Being single doesn't always mean you are available, sometimes you have to put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your heart.link
Yesterday, I highlighted a quote from Al Mohler who implied that one needs to be married to be a pastor or his ministry will not be as effective. In fact, he seemed to imply that being married with children will insure the highest efficacy potential of a pastor.
I won't argue that Jesus was single because we can get off on some fascinating theological tracks and the Gospel of Thomas will likely make an appearance. Voila! We will be off topic. I am determined to stick to the knitting out of respect for the single people who deserve our focus!
However, Paul not only was single, but was arguable the most prolific apostle and church planter in the history of the faith. He commended singleness as an asset to ministry, something that Al Mohler denies. I have been dying to say this for awhile. Mohler is simply unbiblical in his application!
It is important to note that this perspective on singles is not limited to the Calvinista camp. It is even found in more moderate circles. A female pastor wrote an article in the Associated Baptist Press, here, titled Why Are You Still Single?
At the same time, the process was a painful one on a personal level. I expected to run into questions about my age and experience. After all, I was fresh out of seminary with many years of internships and part-time service in the church but no full-time experience. For obvious reasons, I was also prepared and re-prepared to run into questions about my gender.
What caught me by surprise were all of the questions about why I am single (which I know is an extension of the gender issue). Almost every church I interviewed with asked me some version of “why are you still single?”
Some simply seemed curious. Others asked it in such a way that implied that being 25 and single is a major character flaw (why are you still single?). I had direct questions about my dating life, sexuality and all sorts of other things that I had difficulty imagining would make a significant difference in how I minister.
I found myself getting defensive about these questions and had to do some exploring about my own response. I did not fit what search committees imagined their new minister to look like, and I began internalizing the insecurities of the committees as they interviewed me. Do married ministers get asked questions about why they are married?
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Often judged with "They're gay" or "something must be wrong with them" comments as to why we are still single!!!I don't want to walk around telling everyone or justifying things, but I sometimes do and I'm going to proceed to do that here: childhood sexual abuse, alcoholic father, guy that I was going to marry(we talked about it all the time) after college he cheated on me with a good friend at undergrad school! I then said "forget it" regarding the marriage/guy thing and went into grad school and wouldn't date(significantly hard program) and focused on career, dated for about 3 years and then had major neck injury/surgery and then, had cancer surgery. So, I've had a crazy time frame here of not being able to date at all!!! So, when people judge without know my story OR just simply, knowing ME!!!Maybe more pain and anger than you wanted for your singles blog, but it is definitely where I am at right now!!!! I HATE IT!!!!!!!
I am stunned to believe that churches invest so much in children's ministry, college ministry, and family centered ministries and then if you don't get your MRS or MR in college (Bible college that is) you fall into a black hole.
As a 46 year old single mom of a grown daughter I am tired of being relegated to the back seat of Christian ministry because I am single and because I am female.
I am tired of being marginalized as a single and as woman and I am delighted to learn that this is not how God intended it to be. I do believe that the journey I took to get here is important and that God cares about the journey. I am not in the waiting room of God's Will. He is directing my path and using me to minister to others (mostly women) who have been marginalized as well.
Me: This says that women's classes are full. Can I still attend? I am visiting.
Desk woman: Sorry, they are full.
Me: Well, I am single, but I am 33. Where shall I go?
Desk woman: Well, Singles is for people over 40. You could try Young Marrieds.
Me: But I am not married. I guess I fit in college and career.
Desk woman: Well, we have to have an age cut-off in there, or else men who are too old keep hanging around.
Me: So, where do I go?
Desk woman: I guess you have to go to seniors.
Me: But I am not 65.
Desk woman: They won't care.
During the Sunday morning infomercial, the pastor announced in his usual animated style that we’d be finishing our current sermon series on something-or-other in two weeks and then – wait for it – a six week series on improving your marriage! Oh, this would be a really great time to explore all those issues that can trip us up, hold us back, weigh us down. So get ready. Bliss and blessing on the way … yes, this was go-ing to be a-maz-ing!
I glanced around to see what kinds of responses this was getting. The couples in our midst certainly seemed enthused. And then my sight landed on some fellow singles. They certainly didn’t seem amused. Talk about “flat affect” or even sadly looking down at the carpet. So much for being postmodernly inclusive, I thought.
So I did what any good consultant would do. I embarrassed the pastor – good naturedly, of course – to help him feel the effect of his spiritual faux pas. I went up to him during the break and said, “So, the next sermon series sounds cool! And are you going to do a six-week series for us single people after that?”
His smiling face went blank, then scrunched into a quizzical look. “Well, no …”
“Oh! Okay,” I chirped. “Well, then, I guess you won’t mind if all of us [and then I rattled off a series of names of very active single adults in the church] go somewhere else for the next couple months, since there won’t be anything for us here, right?”
“Well, no … this is your church. We’re here for you guys, too!”
Rightee-oh. I noted his use of the eunuch term, guys, to describe the gender amorphous lot of us. Plus I noticed that his expression had gone from scrunched-up eyebrows to wide-eyed shock and his color had flushed to a rosy pink.
That did the trick. The pastor got the message that his seeker-sensitive [for married folk only] series was a rather tweaker-insensitive [to the rest of us] move. At least he was willing to work with us to figure out a way to include singles in the series. As it turned out, a group of us who were never married or were single again did a panel interview for the entire sermon period one Sunday. We shared what it’s like to be single in the midst of mostly marrieds and families, and how lonely that can be, and how we don’t like to be set up for Marriage Match-Up Ministry, but how we appreciate being included in the lives of families and couples, and what we as single people bring to the table – when we’re allowed to – for friendships, for extended families, and for ministries.
And many people, married couples included, commented on what a great affirmation it had been (for those who already included us) or what an important reminder it had been (for those who needed to include us). If nothing else, at least we singles were no longer The Invisible Man/Woman who needed to find a spouse [read that as be helped to find a spouse] so we could get a “real” life. And oh, yes, as a bonus application, the pastor became a bit more sensitive in his selection of sermon series to try to be more relevant and inclusive to all.
Next week we will discuss more topics surrounding the plight of singles in today's churches. In the meantime, I think we all can learn something from this funny video which deal with stupid things people say to single people.
Lydia's Corner: Joshua 3:1-4:24 Luke 14:7-35 Psalm 80:1-19 Proverbs 12:27-28