I am a regular listener to your show, and I am wondering if you have ever written or spoken about what to do in a church that seems to go out of its way to ignore single people. I was reading the two [blog] articles "Meeting Someone: the People You Know" and "Meeting Someone: the Places You Go," and my network is full of people who go to "let's-ignore-singles" church.
I have talked to two of the other single brothers at my church, and we have all come to an agreement that to continue to go to this church is asking to stay single. There really are no ladies under the age of 25 (we are all 30 and over). This is one of our church's worst kept secrets.
I asked two of the pastors what to do, and they basically said, "Pray a lot; try online dating; consider going to a sister church 40 miles down the road." No one will offer much more help than that. I talked to some of the girls about this, and they are discouraged because they cannot find guys in their age range. They do not want anything to do with us older guys.
I have considered leaving this church, but I am so heavily involved with the international ministry program (it is very small and leaving might kill it) that the pastors have asked me not to leave the church to find a wife. One even asked me to consider staying single because "I am more useful that way." I feel like the gospel advances on the backs of the single person. Married people are simply too busy to care or have time. So I wonder if this pastor is right.
What do you do with a church that you're heavily involved in but one that doesn't care about helping you get married and maybe would prefer you stay single?
You've asked about two things: What to do practically to improve marriage options and how to understand ministry during the season of singleness. We've written a good bit about both of these topics over the years.
As to the first issue, I think you'll find most of our writers would encourage you make whatever practical changes you need to in order to move yourself toward marriage, as long as you're within bounds of Scripture and what direction you sense the Lord is leading. And yes, that includes relocating if applicable.
Certainly there are seasons in one's life where God's calling makes other tasks more difficult, but God will not call anyone to two things at the same time that contradict one another. His very nature prevents it.
It isn't out of the question, though, that God would call you to a ministry where there are few marriage options and still call you to marriage. If God has both goals in your life at the same time, He will bring the solution. Such testimonies abound.
But as I read your letter, I don't get the sense that you have great passion for your current ministry work. You lament more about what your church doesn't have rather than show enthusiasm about the ministry opportunities it is affording you.
That could be an indication that God is preparing your heart for such a change. God wants us to serve from a bright and vibrant heart. If you are “plowing a field” simply because your marital status makes it convenient for your pastor, something is very wrong.
This doesn't mean that advancing the kingdom should always be easy; just ask the apostle Paul (and anyone else!). But it does mean that underneath whatever hardships a season brings there is a peace, a knowing, that this is the place and the purpose that God has for me in this moment.
And it is true that in different seasons of our life, we are more and less available for leading and participating in various church and ministry activities. Increased family needs, education obligations, work-related commitments, any number of things ebb and flow throughout our lives, having immediate impact on our availability for other activities.
The goal in every season, whether single or married, is to steward the 24 hours He gives us each day in such a way that it reflects our love for Him and is an act of worship. I appreciate your feeling about the gospel advancing on the backs of singles, but of course that isn't true, and I'm sure God grinned a little when you wrote that.
I won't venture a percentage of who is doing what for the gospel, but it advances because of Christ and the Spirit He sent to empower His Church, which is a giant mixture of children, singles, marrieds, widowed, etc. Once in a while a donkey is used. So no one certain group gets credit.
Here is what I think you need to do:
First, serve in ministry and Christian leadership when and where God leads you to do so, not merely because it is convenient for you in your current season of life.
Second, you need to take the advice that Candice has wisely given single women and begin praying boldly for a spouse. Pray boldly about where God would have you live and serve. Ask Him daily, and keep asking Him, to provide for you the ministry He has for you and the spouse He has for you.
God wants us to partner with Him in His plans and purposes for us. He doesn't just move us around like chess pieces. He tells us to ask and pray. If I were you, I would pray something like this:
Father, I desire to do Your will whatever and wherever it might be. I desire to serve from a bright and vibrant heart. I ask You to put me right where You want me, and I ask You to make my path straight and to lead me to the person who will partner together with me in life and ministry until death does us part. I know that You are a God who hears and answers the prayers of Your children and that You love me deeply and have only the very best planned for me.
Maybe God will lead you to move. If He does and if He wants the international ministry to continue, He will raise up new leadership. Maybe God will lead you to stay and to pursue marriage as well. If He does, He will handle both. It is certainly within His ability to do so.
And pray for anyone who would tell you not to marry so that he could use you to keep church programs running.
Copyright 2011 John Thomas. All rights reserved.