to the church with a story of same-sex or opposite-sex attraction. There isn’t a stigma attached or judgments made. Pastors and parishioners alike seem, from my experience, excited to receive all people into their churches. It’s a new day. A reality we have worked and prayed hard for!
At Exodus we see ourselves mostly as bridgers. Bill Hybels has aptly labeled the Church “the hope of the world”. If we as Christian leaders with influence in the lives of people impacted by SSA believe that, then our number one goal must be encouraging those who seek our counsel to go to the place where they will find the most hope. Similarly, as people who know what it is like to live with SSA in the Church, we want to encourage “the hope of the world” to offer that hope to people like us living outside of the community of Christ.
This past week 70 Exodus leaders from North America gathered together in Orlando for the Annual Exodus Leadership Reunion. It was, in a word, glorious. Our time together was a wonderful mix of fellowship and vision casting. During our daytime meetings we shared highlights from 2012, galvanized around our missional (vs. organizational) strategy for 2013 and beyond, and spent time encouraging one another.
Our leadership is on the same page and working together for a common goal. We are resolute in our ultimate desire to love God and to love people. The way we see that being carried out is in how we serve those we love. This is why I say the need for Exodus remains great, but for a different reason.
What’s different today than it was in 1976 when Exodus was founded is that we aren’t working outside of, or in spite of the Church. As I see it, we are the Caleb’s and Joshua’s of the Body of Christ encouraging our fellow believers to move into the land of milk and honey—peace and rest in our position as sons and daughters of God.
As a Church ministry called to serve the Body, a significant part of what we offer is support and encouragement to people who struggle in the area of their sexuality. Our long history of support to people with same-sex attraction remains particularly important.
Today Exodus isn’t offering what we cannot deliver. There is a clarion calling to share our stories – messy, in process, miraculous, and true. We hope that our transparency and honesty will be compelling to others who seek to live their lives through the filter of their faith in Christ rather than through the filter of their sexual desires.
The Church is an amazing community where we encourage people to live life with others. Exodus is a temporary enclave of support, encouragement and understanding serving people with and without a church community—providing adjunct support for those who need it and connecting those without any support to those able to give it.
One of the excellent ways we provide support is through our Freedom Conference. June 19-22 we will gather up to 1,000 people in need of support, encouragement, discipleship, fellowship and inspiration. Whether it is the individual with SSA, a parent, spouse or loved one, a pastor, counselor or neighbor, The Exodus Freedom Conference is the perfect place to go for dynamic worship, teaching, and community.
This year, more than any other in recent years, I am praying for people to join us who have felt disenfranchised by the Exodus support community. People who previously felt we were pushing a cure or marriage as the goal. While we will always uphold the biblical model for sexual expression, we realize that the majority of the population we serve will always experience SSA in some form and won’t have the opportunity, or even desire, for marriage. While some might see that as a defeatist posture, my fellow leaders within this vast movement see it as a realist one. Our goal is as it should be: surrendering all of our mind, souls and bodies to the Lordship of Christ.
The theme of our gathering this summer is True Story. Like I said, even when those stories are messy we are going to share them. People like Julie Rodgers, one of our twenty-something leaders who has an amazing story of serving Jesus in the inner city as a woman with SSA and no desire for marriage. People like Nate and Chip Collins, a married son with SSA and his dad who are in ministry together serving other families in crisis. Every part of our time together will highlight the beautiful reality of being an image bearer no matter what.
In my opinion, the world is in desperate need of authenticity. At Exodus, a Kingdom ministry, we are striving to be authentic through our true stories as we seek to live holy lives that reflect the reality of our life in Christ. If you long for a real place to “be” with others on a similar path then you need to join us. If the dates conflict with something else you have planned and you can afford it, would you consider providing a scholarship for someone else who wants to attend but can’t afford to pay?
I am more excited about the ministry of Exodus and the potential we have than I ever have been. This is a new day and a new season and I am thrilled to be a part of all that God is doing!
All for the Kingdom,