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.
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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- As a married person your best friend maybe a single, and for singles your best friend maybe a married person.
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.