Caleb Kaltenbach was a toddler when his parents divorced and independently came out of the closet as a gay man and a lesbian. He was lovingly raised in the LGBT community, but knew first hand the hatred and bitterness from Christians. He went to a Bible study intent on disproving the Bible, but ended up falling in love with Jesus. He is now pastor of Discovery Church and author of Messy Grace.
Caleb shared about growing up with gay parents and following Jesus here. He also talked about two words to guide churches and pastors’ approach as they navigate the issue of same-sex relationships and attraction:
Tension and Intentionality.
I think the word we need to embrace and adopt right now – one word is tension. And we’ll definitely talk about that. But I think another word in terms of how we approach this is intentionality. I think that leaders and pastors and missionaries, so on and so forth, I think you have to be intentional.
As a matter of fact, what we know is missionaries who go overseas and learn a different culture and a different context – they have to do contextualization. They have to learn about the culture and they have to use the culture as a vessel to communicate the message of Christ, to communicate salvation, to communicate the Gospel. So I think it doesn’t water it down. I think they learn culture in turn to communicate it. And we are great with missionaries doing that, but I think that sometimes when it comes to being here in America, we still have this mindset that “Well, we don’t need to change” and “We just need to get culture back to where it was.” If there’s one thing we know it’s that culture is never consistent. Culture is consistently shifting…
So I think we need to be intentional not only of studying culture, but also, how we communicate the gospel.
Again, some people might say “We just need to be frank and firm and tell them the truth.” Well, that’s true we do, but we don’t need to be a jerk about it and we don’t have to be rude. And when you see the apostle Paul and Jesus, both of them were so intentional with everything that they did. In Luke chapter 15, when Jesus tells the parables about the lost coin, the lost son and the lost sheep – at the very beginning of that chapter it says that he was aware of his audience. There were people who were sure of themselves and their righteousness and sinners and so on and so forth. And so he was so intentional about how he crafted those stories.
When you look at the apostle Paul in Acts chapter 17 and he’s talking to the philosopher at Athens, he uses a secular song and he uses their culture, even an alter to an unknown God as an opportunity to preach the gospel to them. And then we see what he says in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 and following. There’s intentionality. He says to the weak, I become weak. I become all things to all people so that I might win some. And so I think even in the first century there was intentionality and to a certain degree we lost that intentionality because we’re trying to preserve some kind of a culture when really what we’re doing is we are promoting God’s kingdom, which doesn’t need to be preserved, God preserves it and that’s what we need to do. We need to be students of our culture at all times.
What can we do better as a church?
As far as what the church and Christians are doing wrong, not to harp, but to be honest, I think that unfortunately we get too involved in a culture war. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up for our religious liberty and I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up to protect rights. I think that the gospel penetrates all areas of life including politics, but I think we have to be careful and I think we have to learn not to rely on that so much.
… It’s all about identity … When we don’t learn to step outside of our own skin and contextualize like missionaries, and think about what the other person might be thinking or experiencing, we end up hurting other people.
… When we don’t have a relationship, when we don’t know a person, when we treat them like pet evangelistic projects and we just share what the Bible says about same-sex intimacy, we are reducing them to their sexual orientation. We’re doing to them what we tell them not to do.
His advice on what to say and how to engage with those who come out to us is invaluable – don’t miss it!