Leaders Need to Set the Pace in Evangelism
Helping youth leaders empower
students to reach their world.
Helping youth leaders empower
students to reach their world.

The Greg Stier Youth ministry Podcast

episode 24 | May 2023

LGBTQ: Can we restart the conversation? Featuring Sean McDowell

In this episode, Greg is joined by friend, author, and professor Sean McDowell, who is an Associate Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. They dive into how to engage with people who identify as LGBTQ, by loving them, sharing the Gospel with them, and speaking biblical truth with kindness. 

They are joined later by Brady Cone, a man whose life and sexuality were transformed by the Gospel and who now has a passion to equip Christians to navigate sexuality issues with both clarity and compassion.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

0:00:00.0 Greg Stier: Welcome to the Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast. I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teens. I believe that the best way to get teenagers to grow is to get them to go. I encourage you to subscribe to the podcast, rate it, review it, spread the word to youth leaders. It’s time for a revolution in youth ministry that will result in every teen everywhere hearing the gospel from a friend.

0:00:27.1 GS: And I’m super excited about our guest today. Dr. Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church in particular young people to make a case for the Christian faith. He connects with audiences in a tangible way through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support for viewing all areas of life through a biblical worldview. Sean is an associate professor in the Christian Apologetics Program at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. Traveling throughout the United States and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities, conferences.

0:01:00.8 GS: He’s a co-host of the Think Biblically podcast, which is one of the most popular podcasts on faith and cultural engagement. He’s the author, co-author, editor of over 20 books, including Same Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage with John Stonestreet, Is God Just a Human Invention with Jonathan Amaro, and so many, many more. I just want to say this, Sean is a friend of mine. We’ve done events together. I always look forward to sharing the stage with Sean McDowell because you know you’re going to get truth and you’re going to get humor and you’re going to get a kind spirit. And love your YouTube videos. I recommend them everywhere because you speak sound truth in soundbite, Sean. Thanks so much for being a part of this.

0:01:48.2 Sean McDowell: Oh, I’m honored too, man. Look, speaking truth kindly is somewhat easy, but you said with humor, so now you’ve set me up. I feel the pressure. I’ve got to be funny to all these youth pastors.

0:02:00.3 GS: Be funny. Better get cracking.

0:02:00.5 SM: Good to be with you, brother.

0:02:02.6 GS: So glad that you’re here. And we did a few years back, you and I did with Jonathan McKee, we did the Anchored Conference in Southern California. Just kind of talk a little bit about that and that experience.

0:02:18.0 SM: Yeah, that was a remarkable conference. Our buddy Jonathan had the idea, kind of roped the two of us in and said that there’s some cultural changes that are taking place. We got to speak to this. Now I had been speaking on this topic for probably, I don’t know, a dozen years now, maybe 15 years, but had not hosted a conference at the Christian school in which my kids go and I teach part-time and invited people to come there. So that was a step of faith to step out. And it was great because we had a number of pastors that came. My pastor at the time came and took notes and sat through it, and it really actually transformed. He started these difficult conversations at our church around topics like this. And I think this event was one piece that motivated him towards doing that. So that was awesome.

0:03:08.2 SM: You and I, we shared the stage and we gave some extensive talks. My role was to talk about a biblical approach to same-sex relationships, to gender identity, sexuality, take live questions. And there not only were Christians there, there was probably three or four folks that showed up who, let’s just say, see things very differently. They were respectful. I was glad that they were there. We had some wonderful conversations, but it just shows how divisive and how hot and heated this topic is. And like you said, you got to bring kindness, but you got to speak biblical truth. And I think we did that.

0:03:42.1 GS: Sean, I just, and I mean this, I don’t think there’s anybody I know who does that better than you. You are very kind, but you’re very truthful. And that is just, that’s a hard balance to find. George Whitfield used to pray, God, give me the mixture of the lion and the lamb.

0:04:03.6 SM: Wow.

0:04:05.6 GS: And you have that mixture, praise God. And so I appreciate the way you handled that. It was great. Great having conversations with everybody at that Anchored Conference. Let’s talk a little bit about this whole issue. Why is this particular topic of the LGBTQ+ conversation so important? And why is it so important for youth leaders to have? Because my sense is that youth leaders tend to avoid the subject because it’s such a powder keg. Why is it so important for us to have this conversation?

0:04:40.5 SM: Let me make a little comment first, what you said about living in that tension of grace and truth, lion and the lamb. I wrote a blog maybe three weeks ago, and I said, we need to be living in that tension. If we’re not living in that tension, we’re erring too far to truth, or we’re erring too far to grace. People ask me all the time with these really difficult situations, how do I navigate this? And honestly, sometimes I say, I have no idea. Let’s pray about it. Let’s think about it. Let’s give it time. But we are called and must feel that tension. If we’re not feeling it, I wonder if we’re really being biblically faithful. That’s how I approach this. Now, why does this topic matter so much? Look, all Barna study show and personal testimonies show that this is one of the biggest reasons, two things, that non-believers look at the Christian faith and turns them off, and I think hijacks Christian kids in terms of their faith. That is how we’re handling it. So if we want to reach non-Christian kids, we have to talk about this. We have to address this. We can’t compromise a biblical message, but have to find wise, strategic ways to address it today for non-Christian kids.

0:05:53.2 SM: A lot of Christian kids don’t have a clue what the Bible teaches and why it teaches it. So either they’re silent with their friends, they don’t talk about faith issues, or they just capitulate and they give in because they have no idea. I mean, probably this is around the time we did that conference, maybe two years before, I was doing this role play in a Christian school classroom, and sometimes a role play in atheist, a Muslim, pro-choicer, and I decided I was going to role play defending same-sex marriage and just see what these kids said. I kid you not, Greg, in a great Christian school, 90 seconds in, this girl raised her hand. She goes, okay, I get it. We believe in natural marriage, but I don’t have a clue how to make a case for it. She just spoke up for a generation of Christians in the church. They don’t have a clue how to think about masculinity and femininity. They don’t have a clue how to think about marriage and homosexuality and transgender from within their faith. So if we don’t talk about it, basically what we’re saying to this generation is that the gospel and the Christian message has nothing to say to this topic. It has nothing to say to this topic.

0:07:06.6 SM: Well, think about that. One of the biggest issues a kid is wrestling with, if we don’t address it, we’re saying the gospel doesn’t have something to say to this area of my life. It raises the natural question, then what does the gospel have to do with my life? How does the Christian worldview weigh into my faith? So I think a lot of youth pastors don’t weigh into this because it’s tricky. They don’t want to get canceled. I have so much sympathy for that. I get that but these in someways you could say, I would say issues like science and faith are huge, issues of the exclusivity of Jesus are huge. Questions of a moral nature like hell and evil are huge. And mental health issues are also becoming even bigger and bigger. This issue is the top two or three.

0:08:01.0 SM: So youth pastors, you don’t have to be the experts. You don’t have it all together, but you have to be willing to minimally have this conversation and point kids back to scripture.

0:08:08.5 GS: Amen. You got to… What I used to call, you got to tip over that bucket of water and make a mess and get a mop and with the power of the Holy Spirit, start sweeping it up. And I really feel like you’re exactly right. This is such a big issue. And I don’t think it’s just Christian kids. I think there’s a thirst among teenagers. I have a friend, his name is Colin. He’s a youth leader in California. He started this group called Every Teen Clubs. And it’s basically, he buys pizza for students at school. They have a bowl and a Bible. Students put in their question. He answers from the Bible. That’s what the whole session is. And he said, a vast majority of the kids coming are lost and a large percentage of them are part of the LGBTQ+ community. And they’re not there hijacking the conversation. They’re there asking sincere questions about sexuality. And he answers pretty conservative straight from the Bible, but he always points them to the gospel, always points them to Jesus. Not only has that group grown, he’s got like 80 kids going to the first school. It’s now started at another school because there’s a thirst and a hunger and students saved and unsaved are only hearing oftentimes one side of the narrative.

0:09:27.1 GS: And so we get to share what the Bible has to say. And let’s tie it in with scripture a little bit. I want to ask this question. In your experience, how does someone’s view of scripture influence their views on LGBTQ+ issues?

0:09:44.1 SM: I think it’s the primary issue, hands down. I interviewed a buddy of mine, Jonathan Morrow, and we called, I forget how we titled it, but the idea was what is the biggest issue facing the church today? And my answer was, and Jonathan’s was, it’s the question of biblical authority. This is really, and this goes back to the fundamentalist, liberal, evangelical debates, early 1900s. None of this is really new. Is it experience? Is it culture? Is it scripture that’s going to be authoritative in my life? That’s the dividing line on this topic.

0:10:22.3 SM: Now, we can get into why scripture is true and authoritative. That’s a separate conversation. But I think it goes even further than this. I think it goes back to the character of God, what we believe about God, and what we believe about the nature of the scriptures. One of the things my dad taught me, you know, he led the Why Wait campaign before True Love Waits and all that stuff in the ’80s. And he would always say every… God’s commands stem because God is good. And his commands are to protect us and to provide for us. They’re not negative. They’re positive. And I… Not that I always like God’s commands and God’s knows. In the back of my mind, I always thought God is good and scripture is a reflection of his good character. And the older I get, the more I have these aha moments and I see now here’s why God designed it to be this way. So there’s a reason why in the book of Deuteronomy in chapter 10, when Moses is about to give the commandments to Israel, he says, Love Lord God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength, and follow these commandments, which I am giving you for your good.

0:11:35.3 GS: Yes.

0:11:36.0 SM: There’s a reason why Psalms 19, David says he rejoices in the laws and the statutes and commandments of the Lord. So this really goes back to scripture, like you said. Do we think scripture is authoritative? But even behind that, is it just a bunch of commandments? Is it a bunch of rules that are trying to steal all of my fun or does this come from the heart of a good God who’s giving me commandments to set me free? I actually think, Greg, one of the biggest lies this generation believes is about the nature of freedom, that freedom is doing whatever I want without restraint. I’m the author of my life. Where you and I know we’re actually only free when we live according to God’s design for our lives as expressed in scripture. So the heart of this debate is authority and what is the good life? Is it looking within or is it looking without to God and what he says in the scriptures?

0:12:37.1 GS: I love it. I heard a quote when I was a teenager that a train is only free when it’s on its tracks.

0:12:43.0 SM: Amen.

0:12:43.1 GS: And I love that. I love that illustration and God knows where the tracks are. The other thing, I really agree. I mean, if God’s word is inspired and inerrant, then it is in charge. So if God breathed out this book, his house rules. It’s what we tell our kids. He owns the house, makes the rules. And that’s what I told my kids. I still tell my daughter. And that this is God’s house and he is in charge. But his intent is love and it’s good and it’s for our best. So let’s talk a little bit specifically about teenagers. You interact with teenagers all the time, which is one of the things I appreciate about you. And again, one of the reasons you speak sound truth in soundbites and your YouTube videos are watched so often. So what are some of the questions that teenagers are asking about this particular issue?

0:13:50.3 SM: I think the question of LGBTQ is really shifted to questions of identity are at the root of it. So I’m not sure that kids come up to me all the time and just ask me questions about LGBTQ. But if I give them the right environment, like you talked about earlier, I found Christians and non-Christian kids want to ask questions. They want space to think about this and figure it out. Vast majority of kids don’t want it just to be political. They want to make sense of it. And so when I start probing them, then some of the questions start to rise to the surface. And I think beneath this question are really the same questions kids have always been asking.

0:14:31.3 SM: Now we could talk about some of the nuances, like should I use a preferred pronoun or not? I mean kids, that’s a real life question for a young person because they’re trying to navigate their classroom, their friends online. That is a practical maze that they’re trying to navigate and figure out. But as you go beneath that, really the heart of it, I think, are questions of identity, questions of belonging, questions of purpose and what my life is about.

0:15:01.1 SM: I’ll never forget. I mean this was on… I guess this was probably a year before COVID. So again, it was around the same time as our conference is I had a young man who asked me a question after I gave a talk on a biblical view of sexuality. And the question was… He goes, so is homosexuality like the worst sin? And I’ve done this long enough to know that there’s often a question beneath the question. And I want to help surface it in the right way if I can. I said, God, that’s such a good question. Maybe let’s just step outside where people aren’t here. We can just kind of talk about this. So I said, tell me why you asked this question of all the questions. To make a long story short, this kid was wrestling with same-sex attraction, had never told anybody about it ever. I was the first person he told. And I asked him. I said, why haven’t you told your parents? And he said, I’ve heard these kind of condescending, homophobic remarks from my parents. And I always felt like if I came out, that’s how they’re going to see me. So for him, he doesn’t know what to do with this. Like kids don’t know what to do with gender dysphoria. They’re trying to figure it out. But beneath it are the same questions kids have always asked. Will you love me? Will you listen to me? Do I belong? Does God care about me? Those are really the deep questions that kids are wrestling with.

0:16:28.9 GS: Man, I love that because Dr. Kara Powell’s book about the three big questions they routinely ask, identity, belonging, and purpose. And what’s encouraging, and this will kind of transition to our next question, but what’s encouraging is the gospel answers all those questions of identity, belonging, and purpose. We identify as a child of God. We belong in the family of God, and we engage with purpose on the mission of God to make and multiply disciples. And sometimes we forget that the gospel is not just a ticket to heaven. It’s a train ride to identity, belonging, and purpose. So you have that on your way to heaven. You go to heaven too, but you have all this other stuff that starts now and lasts into eternity. So as we… This ties right in. So as we coach teenagers to reach out because I do think that’s one of the problems today. I think a lot of Christian students, they either fully engage as friends. They don’t even think of it as an issue or they fully disengage from anybody in the LGBTQ community. But Jesus, what did he do? Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners, those who were considered sinners of that time, those who he engaged with because it was the sick who needed a doctor. And not those who thought they were healed, right?

0:17:54.6 GS: And so many times our Christian teens are hanging out with other Christian teens, but they’re not engaging. So how would you coach a teenager to reach out to those of their friends or those of their classmates who are engaged in an LGBTQ+ lifestyle? What are some of the tips or ideas or thoughts or strategies you would give them in reaching out to them?

0:18:23.1 SM: So in some ways, I would say reach out to them the same way you would anybody else. I mean there’s biblical principles about loving people, listening, caring, sharing the gospel, building relationships. This isn’t some alien category that’s out there. I know you’re not implying that, Greg, obviously. But sometimes we look at the topic this way, we put these groups out there and say we need some special, unique way to reach this group. Well, there are some nuances we should talk about and things that we need to be aware of. But as a whole, the golden rule, just go love and care for these group of people made in God’s image. The way you would anybody else.

0:19:02.4 GS: Amen.

0:19:03.1 SM: And I think that kind of simplifies it and gives kids permission to say, you know what? They’re just like I am trying to make sense of life in the same fashion. That’s number one. Number two, the thing I would say though is if I’m gonna send my students out, and this is true on any topic, if I’m gonna tell them to go engage atheists, I’m gonna read some books on atheism and defending the faith first. So they have some confidence and they have some answers. If I’m gonna send them out to go reach Muslims, we’re gonna do some training first so they understand Islam and think through the kind of objections that Muslims might ask. Well, on this topic, because it’s so personal and our culture is so flooded with faulty ideas from Disney Plus to Netflix, to the educational system too, everywhere in our governmental system. I want kids to be trained ahead of time. Here’s what the Bible says about this. Here’s why the Bible says certain things. So I’m gonna give them some training ahead of time. I went to this conference in 2014. I talked about this at the conference you and I did together, Greg. It was called the Reformation Project, put on by Matthew Vines.

0:20:12.6 SM: And the whole strategy was to change the church from within through having conversations with people about the Bible and kind of changing the face of the LGBTQ movement. So the idea was, if you just meet somebody who’s gay and they’re nice and they’re friendly, that’s gonna break down your stereotypes and you’re gonna be much more open to certain new kinds of affirming theology. So given that that’s a strategy that some who are affirming would embrace, I’m gonna be very serious with my students and say, hey, let’s go out and love them, but you gotta realize, here’s what the Bible says about sexuality. Here’s why. This is a spiritual warfare. And again, I do that on any topic. Not just this one.

0:21:01.8 GS: Yeah. I love that. And I love the fact that the way you engage a student that’s struggling through some of these issues is the same way you would engage a student who is not, that is the gospel. And a lot of times I think we do put homosexuality or transgender or these other issues into a different box, the worst sins box. And then somehow we have to deal with those sins before we come to the savior. Well, that’s like saying, I gotta get cleaned up before I take a bath. Or one fisherman, thought you gotta catch them before you clean them. Right? And we catch the fish and they come in, we’re fishers of people. People put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. And he makes them in that moment, whether they recognize it or not. They’re a new creation. The Holy Spirit is dwelling inside of them. And now they have the power and the Holy Spirit will give them the desire to turn from whatever sins they’re struggling with. And even that is a process that… I don’t know about you, but I still struggle with a lot of sins, and I’ve been a believer for a long, long time.

0:22:07.8 GS: It’s an ongoing battle with my flesh. But they enter the battle, and they enter the battle from a position of victory ’cause now they have the Holy Spirit inside of them. So I agree. We need to give them the bullet points to understand some of the questions and objections that they may face, but also give them the confidence that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. You know, it says, first Jew, then to the Gentile. But it’s for the straight and the gay and the lesbian and the transgender. The gospel is powerful enough to transform us all. So let me ask you this question. How can the church be more effective in reaching LGBTQ+ identifying people with the gospel? How do you think the church and specifically youth leaders can be more effective in reaching them with the hope of Christ?

0:23:06.4 SM: One thing that I found especially powerful is bringing people who were in that community in to speak from their experience within that community. Then they might just see certain things we don’t see. They’ve been transformed by the gospel. They probably have a love for that community. And sometimes people that are not a part of that community, as is the case for any community, will have certain stereotypes from the outside. So I’d really encourage Christians to do this. That’s why even people like Caleb Kaltenbach, a pastor friend of mine, I mean, he grew up with two…

0:23:42.3 GS: He spoke of that… Yeah.

0:23:44.8 SM: Yes, exactly. He came over. That’s right. I forgot it. I invited him over and he came, he grew up in the LGBTQ community. He had two moms and felt cared for, felt loved, had a good childhood, and in fact saw Christians as the enemies. And he had justification for this. Wasn’t until he really met Jesus in high school that his life was turned upside down. Well, Caleb brings a nuanced experience that I don’t have because he grew up in and knows that community well and also loves Jesus. So if I was a youth pastor full-time right now, I would be bringing in people like Caleb and others to just talk about bridging that gap. Now, I’m also a little bit more radical. I also bring in people who are not Christians from different communities. I brought in Muslims to speak to my students. I brought in one, two, three different just… One was a gay activist. One was a gay man who’s an atheist. One was a professor to speak to my students. And I tell you, when you do something like that, your students are engaged. I mean, if you tell them, hey, I’m bringing in someone who’s a gay activist, they’re gonna be thinking, wow, this is gonna be interesting. So for the next three weeks, we’re gonna prep ahead of time to get ready for that, you will have their attention.

0:25:05.8 SM: And then it’s not a debate, it’s just a conversation of like, how do you view Christians? Who do you think Jesus was? Do you have any relationships with Christians? Et cetera. Now, if you’re gonna do that, you gotta get permission of your pastor and the leadership down. Just make sure everybody’s on the same page and handle that wisely. But I wanna get kids out into the game, meeting people, talking to people, sharing with people. Then I think their hearts really start to break for all sorts of people that really need Jesus.

0:25:37.4 GS: I love that. And that’s the risky part of Sean McDowell that I just absolutely love. One of the things we do at every Dare 2 Share event, we take teenagers out sharing the gospel and the stories they share when they come back because they’re having real conversations with real people. So whether you bring those people into your youth group and interview them, or whether you’re sending your students out to engage in gospel conversations where they can have those kinds of conversations, or you send them back to their campuses as federally funded missionaries with the Gospel of Christ and then they engage their whole world, it’s so important to get in the grit. So I appreciate that about you. One last question before we bring in our guest youth leader. What encouragement can you give youth leaders who are watching or listening to this podcast right now that are hesitant to talk about LGBTQ issues with their students?

0:26:34.8 SM: First off, I would say, I get it. I understand the fears of getting canceled. I understand the concern of emails from parents and complaints. I get all those fears. But I would say this is one of the biggest issues our students are dealing with. And the Bible is very clear about identity and sexuality and marriage. And so we’ve gotta bridge this gap to the lives of our students if we want them to go out and live out their faith in a way that really reflects the gospel. So that’s what I would do. Second, I would go… If you’re hesitant, maybe you need to get again, the head kind of lead head pastor or others on board kind of behind you. The other thing I would say is maybe you don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Maybe there’s some other people in the church that have experience or ministries here or wisdom you could bring alongside you to have this conversation. But I think the vast majority of time when they open up the door, students are grateful that we’re willing to do this. So go for it. Do it. You know, one last thing I mentioned earlier, if somebody’s like, I don’t know if I can bring somebody in or even go out and have these conversations. There’s conversations I’ve had on YouTube, for example, with Matthew Vines, who’s one of the most outspoken, “gay christians.”

0:27:58.0 SM: And we had a 90 minute substantive conversation about the Bible and same sex relationships, it’s cordial, but I held his feet to the fire. I’ve had a lot of youth pastors and a lot of Bible teachers use that ’cause there’s a little drama built into it as a way of having this conversation. That’s a safe, easy way to do that as well.

0:28:18.1 GS: Yeah, I totally agree. And really encourage youth leaders to check out Sean’s YouTube channel. Where would they find that?

0:28:27.3 SM: Literally just search Sean McDowell on YouTube and it’ll come up.

0:28:29.9 GS: Pops right up. There you go. It’s so important to engage in these conversations. And it is a challenge. Early Christians were not killed by the Romans because they said Jesus is Lord. They got killed by the Romans ’cause they would not say Caesar is Lord. And I think this issue is the new Caesar is Lord, where you stand on this issue. There is that risk there. But what is the core call of Christianity? Pick up your cross, die yourself and follow after me. And this is part of us.

0:29:06.5 SM: Amen.

0:29:06.9 GS: Identifying as followers of Jesus, we love everyone, but we speak the truth. So I wanna bring in our guest youth leader, Brady Cone. He grew up on a farm in Nebraska. Brady knew from a young age that he was different from the rest of the boys. Years later, after wrestling with same-sex attraction, he accepted his identity as an LGBTQ man. But an encounter with Jesus changed everything, including his sexuality. He now has a passion to equip Christians to navigate sexuality issues with both clarity and compassion. Brady currently lives in… I don’t know if I’m gonna say this right, Enumclaw?

0:29:45.4 Brady Cone: Yep. Enumclaw, Washington.

0:29:47.6 GS: Okay. With his wife Mary and their daughter Rowan. So Brady, thanks for coming to the podcast and I’m gonna turn it over to you to engage with Sean about this issue.

0:29:58.4 BC: Thank you so much for having me, Greg. It’s so great to engage on this issue. I’m passionate about it because I see that every person is affected and every one of our kids is wrestling with how do we navigate this. And so Sean, I so much appreciated what you’ve had to say in this last half hour. One of the things I was thinking about as I was hearing you guys talk was that so many times as Christians, we are known for what we we’re against and not what we’re for. And so one of my encouragements to churches is always, instead of just being against homosexuality, like we have to build a biblical vision for marriage and a biblical vision of sexuality. And how people say that God has such a much better plan for you. He has a better plan, he has a better picture of marriage and sexuality in which I have everything I need in Jesus. Therefore, I can love my spouse unconditionally and find my wholeness in Christ and not any person. And so, Sean, do you have any thoughts on how we can build that vision of biblical marriage and sexuality to help people see that we’re actually for them and we want something better for them and we’re not just against them?

0:31:12.6 SM: Brady, it’s good to see you and brother, thank you for your…

0:31:14.3 BC: Yes, you too.

0:31:15.2 SM: Courage to speak out on this topic. So here’s one activity that’s my favorite way to approach this. Is I’ll often say to students, I’ll say, what would the world be like if everybody lived the sexual ethic of Jesus? Would it be the same, better or worse? Now before they answer, you’ve gotta define the sexual ethic of Jesus. And that is basically there’s two ways relationally to live in God honoring relationships. Number one is singleness, which is beautiful and good. Paul, Jesus, John the Baptist, I think Jeremiah was also single. Or marriage, which is one man, one woman, one flesh, one lifetime. And if you’re single, you’re not sexually active. If you’re married, you’re sexually active only with your spouse of the opposite sex. When I laid out to students very quickly, they start to raise their hands, they say, well I guess there’d be no sexually transmitted diseases. I say, that’s right. They say, I guess there’d be no abortions. And not only the death of the 63 million children in America, but the women who suffer through this. They’ll say, I guess there’d be no pornography and all the damage from pornography. I guess there’d be no divorce. There’d be no crude sexual humor. There’d be no need for the MeToo movement.

0:32:34.9 SM: Now, the reason I start there is because students, especially in the church, they’ll say they believe Jesus is God, and the Bible is true. But practically they kind of think he’s a guy who lived 2000 years ago and doesn’t really affect their life today. This is the kind of exercise that says, wait a minute, actually what you believe about these things is going to shape the way you live. The sexual ethic of Jesus is for your good, for kids’ good and for societal good. That’s the kind of hook. Now of course how you do this in the church, you’ve gotta model it, you’ve gotta teach it, you’ve gotta have classes, you’ve gotta have resources. Churches can figure that out. But we have to find a way to frame it where people say, oh my goodness, I get it. The sexual ethic of Jesus is actually good for society. That’s what brings clarity. And I think also brings people courage.

0:33:33.8 BC: Absolutely. That’s great. Many times when I go to churches, I still hear the attitude of, look at the homosexual community out there. They’re ruining the sanctity of marriage. And I always respond with, you know, I think that heterosexuals have done a pretty good job of that over the last a hundred years. No fault. Divorce, cohabitation, all kinds of sex outside of marriage. I mean, and what you just described was sexually transmitted diseases, abortions. It’s like that’s not the result of homosexuality. That’s a result of heterosexuality twisting what God made good. And so I think it’s important that we level the playing field and help the church see that it’s not us versus them, but we’re all in this together ’cause we all need transformation. We’ve all looked to a person to do something inside of us that they weren’t meant to do. And so how can we better level that playing field and come to this conversation with a place of humility knowing that I am in just as much need of a savior as my LGBTQ friends are because I’ve twisted sexuality too, and I need transformation.

0:34:39.8 SM: One of the first points I always make when I speak on this topic is we have a reputation of being judgmental and bigoted and hypocritical. And let’s be honest, we’ve earned a lot of it.

0:34:52.2 BC: Absolutely. Absolutely.

0:34:53.7 SM: We pick certain sins and ignore others. Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrisy. And I think the problem is, rather than starting by pointing out at the sins of others when we talk about the church, my heart is that we would look inside and be the bride of Christ first and foremost. So much, not all. Some of the message we teach is offensive in itself, but a lot of the way there’s so many cultural wars today, is our failure to just humbly live out and model the ethic of Jesus. So I think when people hear that Christians are bigoted and hateful and homophobic, and their next thought is, gosh, I know a Christian and they’re not that way, that’s actually how we best change that narrative from the bottom up. So one teaching I give on this of course, is in Matthew 18, the unmerciful servant. He did not show grace to his fellow man because he didn’t understand how much grace or mercy the king had shown to him. So I just encourage pastors, let’s preach to repent of our own sin and get our house in order before we start pointing fingers.

0:36:08.5 BC: Yeah. Absolutely. And so we can change the posture away from us versus them to we’re all in this together ’cause we all need the same Jesus. One aspect that I think is so hard in our culture right now is that LGBTQ individuals have been fed to lie that if someone isn’t completely affirming, then they hate you and they’re against you. And so I see a lot of our parents and our kids and people in culture say, I wanna love my LGBTQ neighbor or my child, but there’s this barrier because they’ve been told that if I don’t celebrate, then I’m against them. And they’re having a hard time overcoming that barrier relationally because they truly do want to love this person and they want to understand what’s going on in their heart. But this person has put up walls and barriers with this false belief that this person is not a safe person, this person, if they don’t affirm me then they’re against me. And so how do we overcome those barriers within relationships and help them see that I love you, even if I’m not celebrating your lifestyle?

0:37:20.5 SM: My heart goes out to parents. I probably get a weekly email from a parent who says, my son or my daughter’s estranged from me and will not talk to me if I don’t become affirming. I just can’t imagine the pain and the hurt of that, that a mom or dad or an uncle or grandparent goes through. So my heart goes out to you if you were there. Now, the way you frame the question, I think is the right way to frame it. What can we do to overcome this relational barrier? And the difficult reality is there might not be anything we can do. Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away because he wasn’t ready and he wasn’t open. I can’t force somebody who has free will to respond the way that I want them to. Now, does that mean give up? Of course not. It means pray for the person. I think it means dig in relationally even more. And I wanna give permission, especially to parents and others, if they’ve raised the kids in the faith to say every conversation, Greg, maybe you’ll push back on this and tell me I’m a heretic. I’ll say, every conversation doesn’t have to be a gospel conversation. Every single one.

0:38:27.5 GS: Heretic. Heretic.

0:38:28.8 SM: Wait. I knew it was coming. With your kids, lean in and build that relationship with them. Hopefully by this stage they’ve heard the gospel, they know what you believe, but they’re turned off relationally by you. So one of my friends, he’s a dear friend of yours, Greg as well, one of my favorite apologist. His daughter does not believe and has seemingly accepted a lot of the ideas that we’ve talked about today. He said, Sean, what shifted for me is when I realized I didn’t have to convince my daughter of an argument or a position, I had to convince her of my love. And the Bible talks a lot about a gentle word turns away wrath, a soft word breaks a bone. So I would lean in heavily with that and have a longer term view and just love and care people. And over time, if it’s sincere, that starts to wear away the veneer and the lies that you’re talking about.

0:39:27.5 BC: Absolutely. And I think one of the postures we can take is understanding that these individuals, they need Jesus for way more than just their sexuality. And so many times we focus on that one area of their life. And I get the question every day. It’s like, how do I convince this LGBTQ person to follow Jesus, to deny themselves like they need Jesus for way more than their sexuality. And that might be their identity, but we don’t have to view them through just that singular aspect of their life. And it might be other places of their life where they’re softened to their need for the gospel before they’re softened to their need for the gospel in the area of their sexuality.

0:40:05.9 GS: You know this is such a rich conversation. And I just to throw in, I actually, I fully believe, you know, and yeah, it’s prayer. We call it prayer, care, share. You pray for them. I think we underestimate the power of prayer. It’s like chopping down a tree. You don’t just swing once and the tree falls. The bigger the tree, the more swings you gotta have, the more you gotta sharpen the axe. What happens in the process as we pray, not only eventually does the tree fall, but we get jacked in the process because our faith is getting built up. And so, I tell about the story about a radical conversion of my family, inner city family, all thugs and violent, and I was almost aborted, blah, blah, blah. And a hillbilly preacher came in, preached the gospel, and they fell like dominoes. My grandma pulled me aside one day. She goes, I know you like talking about this hillbilly preacher nickname Yankee, and I thank God for him, but I want you to know your grandma prayed every day for her kids to come to Christ and they eventually did, don’t underestimate the power of a praying grandma.

0:41:05.6 GS: I said, yes, ma’am. Right. Because she carried a 357 Magnum in her purse but it’s true. But the power of prayer and the power of love, I mean, if it’s your kid, you’re gonna love that kid. If it’s your neighbor, you gonna love that neighbor, prayer, care and then share the gospel out loud with words. But they have to be ready to receive it. The ground has gotta be ready to receive it.

0:41:29.3 BC: Amen.

0:41:29.3 GS: Hey, before we wrap up, just any last… I mean, where… Okay, Brady, some youth leaders may wanna know how they can get a hold of you or to a blog or to something. What would you recommend for them?

0:41:45.8 BC: Absolutely. I have a website, calibrateministries.com. And so you can contact me through my website, Calibrate Ministries. I also do a podcast where every week we talk about sexuality issues, different aspects of marriage, biblical sexuality, the LGBTQ community, how we can better reach out to them. That’s The Great Exchange Podcast, and so check out thegreatexchangepodcast.com. We also have a ministry just for parents. And so I have a heart for parents as they’re walking through these difficult issues with their kids. And so if you’re the parent of an LGBTQ child, feel free to reach out to me and I’d love to really minister to your heart and put you in a place where we can shepherd you as you walk alongside your kids.

0:42:24.0 GS: I love that. So calibrateministries.com or The Great Exchange Podcast are available. All right. Sean, what about you? What would you… How can youth leaders find more information about you? More of your content, maybe a book that you would highly recommend, that you’ve written?

0:42:44.2 SM: Hey, Brady, you speak also, I heard you at the event. You did a great job in Kearney. If people wanted you to come in and speak, would you do it? And how would they get ahold of you to do that?

0:42:52.7 BC: Absolutely. Just contact me through the calibrateministries.com website. I speak over the country usually on Sunday mornings at churches. I also do like half a day seminars to quip your church. And so I’d love to help your church have this conversation and equip your church. And so contact me through calibrateministries.com.

0:43:13.3 GS: Right.

0:43:13.4 SM: Brady, you do a great job. Excellent communicator.

0:43:16.4 BC: Thank you.

0:43:17.1 SM: Just solid biblical content. So I’m gonna commend…

0:43:18.5 BC: Thank you, Sean.

0:43:19.2 SM: To viewers or listeners to this to consider bringing you in. I guess the hub for me, my website, seanmcdowell.org has links, Twitter I use, I use Instagram. I even have a TikTok account just to try to engage this generation. YouTube is where I have a lot of conversations in depth on this. I’ve had a number of affirming Christians on, I’ve even had an outspoken LGBTQ spiritualist trying to model the things that we’re talking about here. So that’s a resource. If you’re gonna get a book, one book, it’s actually a book I’m kind of most proud of. It’s just called Chasing Love. And it’s the kind of book I wrote for my son and my daughter. And you asked earlier, Brady, how do you… How do you teach this in a church? Well, the first third of the book is dispelling myths about truth, freedom, love, identity. The middle is God’s design for marriage, singleness. And let me think about this. Marriage and singleness in the middle and God’s design for sex. And then the last is all the responses, pornography, cohabitation, transgender. So it’s a book with short chapters meant for youth pastors and parents to just talk with their kids about this stuff. So that book would probably be helpful.

0:44:31.6 GS: Well, that’s great. Calibrate Ministries and then seanmcdowell.com, as well as…

0:44:37.8 SM: .org;.com is some shoe guy, man.

0:44:41.0 GS: Don’t do… Do;.org. It’s a ministry;.org seanmcdowell.org, unless you need shoes, then seanmcdowell.com. And then Chasing Love would be the book that you highly recommend. Thank you guys so much for being a part of the podcast. And again, for those of you tuned in today, I encourage you to get the word out, spread this podcast, get the word out, and remember that a thriving youth ministry is a gospel advancing one. Thanks for tuning in.

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