Bill Hybels on “Hope for the LGBT”

on May 4, 2016

Sunday morning, Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels switched gears from the classic sermon format to an 45 minute Q&A with congregants and individuals following along on Twitter. While most of the questions focused on personal aspects of Hybels life, such as favorite book and Bible verse, one dealt with abortion, and two touched on the LGBT community.

“For the last three weeks we have proclaimed hope for the global poor. Will our church ever be able to proclaim hope for the LGBT community?” inquired one Willow Creek congregant. In his off-the-cuff remarks, Hybels emotionally recalled a memory from the fourth grade. Several kids he knew beat up a little boy they dubbed, “queer” based on his physical stature. After that day, the boy never returned to school. For Hybels this was a “defining moment” that shaped his approach to the LGBT in ministry.

“I’ve probably had over the forty years two hundred people from this church, many of you right in this room, come out to me because I’m your pastor. And those are precious moments.” However, Hybels noted that Willow Creek Community Church “holds the traditional Biblical view that marriage should be between a man and a woman and that sexual relationships should be reserved for that union and all the rest of us should be chaste and pure with our thoughts and sexuality.”

“But there has to be a way that we can hold onto the Biblical position of the traditional view of marriage and be respectful,” continued Hybels. “[A]nd inclusive to people in the LGBT community who are trying to live for God, love God, and trying to at least be a part of a church that won’t toss them.”

As an example of achieving both, Hybels mentions a Saturday night small group comprised of same-sex attracted Christians which he leads at Willow Creek. Hybels and the fourteen other small group members don’t just spend time talking about gay issues. I appreciate that. Our culture is consumed with measuring worth based on sexuality labels. Yet there’s more to people who struggle with same-sex attraction than just their sexual attraction. As one of my bright friends recently explained, some Christians with same-sex attraction might struggle more with the sin of pride or seeking approval from man. I’m thankful Hybels recognizes we shouldn’t reduce people to their sexuality.

“I dream of the day when our church has a heart filled with no partiality, just open embrace,” Hybels concluded.

This all sounds nice and good. But I wish Hybels hadn’t tried so hard to ride the fence as closely as he can. What does he mean when he says “gay Christian?” Specifically, when dealing with such a topic it’s helpful for our church leaders to clearly define their terms. What does an “open embrace” look like? What does “inclusive” mean and what are the implications?

Christians are struggling to uphold our convictions on sexuality and marriage while also showing love and respect to same-sex attracted individuals inside and outside the Church. But this doesn’t play out as neatly as Hybels describes. The problem is, for many in the LGBT community, love and respect don’t go far enough without affirmation of intimate same-sex relationships. Hybels never mentions what to do if his congregants own a bakery and their conscience stirs them to decline servicing a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Ultimately, Hybels fails to answer his congregant’s question, “Will our church ever be able to proclaim hope for the LGBT community?”

It’s possible the question is substituting the word affirmation for the word hope. But that’s speculation. Because it asks about the proclamation of hope for the LGBT community. A seemingly easy answer for one of America’s most influential Evangelical pastors. The church is proclaiming real hope in Jesus Christ. Oh yes, there is sufficient hope for the LGBT community and for every other broken person on this earth struggling with sin. But it isn’t provided for by a church alone, but by the life-changing Gospel. There is a better way. It’s the goodness and mercy of Jesus Christ that provides real hope.

No matter how affirming of homosexuality a church is, embracing sin is never loving nor hopeful.

Please note, this is a very complex issue that I cannot adequately tackle in a blog post, nor Pastor Hybels could tackle off in 13 minutes. For more resources on loving and respecting Christians with same-sex attraction while also upholding Biblical teaching on sexuality, please see Sam Allberry at Living Out, Rosaria Butterfield, and watch the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on the Gospel and Homosexuality.

  1. Comment by the_enemy_hates_clarity on May 4, 2016 at 10:32 am

    You are right that it is a poorly formed question. If it is “affirmation” instead of “hope”, then the answer is “no.” Otherwise, the answer is (I would hope) “we already are,” just like hope is preached for liars, adulterers, the prideful, the envious, gluttons, the slothful, etc.

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  2. Comment by Mark Brooks on May 4, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    The global poor are those without Christ. I’m curious to have more background on this.

  3. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 4, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    It is HOPEFUL just knowing there is dialogue about this subject.
    Whether there needs to be a consensus among the powers-that-be, or the parishioners, the subject is not going to go away, and dialogue is healthy.

  4. Comment by Adeyinka on May 6, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    You cannot be for God and also be for gays.A good pastor should have quoted psalm 19 vs 12 to encourage these sodomites.”How can I keep all these sins away from my heart?Clease me from all of my moral faults.Keep your servant from deliberate sins.So that you are the one in control,not that you are a slave to your sin.This will enable you to be free of guiltand be innocent of great sin.”.Everything we do starts with though.You need to control your thinking that goes to your mind about having sex with member of the same sex.Nature itself says opposite sex is what attracts.Homosexuality is abnormal.It is not acceptable in the sight of the Lord.America is full of false pastors.

  5. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 9, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Nature is also the reason for the sexual nuances that distinguish between Heterosexual, and Homosexual.

    God’s agents may have written that Homosexuality is “wrong”, but nobody has heard God speak those words. And it would be arrogant to believe otherwise, given that “God” allegedly created Humans in His own image.

  6. Comment by Israel Gordillo on May 10, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    If ” nobody has heard God speak those words” then you might as well throw out the Bible. Because any sin you find in the Bible can be said that ” nobody has heard God speak those words”.

  7. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 10, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    You make a good point, Isreal Gordillo.
    I probably should have been more specific.

    Consider if you will, if History had provided more than one “Bible”, say three, just for discussion.
    Would its followers have been split by thirds in their respective adherence?

    I suspect that the ONE Bible has endured sufficient editing and rewrites (given the various power structures that commissioned such documentation), not to mention the variations that we know about like the King James version versus the NIV, etc….

    I certainly would never advocate relinquishing one’s faith to the powers of the World. But I do believe it is important, that everyone think (or pray) diligently to learn what is edifying, about ANY religious document, and go from there.


  8. Comment by Quartermaster on May 17, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    The word of God has been preserved and reliably transmitted to us today. Sin is still sin as defined by God and attempts to push aside what God has said and looks for what is merely “edifying,” by your definition, is a one way ticket to the lake of fire. people don’t like having what they like doing called sin, but that’s too bad. The mission of the Church to preach Christ and Him Crucified, and that means telling people that sin will send them to hell. Doing what you advocate is not at all loving.

  9. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 17, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    I’m very pleased to hear that you are satisfied with the Bible as it is today, and your faith is reflected in your adherence to it’s word.

    I was a Christian at birth (or at least at Baptism), and over the last sixty-plus years, have realized that Organized Religion has been hijacked by powers beyond God’s authority.
    Therefore, I’ve wandered around the world and discovered that Mankind possesses the power to know the difference between good and evil, even without a “God”! …Imagine?!

    It turns out, that human beings are naturally capable of Empathy and Compassion.
    And that’s all that is required in this life!

    So thank you for your testimony, and best wishes to you as we all go forward in Time.


  10. Comment by Quartermaster on May 18, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    You’re funny. The closing word means “the god in me greats the god in you.” And you say you can differentiate between good and evil without a god.

    God is the definition of good. Without him, there is no differentiation.

  11. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 18, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    What does Namaste’ have to do with whether I can differentiate between good and evil?

    Good and evil are simply opposing theories of behavior. a God (and there are numerous Gods throughout History), doesn’t always represent GOOD. But generally, I think we both agree that most Gods do!

    There IS good without God.
    Good is a human trait, and God is a human construct. No disrespect intended, just reasonable exchanges of thoughts between two wayfarers on the same planet.


  12. Comment by Adeyinka on May 11, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    God also gave us rules and guidelines to follow.When he created man,he gave man anus to use as excretion organ.We use anus to shit out what we eat.It is part of digestive organ.It is not a sex organ.Is your eyes designed to be used as hearing organ?Do you use your hand to walk?Each body part have its own designed function,but when people choose to use it contrary to what is is meant for,then,there is a problem.Besides,these sodomnites will never be satisfied until they destroy everything.Its the nature of the beast.Where is your moral compass pointing to?You need to have it checked.It looks like its damamged

  13. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 11, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I personally don’t care for anal sex, but for millions of people, both straight and Gay, it’s an option. So who are we to determine whether that should, or shouldn’t be okay?

    Just like abortion…if you don’t want one, don’t have one!

    Let’s allow God to do whatever He wants, and we can continue living a righteous life doing what we were taught to do….. Love our brethren!


  14. Comment by Quartermaster on May 17, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Love people, hate sin! You can’t love people, and affirm them in sin as sin destroys.

  15. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 17, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    If that works for you, that’s something you have to live with.
    I personally don’t possess the power to condemn people for simply being Gay or Lesbian, or somewhere in between.

  16. Comment by Quartermaster on May 18, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    I’m not the one doing the condemning. I do have the obligation to warn of the coming judgment, however. God is not one to deal with the willful sinner lightly.

  17. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 18, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Again, your religion, your consequences.

    If Nature is my “God” then I’ll deal with that, and I’ll steer clear of your God and His/Her power structure.

    Judgement day is not a Hallmark occasion, so please don’t insist that I buy a card.

    Though thank you for caring.

  18. Comment by Quartermaster on October 6, 2016 at 9:36 am

    You don’t have to buy the card. It comes whether you accept it or not. Your final disposition will be determined by whether you accepted God’s way, as He revealed, or He’ll let you have your way. Your way, however, will be ghastly beyond imagination.

  19. Comment by MarcoPolo on October 6, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Since nobody has returned from death thus far, we’ll just have to presume the ghastliness of the “afterlife” is only a myth taken from your playbook.

    Given the inordinate number of “Gods” people worship, I suppose it’s logical for the adherents of each one to be boastful of their religion’s promises.
    It seems to me that even if there were NO religion, that we could ALL get along just fine with ‘The Golden Rule’ as the standard for behaving morally. Anything else just becomes a “pissing contest” over who’s God is best!


  20. Comment by Quartermaster on October 6, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    If you wish to say the Bible is a myth, that’s your choice. There is a very strong reason to know otherwise, but you’ve made your choice.

  21. Comment by MarcoPolo on October 6, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Don’t you mean: “…There is a very strong reason to BELIEVE otherwise…”
    Knowing something that cannot be proven relies upon belief rather than knowledge.

    But I am not one to tell anyone how to believe, so I wish you all the blessings that come with your belief in your faith.

    Peace, MarcoPolo

  22. Comment by Quartermaster on October 7, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I said what I meant. You can know. But you choose to reject.

  23. Comment by Phil Bingham on October 6, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Well said – what do you want? To be a man pleaser rather than a God pleaser, it boils down to that!!

  24. Comment by Dennis Wilson on May 17, 2016 at 11:31 am

    “Same-sex attraction”

    That is a euphemistic way of saying same- sex lust. Where is same-sex lust ever regarded as anything but sin in Scripture?

    No practicing homosexual will ever inherit the Kingdom of God – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

  25. Comment by Kimberly Hanson on March 15, 2017 at 9:39 am

    The difference between lust and attraction does not change in a homosexual context. I can be attracted to my hometown… but that does not mean I lust after it; similarly one can be attracted to those of the same sex but they do not then automatically lust after such people.

    I understand “Same-sex attraction” to be the descriptor preferred over “Gay” or “Lesbian” or, as it was once called, “Perverted”.

  26. Comment by Dennis Wilson on March 15, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    I don’t know what point you are trying to make but the truth is that lust and the practice of homosexuality are inseparable.

    No practicing homosexual will ever inherit the Kingdom of God – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

  27. Comment by Benjamin Hanson on March 17, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    I was rebutting (sorry, used my wife’s account) your denigration of the term “same-sex attraction.” It is a useful term and need not be equated with “same-sex lust” and “homosexual practice,” which are two terms whose relationship to one another I’ll continue to leave for you and others to define.

  28. Comment by Dennis Wilson on March 18, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Good for you!

  29. Comment by David Cox on May 20, 2016 at 11:37 am

    So glad to see the resource listed. This is a perspective almost no one is talking about.

  30. Comment by leletesoro on April 29, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    For you, the struggle is whether or not to bake a cake. For us, the struggle is whether or not to choose singleness for a LIFETIME. Coming home to an empty house after work every single day, no one ever waiting for you, no one there to share the joys and sorrow of life’s journey, no children to fill the halls with noise and vibrancy, no partner to care for you in sickness and health. So.. please tell me more about how annoying it is that your pastor didn’t “take a harder line” against our innate desire for connection, love, integration into Christ’s church, and committed intimacy.

  31. Comment by J on July 20, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Leletesoro, “no one ever waiting for you” – Do you have no family? No parents, sisters, brothers? No dogs or cats?

    “no one there to share the joys and sorrow of life’s journey”
    – unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of homosexuals do not and will not practice monogamy. When the sorrows hit, they will be out the door to find a new partner.

    Studies done on male-male relationships show that the majority of them are open (a.k.a. they sleep with other people) which is part of why you share more than “joy” and part of the sorrow may be all the STDs contracted. The average homosexual has had over 200 partners in their lifetime, and considering they are around 2% of the population that means basically everybody’s slept with everybody in those communities. (a study showed over 20% of “gay couples” one of the partners cheated on the other within the past 3 months of the study with unprotected sex with someone they did not ask their HIV status of).

    Only 1 percent of sexually active (non-celibate) homosexual men have had less than 5 partners. 80% of homosexuals said “more than half” of their sexual activities were with strangers they did not know (hence the rapid spread of STDs). Most homosexual couples have sex with dozens of strangers in a given year, and although the data is relatively recent most indicators are “gay marriages” are extremely open (at least in the case of men-men).

    “no children to fill the halls with noise and vibrancy,”
    – First off, that doesn’t seem like the right reason to adopt a child. Secondly, homosexuals cannot birth children with the exception of a lesbian willing to accept male sperm in her body. Thirdly, there is actually quite a shortage of babies for even hetero couples to adopt.

    “no partner to care for you in sickness and health”
    – Again, considering the vast majority of gay couples are not monogamous, it’s not exactly the type of relationship to rely on. They are already cheating on you even in good times of “in health”. You’d be better off relying on siblings or relatives.

  32. Comment by J on July 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Also, in a study done by a pro-gay group, to try and prove gay monogamy is possible, the results of their study showed that of the 156 couples they could find with relationships from 1 to 37 years, only seven had been able to maintain sexual fidelity (loyalty). That is less than 5%. And all of those seven couples were “new” relationships less than 5 years old. NONE of the relationships exceeding 5 years had sexual fidelity, not one. In gay relationships there is basically no such thing as a “till death do we part” monogamous relationship. It is a unicorn.

    In other words, the researchers were unable to find a single male couple that was able to maintain sexual fidelity for more than five years.

    McWhirter and Mattison, themselves homosexuals, basically concluded from their study that the only way homosexual relationships could last more than 10 years was a “lack of possessiveness”.

    So basically the only way gay couples stayed together was by completely giving up on each other being loyal.

    That’s really very sad. I don’t know how anyone could live like that. I would think it’s better to just be alone forever than to be constantly betrayed and have a literal 0% chance at a loyal intimate relationship. Sexual desires just lead them to constantly make new partners who are literally guaranteed to disappoint.

  33. Comment by Renee on September 8, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    J, have you studied the heterosexual divorce and adultery rates as thoroughly as you’ve studied homosexual relationship statistics? The Christian divorce rate is on par with that of non-Christians and we’ve had cases of adultery within the church between staff members. WE ARE ALL HUMAN AND BROKEN!

    I knew a gay man 30 years ago that spent much time in the clubs and you know who was there lurking in the shadows? Straight, married men who went out for a carton of milk and made a detour.

    And you’re presenting this information as if you’re making a case to convince someone not to be gay. This cannot be done. Any of us can choose a celibate life but we cannot choose who we are innately attracted to.

  34. Comment by Cindy Wity on May 30, 2017 at 11:14 am

    LGBT hope>>”we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

  35. Comment by Renee on September 8, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    You so-called Christians make me ill. You don’t even acknowledge the HUMANNESS of those with same-sex attraction (is it also lust for opposite-sex attraction, too, Dennis Wilson?) When are you going to grow up and realize that maybe God expects us to be a little wiser? How arrogant of “J” to ask “Leletesoro” if he/she had siblings to come home to! Do you hear yourself, J? What is the thing 100% of us want in this life? Human connection of the ROMANTIC kind!!! At least acknowledge that.

    Also acknowledge that people DO NOT CHOOSE to be gay and have some COMPASSION!!! Every “Christian” site where I see dialogue on this subject is COMPLETELY lacking in compassion.

    I am a Christian. I am not gay but I am a sinner and I struggle with various sins on a daily basis. I am so completely put-off by the arrogance of Christians that think THEY have the right and duty to proselytize to the LGBT community rather than empathize and LOVE THEM REGARDLESS! They entire planet knows the Bible verses you love to reference. You think you’re being so holy by using those verses to justify your hideous judgement. HOW DARE YOU! I am banking on the fact that God’s love surpasses all of your hatred and that you will suffer severe reprimands on the day of judgement. DON’T YOU TRUST AND BELIEVE GOD TO JUDGE HIS OWN CREATION? Our job is to LOVE one another. We can do that and not condone un-Godly behaviors. Does visiting the prisoner amount to approving of his crime? Stop using the Bible as a veil to your own disgusting prejudice and ponder that maybe God expects more of you in this arena.

  36. Comment by LauraLynn on September 14, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Hi, Renee–

    I’ve written about this topic. If you care to, please read

    We have to be careful to understand the difference between Godly love and worldly love. We also have to be careful about what we believe to be true. If we believe homosexuality is not a choice, or is not a sin, it will affect our whole understanding of the issue.

    And motives matter. I think that many people have the misunderstanding that compassion means acceptance or toleration of a wrong behavior. Then we would have to accept the behaviors of alcoholism, drug abuse, adultery, murder, greed, lying, etc., and insist that somehow they are part of our identity and therefore, if a person rejects the sin, they are rejecting me. That is not true. No one would say, “I’m an adulterer. If you don’t accept the fact that I will sleep with people other than my spouse, you’re a judgmental, uncompassionate person.” They recognize the sin. They understand that adultery is not the core of their being, but rather a behavior.

    Most Christians don’t have this heart. Most Christians realize that the love of God has changed their hearts so that they no longer please themselves, but God. Most Christians realize that they are just as fallible as the next guy, and depend on the Holy Spirit’s power to transform them into a child of God.

    Many of the points in this discussion focus on or insist on homosexuals being accepted, and I think what gets missed in the exchange is that it is not the person who is rejected, but the behavior.

    Satan’s lie and society’s lie is to tell those who have same-sex attraction that that is their sole identity, and if people reject that, they are rejecting them. God has created us to be so much more than sexual beings. In other words, Renee, you identify yourself not as a heterosexual only, but as a woman, perhaps a mother, a daughter, a sister, and perhaps an artist, or whatever talents you have, and as perhaps whatever you do for work. But none of these things make up your whole person. They are not who we are, but what we do.

    God wants us to to choose to identify ourselves as children of God in his saving grace, and in his power help us to walk in newness of life, true life, and whole life, just like anyone who turns from any kind of immorality to serve and love the living God.

    I think any approach to discussion of the topic should be prayerful first, and we need to be just as aware of and able to see the whole person that needs healing, who gets hidden especially behind this particular sin. Jesus is the Great Physician. He is able to heal us completely if we simply ask.

  37. Comment by Renee on October 11, 2017 at 11:05 am

    LauraLynn, I appreciate the moderate tone of your response and I confess that I skimmed your blogpost but did not read it in its entirety.

    What enrages me about this issue is the complete lack of empathy and common sense around the issue of homosexuality. There is an arrogance among Christians when it comes to LGBT people that doesn’t seem to exist when discussing any other sin-nature. And, yes, I do believe that homosexuality is not chosen and this is where I believe common sense comes in: who would choose to be gay? Yes, there are people who choose to be promiscuous, hedonistic and perverse, homo and hetero alike. But there are people that are born with an orientation toward sharing life with a partner of the same gender. This is not just about sex. It’s about: who do you see yourself building a life with? For gay people, it’s someone of the same gender.

    Having said that, if you are Christian and believe that this orientation is sinful, so be it. But can you not still relate to the gay person as a HUMAN BEING created and loved by God? Do you have to hit gay people over the head with your verses EVERY SINGLE TIME you encounter such a person? Do you police gossip, adultery, pride, greed and the entire host of other sins just as staunchly? You talk about intent. There are thousands of people in prison that had the intent to murder and did just that but we are loving on the prisoners, aren’t we? When the Bible says “remember the prisoner,” could it not also mean remember those imprisoned by their own sinful nature? Are we all not chained to thought and behavior patterns that imprison us to some degree? I am. I am an obese person who has struggled with eating/not eating ALL MY LIFE. I have no memory of ever having control around food at any age or phase of my life. I’ve done all the diet programs, therapy, prayer and cannot break the chains. And in the last 10 years of church life, no one has ever addressed this issue with me. But if I were a lesbian, I imagine church life would have been an entirely different experience and I probably would not be going to church any more.

    So why is it ok be holier-than-thou with this particular people group? That’s really what breaks my heart. If a gay person had the inclination of crying out to God to relieve them of their same-sex attraction, I imagine that they would be absolutely terrified of stepping foot in a church given the hateful rhetoric on social media. Shouldn’t Christians accept people as they are first and then prayerfully, gently, sincerely guide people toward truth? Even Jesus forgave the woman of her sins first AND THEN SAID “go and sin no more.”

    I think the INTENT of Christians that take the time to post the most hateful and judgmental of comments about LGBT people, who were also created by our God, says more about their sin-natures than those they are judging.

  38. Comment by Jim M on June 4, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    That was a beautiful post, Laura, reflecting a beautiful heart and the love of Christ.
    I look forward to reading your blog post.

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