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.