What godly eldership looks like with a 30-something single man...

(Tim) Kevin Offner is a longtime friend who does grad student and faculty ministry in the Washington D.C. area under Inter-Varsity. Recently, a Christian magazine known for its love for heterodoxy and its dabbling in heresy shocked the world by publishing a piece that promoted early marriage. Flying in the face of the magazine's egalitarian feminist commitments and subscribers, fur flew in the big kerfuffle.

Which brought Kevin to the defense of marriage, and what I thought a very sweet testimony to God's kindness in his own life leading him to repentance. He kindly allowed me to post his testimony here. (He's responding to one of the comments posted under aforesaid article.)

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I’ve never met you but found your comments here good and helpful.

I don’t have much to add other than that I thought the author over-emphasized the sexual in the article (very good that this was discussed but a bit overkill, I thought).

But his general, somewhat radical, thesis is, I think, spot-on:  we really do need to be encouraging *earlier* marriages these days. Our churches should be intentionally counter-cultural here. In the 1950s this was all the rage, and perhaps the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s rightly reacted some to this. But the pendulum has swung way to the other side now. It should be rare, rather than the norm, for 30-somethings to be single.

My special concern here is with the 30-something single male...

Over and over again I meet these (yes, godly) men and, after talking for awhile, I’ll bring up dating.  “Any women in your life these days?”  And invariably the answer is something very casual. Yes, he’d like to be married some day but no big rush, lots of other things on his plate, etc. “If it happens, it happens,” he ho-hums. Or then there’s the proverbial, “Whatever!”

I’m so grateful for the church elder in my life who met with me when I was 33 and very active in my church. He asked me, “Kevin, do you think God is calling you to life-long singleness?” When I said no, he then asked, “So you think He is calling you to be married?” I said yes.

He then said, “Well, what are you doing about it?” I think I said something like, “Whatever". He then gently but firmly confronted me: “Kevin, you’re not 23, you’re 33. And if you think God is calling you to marriage, you need to be moving in this direction: praying daily, intentionally going to where marriageable women are, asking advice from older Christians you respect, etc. It most likely won’t ‘just happen’—you’re the man, hard-wired by God to be the pursuer, so get out there and start taking some initiative.”

I was never the same again! And I got engaged and married soon after.

Single men know all about how to write resumes and look for a job. They know how to look for housing, find a good church, volunteer for service projects, etc, etc, etc. They need to be encouraged to make moves towards marriage as well. And not just “date around”—they need to be very intentionally looking for a wife. And sooner rather than later.

Godly single women are longing for men to take some initiative. We, the church, need to create the sub-culture where it’s only natural—and expected—for single men to be moving towards women in marriage…and fight against the “whatever” culture.

Comments

Great testimony!

I can't imagine trying to make the transition to married life with a woman who'd been out on her own for 12 years. Better to get one when she is still used to her father's authority. It is hard enough even then.

I doubt it would be easy for a woman having to adjust to a man who's been on his own for that long, either. Really not an ideal situation. A lot of extra baggage. Children later in life.

Getting married late fosters egal marriages, I'd think.

Congrats to Tim. I found myself that when I realized my step-father had showed me in part that a man could indeed treat a woman (my mom) well, I started moving towards it quickly, almost scarily so! (with delightful results, by the way)

I also had the privilege of talking to a middle aged man on the subject last Sunday while ushering....I don't know that he'll get going in a responsible way, but it was a well spent time!

Hooray for godly eldership!

In terms of Christian single men - may I point out the following:

[1] In my judgement, only a few of the Christian single men older than thirty could be described as "whatevers", who need to be encouraged to take the initiative. The majority fall instead into the category sometimes known as "desperate and dateless". In this instance the problem is not that the men concerned will take the initiative, it is what happens when they do.

[2] In these instances, then (and I think they constitute the majority), I would submit that an elder's counsel with these men needs to be more focussed on the areas "under the hood" which are getting in the way. This will actually take quite a bit of work. That said, I have seen singles do this for other, younger singles (during one time in my life, I benefitted greatly from the counsel of an older single man, now married himself).

[3] To Michael Macmillan, I agree that being single that long before one is married is not an ideal situation, either for men or women ... but some of us have not have the choice ;-)

Hi Ross,

I decided to pick mine out early. She was 12. [Well, so was I.] That was back in the 60s, which was a different scene than today, certainly. We did wait until 21 to get married.

--Michael

I remember Kevin Offner coming to speak at a single's retreat a number of years ago. Great testimony!

One story that for me raised far more questions than answers.

Some years ago I was at a singles' camp and led a 'breakout' session for the single men. A number of the men shared this same story: of showing an appropriate interest in some young lady and then being turned down because their material situation (that is, the men's) was perceived as "not being up to it". The men weren't in highly-paid jobs, admittedly, but they weren't minimum wage ones either.

I was quite amazed to hear this - this was a part of the singles' experience I'd never had to deal with. If this sort of thing is happening - how do we resolve it?

If men pick godly mature Christian young women, these women would not be turned off by lack of money.

The question I think for the women (if they are mature and secure in the Lord) is are these men "with it" in the sense of being responsible for their personal lives and for others -- or are they barely getting by as single men. I think the women do not want to have to be "moms" to these men. Women want to find men to whom they can willingly submit and follow.

I meet so many single 30's men who are passive, do not take the initiative or responsibility and who just seem lost as far as what their life is all about. They might hold a steady job (some do not) but they are just working to work. They might have a decent car and a decent house and lots of videos, video games, sound systems, etc. installed in their homes, but they do not really know what to do with each day. They come home and watch TV or go out. They do not seem to have a vision.

(The marriages that happen with these kinds of men are usually where the woman takes the initiative and rules the home.)

I think much of this derives from sin and compromises in these men's lives -- bondage to e.g. pornography, or ways of related to women - ways they have dealt with girls in the past, ways they keep girlfriends, coarse innuendo in their conversations, etc. They have given themselves over to short thrills of the moments. And they go from one to the next.

They do not know about hardship and suffering and persevering.
They do not know about laying down their lives for someone else.

If a man cannot lay down his life -- even to take the initiative of making a decision about a life-mate, then how can a woman feel loved?

Basically, I think so many men were never taught how to be men. And through their young years, they gradual event by event, decision by decision, action by action, took steps away from godly manliness.

Some men are walking around fearing rejection, failure, etc. They fear to make mistakes. They fear to decide. They do not have their identity in the eternal and unshakeable fact of their sonship in Christ. They cannot face shame or ridicule from others. If they feel outside the cool and popular, yet they still yearn for it and follow its way. They have picked up these things over the years in the movies and television they have watched and in the schools where they little by little made decisions to take the paths of self-protection.

As an alternative to the feminized man, the main model presented by the world is a drinking-jock stereotype of a man which really in many ways is a sissy -- especially when it comes to responsibility as a husband and father. This man, may try to be manly by working out. He actually derives comfort and identity in his fitness. He reads books and thinks he is manly by keep up on man-issues. But he is afraid of commitment. He also is sold out to indulge in pleasure and is afraid of hardship. He does not want to risk rejection. He tries to be a suave player -- cool. He wants to have some young pretty thing around him, but he does not think much beyond that.

If he has taken in any Christian morals, he will somehow know that sex before marriage is perhaps wrong, but that really depends upon the girl -- he'll give in to a girl's seduction. He also will be seeking to go as far as possible without crossing the line of some act that gets her pregnant. He will have sex with her in all but the final act. And after getting into that habit, he will one day go all the way. With guilty slight regret that gradually hardens away, he partakes with his girlfriend of all the foreplay that preps the hormones and physiology and gives the heightened pleasure leading up to and ready for the conception of a child.

So these men in the thirties have a mixture of guilt, hardened hearts, unsatisfied lives, and feel rudderless and timid, but also stuck and have no practice in resisting the old habits.

In all that turmoil, it seems beyond this kind of man to take a new direction and to truly be a man of God who takes responsibility to embrace fatherhood and self-sacrifice as a husband.

Some even say they wish to get married and go to single groups and ask for prayers and long for a wife. But their past dalliances in pornography or in that which is held up as beauty for the world mean that their taste is very limited. Most women they cannot appreciate. The women they feel attracted to are the ones who are most unsuitable and unready to be wives. No matter how pretty a woman is in truth, if she is mature, maturity casts a pall around the women in their eyes; it scares these men away and makes them think of the woman not being sexy but plain. Part of sexual attraction has been reduced by the world to young women who are overly, unnaturally thin, insecure, dress immodestly in order to get praise from the world, a bit lost, a bit unsure of themselves, and basically easily led by single men into pre-marital sexual relationships. Or the other type of women the world shows is the "hot" woman of the world who has known many men and knows how to flirt and excite them.

So these single men cannot feel an attraction for the most beautiful women inwardly and outwardly in the church. They cannot feel any romance spark. As someone who visits a big city but only can enjoy McDonalds when all around him are the riches of the cuisine of other cultures -- Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Italian, Romanian -- but he just wants a big-mac and fries with ketchup. His taste in women are likewise narrowed to the limited stirring of the taste buds that coarse fat and sugar and salt can provide.

Marriage when it comes, is by accident, a spur of the moment. The motive force is the circumstance, not a conviction of principle.

There are so many different issues where these men need to be "reprogrammed" from the brainwashing of the world, and of sinful habits and indulgences of their past.

It is with added hope and joy that I have witnessed that the message of the Gospel applied in their lives really can change them.

Joel,

What you said describes tons of young men today. Even in the church, getting us to be informed by scripture is almost impossible.

-Clint

To Joel - your comments make for a fairly depressing assessment of the Christian single men's milieu; but I would respectfully submit that there are other reasons for why some Christian men end up single besides (a) God calling a few of them to it; or (b), as an alternative, that they are simply not up to marriage character-wise.

I'm not in the American Christian culture, so my mileage will vary from yours, but the majority of the Christian single men I know are there precisely because they have decided to stand for Christ and follow his ways - even at the cost of a relationship - rather than go looking for one in the world.

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