Peter, a podcast listener in Northern Ireland, writes in to ask us this. “My church is good and biblically solid, but has no suitable marriage prospects for a single guy in his early twenties with a strong desire for marriage. Pastor John, is this situation an acceptable reason for me to leave my church in search of another?”
I think if I were talking to Peter, instead of immediately saying yes or no, I would put before him some questions to ask. And so maybe this will be helpful to him and to others. What kind of questions would you ask in trying to make such a decision?
1. Do You Have Elder Approval?
So, here’s number one: Do my elders approve of my move? Have they given their counsel? Don’t be a lone ranger Christian. Seek wisdom from those who know you and your situation best. That’s number one.
2. What Are Your Church’s Needs?
How much would I be missed? How much harm would I do if I left? How much am I needed here? That would be another question.
3. Will You Give True Service?
Will I honestly be able to throw myself into the ministry of a new church with an authentic sense that I love the people here and I want to serve them, or will I be tempted to feel like I’m just using these people, I’m just showing up here for reasons that don’t have to do with so much of what the church is about in terms of worship and edification? I’m really out to find a wife. Will you have a clear conscience that you can love those people and throw yourself in there? Maybe.
4. Have You Examined Your Network?
Have you really exhausted all the proper ways one might connect with Christian young women of your age? For example, have you been open with a network of family and friends whom you love and trust them and tell them that you’re really open to their suggestions? We don’t do arranged marriages in the West, but many good marriages have been partially arranged by other people who know us and know her or him. Have you opened yourself to those family and friends that you trust in this way and to that way of thinking about it?
5. Will You Move Again?
If you go to this new church and nothing happens there, will you move again? Would that put you into an unhealthy situation of defining your life around wife seeking?
6. Too Much Desire?
Have you seriously considered whether you might want her too much? Not that it’s bad to want to be married, but ask the Lord to make plain to you, do I want this too much? Is it out of proportion in my life?
7. Am I Trusting God?
And the final thing maybe is, do I trust the sovereign grace of God to do this for me in his time. There is a proper balance between trusting God to do a thing and taking initiatives that are fitting for a young man to make.
The Bottom Line
So, let me circle back up to the beginning. The bottom line in a healthy and well-led church, which is, I think what he’s saying he’s in, the elders don’t run your life. That’s unhealthy. That’s cultic when the elders are too nitpicky about knowing everything you do. They don’t run your life, but they do care for you and must give an account for your soul. So, let the input of trusted leaders help you make this decision.