The second message in Joshua Harris' relationship series is now online for free download--"Courtship Is a Community Project." It was given this past Sunday for the benefit of everyone at Covenant Life Church, even though Josh was teaching on a subject that would seem to be solely a concern for single adults. In fact, he said the primary purpose of the message was to ask families and couples "to reach beyond the differences in schedule and season of life--and all the things that can so easily divide us" to play a vital part in the lives of single men and women. But, he warned, this is not to reach out to singles as a "project" nor as potential babysitters, but rather to befriend them so that there is context for helping single adults as they pursue marriage.
As he began, Josh made sure everyone knew he wasn't talking about an overly directive process. No one can tell another whom to marry. But he also wanted to challenge our culture's default setting that so highly prizes the individual's rights and choices. "Could it be that we've allowed the importance of privacy and personal choice to cause us to neglect what the Bible teaches about our need for fellow Christians in the local church?" he asked.
Then he went to make four points about why couples can make a difference for single adults (in courtships or not):
1) Married couples can effectively care for singles by building and investing in relationships with them.
2) Married men, in particular, can encourage single men to prepare for and pursue the good gift of marriage.
3) Married couples can provide perspective and godly counsel to singles, especially in evaluating conflict and standards for a mate. ("Couples, make sure you are pointing them wisdom, to biblical principles, and not to your own experience; don't moralize your own courtship experience," he said. And, he added, in trusting relationships with single men and women, there is a place for married couples to be prayer warriors on their behalf and to create contexts for singles to meet each other--not as meddling matchmakers, but as facilitators. A high-five on this point from me!)
4) Married couples can help single adults by encouraging obedience and trust in God in the face of disappointment. ("We are called as a church community to carry each other's burdens. There's no quick fix here. . . we live in a fallen world.")
In my opinion, the last two points were the most infused with pastoral care and were the best part of his message. I especially appreciated how he brought context to a message he asked Dr. Al Mohler to give at his New Attitude conference last year, in which singles were strongly urged to pursue marriage if they didn't feel called to celibacy for the sake of the Gospel. Though broadly speaking, this is a correct viewpoint, Josh wisely pointed out how this message might have caused some confusion for those who desire marriage but have not yet received it. As Josh acknowledged, "God doesn't promise us that we'll all be married anymore than He promises us that we'll make a certain amount of money nor live a certain amount of years. But He gives us something much better: He says I'll never leave you nor forsake you. He says that as we find our joy in Him, there is no end to that joy."
At the conclusion of his message, this audio file then jumps to a second voice, a man sharing a prophetic impression of God removing the worldly filters some of the men have had as they have viewed the women around them. This was Gary Ricucci, one of our pastors (pictured left). Joshua asked him to share it at the conclusion of his message. Now I realize that even using the term "prophetic" might cause a number of readers to come to a screeching halt now. Don't click away just yet. Let me clarify that Covenant Life Church is both Reformed and charismatic (as biblically defined), so this is not an uncommon experience in our worship services. But no one just jumps up and starts yelling. Anyone who believes they have an impression from the Holy Spirit to share with the congregation has to submit that word or impression to one of the pastors for evaluation--is it biblically-based? Is it encouraging? Is it being delivered in a spirit of meekness and humility? The reason for this gift to exist today is the same as it was in first-century Corinth: "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. . . . everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort" (1 Cor 14:1-3).
This is what you will hear in Gary's impression--a strengthening of Biblical standards, an encouragement of God's personal and specific care, and comfort for all present. After he spoke, Josh asked him to pray for the single adults and asked us to stand up for this prayer. It was a tender moment, a true highlight for me and many other single adults who were present, and a wonderful way to conclude this series.