A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Your Marriage is Not a Ministry

Are you planning on getting married? What if I told you that a mate was already picked out for you? The mate picked out for you is physically unattractive and mean-spirited. What if I also told you that you cannot have kids but must instead adopt some children with severe behavioral problems? Do you still want to go for it? Why not?

For the married men reading this, what was the primary motivation that caused you to choose your wife? Did you think, "I am marrying this woman because she will help me teach alien sinners the Gospel"? Or did you think she would help you feed the hungry in Africa? Or was it something along the lines of, "She makes me very happy and I want to spend the rest of my life with her"?

You see, there is a very popular notion among Evangelicals that marriage represents some type of ministry or "kingdom work." We are told that unless you have a special gift as a single person for some notable work for Christ, you should get married. Marriage is your "vocation" or "calling" in this respect. Well, I've been wanting to write on this matter for some time because it is Pure. Utter. Poppycock. Your marriage is not a ministry. Period. Where did this idea come from? Luther? Calvin? I don't know, but it didn't come from the Bible. It's not there.

I covered some ground on this matter before in my book-length review of Debbie Maken's work Getting Serious About Getting Married, but let me repeat some things, if need be. The word "calling," "called," etc. is used in the Bible to refer to the Gospel invitation (Ephesians 4:1) or to a particular role in the Church (Romans 1:1). A "calling" is always made explicitly through a theophany or through the revealed Word of God. It is never used to describe a marital status.

Moreover, I want you to consider carefully the following verses because they most assuredly show some tension between our earthly loyalties (such as marriage and family) and our work in the kingdom of God ...

1. Luke 6:32 - "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." (NASB)

The Lord asks a rhetorical question here. We need to answer it. What credit is it to you to love those that love you? Sounds like the marriage and family bond to me.

2. 1 Tim. 5:18 - "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (NASB)

Why is the neglect of your family worse than what unbelievers do? Because even unbelievers take care of their own. Tell me, are unbelievers engaged in "kingdom work" or ministry for Christ simply because they got married and had kids? You may say, "But I'm raising my children up in the Lord." I certainly hope you are doing that, but teaching others the gospel and encouraging others to be Christlike is something incumbent upon all believers anyway. As it is, there are lots of single Christians who have probably had a hand in "raising your children in the Lord."

3. 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 - "But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided." (NASB)

Note what this verse says. It doesn't say the married man has less time for church work than the single man. It says the married man's interests are divided. Between what? One type of "kingdom work" and another? No. Between "the things of Lord," on one hand, and "things of the world, how may please his wife" on the other. Okay, class, which category does married life fall into in this passage? "The things of the Lord" or "the things of the world"? This is not hard.

Or maybe a preceding passage might help you ...

4. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 - "But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away."

Look at the vocabulary of that passage. It all has to do with the things of this life. And where do you find marriage? Right smack dab in middle of it, along with such things as buying and selling.

So, if marriage is not a ministry or "kingdom work," then what is it? Simple, it is a gift from God (Prov. 18:22, 19:14). It is an optional gift (1 Cor. 7:27). Rejoice in your gift if it's yours (Prov. 5:18)! I am happy for men and women who shower one another with love in marriage. I surely hope there will be more unions like that. Marriage is God's idea and it is a good thing. He is compassionate and generous to many, even though they don't deserve the good gifts they get. He is also understanding about the demands and troubles people face as a result of the gift of marriage (1 Cor. 7:28). There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married. If you're scripturally eligible to marry, you want to marry, and you found someone good to marry, then go ahead and receive God's gift to humanity.

"But," you might retort, "marriage is not just a gift. It's not a lifestyle option! It's a labor of love! It's tough being married with children! You have to sacrifice! It's a lot of hard work!" Indeed it is, but that's the price tag, my friend. You see, you get something back from the transaction. A high-profile lawyer can say, "I work so many more hours that clerk in the front office" but if the lawyer spends his money on a McMansion, a yacht, and "many luxury vacations" with his svelte trophy wife, then why he is whining?

You married men have to sacrifice? Well, the Christian bachelor has to sacrifice. He can't sit in a sofa with a wife he doesn't have and laugh about things. He can't go out with her. He can't share his sorrows and tears with her. He can't make passionate love with her. He can't turn to her in the night to take away his solitude. He can't look into the eyes of any children and call them his own. He can't dream about what his children will become. There will be no Christmas photographs with a multigenerational clan of people surrounding him in his old age. It's uncertain if anyone who cares will show up at his funeral.

Do you want his life, married man? Well, look at the divorced man without his wife and kids. Is he happy he's unattached? No? Then maybe you got a good thing. I don't know; you'll have to speak to that. But please don't make yourself out to be religious martyr because your kid threw up and you had to take her to the hospital. Life is hard for you, but hopefully you are getting something worthwhile and it's for .... you.

The notion that married people can prance around like a bunch of star-bellied sneetches and assume they are more sanctified then your ordinary Christian bachelor is the biggest crock of elephant dung to be dropped in the Cleveland Zoo. Let's look at it another way ... I'll tell you what all the parallel talk about Christian bachelors being "selfish" and "immature" suggests to me. It suggests some people are less than happy with their married lives and think the grass is greener on the other side. It makes me think that some people are speaking out of bitter envy. Why don't these people just come right out and say it: "You bachelors have too many freedoms. You have to be miserable like us!" It's like H. G. Wells said, "Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo."

When people say, "Marriage doesn't make you happy, it makes you holy," they ought to be slapped. God makes us holy, folks! That's what the Holy Spirit and the Christian life is for! If you don't think the Christian life is tough enough and sanctifying as it is, marriage or no marriage, then you got another thing coming (Luke 14:26). If marriage is not making you happy, don't construct some goofball theology around it and write books about your beliefs. If God didn't design marriage for people's happiness, then Proverbs 5:18-19 doesn't make sense:
Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. (NASB)
If marriage is not making you happy, then it's because you live in a fallen world, not because your marriage is functioning according to God's perfect plan. In the Garden of Eden, God did not say, "It's not good for the man to be alone. He is having too much fun. I'll give him a life of tedious responsibilities instead. I will a create someone suitable for not helping him." God made marriage to be a good thing, not a punishment.

When religious leaders talk about marriage as a "sanctifying work," basically spinning it as some arduous initiation into adulthood or a higher level of spirituality, it sounds a lot like a band-aid. That is, it's a band-aid to cover over the abysmal failures of marriages in the church. The whole "sanctifying" bit may be just some pep talk to make people feel better about their sorry lot. So instead of churches facing the epidemic of loveless marriages in their midst and asking what are the causes of the mess, we have the pseudo-spiritual psychobabble of positive thinking and semi-asceticism. "Is your married life a drag? Oh, but move beyond the thoughts of your happiness and realize this is the way the Lord is refining you!" Yeah, don't look at the underlying causes: wives with a post-feminist entitlement mentality, husbands who are insensitive ne'er-do-wells, children who are materialistic brats, employers who are tyrants, the lack of communal support for marriages, or a combination of these and other related factors. And whatever you do, don't look at the fact that some people just shut down their brains, think they need to marry no matter what, drink the Kool-Aid, and fall right into a Marriage 2.0 situation.

So is the married man's life harder than the Christian bachelor's? I don't know if that's necessarily true in all respects (Eccles. 4:9-12). Does the husband and father have to sacrifice and care for others? Yeah ... and the poor man can boast how he is being sanctified in his adversity the way a rich man isn't. But if the poor man's station in life is partially his own fault, then his boast sounds a little hollow. That's the way I view the boasting of some religious people about marriage.

"Oh, you just have no idea! The hassle of balancing work and family! The bills! The worry about what little Brittney and Carson are doing!" Yeah, the bachelor has no idea. Why should he? Does hardship give you a license to turn up your nose and look down on those who have it easier than you in some respects? What are you? Mother Theresa? The Patron Saint of Self-Mortifying Charity? Someone may tell me that married people care for others the way single people usually don't. Well, I can just as easily point out that single people can draw close to God in a way married people usually don't have to, especially in terms of dealing with rejection, isolation, alienation, loneliness, feelings of being unvalued and unloved, etc. What is this? A spiritual tobacco spitting contest? Anyway, it's not like a lot of people considering marriage have thought about doing without a spouse and living in some dirt poor country to carry on mission work. "Oh, but I don't feel a calling to do that." Yeah, you don't feel a calling, because you don't want to. Spare us the cloaking of your desires with prettified theology.

Granted, singleness has it privileges. The freedom. The choices. The fun things. The lack of worry. On it goes. Do you begrudge the carefree bachelor the perks and privileges of his station? What does that say about you? He picked door #2. You picked door #3. Everyone should be cool with the good things they got, and stop provoking and envying one another (Gal. 5:26). What's the problem? Why do we have to be anti-bachelor Nazis? Needless to say, it's time for people to get real. Some of the ones who embrace marriage, that is.

52 comments:

Kathy Farrelly said...

Great post Anakin.
As I said before, being married does not make one more selfless or godly or better than a single person.

And, as you so eloquently said:

"He picked door #2. You picked door #3. Everyone should be cool with the good things they got, and stop provoking and envying one another (Gal. 5:26).

Dani said...

Hey Anakin,

I agree with a lot of the sentiments you express in this post (I, in fact, expressed a lot of them myself in recent comment threads!).

However, I'm not sure I agree with your assertion that:

Your marriage is not a ministry. Period. Where did this idea come from? Luther? Calvin? I don't know, but it didn't come from the Bible. It's not there.

What is Christian ministry? I'd argue that it is essentially service of God's people, in God's name (and therefore that it is ultimately service of God also).

As such, I do believe that a Christian husband is called to minister to his wife, and a Christian wife to her husband (and both to their children if they have any). I think Ephesians 5 is a solid overarching model for the way in which this ought to happen.

You wrote:

...even unbelievers take care of their own. Tell me, are unbelievers engaged in "kingdom work" or ministry for Christ simply because they got married and had kids?

Of course not - I agree with you there. But I think the difference is that believers care for their own in the name of God and as part of their life of service to him and his people. And so I do think that a christian person is involved in kingdom work when they love, serve, provide and care for their spouse and family (even if their spouse/children are unbelievers since then their 'kingdom work' is one of evangelism cf 1 Peter 3:1 for example).

(Apologies if I have misunderstood you on this- I'm writing this in a hurry before I head out of the office for the day.)

TMink said...

I agree with most of what you say Anakin. As per usual. And since I see marriage and being single as different callings, I sure do not think that married folk are special.

But I do think that raising up children in the Lord is a ministry. Some people do this with their biological children, some with adoptive, some with both. But growing up in a believing home is a blessing to the family and to the people who will be blessed by believing children while they are young and after they grow up.

A special blessing, no. But similar to Dani, I think there are differing opportunities for ministry in the lives of believers who are called to marriage and those who are called to remain single. Off the top of my head, single believers have more time for prayer. Much of my prayer time is spent cooking, snuggling, getting the kids to do homework, and teaching. There are other opportunities that are inherent to either calling. Both are needed, so both are called.

In the end, I can agree that my marriage is not a ministry, but my family is.

Trey

Ken said...

Another thought-provoking piece. Thank you. As a married father who does not believe that everyone should get married, it is nice to have your regular voice of reason.

Marriage involving a follower of Christ is a ministry, but that is because EVERY BELIEVER is a minister in some sense. So, singleness is likewise part of a ministry. And, if nobody else, a marriage ministers to the children of that marriage.

Radio talk show host Frank Pastore (he's in L.A.), who I generally like, has been talking lately about the possibility of early marriage being the "solution" to the problem of fornication and other problems. (Pastore was 21 when he married a 16-year-old, though he was an atheist at the time.) Part of what he says is that old line that marriage matures men, and isn't it great that it forces people to work through conflict.

But the thing is, we all know mature men who have never been married, and very immature people who have been married a while (and probably doing an extremely poor job of it). So maybe marriage is one way in which SOME men find the motivating and framework to mature, but not all husbands will and not all men "need" marriage to do that.

I have no doubt that if I would have married young, I would have married the wrong woman and would have been absolutely miserable. Sure, I could have "chosen to be happy" anyway, but doing so would mainly have been self-delusion, escapism, avoidance, and extreme passiveness on my part. Is that any way to live? No, I'm glad I waited, even though I screwed up along the way.

TMink said...

Interesting point Ken. I married at 23, and was not in a good place when I did. I lacked maturity, obedience to God, and wisdom and was struggling emotionally as well. The marriage did not mature me.

Really what matured me was the fear of losing access to and contact with my daughter in the divorce from that marriage! Well, more accurately, that circumstance steered me back to my Saviour, and He matured me.

That fear drove me back to the Lord and I have stayed there since then.

But that of course is just me and my sin and folly. I wanted to remarry, more wisely the second time, in part because I wanted my daughter from my first marriage to see what a loving, Christian marriage looked like.

Praise God, she has seen that for 10 years, and now has three siblings as well.

I wonder what would have been different had I married differently or later, but I would not trade what God has accomplished for me and the surprising ways He has blessed me.

Trey

novaseeker said...

I think the idea that marriage matures men and helps people resolv conflict and so on applied to Marriage 1.0. It doesn't really apply to Marriage 2.0, due to the legal ease with which the marriage contract is ended, without much significant social opprobrium. Against that legal/social backdrop, pushing early marriage is a bad idea. Today there is not much support for people to stay in marriages if they are problematic in some way -- to work on them, if you will -- and even less so if they are younger due to the increased ease in terms of finding a replacement spouse (at least for women) at younger ages. The reality is that men and women are much less mature in their 20s than they were 30-50 years ago, and much less ready for marriage. You can't change that by forcing them to marry -- all you will be doing is creating a lot of folks who are divorced already by their late 20s, with all of the bitterness and emotional treadmarks that this entails.

As for how to deal with fornication by people in their 20s? Emphasize the teachings on the immorality of extra-marital sex. The idea that people simply are incapable of controlling themselves for a few years before marrying is deeply anti-Christian, it seems to me -- it's nothing other than giving up on some major teachings of the church in the area of sexual morality. The notion that we need to corral immature youngsters into marriages that run a higher than average risk of divorce in order to prevent sexual immorality from taking place has it rather backwards, it seems to me. Instead, emphasize the teachings on sexual continence before marriage, but don't force people who are not mature enough to make marriage work to marry young -- that's setting people up for problems down the road, in many cases.

J said...

This is a great post. Before I go further, I should note that I am speaking as a single, never married guy.

I think many men do not fulfill their calling because they are afraid of upsetting their wives. Example: God is calling a married man to an inner city ministry and his wife is scared of living in a dangerous place. So the marriage ends up taking priority over any ministry that God has called these men to.

This, honestly, really concerns me when I think about getting married. I want to marry, but I am afraid that the expectations of most Christian women will prevent me from serving God the way I believe he wants me to serve.

Should a man's marriage come before his calling (wonder what the apostles wives thought of their husbands' calling)?

What should a man do if he gets a calling, but his wife is unwilling to follow?

My last girlfriend felt strongly that marriage comes before ministry and that God will give both people the same calling. Problem is I've seen plenty of cases where a godly husband and wife are not on the same page.

Would love to hear more thoughts on this from guys, gals, married, unmarried...

J

Anonymous said...

"I think many men do not fulfill their calling because they are afraid of upsetting their wives. Example: God is calling a married man to an inner city ministry and his wife is scared of living in a dangerous place. So the marriage ends up taking priority over any ministry that God has called these men to.

This, honestly, really concerns me when I think about getting married. I want to marry, but I am afraid that the expectations of most Christian women will prevent me from serving God the way I believe he wants me to serve.

Should a man's marriage come before his calling (wonder what the apostles wives thought of their husbands' calling)?"

This really shouldn't be a problem, since there are more single women involved in these kind of missions than men.

Anonymous said...

"As for how to deal with fornication by people in their 20s? Emphasize the teachings on the immorality of extra-marital sex. The idea that people simply are incapable of controlling themselves for a few years before marrying is deeply anti-Christian, it seems to me -- it's nothing other than giving up on some major teachings of the church in the area of sexual morality."

Teaching "sex control" isn't enough. Look at abstinence programs. They're a joke.

TMink said...

Anon wrote: "Teaching "sex control" isn't enough. Look at abstinence programs. They're a joke.

I am not familiar with abstinence programs. Could you give us examples so we can see if we agree with you?

Thanks.

Trey

Christina said...

J - about the differing views of callings in a marriage...

My mother and I have been going through this a lot lately...pretty much, when I'm struggling, I call her and we work it out together.

The over-arching theme is that my husband is my husband and the Bible tells me to obey him and to submit to him.

When all is said and done (regardless of how my marriage came about or whether obedience to God protects me and makes my marriage better), God told me to obey because that is how the church is supposed to submit to Christ. So, a wife should submit to her husband's calling. That is what she has been commanded to do, so that is what she should do.

And, Anakin, in this regard, marriage CAN be a ministry - an example to younger people and couples on how a marriage looks.

It sure as hell isn't always easy - like when my son is screaming for me and my husband is telling me to let him cry it out. But dammit, I am supposed to obey. And obey, I will.

Dani said...

Novaseeker: As for how to deal with fornication by people in their 20s? Emphasize the teachings on the immorality of extra-marital sex. The idea that people simply are incapable of controlling themselves for a few years before marrying is deeply anti-Christian, it seems to me -- it's nothing other than giving up on some major teachings of the church in the area of sexual morality

Amen.

Anon (or not so Anon) : Teaching "sex control" isn't enough. Look at abstinence programs. They're a joke.

Abstinence programs may (or may not) be a joke. But are you suggesting that the grace of God is also an ineffective joke?

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11-13 ESV)

Niko said...

Hey! Just wait a second, does that mean my power lifting isn't a kingdom work? Do you mean I've been going through the pain of deep squats for my own pleasure? Surely serving my quads is a sacrifice.


Great post.

Anonymous said...

You are so right about the misuse of the word "calling", "called", etc. in regards to marriage. There's absolutely nothing in the scriptures that speaks of the "call" to marriage. Even "gift" has weak scriptural support. Marriage and singleness are always spoken of in the terms of human effort and volition (divine soveignty notwithstanding).

"Marriage as ministry" is also dubious, as are other overspiritualized notions of the purpose of marriage is to re-enact God's love for us, etc. Note in my previous posts, that I never equated raising children with "kingdom work", but rather compared the sacrifices in the way of time and effort expended by parents compared to that of single people, most of whom are not embroiled in "kingdom work" of comparible diligence (again, not suggesting that singles should "make work" to keep up with marrieds).

Sure, there are "Smug Marrieds" and those who go overboard with the language of holiness and sanctification when speaking of marriage. Indeed, teaching others the gospel and encouraging others to be Christlike is something incumbent upon all believers, married or single. However, isn't claiming that are "lots" of single Christians" who have had a hand in 'raising your children in the Lord' is also a bit smug? Few singles have all that much of a hand in raising other people's children, those hands most likely being those of other "gravel shovellers" who have driveways themselves. They may not compensate for lack of belief, but the returns that come with bearing familial burdens does not diminish that they are indeed gratification delaying sacrifices that benefit someone other than oneself, which leads to...

"You married men have to sacrifice? Well, the Christian bachelor has to sacrifice..."

This might be true of "eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom", but for ordinary "bachelors" to make such a boast, well, you said it best, Anakin: "if the poor man's station in life is partially his own fault, then his boast sounds a little hollow. That's the way I view the boasting of some religious people about marriage." I would say that your metaphor is more aptly applied to a Christian bachelor who would boastfully compare the "sacrifices" you've listed to those of family men! These things -- passionate love, children, someone to share with, etc. -- are not "sacrificed", but rather missed out on **by default**. If you are poor because you spent your money without saving any for your retirement, then you haven't "sacrificed" anything at all, but rather failed to invest. It's actually the antithesis of sacrifice.

"Someone may tell me that married people care for others the way single people usually don't. Well, I can just as easily point out that single people can draw close to God in a way married people usually don't have to"

But do they? Any more than married people, who (themselves or their children) may still at times experience rejection, isolation, alienation, loneliness, feelings of being unvalued and unloved, among things. Again, with few exceptions, modern Christian singles really don't live their lives much differently than secular singles -- for themselves, with mostly looser, more mutually convenient attachments and commitments. "Just me n' Jesus!" isn't what it's crack up to be.

"What is this? A spiritual tobacco spitting contest?"

Only when the "singleness is a gift equal to marriage" myth gets pushed beyond the ridiculous. Since the "GoS" myth, there has been this feelgood belief that all things are equal, all fates are equal, all sacrifices and commitments are equal, and everyone starts out with an equal share of everything. It's a modern notion and we need to get over it. The only thing that's equal is God's love for us.

Learner said...

Great post Anakin. The envy angle especially rang true to my ears. Though, I am not quite sure about the notion of "ministry". When you serve others is it not ministering to them?

I agree though that single people have opportunities to serve that married people may not. When my brother-in-law's father was gravely ill and dying this summer, as an unmarried and childless woman I was in a position to spend a lot of time at their house, cleaning, taking care of my little niece and running errands for them so my sister could be with her husband as his father was dying and during the funeral process. A married person would likely not have been free to do that.

Dani said...

Hey J

(To give you some context to my response below I'm a 31 year old single woman in full-time vocational ministry).

Should a man's marriage come before his calling (wonder what the apostles wives thought of their husb&s' calling)?

What should a man do if he gets a calling, but his wife is unwilling to follow?


It's a really difficult situation isn't it, & one, given my personal situation, I know all too well!

I think we ought to be careful creating an 'order' of priority/value between ministry & marriage. I don't think that God esteems the man who chooses to forgo marriage (permamently or temporarily) for the sake of ministry more than he esteems the man who chooses to marry such that his previous ministry plans are no longer viable.

I think this ultimately flows out of what we mean by ‘having a calling’. I’m a little hesitant when it comes to this language because of the connotations it seems to have – that God has one specific path set out for each individual & that it is our job to discern & stick to that path or else risk being out of step with God’s will & intention for our lives.

I firmly believe that God has given his people different gifts (1 Cor 12) & that he places them in different life situations such that there are some people who are much better capable of & suited for particular roles/jobs/ministries.

However, I don’t believe that each of us must discover our one true calling (in this sense) & not ever forsake it. For example, I believe that God has given me certain gifts that have led me to enter full-time ministry. If I was to meet a man who I came to love & he asked me to marry him, would I be turning my back on my ‘calling’ if I said yes? No I don’t think so. It would be something I would need to consider very carefully & prayerfully. But despite the fact that I spent a lot of time, money, resources & energy being trained for my ministry position & despite the fact that people have encouraged me to pursue vocational ministry, I don’t think that I am of more value to God doing what I do now than I would be as a married woman caring for my husband & my family.

(Of course all of those comments should be read in light of God’s sovereignty!)

Cont...

Dani said...

(Cont...)

Having said all of that

I am becoming more & more convinced that our evangelical christian culture does not take 1 Cor 7 seriously enough. The absolute norm for those in christian ministry (particularly men) is marriage. In my circles the number of single men in vocational ministry is miniscule (I’d estimate that it is around 100:1). This just seems so out of step with Paul’s explicit commendation of chosen singleness (I take it, for the sake of the kingdom because the time is short).

& so going back to your original comment:

I want to marry, but I am afraid that the expectations of most Christian women will prevent me from serving God the way I believe he wants me to serve.

I hear you brother (just replace ‘Christian women’ with ‘Christian men’ in my case!). & unfortunately I’m not sure there is an easy answer to your question. I think it is a matter of wisdom more than anything else. If a godly christian woman comes along & you are thinking about pursuing a relationship with her than I suspect you will have to ask yourself whether

- you are willing to forgo serving God in the specific ministry you mention in order to love & serve her (which will not mean you don’t have any sort of ministry outside your marriage/family!)

- you are willing to forgo pursuing a relationship with her (& perhaps ultimately with anyone) in order to pursue the specific ministry you mention.

It’s a tough decision. But I do actually agree with your last girlfriend – that if you choose to marry then your first ministry priority should be to your wife (& family) & that might mean making some tough calls. Which only goes to say that those of us in this position ought to be very careful & thoughtful from the very beginning of any potential relationship.

Sorry for my long ramble!

Anakin Niceguy said...

This might be true of "eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom", but for ordinary "bachelors" to make such a boast, well, you said it best, Anakin: "if the poor man's station in life is partially his own fault, then his boast sounds a little hollow. That's the way I view the boasting of some religious people about marriage." I would say that your metaphor is more aptly applied to a Christian bachelor who would boastfully compare the "sacrifices" you've listed to those of family men! These things -- passionate love, children, someone to share with, etc. -- are not "sacrificed", but rather missed out on **by default**.

Your argument would have some saliency if I was looking down on married people, stating their position was spiritually inferior, and talking about the tough things single people go through. Yeah, there are things single people miss out on **by default** and there are things married people miss out on **by default**. To spin one set of deprivations into a "sacrifice" but not another set is ridiculously inconsistent. Sorry, but people don't marry and have children just out of pure altruistic reasons. Even Debbie Maken called it "self-interest."

However, isn't claiming that are "lots" of single Christians" who have had a hand in 'raising your children in the Lord' is also a bit smug? Few singles have all that much of a hand in raising other people's children, those hands most likely being those of other "gravel shovellers" who have driveways themselves.

Oh really now? Is it only married people that teach bible classes in your church? Because I can tell you it's definitely not the case in the churches I've been in.

Only when the "singleness is a gift equal to marriage" myth gets pushed beyond the ridiculous.

You're right, it is ridiculous. To compare what married people do to exceptional services of single people who ARE active. So let's call married people less spiritual, less devout, less mature, less men and women then these singles who ARE active. And let's tell the INACTIVE singles if they really want to be mature, they need to avoid marriage and just be involved more in spectacular time consuming ministries!

I wrote:

"Someone may tell me that married people care for others the way single people usually don't. Well, I can just as easily point out that single people can draw close to God in a way married people usually don't have to."

But do they? Any more than married people, who (themselves or their children) may still at times experience rejection, isolation, alienation, loneliness, feelings of being unvalued and unloved, among things.

You are comparing the rejection, isolation, alientation, loneliness, feelings of being unvalued and unloved to single people?? Are you saying that married people overall have to struggle just as much or even close to what single people struggle with in this regard?

The HH is ready.

Amir Larijani said...

Marriage, in and of itself, neither makes one more mature nor more sanctified. Nor does it--in itself--bestow any special spiritual gifts. Nor does it suddenly give them special insight into how to tell those single people how to live.

The depravity monster is evident on both sides here. It's not like the singles are blasting the gates of hell with JDAMs.

Moreover, the married couples in the Church--even though real divorce rates are lower than advertised--aren't exactly that great shining beacon for Jesus either.

If husband and wife live out the Christian life through their marriage, then that breeds sanctification and maturity.

The same, however, is true regarding the single life.

Amir Larijani said...

However, isn't claiming that are "lots" of single Christians" who have had a hand in 'raising your children in the Lord' is also a bit smug? Few singles have all that much of a hand in raising other people's children, those hands most likely being those of other "gravel shovellers" who have driveways themselves.

Not at all. I've worked in children's ministry--with AWANA, and other related ministries--for about 10 years. It's not uncommon for singles to assist--even take lead teaching role--in children's classes.

In fact, at my current church, I am the primary teacher for the Wednesday night class. I also teach on Sundays, alternating with others week-by-week.

The person in charge of the children's department is...drumroll please...a single woman.

Oh, we have married folks in that department, too. But without the singles--like her and myself--the children's department would be very strapped for reliable teachers and workers.

Dani said...

However, isn't claiming that are "lots" of single Christians" who have had a hand in 'raising your children in the Lord' is also a bit smug? Few singles have all that much of a hand in raising other people's children, those hands most likely being those of other "gravel shovellers" who have driveways themselves.

All but one of the teachers/leaders in our children's classes are single. The majority of our youth group teachers/leaders are single (the few who are not single are very newly married)

NONE of the parents of those children/youth are involved in regular or ongoing leadership/teaching of those ministries. In fact it is school holidays here at the moment and with our regular (almost all single) leaders on break we have been struggling to find individuals to fill in for them. Believe me when I say that very few of the parents are jumping out of their pews to help out.

What is more, amongst just my group of close friends, 7 of them are full-time children's and/or youth pastors. 2 more are taking up similar positions at the beginning of next year. Want to know what the ratio breakdown of married to single is? 2:7. 2 married. 7 single.

I can confidently say that single christians play a very significant part in the teaching and edification of children within our evangelical churches here in Australia. There is very little "gravel shovelling" going on by other driveway owners when it comes to childrens/youth ministries in our churches.

TMink said...

Interesting points in these last few posts. My wife and I teach a Wednesday night class for 2nd graders and I think that the teacher ratio for the various classrooms is either close to 50/50 (married/singles) or slightly in favor of the singles.

I will get the accurate data as this is an intriguing point. Before you guys brought this up, I would have assumed that everyone was married.

What a silly and inaccurate assumption.

Trey

Anonymous said...

Even sillier still, to compare the commitments and sacrifices made by youth pastors and sunday school teachers (lol!) for the youth they work for, to those made by parents for their children.

Amir Larijani said...

Anon says: Even sillier still, to compare the commitments and sacrifices made by youth pastors and sunday school teachers (lol!) for the youth they work for, to those made by parents for their children.

Actually, if the parents were making the right Biblical sacrifices for their children, then their children wouldn't need youth ministers or Sunday school teachers or children's ministers to do their jobs for them.

Sadly, that is what "youth ministers" and "children's ministers" often find themselves doing: filling a role that the parents should be filling themselves.

You can usually tell who the good parents are: their kids are usually well-behaved, know the Bible pretty well, and enjoy being challenged. Oh, and the parents actually come to church.

Ever been to a church where none of the children present have parents who come to church?

Ever tried ministering to a youth group where none of the parents bother to come to church?

Some "sacrifice" those parents are making. LOL

Anonymous said...

"Your argument would have some saliency if I was looking down on married people, stating their position was spiritually inferior.

You may not be saying that married people are spiritually inferior, but you are saying that the sacrifices that they make for their families and others are generally no greater than the sacrifices single people make for others. And that is generally wrong, and the presence of some single people in youth ministry doesn't change that. It doesn't matter what the breakdown of married to single might be in youth ministry -- most people, married or single, aren't involved in youth ministry (let alone to such a degree that it constitutes a sacrifice).

"To compare what married people do to exceptional services of single people who ARE active."

But how many of those single people are serving in an "exceptional" capacity, that exceeds what married people do for their families and others in the body? Exceptional servers should get credit where credit is due. But not all single people serve to the same degree.

"talking about the tough things single people go through...To spin one set of deprivations into a "sacrifice" but not another set is ridiculously inconsistent. Sorry, but people don't marry and have children just out of pure altruistic reasons."

You could say that no mortal does anything only for "pure altruistic reasons", not even the great martyrs. It would be awfully cynical to diminish in this way the sacrifices made for other people, whether you're talking about what parents do for their children or exceptional singles who work in low paying ministry positions. In the latter case, you could say they are trying to curry favor with God. However either may benefit or suffer, they are serving others - to a magnitude that has few parallels in the lives of ordinary single single believers. Besides, how can you compare teaching sunday school weekly with the contributions of a parent? It is disingenous not to recognize the difference in scale.

"You are comparing the rejection, isolation, alientation, loneliness, feelings of being unvalued and unloved to single people?"

As I said in yesterday's post, nothing is ever "equal". And there may be ways that parents suffer more (esp. when their kids suffer) But suffering alone does not mean sacrifice, especially when compared to sacrifice that is of consequence to others.

Amir Larijani said...

Anakin: That pic of the couple is one of the funniest I've seen. If I see a couple like that in my church, I will be outrunning Usain Bolt to get out of there.

Dani said...

Even sillier still, to compare the commitments and sacrifices made by youth pastors and sunday school teachers (lol!)

I'm honestly flummoxed that anyone would scoff or laugh at any individual's service and ministry to others. So this is a question I am asking in all seriousness - Why did you scoff at the 'commitments and sacrifices' made by youth pastors and sunday school teachers like that (with your 'lol')?


for the youth they work for

I, and my friends who are in vocational ministry, do not work for those we serve in the way you imply... as if we are beholden to them as our bosses. We are not paid a wage or a salary. We are paid a stipend so that we are able to spend our time doing ministry and not working in order to support ourselves. I serve the people I minister to and with. I do not work for them.

So let's talk about the sacrifices that single people in ministry have made then.

Most of us have given up high paying secular jobs which we had trained and studied for for years. We have given up job security and large salaries and, for many of ys, the possibility of ever owning our own home.

Many of us have moved from our homes interstate or even overseas to be study and be trained at theological college. We have left behind family and friends in doing so. We have given up 3-4 years of our lives in hard study (even though many find academic study very difficult and draining). And we have paid for the privilege. When finishing college most of us owe about $50 000 in tuition.

And then we have to move all over again to go where there are jobs for single men and women in ministry (few and far between let me tell you). So we pack our bags and leave behind friends and loved ones (again) and move somewhere new where we have to build relationships from scratch (again).

And let's not forget that most of us would like to be married and have children. But when we finish college and start working in full-time ministry we know what the likelyhood of that happening now is. Almost zero.

And we are reminded of our what is not ours day in and day out as we work in ministry teams where we are the only single person and as we serve amongst a majority of married couples and minister to their kids and not our own.

Our sacrifices and committments are real. AND WE MAKE THEM ALL WILLINGLY. We knew what we were getting into when we embarked on the path to full-time ministry. We knew what we were giving up - most heartbreakingly for some, the possibility of having their own spouse and family. We knew it all and we still did it willingly.

We don't feel like we ought to be congratulated for our sacrifices. Not at all. We are not martyrs. Making these sacrifices is a privilege because ministry is a privilege.

But neither do we feel like we ought to be scoffed at or laughed at or ridiculed with a passive aggressive 'lol'.

Catwoman, please, please stop minimising, scoffing and laughing at and downplaying the service of godly single men and women (whoever they might be). Our ministry is as valuable in God's sight as that of our married counterparts. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ, we are serving alongside you in the kingdom and one day we will stand with you at the foot of the heavenly throne and God will look at us as well when he says 'Good and faithful servant'.

TMink said...

Actually, if the parents were making the right Biblical sacrifices for their children, then their children wouldn't need youth ministers or Sunday school teachers or children's ministers to do their jobs for them.

Youth ministers and Sunday School teachers cannot replace inattentive or unsaved parents. Non-parental Christian adults can be VERY helpful in a child's and especially a teenager's life. Communing with a Christian community is a huge help.

You can usually tell who the good parents are: their kids are usually well-behaved, know the Bible pretty well, and enjoy being challenged. Oh, and the parents actually come to church.

I completely agree and appreciate the addition of "usually." Some kids are bigger challenges than others.

Ever been to a church where none of the children present have parents who come to church?
Ever tried ministering to a youth group where none of the parents bother to come to church?


No. It sounds awful and demoralizing for the SS teachers and youth minister.

It sounds like being a public school teacher.

Trey

Anakin Niceguy said...

You may not be saying that married people are spiritually inferior, but you are saying that the sacrifices that they make for their families and others are generally no greater than the sacrifices single people make for others.

I never meant to say that. I am not trying to minimize the heavy sacrifices parents make. They need our acknowledgment and support in that matter. What I questioning is whether or not they have a right to use their sacrifices to cast aspersions on single people who don't want the hardships of the married life. Because if we are going to open that can of worms, then I can work a similar angle on exceptional people who sacrificed a lot more than most married Christians in order to cast aspersions on married people.

What I am saying is let's not throw stones in glass houses. This fracas got started because some marriage mandate folks decided that casual singleness was unspiritual and that people need to get married to be on a higher spiritual plane. The marriage mandators also seem to indicate that men who are single for casual reasons are deficient in their manhood. At least that's how I take their statements. And I say in response that marriage is should be into voluntarily and not out of some weird sense of religious duty, per se. I find so scriptural support for the latter sentiment.

When Paul gave the Corinthians a reason for not marrying, it wasn't "some of you gifted for exceptional service." It was, "I want you to be free from concern" (1 Cor. 7:32). It's a very basic mundane reason for not getting married. No talk of a high-falutin' irrevocable calling. No talk of being marked for marriage or for singleness. Just some practical pastoral advice that was non-binding (1 Cor. 7:27-28).

Anonymous said...

"I'm honestly flummoxed that anyone would scoff or laugh at any individual's service and ministry to others. So this is a question I am asking in all seriousness - Why did you scoff at the 'commitments and sacrifices' made by youth pastors and sunday school teachers like that (with your 'lol')?"

Did I scoff at youth pastors or sunday school teachers? No, I certainly did not, I was laughing at a silly comparison that presumes equality. You made a mischaracterization what was said -- and then used it as an opportunity to be self-righteous.

Most youth pastors and sunday school teachers are ***not*** in the kind of "vocational ministry" that you - if we take you at your boastful word - seemed to have martyred yourself for. But if you want the accolades, here's what I said about singles who make exceptional (ie. vocational) service: "Exceptional servers should get credit where credit is due".

"to go where there are jobs for single men and women in ministry (few and far between let me tell you)...And let's not forget that most of us would like to be married and have children. But when we finish college and start working in full-time ministry we know what the likelyhood of that happening now is. Almost zero...And we are reminded of our what is not ours day in and day out as we work in ministry teams where we are the only single person and as we serve amongst a majority of married couples"

Here you contradict yourself. You say jobs for single men and women in ministry are "few and far between" and talk of having to serve on ministry teams "amongst a majority of married couples", after having said the following about singles serving in youth ministry earlier in this thread:

"All but one of the teachers/leaders in our children's classes are single. The majority of our youth group teachers/leaders are single (the few who are not single are very newly married)...What is more, amongst just my group of close friends, 7 of them are full-time children's and/or youth pastors. 2 more are taking up similar positions at the beginning of next year. Want to know what the ratio breakdown of married to single is? 2:7. 2 married. 7 single...I can confidently say that single christians play a very significant part in the teaching and edification of children within our evangelical churches here in Australia."

So which is it?

And if what you're saying is true, "that most of us would like to get married and have children" but think your odds are "almost zero", after finishing college and start working in full-time ministry, then why don't you do yourself and your peers a favor and quit complaining about evangelical culture not taking 1 Cor 7 "seriously enough" and how "out of step" the norm of marriage (as you say, what most people want) is with Paul’s "explicit commendation of chosen singleness", when in fact, Paul commended marriage for those who want it.

Dani said...

if we take you at your boastful word - seemed to have martyred yourself for. But if you want the accolades

Funny how you accuse me of the very thing I explicitly said I was not doing in my previous post. I am not boasting in anything. Nor do I want accolades. I said that very clearly. Ironically I would argue that it is you who seems to believe that ministry and service should be rewarded with credit and accolades. ("Exceptional servers should get credit where credit is due"). I believe no such thing. I await an eternal inheritance not an earthly reward of accolades.

My post was intended to point out the reality of the sacrifices that single people in vocational ministry have to make. To speak the truth in this is not a matter of boasting. It is a matter of conveying facts. Just as it would be were I to list the sacrifices that our married counterparts in ministry have had to make.

You made the generalisation that the suffering of single people is not equivalent to sacrifice 'that is of consequence to others'. I explained to you all the ways in which dear friends of mine have sacrificed (with great consequence for others) and still you seek to denigrate their ministry as something which could never be as precious in God's sight as parenthood.


So which is it?

It is both.

1) Full-time positions for single christians are few and far between. Single men find it difficult because most churches seem to want a married man with a family (what's more the single man in ministry is often regarded with some suspicion). On the other hand most women who enter vocational ministry are single. The two main ministry opportunities for women is either women's or children's ministry. Hence there is a large number of single women working as children's workers/pastors (therefore my 2:7 ratio).

2) When it comes to children's classes/youth group etc, whilst some of our churches have a children/youth pastor co-ordinating and overseeing these ministries, they need a small army of people to assist them in making it happen. This army is overwhelmingly made up of single men and women - just as I wrote in a previous post.

So those two things are simultaneously true and factual.

do yourself and your peers a favor and quit complaining about evangelical culture not taking 1 Cor 7 "seriously enough" and how "out of step" the norm of marriage (as you say, what most people want) is with Paul’s "explicit commendation of chosen singleness", when in fact, Paul commended marriage for those who want it.

I'm not getting into another discussion with you about 1 Cor 7 because the endeavour is fruitless. My exegesis and understanding of the passage has been made clear in previous threads and so if anyone else is interested in my apparent 'complaining' they are better served to read my own words rather than your misrepresentation of them.

You didn't respond to my last words in my previous post and so I will post them again-

Catwoman, please, please stop minimising, scoffing and laughing at and downplaying the service of godly single men and women (whoever they might be). Our ministry is as valuable in God's sight as that of our married counterparts. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ, we are serving alongside you in the kingdom and one day we will stand with you at the foot of the heavenly throne and God will look at us as well when he says 'Good and faithful servant'.

Anonymous said...

"What I questioning is whether or not they have a right to use their sacrifices to cast aspersions on single people who don't want the hardships of the married life."

Fair enough -- I recoil at maternal/paternal triumphalism as much as you do, Anakin. Although I think "aspersions" are cast more on singleness as a state, than "the single" him/herself. Don't you think even the "marriage mandate" people get it that it's tougher for some people to marry than others? And tougher now than it's ever been? And marriage should be entered into voluntarily and that much of the population that doesn't want to marry probably has good reasons whether it's a hermetic disposition, a strong service mission, or even irresolvable issues of some kind? The "marriage mandators" are probably a lot more flexible, realistic and compassionate than the moniker you've given them implies.

"This fracas got started because some marriage mandate folks decided that casual singleness was unspiritual and that people need to get married to be on a higher spiritual plane."

Singleness = unspiritual, marriage = "higher spiritual plane"? I don't think the "sanctification" process was ever protrayed as being that direct! I think they look at it more in terms of character building opportunities that go along with the sacrifices and responsibities in caregiving for children, as well as having a significant role to play as part of the larger community of families.

I don't think the "fracas" started over that, as much as the realization that the modern church had been talking up the "gift of singleness" only to find that most singles were not reaching that nirvana of contentment, purity, holy service. We had to get back to the reality that over time, those things are the gifted exception, not the rule.

And we had to own up to the costs of saying that "singleness is a gift equal to marriage", when it isn't. If you stay single you may find yourself in a much more humble place in your church community than you might have expected. No teaching on "inclusiveness" can reduce the significance of patriarchy and matriarchy in any culture, as the focus shifts to what and who is emerging in the next generation. As an aunt I can say that it is by far a much lesser role than that of a mother. And of course, those walking the path of sacrifice and responsibility will always have much greater stature than those who walk the path of freedom and existential suffering.

Anonymous said...

"Funny how you accuse me of the very thing I explicitly said I was not doing in my previous post."

Excactly. The lady doth protest too much, me thinkest.

"Ironically I would argue that it is you who seems to believe that ministry and service should be rewarded with credit and accolades. ("Exceptional servers should get credit where credit is due")."

Well yes, giving credit where credit is due, when "speaking the truth" and "conveying facts" about "the reality of the sacrifices that single people in vocational ministry have to make". You have a problem with that? Such drama.

"You made the generalisation that the suffering of single people is not equivalent to sacrifice 'that is of consequence to others'. I explained to you all the ways in which dear friends of mine have sacrificed (with great consequence for others) and still you seek to denigrate their ministry as something which could never be as precious in God's sight as parenthood."

Now you're not only being dramatic, Dani, but bearing false witness. I ***never*** denigrated anyone's ministry, or treated it as "something which could never be as precious in God's sight as parenthood". Especially for those doing exceptional vocational ministry, which I go out of my way to acknowledge in several places on this thread.

There's a difference between someone (like you and your friends) doing long term, low paying, sacrificial ministry work and someone who volunteers on a weekly sunday school team. Or works for a couple of years as a youth pastor or missionary, like a gap year thing. Or makes a decent living as a youth pastor at a megachurch. Yes, God may value every sacrifice we make, however big or small, but not all sacrifices are of the same magnitude. It would just as silly to comparing the smaller sacrifices of latter three to the exceptional sacrifices of vocational ministry, as it would be to those of marriage.

There, does that make things any clearer? If not, cut the dramatics and you'll see that no one is "minimising, scoffing and laughing at and downplaying the service of godly single men and women". Quite the opposite, actually. It's called putting things in perspective.

Dani said...

Excactly. The lady doth protest too much, me thinkest.

I’m sorry that I have lead you to believe that I am looking for accolades from you or anyone else. I can only insist once again that is not the case and ask you, as a christian sister, to believe that I am telling the truth and not lying to you.

I’d also like to clarify that I do not consider myself (or anyone in full-time ministry) as people doing something exceptional. However, Anakin has already commented on this notion of ‘exceptional’ being (mis)read into 1 Cor 7 and so I won’t rehash it here.

Now you're not only being dramatic, Dani, but bearing false witness. I ***never*** denigrated anyone's ministry, or treated it as "something which could never be as precious in God's sight as parenthood".

Again, I apologise if I have misrepresented your position on this. That was not my intention. Perhaps denigrated was too strong a word and so I apologise for that. However, having read back over the posts on this thread I can’t help but continue to think that you have belittled and downplayed the diligent ministry and service of godly, everyday, single Christians (for reasons I outline below). You wrote:

but rather compared the sacrifices in the way of time and effort expended by parents compared to that of single people, most of whom are not embroiled in "kingdom work" of comparible diligence

You claim that married people are by default more invested in “kingdom work” than single people (except for the ‘exceptional few’). The measurement of diligence you use seems to be the inevitable demand of time, energy, resources and finances that a spouse and/or children make on the married Christian.

But when the Bible speaks about what it means for us to live for the kingdom it very rarely speaks directly at the role of parents and spouses. Nor does it equate a more diligent kingdom work with the marriage/family relationship than any other relationship.

Indeed, there are a number of important passages (Eph 5, 1 Peter 3, Titus etc) which address how we are to live as Christ’s disciples in a whole range of different relationships. But overwhelmingly when the NT talks about how we ought to live in light of the kingdom the measurement of our diligence is not how much time/energy/resources we invest into particular relationships but how we go about doing it(in whatever relationship that might be) as well as our motivation for doing it.

God’s word speaks over and over again about the mark of a kingdom-hearted person being things such as: maturity; ongoing sanctification; godliness in thought, word and deed; love; gentleness; servant-heartedness; righteousness; faithfulness; thankfulness; prayerfulness; gospel witness; self-control; goodness and so on.

According to God’s word these are the marks of someone who is diligent in their kingdom-service. God doesn’t say that he considers those who are married and have children as, by default, more diligent in kingdom work. (Indeed, dare I bring up this passage again, 1 Cor 7:32-35 seems to say something very different to that).

Both married and single people display the marks of diligent kingdom service to varying degrees. Whilst there are undoubtedly many, many single Christians who could and should be more kingdom-hearted, the same can also be said of many, many married Christians.

Having a family and being kingdom-hearted are not automatically synonymous or simultaneous.

Christina said...

Anakin,

Marriage may not be a Ministry, but it sure as hell is an example - of the church's relationship to Christ.

Have you read Hosea or Ephesians recently? Though Hosea is a very special case, his marriage was used as an example of God's love for his people and his people's unfailing ability to seek other love. And Ephesians makes it quite clear why relationships between husbands and wives are what they are.

However, PARENTHOOD, CHILDHOOD (being someone's child), OWNING SLAVES, and BEING A SLAVE are all dictated in those verses to - dictated to be examples of God's relationship to his church.

I don't want to over-glorify marriage...and I don't want to under-appreciate singleness, but I'm tired of what sounds like "anti-marriage" tripe from this blog.

I wanted marriage because I was "called" to it - make of that what you will. I didn't think my skill set and temperament was much designed for a whole lot else EXCEPT marriage and motherhood. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't care. I struggled with trying to find another calling for 25 years and finally, I feel like I'm doing what I was designed to do.

Anonymous said...

"You claim that married people are by default more invested in “kingdom work” than single people (except for the ‘exceptional few’). The measurement of diligence you use seems to be the inevitable demand of time, energy, resources and finances that a spouse and/or children make on the married Christian."

Nope. I did NOT call marriage or family life "kingdom work". I simply challenged the idea that the idea that singles in the church are typically involved in kingdom work that involves as much sacrifice for others as parenting. This may be the case for some, but certainly not most.

"belittled and downplayed the diligent ministry and service of godly, everyday, single Christians"

So, by refusing to consider weekly sunday school teaching and volunteering for youth outings, and other such service of godly, everyday single Christians as not being equal in sacrifice to full time parenting, then I have ""belittled and downplayed" their ministry?

When you talk about singles going into ministry work that involves "giving up high paying secular jobs with job security and large salaries, the possibility of ever owning our own home...moved from our homes for theological college, owe about $50 000 in tuition...move all over again to go where there are jobs" -- those ARE exceptional sacrifices, made by only a few. To say, oh well, what these few are doing is no more "diligent" than the greater lot that does only weekly (if any)volunteers work, because, after all, our diligence is not how much time/energy/resources we invest into particular relationships but our "motivation" and "how we go about doing it"???? You tell me -- who's doing the belittling and downplaying now?

"God’s word speaks over and over again about the mark of a kingdom-hearted person being things such as: maturity; ongoing sanctification; godliness in thought, word and deed; love; gentleness; servant-heartedness; righteousness; faithfulness; thankfulness; prayerfulness; gospel witness; self-control; goodness and so on...According to God’s word these are the marks of someone who is diligent in their kingdom-service."

That's quite a list, Dani, but it's hardly comprehensive.

You seem more comfortable keeping these things in the abstract, without any form that can be qualified or quantified in real life. What do you think "godliness in thought, word, and deed" actually looks like? Don't you think that some people can be more servant-hearted or do more gospel witness than others? The scriptures give plenty of practical examples of diligence and how it is manifested, suggesting that it can be qualified and quantified to quite an extent -- we have the ten virgins, the ten talents, and of course "you reap what you sow".

Diligence is so much more than just good intentions and how you go about doing something.

"Both married and single people display the marks of diligent kingdom service to varying degrees."

This was never in dispute. The concern is that without marriage, the single is without the unparalleled responsibilities and commitments **to others** entailed in family life that ordinarily contribute to their maturity and stature as an adult. Sacrificial service to others, whether through parenting or kingdom service, is the transformative feature, regardless of secondary gains in the long run.

Sacrifices made for the self can also build character(such as delayed gratification to complete higher education or succeed at a career), as well as the intermittent sacrifices made for sake of friendship and fellowship. But in the lives of most single people, they do not loom larger than sacrifices made by parents for their children. And with larger numbers of people staying single for longer, the sacrificial, maturational benefits of marriage are being eroded from our society.

Anakin Niceguy said...

Anonymous,

(I don't know why I continue to call you this as I am pretty certain I know who you are. LOL)

I really believe that we may be talking past each other on our main concerns. It seems your takeaway from Maken and others is ...

1) Singleness isn't working for a lot of people. We need to stop presuming that God has a close fist on the issue of marriage and only begrudgingly gives it to the super-worthy. We need to avoid talk of the predicament of singles being equated with a "gift" like prophecy or a "calling" like called to being apostle.

My takeaway from the marriage mandators is ...

2) Unless you have a calling to some exceptional ministry, then you must get married. Otherwise you are spiritually immature and/or sinning. That is especially goes for you men; your are primarily responsible for this mess.

So your focus on message #1, and mine is on message #2. Now, could it be that we are BOTH right? In other words, the marriage mandators are saying some valid things, but they are also saying some things they need to retract?

I agree with you about the GoS talk! I thought I made that clear in the past. Did you think otherwise? I stated on my older blog in response to a Boundless writer that marriage/singleness generally falls under God's permissive will, although their are some moral provisions (one man/one woman for life, etc.). Why should we accept either extreme? Why either GoS or Marriage Mandate?

Dani said...

On one hand:

Nope. I did NOT call marriage or family life "kingdom work"

On the other:

So, by refusing to consider [...] such service of godly, everyday single Christians as not being equal in sacrifice to full time parenting, then I have ""belittled and downplayed" their ministry?

If you are not saying that Christian marriage/family life is automatically considered ‘kingdom-work’, then why do you find what is clearly kingdom-work as unequal or lacking in comparable diligence as parenthood?

That's quite a list, Dani, but it's hardly comprehensive.

I didn’t claim that it was – hence my words and so on.

You seem more comfortable keeping these things in the abstract, without any form that can be qualified or quantified in real life.

No, I am more comfortable keeping things biblical. You keep making assertions about the higher value (presumably in God’s sight) of the quantifiable/qualifiable ‘sacrifice’ of the married person and the parent. Could you please help me to understand where in Scripture you ascertain this from?

Don't you think that some people can be more servant-hearted or do more gospel witness than others?

Of course I do. I just deny the fact that the ‘more and less’ is as intrinsically connected to marriage and singleness as you do. Although, given 1 Cor 7 perhaps I should be more persuaded of it - just in the complete opposite way to you.

“The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”(1Cor 7:32-35 ESV)


The concern is that without marriage, the single is without the unparalleled responsibilities and commitments **to others** entailed in family life

No. They are not. They are without the unparalleled concentrated responsibilities and commitments to others that is entailed in family life. But they are still caught up in a myriad of other responsibilities and commitments to others – firstly and foremostly to local manifestation of the body of Christ and also to the wider community in which the live, work and rest. But you see this merely as ‘relationship-lite’ – a label which is as hurtful as it is belittling and inaccurate.

...that ordinarily contribute to their maturity and stature as an adult. Sacrificial service to others, whether through parenting or kingdom service, is the transformative feature.

My unbelieving father has sacrificed for me every day of my life. Yes, in doing so he has matured as an adult male. But in what sense is that transformation precious in God’s sight? It’s not. Because when God looks upon my ‘mature adult’ father, tragically he sees a ‘mature adult’ who is ultimately guilty sinner.

The only transformation that truly matters is the ongoing transformation of those who have been justified by Christ into his likeness. And that happens not through what we busy ourselves doing but through the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16, 1 Cor 6:11, 2 Thess 2:13, 1 Pet 1:2). Our sanctification is then manifested firstly and foremostly in our relationship with God and then our relationships with others. Sacrifical service is indeed a practical outworking of our transformation, and one of the arenas in which it takes place, but it is not the means to it.

Learner said...

It seems your takeaway from Maken and others is ...

1) Singleness isn't working for a lot of people. We need to stop presuming that God has a close fist on the issue of marriage and only begrudgingly gives it to the super-worthy. We need to avoid talk of the predicament of singles being equated with a "gift" like prophecy or a "calling" like called to being apostle.

My takeaway from the marriage mandators is ...

2) Unless you have a calling to some exceptional ministry, then you must get married. Otherwise you are spiritually immature and/or sinning. That is especially goes for you men; your are primarily responsible for this mess.


I agree Anakin, I think you are BOTH right about these takeaway messages. I imagine, perhaps wrongly, that the vast majority of people who comment here would agree too.

LadyElaine said...

I agree with Learner on this.

dani said...

Ditto

Chelsey said...

I think that many of the points in this article have been well-discussed, so I'm going to address the one that caught my eye first.

Regarding marriage not being a ministry, I wonder if maybe we're arguing over semantics. No, there isn't a verse in the Bible that states that our marriage is a ministry, but just like an individual Christian can minister to others by exemplifying the commands in Romans 12, so too can a married couple be a ministry to others by living by what God says in Ephesians 5. In a culture that has cheapened and blasphemed the covenant of marriage, two Christians who are committed to each other can be a powerful statement of who God is.

My husband and I help with a campus ministry at a local college, and the campus pastor has said to us several times that we should see our marriage as a ministry to the college students because we're both 23 and barely out of college ourselves, and we can show them (Lord willing) what it looks like to love Jesus and be married in your early 20s. This isn't all our marriage is; but we do recognize that in certain contexts and to certain people, it is a ministry.

That said, is it a greater ministry than a single person can have? Of course not. But it is a different ministry than a single person can have. I'm five months pregnant right now, and it's really not feasible for me to stay out late with the college girls. And because I work full-time and need to care for my husband, my evenings are pretty full. But how great is the ministry of a single woman who has the freedom to invest her life in these girls! It is something that I no longer have and will most likely never have again.

The other thing I wanted to address was the comment criticizing the statement, "Marriage is not about being happy; it's about being holy." Of course God is the one who makes us holy, but it's quite clear in Scripture that God ordains events and circumstances in our lives to make us that way (Romans 8:28ff). So I think that God does use marriage to make married people holy, and in a different way he uses singleness to make single people holy. I certainly know many older single ladies at my church who are far, far holier than I am, and they have never been married. God has sanctified them in ways that I will probably never know, and as a result they have experiences and wisdom that I will never have. But at the same time, I'm being made holy through my relationship with my husband. Does that mean I'm never happy? Of course not. My husband's joy and sense of humor was what attracted me to him in the first place, and he continues to make me happy. But I can also see how my relationship with him has been used of God to make me see the sin and selfishness in my own heart.

Well, that's probably enough. I just stumbled upon this blog while searching for something on Google and will be adding it to Google Reader.

Anonymous said...

"If you are not saying that Christian marriage/family life is automatically considered ‘kingdom-work’, then why do you find what is clearly kingdom-work as unequal or lacking in comparable diligence as parenthood?"

Sure, there are singles who devote more hours of their week to kingdom work and expend more energy caring for others as parents do for their children. You seem to think these singles are the rule, I would reckon they are the exception. What's more, if you really want to look at kingdom work outside the family, there's probably a greater percentage of married people today devoting more time to that, too.

"You keep making assertions about the higher value (presumably in God’s sight) of the quantifiable/qualifiable ‘sacrifice’ of the married person and the parent. Could you please help me to understand where in Scripture you ascertain this from?"

Dani, you keep trying spin my position as one that assumes that married people are more value "in God's sight". All I have done is pose an earthly question about whether single people are involved to the same degree in the kinds of sacrificial activities for others that shape maturity as married people. You refuse to do the math because you wouldn't like the answer you'd get.

"Don't you think that some people can be more servant-hearted or do more gospel witness than others?

Of course I do. I just deny the fact that the ‘more and less’ is as intrinsically connected to marriage and singleness as you do."

No, I did not say that married people are more "servant-hearted" or do more gospel witness, but way to twist my words anyhow, Dani. But here's where your theological pride really glares hard:

"Although, given 1 Cor 7 perhaps I should be more persuaded of it - just in the complete opposite way to you."

So that's where you're coming from. You think that just because Paul suggested that an unmarried person can be more anxious about things of the Lord, you assume that they are. You've heard too much "gift of singleness" flattery, and so has an entirely generation of Christian singles -- and now it's gone to your heads.

"They are without the unparalleled concentrated responsibilities and commitments to others that is entailed in family life. But they are still caught up in a myriad of other responsibilities and commitments to others"

Nope. Not buying it. Married people have just as many friends, colleagues, brothers and sisters in the Lord, with depth of commitment and responsibility no lesser on average than those of singles.

"My unbelieving father has sacrificed for me every day of my life. Yes, in doing so he has matured as an adult male. But in what sense is that transformation precious in God’s sight? It’s not. Because when God looks upon my ‘mature adult’ father, tragically he sees a ‘mature adult’ who is ultimately guilty sinner."

You have a lot of nerve to reckon God's perception and judgement, Dani.

"The only transformation that truly matters is the ongoing transformation of those who have been justified by Christ into his likeness. And that happens not through what we busy ourselves doing but through the Holy Spirit"

Even then, it is quite possible to immerse yourself with kingdom work, and live a reasonably obedient life as a single, but still develop few skills at maturely relating to people of both sexes, such that you might have deeper relationships, perhaps leading to marriage and family life.

Anonymous said...

"So your focus on message #1, and mine is on message #2. Now, could it be that we are BOTH right? In other words, the marriage mandators are saying some valid things, but they are also saying some things they need to retract?

I agree with you about the GoS talk! I thought I made that clear in the past. Did you think otherwise?...Why should we accept either extreme? Why either GoS or Marriage Mandate?"

Well, well, could it be that Anakin and Catwoman may have actually reached some consensus on something? Yes, I think we are both right on a lot of things. And I do get it (and appreciate) that you're not "pro-GoS".

I also hope that you get it that I'm not entirely "marriage mandate" either. But I don't believe that Boundless et al is as "mandatory" in their stance on marriage as you think they are, since what they say sounds more like "should" than "must", and I've never heard them say that you're "sinning" if you don't get married. What's more they acknowledge that some people do have challenges that might contraindicate their idea of "timely marriage", and I think that would also include people like yourself who, for whatever reason, have a really strong adversion to marriage.

I think we both agree that there is some measure of liberty when it comes to choosing marriage or singleness. But I think we differ in how much modern singleness (for mundane or self-interested reasons) can be validated, biblically in particular. I believe that there are probably a lot of modern things that God doesn't necessarily validate. For example, we simply don't know how God feels about modern birth control, such as the pill (not that I'm saying it should be banned), since it's not something that is actually mentioned in the scriptures, and who knows what might be the long term consequences, especially as our population declines in comparison to the muslim world. Could be the same thing for this generation of modern singleness. Not something that necessarily requires a prohibitive stance, but should give us pause.

I think we differ in how we view the consequences of modern singleness. At times, you seem to deny that there are any, and at other times where you do acknowledge the consequences, you seem to point to women as the monolythic cause and men as the innocent victims. Certainly some men (and women too) suffer more than others in the modern mating circumstances in the church today, and I would agree that we should not shoot the wounded. At the same time, must we treat them with kid gloves? Why must any gender specific look at these circumstances be considered "misandry" or "misogyny"?

You'll probably say that it's because men are targetted more often. There may be some truth to that, but after you subtract the standard "hide tanning" of the menfolk just a little bit more than the womenfolk, it doesn't leave much as of an "assault of men" as you've claimed, IMO. Churchformen acknowledges that there has been very little opposition to making churches more inviting to men, and even EW attributes the gender imbalance more to young men being a hard sell than an environment that is hostile towards them. Understand, I'm not denying that hostility towards men ever occurs in churches, but like many feminist complaints, that there needs to be a greater sense of context and perspective.

As far as things that they need to retract, have you noticed that not only has Boundless softened a bit, but Maken's book is now out of print?

Dani said...

Anon (I still don't understand why you are not willing to put your name to your posts) -

You have a lot of nerve to reckon God's perception and judgement, Dani.

I don't have a lot of nerve. I make that tragic and very personally distressing observation about my father on the basis of what God has directly revealed about how he sees those outside of Christ:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18 ESV)

And there I think is the crux of our disagreement - where we find our authority.

I'm not going to continue arguing in circles with you. I've asked you repeatedly to use Scripture to substantiate your claims and you have repeatedly ignored my request (preferring, instead, to keep moving the goal posts so you can claim over and over again that I am misrepresenting you - to the point where I suspect none of us have any idea what you are saying anymore).

I've been reminded over the last few days (from 2 Tim 2) that we are called to avoid irreverent babble as it only leads to ungodliness. Until our discussion stops revolving around observations and experience and starts centering around God's word I can't see that it is anything more than irreverent babble and so, for both of our sakes, I see little point in continuing.

Anonymous said...

"And there I think is the crux of our disagreement - where we find our authority.

I'm not going to continue arguing in circles with you. I've asked you repeatedly to use Scripture to substantiate your claims and you have repeatedly ignored my request (preferring, instead, to keep moving the goal posts so you can claim over and over again that I am misrepresenting you - to the point where I suspect none of us have any idea what you are saying anymore).

I've been reminded over the last few days (from 2 Tim 2) that we are called to avoid irreverent babble as it only leads to ungodliness. Until our discussion stops revolving around observations and experience and starts centering around God's word I can't see that it is anything more than irreverent babble and so, for both of our sakes, I see little point in continuing."

Dani, it's silly for you to make righteous declarations about discussions that revolve around observations and experience, and say that neither one of us has any idea of what I am saying (!?), since I've been clear all along that all I did was make an observation about modern singles - "compared the sacrifices in the way of time and effort expended by parents compared to that of single people, most of whom are not embroiled in "kingdom work" of comparible diligence" - an observation that you rushed to counter by making a myriad observations of your own.

So it's a little late pull the scriptural high ground trump card - not to mention inappropriate, considering the discussion was about quantifying a natural observation (that modern singles are on average engaged in less sacrificial care of others than parents for their kids), not verifying a scriptural truth which had already been established. Abusing the Bible this way, thinking that it will help you win an argument is not an uncommon schtick around here -- and Dani, that is why I see through what you are doing, and the holier-than-thou theological pride that's driving you.

Dani said...

Anon

Two things:

1. I do not believe that experience and observation has no place in discussion such as ours. As you have pointed out I have indeed appealed to both when appropriate myself. However, I have sought to substantiate my theological opinions and conclusions from Scripture. You, on the other hand, have not. You claim you are making a sociological observation about the 'diligence' of sacrifice amongst spouses and parents in comparison to singles (and thus that it is 'inappropriate' for me to ask you to substantiate your claims scripturally). What you fail to realise is that your observation is as much theological as sociological because your conclusion is repeatedly that singles are not involved in "kingdom work" of comparible diligence".

If you simply said that, generally speaking, parents devote concentrated time/energy/resources to their family/children in a way that those who are not parents, generally do not, then that would be a sociological observation. But that's not what you said. You have continually imported the notions of sacrifice and kingdom work and ministry into your observation - which moves it from merely sociological to also theological.

Your theological conclusion suggests that in God sight the normal relational responsibilities of parenthood is valued as more 'diligent kingdom work' than the normal relational responsibilities of the single (non-parent) individual. Since you claim to know God's mind on this matter, I've asked you to substantiate your claim from his revelation to us - Scripture. You have chosen not to.


2. The only reason to engage in these kinds of discussions on blogs is so that those who participate can grow in godliness, love and understanding of God. In other words what we are doing should be deeply personal. I do not consider our discussions merely a debating exercise or an opportunity to have ongoing conflict just for the sake of it. We are two sisters in Christ who seek to know him better, and who should be seeking to spur one another on. I fear that both of us have lost sight of this goal at various points throughout this debate. As such I have come to the decision that I will not continue to dialogue with you at all until you stop making this a nameless and anonymous debate which is so non-personal from your end. When, and if, you are ready to actually put your name to your convictions then I am eager to continue dialoguing with you. Until then I fear that for both of us this will merely continue as a forum for us both “to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” (2Tim 2:14) No doubt you will again retort that I am claiming the moral high-ground. If you do, so be it. I'm more concerned for my godliness (and yours) than your bad opinion of me.

Anonymous said...

"If you simply said that, generally speaking, parents devote concentrated time/energy/resources to their family/children in a way that those who are not parents, generally do not, then that would be a sociological observation. But that's not what you said. You have continually imported the notions of sacrifice and kingdom work and ministry into your observation - which moves it from merely sociological to also theological."

Your theological conclusion suggests that in God sight the normal relational responsibilities of parenthood is valued as more 'diligent kingdom work' than the normal relational responsibilities of the single (non-parent) individual. Since you claim to know God's mind on this matter, I've asked you to substantiate your claim from his revelation to us - Scripture. You have chosen not to...

...I fear that for both of us this will merely continue as a forum for us both “to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.”"

Dani, the only one "quarrelling about words" is you, because you're trying to frame me as someone as claiming to know God's mind on how he values singles vs. married. And that makes you a big, juicy judgy-wudgy hypocrite, because I've made no assumptions about what God thinks about anything here, and you have, extrapolating from John 3:18 how God would judge your own father. To quantify the degree to which a population fulfills sacrificial responsibilities, vis a vis modern parenting vs modern singleness (which may or may not include kingdom work) is not theological, any more than comparing the rates of divorce (something that is theologically established as being something God hates) of one population vs. another. And it this case, the differences are undeniable.

How do married parent spend their time in comparison to singles? A 1992 study in Canada revealed the following breakdown for ages 25-44, in hours per day...Total productive activity: single males - 8.4, single females - 8.7, married male parents - 9.9, married female parents - 10.3. Unpaid work: sm - 1.5, sf - 2.6, mmp - 3.2, mfp - 4.8.

American Bureau of Labour Statistics 2005 data on volunteer work shows that "married people volunteered more often than those who were never married (34.1% versus 23.0%, respectively) and people of other marital status (23.1%)".

There's plenty of other church oriented data out ther, showing that married people and parents are more likely to attend church than the childless and/or single and do more volunteer work there.

Of course you could say the worst of me and say that I'm slamming singles, and overlooking the real saints among them, but I'm not. It's *singleness* that I'm questioning, modern extended singleness specifically. Is this new soil more or less fertile for growing a generation of people, preparing and orienting them toward the sacrificial giving involved in parenthood and kingdom service? I think not. As Danielle Crittenden once said, all singleness does is prepare you for more singleness.

"As such I have come to the decision that I will not continue to dialogue with you at all until you stop making this a nameless and anonymous debate which is so non-personal from your end."

And you've been saying words to this effect for how many posts? You are free to disengage from this discussion at any time, Dani, or as soon as your desire to have the last word runs out.

SavvyD said...

That was great. It's all so true. It's very frustrating that married people don't realize what we go though. I did see some of my guy friends pick women that were less attractive because they both had the same vision for being missionaries to the Middle East. (something I was never attracted to doing). But OMG, you should hear how married people complain about their spouses and their children. Oh my!

I am sad for my brothers and sisters at church who all seem to want a meaningful relationship, but can't seem to find one either because of fear or not being ready yet.

I did always think/hope that my significant other relationship would be a light to my family. Instead, there is only a blank space.

SavvyD said...

I've heard of people wanting to pursue a career as a "ministry" and left their husband or wife in order to accomplish that. That is wrong. I've heard of this happening among Christian couples. That is even more wrong. There are other ways of supporting a ministry than being involved with it firsthand. For example--there are other ways of being involved in inner city ministry than being living in the inner city. If you have a spouse you work together to find what is possible. Just my 2cents.

SavvyD said...

- you are willing to forgo serving God in the specific ministry you mention in order to love & serve her (which will not mean you don’t have any sort of ministry outside your marriage/family!)

- you are willing to forgo pursuing a relationship with her (& perhaps ultimately with anyone) in order to pursue the specific ministry you mention.


Dani--you make it sound like we should establish monastic orders for Protestants.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has never been single I really appreciate this article. I have a single daughter whom I have wrongly pressured to be in relationships. I too have bought into the marriage for holiness not happiness ideology and have not put effort into my husbands happiness because I didn't see it as my job. I know inner joy from knowing Christ is not my responsibility for my husband but I am his gift. What gift doesn't bring happiness. I will not neglect his happiness anymore. Thank you Lord for showing me the truth.