When You Don’t Fit in at Church

Outcast

Ever feel like you don’t fit in at church? I did.

I was raised in conservative evangelicalism. My father was a pastor, and I spent a lot of time at church.

As an adolescent, I struggled with my faith because I expected it to “deliver” me from same-sex attraction, something that some religions consider to be aberrant and sinful—especially conservative Christianity.

I strayed from God during my college years but returned with a vengeance, committing my life to the Lord and Christian morality and service. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. I was determined to conquer same-sex attraction with God’s grace.

I married a woman and started a Christian ministry and a publishing company. I continued to do everything in my power to allow God to work in me to “cure” me of same-sex attraction. I tried for nearly twenty years.

Prayer didn’t work. Fasting didn’t work. Deliverance didn’t work. A stint in reparative therapy left me hopeless and suicidal. I was still gay.

With the help of my wife, I realized I could no longer deny who I was just because the spiritual community I was part of held narrowly prescribed notions of what was acceptable, moral, and holy.

God hadn’t cured me because I wasn’t sick. Instead, I needed to come out of the closet.

Man in closet

As a result, we disbanded the ministry, divorced amicably, sold our house, and started over again. It was hard but ultimately freeing for both of us. (We’re still good friends.)

After I came out, I thought I had failed God and that God had abandoned me. But I experienced a sovereign visitation of the Holy Spirit, unexpected and powerful, and I received a new calling to leave the ninety-nine and find the one.

This led to another crisis: I needed to come out of the closet about my newfound spirituality.

You see, even while I was in the evangelical/charismatic Christian community, some of my spiritual gifts did not fit with their ideas of orthodoxy. For example, I saw visions of each of my grandparents after they had died. In my religious circle at the time, this was considered to be “of the devil.”

I heard God speaking to me in my heart and wrote down the messages but kept quiet about it. (“You hear voices?! Hmmm…”) I saw visions.

I had prophetic gifts. But I was gay and out.

I concluded that conservative Christianity as I had experienced it would not draw those seeking unconditional acceptance, especially LGBT people. I didn’t feel safe in those churches anymore. I knew I didn’t belong.

So, where could I turn to find genuine fellowship and be released to use my gifts? I had no idea where I would fit in.

I tried a number of churches but felt I was always denying myself or my unique gifts to belong to a particular group.

Either I needed to hide that I was Pentecostal and prophetic to fit in a church that accepted me as gay, or I had to pretend I was straight so that I could enjoy Pentecostal worship and an environment where the gifts of the Spirit operated.

I also wanted to teach and speak inspirationally but didn’t feel called to go to seminary (although I have a masters in biblical studies). I longed to use my spiritual gifts to minister to others instead of simply sitting and listening to endless sermons or participating in scripted religious activities.

Who would understand that I experienced dreams and visions, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, whose words I faithfully transcribed? Naturally, I also wanted to be open about and be accepted as a gay man.

I haven’t found the perfect church for me—yet.

I feel the Lord has called me to reach out to the marginalized, those who’ve been rejected by the Church or who simply feel like they don’t belong in an orthodox spiritual community. Let me ask you:

  • The Creator loves you and has a unique purpose for your life. Have you found it?
  • Are you disenchanted with organized religion but still want to cultivate a connection with God through Jesus Christ?
  • Are you hungry for more of the Holy Spirit and desire to be trained in spiritual ministry to others?

If what I’m saying resonates with you, and you want to connect, feel free to comment here or contact me.

In the meantime, you can connect with others like you through social media. Search for people using the hashtags #exvangelical and #FaithfullyLGBT on Facebook or Twitter. There are also organizations such as The Reformation Project and the Q Christian Fellowship where you can connect with others of faith who are LGBT.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherewith he hath made us freely accepted in his beloved” (Eph. 1:6 GNV).

Misfit toys

More information:
Check out my booklet, Response to a Concerned Heterosexual Christian, available on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.

Filled with Joy and the Holy Spirit

Joy in the Holy Spirit

Joy often accompanies the Holy Spirit in the NT. We see this as a fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus’ ministry that serves as a pattern for the charismatic, prophetic church.

Two Times Seventy Were Commissioned

Twice in Scripture, God’s prophetic leader commissioned seventy others to aid with the work of the Kingdom.

Moses asked God for help in leading God’s people. God answered by sending the prophetic anointing of the Spirit upon seventy elders.

25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again. …
29 …Moses replied, “…I wish that ALL the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!
–Numbers 11:25,29 NIV

Moses’ commission was attended by a prophetic anointing from the Spirit of God, foreshadowing Pentecost.

Likewise, Jesus dispatched seventy of His followers to “‘Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you”’” (Luke 10:9 NIV).

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them before Him, by twos, to go to every town or place which He Himself intended to visit.
2 And He addressed them thus: “The harvest is abundant, but the reapers are few: therefore entreat the Owner of the harvest to send out more reapers into His fields. And now go.”
–Luke 10:1-2 WEY

Upon returning from their mission, they reported good news.

17 The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.”
18 He said to them, … 20 “[D]on’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
21 In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…”
–Luke 10:17-18a,20-21a HCSB

One thing that definitely makes Jesus happy is when the devil is defeated and demons are cast out (see Acts 10:38).

But this is no mere circumstantial joy. Verse 21 says, “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”

Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit

“Rejoice” is the Greek work egalliasato. In the Septuagint OT, it is “usually found in the Psalms and the prophetic portions of the Prophets, and it denotes spiritual exultation that issues forth in praise to God for his mighty acts” (Robert P. Menzies, Speaking in Tongues [CPT Press, 2016], 24). This word appears in the Messianic Psalm 16.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
–Psalm 16:9-11 NIV

The Hebrew word for “rejoice,” gîl, means “to spin round, under the influence of emotion” (Strong’s H1523). This is Spirit-inspired ecstasy.

Did Jesus Speak in Tongues?

Luke 10:21 says, “Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit AND said…” (NKJV). Menzies indicates that two types of speech may be indicated here. This same “and” construction is used in Luke 13:12: Jesus “called her forward AND said to her, ‘Woman,…’” (NIV), the conjunction separating two distinct actions (Menzies, 49).

The verb [“rejoiced,” agalliaō], linked as it is to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, may imply glossolalia; while the phrase, “and he said”…, introduces the intelligible words of praise described in the narrative. (Menzies, 49; emphasis mine)

“Rejoicing” (egalliasato) and declaring the acts of God “is particularly striking in Luke-Acts” (Menzies, 25). We see it in the joyful praise of the impregnated Virgin Mary, who prophesies at the overshadowing of the Spirit (Luke 1:47). Jesus in Luke 10:21. And David in Acts 2:26.

In Lk 1.47 and 10.21 the verb is specifically linked to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in Acts 2.25-30 David is described as a prophet. This verb, then, was for Luke a particularly appropriate way of describing prophetic activity. (Menzies, 25; emphasis mine)

In his Pentecost sermon, Peter refers to Psalm 16 where David the prophet says, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices” (Acts 2:26 NIV). This association of “tongue” and “rejoicing” occurs six times in Luke-Acts (Luke 1:64; Acts 2:4,11,26; 10:46; 19:6).

The Jews of Peter’s day would have understood his quoting of Psalm 16 as referring to the Messiah. In Luke 10:21, we see its fulfillment when Jesus, inspired by the Spirit with joy, proclaims inspired thanks and praise to the Father.

If Jesus did not speak in tongues, His experience is very close to it. In the context of Peter’s Pentecost sermon and what had just happened to the tongues-speaking disciples that day, “my tongue rejoices” could very well refer to Jesus speaking in tongues.

“You will fill me with joy in your presence”—the Greek word prosōpon (Strong’s G4383). This word is used in Peter’s next sermon: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NKJV).

Peter’s reference to Psalm 16 also refers to Jesus’ exaltation in heaven, but when compared with Acts 3:19, it points toward earthly charismatic expression when the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit falls.

The filling of the Holy Spirit results in joy and prophetic utterance about the mighty works of God.

Jesus, Our Pattern

Jesus’ experience in Luke 10:21 is repeated at Pentecost and becomes the pattern for the Spirit-baptized Church. Joy accompanies the presence of the Spirit.

  • “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52 NIV).
  • “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17 NIV).
  • “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13 NIV).
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 NIV).
  • “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6 NIV).

Let us follow the example of Jesus, fulfilling His prophetic commission to destroy the works of the devil, being filled with the Holy Spirit and declaring God’s works. Then we will bear the fruit of Christ’s joy.

Standing Firm Until Christ’s Return

Christ's return

“You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8 NIV). We stand firm until Christ’s return by being filled with the Spirit, ministering the gifts of the Spirit, and praying in the Spirit.

Times of Refreshing

After the Apostle Peter healed the lame man at the temple gate, he preached to the astonished witnesses, saying,

19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.
21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”
–Acts 3:19-21 NIV

Before Jesus returns to restore the earth to God’s original plan, Peter prophesies that “times of refreshing” would “come from the Lord” (v. 19). The Wuest NT says will come “epoch-making periods of spiritual revival and refreshment from the presence of the Lord.”

The word “refreshing” is the Greek anapsuxeos, meaning to strengthen, refresh, relieve; recovery of breath, to cool by blowing. It is used only here in the NT. Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind [pneuma: Spirit] blows wherever it pleases” (John 3:8 GW), resulting in spiritual regeneration and revival.

The Last Days

We see this refreshing wind on the first day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Christ, when Peter quotes the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'”
–Acts 2:17-18 NIV

Since Pentecost, we live in the age of the blowing Spirit—the last days. Through repentance, conversion, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we prepare for the return of the Lord, that Great Day (Zeph. 1:14).

During these last days before Christ’s return, God promises “epoch-making periods of spiritual revival and refreshment from the presence of the Lord.” He has waves of revival, fresh breezes from the Spirit, to bring many into the Kingdom before the door on this age shuts (Matt. 25:10-13).

Spiritual Gifts Prepare Us for Christ’s Return

Because of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we are endowed with gifts and graces of the Spirit to endure till the end. Paul greeted the Corinthians this way:

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: …
4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—
6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.
7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
–1 Corinthians 1:2,4-8 NIV

The sanctified who call on the Lord’s name have received grace (charis) and have been “enriched in every way”—especially in “speech and knowledge of every kind” (GW). This refers to prophetic utterance, speaking in tongues, and revelation knowledge (1 Cor. 13:1-2).

This “confirmation”—meaning to make stable and secure—comes from the charismatic baptism in the Spirit and the gifts the Spirit imparts.

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,
22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
–2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV

Wherever he went, Paul testified of Christ in the power of the Spirit by signs and wonders (Rom. 15:18-19; 1 Cor. 2:4-5; Heb. 2:4).

Through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Corinthians (and all those who have received the fullness of God’s Spirit) lacked no spiritual gift. (Paul discusses these gifts in chapters 12-14.)

But note in 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 that moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit is linked with:

  • Eagerly waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed
  • Remaining strong to the end
  • Being kept blameless until the day of Jesus Christ

By ministering to one another through spiritual gifts, we encourage and strengthen one another to endure (1 Cor. 14:3-5,12,15,26,31; 1 Pet. 4:10). This is also true of “praying in the Spirit”—praying in tongues.

Praying in the Spirit

20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
–Jude 1:20-21 NIV

Praying in the spirit:

The baptism in the Spirit, moving and ministering through the gifts, and praying in the Spirit preserve and prepare us for Christ’s return and full salvation. In these two verses from Jude, we see the Father, the Son, and Spirit, as well as faith, hope, and love.

When the Perfect Comes

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. …
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
–1 Corinthians 13:8-10,12-13 NKJV

In these last days, the age of the Spirit, we have the adoption as children, the seal of ownership, and the grace gifts to strengthen ourselves and one another in love. Although the gifts are imperfect reflections of the glory to come, they will keep us until the Perfect arrives—the day when we will see Him face to face.

2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
–1 John 3:2-3 NIV

Speaking in Tongues: Intelligible Languages or Unknown Tongues?

When the Bible mentions “speaking in tongues,” is it referring to intelligible human language or unintelligible unknown tongues?

Both.

Yet these two types of speaking in tongues are closely related. Let’s take a look.

Tongues as Intelligible Languages

The first time speaking in tongues is mentioned is in Acts chapter 2:

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
–Acts 2:1-4 NIV

The Greek phrase for “other tongues” is heterais glossais. Glossais is also used in Acts 10:46 (Spirit-baptism of the Gentiles) and 19:6 (Spirit-baptism of the Ephesians).

However, the occurrence in Acts 2 is the only place where “other tongues” are identified as known human language.

6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?”
–Acts 2:6-8 NIV

The word “language” is translated as such because it comes from the Greek dialekto. In Acts 2, heterais glossais is understood as native dialects—known human languages.

Peter indicates that this understandable form of tongues, xenolalia, is a type of prophetic utterance foretold by the prophet Joel: “‘Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy‘” (Acts 2:18 NIV).

The foreign hearers understood the Spirit-baptized disciples to be “declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11 NIV) Spirit baptism manifests itself in prophetic declaration and praise.

Although the tongues at Cornelius’ house and in Ephesus are not identified as intelligible human languages, heterais glossais is still used. We see that the circumcised believers who accompanied Peter to the Gentile’s house “heard them speaking in tongues and praising God” (Acts 10:46 NIV). When Paul laid his hands on the Ephesians, “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6 NIV).

Spirit baptism manifests itself in prophetic declaration, praise, and speaking in tongues, whether they are intelligible (xenolalia) or unintelligible (glossolalia).

Tongues as Unintelligible Utterances

In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul discusses “speaking in tongues” (lalousin glossais) at length (12:30; 13:1; 14:2, 4, 6, 13, 18, 23, 27, 39).

In these chapters, however, Paul assumes that the Corinthians’ utterances in tongues are unintelligible: “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit” (1 Cor. 14:2 NIV). And “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air” (14:9 NIV).

Therefore, these unintelligible tongues must be interpreted by someone gifted by the Holy Spirit to do so: “For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says” (14:13 NIV). And “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret” (14:27 NIV).1

If Paul insists these tongues must be interpreted, he apparently considers they are not intelligible human languages being spoken, as in Acts 2. Yet, Paul says, “No matter how many different languages there are in the world, not one of them is without meaning” (14:10 GW).

These Corinthian tongues may be unintelligible, yet they are not meaningless. They merely need to be interpreted.

A key to the difference between xenolalia and glossolalia is found here:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
–1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV

Paul, here, could be comparing prophecy in the native language with a glossolalic message in an unknown tongue that must be interpreted. But he could also mean that some speaking tongues is understandable human languages (“tongues of men”), as at Pentecost in Acts 2 (xenolalia), and some are unintelligible unless interpreted (“tongues of angels”), as in these chapters of Corinthians (glossolalia).

As Robert P. Menzies points out in his excellent Speaking in Tongues (CPT Press, 2016), all of these passages:

  • Associate tongues with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
  • Use similar vocabulary (glossais)
  • Describe resulting speech as praise and prophecy

There are contemporary instances where private tongues or public messages in tongues are recognized as known human languages. Jordan Daniel May has collected testimonies of xenolalic occurrences in his inspiring Global Witnesses to Pentecost: The Testimony of ‘Other Tongues’ by Jordan Daniel May (Cherohala Press, 2013).

Whether we use tongues as private prayer language or deliver a Spirit-prompted message in tongues at a gathering of believers, we are speaking prophetically and glorifying God.

16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'”
–Acts 2:16-18 NIV


1. Paul is comparing private prayer language, given as evidence of being baptized in the Spirit, with the spiritual gift of tongues, a Spirit-prompted utterance in a public setting that must be followed by the Spirit-prompted gift of interpretation.