Singles Are Lost And The Church Is Silent

A few months ago I heard a sermon on 1st Corinthians 7 in the context of a great series on marriage and love.  Paul writes here that some people should stay single.  That part of the scripture was read, but the pastor literally skipped talking about it.  Hmmm.

Here’s the truth about the Church and singleness:  We don’t know what the heck to do with it.

There are almost no scriptures that talk about it.  There is the idea of a gift or calling to it but we are somehow unable or unwilling to actually preach on it.  Meanwhile the number of singles in our country continues to grow.  What is it we are going to tell them?

We only have one recorded conversation in which Jesus discusses it directly.  Jesus is asked about divorce as a kind of a trick question in Matthew 19 (Mark 10).  The pharisees ask Jesus if a man can divorce his wife for any reason.  Jesus answers that even though the law provided for it that it was not the original intent.  He points out that from the beginning (pre-sin) that marriage was the joining together of two people and should not be separated by man.  As we’ve discussed, this shows us about marriage and that sex belongs there.

The disciples are incredulous.  Basically they say that being married no matter what is too hard.  Jesus then takes this opportunity to say marriage is not for everyone.  Sometimes by choice and sometimes by circumstance and still other times by calling – people shouldn’t get married.

The over all point here is that singleness for the kingdom is an option.  Marriage is an option.  Both are hard and both can be worth it.  But one is not lifted over the other, or necessarily harder than the other.

That is literally as close as you’re going to get to Jesus talking about being single. However, Jesus was Himself single so we can learn things from that.

We don’t really know if Jesus was tempted by sex.  I fully believe that women were often attracted to Jesus.  To think that this man who was full of life and confidence did not attract women would be crazy.  I would bet all I own that women wanted to be with Jesus.

But, Jesus knew that He was called to be single.  He lived that out. His mission was to live the life that we should have lived and die the death that we should have died.  That necessitated a kingdom calling that didn’t include marriage.

This for sure shows us that marriage does not complete us.  A single person (by calling or by situation) is not less holy, mature, or spiritual than a married person.  Marriage is not a promise, right, or entitlement.  It isn’t necessary for a right spiritual life.  If it was then Jesus would have needed to marry to live the life we should have lived.

At the same time a person called to singleness is not more holy or special than a person who is not.  To me Jesus clearly states this.  Both marriage and singleness are hard and are a calling from God.

The huge mistake we keep making in the Church is we toss around this idea of being called to singleness but then we don’t help anyone actually figure out if they are called.  It’s like a footnote in a sermon once every two years.

This is not enough!  We can’t just say to a country that is 50% single, “Hey some are called to singleness which is great.  In fact Jesus was single so we know it can be good.  However we aren’t actually going to help you determine if that is your calling but somehow you will magically know so good luck with that.”

This lack of direction and teaching leads to all sorts of problems.  There are married people who initially were called to be single (They should not get divorced.  God’s grace can cover any mistake we make – including getting married when we shouldn’t have). There are people called to be married who are single because they don’t know how to get married.  And there are single people who just have no idea of what they are called to.  We aren’t helping any of them.

It’s time that churches step up in this situation.  We can’t just drop a line in about this now and then and hope it will work out.  If we are going to help our people as well as be missional in what will likely soon be a majority single society, then we have to actually engage this.

We have to help people figure out which way they are called and then we have to help them pursue that calling.  Anything else is insufficient at best and gutless at worst.

22 thoughts on “Singles Are Lost And The Church Is Silent

  1. The pastor at a church I visited a few times actually spoke a pretty clear sermon on this topic one day. This particular church had a lot of 20s and 30s, so sex and marriage are highlighted there all the time and spoken about pretty freely. It’s refreshing.

    One of the simple points he brought up was about ‘burning’ to be in a relationship. He said some people are called to singleness, but if you feel you want to be married, it is better to do so than to “burn with passion”. It’s a little metaphorical to say the least, but I think one of the things we can all identify with is whether or not we “feel the burn”, as it were.

    That’s pretty much my guiding light right there, but it means something different for anyone I suppose. I have some anecdotes related to this, but I think they all point back to the fact that we all need relationships because no man is an island. Some people just get the kind of fulfillment they need out of family and friends, rather than a spouse.

    • Hey Luke

      That’s great. The only danger in the burning thing is that I have had times where I’ve desired relationship (too much) and times when I really haven’t cared. We have to be careful with the desire thing – but I think it is a part of it for sure. Do you think that church has that sermon on their website somewhere?

      Also – for sure we are not called to be alone. That’s a great point.

  2. Let’s say that the church offered an incredible ministry targeted to singles. Say that you had wise sermons, books, retreats, etc., on singleness. All of that is available in tenfold for marriage. Has it helped married people? Statistics would disagree. The widow in Mark 12 didn’t ask “where is the widow’s ministry?”, she simply gave all she had. Maybe the question is how can each of us take ourselves out of first place.

    • Well we are told directly to care for widows. Ha. I get what you mean though. The truth is if we walked with Jesus and were fully submitted to Him then we would know what to do. I do think the Church should help us learn how to do that first. We probably should spend more time actually helping people do it. That would be even more gutsy. If we don’t solve that, then the rest won’t matter.

      I would defend the Church’s ministry to marrieds though. I think the stats for the people that actually engage those books and programs are probably pretty good. I know of many friends who would say it has helped or in some cases saved their marriages. I’ve seen people in my church literally fight for couples’ marriages. On top of that my view of marriage has been drastically affected by the teaching of the church and by having community with married people in the church.

      • In the US, marriage rate is 6.8, divorce rate is 3.6.
        Again, I think it comes to each of us stepping out of first place. Maybe the first time we’re introduced to that concept is in a church sermon on marriage. Maybe not.

  3. I agree with the need for solid teaching and recognition on Singleness, but unlike Marriage classes and groups, the entire church should be in on this teaching. Marrieds certainly know plenty of singles and often try to set them up and ‘help them’ find someone special, indicating that they are not yet whole. We all need to understand and respect whatever we are called to do. Great post.

  4. When there is a focus on singles in the churches I’ve attended, they tend to focus singles in their 20s (not those of us north of 30), or singleness in preparation for marriage (not singleness as a lifestyle). There also is very little support for singles with children (either never married or divorced and not remarried). Oftentimes, the small groups are basically activity groups, not groups that talk about any real issues we face. Bowling next Saturday!!

    There are very few 50+ singles in churches as examples. How many single pastors have you ever seen? Not much talk on diversity and singleness, i.e. encouraging interracial Christian relationships. Sometimes as a single female Christian, you feel extremely guilty for not being attracted to the Christian men in your church. How do we deal with that…how do we know if we’re being overly picky? Then there is the unbalanced male to female ratio (more women) in most churches. And let’s be honest, even women in the church compete for any single available man that walks through the doors.

    Very little support for single female Christians who have been blessed or prosper in their career and the challenges they may face. That’s extremely isolating in of itself because you feel like you’ve got to be dumber than you are or downplay your success.

    So many female Christians suffer from low self-esteem. All of us know that most men won’t be tolerant of waiting till marriage to have sex, even proclaimed Christian men. After 6 months, you feel like you’re sure to be dumped. You don’t feel like you can be attractive without tempting the men in the church. Yes we know the scriptures about inner beauty, but we also know men are visual.

    I sometimes resent when there is talk of singleness and gender, it focuses on women in the role of mother and household manager. Household manager is fine, but what if you don’t want children? Married couples often look at the singles as babysitters.

    It’s just disheartening to want guidance and support from your church community and have a vacuum.

    • Crystal

      As a single female Christian, and regular in a church, I would NEVER play myself down for a guy! Anyone who doesn’t recognize you as beautiful and Awesome as a smart, single career woman is a moron not worth the time anyways.

      Honestly, what do guys notice anyways? I’ve tried to get dates with some guys, who don’t seem interested, moved on from there, but honestly, I’m someone who is very socially “odd”, and while i’d love to be married, I already work twice the pace of others to keep up with half of what the other ‘girly’ girls do… I got my hair in pixie cut to lower maintainence, I go out a lot to bowling and activities without really thinking about it other than it’s comfortable, wear it. Any advice for ‘tomboys’ who want to find someone worth having? And no, I don’t plan to be very much more ‘girly’ than the basics.

    • I’ve never wanted children, mostly because with sensory perception disorder and nervous system being haywire and on overdrive mode all the time, I find kids younger than 7th grade a nuisance, annoying, irritating, and sometimes just plainly I don’t like kids.

      In regards to not wanting kids in marriage, doesn’t genesis say somewhere that marriage is intended to procreate? Isn’t the human race procreated enough? God wants godly offspring, but who’s to say the kids won’t stray from the way?

      It seems kinda weird that church doesnt cover this. My singles group recently became the ministry to young adults, as it’s a bunch of young marrieds and singles. Kinda feel like singleness gets ignored…

  5. What about a church that has no ministry for single people of either gender who are single for whatever reason? Not everybody is out to look for a partner. However ALL teaching is geared towards married people and their family life? The singles? They are just ignored. You might occassionally – maybe once or twice a year – get invited to dinner with a married couple or several, but conversation quickly turns to baby’s nappies, and which one has filled theirs most, which child is doing well at school or not etc, to which a never married, never had sex single cannot possibly have an input!
    The only use single people have as far as I can see is babysit for the couples, stuff the envelopes during evangelistic/’publicity campaigns, cook, clean etc. I know that it says we are to do our good deeds without expectation of thanks, but thanks occassionally would be encouraging.
    Loneliness, for me is the biggest problem. Between church services – Pastor says, “Now go and have a time of fun and fellowship with your family” or words to that effect, and I just go home or to the library until that closes, and twiddle my thumbs! I am sick so cannot work. I can do that every day of the week, but somehow on a Sunday it feels worse. New Year, Christmas are another hard time. That is 7 days without fellowship of any kind. Just sitting there thinking about what might be….. I am almost considering not to go to church for a few weeks and see how long it takes for anyone to notice?
    In my church, they are just starting a 10 week course on marriage. What use is that to me?

    • Hey Katrina

      Thanks for your thoughts. It can be really tough. I’d encourage you to read through some of my posts about marrieds and singles loving each other. Not because I have all the answers but because I’ve lived it and I think they could be helpful.

    • I’ve always had trouble with loneliness, but realized that was deeper in not knowing Jesus. Keep in mind though that singles have a mission to fill as well. Not just in serving, but in prayer. I consider myself a prayer warrior sent to pray for people in hospitals for supernatural or natural healing. We have a calling to go to other people who are hurting, local bars, local hangouts and ask people if they need prayer, and pray with them in the setting they are in. Meet people where they are, whether cross town, cross country, or cross globe, meet lost, dying people, give them Jesus as hope and life. He said go two by two, being a single friend who is also committed to prayer! Praying for you!

    • Find a new church or fellowship, or find other sitting alone in those gatherings, does great for loneliness to share in it with a fellow single.

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  7. Marriage and family are worshipped as idols in today’s society. Where do you see this the most? Churches. An imbalance between the value of celibacy and the value of marriage will lead to the collapse of a culture. It is the #1 reason why our country has fallen into the abyss of sexual immorality. John (51) – gift of singleness

  8. Churches just do not want single people anymore unless they’re college students. Anyone over 25 who is single is looked upon as defective, the exception being if the person is widowed. My previous church at one time had a huge group for singles in their mid-20s to mid-30s, almost 100 members.

    Then one day a cabal of old women decided it was time to “reevaluate” the church’s ministry and used their influence and money to get rid for the singles group because, in one of their own words, “people should not be single after 25.” She would come by every Sunday morning before Sunday school and tell everyone in the class to “hurry up and get into the young married couples classes.” Our group survived for a short time because our church sponsors kept it alive with their own time and money, but eventually most people just left. I was out the door after one of the remaining single women did something very cruel and humiliating to me because I made the horrible sin of asking her out. Last I heard, there are only two single people left at the church, and they’re both looking for somewhere else. Sadly though, not a single church in this town has a group for singles who are older than college age. Either they don’t want us, or they don’t know what to do with us. I suspect it is both.

    • Hey John – thanks for sharing a hard story. I think a lot of Churches do care, they just don’t know what to do about it. I’m also sure there are some churches that don’t care. Sorry for what you’ve been through. Don’t give up though. I truly believe more churches will eventually wake up – if nothing else because of the numbers.

      • Justin, I could suggest a couple of hundred things. But here are a few for starters:
        1. Hire single pastors. There are churches (esp SBC) here in the southeast that actually have a ban on hiring a single person. Many even require two chidren. Comical, but true.
        2. Elect single deacons.
        3. Select single Sunday School teachers.
        4. Involve singles in AWANA and VBS.
        5. Ask a single to pray in church at least once every 25 years.
        6. Develop Sunday School classes for singles. Meet at least every 4-6 months, depending on size of group.
        7. Put an end to the practice of diviidng Sunday School classes based on marital status, age and/or gender. How can older single adults serve as mentors when they’re never face to face with the kids who need the most help?
        8. Let singles take part in church tradition – for example, lighting the Advent candles.
        9. Don’t assume that all singles are looking for spouses.
        10. Sit with a single every once in a while during worship service.

  9. Pingback: The Sermon On Singleness You Won’t Hear | More Than Don't Have Sex

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