Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction (Paperback)
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Sometimes, grace gets messy.
Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by LGBT parents, marched in gay pride parades as a youngster, and experienced firsthand the hatred and bitterness of some Christians toward his family.
But then Caleb surprised everyone, including himself, by becoming a Christian…and a pastor.
Very few issues in Christianity are as divisive as the acceptance of the LGBT community in the church. As a pastor and as a person with beloved family members living a gay lifestyle, Caleb had to face this issue with courage and grace.
Messy Grace shows us that Jesus’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t have an exception clause for a gay “neighbor”—or for that matter, any other “neighbor” we might find it hard to relate to. Jesus was able to love these people and yet still hold on to his beliefs. So can you. Even when it’s messy.
“Messy Grace is an important contribution to the conversation about sexual identity for churches and leaders. Caleb's story is surprising and unique, and he weaves it together compellingly. He states his views clearly, leaves room for disagreement, and champions love no matter where you are in this conversation.”
—Jud Wilhite, Sr. Pastor, Central Christian Church
About the Author
Caleb Kaltenbach is a pastor who speaks widely on issues of faith, reconciliation, and sexual diversity. Caleb is a graduate of Talbot School of Theology (Biola University) and received his doctorate from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Amy, have two young children and reside in southern California.
“There is no shortage of books on how Christians can lovingly and meaningfully engage their gay family members and friends. Caleb Kaltenbach has an important message for everyone who shares a commitment to both grace and truth.” —Jim Daly, president, Focus on the Family
“Caleb Kaltenbach ‘came out’ to his parents. This is the story of that coming out. Only this time, it’s was a Christian teen coming out to his gay parents. The book combines undeniable experiences with clear biblical arguments. Add the gracious tone throughout and you have a powerful book.”
—Mark Dever, pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, president of 9Marks.org
“Caleb Kaltenbach cuts through the confusion and talks about what it really means to love people and what is really means to follow God—and how they’re not mutually exclusive ideas. The answer the world is looking for is messy and it’s full of grace.” —Reggie Joiner, CEO and founder of Orange
“Caleb’s story is surprising and unique, and he weaves it together compellingly. He states his views clearly, leaves room for disagreement, and champions love no matter where you are in this conversation.” —Jud Wilhite, senior pastor, Central Christian Church
“Messy Grace, written by my friend Caleb Kaltenbach, is a personal story of God’s incredible grace and a call to love people as God loves. The message of this important book combines grace and truth and offers hope to a broken generation. Messy Grace is pure truth spoken in love and will help you relate to every person in a way that pleases God.” —Jack Graham, pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church
“Caleb Kaltenbach ‘came out’ to his parents. This is the story of that coming out. Only this time, it’s was a Christian teen coming out to his gay parents. The book combines undeniable experiences with clear biblical arguments. Add the gracious tone throughout and you have a powerful book.” —Mark Dever, pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, president of 9Marks.org
“Caleb’s story down categories, crushes stereotypes, and will make you think differently than you thought before—regardless of your convictions. Anyone who loves Jesus and loves friends and family members who are LGBT is going to want to read this fascinating book. Okay, scratch the conditions. I think anyone is going to want to read this book.” —Carey Nieuwhof, author of Leading Change without Losing It, blogger and lead pastor of Connexus Church
“There may be no greater mess for the church than the question of how to engage with the LGBT community. Messy Grace shows how grace can enter into the mess of life and draw people to God’s love and goodness of God.” —Darrell L. Bock, executive director for cultural engagement and senior research professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary
“I loved Messy Grace! These pages are filled with humility, compassion, and powerful insights as Caleb’s story profoundly demonstrates that grace is both messy and beautiful.” —Mike Foster, People of the Second Chance
“This is an important conversation for the church today and no one’s story makes them better suited for it than Caleb Kaltenbach. In a world that tries to force everyone to take sides, Caleb speaks from the inside of both worlds. Gay or straight, Christian or non-Christian, everyone can learn from and be impacted by Messy Grace.” —Lane Jones, director of North Point Strategic Partners, North Point Ministries, and co-author of Communicating for a Change
“Pastor Kaltenbach gives his readers much help on what to do and what not to do among LGBT people. At the same time, he recognizes, and emphasizes, that this is a ‘messy’ world, and that God calls us to affirm Jesus in the midst of the messiness, rather than to expect a precise answer to every question.” —Dr. John Frame, J.D. Trimble professor of Systematic Theology & Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary
“Some authors have inspirational stories to tell while others have insightful points to make, what makes Caleb’s writing so powerful is that God has given him both.” —Kyle Idleman, author of Not a Fan and teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY
“No matter what your opinion is on the Bible and sexuality, this book provides a very worthwhile and refreshing look into a very amazing grace-filled story threaded with compassionate truth.”
—Dan Kimball, pastor, Vintage Faith Church and author of They Like Jesus But Not the Church
“I appreciate how Caleb has personally walked in the midst of this issue. He does a good job balancing compassion with those who are self-proclaimed homosexuals and the church’s response.” —Chap Clark, professor of Youth, Family & Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary
“The church needs to get this issue right. Messy Grace is an outstanding book that every Christian needs to read. Not only will you enjoy Caleb’s casual and humorous writing style, you will be challenged to live in grace and truth, just like Jesus.” —Sean McDowell, PhD, professor at Biola University, popular speaker, and the co-author of over fifteen books including Same-Sex Marriage
“Caleb Kaltenbach is not your usual pastor. And I thank God for that. His story is approachable, authentic, and an important contribution to the conversation of Christianity and sexuality.
—Gene Appel, senior pastor, Eastside Christian Church
“Messy Grace describes perfectly the ominous, yet delightful, assignment of the church to paddle its boat between the Scylla of grace and the Charybdis of truth. While I would not have said everything exactly like Caleb Kaltenbach expressed it, I do affirm that this book is one that any church taking seriously the command to follow Christ must read and seriously contemplate.”
—Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Messy Grace is a wonderful, well-written and highly readable account of the author’s remarkable journey being raised in the gay community and how he came to faith. Caleb Kaltenbach provides insightful guidance to churches and families in dealing with LGBT issues that goes beyond the worn-out platitudes that have characterized this discussion for some time. ” —Scott B. Rae, Ph.D., dean of faculty, professor of Christian Ethics, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
“An Evangelical minister and the son of a gay father and a gay mother, Caleb is in a unique position to help us view the LGBT community as valued souls needing salvation instead of unworthy degenerates deserving condemnation. Many of us grew up in traditional churches that were sometimes long on truth but short on grace, especially concerning the LGBT community. Caleb’s book goes a long way in helping develop a more biblical understanding of this controversial issue.” —Bob Russell, retired senior minister, Southeast Christian Church
"Through the eyes of someone who has seen the dark side of modern day Pharisees in the church, Caleb shares a perspective on the way words and actions alienate the very people who need to hear the Gospel message of love, grace, repentance, and forgiveness. Just ignoring this issue in churches will not make it go away. —Dr. John Derry, president of Hope International University
“We’re living in a culture where it is more important than ever to understand how to balance grace and truth when it comes to same-sex issues. We can be loving and hold on to truth at the same time. This book will encourage you and challenge you to love others as Jesus did.”
—Jim Garlow, senior pastor, Skyline Wesleyan Church
"Finally a book on a divisive issue that is handled with grace and truth. Caleb has seen both sides of the issue firsthand and his counsel is something the church today needs to hear. This is a must read for pastors and church leaders.” —Don Wilson, senior pastor, Christ’s Church of the Valley
“I found this book impossible to put down and read it one sitting. The story is riveting and the gospel pulsates throughout the book. Kaltenbach charts out for us what it looks like to be people of grace and truth, to be people of mercy with a mission.” —Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison professor of New Testament Interpretation, associate dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Caleb Kaltenbach has seen both sides of this controversial and complex topic…from his parents and from his pulpit. While it’s tough for everyone to agree on such delicate issues, Caleb takes us back to Scripture. ” —Pastor Dave Stone, Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY
“I have known Caleb for many years and know of no one more imminently qualified to address the single most controversial subject of our day and to do so with love and grace. Sharing his challenges as a son of gay parents and his convictions as a servant of Christ will keep you engaged to the very last page. What at first may appear to be an inconceivable fictional tale turns out to be absolutely true and impossible to ignore.” —Barry Cameron, senior pastor, Crossroads Christian Church
“Whether you are straight or part of the LGBT community, a Christian or not a follower of Jesus, it will benefit you to read this book. Prepare to be challenged. Prepare to repent. Prepare to be changed. It will transform the way you look at and treat others. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“A story that will move you. A spirit that will inspire you. A pastor’s wisdom that will teach you. Questions that will challenge you. Kaltenbach’s exhortation to both treat gay people lovingly, and hold true to one’s convictions, is both winsome and challenging. His wisdom flows from life, being raised by two gay parents, coming to Christ, and sharing Christ’s love with his parents and loved ones. I read with rapt attention, wanting to see his story unfold, and to benefit from the insight his experiences yield for the church. Grace is messy, and that’s OK. It’s possible to live in grace and truth. Christ’s love is higher, purer, and truer than the positions we take, or the sides we join. A rich, readable, provocative, and persuasive read.” —Jenell Paris, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, Messiah College and author of The End of Sexual Identity
“Everyone has a story, but I don’t know anyone with a story quite like my friend Caleb’s. Growing up with gay parents, Caleb’s life was completely rewritten when he met Jesus. Here he shares his story with a leader’s wisdom, a preacher’s convictions and a pastor’s tender heart. When I talk with families (and churches) wrestling with how to love someone who is gay, I will put this book in their hands.” —Matt Proctor, president at Ozark Christian College
“Caleb has communicated how Jesus answered the issues of messiness and my prayer is many will be helped and prepared to help those who face the challenges in our world in the future.”
—Douglas Crozier, CEO of The Solomon Foundation
“Real, relevant, and relational—Messy Grace steps right into the existing chasm between the Christian community and the gay community and provides the sound biblical direction about how the gospel is the grounds for how we can mend and connect in a Christ-honoring way.”
—Bryan Carter, senior pastor, Concord Church, Dallas, TX
“Caleb Kaltenbach has the most unique perspective on the LGBT issue humanly possible. Because of his parents’ orientation, he was bred to hate Christians. Then he became one. Now he leads them. Caleb fluently speaks both the language and the emotion of both sides of the issue. And he desperately wants to help us stop picking sides and learn to love like Jesus. He is a great leader, writer, and friend—as well as a walking example of how love Messy Grace works.”
—Dr. Tim Harlow, senior pastor, Parkview Christian Church
“With uncompromising conviction, Kaltenbach teaches each one of us to hear the heart of God and to be the face of Christ in a broken world. The call for mercy, love, grace and compassion are written on every page and are both highly courageous and poignantly raw.” —Michelle Anthony, author of Spiritual Parenting and Building a Spiritually Healthy Family
“Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach’s story is one of pain and alienation, pride and determination, brokenness and eventually the healing love of Jesus Christ. This powerful book is a must read for both Christians and non-Christians alike, sure to illuminate those dark moments that we are all guaranteed to encounter as well as the glorious plan of redemption that can only be weaved by the Master Himself.” —Frank Sontag, host of The Frank Sontag Show on 99.5 KKLA
"The narrative in Messy Grace is strong and compelling. It’s an easy read, and the writing is clear, funny, and profound. Readers will learn how to stand in the tension of truth and grace as they identify with Caleb through all the messiness, tears, victory, and sin."
-The Gospel Coalition
“A fascinating story about how this young man, born to two gay parents and raised by his mother and her partner, ultimately came to faith in Christ and is today a pastor of a growing church. In the process of reading Caleb’s story, he also offers readers valuable insights about how to engage gay people with the gospel in a faithful yet winsome manner that shows the love of Christ rather than anger and rejection. This is an important issue in today’s culture, and church leaders need to understand the realities discussed so effectively in this book.” Preaching Magazine