Thought folks might be interested in the latest sermon I gave at Quest entitled, A Theology of Singlehood. For various reasons, I get reluctant talking about these topics so directly but I wanted to communicate to the many “single” women and men how important they are to the body of Christ…and at Quest. In fact, our church was started and built because of the devotion and passion of so many who saw their singlehood not as a transitional phase of waiting but a season of obedience.
What should be critical to one’s theology of singlehood?
I enjoyed the gist of this email I received. Singlehood is not about “waiting”…
I meant to tell ya how good it was to hear talk about Christ as a single person, contentment in times of singleness, and the importance of seeking and finding community at all phases- marriage being no exception.
So many times, the churches I’ve been to look over the single person. Sometimes they’ve had the perspective that singleness is just a phase: waiting to be married, waiting to meet someone. But that devalues it so- the single person is a huge contributor to the community, and has provides unique assets. This does not go without saying at many churches. You’re the first pastor I’ve had who devoted concentrated time to this. I appreciated the message a lot.
29 Replies to “a theology of singlehood”
Even as a married person (15 years next month!) I am glad to see singleness valued. When singleness is seen as just a holding-pattern, then it’s easier to put more pressure on marriage making it into this romanticized, heavenly state of being which fulfills every longing you have 24/7. And anyone who has been married for more than 6 months know that its just not like that – you still have to deal with unfulfilled dreams, frustrations, longing for friendship/community outside of your spouse, etc.
But I’ve talked to soooo many signle women in their 20’s or 30’s who really honestly believe that every deep longing will be fulfilled if they can just get married…marriage is fantastic, and I wouldnt trade it for anything, but its not going to fulfill my every longing.
I’m telling Jeff on you. He thought he had you at “Hello.”
LOL! Jeff so totally had me at Hello. We got engaged less than a month later 🙂
Thank you Eugene.
For the longest time I prayed that our daughter — who is full-time ministry — would find a man (or a man would find her) and she would get married. I don’t think she struggled with it as much as I did.
She has not been waiting until… And she is having a HUGE impact on the people around her in ministry. It’s been me who has had to learn this hard lesson. Thank you!
I’m thrilled to be single. In the past 10 yrs, most of my friends have married – but I’ve never felt the desire. Honestly, I don’t want to marry.
But – I’ve also seen how incredibly beautiful marriage is. I’m not talking some romantic image, but the hard daily realities of living with another person, loving them, raising kids – I get it. About as much as any non-married person can. It’s got to be the hardest thing (except perhaps raising children) that a person can do…and that’s one of the reasons it’s such a powerful testimony to see a godly marriage.
But I’m still not interested. Not now, at least. Maybe in the future. I’ll leave that up to God.
Now if only everyone would stop praying for me to find a husband! I find that about the most insulting thing someone can say to me – as if I’m not complete until then. (I’m in a Korean church, where it’s an especially frequent comment.)
I say all this not to complain. But if I, a happily single person, get so much pressure and comments, I’m left wondering what all those comments do to someone desperate to marry? I know many people who can’t wait for the day they meet their spouse…. and that makes me sad. It’s like they think life will “really start” then, and everything before that is just preparation.
And yes, I feel this pressure primarily in the church. I hope we can learn to value our singles equally, much as I hope we can value women equally with men. I don’t think we realize how much our little comments and attitudes demoralize each other. We, as the whole church, waste a lot of potential this way.
Checked out your blog. Cool. You’re living in Korea now…
Can I ask which church you attend? I was pastoring in Onnuri a long long time ago.
“This does not go without saying at many churches.”
Interesting statement to make. Has this person personally been to and observed enough churches to make such a broad statement?
At my church we have a small groups dedicated to our single brothers and sisters. And this isn’t limited to just the unmarried, hip young singles either. These groups include (but not limited to) single parents and widowed, young, single professionals, people who are divorced and are now single, single men and single women in general for Bible studies, prayer, and other things.
I believe it’s very important that a church clarifies “singleness” and not simply lump everyone who happens to be single into a “single” group category either. Meeting the needs of single people who are going through different stages in their lives can easily be the difference of a strong, faithful, obedient walk with Christ for single people versus a weak, wishy-washy half-hearted walk instead.
Dialogue on the different definitions of singleness in church is key.
Scott, I think the general consensus is that churches do in fact overlook the single person, or pressure them into marrying. I think we all have been to enough churches to make that statement. I’m a 25-year old single woman and I can personally attest that just about every single church I’ve been to does this. Your church sounds like it’s headed in the right direction, but that’s YOUR church. That doesn’t mean the majority of churches see single people in this way.
And I’m sorry, but I am so utterly tired of hearing about pastors preach about marriage and husbands and wives, etc., etc. I have not heard, on Sunday morning, a sermon about just the singles. I don’t necessarily want that, because the sermon should be something everyone in the congregation could relate to…but um, that would require the sermon to not be just about married people either.
It really does frustrate me because single people dont necessarily have another person to help them with problems, where married people do. So, why in the world are married people getting so much attention, when they have each other? Single people are just that: single. We have friends, yes, but we don’t have another intimate person (other than the Holy Spirit) to bounce ideas off of, that actually care about the outcome because it would affect their lives as well. So, I’m slightly bitter towards the fact that married people get soooooooooo much attention. And if you’re single, there’s something wrong with you.
“Scott, I think the general consensus is that churches do in fact overlook the single person, or pressure them into marrying. I think we all have been to enough churches to make that statement. I’m a 25-year old single woman and I can personally attest that just about every single church I’ve been to does this. Your church sounds like it’s headed in the right direction, but that’s YOUR church. That doesn’t mean the majority of churches see single people in this way.”
I really have to disagree here. From the way your post is written you are making it sound like churches are intentionally overlooking those who are single. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Why such an emphasis on marriage? Simple. God gave us marriage as a gift. It came from Him and no one else. No tribe or culture, no state or federal government, not even the church itself gave us the idea of marriage. It came solely from God alone. We are the bride of Christ whether single or married because we as believers make up the church. In marriage terms, Jesus is the Groom and the church is His Bride.
The church preaching and sermonizing on marriage, husbands, and wives isn’t a knock on being single at all. So please don’t take it in that context because it would be wrong to do so. I think you misunderstood my post as a whole. My church doesn’t preach on being single as you’re thinking a church should. We just acknowledge that for those who are single it can be hard to get plugged into things for a variety of reasons and issues. That’s why we dedicate small groups and non-Sunday services to cater to the needs of our singles. You can’t think of it as those who are single versus those who are married.
“And I’m sorry, but I am so utterly tired of hearing about pastors preach about marriage and husbands and wives, etc., etc. I have not heard, on Sunday morning, a sermon about just the singles. I don’t necessarily want that, because the sermon should be something everyone in the congregation could relate to…but um, that would require the sermon to not be just about married people either.”
So are utterly tired of hearing about how Christ is the Groom and we as the church are His Bride? As I stated above this the main reason for marriage and for it to even be brought up really.
And just so you know, not everything that’s preached on by a pastor will be relatable to everyone. Baby Christians won’t understand certain things that older, more mature Christians will. And more mature Christians will have heard a sermon preached from, let’s say… the Book of 2nd Peter many many times whereas it may be a brand new sermon for a newer Christian. See where I’m going with this? I’ve heard so many sermons preached on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Am I tired of it? No way. Should I ever get tired of it? Not ever. Mainly for obvious reasons, but one is also that we as Christians believe that our pastors are being used as a mouthpiece for God and that there is a purpose for what they are preaching about, whether we acknowledge it or not. When the word is being preached to you and you don’t think that it’s applicable to you, just pray and ask God to reveal to you the relevance of what’s being preached or to keep it in mind when it in the future it does become applicable.
I’ll share something with you on a personal level. My preaching pastor is a very gifted and anointed speaker and I believe with all my heart God is using him in a mighty way. But there are times when I would like to hear sermons that are deeper, more on the “meat and potatoes” side of theology and things like that than a sermon that’s encouraging and uplifting. Regardless, the Holy Spirit reveals things to me that I may have been missing due to my own selfish nature and wants. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying regarding attending church, “It’s no accident that you’re in church today.” Well, why are you in church? What is it that you’re looking for and what do you want out of it?
“It really does frustrate me because single people dont necessarily have another person to help them with problems, where married people do. So, why in the world are married people getting so much attention, when they have each other? Single people are just that: single. We have friends, yes, but we don’t have another intimate person (other than the Holy Spirit) to bounce ideas off of, that actually care about the outcome because it would affect their lives as well. So, I’m slightly bitter towards the fact that married people get soooooooooo much attention. And if you’re single, there’s something wrong with you.”
I’ve never heard a church say that there is something wrong with you if you’re single. If that’s what you’ve experienced in the past, I’m sorry you had to deal with that. There is nothing wrong with being single. Now on the other hand, if you’re single for selfish reasons (i.e. can’t commit to a serious relationship, want to enjoy sex but don’t want kids, like the lifestyle of “being single”. etc.) then I would say yes, there is something wrong definitely with you.
What exactly do you mean by another “intimate” person? Are you saying this as in the context of a husband and wife? Please elaborate this for me if you can.
Anyway, go get connected! Join a small group! No small group? So what? Start your own. Call up some people and get a Bible study going at your place or at a local Starbucks or something.
There is no excuse for any Christian to make in not having someone around that they can lean on and get encouragement from. You just have to take the necessary steps in getting to know your fellow Christians better. And if a single person claims to have no one there to help him or her, then they’re really doing something wrong.
As Christians we’re not supposed to be alone and miserable. Christ called us out of this world and to let our light SO shine. We need to share our faith with everyone we possibly can and have fellowship with fellow believers often as well.
In the words of the great Otis Redding, how about you “try a little tenderness?”
Seriously, your response, “Interesting statement to make. Has this person personally been to and observed enough churches to make such a broad statement?” is not helpful.
For myself, I would like to say that while, no, I haven’t been at all churches in America, I can say that of the several churches I’ve attended throughout my life, at just about all of them, one often does feel second class if one isn’t married or at least seriously seeing someone. Maybe you haven’t experienced these churches yourself. Good for you. But they do exist and based on my experiences, they’re more common than not.
In another response you write, “From the way your post is written you are making it sound like churches are intentionally overlooking those who are single. This couldn’t be further from the truth.”
I think you’re missing the point. Granted, many of the churches I’ve been at didn’t INTENTIONALLY make single people feel alienated, it is an impression that’s made nevertheless.
I could be wrong but the general gist of what commenters are trying to say is that they’re thankful for the corrective that PE’s sermon on a theology of singlehood is providing for what they’ve experienced at other churches.
One of the things I appreciate about this blog is the way that frustrations can be shared openly – frustrations that are hard to express at many other churches (and I can say this about ALL the other churches I’ve attended). IMHO, there’s a HUGE need for this. When I encounter people with such frustrations, I think the first thing that needs to be offered is an attentive, sensitive ear because there’s a good chance that these are hurts that have been around for a long time and they’ve been around for a long time because they haven’t been allowed to be voiced. Or if they have been voiced, they’ve been met with quick rebukes and quick fixes. And then they shut up and stuff the frustration down even further.
I’m glad you’ve never been at a church that says that there’s something wrong with you if you’re single. Good for you. But I’d be a bit more hesitant before being critical of someone who may have experienced that at the churches they’ve attended.
Lastly, your suggestion that there “is no excuse for any Christian to make in not having someone around that they can lean on and get encouragement from,” is just the sort of talk that can lead to further alienation for people who are seeking relationships (romantic or otherwise).
This is going into an area outside the scope of this blog post, but just as the church can be a place where singles are sometimes made to feel less-than (intentionally or not), the same thing happens to introverts. Taking “the necessary steps in getting to know your fellow Christians better” is not as easy for some as it is for others. Introverts (like myself) get blamed for not taking more initiative, for not being more social, for not putting yourself out there. This blame often comes from extroverts (many, not all, of the pastors I’ve had have been extroverts) who don’t understand how hard this can be for introverts. It can be REALLY hard and please don’t assume we’re not trying. Little steps that don’t require a second thought from an extrovert can be immensely difficult and tiresome for introverts so please cut them some slack and offer them some grace.
Again, I’m glad you never had to go through what some of us have. Blessings. Just, please, be a bit slower in dismissing concerns and frustrations that you may not initially understand.
Thanks for the thoughtful post here, Randall. BTW, we extroverts don’t always want to be social or meet people, either.
the way my church treated single women made me resent marriage and a lot of other things. i hated that i was told to serve to the point that i never got to enjoy service because i was sowing seeds for my marriage that i wasn’t even sure i wanted! and i hated that there was never a thank you. it was basically assumed that because i was single i had nothing to fill my time. so, not only was i pathetic for being single and incomplete because i was alone, i had no life and my time wasn’t as valuable to the church! after a while, i resented being single only because i resented the assumption that i was missing out on something. truth is, i love that i can pick up and move where ever i want whenever i want because i only have to think about me. i love having the freedom to choose how i spend my time and with whom i spend my time. i do want to be married because there’s no way i’m called to a lifetime of purity!!!!! but, i really appreciated you teaching that singleness is not a sin! and it’s not something you do while you’re waiting to be “discovered” as the church likes to say. i mean really, i’m awesome so people know who i am!!!!!
FWIW, here’s one bit of information I wish I’d been given earlier in my life: the dating pool shrinks, the older you get.
I’m in my late thirties now and single and did not see this coming.
I mean, it makes sense now, and I don’t know if or how I would have done things differently had I been aware of this, but I think it would have been useful information nevertheless.
Maybe I’m calling sour grapes here.
And I realize that I could be feeding into the less-than-helpful, get-married-now vibe.
I also acknowledge that this could put added pressure/frustration on those who are single and wish not to be.
Feel free to disregard.
On another note, I really do appreciate PE speaking of a theology of singlehood. It’s much needed, and much appreciated and I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s continuation.
dude, i’m TOTALLY with you on that one! i’m a nerdy girl…pretty introverted but i play an extrovert on the weekend.
i’ll be 32 next month and i can honestly say, i never gave marriage any sort of thought until 25 (and that’s only because the guy i was dating at the time was in love with the idea)…perhaps, if i’d shown even a remote interest, maybe i’d be married instead of wondering what pregnancy at 40 is like! lol.
I would want to challenge you a bit. I understand that married people have another soul who is committed to processing life with them…but I know many single people who have that through various friendships too. As much as most churches have a really bad theology of singleness, they also have a really bad theology of friendship – as if intimate connection shoulndn’t/couldn’t be had with somene you aren’t married to. And this is true for married people too…I neeed close friends outside of my marriage that I can process with. My husband is amazing and wonderful, but its unrealistic to expect that we can connect on every single thing. I need processing-friends besides him – putting me in the same place singles are in longing for connections. That doesnt – and shouldn’t – go away when you are married.
Jennifer, I was married for almost 16 years and have now been single again for almost as long. I have some very, very dear and close friends, but those relationships are in no way similar to having a “primary” person in your life. When you’re married, you don’t even have to think about it — your spouse is your priority and you are theirs, hands down. No other relationship is like that. A simple illustration is the way that a married traveler calls her spouse every night while she’s away from home. I would never do that with my friends. There’s a primacy in marriage that would almost seem obsessive in any other relationship. So no, I really don’t think your longing for processing connections as a married person is remotely on the same plane as the absence of a primary relationship for a single person. Both are valid experiences but really different animals.
I hear you…and I imagine you speak for many.
I guess I’m coming from a different place regarding friendship though. I do have friends that I talk to everyday – sometimes twice in a day, on ocasison three times. My connection with my spouse is on a differnet level, you are right about that…but I still need, and long for friendships that have enough intimacy to require that frequent kind of contact.
I really appreciated this sermon on Sunday, PE. I have been one of those single women who really did not have any desire towards marriage until quite recently. I was blessed enough to have spent a lot of time in a church where being single is a valued life state. Well, PKen preached it from the pulpit and the staff did their best to set up that culture in the church. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have well-meaning friends who always ask me if I feel lonely, or assumed I was incomplete, or who still pray incessantly for me to find a husband, or give me the platitude that ‘God will grant the deepest desires of your heart’ (as if I’m not married because I lack faith – talk about skewed theology!).
The coolest thing, though, is that I have a lot of older women and men mentors who share their lives, including their marriages with the joys and struggles, with me. They remind me all the time to enjoy the now that God has given me. I also have close friends my age who share with me their current marriage journeys. So I don’t have any romanticized notion of what marriage is (or isn’t). I am far from lonely: I have the best c-group ever, so I have community here in Seattle; FB is where I am able to have accountability with close friends from everywhere; and people who are dear to me are just a phone call away.
Even with all of that support, contentment is easier said than done. It is ultimately between me and God. Lately, He has been reminding me that He is still in control, and that I really should enjoy the now. I’m getting there. Now to get my bum in gear to start serving at Quest…
Great sermon, Eugene. I am always so grateful for your willingness to lay topics on the table that are largely ignored (or even taboo) in the Church. I’m glad you chose to preach about this one AND to bring it to the blog for discussion.
I think that both the Church and society generally grant privilege to married people. It’s the default setting, especially for those over 30. And like any privilege, when you’ve got it, it’s really hard to see it, and maybe even harder to recognize the ways in which it’s denied to others. I hope that this discussion has given a few people an opportunity to start paying attention to the ways that singles are relegated to the fringe of social normalcy.
…my vote for best comment of the week.
You are correct…culture, and especially Christian culture, grants privilege to married people. But, that thinking is part of the problem – marriage is made out to be this all-in-all way of being that fulfills every desire you might have. But married people still have to long deeply for other things – and face the pain of having those desires unfulfilled. And likewise, single people can have deeply intimate connections to friends…singleness is not this lonely place where you dont have to have another soul or two to share your inner life with. It’s not a black and white thing.
The whole loneliness vs intimacy thing wasn’t what I was talking about when I referred to privilege. I was thinking of things like the church that tried to send a 32-year-old single person to the college Sunday school class because “You’ll be more comfortable there than with the mature adults.” I’m talking about a friend who said it would be too awkward to invite me to dinner because “Who would my husband talk to?” I’m thinking of the older widows who have told me about the social invitations that stopped coming as soon as their husbands died because their friends didn’t know how to incorporate them into their couples-oriented lives. It’s about being treated like the odd person out even if I don’t happen to feel like one.
Personally I’m pretty content being single, and it seems likely that I will be single for the rest of my life. I’m not uncomfortable hanging out with my married friends or going places by myself. I’m not desperately lonely. Still, it’s really nice when someone in leadership like Eugene is willing to step up and say, in effect, “Being single isn’t tragic or weird or second-best.”
Thanks again, Eugene.
finally had some time to listen to this–first of all i didn’t realize quest was a covenant church. i grew up covenant and went to covenant bible college in canada. fun to know you’re part of the family–though not to be all about denominations or anything of course.
so i’m a single man in my mid-twenties and in the midwest, where the average age of marriage is significantly younger than on the coasts. i have resonated with a lot of the struggles people share about being single: the sympathetic looks, offering to pray for your future wife, friends trying to set you up, general alienation with some married couples, etc. but i really do feel now as if God has led me to a place of contentment. sure there are still the aches sometimes, but i’ve learned to accept this season for what it is, and not the on deck circle.
i guess the thing that gets to me though is the fact that if singleness is viable and biblical why are 98% of people in the protestant church in america called to marriage? why aren’t there more people out there receiving this call to a single life? for a long time this really frustrated me, that most people didn’t even consider this as a possibility. it’s not even thought about mostly–maybe because it’s so rarely taught to young adults? i really wrestled with this and thought for awhile that God might be calling me to a single life. in many ways i wanted that to be true. but i felt God did specifically call me to be married one day, even if that hasn’t happened yet.
of course i can’t complain too much then that people aren’t being called to singleness when i myself am not permanently. but i am for now. and that’s ok. no, that’s great. and hopefully for most that isn’t because it allows me to do whatever i want when i want with little “tying me down.” no it’s because it frees us up to be able to do things in ministry, do things for God that people with the responsibilities of a family cannot. paul says it. we may reconcile with singleness because of the independence it gives us, but isn’t our life not our own anyway?
just a few thoughts. there are so many on this topic, but i think the most helpful to me you said was about growing in our own security and honesty. that is huge for this topic. our identity is not in our spouse any more than it is in our job or our friends. it is in the truth that we are beloved children of God.
I have to say I’m excited to see that you preached this message. About a year ago I preached a message on singleness and it was the most needed and well received message of anything I’ve preached so far.
I agree with the many in the posts above who say the church has a big emphasis on marriage today and many of the single people feel pressured and “glossed over”. I think it has a lot to do with the horrible state of marriages and the obligation we feel as the church to try and invest in them. I do think pastors across the board could be more intentional in finding illustrations and applications that address those in the body who are single as well as those who are married.
The reality of life is that everyone is single for part of it, and only some of them go on to get married. Paul’s description of the gift of singleness is the freedom to have our attention fully devoted to God. Too many people get married today having never gotten the hang of living a life fully surrendered to Him… I think marriages would be a lot better if more people understood God’s plan and benefits for singleness, creating people who are more equipped to be married if that is part of God’s plan for their lives.
Thanks for honoring the Lord and His body by preaching a message His kids (single and married) all need to hear.
“Paul’s description of the gift of singleness is the freedom to have our attention fully devoted to God.”
Paul never gave any “description of the gift of singleness”. In 1 Cor 7:7-9, he said that each person has their own gift of God (suggesting his was sexual self control), and therefore it’s good to remain single (esp. considering the advantages for that time: v. 26-39) but if they “cannot contain” they should marry.
You’ll never believe this but this whole week I’ve been praying for a boyfriend who will be my husband later on. The reason why I was under this pressure was because a younger cousin of mine told me by the time I turn 27 and I’m single I’ll be stuck forever. Now I’m in panic mode. After reading this I think I should ask God to give me contentment in this phase of singlehood, God to help me understand why I’m here. I enjoy being single but deep down I desire for a partner and children. I believe I’ll be a great wife and mother but I want it to happen in God’s time. Amen