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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 Gods will for me for as long
as I remain unmarried. Ive never had a clear sense of
God telling me Im 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 compan-
ionship - to come frst 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.
HOW ARE YOU SERVING THE LOCAL
CHURCH AND THE KINGDOM WITH YOUR
PORTION OF SINGLENESS?
T
here are a number of ways (I hope) that I am using
my singleness for the kingdom. 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 mar-
ried. I can be out most evenings and weekends without
the issue of neglecting family back home. I can spend
more time at the offce. I will have a slightly different
capacity than some married colleagues might - able to
give more time to certain aspects of the ministry.
More specifcally, I hope I am able to teach and mod-
el something of what the single like should look like.
There are a number of people at church who are sin-
gle 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
SAM
ALLBERRY
PASTOR
Sam 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 nd
him on twitter @samallberry
and as a regular contributor
to Living Out.
Each time I read a well-intentioned article on how to make the
most of your single years, I scan down to the authors bio and often
discover that, sure enough, hes married to his college sweetheart,
pulling advice from a brief period of adult-singleness years ago.
This is how I opened my August 2014 article on Chris-
tianity Today called Why Singles Belong in Church
Leadership. The dearth of singles within leadership po-
sitions 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. Cen-
sus) is single: thats 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 havent
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.
Lore Ferguson, editor
SAYABLE.NET
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 in-
volved in pastoral ministry.
More generally, there are other ways I
hope I am putting my singleness to good
use. I am aware that it makes things more
fexible. I am able to travel and minister
elsewhere relatively easily as a single per-
son. I have been able to get to know and
be involved with ministries in a number
of parts of the world. This has been a
huge privilege.
I hope, too, that I am using my single-
ness to be as good a friend as possible.
Being single means I have a greater ca-
pacity (and need!) for friendship than
many married friends, and I am more
able to visit and support good friends.
I appreciate there are times when I can
drop everything and go and see friends
if they are in a crisis. I am so thankful
for that. (Whether they are is another
matter...)
TALK ABOUT THE PROCESS OF
WRESTLING, EITHER IN THE
PAST OR CONTINUED, WITH
YOUR PORTION OF SINGLE-
NESS. WHAT CONTRIBUTED TO
YOUR CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST
IN THIS SEASON?
T
here have been a lot of ups and
downs in my experience as a single
Christian. There are times I have resent-
ed being single. I went through a pain-
ful 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. Id always wondered what
kind of dad I would be - Id looked for-
ward to being like my own father. I have
always wanted to provide my parents
with a daughter-in-law and grandchil-
dren. These are hard dreams to give over
to the Lord. 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.
I have also discovered that in many re-
spects being single has become harder as
I have got older - there are fewer other
single people around the older you get,
and so friendships work a bit differently.
I tend to have more friends that I see
less often, and very few people that I can
easily hang out with at short notice. At
times this can be painful. Sometimes you
just want to see someone at a particular
moment, only to fnd the next available
time they are free is in a month or so. So
there have been times when I have been
resentful of being single. But at the same
time, there are ways in which it has been
easier - I have learned (slowly!) how to
live as a single person and grown into it
somewhat.
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 mar-
ried, 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 fnd contentment in
Christ, the less it seems to matter to me
whether I am married or single. Know-
ing 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. Its a fght. But its a fght
that makes a whole load of other fghts
much easier.
Certain passages and truths have really
helped with this. John 15 has become an
old friend when I need to walk my way
through what it means to be in Christ -
the pain and the privilege involved. The
fact remains that nothing ever ends up
being truly worse when youre with Je-
sus, and nothing ends up being truly
better without him. Some things may be
harder, but they are certainly not worse.
I know that Jesus will do all things well.
WHAT IS THE DEEPEST CHAL-
LENGE TO YOU DOING MINIS-
TRY UNMARRIED?
O
ne of the hardest things for me
being single in ministry is that I
often feel emotionally spent, and then
fnd myself returning to an empty home.
It is hard not having someone to process
things with, to laugh and cry with. Min-
istry exposes you to the best and worst
of Gods people (and of yourself, too,
for that matter) and it is hard not having
someone to share all that with. Some-
times 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.
WHAT IS THE RICHEST BLESS-
ING TO YOU IN YOUR SINGLE-
NESS TODAY?
I
guess what I am dong right now is a
huge blessing. As I answer these ques-
tions, Im doing so while staying in the
home of some very dear friends who I
have the opportunity of spending a few
days with. I wouldnt have come across
you, Lore, and a great many other peo-
ple, were it not for the ministry opportu-
nities that have come my way as a single
person. So this very moment typifes
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 good-
ness.
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 prov-
identially 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.
HOW ARE YOU SERVING THE LOCAL
CHURCH AND THE KINGDOM WITH
YOUR PORTION OF SINGLENESS?
B
eing unmarried enables me to more sin-
gle-mindedly (no pun intended) lead, write,
and edit at Christianity Today magazine, which ex-
ists to educate and equip the church to live on
mission in all its particular culturally and geo-
graphically bound expressions. This season has
also allowed me to delve into a book project (due
out in 2016) about the goodness of womens work
and cultural contribution.
TALK ABOUT THE PROCESS OF WRES-
TLING, EITHER IN THE PAST OR CON-
TINUED, WITH YOUR PORTION OF
SINGLENESS. WHAT CONTRIBUTED TO
YOUR CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST IN THIS
SEASON?
P
art 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
KATELYN
BEATY
MANAGING
EDITOR:
CHRISTIANITY
TODAY
Katelyn is the Managing
editor of Christianity Today
and one of the sharpest
thinkers around. She is wise
and winsome, and while
deeply desiring marriage,
hasnt allowed the lack of it
to hinder what she knows
the Lord is calling her to
do today. You can nd her
on twitter @katelynbeaty
and as a regular writer at
Christianity Today.
works alongside other believers (Ps.
139; Eph. 2:10).
Real life or ministry doesnt be-
gin on ones wedding day. The call
of Christ on our lives starts the
day we choose to follow him, and
he intends for us to live the abun-
dant 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 de-
sires and to trust him to take care of
me in all seasons (Ps. 37:4; Is. 46:4).
WHAT IS THE DEEPEST CHAL-
LENGE TO YOU TO DO MINIS-
TRY UNMARRIED?
P
robably the deepest challenge is
emotional, feeling bereft of a minis-
try partner, wondering why others have
been given one when I havent in this
time. I have to proactively resist compar-
ing my situation to others and setting
marriage up as the core mark of Gods
faithfulness.
WHAT IS THE RICHEST BLESS-
ING TO YOU IN YOUR SINGLE-
NESS TODAY?
I
get to be friends with so many peo-
ple, across the country, in different
life stagesthat Im free to expansively
connect with many other people instead
of focusing so intensely on one other
person.
DO YOU FEEL A CERTAIN CALL TO REMAIN
SINGLE OR DO YOU HAVE A DESIRE TO BE
MARRIED? WHY?
T
he 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 fnd myself an
advocate for singleness as it pertains to kingdom work.
If you would have told me two years ago that I would
be an advocate for singles and singleness, I would have
laughed with laughter quickly turning into fear and a
cold sweat. I have never wanted to end up alone. At
times I think I have even idolized being in a relationship
but these past few years God has had me on a journey in
the land of singleness. What it means to be single and
oddly enough what it means to be married. Two topics
our culture sadly misunderstands and as hard as it is to
say, and to hear, especially our church culture.
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?
L
ooking back, I know now that this journey started
many years ago in college. The early footsteps of
this journey can be traced back to three classes in par-
ticular. Three classes that I would have never thought
would have impacted me so much; Life and Teachings
of Christ with Dr. Rodney Reeves, Christian Doc-
trine with Dr. Kelly Malone and Hebrew Exegesis
with Dr. Bing Bayer. Though it probably had little to
do with the actual course content, it was in the reading
and writing for those classes that the Lord brought be-
fore me the centrality of Christ youre thinking duh
right? Thats what I thought initially too but what start-
ed as a study of the nature of Christs resurrection (the
ANDY
HERBEK
MISSIOLOGIST
Andy is a farmer, leather-
worker, and regional staf
member with US Center
for World Mission. In an era
where most millennials are
taking yet another sele
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 nd him on twitter
@andyherbek.
end) spilled over into an exploration of
Gods created image (the beginning) and
forced upon me implications to live by
(the present).
I
ll write a book about it someday so
sorry, you only get a snapshot here
but the essence of image bearing struck
me powerfully and all of the sudden all
these threads were weaving together be-
fore me. Things that before seemed so
disjunctive were now paired in a beau-
tiful compliment. Things like marriage
and proclamation of the gospel, singles
and church polity, missions and worship.
I began to see, and am still learning more
and more about each day, that the deep-
est concern of God is His image, His
glory. Image in biblical times was much
different than what we think of today.
Suffce it to say that Gods concern for
His own image is not the kind experi-
enced by teenage girls today. You will
just have to wait for my book to learn
the historical background in short
Gods image is his essence, His charac-
ter, His honor. The crazy thing is, we
are his image. We His body, unique and
distinct as individuals but unifed as a
collective under Christ. We are His glory
as the body of Christ. As such all kinds
of implications are feshed out of that
theme throughout the biblical narrative.
Implication #1 (of many, though I will
only draw 3 here as it relates to single-
ness), man and woman are both image
bearers but its obvious that they are in-
trinsically different. So than only when
they are joined together is a more full
image (or embodiment if you will) of
God present on earth Thats why
marriage is sacred and between only one
man and one woman. Marriage exists
to DO something not just BE some-
thing it exist to image (verb) our cre-
ator, to proclaim His nature embodied in
both masculine and feminine. Masculine
alone could not image God fully nor
could feminine, both though intrinsically
different, when held in complimentary
tension, bear more fully the nature
of God. This is just the surface level
though. Ultimately the reason God gives
us marriage is so that we would have
categories through which to talk about
the gospel That is no fy by statement.
Think about it. The reason we have mar-
riage is so that we would have categories
through which to understand the gospel.
The same is true of the church. The
word for family (oikos) became synon-
ymous for church not because family is
the highest ideal but because family is a
category through which to talk about the
church. Back to marriage, Jesus used it as
the number one way to communicate the
gospel not because he wants everyone to
get married but because he wants every-
one to know Him and marriage is a pow-
erful way of communicating (imaging)
the gospel... The joining of two intrin-
sically different beings. Think about this,
there is no marriage in heaven (Mathew
22:30) salvation is eternal but marriage
only exists to communicate it until there
is no more need of it. Marriage is not an
end in itself it exists for the proclama-
tion of the gospel. To often we in the
church fip that. We believe or at least we
act like the gospel exists to support mar-
riage and the church exist to promote
healthy families. If you dont believe me
just look up the new TV show on GSN
called It takes a Church. Its literally a
matchmaker show oriented around the
church community. Listen to the tag line,
Each week, IT TAKES A CHURCH
visits a congregation from across the
country to surprise one unsuspecting
single with the news that theyre about
to be saved from the dating world. As
if singleness is a sin to be rescued from!
The audacity! Im sorry but that one gets
me riled up! The church does not exist
to promote/produce marriage or even
family. 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 mar-
riage is for proclamation of the gospel
and families exist to promote the church
than the object is the gospel and the
glory of God resting in the church. The
church after all is a place in which we im-
age God most fully I cant image God
by myself. A married couple can image
God more fully but still cannot image
God to the fullest. It takes the global
church manifest in every culture to glo-
rify God to the fullest by producing the
fullest manifestation of His image on
earth. So once again the goal is procla-
mation of the gospel and the glorifca-
tion of God on earth (or the corporate
act of worship enacted by the church).
Now if you can proclaim the gospel bet-
ter as a single than by all means DONT
get married. Or if you can proclaim the
gospel better as a married couple GET
married. Do you hear what Paul was
trying to say in my paraphrase of 1 Cor
7:7-9? The point of life is not marriage
or singleness but what life you and I can
live that most glorifes God and pro-
claims His gospel to the ends of the
earth. Likewise Paul viewed the church
the same way. The church isnt this lit-
tle healthy family unit for its own sake;
it is something vital to the glory of God
because it is a composite whole of His
image. It is His glory and can only thrive
to the fullest when promoted by whole
families. Once again that kinda fips
things on its head for us. How many
people leave a church because it doesnt
meet the needs of their family? Paul al-
ways started with the oikos, the family,
when making disciples because it was
through the natural network of families
that the church would grow to the full-
est. So how does singleness ft in to all
of this? I can be single and yet function
to my fullest created purpose within the
church family. The church is, or should
be, a place where there is no pressure
to get married or to remain single but
a place where we are spurred to glorify
God and proclaim His redemption. So
why do we so often look down upon sin-
gles in the church as if they are less than
complete. They are complete in Christ as
one member among many in His body.
The church is a place where singles can
image God fully in community (mascu-
line/feminine and in all ethnic diversity)
without getting married. Thats why Paul
never once references someone as a hus-
band or wife within the church, and yet
time and time again he will say things
like, my dear brothers and sisters in the
faith. In the kingdom we are not hus-
band and wife, we are brother and sister
created to glorify our father. Brothers
and sisters who cannot look like their
daddy individually
Implication #3 is a simple one, as broth-
ers and sisters within THE church, the
kingdom, we Americans need our Af-
rican and Asian brothers and sisters to
more fully image our Dad and they need
us. So marriage and singleness as func-
tionally declarative of the gospel is in-
trinsically missional. Just like in marriage,
the man remains uniquely masculine and
the women uniquely feminine, so to in
the church each ethnicity remains dis-
tinct but unifed under Christ. In the
church Chinese remain uniquely Chi-
nese when they worship and Nigerians
remain uniquely Nigerian Just like a
single is not forced to get married when
they enter the church, so to the Russian
does not have to give up his or her cul-
ture to worship Christ. Marriage AND
singleness then are a means through
which mission happens.
Why do we disparage the other side of
the fence? God desires and the world
needs both married people and singles
who are undistracted in their devotion
to kingdom work. So after my ramblings,
my response to the later part of the
question is its still a journey. I do indeed
have confdence through what the Lord
has shown me (described above) but it
can still be hard waking up in a big bed
alone.
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 Gods
global glory. Its actually quite an hon-
or to get to see such a vivid display of
Gods diverse image. I also farm with my
brother as he and his wife really transi-
tion into running the farming operation
from Dad and a few other neighbors
who are retiring. Most of the farm work
is pretty isolating and a lot of what I do
with Perspectives is from a distance. It
can be hard not sharing some exciting
moments on the farm or in ministry with
a wife. Something discouraging will hap-
pen or something excited and you want
to be able to share it with someone who
cares about what God is doing in and
through your life as much as you do.
WHAT IS THE DEEPEST
CHALLENGE TO YOU DOING
YOUR MINISTRY UNMARRIED?
I
t can be hard not having a helpmate.
Its terribly unromantic but the prac-
ticalities 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. I must be a functionalist
but some of the stories from great men
of faith that I look up to had wives who
would write out their fash cards to help
them through seminary or things of
that nature. It might seem old fashion
or even offensive to some today but the
devotion to each other, and especially to
the work of the Lord, in these kinds of
stories are what is romantic to me. Deep
down I am a romantic and the hardest
thing in ministry and life in general is not
having someone to share it with. Besides
that the endless ploys by some in the
church to try and play match maker for
me can often cut to the core. I think I
speak for a lot of single men in the min-
istry that its hurtful and often a discour-
agement and distraction from what God
has us doing when well meaning people
say things like, its to bad you cant fnd a
nice young lady to settle down with. 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?
H
aving a singular focus in ministry...
pun intended! Being single allows
me to devote more time and energy to
the work of the Lord. Yes it would be
nice to have a spouse to help with dai-
ly work but not having a wife frees me
up fnancially, with my time and with
my energy to focus on ministry/mis-
sion. A huge blessing within that context
of service is married people who dont
make me feel bad for being single when
I am around them. Also, working for a
ministry that welcomes and values sin-
gles in every aspect of the organization.
This will probably end up in the book
as well but 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, espe-
cially women, where often church con-
gregations do not. Though quite techni-
cal, it is fundamental to the distinction
in DNA between local congregations
and mission orders. Our founder Dr.
Ralph Winter articulated some of these
differences in two terms he called mo-
dality and sodality. Modality would be a
local congregation its stationary, care
oriented and protective against threats.
Sodality would be a mission order its
mobile, risk taking and pioneer for the
sake of the gospel. Dr. Winter would say
that they when seen as two sides of one
coin are what God has always thought
of as the church. Two structures func-
tionally different but when married,
if you will, together is known as THE
church. Both needed and both valuable
but essentially different. The problem
is we like to divorce the two in an at-
tempt to syncretize the two functions
into one structure. It will never work
because it rejects Gods plan and there
will always be one side of the coin that
overpowers in a specifc situation. The
fact that we lack a recognition of the
validity of both structures shows up in
phrases like, if the local church would
just do its job we wouldnt need mission
agencies. Thats another book but this
relates to a blessing in singleness to me
because I am indeed a part of a struc-
ture that honors where God has me in
singleness. I dont feel guilty as a single
for undistracted devotion to working for
gospel breakthroughs among unreached
peoples. I dont feel like Im trying to be
matched up all the time, I dont feel like
Im restricted or held back from infuen-
tial roles in the organization just because
Im single. That is indeed a blessing.
M
ay we value both singles and mar-
riage more! Let us focus on the
glory of God and the redemption of all
peoples.
MELISSA
WADE
CITY DWELLER
Melissa 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
isnt specically in church
leadership, I thought it
would help to see a single
who is working actively
to live missionally in her
community. You can nd her
on twitter @Honeybee22274.
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. I grew up in love with the idea of love and the
way it can make a woman beautiful and conquer all
(thanks John Hughes). I longed to have someone
set their affections on me and to return those af-
fections, but interestingly (and in hindsight, thank-
fully) as boy crazy as I was in my youth this did not
result in many dating relationships. As the years
went by in my 20s and early 30s, I fnally went
from the constant, optimistic feeling of this will
be THE year, I just know it! to leaving my marital
future completely in Gods hands to do with what
He wills. And by the time I turned 35 I was no
longer spending a moment each December 31st
thinking the feeting thought, Nope, once again,
this wasnt the year.
So what changed? Through spending time in the
Word and prayer, and the prayers of godly friends
and mentors who love me, Christ revealed to me
His unrivaled beauty and reoriented my affections
around Himself. I experienced what Chalmers
articulated: the expulsive power of a new affec-
tion, and Ive come alive fully to the greatest love
there is, the love of Christ Jesus.
Being 40, still unmarried, and now completely
soul-satisfed brings credibility to the idea that it
is possible to trust God with this life, not have
what you thought youve always wanted/needed/
deserved, and what every normal person gets to
experience (fll in the blank of what that might be
for you) and still joyfully thrive. So while Ive nev-
er felt the call to remain unmarried, I did begin
to wonder in the past year if thats what I have
been called to, in part to model this truth to oth-
ers. Perhaps this is the way I can best glorify God
with my life, which is today my greatest
desire. To be completely honest, I still
desire to be married, and if presented
with the choice and a great candidate, I
would choose to marry. Ultimately, I may
have hopes, dreams, desires, and a dif-
ferent calling tomorrow, but right now I
need to be faithful with what Im called
to today.
HOW ARE YOU SERVING
THE LOCAL CHURCH AND
THE KINGDOM WITH YOUR
PORTION OF SINGLENESS?
S
ince coming to New York City in
2010, in addition to working full time
in the Family Court, Ive served with two
church planting teams, learning, praying,
leading, strategizing, planning, giving,
playing, teaching, and discipling. Prior
to moving to New York Ive served in
student and womens ministries, giving
whatever time I could when I wasnt
traveling for work. For two years, in ad-
dition 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 feel that I am
able to give more time, attention, and
resources to the church and my friends
and loved ones than I could otherwise.
Additionally, Im able to spend extra
time on my relationship with God and
what He is doing in, with, and through
me. Im not in danger of focusing on my
sanctifcation in a way that excludes and
neglects a spouse, nor of the reverse.
Apart from God I dont have anyone
to answer to concerning maximum lim-
its on my giving and serving and there
is no portion of me that I must reserve
for another human, apart from my com-
munity. Other than to ensure Im caring
for myself well (mind, body, and soul)
so that I dont burn out or try to minis-
ter out of my own strength, Im free to
make my church and community and the
people God has given us there a priority.
God has gifted me with fabulous friends
near and far and incredible pastors who
help me think through these things and
who keep me accountable in this season
of life. Married or single, community is
vital.
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 sea-
sons when Ive lived alone I was able to
prayerfully discern when to invite peo-
ple 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 re-
garding hospitality in our home. Each of
us has welcomed friends to take over our
living room for up to several months at
a time, as God has led. I know married
couples who do this too, but my room-
mate and I have the advantage of being
free from any marital intimacy concerns
that might arise from having other peo-
ple in our small apartment.
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,
Ive wanted to be married to the
right person. And so, despite my long-
standing desire, marriage in the abstract
is not something Ive ever really fought
with God about or despaired over,
even in seasons when the desire was
especially strong, or when faced with
a specifc man I was sure might make
a good husband. Thats not to say that
I wasnt openly hopeful and constantly
scanning the horizon for the one. I did
this for years. After ending a long-term
relationship at age 24, and realizing by
26 that we werent getting back together,
for the next few years I was stealthily
scoping out left hands, looking for a
wedding ring on many of the charming,
attractive men Id meet, to see who was
eligible; until God changed me.
While for some people that time frame
might sound like I was already well on
my way to spinsterhood, context is im-
portant. I was raised in a culture (west
coast, Gen X, largely unchurched) where
the expectation for young people was to
graduate high school, graduate college,
get a good job, and then get married,
all in that very logical and responsible
order. This led to me being surrounded
almost completely by friends, men and
women, who would not begin marrying
in earnest until we were close to 30, so I
was by no means an anomaly. Now, liv-
ing in New York City, the vast majority
of my friends inside the church and out,
are unmarried; (many are never married
Christian women in their 30s) so Im
still not weird by local standards. That
defnitely helps.
I have from time to time been asked by
well-meaning people if Im too picky,
or perhaps commitment-phobic. I will
not lie; I am picky. But no more so than
most of my married friends. And I dont
think Im commitment-phobic. While
all my life Ive had a front row seat to a
marriage that has been anything but easy,
that has never dampened my desires. I
do think, however it has sobered me to
the realities of one fesh union with an-
other fallible human and given me wis-
dom.
Despite their struggles, from day one
my parents have done a fabulous job of
affrming my true identity as a child of
God; whole, in and of myself, in Him.
They never introduced the idea to me
that I was incomplete as a person, miss-
ing my other/better half, or not ready for
real life to begin until my identity includ-
ed wife. Though theyve asked about
my desires, theyve never pressured me
about marriage or giving them grand-
children. At times they have questioned
some of the unconventional ways and
places God has taken me to do life and
ministry, but their questioning was never
about a desire to see me settled down.
I think this is probably the biggest fac-
tor in my feeling at ease with not yet
(never?) being married. While God has
done the work, which continues today,
of purifying my desires and ridding me
of idols, the sense of God-dependent
individuality my parents instilled in me
was the bedrock foundation God built
upon. It was that sense of being whole
and being enough that kept me from ty-
ing my worth to romantic relationships,
or in my case, a lack thereof. Ive never
felt less worthy because I was not being
chosen by men.
While all of these factors have contrib-
uted 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, satisfed, joy-
ful contentment, and that is where I am
today. Whats the phrase? God is most
glorifed in us when we are most satisfed
in Him? Oh yes, I do believe thats true.
WHAT IS THE DEEPEST
CHALLENGE TO YOU DO
MINISTRY UNMARRIED?
I
cannot think of a time when my abil-
ity to minister has been challenged
or limited by being unmarried, howev-
er I have considered that perhaps some
might see me, an unmarried woman
working closely with pastors, as a dan-
ger. A steady stream of articles being
published in Christian circles, sometimes
saying as much, doesnt 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 affec-
tion and romantic attention of a man,
but Im not the least bit interested in
someone elses husband, thank you very
much. Thankfully that suspicion is not
something Ive ever been made to feel
in any church where Ive served, but its
something I know may be on the radar
of other people.
WHAT IS THE RICHEST
BLESSING TO YOU IN YOUR
SINGLENESS TODAY?
F
reedom and time and autonomy
are my richest blessings. Right now
I revel in the freedom to engage in the
commitments on my time and resourc-
es that I choose. Time and freedom to
sleep (or not), to travel, to see friends, to
minister, for quiet solitude and contem-
plation, for undisturbed prayer; freedom
to follow where the Lord leads without
hesitation, to enjoy and extend work
trips, to spend an entire day just reading
a book in my pajamas, to take as long as
I want in the shower, to be radically gen-
erous, to eat the last cookie, to do what I
want frst thing in the morning, and last
thing at night and the list goes on.
Friendships are also part of that bounty.
For the married person, opposite gen-
der friendships often take on a different
aspect, if not end all together, as may
same gender friendships (especially with
unmarried people) as priorities and avail-
ability change. I know that in part this
can be necessary, and I also know that
its a choice. Frankly, Im glad its not a
choice Im faced with making today. And
while I too am a master idol craftswom-
an, 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 fesh and my
heart may fail, but God is the strength of
my heart and my portion forever.
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. But as Ive said before--I may not have
THE lifelong gift of singleness, but I can offer up
my singleness as a gift in worship today. I can conse-
crate it for Him. (cf. http://paulmatthies.blogspot.
com/2012/04/life-is-gift-even-single.html)
Do I have a desire to be married? Yes. However, that
desire waxes and wanes. Its usually not its strongest
in a desire for romance or sexual intimacy, as much
as a longing for consistent companionship in those
lonely seasons, or a desire for committed partnership
in those diffcult or busy seasons. Theres so much
over the years that I wish I could have shared.
As a single man, I realize there is much more oppor-
tunity for me in marriage, as I think about pursuing
a godly woman. When we look at the Church today,
we see there are more single women in waiting then
single men. Thus, I cant really claim a lack of op-
tions. I do feel, though, that in the last seven years es-
pecially (based on call and present circumstances), it
has not been Gods timing for me to pursue marriage.
Still, I dont yet have the Apostle Pauls clarity regard-
ing his gift of singleness. Ive often heard it said
that the clearest sign of a call to lifelong singleness is
the absence of sexual desire. Those saying it usually
cite 1 Corinthians 7. However, I dont see Paul speak-
ing about an absence of sexual desire there, but the
presence of self-control. There is a difference.
I do not feel that a life of singleness is determined
simply by absence of sexual desire. I dont see that
in the text. I do, however, believe theres a presence
of self-control. Not a self-control that erases our
desires, but helps us honor God for this season or
for life. Nor is it a self-control unique to us. Why?
Because ALL believers have that fruit in the Spirit
PAUL
MATTHIES
CHURCH ELDER
Paul 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 afected
by Pauls sermons and
example of godliness. You
can nd him on twitter @
paul_matties and read
him regularly at Wayfaring
Stranger.
(Galatians 5:22-23).
Yet it doesnt mean that there wasnt
temptation or loneliness for Paulonly
that his pursuit of Christ and his call-
ing at hand tempered those issues, so
that it wasnt a source of blatant sin for
him. We can be content in Christ, if we
ask Him according to His will. Butit
seems we may still have real desires for
marriage and feelings of loneliness. In-
deed, I may yet marry.
Regardless, I want to be committed to
the gospel ministry above all else, right
now. The godliest couples I know
are those who see sharing the gospel
through their marriage as their main
purpose. The most miserable couples
I know are those who view each other
as an end in itself, trying to fnd happi-
ness in each other and working to make
their lives comfortable. Sadly, some sin-
gles see those marriages and thinkI
want someone that can make me happy
and comfortable too! So they just sit
around dwelling on their singleness all
the timesurrounding themselves with
friends who want to create empty drama
and gossip. I am sorrybut I have seen
too much hurt in this world, and God
has blessed me with too muchto sit
around giggling about girls all the time.
Instead, I have always valued what godly
married people have told me. 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 re-
gardless of if that day comes, you gain
Christ in the end, whether she comes or
not. I see that as very helpfulpursue
Jesus! If He doesnt give a spouseyou
still get Him. And if she comes, yet she
passes awayyou are still grounded in
Him. A godly man also once told me: I
knew I was supposed to marry my wife
when we saw that we could not grow
any more in Christ, unless we were mar-
ried as one. What a great perspective!
Should marriage come, it is the next sea-
son I need to keep growing in Him.
Let me also say (and I hope this isnt
TMI)I am a virgin. In fact, Ive not so
much as kissed a girl. I dont wear this as
a badge of puritanical superiority, but to
say that its possible to stay celibate and
be very happy. I used to keep this mum,
but after hearing the world brag about its
sexual exploits over and again, I think a
stand for purity can be a witness. Plus,
I am quite content being single at this
time. I know thats a blessing for me.
HOW ARE YOU SERVING
THE LOCAL CHURCH AND
THE KINGDOM WITH YOUR
PORTION OF SINGLENESS?
S
ingleness has afforded me opportu-
nity. Ive been privileged to serve
the Lord in the city (as an associate pas-
tor at The Village Church) and in the
countryside (as an elder at my current
church, Hilltop Christian Fellowship).
Ive served Him domestically and inter-
nationally (with long-term stays in China
and South Korea, and short term trips
to Romania, Kenya, and Australia). Ive
worked full-time in a church setting, in
a missions setting, and am now working
full-time in a corporate setting. No mat-
ter what, in all times and placesGod
is the same loving, gracious, powerful,
sovereign God. Ive got to see that frst-
hand over the years.
Singleness has given me certain fexi-
bility. I now work full-time as a claims
examiner for an insurance company, so
I can also fll in as interim preacher and
leader here, at little cost to my church as
we face a tough fnancial year. At my
church, I also serve as an elder, adult
classroom teacher, substitute youth
teacher, song leader, and more. I do
hospital visits, prayer, counseling, and
written communication. My day job
helps fund my ministry life.
Singleness has also offered me greater
accessibility. I dont say availability, be-
cause there is a common assumption
that singles must have nothing but free
time, 24/7. I do have many responsi-
bilities to juggle, between work, church,
personal, family, etc. However, I can pri-
oritize and arrange my schedule at more
of a moments notice. I try to leverage
this to be as accessible as possible to my
church and the Kingdom overall.
Jesus speaks about doing our giving,
praying, and fasting in secret. I can say
that my singleness has given me greater
scope to serve the Lord in daily, unan-
nounced, and surprise ways, known only
to Him. I get to use my portion (and
paychecks) to do a lot of fun things for
others.
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?
O
ne of the best questions Ive 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 weve 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 ques-
tion: How do I bring glory to God in my
singleness? I gain confdence when I live
within my intended purposeto bring
God glory.
Admittedly, singleness can be a hard re-
ality. In Matthew 19:10-12, Jesus tells us
that this gift is only for those to whom
it has been given, implying that the sin-
gle life will not be for the fainthearted.
Likewise, the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corin-
thians 7:7, wishes that all men and wom-
en were like him, but he recognizes the
strong temptations we face. So how do
we embrace a diffcult season?
At least eight times in scripture, suffering
is said to have a rewardjoy. At times, I
am conficted, asking Why would God
give me the desire for something like
marriage if He does not plan on grant-
ing it immediatelyor ever? Why not
take the desire away---why make me suf-
fer in this way? Here I take heart from
Pauls example in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10,
where he rejoices in his sufferings.
While the circumstances were different,
the principle applies the same. I dont
have to just cope with this desire, but
can rejoice in my time of needbe-
cause I get to experience the suffcien-
cy of grace. In our singleness, we are
faced with the very important question:
If Jesus is all I have, is He enough? I
love this quote from The Path Through
Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot:
Acceptance of the will of God is always
a simple thing, though for us who are
yet far from sainthood it is often not an
easy thing. Our lives are still complicat-
ed, our aims mixed, our vision clouded.
No wonder Jesus told us to consider the
birds and the lilies.
In the scriptures, I also see that cultivat-
ing a heart of thankfulness is central to
the life of a Christian. As believers, I
think we should frst be known for our
identity in Christ, not just for our marital
state. In other words, we are not Chris-
tian singles, but single Christians. As
Christians, will we trust that all of Gods
gifts are good and perfect, even the gift
of singleness?
In 1 Timothy 6:6, Paul writes: Now
there is great gain in godliness with
contentment. Again, in Philippians
4:31: Not that I am speaking of being
in need, for I have learned in whatever
situation I am to be content. It is im-
portant for me to fnd contentment in
my singleness as an opportunity to se-
cure undivided devotion to the Lord (1
Corinthians 7:35).
To wrestle for that confdence and con-
tentment, I am honest to God about
my desires. But they are exactly that--
desires. I cant deny they exist. But I
shouldnt demand them, lest they be
idols. Thats why I feel our life as sin-
gles is one of dependence and honesty
with God--and walking that path of de-
sire, but foremost delight in Him (Psalm
37:4). {Yes, like a good Baptist, I just
used alliteration!}
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 disqualifed
from doing ministry in the frst place!
Ive had 1 Timothy and Titus quoted
to me (husband of one wife), stat-
ing I should not serve as a deacon or
elder. Ive heard pastors and seminary
leaders say that single men are at great-
er risk of sexual immorality in ministry.
(Sadly, Ive known just as many or more
married men fall into adultery.) Ive
had church committees pass me over,
because there would be a void in the
womens or childrens ministry leader-
ship if I didnt have a wife to come along
with me. (That brings up a whole other
conversation on the often unfair two-
for-one minister expectations placed
on spouses.)
At large, there can be skepticism of why
Id even want to be unmarried in minis-
try. Our culture also displays a certain
fear in an older, unmarried man. As I
mentioned, I am bi-vocational. I once
overheard my co-workers speaking
about a single executive who was hired.
One lady said, Hes single, over 30, and
never been married? He must be ugly, or
theres something wrong with him. An-
other man said, Yes, or he is homosex-
ual, and he just hasnt admitted it yet.
These stereotypes are sometimes car-
ried into the pews. Ive been blessed to
serve in some safe and supportive places,
among loving people, who understand
that our Savior Jesus, and the frst mis-
sionary Paul, were both single. Yet Ive
also faced harsh statement and closed
doors based on being single and over 30,
in ministry.
Then, in those lonely moments of dis-
couragement, wrestling with questions
like Is there something wrong with
me?compounded by the absence of
a spouse and life partnerits easy to
isolate or react. There is a temptation to
grow bitter or to give up. Thats why its
been so important for me to have godly
community. I see it in the scriptures, and
Ive seen it in my lifethere is always
a remnant. Ive never been in a season
that also lacked someone to encourage
mewhether it be a friend, family mem-
ber, minister, mentoror even a chance
meeting. Thats a blessing.
WHAT IS THE RICHEST
BLESSING TO YOU IN YOUR
SINGLENESS TODAY?
T
hat Im happy. Im happy in God.
That may sound simplistic, but af-
ter all the blogs, articles, commercials,
books, movies, and even sermons telling
me why I shouldnt be happy as a single
person, I fnd it a rich blessing that the
Lord is true to His wordHe gives a full
joy (John 15:11; 16:24). Even single, Ive
never been alone. I live a rich, joy-flled
life because of Jesus.
No matter the season, Paul found the
secret to being content (Philippians
4:11-13). Johns joy was complete
in being the friend of the bridegroom
(John 3:27-30). You would think being
brought low or playing second fddle
would mean less fulfllment in life. Not
so, when Jesus is the One being lifted
high and sought frst in our lives.
Im not just speaking of contentment
and joy, with my arms crossed and my
teeth grittedIm speaking of real
happiness! Happiness, as Mike Mason
writes in Champagne for the Soul, is re-
alized joy. Its a lesson I learned from
a godly elder serving over the church in
Suwon, South Korea, where I ministered
for a year--that I must fght for joyand
joy can be readily won, if we seek it in
God. (cf. http://paulmatthies.blogspot.
com/2010/12/are-you-happy.html)
BETHANY
JENKINS
WRITER AT TGC
Bethany Jenkins is the
director of TGCs Every
Square Inch and the founder
of The Park Forum. I super
appreciate Bethanys 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
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 waythough not the only wayto be sancti-
fed, and I sure need that! (She laughs.) I also want to get
married for the same reason everyone doesto walk
through life with someone you love.
HOW ARE YOU SERVING THE LOCAL
CHURCH AND THE KINGDOM WITH YOUR
PORTION OF SINGLENESS?
M
ostly, I think my singleness lets me be present
in ways that are more diffcult 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 Gods faithfulness during that time, Ill say
this one thingbeing single was a gift. I didnt have
a family to coordinate or people who needed me at
home. I could drop everything and just show up. Three
of ustwo singles and one marriedorganized prob-
ably ffty of our friends to do everythingget fights
and hotels for their families, plan their meals, write the
funeral service, order fowers, and more. They didnt lift
a fnger; they just mourned. Wyatts funeral was the frst
one at Redeemers new building. We sang of Gods love
as tears ran down our faces. Im so glad I was single
that week.
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?
O
ver the years, Ive had many friends get married,
which has really served to demystify marriage for
me. Although Ive seen my married friends buy spa-
cious apartments, have several children,
and take amazing vacations, Ive also
walked with them through marital un-
faithfulness, loneliness, porn addiction,
narcissism, and divorce. Im so thankful
that theyve invited me into their lives to
show menot just tell methat mar-
riage wont solve all my problems. If
Christ isnt suffcient for me when Im
single, he wont be suffcient for me
when Im married.
WHAT IS THE DEEPEST
CHALLENGE TO YOU AS YOU
DO MINISTRY UNMARRIED?
I
think all Christians are involved in
ministry so I wouldnt say that sin-
gleness for me is any different than, say,
singleness for my friend who is a lawyer.
Singleness is singleness; its an equal op-
portunity employer when it comes to
its benefts 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, Im
the only one who has to live out my de-
cisions. No one is as vested in my life
as I am.
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 synon-
ymous 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, Im sure of Gods
goodness. As Paige Brown once wrote,
I may meet someone and walk down
the aisle in the next couple of years be-
cause 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