Singleness and the Church

This has been a burden of mine for awhile. I’ve been trying to find the right words though because I’m not familiar with too many Bible passages that relate to this subject. I don’t hear much about it unless it’s related to an edgy, urban church. It’s definitely a small town church problem. Here it is: We need to create and promote a better Protestant “Theology of Singleness.” I didn’t marry until I was 31, my wife was 28. Being single was hard for both of us! I now have a 27 year old Christian sister-in-law who continues to deal with being single. My wife has gotten wedding showers and now baby showers while my sister-in-law just bought her first home and no one has ever thrown her a party to get her anything. That stinks! 

Singles are a problem for the church. It’s a problem because many single, divorced and widowed people are lost, and we’ve done such a good job in some churches of providing for family ministry that by comparison we’ve neglected those who have no family. In a passage mostly about Paul’s ministry and clergy salaries there is another component in it regarding singleness. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:5a, “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife?” (ESV). Most of us believe Paul was single during his ministry, but in this defense of his ministry he points out his right to a wife like all the other apostles. It seems the church has had a singles problem since the early days of the church.

Take another look at Job. We all know Job as a book on grieving, but it’s also a book of “what not to say to your grieving widower friend.” His friends had the worst things to say about his new-found widowerhood. Look at Zophar in Job 11 and 20. He tells Job to repent in 11:13-14. When your single in the church sometimes you believe or hear that you will find that special someone once you are holy enough. The Church is almost as awkward with the divorced, widowed, and single as Job’s friends were with him.

Let me paint the picture for you. Some singles in the church are sensitive about their relationship status. Everyone else in the church is married or getting married. We have sermon series on marriage and the family, but I have never heard of a sermon series on the virtues of celibacy. I have never heard any church give four weeks or even just two weeks to this position honored in scripture as a “gift from God” (1 Cor 7:7-9 ESV)! Singles end up feeling like second class citizens.

It’s the Christian version of How I Met Your Mother. In the show, sometimes Ted’s problem is he wants a life just like his married friend Marshall. He feels left behind. And I didn’t plan on saying “left behind,” but man, single people in the church feel this way. They feel left out, the culture of the church so revolves around the family that singles can easily feel like they are left out.

What can we do? Here’s my original idea: throw house warming parties for singles. Treat them in the same manner we treat married people who have wedding showers and baby showers. Find a good excuse to give them gifts. Another idea with multiple possibilities is single housing: Churches could buy old homes, fix them up, and rent bedrooms out to singles. For one, bedroom apartments are horribly overpriced! Also, singles can often become poor because we live in a two-income nation. This can be a practical ministry to singles who might start attending church, or if people in the homes are already Christian who are very active in the church they could be “mission homes.” In the southern Ohio area, old homes can be bought for a little more or less than $20,000. Church members can volunteer the sweat hours to fix up the homes. Perhaps a church has a landlord as a member or a friend of the church who would just donate the home. If the house becomes a “mission home” then the rent would be minimal or nothing at all, but if the church is just renting out the home it becomes extra income for the church. The right home in the right location could really help a church accomplish things for the Kingdom. See this blog, if you’d like more information specifically about mission homes. 

We should be better at caring for single people than we are. We were all born single! Don’t just preach the gospel to singles. Meet their physical and emotional needs. We already meet the needs of married people very well. It’s not just about focusing on the family, or even focusing on singles, it’s about focusing on the lost. And as time in America goes by the lost are increasingly single.

*This blogger is a missionary to a Creative Access country and requires that his identity remain anonymous. To contact him, or help support his ministry, please contact Robie Day first at robieday@southernohiopastorscoalition.org.

@mjp2110 is from from Wheelersburg, OH and attended Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary before being selected and sent to minister to a Persecuted People Group in Asia.

Comments
One Response to “Singleness and the Church”
  1. What does “single” mean to you? Never married? Not looking for a spouse at the moment? Divorced? Widowed? Separated? Paul’s gift of celibacy? The truth is that it doesn’t mean too much in church circles. It’s just a comfortable word for everybody who doesn’t fit in with their families. All of these needs cannot be homogenized into one neat ministry package. A better Protestant theology of singleness? I didn’t know one existed already. The Southern Baptists have made it pretty clear that they’ve exalted marriage to idolatry status. Their mission statement even says that the only way to salvation is through marriage because it’s the foundation of society. And now they’re calling on children to marry at 12-14 years old. I appreciate you’re concern, but I don’t look to see any change within my lifetime. Never married, 54

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