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.”

A.Men.

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.

 

If Only Christian Men Would Ask Us Out

One of the things I’ve heard over and over in recent years in the Christian circle of singles is, “Why don’t Christian guys ask the Christian girls out?”  This can be said several ways but the message is essentially that guys should “man up” and ask out all the Christian girls regardless of who the women are.  Some even go so far as to say essentially, “This is why Christian women end up dating non-Chrisitan men.”  According to these folks, if all the Christian guys would just ask women on dates then everything would work out.

There is so much here.  It’s a mess.

The Christian dating culture has made this so complicated and confusing.  And as a guy it’s really hard to navigate that culture.  In the secular culture its much more cut and dry when it comes to asking people out (or hooking up as the case may be).

Not so for us. On the one hand we are supposed to only ask people out that we think we can marry because marriage is the goal.  Now some women and Christian leaders say you should basically not ask anyone on a date without knowing this and of course, be sure to guard her heart.  Of course this is fairly impossible.

Then there are those that say, we can causally date at first.  How else can we get to know each other.  But here’s the thing, if you casually date more than one person in your church or community it can cause all sorts of problems.  It only takes one person to feel scorned to mess up your whole standing as a guy.

So we’ve got two constantly conflicting messages.  One side says nothing casual is ok and the other side says, just date around, it’s all good – as long as it’s “Christian”.  How do we know which girl you are?*

All of this makes men hesitant, both because they are confused about what is right** and by what is expected.  I know it did me.  When I was dating I pretty much took my chances anywhere other than my own church. I’m not saying that was right, but that’s how it felt.

The second factor at play here is that a lot of guys have never been taught how to be effective in talking with women.  The church likes to say man up and ask girls out, but they are short on help on how to do that in any sort of effective way.

So what happens is “nice” Christian guys go about it all wrong, it doesn’t work and then they get frustrated, quit trying or keep failing.  We need to teach men the truth about attraction, how to handle it, and how to approach women.  Not doing this in our current environment puts them at a disadvantage.

This leads to point three.  This is the idea that these poor Christian women just never get asked out by Christian men.  The women are of course more spiritual, out number the men and are frankly just the victims of our Christian guys not being man enough.  The general idea is that if Christian men were better men then all of these women would date them.

Look, there are some women who aren’t asked out at all. Some women need to think about how they present themselves and their own social skills.  Some really are a victim of sorts because they are choosing to modest and chaste and want to be a good Christian wife and are losing out to others.  Fair enough.

However, when a lot of Christian women (read most) say, “No one asks me out” what they mean is, “no one I’m attracted to asks me out.”  You see women don’t want to be asked out by just any guy. They can say that they want a “good Christian guy” but what they mean is that they want a guy that they are attracted to, who also is a good Christian guy. Now I’m not necessarily saying anything is wrong with that.  But the truth is that we do a terrible job of dealing with women and how attraction works for them.  We don’t teach guys the truth of how it works and we aren’t honest with what women really mean.  We rarely challenge women in this.

Finally, this idea that Christian men not asking out Christian women as the reason that Christian women date non-Christians is a complete joke. We are constantly rescuing women from responsibility. How heroic.  Here’s the bottom line.  People typically date who they are attracted to.  At that point they either use Christian as qualifier of not.  That is why it is important to manage attraction and desire, not just give into it.

I have no problem saying that a lot of Christian men need to take initiative, quit worrying about it and make a move, if you want to ask someone out, I’d do it.  I get that there are men who are hesitant, but I think it has more to do with confidence than courage, more to do with effectiveness than effort.

But we must stop blaming men alone for the problem.  We are all part of the mess and it is not a quick fix.  We keep dealing with about 1/10th of the picture and that isn’t going to cut it.

 

 

* The best plan is to ignore all of this and focus on what works.  More soon

**As a simple example of recent “Christian messages” – This guy says, just go out causally, while this one says we need to stop being casual – why would be confused?

The Protestant Celibacy Problem

A couple of years ago I was asked by a campus pastor at a local Catholic University if I would be willing to sit on a panel about vocation and represent the unmarried people who don’t feel called to celibacy.  I said yes and was excited by the opportunity.

Now this is sort of funny but I was the only protestant in the room and perhaps the least educated.  Ha!  I was for sure the least educated person on the panel which included: the president of the university and his wife (married vocation – and they had been married for decades), a nun, a Jesuit Priest and a priest whose job it was to help students who felt they might be called to celibate ministry (becoming a priest or nun) discern that.

We went around and shared about our vocation/place in life.  A lot of questions from the audience were centered around how you can figure out what you are supposed to do. Everyone on the panel was great – I was in very solid company and would gladly share a stage with any of them, any time.

But the person who stood out the most (and not just because we kept agreeing with each other) was the priest.  This guy was unbelievably smart.  He also had ways of explaining the call to full time celibate ministry that I had never really heard articulated before.

What he and I both immediately hit on is that the first decision you have to make is to follow Jesus.  There is no close second.

The way he said it was great.  He said essentially, “The first vow we all have to make is to Jesus – to be committed to Him.  Then we can make a second vow – either to God to be in celibate ministry or to God and to another person.”

As I listened to this guy speak and essentially lead our time, I found myself over and over thinking a couple of things.

1. The students that go to see this guy are super fortunate.  I don’t believe he would lead them to do anything out of an agenda.  The man wanted to help people find their calling – whatever that was.  I truly believe he would be one of the wisest people they could ever consult.

2. If you’re a protestant or lay person who feels called to celibacy, you are screwed.  Because there is absolutely no help available.  I mean zero.  None.  Nada. Nothing.  Not even a whiff.  You get the idea.

Look I know that not every priest is like this, far from it.  Not even every priest in his sort of position is like him.  I get that.  But at least there’s a chance.  At least there is some sort of process.  There’s some sort of guidance.

The problem starts with the fact that nowhere growing up in the protestant church will you hear that there is even an option of celibacy.  You might now and then hear someone mention it as they skip over it in the passages in Matthew 19 and 1st Corinthians 7 on the way to talk about marriage.  Or worse they might misinterpret Paul and say that the singleness he’s talking about is seasonal.

So we start with almost no base knowledge at best and wrong information at worst.  But if by some miracle you actually feel sort of called to it or have a conversation with a wise believer who teaches you something about it, there is no one to help you discern it.

Now if you are dating someone, we’ve got counsel out the wazoo.  I mean we can counsel you how to date (or how to “court”).***  There is premarital counseling and about million books to choose from.  Heck now-adays you can even go to pre-engagement counseling. If you’re married there is of course marital counseling – heck it’s pretty much a badge of honor in the church to have been to that counselor.  Marriage is hard after all.

However if you are questioning your call to celibacy – good luck.  There’s no pre-celibacy counseling.  Unless of course you are struggling with same sex attraction – then we are all about it.

If somehow, on your own, you figure it out and begin to live that way, there’s no counseling or support for that either.  Name the last time you heard someone honor a person who made that choice.  Yeah I can’t think of a time either.  So figure it out on your own, then do it alone.  The thing is, the call to celibacy is not a call to being alone.  But that is the way we’ve set it up.

Not only does this keep people from entering this vocation, it also could keep someone from marriage. If you don’t have a clear vision of the call to celibacy and what it is, how can you decide if you are called to it or not?  If there are no models of it or no honoring of it – why would anyone even consider it?

Both marriage and celibacy demonstrate different things about the kingdom.  Part of the reason we are losing on the marriage front is that we have completely punted on the celibacy front.****  Hear me clearly Protestant leader friends – You can not have a true theology of marriage without a right, well thought out, robust theology of celibacy.

Most of us aren’t called to this.  But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the vocation or those who are (or might be) called to it.

The bottom line is we need to stop reacting to our culture, take a breath, and start at the beginning.

 

***We offer very little to either sex about how to get a date, what is attractive or effective for finding a spouse.  You are more likely to hear about waiting for the one and what not to do while waiting, than about how to go get a spouse.

****For an interesting read on the cost of this check out my internet friend John’s recent post.  It’s an interesting take.