The Ever Important Second Date

If you are not called to celibacy and you desire and feel called to marry, as I see it we often struggle in at least one of three ways.  Some can’t get a date, some can’t get from a date to more, and some can’t make a commitment to marriage.  I’ve been all three of those guys at one time or another in my 20+ years of singleness.

Here at this blog we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the first one.  We’ve talked about attraction,  what do we do when we are attracted and how do we approach women etc.  We’ve talked a little about the third group.  The idea that men can’t make a commitment is sort of an overblown sentiment. True there are some fears, habits, and various other things that can create that situation. But it’s not as many men as people make it out to be.  At least not men that are following Jesus and living purely.  I’ll have some more to say about this group later.

But today I want to focus on the second group.  In one way or another, I think there are a lot of people stuck here.

One of the problems we need to address is the second (third, fourth) date.  I know for me, there were many times where I could get the first date.  Not only that, but I could do a great first date.  And I don’t just mean put on a show for the night.  I mean be me, and create chemistry.

But after the first date is where things always seemed to get stuck.  There are several different reasons for this.  Let me address a few.

First of all, in our evangelical dating world there is a misplaced pressure that says essentially that if you start “dating” then you need to be pretty sure this is going toward marriage.  I mean we want to be sure to not lead anyone on and of course guard their heart.  As completely insane as this idea is, I for sure often fell victim to it.  If I wasn’t sure that I wanted it to go a long way, I would be hesitant to take it to the next step.  My encouragement would be to almost reverse it.  I think you can go out several times without knowing anything about where it is going.  Now I’m not saying string her along.  And for sure don’t tell her how you feel or even promise exclusivity until you’re ready. But you don’t have to figure it all out right away.  That’s unrealistic.

Ok with that out of the way, let’s get practical.  One of the problems is that anyone can come up with a great first date or two.  Good chemistry is often easy to create on the front end.  Especially if you keep it somewhat brief.  Things are new and you’re getting to know about each other.  You’re both somewhat attracted or you wouldn’t be there.

But the next couple of dates are key.  Let me offer a couple of helpful ideas.  Perhaps our commenters will have others.

For starters I think it’s a good idea, when possible to not make the first few dates super long.  In other words early on, less can often be more.  Secondly, and I often failed here, I think you are better off early on figuring out something to go do, not just talking.  You need to create some shared experience.  You don’t have as much to talk about if you don’t know each other yet.  Just go spend time together.

You go out for a drink or dinner on the first date that’s fine.  You get the initial questions out of the way and see if there is connection.  But doing that on date two and heaven forbid date three begins to get tedious because you don’t have enough to talk about yet. Go play together or go to a play together.  Something.  This does several things.  It creates an “us” because you are doing it together.  If you lead well here, it also shows that you are a person that does things and you are inviting her along rather than just sitting there at the third restaurant in as many weeks.

In other words as simple as this sounds, go have fun together.  Don’t turn every date into an interview or theological conversation.  Do what you do and invite her.  Then as you find out more about what she likes to do, work that in as well.  The goal here is to turn down the pressure and turn up the fun.  Then figure out after a few times together if you both want to move into an exclusive relationship.

I want to say something to the ladies here as well.  I was recently talking with a friend who had gone out with a guy who she knew was a good Christian guy.  It’s not that she didn’t have a good time, but she wasn’t blown away or excited.  She sort of wanted to like him, but didn’t feel instant attraction.  I asked her if she thought he was a good man and potentially a good husband.  She said yes.  I then told her that there are a lot of guys who don’t quite know how to create attraction or aren’t so sure of themselves early on in dating, but once they get going, they actually are really good leaders and will be good husbands.  She said she’d give him another date or two.  That was several months ago.  She is now super into him and they are in a relationship.  Bottom line, if you see a guy who is a good leader at work, church, and other such things, has good character and is a solid man, give him an extra date or two before you jump ship.

Here are a few questions to think about.  Where do you get stuck?  First date?  Second or third?  What have you found to be helpful here?

Spouse or Robot?

This last weekend I was leading a discussion that centered around the idea of that we are not to be OF the world.  In the world yes, but not of it.  We were discussing 1 John 2:15-17 which tells us not to love the world.  But if we are not to love the world, then we have to know what the world or “Spirit of the Age” is.  If we don’t name it, then it is very easy to get lulled to sleep and passively get sucked into being a part of it.  We came up with three Spirits of the Age: Busyness, Tolerance (which really means accepting anything as truth) and Consumerism.

As I’m sure you can figure out, these worldly trends have a huge impact on us when it comes to singleness, dating and marriage.  Now I’ll spend some time on each of these in different ways in the following weeks but for today, I just want to mess with us a little in case you think these things aren’t impacting where we are going.

I’ve written before about the idea of consumer dating.  The idea of thinking of the next person as some sort of product to obtain, going with it until we get bored and then looking for the new one.  While on the one hand it’s good to know there will always be another person I could date so I don’t end up over pressuring a situation, I also need to recognize that I can get addicted to the search.

But more than just needing the next one, we are also often looking for the perfect one. The one that meets my needs does what I want, shares all my interests, will never let me down, will do things my way, and of course it would be bonus if they would always look hot.  I don’t want to commit unless I can find the perfect product right?

Now if you combine that with the fact that we have taken sex outside of marriage it begins to get really interesting.  Stay with me here.  If we have taken sex out of marriage, and then really even the orgasm out of sex, and we think all of this is sort of ok somehow, then why not change the game completely.  What we need is not another person with all of their flaws, idiosyncrasies, demands and desires.  What we need is some sort of perfect for us partner.

Allow me to introduce you to Dr. Driscoll a “leading authority on sex tech”.  I can’t believe I just typed that.  In this article she discusses that we are well on our way to this future. Why look for a person, when you can just buy what you want.

Yeah, it’s sounds sort of crazy but as she points out, “We tend to think about issues such as virtual reality and robotic sex within the context of current norms. But if we think back to the social norms about sex that existed just 100 years ago, it is obvious that they have changed rapidly and radically.”

She adds: “Currently the lack of human contact could be harmful. Humans are naturally sociable and a lack of human contact could lead to loneliness which is linked to various mental and physical health problems.But, in the long term, technology may overcome these problems.

“When eventually there are intelligent robots indistinguishable from humans – apart from their lack of bad habits, imperfections and need for investment – not only are we likely to choose them over ‘real’ humans but psychologically we will not suffer if we are not able to tell the difference.”

Now you may be thinking, but what about children?  Not a problem.  Way ahead of you.  Already in Denmark 50% of the women coming in to the sperm bank are single women. Most of them are highly educated and just haven’t met the one.  But of course they want to be moms.  So they just head on in to the bank and make it happen.

This doesn’t mean that they don’t ever want to have a husband or more importantly a father for their kids.  As Signe, a 41 year old therapist says,“I’d still love to meet someone and give my little girl a dad. For me, a father is so much more than a blob of sperm. A father is someone who makes the lunch boxes, says, ‘Good morning,’ and kisses good night. He’s the one who is always there for the child during its upbringing. I just haven’t met him yet.”

But a real actual man might be more trouble than it’s worth.  Maybe she could go the Sarah Connor route.  After quality Terminators may soon be easy enough to find.

You may at this point be wondering if I’ve gone off the deep end.  Fair question.  But let me ask you two questions.  Do you really believe that this can’t happen?  Or even that it isn’t happening?  And do you really believe that each of us isn’t in some way affected by it?

There is a flow, a current if you will, heading in a direction.  Its not a new problem, just a new context.  But we need to understand that we are in it if we are going to decide to swim against it.  Where are you just floating along?  Are you looking for the perfect person, the perfect sex, the perfect match, or the perfect companion?  What are you ok with that maybe you shouldn’t be?  Do you want your needs met or do you want something more?

You Are Not Her Spiritual Leader

I want to continue to try to answer a question that reader Stephen asked me a few weeks ago. Here is the question.

Everyone talks about women wanting guys who “lead”, who “aren’t pushovers,” who “aren’t nice guys,” etc. Question: what does this mean in the context of DATING. NOT MARRIAGE. Its fairly obvious what this means for married men. But when I’m asking a woman out for the first, second, or third time, the only things we’re going to disagree over, or have to decide together, are whether we’re going to Chipotle or Olive Garden. What if I really don’t give a darn? How am I supposed to “lead” while I’m casually dating a girl? I’m not an integral part of her life, I’m not her primary counselor, I’m not even likely to be *informed* about serious decisions that she has to make. 

I tackled the general nice guy question previously, but I think Stephen raises a very interesting question when it comes to leadership.

First of all, let’s clear a couple of things up.  Nowhere in the bible is the phrase spiritual leader used.  It’s kind of inferred in several places but we’ve sort of created this phrase so that we don’t have to use words like headship.  But regardless of all of that, and no matter what you call it, when you are dating someone, you are not her spiritual leader or head of anything. You are not saddled with that and you don’t have to love her as Christ loved the church (any more or less than you would any other person) and she is not called to submit to your leadership.  Ephesians 5 is not about dating.

At the same time you can show leadership.  You’re not her “leader” but that doesn’t mean you can’t lead.  In the restaurant example from above (a great simple example) I’d say on the fist date you should just have a plan and do it.  Just lead.  This is where I’m taking you tonight.  Go someplace that you like that you think she might also enjoy. Don’t show up and say, “where do you want to go?”

Now once you are dating, I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking her what she’d prefer, but I’d ask her that before you show up.  Leadership is more about an attitude.  It’s more about the conversation that night than the menu.  (A note to the ladies here – for the love of all things, if the guy asks you if you prefer mexican or italian and says he is great with either, and you have a preference, express it.  Don’t make him guess and then say, “well I really wanted mexican”.  Men like food.  We don’t care.)

While the above is sort of a practical answer to the fist couple of dates, I think this question begs a deeper one.  What is leadership and what does it look like in a dating relationship.

Leadership is sort of a funny word in our culture. It seems that everyone wants to be one, but very few are seen as one.

Which brings me to the first important point – in order to be a leader, you have to actually be going somewhere.

If as a guy, you know who you are, and remain confident in that, you can look for someone who will come with you.  In terms of attractiveness, knowing what you want, and passionately pursuing it aren’t going to hurt you.  Frankly it’s also often more effective when first asking someone out to invite them to go with you versus a general ask.  “Will you go out with me sometime?” is a lot more pressure than, “I’m going to the game this weekend, come with me.”  I get that isn’t always the preferred method, but the general idea of having a plan and inviting her to it is good.

But here’s another funny thing about leadership.  It require followers.  If no one is following you, you’re not actually a leader.  Also, just because someone has followers doesn’t mean they are leading the right way – just that they have leadership ability.  Hitler had followers.

I say all of this because it’s hard to have a conversation about men leading, be it in marriage or dating, if we don’t sort of have that down.

So here are a few thoughts on how to lead in dating.

  • Be going somewhere yourself.  What are you about?  Where are you heading – big picture and tomorrow.
  • Invite her to that – the simple small stuff at first (go with me to the game?) the bigger vision later (where do we want to be in life).
  • You set the boundaries – physical and otherwise – and honor them – even when she doesn’t want to.
  • Don’t follow her around.  Pursue her, get to know her (which is leadership), but don’t chase her.
  • Make decisions about things you do together.  (Again to clarify, the more your in the relationship the more that becomes joint – but you can still lead the conversation).
  • Lead in reconciliation and forgiveness, but not out of fear – instead out of concern for her and the relationship.

These are just a few examples.  Maybe some commenters will have more.  Keep in mind that no one leads well all of the time (I for sure don’t) and over thinking it and crushing yourself when you feel you don’t lead is totally counterproductive.  Every guy screws this up.  But we need a target.

One final thought here – if you lead and the woman never follows – reconsider that relationship.  Especially when it comes to following Jesus.

Should We Fear The Pickup Artist?

Full time ministry people typically read a lot.  Now I’m not talking about seminary classes here, although those are great.  What I’m talking about is the books we read beyond that.

Christian leaders around the world have embraced a whole lot of books that aren’t officially (or in some cases even remotely) “Christian”.  I see people reading countless books on leadership, team building, good communication and business practices. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Good To Great for sure come to mind.  As I was going through leadership stuff with my church, my pastor had me read The Starfish And The Spider. This was a book about decentralization of an organization.  All good books. But not exactly theologically profound.

Do you know why all these Christian leaders read all these books?  Because they are helpful.  Duh.

Running a church or ministry has a business and organizational piece to it.  We can wish it didn’t but it does.  And while theological training can help with that, it’s not usually enough.

Now there’s some people reading this right now thinking, “Hey wait a minute.  Isn’t this part of the problem with the Western Church today?  Too much business?”  Fair thought, but hear me out.

The key here is to not let these types of books become our Bible.  But there is nothing wrong with taking things created in the “secular” world, running them through the filter of the Bible and Church, and then using what is helpful.

Look, some things we read are unbiblical and go against what it teaches.  Those should always be discarded.  But others either line up within the principals scripture or don’t run opposed and are helpful with certain areas of life.

Take math – hard to learn algebra in the Bible. But Algebra isn’t anti-biblical.  And I’m hoping that the engineer that built that bridge did a whole lot more math than algebra.

The reason books like Good to Great are so good for us is that they challenge how we think about painting vision, engaging people, and creating movement.  We’d be foolish to ignore common truths just because they aren’t “Christian”. (Frankly many organizations do a better job of keeping their word, delivering on their promises and empowering people to act than the Church does, but that’s for some other blog).

Bottom line is this.  As a believer I have the option, if not duty, to run everything I see, read, think, philosophize, politicize, and feel through the context of that belief.  But I don’t have to shut off philosophy, politics, feelings, thought, books, math etc to do it.

But when it comes to dating, this is basically what the Church has done.

We’ve turned dating into some sort of over spiritualized drama. While often not helping women, we’ve almost completely failed our men.  We ask our men to ignore the dating culture we live in, rather than helping them navigate it.  We give them slogans instead of tools.  We tell them what they should do in marriage, but not how to get married.  We tell them what not to do on a date, but never how to get a date to begin with.  We tell them how to respect women, but not how to gain the respect of women.

A lot of the “secular” dating help does exactly the opposite, albeit often for secular goals.

But that is exactly my point. We don’t have to fear the “secular” dating help just because the goal of this or that author isn’t “biblical”.

I think we are afraid that if we give the guys these tools, they’ll use them for the wrong objectives.  If we learn from the “pick up artist”, for example, then men will just pick up women for sex.  But here’s the thing.  If the only reason a guy isn’t sleeping around is because he can’t “pickup” a woman, then that guy isn’t with us anyway.  He’s just “with us” because he has to be.  Friends, that is not the goal.

Here’s the question.  Would you rather have a bunch of “Christian” guys who don’t know how to approach a woman, get a date, or understand attraction so that they aren’t misusing that information, while our women continue to be un-attracted to them, or would you rather help them learn that knowledge knowing that many of them would then filter that through the lens that you say they believe in.  If we are so worried about the ladies, which do you think would be better for them?

Not only that, but isn’t it our job as Christian leaders (I am one) to learn this stuff, run it through our filters, and then share that knowledge?

Otherwise the “evil” “pickup artists” will just keep picking off our flock.

I’ll close with this.  I was speaking at a teen camp several years ago and working closely with what we call the “program team” whose job it was to plan and execute the events of the week.  They wanted to do a dance and of course this created a bit of a stir, honestly even in me.  One of them shared basically this, “We will control it.  We have a plan. Dancing has all sorts of contexts.  We want to take dancing back for the Lord.  We will control it. But we are going to dance.  Dancing is God’s.  We are reclaiming it this week so that kids will know that.”


They did it. . . all week. . . it was powerful

How much more so if we actually engage attraction and all that goes with it.

Christian leaders let me ask you this.  If a guy was starting a business, while you’d want him to use Biblical principles you’d also probably have other resources in mind.  If a guy was looking to get married – what would you offer him?

He’s Nice But. . .

It’s been a while as work (as in my real job) has sort of taken over of late.  But I wanted to get back to Stephen’s great questions.  You can see the first part of his three part question right here.

Today, I want to tackle Stephen’s second question, which actually is much easier and more clear than the first.  Stephen asks,

Everyone talks about women wanting guys who “lead”, who “aren’t pushovers,” who “aren’t nice guys,” etc. Question: what does this mean in the context of DATING. NOT MARRIAGE. Its fairly obvious what this means for married men. But when I’m asking a woman out for the first, second, or third time, the only things we’re going to disagree over, or have to decide together, are whether we’re going to Chipotle or Olive Garden. What if I really don’t give a darn? How am I supposed to “lead” while I’m casually dating a girl? I’m not an integral part of her life, I’m not her primary counselor, I’m not even likely to be *informed* about serious decisions that she has to make. How, given that we all spend the first 14 years of our lives being taught to be courteous and considerate – that is, NICE – am I supposed to demonstrate that I’m not “just a nice guy” in that context?

There is so much great stuff here.  I probably can’t do this in one post.  These questions are so crucial.  So let’s go.

Let’s talk about the first assumption here – that is that women want guys who lead, aren’t pushovers or “nice guys”.  The key word here really is the whole nice guy phrase. I like the pushover wording that Stephen offers.  I’ve written a whole post about not being nice, but here’s the short version.

Nice typically doesn’t work.  Now it’s important that when I say nice I don’t mean good.  I think you can be a good guy without being a “nice” guy.  I get that for many this is semantics.  So let’s clear it up a little.  Women aren’t typically attracted to a guy they can push around.  Basically the key here is don’t be a wuss.

This is important for several reasons but the main one early on is that it’s ingrained in women (in my opinion) that if you can’t stand up to them, then you won’t be able to stand up for them. Now that can get played out all sorts of ways – some reasonable, and some not so reasonable.  But women test this.  Not necessarily even consciously.  Some women test it the first time they meet you.  Others just figure it out a few dates in.  They may not even be able to name it, but they do it.

Beyond that, nice often means afraid.  What I mean is that a lot of the reason men are “nice” is that they are super worried about whether this person will like them.  Or, they think if I’m nice then she’ll like me.  I used to be this way. Going all the way back to when I was a kid, if I liked a girl, I was always super nice to her, and would never think of standing up to her.

When I became a Christian, then of course I had to not only be over considerate but I also had to guard her heart etc.  All of this is bogus, mostly counterproductive, puts the woman in authority of the relationship and makes you generally less attractive.  And if you are using being nice (buying gifts, chasing her everywhere, always doing what she wants) in order to get her to like you – how is that any different than any other game method.

Now I know there are people who say, “but we aren’t like the other people in the world. We should be different and treat women well.”  I’m  not saying treat women poorly.  The opposite of the nice, pushover guy is not the jerk.  You can be good, generous, kind, etc without being “nice”.  Frankly Jesus wasn’t nice.

Also what’s funny is that Stephen mentions how this is easier in marriage.  Sort of.  I think the leadership part is easier in principle.  But being the nice guy in the marriage can get you crushed.

Look, the last thing any guy wants to hear is, “He’s a really nice guy. . . but. . . ”  I was this guy a lot.  What’s funny is I’m not that nice.  Haha.

What does this look like.  First don’t be desperate.  Even from the first time you approach her it’s important to not convey that.  Have a plan and make decisions.  Don’t “need” her approval.  Don’t be her friend – be a guy she might want to date. Don’t just do everything she wants.  Act valuable.  (Read the linked posts)

This ties into the second part of the question.  Let’s say you get the girl to go out with you, and you start to date a little.  How do you lead, and not be a pushover early in the relationship.  Great, great question.  Man I screwed this up every way.  But I’ll need another post to get to that.

Does Confidence In Christ Help With Women?

I’ve decided that it’s time to tackle a few questions people have either emailed me or left on my suggestions and ideas page.  I’ve frankly been sort of neglectful in doing so.  I want to be clear as I do this about a couple of things.

1. I’m not an advice columnist and I sure don’t claim to have all of the answers on any of this. I have some answers.  I do know that we for sure need to have the conversation – which is why I started the blog.

2. Everyone’s situation is different.  It can be hard to give hard exact advice or support without being in it with someone enough to know them and their context.  Therefore it may be more general than desired.

WIth all that in mind, here we go.

Stephen recently asked three questions.  You can see them here.  Today I want to try to address just the first one.

Stephen says,

I want to know how confidence that Christ is my savior, and accepts me, and is going to raise me from the dead, is supposed to bleed over into confidence in dating. Women all magically detect “confidence” right? Are they detecting that I believe Christ is my savior, or are they detecting how likely I think they are to say yes to a date? Because I can have all the confidence in salvation I want, and know for plenty of good and sufficient reasons that my odds of success in getting a date are low. They’re two different things. Which one are women actually looking for, and which one is it they magically detect?

I’ve talked quite a lot about the fact that confidence is attractive to women.  I’ve also suggested that because we are in Christ, we as Christian men should have confidence. This is probably what leads to Stephen’s first question, which is a good one.

There are sort of two separate aspects here.

The first is women are indeed attracted to confidence.  By this I mean that a man who knows who he is, what he’s about, carries himself in a strong manner and is not intimidated by them.  Now this doesn’t mean that every woman is attracted to every confident guy.  What it means is that confidence in general is attractive to women.

Now a lot of guys are confident in things other than dealing with women.  But, the problem is that many men are not so confident around women and probably most are especially not confident around a woman they are extremely attracted to.  There are many reasons for this.  Partly men are confident when they know what to do and most men don’t know what to do in that situation.  Other men want to “win” the girl and in the process become afraid of losing or messing it up.  They end up “needing” her.  They give in too much and can’t handle when she tests their strength (knowingly or unknowingly).

This all leads into the nice guy problem that Stephen raises in his second question which I’ll address in a future post.

The point here is that the women are attracted to men who are confident with them.  Now confidence in a different area may get a woman’s attention.  This happened to me lots of times.

For example, one time I was speaking and because I’m confident in that, there was a woman who was attracted to me.  I was confident in my approach at that point, so she stayed attracted and we went out.  However, at that point in my life, I was totally insecure once I really liked her and didn’t know how to take it further.  She fell out of attraction so to speak.

The second part of the question has to do with confidence in Christ and how that plays in.

Jesus is for sure the most attractive person of all time.  People were drawn to Him.  I believe that as a believer we do have Him with us and I do believe that can be attractive. But that isn’t really what I mean by confidence in Christ.  I also am not saying that having confidence in salvation makes us attractive to women.  While that confidence is obviously important, it doesn’t necessarily translate to attractiveness to others.

The reality is this.  Being a believer on the surface is neutral.  I don’t think it make us less attractive to women, but I don’t think it makes us more attractive either.  This is why we have all of these Christian women saying there are no Christian guys.  What they mean is there are no guys they are attracted to that are Christians.

So when Stephen asks “Are they detecting that I believe Christ is my savior, or are they detecting how likely I think they are to say yes to a date?”, I’m saying the second.  But here is where one should tie into the other.

It’s not that my confidence in salvation per se makes me confident with women. The question is what do I believe about myself as a person “in Christ”.  If my identity is in Christ, then I don’t have to be worried about what a particular woman thinks.  It should make me less needy.  My world won’t rise of fall on how it goes with a particular person.

All of that is of course, much easier to say than live out of.  But if I can begin to grasp that I’m of high value (worth dying for, equal to everyone else, unashamed and brave) then that’s a good start.  It enables me to take risks, including the risk to change how I interact with women.

The truth is that a lot of what men (including and maybe especially Christian men) are taught (or not taught as the case may be) about how to interact with women is wrong. More on that soon.

Celibacy Is Not A Season

This last week I was able to check out a couple of sermons on singleness.  Let me say this before I challenge some stuff.  I actually do feel like the church is starting to get a clue.  One of the sermons a listened to talked about the fact that 66% of unchurched folks are single.  The pastor basically said that we need to get a grip on this if we are going to go after them.  We need to treat them as equals in Christ.  Amen!  I’m glad that people are trying to talk about it more.

In a separate deal I saw, they were teaching kids about dating and at least mentioned celibacy.  So that’s something.

But here’s where we keep setting ourselves up for problems.  We need a better theology of celibacy because if we keep getting it wrong, we end up hurting everyone.

The first thing we have to do is we have to quit using the word single as a catch all.  As I’ve said before there are those who are not married (as in never married), those who are called, gifted, or in a position to not be married (this can happen several ways), the divorced, and the widowed.  These are not the same thing.  So when we say 50% of people in America are single, what we really need to say is that they are unmarried.   This is important in the Church context because they each have different instructions from scripture.  When we lump them together we create confusion for all the groups.

Here is the greatest example.  Everyone wants to look at 1 Corinthians 7 as the go to for singleness.  And there is a lot to learn from this chapter.  Paul essentially says that there are those who should get married and those who shouldn’t.  He says some have one gift and others another gift.  But the gift he is talking about is not the gift of singleness, he is talking about the gift of celibacy.

You are not called to “season” of celibacy.  You may not be married yet, but that is not the same.  You could be called to not get married right now for some reason.  God can ask us to do and pursue all sorts of things at different times.  No doubt.  But the call to celibacy is a call to live that way in a sort of vow with God, not a period of time.  Now we are all called to Chastity, but that’s not the same thing.

Here’s why that matters.  If we say that this gift is for a season, then we end up saying things that don’t make sense.  In one of the sermons the pastor said, “Single people should live in a devoted way that married people can’t.”  This is true of a person called to be celibate for the Kingdom.  But if this is true for everyone, then no one should ever get married.  What we end up saying is “serve the Lord now because when you get married that’s over.”  That simply is not a good plan.

The ironic part about this in the Protestant church is that we don’t even honor, or lift up the people who really do have this gift.  We don’t have celibate (or even single for a “season” people), as pastors or elders.  Missionaries maybe, but not here at home.  We typically have a sort of singleness glass ceiling when it comes to church leadership.

The pastor went on to say, “singles have the opportunity to be undistracted in their focus and can be completely loyal to their King.”  Um, so when I get married then I’m not as loyal to God?

This seems to me to fly in the face of what Paul is saying.  He basically says if you are “distracted” by the desire for sex – go get married.  My point here is that part of the test for the gift of celibacy (not the only one mind you) is if you feel the pull to get married.

Now I get it, if you get married and have kids you have a different set of responsibilities. Your approach to many things change.  But your loyalty to God?  To me this sets up married people to be over focussed on themselves (family idol) and lumps the people with the actual gift of celibacy in with the people who are just not yet married.

It also creates a problem for single people not called to celibacy because at what point does actually trying to get married come into play.  Chances are I’ll have to act to get married, not just sit around and hope it happens.

Using the word distracted is especially problematic.  I was unmarried until I was 40.  While it is true, I didn’t have family responsibilities, calling me undistracted would have been a huge mistake.

Having done ministry with married and unmarried people for the last 20 plus years I can assure you that someone looking to be married can be just as distracted from ministry as someone who is married.  I can list many people who became better ministers once they got married.  They had answered that question and were actually more free from distraction.

The bottom line here is, Paul is not equating a person who is not yet married to a person who is not called to be.  Neither should we.