Are you a Christian single who feels isolated, alone and uninvolved with other Christian singles? Would you like to participate in wholesome, enjoyable, creative events? Are you in need of emotional and spiritual support? You’re not alone. And going to church seemingly amplifies the problem when it seems very family oriented.
Before I go any further, what I’m going to share is based on general observation and do not apply to all churches. In fact, many singles are cared for in my own church because its much smaller/intimate in nature. But still, there are many outside who I’ve spoken to who that have felt alienation from others because they were single. I don’t think this alienation is intentional, but rather a blind-spot in the church today. Here are a few issues that come to mind.
The expectation that adulthood and life begins when you get married
The church seems to have put marriage on a pedestal, with children (note plural) as the gold standard of Godly living. A quick look at church leadership shows most pastors and elders taken up by married men with kids. Also in conversations, I’ve noticed that after work has been discussed, the next topic is usually relationships. Are you seeing anyone? Do you have a girlfriend? Do you want get to married? It’s as though we assume the next step in life after career is family. A very worldly type of mentality. Finally there’s advice too – that a single man or woman is less approachable for Godly counsel than one who is married. How many times have I seen a young, married couple being approached more than the more experienced, elderly, widowed man in the corner of the pew.
If most our marriage advice in the Bible has come from single men including Paul, the early church fathers, and our saviour Jesus himself, how are we to disqualify those who have walked a long, consistent, celibate life for the Lord?
The expectation that if you’ve been single for a long time, something is wrong
There is a subtle guilt imposed that if you have been single for a long time, you didn’t try hard enough. That something’s wrong with you. That you’re a person who didn’t try to be attractive, or sociable, or spiritual, or entrepreneurial, or just made too many mistakes in their life and is beyond hope. It’s largely psychological too. The notion is that if you don’t marry someone, then you won’t have anyone to love or take care of you when you get older. So in the end, you really have no social standing in life.
Frankly, those type of statements are driven by ignorance and a lack of concern for others. The truth is that many singles do put themselves out there yet have experienced the pain of rejection. Still, others are being patient in God’s timing and are focusing their energies on pleasing him. Furthermore, placing our trust in marriage, or children to secure our future is a false sense of security. Nothing is secure other than the rock that is Jesus Christ.
Allow me give an example. I recently met with a long-time Christian friend of mine who’s been single all her life. She diverted her effort toward missionary work for nearly 10 years overseas, and countless hours counselling others. Her life is full of passion, and devotion to the Lord. She has always appeared to me as a person who exhibits self-control, patience, kindness, and love. Yes, she wishes to be married but it just never happened. Does she pray about finding a spouse? Certainly at times. Do I think something is ‘wrong’ in her life? I think not.
Churches put a huge emphasis on marriage, but not on singleness
I can barely remember one or two sermons that focused on the topic of singleness, but I do remember countless sermons on marriage and all that it that it entails. Then looking through church programs you’ll notice a large percentage is catered to those who are married. Parenting class, pre-marital class, couples gathering, even Sunday school (mostly run by singles). Rarely will you see a singles group, or even a pastor designated for singles ministry. Even outside the church there’s weddings, baby dedications, babysitting, baby showers, and children concerts that singles have to contend with too.
If only singleness was “celebrated” in the church. That the church shows their appreciation and love to those who have served during their seasons of singleness. That they empathize with those who do wish to get married but not try to “fix” their singleness via playing matchmaker or suggestive tones. That those who have been married for a long time have the humility to realize they may not understand the world of those who have been single for a long time.
Marriage is amazing and every Christian ought to celebrate it with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Attending every wedding and birth should be a joy, and never out of envy. But marrying someone of the opposite sex is not the end goal. It is only the means to an end. “At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30). That end is our relationship with Christ. Marriage is meant to draw us closer to Jesus Christ. To give him glory through marriage, and not just to enjoy sex. So whether single or married, we need to focus on what on the real prize – to know Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection.
Whether you’re married or not, I hope these brought to light some of the struggles that singles go through and that we’ll all bring a greater sensitivity to the issue of singleness in the church.
Have any questions or concerns? Please leave a comment below.