You Should Do More, You Just Can’t Be In Charge

One of the things that always bothers me is when we assume single people should do more ministry.  This sort of thought process happens all the time for several reasons.

It comes from the pulpit because pastors either misunderstand or misuse what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7.  Without going into too much depth here as I’ve written extensively about this, Paul is not saying if you are not yet married that you are therefore not distracted and able to be a better, more focused Christian.  He is instead saying if you are not distracted by a desire to get married, it could be that you have the gift/calling of celibacy and that would be a good thing.

But this is where this gets really ironic is that the same people telling you to “take advantage of your singleness” in ministry don’t want you to actually lead the ministry.  Perhaps what they really mean, is that while they can, they want to take advantage of your singleness.

You see it’s fine if you want to serve in the nursery or maybe the youth, on the worship team, set up and tear down, and in the rare church you might even be able to lead a small group.

But, if you want to be a pastor or elder, better think again.

Most places won’t explicitly say it.  Which in my opinion is sort of cowardice.  But there are those who will say it.  And honestly while I completely disagree, at least they come out in the open.

What’s interesting with most of these folks is that they don’t claim it’s completely biblical, it’s instead mostly biblical.  Haha.  Seriously.  Follow along.

Al Mohler reasons that pastors should be married because of the logic of scripture and the centrality of marriage.

For the logic of Scripture he points to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9  which both essentially state that the elder must be above reproach, the husband of one wife and manage his own household well etc.

But another point of logic here might say that the person who is writing these instructions is . . . wait for it. . . not married.

In Mohler’s version of the Kingdom, marriage is central.  This is true of many of our churches, not just him.  He’s just saying it out loud so to speak.  But the problem is that marriage is not central to the biblical kingdom*.  Marriage is from God.  And if you are not called to celibacy, then by all means you should pursue it.  Paul says it, if you are distracted with that drive, which almost all of us are, then go get married.  It’s natural and good.  But it’s not for everyone and even many of the folks who long for marriage won’t attain it.

Here’s another problem with the “logic” (which I still question if any seminaries actually teach logic).  What happens if you hire the pastor and two years later his spouse dies.  Can he still be your pastor?  Is there a time table on remarriage?  That’s just one of a bunch of examples I could list.

Also he drops the “logic” that all the relationships inside the church will be more natural if the leader(s) is married.  In other words, how can you be an example to all the married men or lead the single men to marriage or minster to married people if you’re not married.  That makes sense.  It seems to me by this “logic” that I’ve never been 50 so I probably can’t minister to those over 50.  I’m not rich so it would be hard to minister to rich folks.  I’m not poor so the poor are out.  Basically I should only do ministry with white middle class people younger than me.  That’s an interesting plan.

But the main reason folks don’t want single pastors is because we all know that no man can overcome or control in any way his sexual desire.

Mark Driscoll writes as much in a blog responding to an email question that literally asks, “Does God still call men with the gift of singleness into pastoral ministry?

Driscoll answer is no, well sometimes, but it won’t go well, or they all die. . . Haha.  I mean this guy is something.

First Driscoll points out that Paul and Jesus were single but they both lived hard lives and died.  Because of course married people don’t live hard lives and die?  Ummm.

Secondly he of course quotes the same verses that Mohler does.

But he goes further – he says that much of what he learned as a pastor he learned as a husband and father, which I don’t doubt (although it gives me some pause with his style). But the catch here is that he was never actually single.  He got married at 21.  Of course he learned it after he was married.

But he goes really big on this idea that a single pastor couldn’t possibly with stand today’s sexual temptations.  He states:

I have known only a few single men who were pastors, and the majority of them disqualified themselves morally.  I know thousands and thousands of pastors and only one is a single pastor who has not disqualified himself and has a church that is healthy and growing.

Wow, just wow.  First, there are many ways to be disqualified.  Ahem.  Also we’ve seen plenty of married pastors be “disqualified”.  Third, you do not know thousands and thousands of married pastors that have a church that is healthy and growing.  I could go at this all day.

Both of these folks admit that they can’t really say that a single person biblically can’t be a pastor.  It’s just that they can’t be.

This is all so bad.

It just completely eliminates a whole lot of people, completely dishonors those called to celibate service in the Kingdom, is completely confusing to young men trying to find their calling, and honestly just continues to send us to back to the cycle where the church is for the people with a current nuclear family.


* Marriage is becoming less central in the secular culture as well.

10 thoughts on “You Should Do More, You Just Can’t Be In Charge

  1. It’s almost as though these pastors are saying, “You’re not living as I’m living as a married person and therefore, you can have a thriving ministry like I have l.” Hmmm…I’ve never had a desire to be a pastor or hold any office in the chuch but learning of elitist ideas like this are probably one of the reasons why I’ve stopped going to church.

  2. oh….I don’t know……the Roman Catholic church functioned all through the end of the Roman Empire….the Middle Ages, The Renaissance, The Enlightenment, The Victorian / Edwardian Age……and into the modern and post-modern era………with Priests that were supposed to be celibate and not married (I know, I know… we are told every priest is a child predator, is living a gay lifestyle, has lustful affairs with all the women of the church…….) and many DID uphold their vows. Nameless, faceless priests over the centuries who heeded their call, grew the faith, loved God, lived for Christ and served the people. I know two right now who are doing this…..and I am not even a Catholic.

      • I meet with a Catholic priest about once a month for prayer, friendly talk and discussion. He’s my age…..had the “call to the priesthood” when he was a teenager. He’s the parish priest in charge of the local Catholic Charities here in my city.

        Look, we will disagree on many of the liturgical / doctrinal aspects (we do btw) but what an amazing man of God he is! This man can pray! This man is confident in who he is in Christ. He has such a heart for the poor! He understands the struggles of singles better than any Protestant pastor I have met (or have watched on the Internet). He knows the urges, the powerful emotions that come with a God given sex-drive but he also is a WALKING example of how to live a life dedicated to Christ and Christ alone. This is where a nod, or a second look should be taken by us Protestants.

        We have talked much about singleness in the church (and it’s an issue on the Catholic side as well); with that said, celibacy is at least spoken about a bit more and is demonstrated by dedicated men in the Catholic tradition from the pulpit and altar

  3. I know this is off subject and I’m not trying to start an argument but this is one of the reasons why I have a problem with silencing of any group within the church body, whether it be marital status, gender or otherwise. In the worst case scenario, which is often the typical scenario, the only people who are allowed to lead are family men since a lot of churches restrict leadership to men who are married AND fathers. In many cases, those family men may speak up for their wives and children, though not always. Single men may have a voice since they are allowed to speak though not lead. Single women, who are not the oft quoted “our wives and mothers” have even less of a voice than married women and single men since they have no one to speak up for them and they are not permitted to speak for themselves. In practical application, if the church leaders are open and good leaders, a single woman might have a voice if she is comfortable going to a pastor/elder with her concerns and if the church (or the married women in the church) don’t have a problem with the single woman speaking with a married man. However, in reality, even egalitarian churches don’t seem to be listening to the voices of single men or women, certainly nothing specific to their singleness.

    Also, married pastors, come with a free assistant.

    Driscoll – whatever. I’d like to know how many single pastors he’s actually met.

    The church doesn’t think (IMHO) that single people need much ministering precisely because they don’t have families or they count their years between 18-20 as single, so they think they are meeting the very few needs of single congregants whereas a single person can’t possibly meet or understand the great needs of a family. That’s why we have multiple conversations about the lack of sleep or free time parents get and conversations around loneliness end up becoming about the married person who feels alone (and how much worse it is) or the harried married person who wishes he/she could spend some time alone and have all of the fun that single people are allegedly having. It’s really them telling us that they are the ones with the lack of understanding, not the other way around.

    All to say – like Kim, I have no desire to hold any official leadership role in the church, but it would be nice to have someone who understands my concerns and speaks up for people in my circumstances.

  4. This post brings up some excellent points. Discoll, like so many other preachers, tries to overlay his own relative reality onto unchanging biblical principles. Hence, he writes a lot about the “virtually impossible,” “general rule,” “most likely,” “I have only known,” “the majority of them,” “improbable,” “exceptions to the rule.” His theology is one based on what the majority believes, not what the Bible says is true. I personally don’t like the idea of being cubbyholed with a label like “ministry.” While it may be a familiar and comfortable word, it’s not one I relate to. It conjures up family friendly Billy Graham crusades and Gridiron Men’s Conferences. I rather like the idea of being unknown and working behind the scenes. I don’t remember Paul conducting formal ordered services with offeratories and benedictions. It’s sort of ironic because Protestants protested against single men in the ministry. Now they’re saying that’s where we belong. it also smacks of hypocrisy because, like Discoll said, Protestant churches consider celibate men unqualfied to be preachers. I found his assumption that people with the gift of celibacy “lived difficult lives and died” quite humerous. That pretty much sums up the state of the church today – comfort-based with nuclear families that live forever. Some denominations, like the SBC, were founded on segregation and discrimination and apparently that’s all they know how to do today.

  5. Pingback: Making Your Church Unmarried Friendly Theology | More Than Don't Have Sex

  6. Pingback: Making Your Church Unmarried Friendly – Experientially | More Than Don't Have Sex

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