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An Awkward Conversation About Singleness

CC photo courtesy of KurtClark via Flickr
CC photo courtesy of KurtClark via Flickr

Recently I was sitting with a pastor friend of mine. He is a wonderful man, very smart, with a great heart for the Lord and the work of the Kingdom of God. He has sacrificed for the advancement of the Gospel in ways I can’t imagine, as he lives and works in a part of the world where the government oppresses the church. We are good friends and meet whenever possible.

As we often do, we met for coffee. We talked of life and our personal issues, and even touched on some theology. He has enjoyed reading the works of John Stott, as I have.

Then the conversation took a familiar yet uncomfortable turn.

My friend has been, and continues to be, VERY worried about my single status. While I make no qualms about my desire to be married one day, it is not something I worry about on a consistent basis. My friend, though, has increasingly been stepping up pressure on me to get married … at all costs … soon!

This time his method was simple. He was telling me about a new seminary in Asia, which was recently started by a very famous and highly regarded pastor. I was thrilled to hear that my friend recently met with this man and had a great experience.

However, my friend then used this occasion to–once again–remind me that I need to get married. He rather smugly informed me that said famous pastor will NOT ALLOW single men to even apply for his new seminary. If you are not married, his rationale follows, you are not capable of carrying on a meaningful ministry.

My friend means well; he really does. He genuinely feels marriage is in my best interest. Also, in all of this, there is a good bit of differing cultural dynamics at play. He is from a very different culture than my own, even though I have lived in Asia a long time. I really do understand this as well. Many times I don’t speak up on issues, simply chalking it up to differences in cultures.

I would not let this time pass.

I quickly asked my friend if he knew that the recently deceased John Stott, whom he had just been talking about glowingly, never married. My friend did not know this.

John Stott would not have been allowed entrance into this seminary, though I would be shocked if they don’t use some of his books in classes.

The Apostle Paul was single, I reminded my friend. I guess Paul, author of much of the New Testament, would not be fit to study theology at this new seminary.

I then went there …  Jesus was single. Things got uneasy when I mentioned this. Not sure I should have pulled this example out, but I did. The conversation shifted.

I’m writing about this here for two simple reasons.

First, if you are single, don’t allow stupid statements about singleness to affect you or your thinking. Biblically speaking, singleness is just as valid as married life. Singleness has its own innate challenges. However, please don’t allow fallacious beliefs and statements about singleness to take root in your heart and mind, even from well-meaning friends and family.

Second, know the truth about singleness. I am grateful I do. I honestly feel this is important for both single AND married people.

Bottom line; there is NO PREFERRED relational status in God’s eyes. None. 

There is a clear beauty in marriage and many, many wonderful purposes to marriage. However, know that people are actually encouraged to remain single by Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 7:8. Paul is not saying that being single is better than being married, but he is stating that it is an equally useful and legitimate relational status. I wrote more on the biblical view of singleness here, so I’ll move on.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my friend immensely. He is a man of integrity, courage, and has a heart for God that I hope to one day emulate. Seriously. However, he is wrong in this area, as is this other famous pastor.

I just wanted to share this conversation for the benefit of others who might have had similar experiences.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

(This is part of my ongoing series called “My thoughts on singleness (a series. . . )“.)

About John Gunter

John Gunter grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but has lived in East Asia for most of the past 15 years. John loves his life in Asia but misses his family, friends, church, baseball and bar-b-que (in that order) immensely. He enjoys scuba diving when the time and location permits. John blogs at http://JohnGunter.net on issues of faith, purpose, singleness and Asia.

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17 comments

  1. Great post. Love when others think they know what’s best for us.

  2. Oh, and I thought that singles were the ones that have more time to dedicate to ministry?!? And you answered your lovely friend very well! I’ll have to remember that 🙂
    God Bless you!! Very encouraging and constructive post.

  3. Oh my gosh, FINALLY, someone steps up to the plate and hits a home run!
    I’m 57, single, never even close to being married and I’m getting tired of hearing about married this and married that! Folks who are single are invisible as we get older. Like you, I would like to marry someday but apparently God has not chosen this for me. I’m more concerned with being able to find a job then worrying about a right to marry. I am so disgusted with our Roman Catholic Church not realizing that God does not choose many to marry and that is God’s choice for us not ours and that this is indeed valid!
    Again, my thanks!

  4. Wow! You brought to the “fore” something important. We are reminded as singles that we have all of this time for ministry and other dedication to God. As long as a single person isn’t a pastor. Or perhaps some other visible leader.

    I’m sure there are exceptions to this. I don’t know of many. A denomination I once worked for pretty much frowned on single pastors. Another denomination would only have a married man leading its singles ministry, which was of significant size. Yet, singles are supposed to have more time. The single members did most of the work anyway.

    Maybe one day it will hit us that this contradiction needs to be resolved.

  5. Thanks Alisha, good reading your perspective here on this topic!

  6. Alisha: you can have spiritual offspring, too. It sounds like you do.

  7. I love this article. As a single woman that was brought up in a culture where singleness is a taboo, I find the inability of some christians to look beyond my single status quite tiring.

    My church recenlty conducted a 6 week series on marriage and when comments were asked for – I remember a well meaning brother advising the young ladies not to be too conservative as they would become desperate for partners by a certain age. I was amused at how many people agreed with this. I stood up and said (in a tone that only a single person can apparently use) – that the church needs to get over its fear of single people.
    People are single for various reasons, and although the never married are the most ostracized, what happens to the divorced or widowed – does this mark some kind of failure? What would the place of these people be in that Seminary? I cant help but feel that the fear of anything “different” stops us from enjoying the benefits of having the variety in His Image that God expresses through all His children differently.

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