FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 17, number 22, June 7, 2018
“. . . instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. . . who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” -Titus 2:12,14
In Light of Revoice 2018, How Shall We Evangelize Homosexuals?
In the fall of 2001, while being the Senior Pastor at Golden Isles Presbyterian Church, St. Simons Island, Georgia, my wife and I, along with a few people from our church, began an evangelistic ministry in Brunswick, Georgia with HIV positive, homosexual men. One of the men who attended regularly was forty-three years old at the time, and had been a very well known hair stylist in New York City. By the time I met him he had AIDS and was near the end of his life. I picked him up every Wednesday night for our meeting, which was attended each week by as many as twenty HIV positive, homosexual men, most of whom by the way, were very poor. I was visiting the former hair stylist one day in his hospice room, and I asked, “How do you feel?” He began to weep. I said, “I understand your fear, but let me tell you what happens to the Christian when he dies.” I went on for about fifteen minutes telling him of the glories of heaven, that eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him. I then said, “As wonderful as that is, heaven is not the end. It gets even better that that. Your body is wasting away with this dreaded disease, but there is hope for you to receive a glorified body, like what the Lord Jesus has now in heaven.” From there I went on to quote to him large sections of 1 Corinthians 15 like, “Behold I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” Then I said, “That’s the kind of God I serve. He is ready, quick, and powerful to save, cleanse, and forgive. Jesus can save you this very minute. There is no need for you to die in your sins and go to hell. Repent, surrender now to Jesus. Say to Him, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner,’ and He will forgive you and make you His child.” Six days later he was dead, and I have strong reason to believe that God saved him in the last days of his life. I expect to see him in heaven.
Then there is the story of a young black man living on welfare, with a case of full blown AIDS. Each night at our weekly meeting, I would ask the men how they were doing, how I could pray for them, and then afterwards, say, “Now before I pray for you and we go, I want to tell you another story of Jesus.” From there I would take one story each week from the gospel of Mark and paint a vivid picture from the Biblical narrative of Jesus’ love for sinners. They really liked the story of the leper in Mark 1:40-45. They easily understood my application to them. In October this young man told our group that he had borrowed $200 in March from a Finance Company (aka Loan Shark) and that the Finance Company was taking $50 per month from his government check, and he was having a hard time making ends meet. I asked him to bring me his paperwork the next week. He did so and I quickly realized that even though he had been paying $50 per month since March on his loan, the principle on the loan was $151. The Truth in Lending document showed that he was paying 68% on his loan. I took his paperwork the next day to the Finance Company and said that I wanted to pay off his loan. The owner said, “God bless you, Pastor.” I said, “Don’t tell me that. You are guilty of usury, ripping off the poor with exorbitant interest rates, and if you do not repent, then God will judge you in hell.” I wrote a check for $151 and he was free and clear from the debt. By the way, this young man called on the name of the Lord and gave evidence of saving faith.
I have many more stories about this ministry, but in light of the controversy of the Revoice 2018 conference, should we not be asking the question, “How should we go about evangelizing homosexuals?” After all, surely we can all agree that any unrepentant, practicing homosexual is not a Christian (1 Corinthians 6:9,10, Jude 7) and faces God’s judgment in hell and the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). Paul announces to Titus that the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires (the Greek word means lust). Christ has redeemed His people from every lawless deed, and He is purifying for Himself a people for His own possession, those who are zealous for good deeds. Is this not what we want to see in every sinner, whether he is an adulterer, fornicator, homosexual, liar, thief, swindler, drunkard, or self-righteous, moral person?
So, here’s my story. In May, 2001, while pastoring the Golden Isles Presbyterian Church at St. Simons Island, I received a phone call from a woman in our community who told me that Aid Atlanta was coming to nearby Jekyll Island for a weekend conference called “The Gay Men’s Health Summit.”
This conference, I was told, would champion homosexuality and the participants would largely be homosexuals themselves. My caller asked what I thought we should do about it, and before I could answer she suggested, “We need to pressure the Jekyll Island Authority to not allow this conference. We ought to boycott the hotel where the conference is to take place. And we ought to buy billboards all over town, voicing our disapproval of the homosexual lifestyle.” My response was, “If that is what you are planning, then count me out. I want nothing to do with it.” I went on to say, “Now I am willing to train a few men in how to share the gospel of Christ with the men there and to go to the meeting in hopes of showing these people the love of Christ.” She said, “Okay, I like your idea better. I will make sure we have twenty-four hour prayer support for your ministry.”
So a week or two before 9/11, in late August, 2001, on the Monday afternoon before the conference began, I received a phone call from the manager of the hotel, who by the way, was a member of our church. He told me that Aid Atlanta knew I was planning to attend the conference and that if I showed up, they would have me arrested for trespassing. I thought about that for a while and then decided to register for the conference. After all, if I was a paying registrant then I would not be trespassing. I also reserved a room at the hotel so that I could be there with the men. And then I started to think about that scenario—evangelical pastor, at a gay men’s conference, by myself, in a hotel room. Doesn’t look good. So I asked Wini, my wife, to meet me there at the hotel on Friday night.
Early on my plan was to introduce myself to a few men upon arrival and quickly move into gospel conversations with them. However, along about the Wednesday or Thursday leading up to the conference I began to sense that that would not be the best approach. So I arrived with two young men from our church and I paid the $200 registration fee and received my purple bag with all sorts of interesting things in it, and my name tag, “Al Baker, Gay Men’s Health Summit.” I told the people at registration (by the way they knew who I was before I even introduced myself) that our church wished to have a ministry to HIV positive men and we did not have the slightest idea how to do this, that we were there to learn. All the men there, with the exception of one, who I believe was seeking to shock me with his blatant, over- the-top homosexual ambiance, were very gracious and kind to us. I went to numerous seminars on various health issues and, by the way, had several very in depth gospel conversations with practicing homosexuals.
Now the plan was for my wife to meet me at the hotel at 6 p.m. I was waiting for her, standing with two of my new, homosexual acquaintances, when she came into the lobby. When she saw me, she was aghast. I was standing under a sign that read, “Welcome, Gay Men’s Health Summit,” with a name tag around my neck, “Al Baker, Gay Men’s Health Summit,” with my purple bag in my hand. I introduced her to my acquaintances, and as we made our way into the restaurant, she said under her breath, “Take off that badge, and put down that bag! Look at you. I am so embarrassed.” By the way, Wini has granted me permission to tell this story. So, I put down my bag, took off my badge, and we walked into the restaurant. As we walked to our table we passed table after table of homosexual men and they graciously welcomed her. By the time we got to our table, tears were streaming down her cheeks. She said, “Please forgive me. I am so ashamed of myself. I am a Pharisee. I know my response is sinful.” Of course I forgave her and we went on from there to have this amazing ministry with HIV positive, homosexual men. Several months later we had a Christmas party at our house with fifty HIV positive, homosexual men, two of whom were dressed as women.
So, how do we evangelize homosexuals? Just like we evangelize anyone else. We must get out of our comfort zone and go to them. Those who live in your neighborhood or serve with you in the work place, invite them into your home. Pray for them, asking God to show them their sinful rebellion. You must love them enough to tell them the truth. When you have their hearts, you can tell them anything. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person,” (Colossians 4:6). We cannot water down the gospel message to anyone. We are accountable to God. We are to speak the truth in love, trusting the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in those who have ears to hear. We can love sinners and simultaneously tell them the truth.