You may want to first read the introduction to mission: single|married|kids.
One of the ironies of American church culture is that while the New Testament speaks directly to the benefits of being single, our language and structures often imply that marriage is the ideal for all Christians. Consider Paul’s council in 1 Corinthians chapter 7:
Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. (7:1)
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. (7:8)
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs- how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world- how he can please his wife- and his interest are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of the world- how she can please her husband. (7:32-34)
As you read his letters, it is clear that Paul’s view of marriage is much bigger than simply advising people not to get married. But what is also clear is Paul’s belief that the single Christian has a greater capacity to concern herself or himself with the affairs of God. Those of us who are married are, in some ways, pulled in different directions as we seek to please God and care for our spouse.
With this in mind, there are a couple of things we can consider about the single person and God’s mission. First, our churches need to avoid ever treating a single person as a lesser member of the community. Too often our language betrays this view. Rather than encouraging those who are single to fully pursue God’s mission in ways that are simply unavailable to the married, we instead talk about who that person should or could marry. Obviously marriage is something to look forward to. But it is not what defines us. And the lack of a spouse certainly does not define the single person.
Secondly, those who are single should be invited into ways of leading and serving the church that only they can do. I don’t mean single folks should be confined to certain areas of ministry. Rather, the church ought to empower single folks to engage in God’s mission with the crystal clear focus that Paul writes about. Those of us who are married would benefit greatly from the example, encouragement, and teaching of those who can demonstrate a singular commitment to the cause of Christ in our world.
Part two of this short series will look at the unique challenges and possibilities marriage poses to those pursuing God’s mission. Thoughts or questions? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment.