As church-planting pastors, we know the importance of a healthy marriage. It’s right that we consistently ensure our ministry marriages are healthy.
But there’s also the danger of assuming that every pastor will be married. A godly single man—who has the character traits outlined in the pastoral epistles—is no less qualified than a godly married man. So we must equip the single man for ministry just as much as we do the married man.
As Sam Allberry has observed, “If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency.” So what does singleness look like in church planting? To help us think about some of the unique challenges—and opportunities—that being single affords, I’m excited to have Hunter Beaumont with me on the podcast today.
Hunter is the lead pastor of Fellowship Denver Church in Denver, Colorado. He also serves on the Acts 29 U.S. West Network leadership team, and he’s on the board of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work.
Listen to this episode of Churches Planting Churches.
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Tony Merida: Welcome to Churches Planting Churches, a podcast on the theology and practice of church planting. I’m your host, Tony Merida. As church planting pastors, we know the importance of having a healthy marriage. We see Paul emphasize this in his first letter to Timothy. So it’s right that we consistently ensure that our marriages are healthy in ministry. There’s also a danger of assuming that every pastor will be married when in reality, this is not the case. A godly single man who has the character traits we see outlined in the pastoral epistles is no less qualified than a godly married man. So we must equip the single man for ministry just as much as we do for the married man. And as Sam Allbery so aptly said, “If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency.” So what does singleness look like in church planting? To help us think about some of the unique challenges and opportunities that being single affords, I’m excited to have my friend Hunter Beaumont with me on the podcast today. Hunter is the lead pastor of Fellowship Denver Church in Denver, Colorado. He also serves on the Acts 29 West Network Leadership Team and he’s on the board of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work. Hunter, welcome to the podcast, man.
Hunter Beaumont: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Merida: Hunter and I have been at various events together, and you may see him out speaking at events, church planting events, other events, and it’s great to have you here, bro.
Beaumont: Thanks. Appreciate it.
Merida: Do you get tired of talking about singleness?
Beaumont: Yeah, well, sometimes, but it’s also something I feel like I’m supposed to talk about. So even kind of coming to terms a few years ago with my own journey in this has been really good for me and integrating that into my story and learning to talk about it, it’s been helpful to others, so it’s something I feel like the Lord’s told me I need to talk about.
Merida: Well, we’re glad you’re gonna spend a few minutes with us. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did you come to faith?
Beaumont: Well, where I grew up is a little hard to describe because I bounced around quite a bit with my family, but our people are originally from Arkansas. Ironically, I was born in Alabama and went back to Alabama for high school. And that was significant in my faith journey. Actually, I came to faith in high school, in a Christian high school for the ministry, a Christian high school in Birmingham, Alabama. So a lot of ragging on Christian high schools, but I’m thankful for them. And I grew up in modernist, mainline Methodist churches, which is just a fancy way of saying that my pastors didn’t believe the gospel, essentially. And so I really didn’t know it and hadn’t been exposed to it, had just been exposed to a gospeless form of church that wasn’t very powerful or compelling. And so to be exposed to the gospel in high school and to see people who had made a difference in their life, and they were living it out was really compelling to me and significant in my story.
Merida: So take us from conversion up to church planting.
Beaumont: I went to the University of Arkansas and got involved in campus ministry there. I also got involved in fraternity life and fraternity life and Campus Ministry aren’t an easy marriage and so I struggled to figure that out. And really even the struggle of figuring out how to be a Christian in a predominantly non-Christian environment was huge for what would later become ministry and church planting for me. I graduated with a degree in accounting, went to work for one of the big five at the time accounting firms, Arthur Andersen. It collapsed in the Enron scandal, I was on board when it collapsed and…
Merida: Were you the cause?
Beaumont: I was not the cause, I was far away. I was in Dallas so I was far removed from Houston, where that was the epicenter of the earthquake. But about three years into my accounting career, I really wanted to pursue pastoral ministry. I had been involved for the first time in a really good local church. The church was a combination of excellent preaching and teaching which I was growing from and also really strategic leadership. They thought intentionally about the mission of the church, where they were going as a church, they just lead the congregation very well. So I had always thought of churches just it’s always there and it does the same thing. And it was… we would use the term entrepreneurial today, I know you used… you’ve done a previous podcast on that. They didn’t use that term, but that’s what it was and combined with really robust teaching and preaching.
So it was really compelling to me. I knew how to get in front of people and talk, I’ve been doing that for most of my life. I thought I could do this if I had anything to say, if I don’t have anything to say, so I went to the seminary. And went to seminary to learn theology, learn Bible, church history, and in seminary, while in seminary, I had an accounting client in Denver, Colorado and I fell in love with Denver. And God gave me a particular burden, especially for the urban center of Denver, which this would have been in the early 2000s that I was there.
It was kind of on the front end of kind of the movement of people returning to the cities, Christians returning to the cities. There really weren’t very many gospel preaching churches that were really trying to reach people in the middle of Denver in the year 2000, 2001, 2002. There’s many now by God’s grace, but there weren’t many then and so I was just a burden for these people and so for me church planting was really a call to a particular place and people, and I think that’s significant. I meet church planters who, they’re like, “I’m a church planter and I’m just trying to figure out where to plant a church.” And then the others who maybe have a more specific call to people in a place and mine was to people in a place. Did some assessments and found out that I’m kind of wired gifted to be a planter, that’s in the makeup God’s given me, but my thought process was not, “I’m an entrepreneurial leader, where do I go?” It was really more, “Here’s the people in a place that God’s just given me a special passion for.”
Merida: So we’re talking about singleness and church planting. Do you think we need to give more time to training single men for church planting? Give more time to training single women in our churches? What’s been your experience? What are some of the gaps? What are some of the needs?
Beaumont: Probably just to be open to the possibility of single men and women in church planting in pastoral ministry is where I would say the church probably needs to start. I think we have a lot of great avenues for training and equipping. There is a sense that in which single men and women are automatically considered not yet ready for those processes. I remember graduating seminary and looking for jobs in ministry and not really having any options. There weren’t churches that wanted to hire a 31-year-old at the time, single guy. So church planting wasn’t, I didn’t plant a church because that’s all I could do, but it was actually a church planting organization called Fellowship Associates agreed to partner with me, train me and it was really unusual at the time and probably still is unusual for a church planting organization or a church that’s sending church planters to really consider a single man for that calling. But they did, they agreed to it. They took a chance on me and so even just to be in that track was unusual.
Merida: What kind of opportunities has singleness afforded you in ministry?
Beaumont: Well, there’s the obvious. I would say there’s the obvious answers which are true and need to be acknowledged which are that being single gives you an opportunity to devote yourself wholly to a work of Kingdom advancement in a way that marriage makes more complicated and having a family makes more complicated. So, you know, you’ve planted a church and you lead a church, you know how exhausting it is, you know how much energy it requires, and there is a certain element of freedom to give yourself fully to that.
And in a way that you don’t… that I just noticed my married friends who are also pastors and church planters have more complicated considerations. So that’s the obvious one. The surprising one for me has been I’ve had to develop a theology of singleness and the kingdom of God. And I did that a few years ago when a friend challenged… a friend of mine, Bob [inaudible 00:10:06], an Acts 29 pastor, asked me to come teach at his church on the theology of singleness and I said, “Bob, I don’t have a theology of singleness,” you know. And he said, “Well, you got a couple of months to figure it out.” So I did, I just sort of figured it out. And it was such a…it was so life-giving to my soul to study that, to see how the Kingdom of God advances through the making of disciples, not through making babies, but through making spiritual children, through new birth, not through procreation.
And to notice that if that is the case with the kingdom of God, there’s actually no disadvantage to being single, you can put this faith in it. So you’ve got guys like Paul calling people his spiritual children. When Jesus wants to put the gas pedal down, he raises up a single guy and this was a new thing in redemptive history. The people of God in the Old Testament advanced by procreation. And in fact, when God tells Jeremiah not to take a life as a sign of his judgment on Israel, so there’s something new that’s happened with the death and resurrection of Jesus that’s unleashed a new age, a new era. And just learning that and seeing my life in that story has been incredibly powerful.
The fun thing about that is that that message is life-giving to so many people. It’s not just life-giving to single men and women although it is, it’s life-giving to… There’s a whole, there’s a… it’s life-giving to anybody who is experiencing an element of suffering or disappointment with their life. I’ve probably done 15 times, I’ve done a sermon or a seminar at churches around the country on singleness, on this theology of singleness, and every single one of them without fail yet, someone has talked to me who… some couple has come up and talked to me who are struggling to have children, and they have said this has given new… “This has given me new eyes on our situation.” Someone inevitably comes up to talk to me who’ s lost a spouse, and used to be married and is now not married through the death of a spouse. And they say, “This has given me new… helping me see new possibilities for how God wants to use my life and use me to advance His Kingdom.” So that’s been a fun part of being single in ministry and kind of being a unicorn in some sense. It’s like you get to talk about this because you’re the only person to talk about it. It’s been a fun part about it that’s just unexpected and there’s a strange joy in that.
Merida: Yeah. Well, you already hit on my next question, which was how has singleness helped you disciple both single and married people, right?
Merida: The disappointment, the struggle, the reality of living in a fallen world, the hope of a new creation.
Beaumont: That’s right.
Merida: All of that is filtered in, right?
Beaumont: It has. And part of my story has been coming to terms with, I’m not single by conscious choice as if like I set out to… I took a vow of celibacy. I remember when I went into…went to seminary, all my friends in the accounting firm were like, “So are you like going to be a monk?” You know, and like they didn’t what seminary was. And then they were like, “Are you like gonna live in a monastery?” And then they would kind of go, “Did you take a vow? Like, so no sex?” They would go. And I would say, “No, I’m committed to celibacy as a single man but I haven’t forsworn marriage.” And I’m still, let’s say that. So part of my story has been coming to terms with a good desire God’s given me that has not been fulfilled and recognizing the ache, the tension in that and learning to lean into that. You can pastor a lot of people from that and you know that God uses our… He usually uses our disappointment, our failures, the things we struggle with, He uses that to pastor people and to make us effective ministers. So that’s certainly part of my story. It’s not the only part but it is part of it.
Merida: Talk to us about the church, the church being the family of God. How can the church grow as they think, as we think about caring for single people in our congregation?
Beaumont: Well, let’s start theologically. Theologically, the church is the primary expression of family in the New Testament and what we would call the nuclear family is the secondary expression of family. That is so weird in American culture that it almost sounds dumb to say and it almost sounds impossible to lean into, and I and I know that many single people are disappointed that it’s not more of a family. In fact, when I talk to single people around the country, inevitably, someone will get…you know, we’ll have their Q and A session and someone will just go off on you know, married people and marriage idolatry and all this and I have to kind of walk them back like, “Hey, let’s not throw rocks at our brothers and sisters, you know, “Let’s bear with.” But there is, I think, a longing for a lot of people, not just those who have never been married, but many in our body have for the church to really live out it’s calling as the family of God. And so practically what that means is just developing a culture in the church where we open our lives, open our homes up to each other. And in a way that’s not like well put together southern hospitality where there’s, you know, there’s a casserole and everything’s, you know, perfectly put together but just opening your life up.
So I have friends who, some of the sweetest times with them is dinner at 5:30. Married people eat dinner really early because they got to get their kids to bed so they can have an adult life. And so, you know, you’re like showing up for dinner at 5:36 o’clock, which who eats dinner at that time of day but married people with three kids do so. So being just being at their home during dinner time or kids just talking about the day and then they’re wrestling to get kids down and we’re just going to hang out a little bit afterwards that’s, man, that’s not… that’s not glamorous and there’s no advanced prep they did except, you know, putting one extra piece of chicken in the oven, so that’s fine.
Merida: It’s good. Now I know you’ve done a lot of work in church planting cohorts. How have you… And you’ve been through a lot when you mentioned Fellowship Associates, how have you seen those help yourself and other single guys talk to maybe some aspiring church planters who are single.
Beaumont: One of the… it’s just really important to have friends in, and I think it’s important to have friends in ministry. It’s important to have friends who are not in full-time vocational ministry, but it’s also important to have friends who are because there’s unique challenges that they can identify with. And so the cohorts, cohorts are a great opportunity just to develop that kind of friendship with other pastors. There’s also a collegiality that develops where we’re not in competition with each other, but we’re helping each other. So this is a need for single men as much as it is for married guys and so for me, cohorts have just been an opportunity to lock arms with some guys, to learn from them, and to share life and to share my own journey and receive theirs as well.
So I think they’re really important. I have an informal cohort of myself and four other pastors. We all started churches in a similar time and we’re all similar age within a few years of each other. We call ourselves the soul brothers. And we get together two or three times a year just really to…more to share what’s going on in your heart and in your life than to talk about ministry strategy. So we do chop that stuff up, of course, but we really just share, “Here’s the burdens I’m carrying, here’s the joys I’m experiencing, here are the things I’m praying for, for our people, for my life. Here are the questions I have before the Lord that I’m seeking His direction and guidance on. Here’s what’s unknown about life now. Here’s what’s unknown about the future that I need you guys to join me in.” And we’ve been doing this now for three-plus years. And to kind of be on that kind of journey with some other men is incredibly powerful. And one of them, even last week was reminding me of where I was three years ago and what we’ve seen in those three years and how the Lord is answering prayers and done things in my life and my ministry and in my heart and it’s just can you meet friends that are doing that for you?
Merida: It’s good. And you’ve outlined some really important topics on this subject. So we’re looking at Denver, being single, being a church planter. What excites you in the year to come about Denver? What are some of the challenges you guys have?
Beaumont: Denver is a fast-growing city. It attracts a lot of single folks, younger single folks to it. It’s a classic Western American city where people move for opportunity and they move for lifestyle and they often move to get away from something they don’t want to be in. Typically, it’s somewhere in Kansas or somewhere in Michigan or somewhere in Texas or somewhere in Tennessee that they don’t want to be anymore. And they move to get away from religion too, they move to get away from conservative fundamentalist religion. And, you know, I love those people. So what’s exciting in Denver, we’ve seen a real growth of the capital C church there. There are quite a few churches now in the city and in the suburbs that are effectively, faithfully teaching the gospel and missionally engaging people, real people. And so it’s an exciting time in Denver.
It’s also a difficult… it also has its challenges. Denver is probably one of the few cities in America where what used to be called emergent still has some life to it and even has some institutional life to it. And so that is a constant challenge that there’s really a competing gospel message competing for the hearts and minds of people so it’s not purely a city where there’s kind of a secular message and a gospel message that are competing. There’s also a pseudo gospel message that’s competing for the hearts and minds of people. And so it’s a complex town.
Merida: Hunter Beaumont, lead pastor of Fellowship Denver Church, Denver, Colorado. Can the listeners go to your website, hear your sermons, find out more about your…?
Beaumont: For sure, fellowshipdenver.org.
Merida: And thanks for being on the podcast, buddy.
Beaumont: Thank you, Tony.