The other day I was chatting with some friends about the topic of LGBT+ people serving in ministry roles within the church, both on a volunteer level and in a leadership-type role, and of course that got me thinking about my own personal ministry roles and experiences. Almost all of my ministry experience came from the time when I was still closeted, only out to a handful of people; the only ministry experience I have since coming out is my role with LOVEboldly.
I remember when I was kid hearing from Christian leaders around me that I was “going to do great things for the Lord,” that “the Lord is preparing [me] for ministry.” I remember hearing these things as an eight, nine, ten year-old and thinking that’d be pretty neat, but had no idea what that really looked like. My mom and I didn’t start attending church until after my parents’ divorce, when she was granted full custody of me and we moved to one of Dayton’s southernmost suburbs. To an extent, her and I both soaked up every single bit of Jesus we could because we both knew in our hearts that He delivered us from the world we were living in before. So, naturally, I soaked up this “calling,” too. Sure as hell had no idea what it meant, but it was coming out of the mouths of the people in our (then) small group, who also happened to be some influential people at the church we were attending (and a large one, at that), so I just went with it.
I haven’t seen or heard from many people at that church in recent months/years, especially those that were in the small group we attended, but I would venture a solid guess to say that they would be borderline disappointed in where I’ve ended up. I mean, heaven forbid a Christian come out as gay and still do ministry, right? What blasphemy!“With coming out came accepting a harsh reality: the Christian church at large won’t allow me to do ministry anymore.”
When I was still closeted, I did student ministry work as both a high school senior and as a college student. I worked mainly with high school-aged students and I loved it. High schoolers are exhausting, don’t get me wrong, but the reward of seeing even just one or two of them come to grow deeper in Christ was enough reward for all of the late nights and seemingly pointless conversations and camp shenanigans. Student ministry was what I loved to do, but I’ll admit I did get a little burnt out at one point and had to take a break from it all. In the midst of this break, I made the decision to come out while wrapping up my second-to-last semester of undergrad.
With coming out came accepting a harsh reality: the Christian church at large won’t allow me to do ministry anymore.
Yeah, it was a little hard to fully accept because I loved what I was doing (and had solid experience with it), but it also felt like a low-blow dealt to anyone who ever cheered me on when I was growing up. “Where did we go wrong?” “Where did he go wrong?” I could hear these questions in their voices swirling about my mind. It was disheartening to say the least.“I’m not who they made me; I’m who I Am made me.”
And then, like glass swiftly shattering, I realized it didn’t matter. I’m not who they made me; I’m who I Am made me.
Speaking the truth of the Gospel and doing “ministry” isn’t limited to being in an official capacity with a non-profit, a parachurch ministry, or an actual church. My friend Brian reminded me one time that Jesus simply said “Go,” empowered us through the Spirit, and left it open-ended. I’d argue that I’ve done more ministry work and speaking the truth of the Gospel since coming out than the entire time I tried doing so while closeted.
As I continue to grow into the person I am and continue to grow in my relationship with Christ, the more I welcome these shattered expectations with open arms. They help me to be stronger in who I am becoming.
People may be surprised by who I am now, but I Am isn’t, and He empowers me to be “me” and you to be “you.” Walk confidently in this, friends.