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Friday, November 27, 2020

Discipleship Model of Lay Counseling


Pastoral Care Interview: With Sean Fryling, Pastor for Real Life Ministries


 Darrell Wolfe

Biblical Counseling, The King’s University

Counseling in the Church (BIBC 3304)

Glenna Massey

November 29, 2020



On Wednesday, November 11, 2020, I interviewed Sean Fryling, Pastoral Care Pastor for Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho (Fryling, 2020). Though many pastors freely meet with their congregants, most of the churches in North Idaho are too small for a designated counseling ministry. After asking several people, including two licensed counselors, Real Life was the only church I found with an advertised Pastoral Counseling service in this area. Several people indicated they send people to Real Life for that need (which played an interesting role in our interview). Real Life also offers group opportunities, like Griefshare and Celebrate Recovery. While Elijah House (mentioned in the text on pages 90 and 307) holds office right here in the area, they did not respond to my request for an interview (Tan & Scalise, 2016). The following are the results of my interview with Sean and some conclusions about Pastoral Care as described by Real Life.

Keywords: pastoral care, lay counseling, marriage counseling

The Interview

            Right up front, Sean let me know that Real Life no longer offers true lay counseling but offers a discipleship model. He is the third pastor to handle Pastoral Care for Real Life. The first two pastors who started the program were both licensed mental health counselors who met with members of the congregation for counseling sessions. As the ministry grew, the need for counseling outgrew the ability of these two men to keep up with demand, which is when they began to develop the discipleship model. Sean has a Masters in Theology and moved from California to join the staff at Real Life ministries. Although the church typically only hires and trains from within, due to the same discipleship model throughout the church, they brought Sean in as one of the few “outsiders”.


Lay Counseling Ministry System: Discipleship Model

The model described by Sean would be closest to an Informal-Spontaneous model of lay counseling, conducted by small group leaders and class leaders in the context of on-going relationship. To his knowledge, Real Life did not base their model from any other church’s model, though some of the work predated his arrival. Pastors in the community previously referred their members to Real Life; however, Sean discouraged this practice. He says that “all we do is discipleship”. He said that when a pastor refers people to Real Life, Sean calls the pastor to discuss what it means to disciple your own people, and offers to help the pastor develop a discipleship culture in his own church. Through this process, they have worked with multiple churches around the country to develop a discipleship culture in their own church communities.

As Sean sees it, “counseling” has been largely ineffective for Real Life, they even removed the term counseling from the website and replaced it with Pastoral Care. What they found was more effective was “discipleship”. When someone comes in to meet with Sean, he assesses their needs in one to five intake sessions. He offers biblical insights and a non-judgmental ear, then directs them to a small group, group class (such as Celebrate Recovery), and/or to service-involvement in a ministry. He says that “relationship is key”. He claims that up to ninety-five percent of the people who see him find their problems resolve themselves when they are plugged into vibrant community and into active (not passive) discipleship.

In these small group/class environments, leaders are hand-selected, supervised, and trained in on-going relationship with their own leadership. The culture of the church is a culture of “discipleship”. He says that leaders must be “pastoral”; they must know the names of the people in their groups, their family’s names, their successes, and struggles, and follow up with them regularly. They are expected to reach out to anyone missing more than two weeks to see how they are doing and if there is anything they can do to help. They are also expected to look for those who are “pastoral” within their own groups, and disciple them into up and coming leaders.

For a select few, typically couples, who need more than small group community offers, Sean meets with them for regular Pastoral Care (counseling). The counseling is focused on listening to them, helping them listen to each other, and listening for and seeking God’s heart in the counseling session. Sean said that he only works with people who demonstrate and openness to hear God and change. If they are defensive, blaming, or showing any other signs of abuse, addiction, mental illness, or trauma, he refers them to licensed counselors in the area with a demonstrated heart to provide biblical counseling as well as clinical therapy. He stopped referring to counselors outside of this list, because he found anyone going to a counselor who did not also discuss the Bible often showed no improvement or even got worse. Sean claims these cases of requiring referral comprise less than five percent of the people he sees.


Counseling Process

            Sean’s most common on-going counseling is done with couples in the form of marriage counseling and pre-marital counseling, though he works with others too. The approach is described as “take the Bible, apply it to real life, and change will happen in the context of relationships lived out of those realities”. He says that many people have never heard the real-life application of Biblical wisdom as applied to marriage conflicts. Sean will use psychological techniques if they work; however, he does not purposefully study them. He prefers to leave those to “professionals”. There is only one assessment or test used in his office, it is known as the Prepare/Enrich Marriage and Premarital Assessment (P/E Assessment, 2020). He claims that it has a high success rate in predicting marital failure and works well in preparing a couple to marry or go deeper in marriage.

            Each session starts with prayer and focuses on listening. He says that he knows he is successful if he did more listening and asking than talking or preaching. Sean also stated that the better he listens for the Holy Spirit in the session, the more accurate and helpful questions he can ask. The sessions are focused on faith in God to restore, hope that God will show up and things will get better, and on loving each other well.

            If the church refers to a specialist, they will work with the individual to get the help they need. How much support, especially financial support, depends on how connected they are in the church. If the person rarely comes and is not involved, Sean tries to get them involved first. He finds most problems resolve themselves in connected community. However, if they are connected and still struggling beyond what the church can provide, they will jump in and assist the person with getting the right help. Sometimes this includes helping them apply for help that is available, such as Medicaid or other insurances, while sometimes the help is direct financial aid in the form of paying for a certain number of sessions.

Counselor/Leader Selection, Training, and Oversight

            Real Life bases their model on the foundation scripture of Matthew 4:19: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”. One cannot simply sign up to lead a class and be leading by the next week. When someone has either asked to lead or has been identified as a good candidate to lead; they are invited into a selection process.

The process begins informally as a series of coffee meetings. The pastoral care team member, often Sean himself, seeks to understand the person’s background, motives, and history with discipleship. They want to know first, “are you a disciple”? If they are not actively being discipled, they are referred into a small group or mentorship to begin that process first. They see the progression as Share (the good news), Connect (with community), Minister (within community), and Disciple (be trained and be training others). Therefore, the next thing they want to know is if the candidate is disciplining people already. Are they already leading in the roles they have? Have they reached out to people, shared with them, helped them connect with community, etc.?

Once selected, the leader is trained under other pastors and leaders who are looking for “pastoral” qualities. They watch how the person develops and whether they take initiative to lead well and love well. Through weekly check-ins, they seek to ensure the process is going well for everyone involved.

They ask questions such as:

·         How are you, really? Is everything going well?

·         Are you making disciples? How many leaders are you developing?

·         Are you loving people well, reaching out when they are missing, and generally “pastoral”?

·         Do you know that you are more important to us than the tasks we assign you?

Leaders are all accountable to other leaders. Everyone is responsible for the people who serve under them, attend their group, or participate in their classes. Therefore, if there are issues or failure during the leading process, they are not rejected but discipled further, with a focus on confession and healing. If someone appears to be struggling, Sean himself may take them out for coffee and say “Hey, how are things going? What’s happening in your life”? He said, “Never assume you know anything. You might think they are slacking, but they are dealing with a death in the family.”

Sean said that the church must stop expecting baby Christians (new Christians) to come into the church knowing anything. Too often the church the focuses on “getting people saved” and then once saved they are left to figure it all out on their own. Then the churches wonder why the pews are full of baby Christians who have not grown. This process of discipleship is the process Real Life uses to bring people from one level of maturity to the next. Sunday mornings are the “lecture hall” of Church. Lectures are good but are the least effective mode of transformation. Discipleship has proven to be the most effective. People are transformed in the context of connected community.

When asked for the greatest dilemma he has experienced as a Pastoral Care/Counselor, Sean said that the issues of boundaries with the opposite sex often poses the biggest problems. A person will let a person of the opposite sex drop off things at the house or become too close on social media; then an affair is discovered, or someone ends up in prison. The best policy is to not be too loose with any relationship, regardless of how harmless you think it is.

When asked for his thoughts on the LGBT community, Sean smiled. To anyone claiming LGBT identity, Real Life says “Welcome, we are so glad you are here.” However, if that person wants to lead or perform a same-sex wedding, there will be deeper conversations. Real Life does not consider “orientation” a sin; however, does consider the only appropriate expression of sex to be within the confines of a one-man, one-woman, marital covenant relationship. There have been pastors on staff who had an LGBT orientation but did agree that the expression of that would be sin, and therefore live as celebrate pastors. They are loved and welcome on staff, provided they continue that lifestyle.

Finally, he said that abiding in relationship with God is more important than any work he does for the ministry. If he finds he is relying too much on his own skills, he considers that a warning sign he is not abiding enough. He said he is steadfast in not brining work home. He leaves on time (unless there is a true crises) and turns off the phone when home. He will not answer calls, texts, or emails from the home. If he were to answer the phone while his wife was talking, he would be telling her that the church was more important than her heart, and he refuses to do so. He was even fired once for taking a hard stand on this policy, the church later repented and brought him back.

Sean said his personal best practice to avoid burnout was a quote from Dallas Willard, which he keeps on his desk: “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life”. To practice this, he chooses the slow lane on the freeway, picks the longest line in the grocery store, and lingers after service. He asks himself this question: “Do you rest from your work; or, do you work from a place of rest? You’ll always find joy and peace in rest.”

Sean left me with this parting thought: “The reason we have so many Bible colleges is because the church failed to do its job in discipleship.” For this reason, pastors are generally selected from within Real Life, trained up to be disciplers, and then hired on staff after an ordination process (including defending a theological position). They hire very few people from Bible colleges unless those people have shown an affinity for the discipleship culture or have been raised into the discipleship culture by attending Real Life for some time. Many of their pastors were former electricians or farmers; “sound familiar?” he said with a wink.


            The interview gave me mixed feelings. On one hand, I lament over pastors who say things like “If you just believed this Bible, you wouldn’t be depressed”. In my experience, it has been Biblically oriented licensed mental health professionals that provided me with the most growth, while well-meaning pastors often did more harm than good. In some ways, I felt that sentiment during this interview. However, Sean listens and asks questions, gets the counselee talking and expressing emotions, and naturally does the things a good counselor would do. He did some of these with me during the interview. So, I feel that he may be a “counselor” even if he does not study counseling techniques.

            On the other hand, I found my heart “burned within me” as he described the atmosphere of discipleship (Luke 24:32). I am, by nature and nurture, an isolationist. This is a character defect I have been working on for a few years. I have come a long way, but I am nowhere near as connected as Sean described. I do not know that I would pass the Real Life selection process for leadership as I exist today. This will be a continued area of improvement for me.

The Real Life setup does not seek to incorporate counseling techniques into its model, I see this as a deficit. While I would prefer to see a layer of lay counseling added to the Real Life model, I am hard-pressed to ignore the amazing work they have done and their results. I would love to see the discipleship model as the foundation under which a lay counseling service operated. Lay counseling could reach those who find it hard to connect and counseling training could make the disciple-makers more effective. While I will continue to seek training as a lay counselor and possibly a licensed counselor, I will be looking for ways to incorporate discipleship into my life as well. The benefits of connected community are core to any effective counseling program.



Fryling, S. (2020, November 11). Pastoral Care/Lay Counseling Interview: Real Life Ministries (D. Wolfe, Interviewer) [Interview].

PREPARE/ENRICH PREMARITAL AND MARRIAGE ASSESSMENT. (2020). [Informational Sales Page]. Prepare-Enrich.

Tan, S.-Y., & Scalise, E. T. (2016). Lay Counseling: Equipping Christians for a Helping Ministry (Revised and updated edition). Zondervan.



Interview Questions

Counseling Ministry/System

1.       How do you explain the difference between clinical counseling and biblical counseling?

2.       What model do you prefer?

a.       Informal-Spontaneous; Informal-Organized; Formal-Organized

3.       Did you base your model on examples of other ministry’s models? If so, which ones.

4.       Where do you counsel: In office, coffee shops, homes?

5.       What types of resources do you offer outside of one-on-one Counseling?


6.       Your approach: Psychology vs Christianity?

a.       Separate but equal; equal mixable; only the Bible is needed; use whatever works if it lined up with scriptures, other way of seeing things?

7.       Do you use any tests (spiritual gifts, personality, or otherwise) with counselors or counselees?

8.       How do you rely on the Holy Spirit in Counseling?

9.       When do you refer to specialist, attorney, licensed counselor?

10.   Do you assist with that referral, financially or otherwise, make sure they are seen?


11.   How do you select counselors?

12.   How do you train counselors?

13.   How do you decide who to assign a counselee with?

14.   How do you evaluate the effectiveness of counseling?

15.   What, if any, oversight/supervision do counselors receive?

Additional Required for Class

1.       Ask the pastor/counselor about the greatest ethical issue he/she has addressed and why he/she sees it as his/her greatest dilemma.

2.       Ask the pastor/counselor if and how he/she integrates biblical truths into counseling a specific counseling topic. Pick one topic that is relevant to current sociopolitical and spiritual trends impacting the church and community. LGBT Clients

3.       If there are topics from our readings you do not understand, ask the pastor you are interviewing for his/her perspective and insight. Nothing I can think of today. Test warning, but I don’t think he would know. Just posted it in General Questions in Blackboard.

4.       Ask about the pastor’s self-care.


Shalom: Live Long and Prosper!
Darrell Wolfe (DG Wolfe)
Storyteller | Writer | Thinker | Consultant @

Clifton StrengthsFinder: Intellection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input
16Personalities (Myers-Briggs Type): INFJ

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

I have a confession... I killed Jesus the Christ.

In class, a discussion question was posed. How would we answer the following?

1) In his 1933 essay "The Church and the Jewish Question," a defense of the Jewish people against the Nazi's, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that because the Jewish people "hung the redeemer on the cross" they will continue to "endure the curse of its action in long-drawn-out suffering." How would you evaluate and respond to this statement? To help address this question, explore who is responsible for Jesus' death in the Gospels (and Acts). Why does this question matter?

2) From a "purely historical" perspective, why was Jesus crucified? From the perspectives of the Gospels, what is the significance of his death? How would our faith be impacted if the Gospels ended with Jesus' death and did not include the resurrection?

The question in both of these questions: 

Who was Jesus, and why was he crucified? 

In the fall, God rushed in to take the fig leaves (man's attempt to cover himself) and replace them with animal skins (symbolic of the lamb who would be slain). Just a few short years later (decades are short in a 900 year lifetime), Abel's sacrifice was one of the flocks (probably a lamb, although unknown). 

Israel then is birthed into a nation, and an Atonement Lamb is sacrificed for sin. Isaiah 53 (really 52--56) paints such an elaborate picture of this Lamb who would be slain. It tells us that "all of like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6). Then Isaiah 55:3 tells us:

Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

The covenant of David is forever. All of us have gone astray. The throne of David is the throne of Jesus. Jesus was rejected by "his own". But his own is everyone on planet Earth too. Romans rejected him. Jewish leaders rejected him. And we have all rejected him at one time or another. Even those of us who were "Christians" have rejected him when we chose not to follow his Word in some fashion or choice. 

We have a Messiah who was the ultimate fullness of what it meant to be walking in God the Father's Torah. That Torah has not passed away, so says Jesus himself. Therefore, the covenant with Israel still stands today as it always has. He is still their God, and those who bless Israel will be blessed; those who curse Israel will be cursed, and the Kingdom of God will one day manifest physically and reside as its capital in Jerusalem. 

Jesus himself said that he would be handed over to be crucified, the Passover supper was about this very thing. He said the woman with the oil was anointing him for burial and predicted that her sacrifice would be included in the spread of the Good News. Jesus even rebukes Peter for trying to prevent him from fulfilling this end. (Matthew 16:23; 26:2, 26-30; Mark 14:6-9; 20-26; Luke 18:31-34, 22:7-38; John 13:31-38). By quoting Isaiah 61, Jesus is tying himself to the larger ongoing prophetic words of Isaiah about a suffering savior who would come (Luke 4:14-30). 

Isaiah 53 goes on to say:

5But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

6All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

10But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.

11When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.

(See also: Romans 3:23, which is quoting Isaiah)

Jesus was crushed for my sins, not only for some Pharisee's sin in 33 A.D. It was the Father's plan to do so, many years before it happened. And Jesus sees what he accomplished in me through it, and he is satisfied with the results. 

The People of Israel did not hang Jesus… you and I did. Our sin. Our rejection of "good". Our need for a savior brought him to the cross. 

No… Israel did not kill Jesus. I did. And I am grateful for the Grace he's shown me in it. 



Shalom: Live Long and Prosper!
Darrell Wolfe (DG Wolfe)
Storyteller | Writer | Thinker | Consultant @

Clifton StrengthsFinder: Intellection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input
16Personalities (Myers-Briggs Type): INFJ

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

What is Torah?

This was worth sharing... thoughts from class this week. 

Reading Response:

Spangler, Tverberg Ch. 10-12

Darrell Wolfe

Literature, The King’s University

Life of Jesus (BIBL-2302)

Professor Jason Moraff

Week Five Reading Response – 11/22/2020



In Chapter 10, At Table with the Rabbi, we find the significance of food, hospitality, and what it meant to be at table with someone. For a middle eastern culture, to have someone as a guest was an honor. The responsibility was taken seriously, even to the point of being responsible for your guests’ safety (which makes more sense of why Job would offer his daughters to the men of the city rather than his guests). We can also see in this practice more sense of Jesus’ command to his disciples to take nothing for the journey and stay with whomever would have them. This also sheds new light on Psalms 23, a table before my enemies. The table and breaking bread were also a sign of peace, and peace treaties. It was, especially at Shabbat, a time to slow down and take inventory of God’s goodness and enjoy fellowship. 

In Chapter 11, Touching the Rabbi’s Fringe, the authors discuss the relevance and significance of “The Law”. Many moderns, especially Christians, see the books of Moses (Gen-Deut) as fry religious rules, impossible to carry out. In fact, Torah is not most accurately translated “The Law” it is translated better as “Teachings” or “Instructions”. These are not rules to be carried out to earn God’s favor, but a series of Instructions to live out of the favor already existent on you as one of God’s chosen people. Breaking this down further, they looked at the rule about wearing Tassels and developed multiple layers of meaning to the practice. When the woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus’ Hem/Tassels, she was making a demand on his authority. Rather than him being made impure by her, his purity ran through her making her pure. The Torah was God’s call to live holy and separate lives. We see through Torah, as compared to contemporary laws such as Hammurabi, that God’s laws were more just, and more focused on the weak and “less than”. Rather than unbearable laws, we see grace and respect for life through each one. Even “an eye for an eye” is a maxim, not be taken literally, ensuring that the vengeance would not be an eye for a life.

In Chapter 12, Jesus and the Torah, we see a new image of Jesus as Rabbi. His debates with the fellow Rabbis of his day were not full rebukes of tradition. Rather, he used tradition, Rabbinic styles of communication, and employed techniques such as “building a fence around the Torah” in his communication style. Surprisingly, when understood in context, Jesus did not say he was fulfilling the law in the sense that he was doing away with it because it was over. Rather, he was fulfilling the law in the sense that he was bringing light to its original intent and meaning, bringing us a more authentic way to live Torah. Without understanding Rabbinic idioms, styles, techniques, and culture, Western Christians miss the subtlety and often the meaning of Jesus’ words. The authors state: “Jesus must have thought the Pharisees close enough to the truth to want to correct their errors. Why else would he have engaged them in debate?” [1]. Knowing this, we can see Jesus’ “Instructions” (Jesus’ Torah) as giving us opportunity to live not to the bare minimum (what is the way we make sure not to break the law?) but I a maximum way (how far can we go in loving our neighbor?). Also, with this in mind, Salvation is barely a first step. Western Christians place such an emphasis on “getting people saved” and then we leave them to figure it out with a few instructions to follow on a pamphlet. Rather, we should be inviting them into a life of discipleship (human to human, not just human to God); which by necessity includes community.


It is sad that we do not “eat together” anymore. Not only is this missing in the culture at large, but in my own household. Even when my late wife was alive, we often ate around the television. It was a shared experience, but not one that invited much relationship building. Since she passed, the stilted sadness of the household lingers. We smile, laugh, often watch something together. But the bantering died for a long time. Recently though, it has begun to return. As we began joining our lives with another family with quite a different style, we find ourselves eating food with no screen in sight, talking and laughing and telling stories. Possibly for the first time in my life, I am seeing the benefit of a shared experience of community eating. The theme of these three chapters in my mind was “Building Awareness”. The constant in the subject of food, a new way to see Torah, and a new way to see Jesus interacting with Torah was a drumbeat of awareness around God’s heart for people. My Libertarian bent has me thinking mostly about being “left alone”. I moved out of the city into the country where I am left alone. Nobody ever knocks, there are few cars passing by, and I am left to my own ways. However, in that isolation is no community. I became painfully aware of this when I broke both legs and couldn’t even get down the steps to the gravel driveway to get into the car. Nobody delivers here, no Uber Eats or Grub Hub. Friends came to build a scary looking wheelchair ramp, but then the wheels would get caught on the driveway gravel. Another set of friends gave me a plywood base to land on and maneuver. Another friend picked up groceries I ordered but could not drive to get. My mom moved in for weeks and helped us transition.  Suddenly, my “leave me alone” did not feel like a blessing but a curse. I have been rethinking the need for deeper connection to community, breaking bread with others, discipleship, and making a point of using my talents to help others. Rather than waiting for someone to ask me to walk a mile, maybe I could start offering to do so.


[1] Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, Updated edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2018).

Follow Up Discussion: 

How do you understand the relationship between Torah (the Law), the Jewish people, Jesus, and the Gospels? 

First, Torah is not "law" as we understand it today. Torah was not a rigid set of rules under which people struggled; rather, it was a set of "instructions" for people who were already in covenant relationship with God to walk that relationship out in real life. 

Second, Jesus was a Rabbi of the Torah in much the same way the other Rabbis of his day were. He used many of the same maxims and idioms, styles of communication, and Rabbinic techniques. What was different about Jesus was twofold: 
  1. Jesus did not see the Torah as Minimalist: "if we do at least this, we're safe". Jesus saw Torah as Maximist: "Love your neighbor, what's the most you can do to love them?" As such, Rabbi Hillel would say "Don't steal" but Rabbi Jesus would say "Look around to see who's worse off than you and find a way to help." (Spangler/Tverberg Pg.183)
  2. While other Rabbis were building a fence around Torah in a fearful attempt not to violate it because "who could know the mind of God?"; Jesus was the author Torah Himself, so he came offering God's own heart on the very instructions he originally gave.

What do you think is at stake in discussing Jesus and the Torah? 

If we understand Torah for what it really was/is and Jesus' relationship to it, we run a far greater chance of having correct interpretation and a far lesser risk of being in error. In essence, we can live closer to God's heart for his people by understanding this relationship.

How does this discussion affect how you understand the relationship between the Tanakh/Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as Jesus' relationship to the Jewish people?

This makes me want to read Gen to Rev all over again with a new eye for how they correlate. Especially knowing how often Jesus used the technique of quoting part of scripture to force the haverim to go find the rest of his meaning; I would like to restudy all the Gospels more slowly, taking a look at every single cross-reference, soaking in the possible hidden meanings that have eluded me all these years. 

I have always asserted, but apparently never lived out myself, that we are essentially Jewish. We, Gentile Christians, were grafted INTO Israel and not out of it. To the degree we remain disconnected from our family heritage, we remain incomplete in our understanding of what it means to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Jesus, and Darrell. 


Shalom: Live Long and Prosper!
Darrell Wolfe (DG Wolfe)
Storyteller | Writer | Thinker | Consultant @

Clifton StrengthsFinder: Intellection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input
16Personalities (Myers-Briggs Type): INFJ

Sunday, November 15, 2020

How does The Church handle its LGBTQIA members? A Sociopolitical Research Paper.

Answer: Historically we get an F, but we're in remedial class now so we're improving as a whole. 

*Disclaimer: I could not possibly do justice to the nuance of this topic in a 3-5 page double-spaced 12-point font paper. I was forced to choose a direction, and I ran with it. Given the time and space, I probably will write on this topic more in the future. I intend to give it the nuance and time each issue deserves. Therefore, consider this a primer for future discussions. I also reserve the right to change as I grow, this is how I am seeing it today. 


How does The Church handle its LGBTQIA members?


Sociopolitical Research Paper


Darrell Wolfe

Biblical Counseling, The King’s University

Counseling in the Church (BIBC 3304)

Glenna Massey

November 15, 2020




The following will be a short evaluation of how the Church has and should handle its LGBTQIA Members. We will review the impacts of the division with and in the Church, the role of the Church, and the response of the Church. Lastly, we will look at how a Biblical story reimagined could provide the answer.

Keywords: LGBTQIA, Gay, Lesbian, Gay Marriage, Gays and Church

The Impact of being gay in Church

            United Methodist Pastor Jimmy Creech wrote a book called Adam’s Gift, in which he speaks about the first time he was introduced to Adam, a man who was both gay and serving in the church (circa 1984) (Creech, 2011). Adam had same-sex attraction from an early age. He tried to ignore it and even lived as a straight man for a time. He lived and served God faithfully as a member of the United Methodists. Nobody at the church knew he was gay. His experience with “The Church” was that he was hearing about God’s unconditional love from one ear and about how God hates gays and condemns them to hell from the other ear. He could not reconcile these messages as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality. Feeling shamed and guilty for simply being who he was, he even attempted suicide. All too often this has been the experience of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) community both inside the churches as well as interacting with those claiming to represent the church in the community at large. While attending white parades (circa 1996-1998) in my hometown of Palm Springs, California, I saw someone holding a sign that said, “God hates gays”.

Even as many churches are getting better at their response, the larger cultural debate rages. Legislatures are gridlocked between the defense of religious liberties and civil rights, often resulting in Supreme Court decisions to determine where the lines are drawn in the US Constitution. The 2020 Bostock decision was the latest iteration of that battle (Bennett, 2020).  Faith-Based Adoption agencies are finding themselves in court over adoption to gay couples (Shellnutt, 2019). Youth Pastors will find that the up and coming youth are more likely than ever to either identify as LGBTQIA or be sympathetic to their plight (Shellnutt, 2018).

            To make matters more complicated, if a gay or lesbian couple begins to attend church they are faced with a new dilemma. If the church teaches them that their marriage is not authorized, do they encourage the couple to break-up and divide the children into two homes? One United Methodist pastor claimed that singling out the LGBTQIA community was a violation of the church's charter to “do no harm” (Steele, 2019).

The Role of the Church

The church faces a two-pronged battle. On one hand, the role of the church is to love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40)(Key Word Study Bible NKJV, n.d.). On the other hand, the role of the church is to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). For many sincere men and women who struggle with same-sex attraction (orientation), their options are churches that either accept the LGBTQIA positions on all fronts without challenge (Ex: Pro-Gay Marriage) or challenge the positions while rejecting the persons (Ex: Anti-Gay Rhetoric “God hates gays”). Both the Church of the Brethren and the United Methodist Church have experienced splits over the topic of how to respond to LGBTQIA issues; such as gay marriage (Silliman, 2020; Steele, 2019).

Jay Skylar, in an article analyzing the relevance of the biblical prohibitions of homosexuality, frames the arguments for a biblical acceptance of homosexuality as unlikely to be logically consistent with a Christian Worldview (Skylar, Jay, 2018). Yet, he demonstrates an understanding that Christians hold a dual responsibility to Truth and Love.

The Response of the Church

The response of the church is to love God, love folks, and speak the truth in love so that we can bring freedom into the lives of all who accept that truth (Matthew 22:36-40; Ephesians 4:15; John 8:32).

If we genuinely love God, we will have his heart for God’s people. The biblical account of the woman caught in adultery demonstrates how the church is to respond to sin, regardless of the nature of that sin (John 8:1-11). Under no circumstances is a follower of Jesus Christ to cast a stone. We cannot tell a person created in God’s image (Imago Dei), who was so precious to the Father that he gave his own son to ransom them to himself, that God hates them. In any scriptural list of things God hates, one can find their own pet-sin included. We have all fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23).

Yet, we have this second ideal: Speak the truth in love. Jesus ended his interaction with the woman by telling her “sin no more”. In the Handbook of Christian Counseling, Dr. Timothy Foster reminds us that “the first principle to remember is speaking the truth in love, the second is unconditional acceptance… it means not saying ‘you’ve got be different’(Foster, 2005)(Pg. 142). Ecumenical Minister David Du Plessis once said that he never told anyone they were sinners; that was the Holy Spirit’s job. His job was the love them well, introduce them to Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit do His job (Hearn, 1967). In other words, we accept you the way you are and refuse to force you to change, but we will challenge you to take your life before the Holy Spirit and let Him shape you into His image.

            One valid response is to work with people and lead them into a process with God to seek healing and restoration. In his book, Think Differently Live Differently, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) Bob Hamp tells the story of a woman who was set free from years of being trapped in anger, living in masculine expression. Based on the description, this woman could be classified today as transgender. Hamp softly challenged the lie she was living, “you know you are a woman, right?”. As she released the lies of the enemy (over many months), her body changed, and had her first-ever period in her mid-thirties. Her body had lined up with her created order as her soul healed, expressing physical changes in her femineity (Hamp, 2016)(Pg. 71-73). While this type of healing is highly dependent on God and should likely be sought through the careful hands of a trained and licensed Christian counselor, it is promising that such instances of healing can occur.

            Yet, we all know of people who prayed for some healing that never came (physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.). What response can we give these people? What about those who found no success in “praying the gay way”? Phillip Yancey addresses the topic of pain in his book “Where is God When it Hurts?” (Yancey, 1997). He concludes that even when God does not bring healing, he comes alongside to be with us in our pain. We can find comradery with Jesus in his pain on the cross. Ultimately, we can all identify together with the same struggle. In an article about the church’s response to the LGBT movement, Andy Crouch concludes that “All of us know, in the depths of our heart, that we are queer. Our yearnings, especially those bound up with our sexuality, are hardly ever fully satisfied by the biblical model of one man and one woman yoked together for life.” Once Christians begin to see that we are all fighting the same battle (submitting our desires to God’s Word/Wisdom), we can see our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters as fellow strugglers and not enemies. 

            This still leaves the church with debates. What about gay marriage? What about gay lifestyle? Is there a difference between Orientation and lived experience? Sean Fryling, a Pastoral Care Pastor for Real Life Ministries, stated their position as follows. To anyone identifying as LGBTQIA, the church saws “Welcome, we’re so glad you are here!” Anyone asking to get into leadership or asking for the endorsement of their same-sex relationship would be invited into deeper conversations. They have had pastors on staff who have same-sex orientation but are committed to sexual expression being between one man and one woman in a lifelong covenant relationship. These pastors live as what the Bible would have called, Eunuchs. The Church works with these pastors (and others like them) to get help, counseling, prayer, and support. If they are committed to living faithfully to the Word, their orientation does not prevent them from serving (Fryling, 2020). To those asking for endorsement of their union, churches and pastors could say: “We believe in the biblical mandate for marriage being between one man and one woman. We would love the opportunity to discuss that further together, dive into the word together, and help you see why we believe that to be the case. Please keep coming, we hope you feel loved and accepted, but we cannot endorse the wedding you are asking for.”


While the need persists to remain unchanging on The Church’s stance on topics such as Marriage and Sexual Expression, the need also persists to remain unwavering on our commitment to the hearts of people of any sexual orientation. We must begin to see their struggle as no different than any other Christian’s struggle. Just as to the woman caught in adultery, we must say to everyone (ourselves included) “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”. Then we must hold their hand and walk with them.


Bennett, D. (2020, June 17). LGBT Rights Ruling Isn’t the Beginning of the End for Religious Liberty. Christianity Today.

Creech, J. (2011). Adam’s Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays. Duke University Press.

Foster, T. (2005). The Handbook of Christian Counseling. Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Fryling, S. (2020, November 11). Pastoral Care/Lay Counseling Interview: Real Life Ministries (D. Wolfe, Interviewer) [Interview].

Hamp, B. (2016). Think Differently Live Differently Keys to a Life of Freedom.

Hearn, J. (1967, June 30). David DuPlessis—"Forgiveness" June 30, 1967  pm [Audio Recording: Posted to YouTube by Jay Hearn].

Shellnutt, K. (2018, January 23). Get Ready, Youth Group Leaders: Teens Twice as Likely to Identity of Atheist of LGBT. Christianity Today.

Shellnutt, K. (2019, April 25). America’s Largest Christian Adoption Agency Lets LGBT Couples Foster in 1 of 35 States. Christianity Today.

Silliman, D. (2020, August 3). Brethren Against Brethren: LGBT Fight Divides Peace Church. Christianity Today.

Skylar, Jay. (2018). The Prohibitions against Homosexual Sex in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13: Are They Relevant Today? Bulletin for Biblical Research, 28(2), 165.

Steele, J. (2019, April 26). United Methodist Court Keeps Core of New LGBT Legislation. Christianity Today.

The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study BIBLE: Key Insights Into God’s Word. New King James (NKJV). (n.d.). AMG Publishers.

Yancey, P. (1997). Where is God when it hurts? Zondervan.



Shalom: Live Long and Prosper!
Darrell Wolfe (DG Wolfe)
Storyteller | Writer | Thinker | Consultant @

Clifton StrengthsFinder: Intellection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input
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