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If you know me in person or follow me on twitter you probably haven’t heard me shut up about this book. A friend lent me her copy at the beginning of the summer and after reading one chapter I bought my own copy. I write in my books and I wanted to write in this one, but even more than that, I knew I was holding something special. Here are three quick reasons Sensing Jesus should be on your list of reads.

1. It is redemptive. Zack Eswine chronicles his journey through sin and failure and does it in a tender not-yet-finished way. It is a breath of fresh air if you are weary of hearing from those who seem to be masters of their material. Nothing he writes is from an arrived position, but a journeyman’s counsel. It is gospel-rich and Jesus rich—almost tangibly.

2. It is impeccably well-written. One thing I encounter more and more in the deluge of books in the Christian market, is that there is a dearth of good writing. Everyone has a message, but hardly anyone does the slow work of craft. That’s partially a publisher’s problem, but partially it’s our problem for grabbing every new book that comes along without considering the value of the written word. Zack is a profoundly refreshing voice in the Christian booksphere.

3. It is a slow read. I still haven’t finished it. Does that surprise you? It’s surprises me. The amount of books that come across my doorstep is copious and I constantly feel the pressure to be reading. Zack’s book has not only revealed the sin in the pressure I feel, but also has not put the pressure on me. It begs to be read slowly and circumspectly. It is not a difficult read, but it is a convicting read. I don’t think you could get past the first chapter without a deep awareness of the human problem and the complexity of shepherding souls—including your own. We need more slow-reads. Books that beg us to check out of the rat race of whatever we indulge in, and remember the simplicity of Christ.

I rarely recommend books this strongly, and even more rarely review books without the author asking me to, but I want everyone I know to read Sensing Jesus. It’s the only thing I’m buying for everyone on my Christmas list. Perhaps because I lack creativity, but more likely because I think this book should be in the hands of any believer. Weary, wise, weak, or winsome? Read this book.

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I’ve written here, more than a decade’s worth of doubts, fears, concerns, questions, deaths, heartbreak, joy, moving, lessons, and learnings. In many ways this place is the very public working out of my salvation. Were you to peruse the archives you would find much poor theology and even more narcissism. This page has been my heart splayed out for anyone to read and I’ve bled myself dry for it.

Last night I said to a friend: sometimes silence is the best sanctification, and I numbered all the things happening in my life right now that I can’t talk about publicly. At least not this publicly.

There’s so much of the blogosphere that lauds transparency and authenticity, but even that is rife with trophy stories and humble brags and I am strangled by the fear that I will join their ranks if I so much as whisper the words aloud. The truth is that even good things bring with them deep breaths and open palms. I do not know how this or that will turn out and I can’t even guess. And I don’t want to give you the opportunity to guess. Because I am selfish? Perhaps. Because I am fearful? For sure. But also because some things are best worked out in quiet, gentle, and still ways. Sometimes our rest is found there, in the stillness, in the peace.

Sometimes writing in this place has been the best sanctification for me. But today silence might be my best sanctification.

In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

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.

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.

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

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

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.

I speak in the language of touch and I hear best when words, any words, are accompanied by a hand on my shoulder, arm against arm, or heads close together. I do not know why this is the language I speak best and I understand less why this is the language I receive best. It is not the language of the suburbs and I feel that acutely here. I take my hugs whenever I can. I give them because I want you to know that I love you, but I also want to feel that you could love me too.

Cards, gifts, time spent talking or a surprise task finished, these bless me, but I quickly forget. Like all the times I’ve tried to learn Spanish. Whole semesters of conjugations and tutors and rote memorization and my grasp is still medial, at best. It is not my language and it does not come naturally to me. It does not even come unnaturally to me. It dances circles around me, taunting me with the secrecy of its word-speak.

A hand on the top of my head, a thumb rubbed into my weary shoulders, and my ache for love subsides. This may seem hyperbolic to you, and perhaps it is, but we are speaking different languages, that’s all.

I want to love well. I do. But I also want to be loved well.

There is a part of me that would like to believe that the creator of the universe, the one who designed love and is love, that he would be beyond the need for our earth-encrusted affection and dirt-laden offerings, but it was he who pled before his father “Take this cup from me” and earlier finding his brothers asleep on their watch, “Could you not wait with me? Keep with me?”

I wonder if that perfect Christ, the sinless man, the creator in flesh, if he felt in that moment of abandonment, his utter humanness.

I wonder if it is in our need for love that we are most human. Here, with our knotted muscles, tired from the work of life, we know our need.

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

Good hugging runs in my family. At a family celebration recently I hugged a stranger, she backed right up and said, “You hug just like your mother.” My mother has many great qualities, but of all the ones I’d be happy to inherit, good hugging is at the top.

A friend hugged me a few weeks back, he pulled my head against his chest and I felt shepherded and shielded—a rare feeling. Another friend hugged me that night, her arms tight around my neck, and a quick, choked goodbye was all I could manage. This morning I bought a wooden desk off of Craigslist for thirty dollars. I didn’t have a twenty and a ten though, so she kept the change, ten dollars, and hugged me tight, tighter than a stranger should and I left.

I heard John Piper once talk about praying God would make him a good hugger and I wept right then. The ministry of a hug has meant more than any word ever said to or about me.

The importance of a pastoral hug cannot be overlooked. “Leaving room for the Holy Spirit,” the “12 inch rule,” and “side-hugs,” can be moralistic rules put in place to avoid sin or the appearance of sin—but in our effort to put up boundaries, we’ve taken away the simple healing action of appropriate touch.

Some people have only ever known inappropriate touch—sexual, abusive, or unwanted. Some have never known any touch at all. But healthy touch is God’s design and a perversion of it within the church and in the world is not reason to avoid it. Some will need to be taught the healthy way to interact with members of the opposite gender, but all people need hugs. Good, healthy, pastoral hugs.

Maybe some ought to check their motives before embracing, maybe some ought to refrain from hugging the opposite gender for a season, but if your motives are pure, your care is honest, and your surroundings are appropriate, then hug. Especially if you are in a pastoral role, hug your people.