Friday, March 11, 2011

An Advantage to be Single

It was around 3:00 a.m. and the phone woke me for the second time in as many hours. It had come to light that one of the middle school youth who had been attending our church was guilty of sexually molesting his younger sister. Once this became known he had been beaten by his older brother and fled his home running away shirtless in sub-freezing temperatures. The police had found him and I had met with the family at the police station around midnight. Now, three hours later, the police were calling and wanting to know if he could spend the night at my house because his house was not a safe place for him to be. As a single male minister I agreed to have him stay at my house. As a married minister with children, that would have been a more difficult situation.

As a single minister there have been countless times that it has been an advantage to be single. There have also been those times that being married would have been extremely helpful. I understand what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 7 when he spoke of how a single person can have an unhindered focus on the things of God, but what about those days when being single seems like a hindrance?

What about the days when you have emptied yourself by ministering to someone in the church who just lost a family member and you come home to a quiet house with no one there to minister to you? What about the marital counseling that you need to give from biblical principles with no personal experience of applying them? What about the “blind spots” in your character that go unexposed because no other human being has access to your private life on a daily basis? The ministry is a daunting task in itself. Being single has its challenges as well. What can the single minister do to be like Christ in those situations of life where the challenges of ministry are heightened due to one’s singleness? Helping answer this question is the purpose of this project.

Ministry and singleness can both be blessings, but beware. As single ministers there are characteristics of ministry and singleness that when combined, can become fertile soil for undisciplined desires that can enslave our hearts and lead to catastrophic results in life and in ministry.

A person who has been set apart by God to minister to his people has been called to a worthy task. This is a task that can only be faithfully fulfilled as one’s public ministry becomes an overflow of his private ministry. The private ministry is the life lived in the quiet place, between the minister and his God. This is the place in life where successful ministry will either be won or lost. The holy, “set apart-ness” of the minister will be determined in this place.

In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Whatever “call” a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.”[1]

This project seeks to look into the lives of single ministers where the challenges of ministry and the challenges of singleness intersect. In these situations burden, isolation, temptation, and other difficulties are often heightened. As we identify points of possible difficulties may these words serve as a warning, a solution, and a call so that strong ministries can endure, failures can be avoided, and God’s people can be served as He intended.

[1] Curtis C. Thomas, Practical Wisdom for pastors: Words of Encouragement and Counsel for a Lifetime of Ministry (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2001), 20.

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