melissaMelissa works in the foster care system in New York City and is a part of a new church plant also in the city. Even though Melissa isn’t specifically in church leadership, I thought it would help to see a single who is working actively to live missionally in her community. You can find her on twitter @Honeybee22274

 

 

 1. Do you feel a certain call to remain single or do you have a desire to be married? Why?

I’ve wanted to be married since I was three years old and I was always certain it would happen for me. As the years went by in my 20’s and early 30’s, I finally went from the constant, optimistic feeling of “this will be THE year, I just know it!” to leaving my marital future completely in God’s hands to do with what He wills.

Being 40, still unmarried, and now completely soul-satisfied brings credibility to the idea that it is possible to trust God with this life, not have what you thought you’ve always wanted/needed/deserved, and what every “normal person” gets to experience and still joyfully thrive. So while I’ve never felt “the call” to remain unmarried, I did begin to wonder in the past year if that’s what I have been called to, in part to model this truth to others. Perhaps this is the way I can best glorify God with my life, which is today my greatest desire.

2. How are you serving the local church and the Kingdom with your portion of singleness?

Since coming to New York City in 2010, in addition to working full time in the Family Court, I’ve served with two church planting teams, learning, praying, leading, strategizing, planning, giving, playing, teaching, and discipling. Prior to moving to New York I’ve served in student and women’s ministries, giving whatever time I could when I wasn’t traveling for work. For two years, in addition to running my own company, I was the part-time assistant director of the middle school ministry at my home church in Oregon- my only paid ministry experience.

As an unmarried person, I’m able to spend extra time on my relationship with God and what He is doing in, with, and through me. Apart from God I don’t have anyone to answer to concerning maximum limits on my giving and serving and there is no portion of me that I must reserve for another human, apart from my community. Other than to ensure I’m caring for myself well so that I don’t burn out or try to minister out of my own strength, I’m free to make my church and community and the people God has given us there a priority.

At this time in my life I am able to open my home in a way that I might not (want to) as part of a married couple. In seasons when I’ve lived alone I was able to prayerfully discern when to invite people to stay with me, and needed to ask no one else for permission. Right now I have an incredibly kind and generous roommate and we are in agreement regarding hospitality in our home.

3. Talk about the process of wrestling, either in the past or continued, with your portion of singleness. What contributed to your confidence in Christ in this season?

I’ve never just wanted to be married, I’ve wanted to be married to the right person. And so, despite my long-standing desire, marriage in the abstract is not something I’ve ever really fought with God about or despaired over, even in seasons when the desire was especially strong, or when faced with a specific man I was sure might make a good husband. That’s not to say that I wasn’t openly hopeful and constantly scanning the horizon for “the one.” I did this for years.

Despite their struggles, from day one my parents have done a fabulous job of affirming my true identity as a child of God. They never introduced the idea to me that I was incomplete as a person, missing my other/better half, or not ready for real life to begin until my identity included “wife”.

While all of these factors have contributed to satisfaction with my current state of being single, more important than marriage or any other good gift God would give me, is my desire to thrive in Him with contentment. I do not mean resignation; I mean a full, satisfied, joyful contentment, and that is where I am today. What’s the phrase? God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him? Oh yes, I do believe that’s true.

4. What is the deepest challenge to you doing ministry unmarried?

I cannot think of a time when my ability to minister has been challenged or limited by being unmarried, however I have considered that perhaps some might see me, an unmarried woman working closely with pastors, as a danger. A steady stream of articles being published in Christian circles, sometimes saying as much, doesn’t help. Affairs happen between married people all the time, but it seems that there is often an extra air of suspicion hanging over the unmarried woman unless she is old or extremely unattractive. I might wish to be married and experience the affection and romantic attention of a man, but I’m not the least bit interested in someone else’s husband, thank you very much. Thankfully that suspicion is not something I’ve ever been made to feel in any church where I’ve served, but it’s something I know may be on the radar of other people.

5. What is the richest blessing to you in your singleness today?

Freedom and time and autonomy are my richest blessings. Right now I revel in the freedom to engage in the commitments on my time and resources that I choose.

Friendships are also part of that bounty. For the married person, opposite gender friendships often take on a different aspect, if not end all together, as may same gender friendships as priorities and availability change. And while I too am a master idol craftswoman, I am free from the opportunity to confuse my spouse with God, looking to a man to meet those relational and even provisional needs that I should only be looking to have met in Christ. Singleness may be my position right now, but I can say with the psalmist, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

andyAndy is a farmer, leather-worker, and regional staff member with US Center for World Mission. In an era where most millennials are taking yet another selfie or talking about their fear of missing out, Andy has consistently stood out to me as someone who is deeply concerned with the state of world missions, but also concerned with cultivating the land right in front of him. You can find him on twitter @andyherbek

 

Do you feel a certain call to remain single or do you have a desire to be married? Why?

The words of Ecclesiastes 3:1 ring in my ear, “to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” I do in this season feel called to singleness. I do not feel though that this season will last forever and I do hope to marry at some point. For now though I am content as a single and even find myself an advocate for singleness as it pertains to kingdom work.

Talk about the process of wrestling, either in the past or continued, with your portion of singleness. What contributed to your confidence in Christ in this season?

Looking back, I know now that this journey started many years ago in college. What started as a study of the nature of Christ’s resurrection (the end) spilled over into an exploration of God’s created image (the beginning) and forced upon me implications to live by (the present). I began to see, and am still learning more and more about each day, that the deepest concern of God is His image, His glory. The crazy thing is, we are his image. As such all kinds of implications are fleshed out of that theme throughout the biblical narrative.

Implication #1 (I will only draw 3 here as it relates to singleness), man and woman are both image bearers but it’s obvious that they are intrinsically different. So then only when they are joined together is a more full image (or embodiment if you will) of God present on earth. Marriage exists to DO something not just BE something. Ultimately the reason God gives us marriage is so that we would have categories through which to talk about the gospel.

The same is true of the church. The word for family (oikos) became synonymous for church not because family is the highest ideal but because family is a category through which to talk about the church. Marriage exists to proclaim the gospel and families exist to promote healthy churches. Now that sounds like a resounding cry against singleness right? Well…

Implication #2, if the purpose of marriage is for proclamation of the gospel and families exist to promote the church then the object is the gospel and the glory of God resting in the church. The church after all is a place in which we image God most fully… I can’t image God by myself. It takes the global church manifest in every culture to glorify God to the fullest by producing the fullest manifestation of His image on earth. The point of life is not marriage or singleness but what life you and I can live that most glorifies God and proclaims His gospel to the ends of the earth.

Implication #3 is a simple one, as brothers and sisters within THE church, the kingdom, we Americans need our African and Asian brothers and sisters to more fully image our Dad and they need us. So marriage and singleness as functionally declarative of the gospel is intrinsically missional. Just like in marriage, the man remains uniquely masculine and the women uniquely feminine, so to in the church each ethnicity remains distinct but unified under Christ.

How are you serving the local church and the Kingdom with your portion of singleness?

I am the Nebraska Area Mobilizer for Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. With Perspectives I get to work with a lot of congregations and denominations (even ethnicities) across the state and help them see how they can strategically work together for God’s global glory. It’s actually quite an honor to get to see such a vivid display of God’s diverse image. I also farm with my brother as he and his wife really transition into running the farming operation from Dad and a few other neighbors who are retiring.

What is the deepest challenge to you doing your ministry unmarried?

It can be hard not having a helpmate. It’s terribly unromantic but the practicalities of not having a wife to share daily responsibilities with can wear on you. In the midst of so many things to do in ministry it would be nice to have someone who could help with farm/house chores. Besides that the endless ploys by some in the church to try and play match maker for me can often cut to the core. It really is that subtle non-value of singles within the church that can creep into your life and can make a single man feel off track when to God he might be right on track.

What is the richest blessing to you in your singleness today?

Having a singular focus in ministry… pun intended! Being single allows me to devote more time and energy to the work of the Lord. Working for a ministry that welcomes and values singles in every aspect of the organization has been a blessing. Historically mission orders (which is what the U.S. Center for World Mission is and is who I work for as it is the authority behind Perspectives) have always valued and utilized singles, especially women, where often church congregations do not. I don’t feel guilty as a single for undistracted devotion to working for gospel breakthroughs among unreached peoples. That is indeed a blessing.

May we value both singles and marriage more! Let us focus on the glory of God and the redemption of all peoples.

katelynKatelyn is the Managing Editor of Christianity Today and one of the sharpest thinkers around. She is wise and winsome, and while deeply desiring marriage, hasn’t allowed the lack of it to hinder what she knows the Lord is calling her to do today. You can find her on twitter @katelynbeaty and as a regular writer at Christianity Today

 

1. Do you feel a certain call to remain single or do you have a desire to be married? Why?

I feel a certain call to remain single only insofar as I am single, and understand that to be providentially ordered, though the full meaning of it is indiscernible to me. I do not feel a certain call to remain single, if that means that I would refuse marriage even if the chance to enter a happy one came my way. I have desired marriage throughout my 20s.

2. How are you serving the local church and the Kingdom with your portion of singleness?

Being unmarried enables me to more single-mindedly (no pun intended) lead, write, and edit at Christianity Today magazine, which exists to educate and equip the church to live “on mission” in all its particular culturally and geographically bound expressions. This season has also allowed me to delve into a book project (due out in 2016) about the goodness of women’s work and cultural contribution.

3. Talk about the process of wrestling, either in the past or continued, with your portion of singleness. What contributed to your confidence in Christ in this season?

Part of the process of wrestling with singleness has meant believing and re-believing these truths:

God has not forgotten or abandoned me or anyone else who desires to be married and is not (Is. 49; Luke 12).

God does not look at me and see “unattached person” or “half person,” but rather sees me as his glorious handiwork, created to do good works alongside other believers (Ps. 139; Eph. 2:10).

“Real” life or ministry doesn’t begin on one’s wedding day. The call of Christ on our lives starts the day we choose to follow him, and he intends for us to life the abundant life for and through him now, whether or not a spouse is in tow (Eph. 5:16).

It is not up to me to worry about the future and whether it will include a spouse (Matt. 6:34). Even still, God wants me to be honest about my desires and to trust him to take care of me in all seasons (Ps. 37:4; Is. 46:4).

4. What is the deepest challenge to you to do ministry unmarried?

Probably the deepest challenge is emotional, feeling bereft of a ministry partner, wondering why others have been given one when I haven’t in this time. I have to proactively resist comparing my situation to others’ and setting marriage up as the core mark of God’s faithfulness.

5. What is the richest blessing to you in your singleness today?

I get to be friends with so many people, across the country, in different life stages—that I’m free to expansively connect with many other people instead of focusing so intensely on one other person.

samSam is a pastor from the UK who writes on a variety of issues, some related to being single or celibacy, some related to other ministry aspects. I have come to deeply appreciate his wisdom on various matters, and his dry wit from across the Atlantic. You can find him on twitter @samallberry and as a regular contributor to Living Out

 

1. Do you feel a certain call to remain single or do you have a desire to be married? Why?

I’ve never felt a particular ‘call’ to singleness other than knowing that it is God’s will for me for as long as I remain unmarried. I’ve never had a clear sense of God telling me I’m going to be single for the rest of my life. I do have a sense that I probably will be, that marriage is unlikely, but would not want to describe that as a ‘call’ as such. So my hunch is that I will be single long term.

That said, there are times when I deeply desire to be married. I would love to have that kind of companionship – to come ‘first’ for someone. Even with good friends it can feel lonely and isolating at times to be single. So yes, there are times when I would love to be married. And times when I am very happy being single.

2. How are you serving the local church and the Kingdom with your portion of singleness?

I work as a pastor at a church, and I know that being single releases me to do this in a way that would not be as easy were I married. I can be out most evenings and weekends without the issue of neglecting family back home. I can spend more time at the office. I will have a slightly different capacity than some married colleagues might – able to give more time to certain aspects of the ministry.

More specifically, I hope I am able to teach and model something of what the single like should look like. There are a number of people at church who are single and over-40, through bereavement or divorce. The temptations to become romantically involved and even marry unbelievers is acute for many of them. We have lost too many through that route. So I hope when I speak to that from the pulpit that it carries credibility. I do know what it is like to fall in love with someone the Bible would forbid you from marrying. I can speak from experience and echo some of the pains, all the while calling people to remain faithful to Christ. I think it helps to have single people involved in pastoral ministry.

3. Talk about the process of wrestling, either in the past or continued, with your portion of singleness. What contributed to your confidence in Christ in this season?

There have been a lot of ups and downs in my experience as a single Christian. There are times I have resented being single. I went through a painful period when I began to realise that getting married and having children were not a ‘given’ and I had to come to terms with the possibility that they might never happen at all. In my late twenties and early thirties it felt like going through a bit of a bereavement as friends went through these stages and I began to sense I might not have the opportunity to.

Throughout all this, one of the key things I have had to learn is that the key to contentment as a single person is not found in being content in singleness – in persuading yourself that it is the best thing ever. The key is being content in Christ, as a single person. If I was married, there would be the same number of ups and downs as I currently face as a single person. The grass will always seem greener somewhere else. But the more I have learned to find contentment in Christ, the less it seems to matter to me whether I am married or single. Knowing Jesus is the key to life.

As I say that, I am conscious it is a battle to keep believing it. Every day I need to make time to get my heart glad in the Lord. It’s a fight. But it’s a fight that makes a whole load of other fights much easier.

4. What is the deepest challenge to you do ministry unmarried?

One of the hardest things for me being single in ministry is that I often feel emotionally spent, and then find myself returning to an empty home. It is hard not having someone to process things with, to laugh and cry with. Ministry exposes you to the best and worst of God’s people (and of yourself, too, for that matter) and it is hard not having someone to share all that with. Sometimes it feels like I bottle up a lot of this stuff for weeks at a time. I may have a greater time capacity as a single person, but I sometimes wonder if I also have a smaller emotional capacity.

5. What is the richest blessing to you in your singleness today?

I guess what I am dong right now is a huge blessing. As I answer these questions, I’m doing so while staying in the home of some very dear friends who I have the opportunity of spending a few days with. I wouldn’t have come across you, Lore, and a great many other people, were it not for the ministry opportunities that have come my way as a single person. So this very moment typifies some of the things that are best about being a single person – a wide range of experiences and friends I otherwise would not have had, all of which in his unfathomable goodness God seems to be using. That blows my mind. So there it is: being single has been a means God has used to impress upon me his goodness.

“Each time I read a well-intentioned article on how to make the most of your single years, I scan down to the author’s bio and often discover that, sure enough, he’s married to his college sweetheart, pulling advice from a brief period of adult-singleness years ago.”

This is how I opened a recent article on Christianity Today called Why Singles Belong in Church Leadership. The dearth of singles within leadership positions in churches and ministries these days is saddening to me at best, and alarming at worst. Nearly half of the U.S. population (43.6% according to the 2010 U.S. Census) is single: that’s nearly half the church. Citing Christ and Paul as only two of many examples in the bible, there should be plenty of room for unmarried men and women to serve in key roles within the body of Christ.

With this in mind, I reached out to several friends from around the world who are doing just that. They are all examples of people in different seasons of life (20s into 40s) who have not allowed their singleness to hamper their ministry, but instead use the time and freedom they have to better pursue the Lord with undistracted devotion. My hope is these interviews this will primarily encourage singles to use this season of life in richer ways, but also they will also encourage the Church to consider actively seeking to staff unmarried people in key roles. (Read the article if you want to know why.)

There are obvious limitations for each of us as we walk in our given seasons faithfully, but those limitations haven’t terminated us from ministry. One of my art professors in college used to give us very tight parameters for pieces he assigned. Something like we could only use two colors and one medium, or one color and one shape. Designing within those constraints was a life lesson as well for me. I learned to create from little and trust the boundary lines truly had fallen for me in pleasant places (Ps. 16).

I hope these interviews challenge and encourage you as much as they did me. They’ve been considerably edited for space reasons, but the entirety of the interviews will be available on Friday in a downloadable PDF. I hope you’ll consider the wisdom from these brothers and sisters.

Related articles:

Submitted Single Seeking Friends
Delivering Hope: What being saved through childbearing can mean for the unmarried
Real Men and Real Women: Tough and Tender
Three Things I’m Glad I’ve Done in My Singleness
My Church Has an Amazing Singles Ministry
Giving Singles Land to Till

Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward we are strong at the broken places.” I wrote that quote on an index card when I read it in high school and didn’t know how prophetic it would prove to be in my life.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Someone said, a few years ago, “Teach your kids they’re broken, deeply broken,” and the internet swarmed and stung in response. No one wants to believe deep inside the horrible, awful, no good truth. That the gears inside of me will keep getting stuck and rusty, jamming up in inopportune places and too small spaces. No one wants to believe the brokenness on the outside points a terrible truth about the inside.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

It’s not a prosperity gospel to believe that the brokenness on the inside of us results in wars and rumors of wars, gunned down black boys on city streets, cancer, and genocide. It is not a transactional brokenness: you broke me, so I’ll break you. Or, more honestly, I broke me, so He breaks me more. But it is a cause and effect of sorts. Deeply broken people don’t turn the other cheek, not only in war, but also at home when the floor doesn’t get swept and it’s his turn to do the dishes and someone was uncaring or uncouth. It starts with the small fractures and leads to the tremors and quakes until we are all shattered pieces and wondering how we got here.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

The world does break everyone and it is not for nothing to say we are stronger at the broken places. I heard it said recently that good eschatology says “The bad gets worse, the good gets better, and the mushy middle is done away with.” I groan for that and so do we all.

The mushy middle is what breaks us, that pliable and soft already/not yet we live in. We groan for the culmination of the kingdom, the new heaven, the new earth, but we’re still here, where missiles fall every four minutes and Christians claw their way into a helicopter from an Iraq hilltop, and journalists are tear-gassed and officers act hastily, and my friend has a tumor and it’s cancerous, and where the tears won’t stop falling this morning because we are broken, yes, it is true. We are deeply broken.

But, on our behalf, so was he.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.

dillard

Jared Wilson taught me that writing about God and theology doesn’t mean being pedantic and dogmatic.

Tony Woodlief taught me that writing about the deepest angsts of life doesn’t mean being gratuitous and salacious.

Madeleine L’Engle taught me that writing to children doesn’t mean writing down to them, but writing up to everyone.

Annie Dillard taught me to collect stones and tree branches, and write about the ordinary things. That the whole earth groans.

Frederick Buechner taught me to write things as they are and sort through them after.

Andree Seu taught me to write the bible into everything and that we are written into the narrative before the foundations of the earth.

Lauren Winner taught me to write about the wrestling and not just the wrestled.

Wendell Berry taught me about peace in the wild things.

Donald Miller taught me that every church kid has a story, a lens through which we see the church, and a choice about what to do with both.

Flannery O’Connor taught me to be a student of all people, their stories and surroundings.

As I look over this list, I do not see the names of people who will go down in history for their theological correctness, their practiced wisdom, or even their verbal acuity. They are not men and women for whom the Christian life came/comes easily, seamlessly, or without glaring sins and sufferings. They are men and women not unlike those we see in the Bible—broken sinners using what was or is in their hands to navigate faith in a world that groans for its maker. These are the writers and thinkers who did not teach me what to think, but how to think, and I pray I am better for it.

I write this because if you want to be a better thinker (and writer), don’t read the ones who have their thoughts all thought out, bound in leather with gold inset; read the ones who are still thinking out loud as they write. Learn to fish, as the old adage goes, instead of feeding on another’s catch.

To Trust in Men

August 13, 2014

A few months ago I sat across from a pastor who took my shameful history and held up his own, point for point. It wasn’t a competition, it was a “You too? Me too.” I am grateful for men like him who do not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but stand on the level ground before the cross and say, “There’s room here. There’s room here.”

Have you been disappointed by leadership? Are you of Jesus and not the Church because pastors modeled for you less of Christ and more of self? Do you press against authority because it has failed you again and again? You are in the company of many, including myself.

In the evangelical world there are so many reasons to be disappointed by leaders, men and women who fail us, whom we fear or find fault with, who do not take seriously the responsibility to care for our souls, or who allow wolves to run rampant among the sheep. If you have felt that searing disappointment of broken trust, you are not alone.

Recent weeks have brought a deep sadness to my heart as I view the expanse of Christian leadership. Blog wars, tit for tat, volleying back and forth, exposing, naming, calling out, “standing for truth.” I feel like Elijah standing on the edge of the wilderness saying, “The people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left.”

Do you feel alone? Do you know the bible says to obey your leaders, submit to them, but do you just feel the betrayal of life and all it holds. Do you want, like Elijah, to find the nearest cave and create for yourself a monastery (1 Kings 19)?

You are not alone.

You suffer from the same plight that attached itself to Adam and Eve in the garden, and the enemy before them, and every one of us born after: the inability to trust authority.

When the rebellion in me, innate as my blue eyes and proclivity to melancholy, rises and makes itself known once again, I know one thing to be true in those moments.

It is not that my earthly authorities can be trusted. It is not that all things will work together. It is not even that my rebellion is idolatrous witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). The one thing I know is God is the author of all systems and order. He set lights in the sky and seas on the earth and grass on the fields and called it good. He ordained these times and these days for me, and I can trust him. Not because all things work together, but because even when they all fall down around me, He does not.

What I Pray For My Pastors

August 11, 2014

Every few weeks I tweet this: “People, pray for your pastors.

I do it because I need reminders that the men who lead my local church are faithful and godly, but still human and fallible. They hurt just like we do. They struggle to build systems just like we do. They need to repent just like we do. They aren’t superhuman. They’re fully human. So I pray for my pastors often. Not just my lead pastors (although I recognize they are more in the public eye more often), but for my groups pastors, our recovery pastors, our resource pastors, etc. I love the men who shoulder the pastoral responsibilty for my church. I respect them. I entrust myself to them. And because of that, I want to be invested in their fruitfulness. One way I can do that is through prayer.

Here are some things I pray for my pastors:

Pray they would love God above wife, wife above children, children above church, and church above their own life.
Pray they would mourn over their sin, instead of getting lost in busyness.
Pray their mourning over sin would lead to repentance and not death.
Pray they would set a watchman over their time, words, and family.
Pray they would not buckle under culture’s sway.
Pray they would lead with humility and gentleness, boldness and wisdom.
Pray they would ask for help when they need it and that we would give it quickly.
Pray they would rest.
Pray they would work hard.
Pray they would play.
Pray they would have minds that sharply divide the word of truth, and hearts that vulnerably discern the hearts of men.

Pray they would seek only God’s glory and not their own.

Here’s one more important thing I pray for them.

Unless your head’s in the sand or you’re a healthy church person who doesn’t mind themselves with the goings on of churches not your own, you know that earlier today Acts 29 put out this statement regarding Mark Driscoll.

I haven’t got much to say on the matter save these few words.

First, this is evidence that discipline within the Church is a several step process, and hardly anybody will be happy with the time it takes to complete those steps. Not those in the right, nor those in the wrong. That’s the nature of discipline. We deal with broken people in a broken world. But what we must recognize is regardless of whether we see the process of discipline happening, it could very well be happening and it’s not to the public’s knowledge yet.

We know Church discipline is happening though because bringing it to the public is near the last step of the process of discipline. That should be a comfort, and not cause for more criticism of the men who have walked that difficult road of process. If you’re faced with another experience like this, instead of decrying those who have much more discretion than yourself, try emulating it, exchanging your judgements for prayers for them as they walk through it.

This situation is a reminder that God’s design for discipline works—regardless of how long that process takes.

Second, removal from Acts 29 (or removal from covenant membership within the local church), is not the last step of any discipline process. It is (most simplistically) the second-to-last step. The last step is repentance and reconciliation. This is what we ought to have been praying for all along, and that should not change now. Dancing on the grave of a sinner is not the mark of a redeemed person, so take your party elsewhere if that’s your response.

Third, pray. Pray for your own pastors that they would humbly receive the counsel of others. Pray for my pastor, the president of Acts 29, as he navigates the questions and backlash of this decision. Pray for the pastors of Mars Hill as they shepherd their people through this time. Pray for Mark and Grace as they respond. Pray for their beautiful children, that they would know the comfort of a God who cares. Pray for yourself, that you would never forget the discipline of the Father toward you—long-suffering, timely, necessary, and faithful—culminating in the awakening of the gospel in your heart.

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Joel 2:13

The Unbelonging

August 4, 2014 — 1 Comment

Read any media and you’ll find a full on rushing swipe at Christians and conservatives. We’ve been told we’re in the minority for a while now, and as shots ring out across the media, we duck and run, scrambling to assert our position as the new moral minority.

prisonI’ve always been a fan of the fringe. If you can stand on the sidelines and affect change from within, you’ve followed the model Christ set forth well. I watched a movie a few months ago in which the principal characters return to high-school incognito. They’re so far removed from high-school that what was cool then is not cool now. The jocks are jerks and the nerds are neat. What happened?

What happened is regardless of seeming strength, the sidelined and fringe affected change because they weren’t swayed by what was happening in the middle of the action. Now that the nerds are cool, though, there are different fringe characters at play and this is the way of all life’s ebb and flow. Remember The Heart is a Lonely Hunter?

“But look what the Church has done to Jesus during the last two thousand years. What they have made of Him. How they have turned every word He spoke for their own vile ends. Jesus would be framed and in jail if he was living today.”

We turn the vile into heroes and the hope-full into anti-heroes. Whatever fits our flavor and palate.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If you tell the truth long and stayed enough you’re going to be spit upon and hated. And if you love the fringe, the sick, the depraved, the sinners, the forgotten, and you love them with a love that values life and every cell and micro-organism and biology and mind and fault and fear and heart and sweat and blood and tears, you will not find a political home. If you are so pro-life that you rally for the rights of a two week old babe in the womb as fiercely as you fight for the right of life for a confused 13 year old or a broken 45 year old or a confident 60 year old or an aged 82 year old, you will find uneasy company in the Church. You fight not for quality of life, but life itself.

Jesus said He brings Life Abundant and who shouldn’t have that?

Whether you fall in the fallen moral majority or the rising moral minority or whether you are just a sidelined character going about your business as if nobody cares, because nobody does, Jesus cares and He sees. And you are not alone.

We’re all so homesick to belong, but if you are a child of God, you do not and cannot belong to this world. You may be liberal or conservative, progressive or traditional—but you do not belong and in this common life we can rejoice. So friends, be slow to rejoice in wins or losses, thrusts in your party platform or your pet politic, be slow to rejoice in anything but Heaven come to earth and the King on His throne.

See how you are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses!? Let us throw off every sin and the weight that so easily entangles us and let us run with patience this race marked out for us, setting our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and sits down at the right hand of his father.
Hebrews 12

A Prayer for a New Home

August 1, 2014

I hand over the keys to our old house today, a final walk-through, the shades drawn, the wood floors shined and bare. I am not sad to leave, do not need one final wistful look behind me. The door closes and I pray the new occupants would banish every ghost we left behind.

It was a hard year in that home, one sweeping, rushing, crashing wave after another. Every time relief seemed near, another wave broke, and I couldn’t wait to leave.

I pray one prayer for our new home. Turning the words over in my mouth like communion bread, I let them dissolve on my tongue until I believe the truth they offer.

“Please, God, let our home be a place of peace. Please, God, let our home be marked by kindness and humility, gentleness and quiet, yes, quiet. Let it be a haven to the stranger, but even more, let it be a haven to those who live within.”

God answers prayer, I know this to be true because I have seen him do so. But I also know this to be true because he says he hears and comes and answers. Jesus said, “if you cannot believe in me, believe on the evidence of me,” but I think we know what his preferences would be.

The tempest rises and circumstances swirl around us, leaving us in tailspins: what went wrong and how? But one thing we know for certain, He does not change, he cannot change. He cannot deny himself—so even if I feel denied what I want and what I think I need, even if I am not comforted by the ways he has been faithful to me, I know he is being faithful to himself.

That may not comfort you, if following a God who is jealous for his own glory seems distasteful. But I cannot help but be comforted by it because I know all the ways I want his faithfulness to me to come would not be for my good, not really, not in the way I want them to be.

Please, God, let this home be a place of peace, of gentleness, of service to you and others. Please let it be a home where you prove your faithfulness to you. And when we cannot believe you are who you say you are, please give us evidence because we are made of earth and breath and are so fragile still.

earth

A Two-Part Invention

July 29, 2014

I have forgotten how to imagine. This year snuffed out my belief in the possible, brought me face to face with reality and it stung, over and over and over again.

I believe, help my unbelief.

I wake this morning in our new home, my bedroom at the back of the house cool, still dark, and quiet. The sound of a closing door, feet padding across carpet, the smell of coffee. These will be our morning rhythms now, the same, but different.

I believe.

Plans have changed and I find myself planted for another year in Texas. I’m grateful to have people wiser than I, and with better counsel, in my life, but cannot deny the panic I woke with yesterday, on moving day. I think I love our new home already, but want to imagine that imagination hasn’t gone the way of hope this year.

Help my unbelief.

Jesus is better than we imagine, but if we imagine nothing, then what is He better than? I feel soul-sucked and dry, that is the honest truth. Lonely and thirsting for things I love that he hasn’t promised me, not ever. But I want to imagine he’s better than all the mountains and seasons and people and clear air I ache for.

I believe.

The thing about mountains I love the most is not standing on top of them, though it is beautiful, to see so far, so deep. What I love more is standing beneath them. When the clouds part and the peaks show and I gasp. Who can imagine the time and folding and faulting that brings them to their full glory? I cannot. There is scope on the mountain top, bringing with it a grandeur. Here at the bottom, though, I am only small and inconsequential. Unimportant.

Help my unbelief.

He must increase, I must decrease.

I believe.

mountain

Link Love

July 28, 2014

I’m moving today, so this might be the only post you get this week. We’ll see.

This lecture from Ryan Anderson is worth a listen. He counters same-sex arguments with a philosophical bent.

This mother is hiking the Appalachian trail with her four year old twins. Love it.

This self-identified “failed” pastor is ministering out of his weakness, and it’s a beautiful thing.

This is the best dating advice I’ve seen anywhere.

This makes my heart sing.

This short video is worth a watch, especially if you resonated with my recent article on singles in ministry.

Men of Mission from AIM On-Field Media on Vimeo.