- I am single.
- I have been single for several years.
- I have no prospects for marriage in the immediate future.
- These are not complaints.
Unsurprisingly, two of the most common statements people have made as I’ve been introduced as a Pastor recently are:
- “You’re young!”
- “You’re not married?”
True, and true. Both of these facts put me slightly outside the norm for people’s idea of what a Pastor is. Some have even expressed concern at my ability to perform Pastoral duties adequately because of these two things, and I’ll be the first to say that their concern is understandable. However, as I quipped to the folks of New Castle FBC recently (somewhat tongue in cheek): “Paul was a single man, and Timothy was a young man. But they seemed to do alright!”
Seriously though, how should we think about these things? Well, I don’t claim to be an authority on the subject of singleness or something, but here’s what comes to my mind as I hear those statements and see the truth in them.
- God’s grace to me. — I haven’t finished my seminary degree. I didn’t study Bible in college. I was not actively, intentionally discipled in my early and teenage years by older, Godly men in the church. There is no earthly reason that I should be a Pastor yet…unless God, in His incomprehensibly abundant grace, has placed me here. Often times I think it’s easy to attribute a Pastor’s success to his impressive resume; to his extensive experience; to his solid background and education. When those are not options to fall back on, the only explanation is the unmerited grace of God. Such is the case with me. I am young, inexperienced, uneducated, unworthy…and yet God has called me. This is the only explanation. God has been gracious to me to call me into a ministry that is above my grasp, over my head, beyond my means, and so it is evident that it is HIM ALONE who is working. Nothing that happens for the good of His people can be attributed to me and my skills/qualifications. It must all be attributed to God, and His tremendous grace.
- God’s grace to the church. — And in that grace to me, God has given the church an opportunity to understand Him better, and to know Him more. The church cannot be caught up in amazement at my advanced degrees and impressive list of qualifications. When they look at me, the must simply see a young man. Therefore…their eyes (I desperately hope) will be turned to Christ instead of on me. They have the opportunity to see that Christ is ALWAYS the one who accomplishes His purposes, solely by His own power. Yes, some men have impressive resumes, and are incredibly skilled, but that is not what grows the Kingdom of Christ. GOD is the sole One through whom growth comes to the Kingdom of Christ. Now, don’t think that I disdain education and experience. I have a tremendous respect for men who put in the years of hard work to study and know their stuff. In fact, I plan on being one of those men. But all too often the degrees and experience distract the church from the one who is truly at work – Christ, and Christ alone. My youth is God’s gracious opportunity to show the church that He is the one who works, regardless of the qualifications of who He chooses to work through.
- Sanctification for me. — Let me be honest for a moment here: please don’t think I don’t desire to have a family. I do. Please don’t think I enjoy living by myself and having an empty house. I don’t. Please don’t think that I never get lonely. I do. However, I also rejoice at the opportunity to rest in Christ and be satisfied by him. Marriage is good! It is perhaps the best gift God has given to man. But Christ is better! To have the opportunity to learn this and come to truly believe this is a great gift of sanctification. Can I be satisfied as a single man? Yes, absolutely, because Jesus Christ is more than any wife. Moreover, just to give one practical example – being single helps me understand the lives of some of those in my church who go home to empty houses every night as well. God is sanctifying me in many ways through singleness, but one in particular is that I can be more compassionate to those who are alone.
- Sanctification for the church. — As with the understanding the church gains from me being young, they are also ministered to by my singleness. The biggest reason I can think of is this: I have much, MUCH more time to spend serving the church than does a man with a wife and children. I can work longer hours. I can take the time I would’ve given to a family and give it to the church. You might say, “Yes, but you need to be careful of that. Leave some time for yourself.” This may rub some of you the wrong way, but: I would rather completely pour myself out like a drink offering than neglect to minister to my people when I have the opportunity to do so. So long as I can live and breathe, I’ll give my life for the eternal life of my people.
There is obviously much more than could be said, but many others have addressed the issue of singleness from multiple viewpoints, and much more eloquently and capably than I have here. I simply wanted to give you my understanding of the singleness that God has placed me in.
Simply stated, my view of singleness is this: it is a great gift! For myself and for the church.
May God give me grace to use this time to the utmost for His glory, the good of His people, and the expansion of His Kingdom in the hearts of the world.