First-time visitors: I am an ex-gay missionary who left the lifestyle 11 years ago. Praise God!
Pray Away chronicles the rise and fall of Exodus International. Established in 1976, it was oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality. Leadership promised something that the Word of God does not promise – removal of temptation. Claiming that God said something He didn’t say is dangerous. When we step off the Word of God, we give Satan ammunition.
Partnering with unbelievers, Exodus embraced controversial “reparative therapy”. As the ministry became a movement, some leaders pretended their homosexual desires had disappeared. Consequently, some reportedly felt guilty when theirs did not. Some of those whose same-sex desires did not go away grouped together and came to leadership with complaints. A number of former ex-gay ministry leaders, who have since turned back to gay lifestyles, were interviewed. While they should have apologized for misrepresenting the Word of God, they instead apologized to the gay community for trying to “change” them? They acted as though the fact that people’s temptations did not go away is evidence that God made people gay, and people can’t “change”. Exodus closed up shop in 2013.
To its credit, the film also follows Freedom March founder Jeffrey McCall as he humbly shares testimony on the street and disciples those with loved ones enslaved to false LGBT identities. He coaches a caller in spiritual warfare, key to overcoming Satan. Praise the Lord!
Many of us called to ex-gay ministry have weighed in on this documentary. We all certainly agree that Pray Away is biased, using people’s unbiblical claims and failures in an attempt to discredit the Word of God. The film’s core message is, “Temptation to sin is who you are.”
This documentary was obviously not directed by a born-again believer who is led by the Spirit of Christ. By definition, an unbeliever lives in rebellion against his Creator, is spiritually dead, blinded by Satan and deceived (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:1-2; Rev 12:9). Naturally then, the film is anti-Christ (1 John 2:18).
Learning from history so that those of us who are newer in ex-gay ministry don’t repeat the same mistakes, what lessons can be gleaned from the fall of Exodus?
- The Point Is Not Getting Rid of Same-Sex Attraction: This life is a vapor. Any of us could die in the next five minutes. We must be ready. The point is evangelism and discipleship. The Lord uses even the work of Satan to His glory. Homosexual desires drive the vehicle back to its manufacturer, making man aware of his corrupt, perverted condition and need for the Savior (Gal 3:24). Christ is enough (Phil 1:21). Exodus partnered with secular therapists. As John MacArthur points out, human psychology contradicts the Word of God.
- Must Be Born Again: Resulting from the fall of man (Gen 3), every human being is born with a sinful nature. No one is or could ever be a good person (Ps 51:5; Rom 3:10, 23), even those who appear to be “all cleaned up”. Morally bankrupt, we are spiritually dead in our sins (Eph 2:1-2). Fallen creations, our hearts and feelings cannot be trusted as viable sources of truth (Jer 17:9; Prov 14:12). We must turn away from following our deceitful hearts to be born again, commit to die daily to self to follow the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, according to the Bible (Matt 3:2; John 3:3, 16, 36; Ps 119:11, 105). A person who is not born again does not belong to Christ and cannot follow Him (Rom 8:9). Maybe he could follow “people who are following Christ” or could follow an apparently Christ-centered movement. So were the Exodus leaders who turned back every truly born again (Matt 13:3-8, 18-23)? Side note: I have learned the hard way not to join arms with Catholic ex-gay ministries. Those who are not born again do not have the Spirit of Christ and therefore are not His.
- So What Is Biblical “Change”? We use certain phrases and terms for various reasons. I use “Ex-Gay” in lieu of a paragraph like this explaining exactly what I mean. In a sea of shouting voices, sometimes a controversial phrase is required to grab attention. For example, my book series is called Straight… The secular world knows ex-gay ministries best for claiming, “God changed me!!” often without clearly explaining what that means. The upside is that people listen. The downside is that it can cause confusion. Did the Lord “change” me? Absolutely! For every born-again believer, the Lord Jesus Christ brings unmistakable life-revolution. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. Forgiven, we are cleansed in the blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:11), and made righteous before God by His righteousness (Rom 3:22; 2 Cor 5:21), resurrected from spiritual death to life, transferred from belonging to Satan to Christ (Eph 2:1-2, 13; Col 1:13-14), set free from the fear and power of sin and death (1 Cor 15:55-57), now able to comprehend the Word of God which is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). Having turned away from following his deceitful heart, the repentant believer now follows a polar opposite path (Rom 6:1-4, 23; Matt 7:13-14; Gal 1:23). As we follow, the Lord gives pure interests to replace old life habits (Ps 119:9; Eph 2:10). The old passes away, and all things are made new. Through service, the Lord reveals the believer’s true identity in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) to replace the false LGBT identity (Rom 1:20-32). We learn who God created us to be – our gifts and what He wants us to do with them (1 Pet 4:10). The indwelling Holy Spirit is conforming us to the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:29), a work that will not be finished until the day we meet Him face to face (Phil 1:6; 1 John 3:2). We have the peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7) and the joy that comes from knowing Him (Neh 8:10) that rises above all of life’s trials (John 16:33). And the list goes on… Praise the Lord! When we proclaim, “God changed me!” to a spiritually blinded unbeliever who thinks a person is defined, bound and gagged by the temptation he experiences, all he can imagine is that we went from being aroused by the same sex to suddenly being aroused only by the opposite sex. When given the opportunity, we should clarify what we mean (John 6:35).
- Must Be Satisfied in Relationship with Christ, not movements or people: Spending time in the Word and prayer, we have fellowship with our heavenly Father. We are accepted, fulfilled and satisfied in Him (Luke 12:7; Rom 5:8; John 6:35; Ps 37:4). In Him, we find strength and peace (Acts 1:8; Phil 4:13). Regular fellowship with the Father is a game-changer, helps to preclude searching for satisfaction elsewhere. Disconnected from the power source, we are dead in the water. In Exodus, there seemed to be way too much emphasis on following the movement. Yes, we are ordered to attend church (Heb 10:25) and serve (1 Pet 4:10). Our primary relationship, however, must be with the Lord Jesus Christ, not movements or people (2 Tim 2:3-4; 3:16, 4:3-5; 2 Pet 1:20; Gal 1:10).
- Must Understand the Opponent: Exodus leaders who went back to gay lifestyles seemed to be unaware of the work of Satan. The devil is the author and finisher of the perversions of God’s design we call homosexuality and gender confusion (2 Cor 4:4; John 8:44). Satan is enthroned in the gay world. Therefore, overcoming Satan to walk in newness of life in Christ (Rom 6:1-4) is utterly impossible without an understanding of the work of Satan. For example, Yvette Schneider began having panic attacks every time she worked on ex-gay ministry. A born-again ex-gay believer with Biblical knowledge would realize the resistance is coming from the enemy of our souls trying to provoke and control (1 Pet 5:8). She entered secular therapy (therapist wearing Buddha earrings), was diagnosed with PTSD-like symptoms and eventually convinced that gay is just “who she is”. When she stopped doing ministry, the symptoms stopped, and she was fine! Go figure. Suicide is mentioned without any reference to the Accuser / Deceiver (Rev 12:9-11). Julie Rodgers was provoked to cut herself, seemed to have absolutely no idea where that inspiration might be coming from, ultimately blamed it on ex-gay ministry. Later, she is shown speaking to a group about an imaginary guy named Jesus, “another Jesus” who embraces sin and encourages the LGBT toward everlasting hell (2 Cor 11:3-4; Rev 21:8).
- Must Preach ONLY the Word of God: Some at Exodus fabricated something people wanted to hear and capitalized on it. Many today tell people that God approves their sin and just wants them to be happy, but that is not Bible truth either. The Word of God unequivocally condemns homosexuality as sin, a perversion of God’s design (Gen 1:27, 2:18, 21-24, Lev 18:22, 20:13; Rom 1:20-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:10; Jude 7). It is forgivable sin for those willing to repent (1 Cor 6:9-11). The Bible calls all people to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). God does not promise to remove temptation to sin. Every human being, however pious or cleaned up in appearance, is tempted toward some type of sin. One who was a thief in past life may wake up in Christian life longing to steal. The difference between an unbeliever and a born-again believer is that the born-again believer fights against his sinful nature to follow the Bible (Heb 4:15-16; 1 Cor 15:31). Paul pleaded with the Lord to remove his (unidentified) “thorn in the flesh”. The Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor 12:9).” Although the Lord God Almighty can do anything (Matt 19:26) and may in some cases remove some temptations, the Bible does not promise that God will remove our temptation to sin. Therefore, you and I are not authorized to promise this. Instead, we are called to die daily to self to live for Christ. We are to flee fornication (1 Cor 6:18). And when we are tempted, the Lord promises to provide a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13).
- Church Must Not Become a Business: This is a slippery slope that typically begins with small compromises, rather than trusting the Lord to provide (Matt 6:33; Ps 37:25). There are many forks in the road along this narrow, difficult path that leads to everlasting life (Matt 7:13-14, 16:26).
Increases and decreases in temptation are not valid indicators of the goodness of God or validity of His Word (that does not promise to remove temptation). To quote a Word War II pilot headed into battle, “EVEN IF NOT…” the truly born-again believer will serve the Lord!
No one’s walk with Christ is perfect. It is best to be genuine, as the Bible guarantees that no Christian will be a finished work until the day of Christ (Phil 1:6).
Any of us could die at any moment. CLICK HERE to find out how you can know enduring peace, God’s purpose for your life and be sure you will go to heaven when your brief time on earth is up.
MacArthur, John F. Jr. “The Psychology Epidemic and Its Cure.” Master’s Seminary Journal 2, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 1-19. https://tms.edu/msj/msj2-1-1.