Carving Out A Space

Saul could not establish a relational connection with his fellow believers in Jerusalem nor find a ministry toehold in that city after his conversion. The disciples in Jerusalem did not believe that Saul (later called Paul) could possibly have become a follower of Jesus. His reputation as a deadly persecutor raised the question whether this gospel could change the heart and mind of someone as notorious as Saul.

“When he (Saul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.” Acts 9:26-28

Barnabas took action and intervened on behalf of Saul convincing the apostles that he had in fact become a passionate follower of Jesus. Barnabas was so persuasive that Saul actually stayed with the apostles-there was now a place for him at the table.

Saul went on to boldly proclaim Jesus as Messiah in Jerusalem and the persecutor became the persecuted by the Hellenistic Jews so he fled to his hometown of Tarsus over 500 miles away.

Five years passed but Barnabas had not forgotten Saul. He made the arduous journey to Tarsus for the sole purpose to find Saul in order to connect him to where the Holy Spirit was working in the city of Antioch. For the next year Barnabas and Saul taught and impacted many people in Antioch.

Some thoughts in closing:

  • What if Barnabas had not intervened for Saul in Jerusalem?
  • What if Barnabas had not taken the trouble to travel to Tarsus to look for Saul?
  • Although Saul had been set apart by God for ministry (Acts 9:15-16), gifted, educated, and passionate yet in the kingdom economy the Lord used a human agent to intervene on his behalf to establish his ministry. (Saul would have been in his 30’s when he was in Jerusalem.)
  • Saul had already proven himself effective in Damascus and Jerusalem but the Lord used Barnabas to get Saul to Antioch, which then led to launch his lifelong travel ministry recognizing the potential significance to the spread of the gospel. (Saul near 40 years old at this point.)
  • Barnabas placed others ahead of himself.
  • Barnabas was willing to take risks in order to empower another.
  • Has anyone ever established you in ministry?
  • Have you ever established someone in ministry?


Mythbuster: Singleness-Myth #10

Myth #10 Singles can be fickle and irresponsible.

Truth: There are singles that are trustworthy.

Nowhere else in American society are singles separated out as they are in the Protestant church. Although there are many aspects of our lives that we entrust to singles, our pilot, nurse, doctor, boss, and accountant all could be single, but when it comes to our spiritual lives we hesitate to submit ourselves to the leadership of singles. It is rare to find a single church staff member.

When we meet a single we automatically assume that something must be wrong. Yet in the first century a young single named Timothy proved himself to be trustworthy and he was able to lead others to follow Jesus.

“For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:17

“But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel”. Philippians 2:22

Not all singles are spiritually trustworthy, but just as married people will overtime establish their faithfulness to the Lord so a single can establish his or her reputation as a man or woman of God. The disciples in Timothy’s hometown of Lystra recognized his spiritual uniqueness and based on their recommendation Paul invited Timothy to minister along side of him, a partnership that lasted for 18 years.

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.” Acts 16:1-2


Mythbuster: Singleness-Myth #9

Myth #9 Singles tend to be strange.

Truth: Peculiarity is not limited to singles.

I admit that I have met some strange singles over the years but I have also known some pretty peculiar married people. Marriage does not eradicate strangeness and in some cases exasperates it.

Singles can serve as Godly role models for all believers to follow. Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and Titus as singles served as examples for the new believers to imitate in the first century. In more recent times David Brainerd, John Stott, Amy Carmichael, and Henrietta Mears have all inspired Christianity by their example.

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”

1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

Mythbuster: Singleness-Myth #3 and Myth #4

Myth #3 Singleness is not desirable for ministry.

Truth: Singleness has advantages over marriage in ministry.

I (Paul) wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 1 Corinthians 7:7

“Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I (Paul) and Barnabas who must work for a living? 1 Corinthians 9:5-6

Paul viewed his singleness as advantageous. A husband or wife is a good gift from the Lord but singleness is an equally good gift to certain ones of his children. God is not any less good to a single than he is to a married couple blessed with many children.

A single friend of mine said to me, “I just want people to stop feeling sorry for me because I am single! It is condescending for others to think that I am disadvantaged as a single.”

It is also an affront to the heavenly Father to feel sorry for a single to whom the Lord has given the good gift of singleness.

Should a person feel bad for desiring to get married? Certainly not, but neither should married couples assume that singleness is a bad thing for someone else.


Myth #4 Singles are incomplete and discontent people.

Truth: Singles (never married, widowed, divorced) are whole individuals because of the risen Messiah living within them.

“. . . but that you (unmarried) may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:34-35

“I have been crucified with the Messiah and I no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me. The life I now lives in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

Over the past three months I have been interviewing singles that are in fulltime ministry and over 35 years old. One woman said in the interview, “Lewie, as a single I am not a 65% person or a 80% person but because of Jesus within me I am a 100% complete individual.” It is Jesus who makes a person complete and content not marriage.

Because a discontented single is more visible and memorable than those who are content there is a tendency to think of singles as overall discontent. Paul serves as an example of contentment even though single.

The early church did not view Paul or Barnabas as inadequate because of their singleness; rather as singles they served as leaders and role models for believers to follow.

“Join together in following my (Paul) example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” Philippians 3:17.




Singleness Insight #3

There is a bias against singleness in the evangelical church.

How many senior pastors, church elders, church staff, evangelists, or missionaries do you know who are single? Although the American single adult population leans towards 50 percent, this is not reflected in the leadership of evangelical churches or organizations. I believe there may be several reasons for this, but after 30 years of being involved in ministry, I have found that many in evangelicalism hold marriage as an unspoken qualification for ministry. We feel more comfortable with a married individual working with our teens, leading our worship, and conducting a marriage ceremony, than we do a single. Many perceive singles as incomplete and some would even see singleness as a disqualification for many kingdom leadership roles. Few places in society use marital status to determine leadership capabilities as we do in evangelicalism.

Marriage is a good thing, but then also is singleness. I agree with people that the Lord has been good to them in providing a wonderful mate and beautiful children, but God is no less good to me in not providing a wife or a child, for he has given me a good gift called singleness (1 Cor 7:7). I doubt at the end of Paul’s life that he felt regret or remorse because he had not married. Paul encourages singles to remain single, if possible, so that they can serve the Lord with an undivided devotion (1 Cor 7:35). It would seem that singles would be a good hire for kingdom work because their focus will be on serving the Lord and they will not distracted by the many concerns that a family brings.

Singleness Insight #2

Singles were on the cutting edge of the first century kingdom movement.

Key leaders of the kingdom of God in the first century were single, notably Paul and Barnabas (See 1 Corinthians 9:6). What is striking to me in reading the Biblical account is how little the marital status of a person plays into kingdom leadership and responsibility. Paul was quick to snatch up a single Timothy to add to his team based on the qualification that his fellow disciples spoke well of him. Sure, many leaders were married, but some significant leaders were not.

Here are a couple of possible applications:

  1. Integrate singles into all aspects of the church and ministry. Nowhere else in society do we separate singles from the married except in the church. (I believe there is no place for a singles’ ministry in the church. Imagine the apostle Paul trying to get his mind around a typical church’s singles’ ministry.)
  2. Consider hiring a pastor or staff member who is single. The best leader in or for your church maybe single. Marriage is not a qualification for kingdom leadership.
  3. As a married person your best friend maybe a single, and for singles your best friend maybe a married person.

Singleness Insight #1

I am 51 years old, single, and have never been married. I recently spoke at a singles’ retreat which caused me to dust off some thoughts on singleness. The Bible is not silent on the topic as both Jesus and Paul directly address the issue of singleness.

Singleness is the eternal destiny of all the children of God.

In the kingdom of God, singleness is the eternal state of all of God’s children, for in eternity there will not be marriage. Jesus teaches, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

All begin their lives as single, and though marriage may be a part of their story, all will be single throughout eternity.