Archives For singleness

After asking the questions (for research), “Can guys and girls be friends?” and then “Is it ever appropriate for the girl to initiate a date (or relationship)?” on social media, I wasn’t surprised at the barrage of opinions. We had PhDs discussing ancient Near-Eastern culture, husbands saying, “If my wife hadn’t initiated, we wouldn’t be married,” and wives saying, “We were friends for three years before I asked him to clarify—now we’re married.”

I’m going to save my main argument for later (so suspicious, I know), but in the meantime, I wanted to share this page from The Meaning of Marriage, by Tim and Kathy Keller. And also say this, I have utmost respect for the Kellers, not just as individuals, teachers, shepherds, but as a couple who is so obviously best friends with one another. They spar, they laugh, they interrupt, they cheer, they agree, they challenge. It’s a partnership of two great minds—and for a girl who is more often valued for her mind than anything I’d rather be valued for, their marriage is an encouragement to me.

TGCW14_Kellers_Fun

So if you’re a guy and you’re afraid of being friends with a girl because the following conversation might happen: let it happen. It’s good for the girl, and it’s even better for you, maybe considering her as more than a friend could result in a great marriage. All friendship is intrinsically based on attraction (even same gender friendships), so “I’m not attracted” is just the excuse you give when what you really mean is, “I can’t envision having sex with her.” So maybe get better vision. (That’s simplistic, I know. I promise I have seven gazillion google docs floating around right now with that unpacked a bit more.)

And if you’re a girl and you keep hanging around, hoping and hoping he’ll get the hint (because it’s so obvious to everyone else but him), have this conversation, or something like it. I’ve done it more than once and have no regrets. Sometimes it meant the end of our friendship, sometimes it meant we were able to get past The Question and become better friends, but maybe someday it will mean I’m the girl who is sharing the story about being friends and then being married. I hope so.

The page:

pearls and pigs

As promised, here is the link to the full interviews for the singles in leadership series. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think may be encouraged by these interviews. Thank you so much to Sam Allberry, Katelyn Beaty, Andy Herbek, Melissa Wade, Paul Matthies, and Bethany Jenkins (whose interview is going up tomorrow).

Click here to view the PDF or click on the image below.

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bethanyBethany Jenkins is the director of TGC’s Every Square Inch and the founder of The Park Forum. I super appreciate Bethany’s drive and commitment to seeing the Church thrive in their given portion. She lives and works in New York City. You can follow her on twitter at @bethanyjenkins

 

 

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

I’d love to get married one day. I think marriage is the best way—though not the only way—to be sanctified, and I sure need that! (She laughs.) I also want to get married for the same reason everyone does—to walk through life with someone you love.

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

Mostly, I think my singleness lets me be present in ways that are more difficult for those who are married. For example, two years ago, some of my closest friends lost their baby. He was only two months old and died of SIDS. Our entire community was, of course, devastated. Although I could tell you hundreds of stories of God’s faithfulness during that time, I’ll say this one thing—being single was a gift. I didn’t have a family to coordinate or people who needed me at home. I could drop everything and just show up. Three of us—two singles and one married—organized probably fifty of our friends to do everything—get flights and hotels for their families, plan their meals, write the funeral service, order flowers, and more. They didn’t lift a finger; they just mourned. Wyatt’s funeral was the first one at Redeemer’s new building. We sang of God’s love as tears ran down our faces. I’m so glad I was single that week.

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?

Over the years, I’ve had many friends get married, which has really served to demystify marriage for me. Although I’ve seen my married friends buy spacious apartments, have several children, and take amazing vacations, I’ve also walked with them through marital unfaithfulness, loneliness, porn addiction, narcissism, and divorce. I’m so thankful that they’ve invited me into their lives to show me—not just tell me—that marriage won’t solve all my problems. If Christ isn’t sufficient for me when I’m single, he won’t be sufficient for me when I’m married.

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

I think all Christians are involved in “ministry” so I wouldn’t say that singleness for me is any different than, say, singleness for my friend who is a lawyer. Singleness is singleness; it’s an equal opportunity employer when it comes to its benefits and challenges. For me, the hardest part about being single is not having someone who is as invested in my life as I am. Yes, I have a loving family and wonderful friends who counsel and advise me. But at the end of the day, I’m the only one who has to live out my decisions. No one is as vested in my life as I am.

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

I get to be a friend to so many people, and I get to have so many friends. In my experience, singleness is not synonymous with aloneness or loneliness. It can be rich, full, and generous. There are times when I wish I were married, when I wish I had a partner-in-crime. (She laughs.) But overall, I’m sure of God’s goodness. As Paige Brown once wrote, “I may meet someone and walk down the aisle in the next couple of years because God is so good to me. I may never have another date and die an old maid at 93 because God is so good to me. Not my will but his be done. Until then, I am claiming as my theme verse: ‘If any man would come after me, let him …’”

paulPaul is a elder at his church in central Texas, and a former pastor from my church. Over the past few years I have come to appreciate his humor, wisdom, and humility. Many at my local church have been deeply affected by Paul’s sermons and example of godliness. You can find him on twitter @paul_matties and read him regularly at Wayfaring Stranger. 

 

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

I’m honestly not certain if I have a call to lifelong singleness. Do I have a desire to be married? Yes. However, that desire waxes and wanes. Regardless, I want to be committed to the gospel ministry above all else, right now.

A friend once shared this piece of advice: “Run after Jesus with all you are. Then, one day, you may look up and see a woman beside you running on the same path. But regardless of if that day comes, you gain Christ in the end, whether she comes or not.” I see that as very helpful—pursue Jesus! If He doesn’t give a spouse—you still get Him. And if she comes, yet she passes away—you are still grounded in Him.

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

Singleness has afforded me opportunity. I’ve been privileged to serve the Lord in the city (as an associate pastor at The Village Church) and in the countryside (as an elder at my current church, Hilltop Christian Fellowship). No matter what, in all times and places—God is the same loving, gracious, powerful, sovereign God. I’ve got to see that firsthand over the years.

Singleness has given me certain flexibility. I now work full-time as a claims examiner for an insurance company, so I can also fill in as interim preacher and leader here, at little cost to my church as we face a tough financial year. At my church, I also serve as an elder, adult classroom teacher, substitute youth teacher, song leader, and more.

Singleness has also offered me greater accessibility. I do have many responsibilities to juggle, between work, church, personal, family, etc. However, I can prioritize and arrange my schedule at more of a moment’s notice.

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?

One of the best questions I’ve even been posed came from my friend and pastor at The Village Church, Matt Chandler. He said in a message that, no matter what portion we’ve been given, we should ask: “What does it look like to glorify God in this season?” For me, the wrestle begins and ends with that question: How do I bring glory to God in my singleness? I gain confidence when I live within my intended purpose—to bring God glory.

At least eight times in scripture, suffering is said to have a reward—joy. At times, I am conflicted, asking “Why would God give me the desire for something like marriage if He does not plan on granting it immediately…or ever? Why not take the desire away—why make me suffer in this way?” Here I take heart from Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where he rejoices in his sufferings. While the circumstances were different, the principle applies the same. I don’t have to just cope with this desire, but can rejoice in my time of need—because I get to experience the sufficiency of grace.

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

I’d say the deepest challenge is facing the belief (internal or external) that, by being unmarried, I am disqualified from doing ministry in the first place! I’ve had 1 Timothy and Titus quoted to me (“husband of one wife”), stating I should not serve as a deacon or elder. I’ve heard pastors and seminary leaders say that single men are at greater risk of sexual immorality in ministry. (Sadly, I’ve known just as many or more married men fall into adultery.)

I’ve been blessed to serve in some safe and supportive places, among loving people, who understand that our Savior Jesus, and the first missionary Paul, were both single. Yet I’ve also faced harsh statement and closed doors based on being single and over 30, in ministry.

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

That I’m happy. I’m happy in God. That may sound simplistic, but after all the blogs, articles, commercials, books, movies, and even sermons telling me why I shouldn’t be happy as a single person, I find it a rich blessing that the Lord is true to His word—He gives a full joy (John 15:11; 16:24). Even single, I’ve never been alone. I live a rich, joy-filled life because of Jesus.

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

hunger

If the life of a single, as Paul admonished, is to be undistracted by the world, concerned with the things of the Lord, then unmarried ministers have a unique calling indeed. And it is one the church ought not ignore—or usurp.

Where I live, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, young marriages are common. Younger than the national average at least. Yet few single men and women are involved in ministry. My pastor leads a large church-planting network and I asked him recently, “How many single guys are planting in the network?” He named a mere few. The dearth of undistracted men and women in ministry is sad, but more so, it is alarming.

I am in no way discouraging marriage (I want to be married, after all), but I believe the church can do better in this area. If the trend of delayed marriage continues, we must have men and women who have walked the narrow path of godly singleness teaching those who come after them. The church’s tendency to primarily hire married men and women, for whatever reason—stability, plantedness, longevity—should be reconsidered for multiple reasons.

Read the whole article over at Christianity Today.

 

The Landlord

July 3, 2014

Someone told me some counsel they’d received was to not make a habit of renting to single women. Why? Because they don’t always call when something goes wrong. Many just let it fester until it’s unfixable. I haven’t stopped thinking about what he said. It wasn’t an accusation, it was a commentary, but it’s a commentary I find telling. It’s a reflection of a heart-problem, not a laziness problem.

I was called the The Responsible One yesterday. But I haven’t felt responsible in a year or more. I’m backtracking and highlighting and caveating and trying to figure out where I misplaced responsibility.

This past week I’ve had to make some phone calls to leaders in my life. They’ve been humbling phone calls, not because I met with criticism or disdain, but because I’ve had to say over and over again: I do not know best for my life and I should have come to you before making decisions instead of after. I had been looking for their approval rather than their counsel—and that is not the mark of The Responsible One. That is a single woman who lets a problem fester because she doesn’t believe people want to hear her pestering about broken faucets and broken feelings.

I woke up this morning thinking about responsibility and sonship. Responsibility is simply knowing what needs to be done and taking the proper steps to getting it done. But what about when you can’t make yourself feel something? Even if it’s true?

For four years God has been bringing the doubters and ye-of-little-faithers into my life. They believe they were created to be a vessel of wrath, that they’re a jar too broken to be useful again, that God has not chosen them before the foundation of the earth, or that He has sprinkled fairy dust on the heads of others but never on them. No matter how long I listen or talk or hear or preach, I can’t make someone feel something they don’t feel. And I know how that feels.

No matter how much leaders in my life take my face in their hands and tell me they love me, they want to lead me, I disbelieve them. It’s the same with God. I’m a hurried and harried kid, sweeping up the messes of other’s lives and my own too, hoping he’ll condescend to give me the scraps from the table. I feel undeserving and the truth is, I am.

But the Father is the landlord. He owns the house and the body, he owns my heart and my home. And it’s his Son’s job to be The Responsible One. And His Son already has been. My only job is to inhabit what he has given me to inhabit: my heart and his home. And to live there like He owns it and He loves to care for it. He loves to fix the leaky faucets and the broken unfeeling hearts. And he loves to employ the services of his people on earth to help care for me while I inhabit this tent. He gave those leaders to me to lead me. As I approach them with confidence, my heart grows in confidence of His care for me. He designed it like that.

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It’s been a season where I have hesitated to write about singleness for obvious reasons. But Tim Challies linked to this post this morning and I wanted to comment on it briefly.

First read the post on how to make your wife more beautiful.

Now, let me say that a woman who is fully loved by her husband is markedly different than a woman who is not, or does not feel loved by him. We all know both women, and there is a definite glow and confidence in a woman who feels the security of her one-woman man.

That said, I worry about the message this sends to unmarried women, particularly those of you who are in your thirties and beyond. Shakespeare said it best “Age, with his stealing steps, Hath clawed me in his clutch.” We cannot stop the inevitable blurring of our birth year behind us and the empty grave in front of us. For a single woman aging feels achingly more hopeless than for a single man as he ages. Every month we watch our fertility fade and the crows-feet crowd in. We feel less beautiful as each day goes on.

On top of that, there is rarely someone tending to the garden of our souls. There isn’t someone delighting in us, in every curve and nuance, every idiosyncrasy, speaking to fears and sheltering us in times of question. The lack of these things begin to eat at the blossom that bloomed in our twenties, and soon the withering comes.

If you know a single woman (and you all do), take a few moments today and encourage her inner beauty. Comment on her character and your hopes for it. Speak to her fears and lead her to the cross. Affirm her good desire to be married,  speak highly of your own marriage, and assure her of her eternal position within the Bride of Christ. And practically: serve her. Nothing makes me feel more cherished as a woman than a brother who notices and serves my sisters and me.

We should desire for the whole bride of Christ, not just the women, or just the married women, to be beautiful. Proclaim the manifold wonder of what the gospel has done in our lives and how it has transformed us.

That is true beauty.

I  wanted to comment on something I wrote this past week on singleness. I got a bit of pushback on it and some of it was founded; I also received some concern that I was pushing against my own church’s model of home groups since we don’t have extraneous ministries apart from home groups. I love my church and agree strongly with our leadership that less is more, and that a focus on programatic within the local church can distract from mission. Some of my pastors have written a book on that which you can find here.

However, when I look at the sheer amount of divorces or marital problems within the Church at large, I can’t help but wonder if we could do better for our singles before marriage.

If the divorce rate is rising—or even plateaued, because even one divorce is too many in my opinion—shouldn’t we do more to prevent marriages of unequally yoked, immature, or otherwise unwise individuals? Of course we can’t micro-manage the unions of everyone, but a few? As many as possible?

I don’t think singles ministry is the answer, so let that be said. I actually agree strongly that singles should not be segregated off to themselves, but should surround themselves with marriages from every point along the way. Walking with young and old couples is one of my great joys. I’m able to enter into their joys and mourning in a way I can’t with my single friends. I’m able to pray for babies, for grandchildren, for discipline problems, for marriage difficulties, and they’re able to pray with me through my single-specific trials. This is one of the beauties of the local church.

So if singles ministry isn’t the answer, what is?

First a few observations:

1. Homegroups cannot be the means through which we expect marriages to be born. I am not saying that two singles can’t meet, mingle, and marry within the context of a home group, I’m simply saying that by nature of the smallness of a small group, we can’t expect the 2-5 possible singles who’ve put themselves there to find themselves face to face with their future spouse. It’s certainly ideal, but not the norm.

2. Using an online dating service does bring a few success stories—praise God for them and pray for more of them—but as a whole there are more disadvantages to this than advantages. It takes a very wise believer to walk that path in a circumspect and godly way—and sadly many of our singles are spending more time crafting the perfect profile, responding to foolish inquiries, and dating aimlessly, than working on wisdom.

So about that answer?

First, do not be a parasite, sucking off the life of others, expecting your church to serve you in this area. They probably want to serve you here. It’s not like your elders are sitting in a dark room scheming how to get more troubled marriages in their offices. They want godly marriages to happen and fortunately they’ve probably provided the perfect vehicle for singles to meet, mingle, and marry.

That vehicle? Ministry.

Within your local church—whatever its ministry model—there are things to be done. Trust me. I’ve worked for local churches and non-profits most of my adult life. If you can fold a piece of paper, sweep a room, hold a baby, pray for someone, you can serve. (If you’re a Villager, go into Connection Central on your specific campus, and there will be a list of roles and needs you can fill.)

Here’s why this is the singles ministry you’ve been longing for:

As you serve you will encounter those with shared visions, shared goals, & shared burdens. You will see work ethics, the heart of hospitality and mercy, the hands of service. You will not be distracted by perfectly crafted profiles or instagram images. You will see real people doing real things for their real God. You will see in motion the things we ought to value in marriages.

Your life of singleness will be richer, more full, more joyful. You will encounter someone’s someday spouse. You will begin to systematically kill the little foxes. You will grow into what will be a better wife or husband. When you see all there is to do, you won’t ever complain about a lack of ministry to singles again, trust me.

And you might just meet him or her.

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Church, wo[men] are staying single longer and longer, remember to include singles in your ‘biblical [wo]manhood’ narrative. It’s not a mark of deficiency or a blemish to be single—but it can feel like it in the somewhat glaring omissions. Paul said singleness was good. I think singleness is good. Many singles LOVE their singleness. Give us land to till.
—Thoughts tweeted by me this morning.

Church, here’s how you can give singles land to till:

1. Stop expecting them to have more time/money than marrieds. I understand we often do, but if we’re taking seriously the radical gift of singleness today, we’re going to have less, not more. We’re going to be crafting a lifestyle that isn’t making the stuff of earth our great treasure. Stop giving big discounts to married couples for conferences and leaving the singles to pay more. It legitimizes the feeling that we’re less, not more and yet have more, not less. An unmarried person who truly is caring for the things of the Lord will have pockets inside out spending their time and finances on Kingdom things.

2. Don’t assume that because we haven’t experienced marriage we don’t have good things to teach married persons. The true aim of a disciple is to live a life submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Though submission for a married person looks different than an unmarried person, trust me here, unmarried persons should be (and are) practicing submission in a more universal way. That’s a pulpit worth sharing. While we in the modern Church spend most of our listening time hearing from marrieds, it’s worth noting that Christ was single, and Paul seemed to have been. Be careful to not equate marriage with maturity.

3. Do you know unmarried people who want to be married? Who feel their ministry would be strengthened and better within the context of marriage? Help them. Help them, Church. In the absence of singles ministries or a place for singles to meet and mingle, they’re going to go outside the Church to find partners. God help us, and they do. Nearly every one of my single friends is on some online dating service. I’m not knocking the tool, but it seems to me that we are doing singles a great disservice to not provide a context for singles to meet one another. Small groups don’t work because by their very nature, they’re small and the pool is usually limited to less than five other singles. Don’t be afraid of matchmaking or thinking strategically about potential couples. Help them.

4. Reframe your idea of biblical womanhood and manhood again and again and again until what you actually have is a biblical believer in Christ Jesus. Until we have human flourishing at the base of our teachings on roles, we will bang our heads against this wall. The aim is never to be a biblical woman or man, it is to preach Christ crucified by living a life fully crucified to our flesh, submitting all rights, nailing autonomy to the Cross: that is the true role of biblical men and women, married or unmarried.