I once believed that my primary mission field was the LGBT community. God had not revealed this to me, nor had he especially burdened my heart for this particular group of people. But because I had been a member of this community before my conversion, it seemed logical to me that God would want me to direct the most of my ministerial energies in their direction. I thought my history with these people made me the perfect candidate to minister to these people.
However, the Lord has since revealed to me that our histories do not decide our ministries—he decides our ministries. Though we may have experience among a particular type of people, that doesn’t necessarily mean God wants the majority of our gospel-proclaiming energies to be directed toward those people. As I was reading in Acts last week, I saw this truth realized in the life of the apostle Paul.
Prior to his dramatic conversion to Christianity, Paul was a self-described “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5). He grew up in Jewish culture, treasured Jewish traditions, and ruthlessly persecuted those who forsook traditional Jewish religion to embrace the Way of Christ.
In his own words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city (Jerusalem), educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness.” Acts 22:3-5
Given his experience and expertise in all things Jewish, surely God would use him mightily among his unbelieving kinsmen, right? You may think so. Paul definitely did. But God had other plans in mind:
“When I (Paul) had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw [the Lord] saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” – Acts 22:17-21
Paul was convinced that his fellow Israelites would listen to him. He had history with these people! They witnessed him persecute those allegedly heretical followers of Christ! Surely his radical change of heart would persuade them to believe there was something to this Jesus-is-the-Messiah stuff! But God basically told him, “No—you will leave your kinsmen and go proclaim my name among the Gentiles.” Though this former Pharisee had decades of history with the Jewish people that would enable him to relate to them on so many levels, God gave him an unexpected ministry: he would be an apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8). Paul, with all his Jewish experience and expertise, would spend his life preaching the gospel primarily to non-Jews.
God wasn’t as direct with me as he was with Paul, but, by means of the passions he has placed in my heart, the way he has sovereignly situated my life, and the wisdom I have gleaned from more mature believers, he has shown me that my primary mission field is not the people with whom I most closely identified in my pre-Christian life.
As regards my writing, I realized a couple of years ago that I didn’t find joy in writing solely about my experiences as a same-sex attracted person. Though such content received a significant response from readers, I longed to write about the gospel in a more multifaceted way. So, that’s what I started doing. Broadening my scope and tackling a wide variety of biblical topics has brought me tremendous joy in Christ. And this, I believe, confirms that I am writing in the way God has called me to write.
Concerning my “offline” life (where the majority of my life is lived), God showed me soon after my conversion that, yes, my evangelistic energies should be geared toward a particular group of people—and those people are the ones he places around me. God has continuously thrown me into the midst of all kinds of unbelievers with all types of issues, and based on my understanding of Scripture, he wants me to engage all of them—no matter their age, background, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sin struggles. I feel closest to Christ when I am seeking to minister to whomever God puts in my path. And this, I believe, confirms I am walking in the primary ministry to which God has called me.
Did the fact that God called Paul to minister mainly to the Gentiles mean he would never preach Christ among the Jews? No. Does God’s calling on my life mean I never engage the LGBT community with the gospel? No. When Jesus was in the process of converting Paul, he told Ananias, “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15; emphasis mine). Though they were not his main focus, God did want Paul to engage his Hebrew kinsmen with the gospel sometimes. And though they are not my main focus, God does want me to engage the LGBT community with the gospel sometimes. To whatever degree he sees fit, God will use our past experiences for his redemptive purposes. But our histories do not decide the overall trajectory of our ministries. God decides that.