This story comes from Yucan Chiu, Pastor at Ethnos Church. Watch the full interview, read Yucan’s story, see the difference your giving has made over the past five years, and celebrate with us all that God has done!
How has Equip’s training helped you better minister to gay people?
Sentiments we hear often from gay people are that they’ve been hurt by the church and their voices have been pushed aside in the church. For many pastors that’s heartbreaking, and we just don’t know what to do. Maybe we know how to talk individually to a gay person, but beyond that individual conversation, what else can we do? Since our Equip training, we have had two of our leaders who come out to us as gay and rise up feeling more empowered and encouraged to share with the rest of us about their journey and then also to help us better understand who they are. As a result of working through the Equip Blueprint Process, where we laid out a plan of action for the next couple years about how we’re going to continue to grow in our ministry to and with gay persons, we have seen these two leaders feel safe and empowered to engage in leadership and be a part of the transformation process. It’s been so encouraging. One of them will be helping us create a specific small group for gay people. These people may or may not know Jesus yet, but the group will be a safe space for gay persons to explore issues of sexuality and faith without any pressure to choose a side. For us as a church it’s so important that we provide that. We happen to live and minister in the gay epicenter of our state, so it’s been really powerful and helpful.
What has been most helpful about the training and support that Equip has provided?
I think the most helpful thing has been the opening up of the conversation in a more public setting for our church and leadership. In our church context, before training with Equip, we would have more private conversations with LGBT+ persons, or maybe conversations among smaller groups of leaders, but we didn’t know how to talk about this publicly. We didn’t have the language, paradigms, or coaching. Equip helped us advance the conversation. And then it gave us the structure needed to not just talk about it, but also to think through some of the theological issues, think through how to structure these conversations in the right way.
How did you first connect with Equip?
I first heard about Equip through a workshop that Equip led at a national conference. What struck me about Equip was its relevance to the local church pastor. I think pastors are good at finding individual counseling tools or tools to work with individual pastoral situations, but to have a resource that helps us think systematically about how we can grow and develop as a whole church, that was something I’d never heard of. To realize there was somebody out there who could help us do that was very significant.
How has Equip partnered with your church?
We had Equip team leaders visit us and spend over 16 hours with our leadership team to walk us through some fundamental, foundational paradigms of how to think about God and LGBT+ persons and how God would want His people to respond in grace and walk with LGBT+ persons. Equip put in the heavy work of spending time with us, training us, and walking with us. What was really special about that was Equip’s commitment to do not just the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting but also the up-front heavy lifting. I think it was helpful for our church, and powerful, to have an Equip leader up front on a Sunday at least twice during this period of training to talk to our whole church and help us along.
At what moment did the importance of this work at your church “click”? And why do you think that made the difference?
I remember during one of our meetings with Equip and our leadership team of 12, there was a moment when one of our leaders felt safe enough to disclose their same-sex attraction journey with the rest of the team. And none of us at the church had ever known that about her. She even prefaced her sharing with, “I think this is finally a safe place to share this.” And our church leadership realized that there are probably a lot of people in our churches, even serving in our churches, even in a leadership role in our churches, who have not felt safe enough to tell us this, to allow us to be a part of their journey. So when that happened at one of our Equip trainings it was a sacred moment, and it was a moment that helped us realize that we really needed to figure this out. Because there are people in our church and definitely in our community that need that safe space to process and walk through this with someone.
What advice would you have for pastors who want to better minister to gay people in their churches?
If you’re a pastor reading this, I would say, “You’re not alone in the questions you have, in the struggles you have.” I think many of us have that compassionate heart; we want to see the love and good news of Jesus enter into gay people’s lives and empower and encourage and transform them, all these things. But if you’re like me, and I had years of seminary training and a doctorate in this stuff, I just didn’t know how to keep moving forward. I’m surrounded by gay individuals, but I just didn’t know how to move forward as a church into this sort of ministry. I think one of the best things we can do as pastors is to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and that we need help. Equip has been a source of answers and help for me as a pastor and for us as a church in ways that we needed, in ways that were gracious and loving and insightful and ultimately helpful for our city. I would say, as a pastor, reach out and find some help. The great thing is, Equip is ready to help. Not in some “we know it all” sort of way, but in a very gracious and humble way. I’m really encouraged and also empowered to move forward as a pastor.
For decades, the Church has been ignoring this conversation or having this conversation poorly. Pastors look at this work with dread, saying, “In order to do this well, I’ve got to undo the poor work of decades of people before me, and that’s not fair, and that may be impossible.” How do you get through that barrier?
I don’t think there’s an easy way to get through the barrier. But I think the best thing we can do as pastors is to make sure we listen well. There’s nothing as powerful as listening humbly and trying our best to truly understand people’s pain and experiences and their journey. I think gay persons and their allies are tired of rhetoric and empty promises, they’re tired of theological statements. They need to see actual change in action. But that all really begins with listening well. To continue to press into this, we must make sure we listen to people who are grieving, who are angry, and walk with them through it. I’ve been encouraged and challenged myself to do that more and more as I see the fruit of listening well.
Help Equip help other pastors, like Yucan, care well for the gay people in their congregations in both compassionate and practical ways. Give today at equipyourcommunity.org/give.