A few weeks passed after my church incident, and I still could not process what had happened! The anger inside me started to swell up. I would cry every now and then, thinking about how I’d lost my chance to do something great for God. It had been my dream to enter SOM and go on to Bible college and get a degree to become a pastor or a biblical counselor.

Now, all gone!

While my mind was full of confusion over what had happened, I couldn’t process the limitation my church had set on me. I couldn’t dwell on these things for too long because I had to go back to school and work. I had to push all the worries away and deal with them later.

At least one thing was still going for me — my college Bible study!

Before I applied for SOM, some friends were talking to me about becoming a Bible study leader. I grew thrilled at the idea of leading and serving there.

Before the service started, I got an application and filled everything out. I held onto it until the sermon ended and everyone was let out. I gave my application to two of the college pastoral assistants, and both were thrilled to learn that I wanted to do this.

Both men knew my heart and had watched me grow at my home church, as well as in the college ministry. One of them knew in-depth about my struggle with homosexuality and encouraged me as a friend to keep fighting. The other had found out about me through a men’s small group, where I’d told everyone there about my SSA.

I set a date and time to meet the pastoral assistants and discuss the logistics of being a leader at my college Bible study. I knew the basic stuff since I was already helping out with setting up chairs, organizing the slides for worship music, praying with people, etc.

Right after giving them my application and setting the meeting, the thought popped into my head: They’re gonna do a background check on you.

This sick feeling came upon me, but it was already too late. Both guys had left for the night, and they’d closed the place where the Bible study was being held.

I had to wait the whole weekend to see if I was right; if I was, I’d have to face another huge disappointment. The weekend passed, and I had my meeting. When I got there, both guys greeted me with delight and gave me hugs. I thought, Phew! I am going to make it!

But then both their faces turned from smiles to sadness, and I knew my past had destroyed my chance to become a leader.

Just as the SOM assistant pastor had explained I couldn’t enter the school because of my past, my two friends gave me the same explanation for leading a Bible study. Both told me they wish they could allow it, but I’d already been red-marked in the church’s system. They couldn’t do anything about it.

The conversation ended with both of them giving me deep hugs, and they said they were deeply sorry that I had to endure this. One of the guys did mention that since he saw how dedicated I was in my faith and wanted to grow, he would happily disciple me. I gladly took the chance and thought this story could still have a happy ending.

Weeks passed, and the other assistant pastor moved away to help start a church in another state. The other stayed and did his best to disciple me, but that soon dwindled as he grew busy with other priorities like starting a family and carrying the weight of his ministry.

Eventually, he and I stopped meeting. And I was back to where I started. With nothing.

Have you ever been stopped, prevented, or asked to step down from a church leadership role? How do you “fit” into the Church and church leadership?

* Photo courtesy davidspinks, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • Hey brother, I was rejected from ministry too. My Pastor was grooming me to become apart of his ministry team but when he discovered that I had SSA, he immediately dropped the idea. Please understand, my Pastor was a compassionate man, patient and godly. He had his limitations, one being that he was blind physically, but you couldn’t find a more understanding man of God. He was also caught up in a Church system that demanded a perfect image, or thereabouts. His church was made up of a lot of misfits, rejects from other churches, wanderers (me), and people that couldn’t fit in in other places. It was good place for the hurting and rejects. The bulk of the ministry were of the same, including the Pastor himself. But he was caught between two worlds. This perfect image, and being a haven, or what we called our inner city drop in centre, “The Rescue Centre”. We loved it, it was a lot of fun. He has since passed away and his son took over and within a years time, his son had an affair with his brothers wife, all part of his ministry team, and then the church folded. But before that happened, God pulled me out of that Church in 2007. I felt a strong power urging me to leave. So I left.
    I read your Posts Matthew and since your Church rejected you, the journey doesn’t end. That was just one Church, you move on to another OR you ask the LORD to help you start your own ministry and see if that is the direction He wants you to go in. God ‘s specialty is us rejects. “He was rejected of men”. But look what came out of that rejection?
    My SSA hasn’t left me brother. I am 49 years old and I have been affected by homosexuality since I was 12. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from them”. We is true for both the spiritual and the profane. I was geared to go this way and it was the way God wanted me to go in. “I wound and I heal, I kill and make alive, I the LORD do all these things”. We are wounded by our own transgression, we are bruised by our iniquity, and by His stripes we are healed.
    When telling your testimony to the powers that be in any future applications, be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. The telling of having and offering details about having sexual relations with someone younger then yourself is not necessary. No one needs to know that information. That is under the blood. You and I can talk about it and swap SSA stories, but we don’t talk about it with those in power. They have an image to uphold and they don’t want to take a chance on us ruining it.

    • Thank you for your input! But that’s crazy about your former church and all the things that happened there. It sucks hearing stuff like that, and it does hurt the whole body, as such as my post. But this is also real life. I’m hoping that my stories will help those who has dealt with this in the past, present, or future.

  • “…I knew my past had destroyed my chance to become a leader.” There’s consequences to what we do, but at what point does church show real grace to those in Christ? “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” That should mean something. Policies set by men shouldn’t trump principles set by God. There’s a place and necessity for discernment in the church but policy eliminates that for the sake of a rule that covers everyone every time. It should have been enough that the two leaders, the guys who knew you and walked with you and prayed with you and knew your heart, it should have been enough that in their view you were ready. Policy shouldn’t have trumped that.
    My experience of ministry had nothing to do with SSA or my past. I was a part of this church for 3-4 years and heavily involved and invested in different things, it was place where good people were looking for Jesus. As part of becoming an official member you had to sign a covenant that was basically a number of “I will. . . ” statements. It seemed unnecessary and also unbiblical to be required to sign a paper when it’s God who makes church membership a reality. I talked about it with the pastors but never signed or became an official member, but was a member in all the ways that mattered. Life went on and things were great cause no one really cared about the paper once they signed it. Fast forward a few years later, I used to get together with some of the guys after men’s group to pray. One of the guys was an elder who had become a friend who once a month would go to the local nursing home and tell about Jesus. One time I had agreed to fill in for him but he had to call me a few days later pulling the invitation cause a pastor told him I wasn’t a member. To be honest, it didn’t make me mad or hurt, it just seemed really stupid that I couldn’t tell 80-90 year olds about Jesus cause I hadn’t signed a paper. It wasn’t the reason I left the church, but it did make visible what wouldn’t be possible there.
    I find policies in the church do more harm than good, that they remove the harder work of having to go to God and discern what’s right in a particular situation, that they put good people like your two pastoral assistant friends in a hard place, and it is so unnecessary. What gets me about your run-in is the disconnect of what your experimenting as a kid with another kid has to do with ministering to a college group when you’re following Jesus. I feel for you man. I’m left wondering what you found that made you want to stay Matt.

    • Interesting story blu. I’ve seen this “real vs formal membership” thing lead to things like this as well. It’s unfortunate, and really sad. I understand the need for commitment among brothers, i.e. “not forsaking the assembling” but “formal membership” is often a very weak attempt at encouraging commitment. It’s more common use is to keep people out who “don’t belong”…

      • I’ll tell ya what C, at the time I wanted to go to elders and members and ask how many of the 6-8 “I will…” things they remembered. It would have just been in-your-face so I didn’t but I’m betting that members didn’t remember most of them. That’s the disconnect for me, it didn’t matter to the life of the church but it became the determining factor of whether you were a member. I don’t think it was intentional just the side effect of when men lay hold badly of God’s deal. Funny thing is, to your point, not only can it keep people out, it can let people in who may just want to fit in who may not be alive in Christ. Signing a paper is just a bad measure of what’s real, not only is it unspiritual, it is so unChristlike. I landed at a Calvary Chapel where they have no membership documents you need to sign.

    • In the end I’ll do my best to explain everything and tell the reason why I left. So stay tuned! And expect to be more frustrated too! Haha.

  • This is actually something I fear. I think it’s an exaggerated fear, but it’s still there. Ive never acted on my attractions or anything. I just feel like if I would begin to be more open with my story it would affect my life in ministry. I’ve been in mssions for about 7 years and I’m out to my leadership about my attractions but they have this attitude of “why do we need to talk about it?” They like neat bows, and I’m not really into all that. My church here in the States doesn’t know, and I have no idea how to approach it or if I even want to. I just feel like having this “talk” would make it a bigger deal than I want it to be.

    • I agree Ashley. You are correct. It’s not important if the leadership knows anything. I am “out” to my family. That is, I am out regarding my SSA. And basically, that is all that should know. Paul tells us not to “draw attention to ourselves” , but rather, “live a quiet life, with sobriety…..”. Truer words have not been spoken. When I see Christian holding up placards on street corners protesting, I must say, they don’t know the LORD at all.

  • Matthew, I can only imagine the gut punch that going through these things has been for you. Sometimes, the Church can be the most unsafe and grace-less place. I’ve been there myself and that’s BEFORE I brought up my ssa. Like bluzhawk said, not every church is like that. I currently am on the worship team at my church and I decided I wanted to tell my pastor about my ssa so in case he didn’t feel ok with that, I could quietly go away and avoid shame and embarrassment. He was understanding and didn’t treat me any different than before and he didn’t ask me to step down from being on the worship team. I was pretty surprised to be honest! So, hopefully that will give you some hope.

  • Aahhh… this makes my whole body sick. I just felt it creeping up as soon as you mentioned “leading a bible study”.
    That hurts so much. Part of the hurt, on my end, is a similar experience I had, where I had talked to one of our pastors about some struggles with SSA, needing to connect with guys. He was very caring, and concerned, though he didn’t really get what I was saying.
    He listened to me, then told me a story about an experience his son had- one of his friends grew close to him and confessed being attracted to him. My thought was, “OK?!? I’m not hitting on your son, here.” He also didn’t understand that my marriage, in many ways, isn’t directly impacted by my SSA. Why would it?? It’s about my relationship with my wife, not some dude I like to get coffee with.
    A few months went by, and a church bulletin went out asking for volunteers in the youth group. My wife has a heart for women’s ministry, and specifically teenage girls- perfect fit. So she applied, and got back- “There are some things you should focus on at home.” What?!!!!
    We inquired, and they referenced that I had talked about my SSA with the other pastor. My wife gave it up – but I was so angry. It just shows such a lack of understanding. I’d never felt so violated before.
    So Matthew, although not the same as your experience, I can understand some of your pain. I can (literally) feel it in my bones. So sorry mate.

    • There is no hint about the age of Bathsheba. The prophet that came to David afterward and told him the story of a lamb a man had. She could have been in her teens, we don’t know.

  • My priests have known about my SSA and they’ve never suggested that I shouldn’t be in ministry. I help with a lot of things, including teaching kids and teens.
    It breaks my heart that there are so many stories like yours though, especially given that the Church is supposed to be the best place to get help with your crosses.

    • Yeah, unfortunately this is real life and people have to deal with this whether they want to or not. Yet, at the same time there are people like you who have experience the positive side of sharing your past and struggles. I thank you for that.

  • You’re KILLING me Matt! Haha. But thanks for the fore-warning I suppose. I’ll brace myself and try not to “burn down any churches in the name of Justice” in the meantime as Blu said – though it’s tempting.

  • The church and its leaders can make mistakes. I give these guys credit for trying to do something right, even if they got it wrong. I am sorry Matthew and understand your pain and rejection. You were not trying to hide your past. You were honest and others didn’t know how to deal with it.
    Certainly there is a difference from behavior and inclination. I daresay that most men have faced lust of one kind or another sometime in their lives. Some of them probably acted out on their lust. Should past sin/temptation disqualify a leader from Christian leadership or service? Or if a Christian leader faces current temptations (alcohol, pornography, greed, gluttony, lust, etc.) should they step down from leadership?
    Well, there is a difference between being tempted and acting on those temptations. Perhaps if Christian leaders are not in control of their lives and cannot restrain sinful behavior when tempted, yes, they should step down. A lot of pastors caught in adultery, have had to leave their churches. (1 Timothy 3)
    But, if you can take Paul’s words seriously, he was the greatest of all sinners (and that is in the Bible–mind you!) and yet God by his extreme grace chose Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles. So, these guys at SOM and at your college profs seem to have a higher standard than God. And in my opinion they got it wrong.
    In August 2013, Christianity magazine interviewed three celibate Christian men with SSA who were pastors in churches. Sean Dohorty, Sam Allbery and Ed Shaw all have SSA and it is not secret. But all three have chosen to submit their attractions to the gospel of Christ and to live godly celibate lives. All three serve in God’s church in leadership positions. I can’t say that all churches can do this, but I think it at least opens up a place for discussion in the church of Jesus Christ.
    I myself am not a pastor, but I am a missionary. And three of my pastors know that I have SSA. My missionary care pastor for my mission also knows about my SSA. Yeah, there is some danger that I could be kicked out, but so far, that hasn’t been my experience. I am sorry that it was yours. I don’t condemn these guys. I think the modern church is too often not ready to face current culture with both the grace and the truth that are found in Jesus. Balancing grace with truth can be tricky. As more is known about Christians struggling with SSA, I think we will see a more Christ-like response. I pray that it is so.

  • Mine was at camp. I had been hired as a counselor. During the first weeks, I talked to my boss about my SSA. Later that week I was in a meeting with him, the camp director and the CEO. They offered to “let me leave” or take a job on maintenance/grounds. All I wanted to do was help students grow in their faith……. not cut the grass and clean toilets.
    And I think how I have and do fit has depended a lot on the church and where I was at in life/understanding. Thanks for sharing – looking forward to the end… maybe not as much the other frustrating bits. But I feel you on being left alone in church/ministry.

  • Matthew,
    Please don’t let the inability of one group of people to realize your potential stop you. You obviously have an intrinsic desire to follow Christ, and you’ve been given the gumption and courage to seek out God’s will for a reason, and with purpose. Hopefully you can use this experience to make sure that nobody ever has to feel the same way you did, no matter what their circumstance. Keep going, bro. Much love.

  • This legitimately pisses me off. I… there is no biblical basis for this, and it seems to fly in the face of all that the gospel is.

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