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Reader's Corner: "Single, Gay, Christian" by Gregory Coles
Single, Gay, Christian by Gregory Coles is a small, easy-to read book that packs a powerful punch. Coles is exceptionally articulate and does an excellent job of communicating his thoughts and feelings.  Coles wrote the book as if he is sharing his ponderings and experiences with you, a trusted friend. As you read, you feel as if you are his confidant, listening and learning as he processes his early experiences with attraction to men, his wrestling with God to make him straight, his examination of the Bible to make sense of his experience, and his choice to sit in the tension of longings that God hasn’t taken away.  I found this book particularly helpful to understanding one man’s experience of gay attractions while still clinging to the love of Jesus. So often, LGBT issues become a conversation to debate, missing the humanity of those about whose lives we deliberate. Greg invites us to zoom in on his experiences and share his tensions—up close and personal.  Reading this book, you can’t help but garner an affection for this young man. He is authentic, deep, caring, delightfully bright, funny, and sincere in his love for Jesus. Greg is honest about where he is still wrestling and doesn’t pretend to have the answers to many pressing questions, even as they overlap with his own experiences.  The title of the book brings forth the debate with which Greg’s name is sometimes associated. Can a follower of Jesus also claim the title “gay”? Aren’t the words “Christian” and “gay” mutually exclusive? Greg explains why he has chosen this adjective to describe himself rather than the commonly used evangelical description “same-sex attracted.” Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, he brings light to the complexity of the issue.  My only hesitation with this book is not what it contains, but what it lacks. There is a deeper layer yet to uncover. Single, Gay, Christian expresses Greg’s wrestling with his gayness mostly in light of the sinful behavior he is called to avoid. He explains that he will never get married because he is not attracted, and likely never will be, to women. I think there is more to it than that–not just for Greg, but for all of us. Following Christ is about more than surrendering our behavior. Additionally, we must examine how we have integrated the world’s system into our assumptions and reasoning. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). God not only wants to address the potential for sin in our lives, but also bring to light how we each have been influenced by the thought patterns of our culture. Without question, our western culture has increasingly given sexual desires and experiences an exaggerated voice in our identity and decisions. What’s more, we’ve learned to make life decisions about love and marriage largely based on felt attractions. Works like Nancy Pearcy’s Love Thy Body and Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self help us understand why our sexual desires and sense of “sexual” selves have become such central components of our identities. As Trueman writes, “In biblical times or in ancient Greece, sex was regarded as something that human beings did; today it is considered to be something vital to who human beings are.”These western assumptions confuse not only those who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, but also Christians who no longer feel love or attraction within their marriage.  If our sexual desires are such a determinant, what about the bi-sexual Christian? Or how about the woman who discovers, a decade into her marriage, that she is actually attracted to women? I wonder if much of our wrestling with Scripture is amplified by the assumptions of sexual desire, personal experience, and identity that are rooted in the world’s system of thought, which is passing away (See I John 2:17).  I would love to see Greg wrestle with questions like: To what extent have we bought into the lie that sexual experiences and desires must be part of my identity? Why do the Scriptures fail to identify people by adjectives like “single,” “heterosexual,” or “married” as identity markers?  And is it possible that entering into biblical marriage is more of a call to unique covenant relationships and potentially has little to do with sexual attraction?  From what I’ve already seen in Greg, it wouldn’t surprise me if these themes show up as he continues to mature in ministry and his personal journey.   
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4 Reasons to Join a Sexual Discipleship Cohort
Scripture is filled with examples of the importance of working with one another. We learn about iron sharpening iron in Proverbs, how two are better than one in Ecclesiastes, and the metaphor of the body of Christ throughout the New Testament. We need one another in ministry and in sexual discipleship.  At Sexual Discipleship®, we provide many ways to learn and grow personally through resources like our e-course, blog, interviews with experts, Java Packs, and small group curriculum and training. All of these resources can be explored on your own, but one opportunity stands apart; a chance for members to experience the beauty of sexual discipleship in community––our Sexual Discipleship cohorts. These cohorts are for Sexual Discipleship members only (learn more about membership). We understand that your time is precious, but we believe that devoting seven weeks to go through the Sexual Discipleship training e-course with a cohort will be well worth the investment, both on a personal level and for your ministry. Here are four ways participating in a cohort will expand and enrich your experience with Sexual Discipleship: 1. Personal transformation. As leaders, we often enter into learning environments to become equipped in ministering to others. While that does happen, another surprising thing occurs ––God radically changes our own hearts. We hear testimonies like this again and again with leaders in our cohorts.  One of our members shared this about her experience. “I signed up for the SD Cohort to learn more about the bigger issues of sexuality that are facing young people today, so that I may be better equipped to enter into the hard and uncomfortable conversations that I have with those I disciple. What I found was that, though God is equipping me for those conversations and for those relationships, He wanted to change my own heart in radical ways and give me a deeper and fuller and more beautiful understanding of the story He has written on all our hearts. I encountered Him in a whole new way and have begun to see how our call into intimacy with each other mirrors His desire for us to know Him intimately.” 2. Learn from one another’s experiences.  In a group, you learn what has worked and what has not worked in different ministry settings. Leaders share about their experiences taking sexual discipleship into their ministries, churches, families, non-profits, and one-on-one individual relationships.  One participant shared, “It has been very encouraging to get to know others who are walking similar paths and seeking a Biblical perspective when facing similar challenges. Exploring difficult topics together and being able to ask difficult questions has given me more confidence. Listening to different experiences and approaches and sharing resources has been very helpful.” These conversations also grow your confidence in leading small groups and sexually discipling others. The cohort provides a framework and teaches believers how to think about sexuality and ministry. One leader shared, “It’s deepened my own understanding of sexual brokenness and sexual integrity. Meeting such a diverse group of other committed believers who are authentic about their own brokenness was so refreshing and encouraging. I feel much more equipped to enter this conversation with my family and church.” 3. Brainstorm together to move past roadblocks. Many leaders come across roadblocks as they begin to implement sexual discipleship into their ministries. Common roadblocks include: not having the approval of a pastor or staff team, feeling overwhelmed with where to start, or encountering your own sexual brokenness that needs to be addressed first. In the cohort you will be able to share your personal roadblocks and be encouraged by knowing others are walking alongside you in similar situations. One leader shared that after hearing other ministry leaders processing their own roadblocks, she felt more equipped and confident in moving forward with her own sexual discipleship plan. During the cohort, you will engage with the Sexual Discipleship training e-course (preview here). One participant shared that she continues, even months after the group has ended, to refer to the topics from the e-course over and over again as she has conversations with others in her church and in her daily life. She believes the e-course and workbook have helped her know how to better lead the women at her church.  4. Know you are not alone in this battle. In a cohort, you will meet with other leaders from all over the world who are learning to sexually disciple others in churches, organizations, etc. and to hear their wisdom and thoughts. One leader said, “Meeting other leaders in similar ministry contexts has expanded my network!” Many leaders stay connected even after groups end.  Another leader shared, “I loved connecting with other people from around the globe that share my passion and desire to spread the good news and help the captives be set free, especially in the area of sexual brokenness. I was touched by each story of my cohort friends, and seeing how God has brought them where they are right now was truly an inspiration to me. I feel that I am better equipped, that I have more resources at my disposal for tackling different topics, and above all I am encouraged in what I feel is my calling. I really enjoyed this experience.” You too can learn and grow with other leaders who are also passionate about discipling others in the area of sexuality.  Here is what you can expect from joining a cohort: You will complete two lessons of the Sexual Discipleship e-Course per week. This includes watching the course videos, completing the questions in the workbook, and if possible, digging into additional resources recommended at the end of each lesson. You will be part of a private discussion group with your cohort where you can share thoughts, ask questions, and discuss content. You will join a live Zoom call with other members, led by our Director of Discipleship or a trained Sexual Discipleship Certified Leader, each week during the cohort. The cohort will end after all lessons are completed (after seven weeks), and you should be fully prepared to take your course quiz!  Sign up for our next cohort! If you are unable to join at that time, you may sign up for the waitlist here. Cohorts are for Sexual Discipleship members. If you're not a member, you can sign up here.     Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash.