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Where Singles Ministries Fail And Succeed

CC photo courtesy of Lisby via Flickr
CC photo courtesy of Lisby via Flickr

It was spring of my senior year in college. My friend Phil and I decided to go to our first ever “singles Bible study.” There was one in our city that was making all kinds of buzz. Thousands were showing up. “The teaching and music are amazing” we were hearing everywhere. We decided to give it a shot.

What we found was pretty shocking. Yes, the teaching was fine, and the music was good. However, the “Bible study” felt more like a frat party. It was the very environment both Phil and I had been seeking refuge from.

It was a meat market of the highest order. The Jack and Coke of my frat life had been replaced with just plain old Coke. The joking was less crass, but the motives seemed identical: find a girl/guy at any cost.

It felt gross.

I didn’t know why it felt this way at the time, but I think I have a better understanding now.

What We Often Find in Christian Singles Ministries

This introduction into the world of the “Christian singles scene” was indicative of what I often find in this world of single adults of faith.

I see churches that view singleness as a problem that must be solved. I’m honestly not sure why they feel this is the case. Nowhere in the Bible do we see getting married as an ultimate goal of an individual follower of Christ. We absolutely do not see the Bible teach that it is the mission of the church to marry folks off. There are clear Biblical teachings on the roles of the church, and this is not one them. Yet churches everywhere seem to think this is a mission of theirs.

I see individuals consumed with stress and anxiety by this issue of singleness. I have felt this myself, so I’m not casting stones here. However, I just wanted to put what we all see out on the table. There is massive anxiety within the single community over, well, being single.

I see a community of people frenetically trying to find “the right one” at all costs. How many dating websites are there now for Christian singles looking for partners? Dozens, I suspect. Just now I  Googled “Christian single,” and the first several pages of results consisted of links to dating services. Only after some serious digging did I find actual content on the subject matter. As my simple Google research suggests, this search for “the right one” takes up unspeakable amounts of time and energy within the Christian singles community.

Biblical Singleness

No, I am not going to go in the direction of “it is better to be as I am” now. However, when I look to who I am in the eyes of God, I don’t see Him differentiating between singles and marrieds. Yes, there are teachings specific to marrieds, but nowhere will you find the Bible elevating marriage over singleness.

Rather, what I do find are callings for ALL of us to be about the work of redemption through the Gospel!

We are ALL called to the work of kingdom expansion, whether in our neighborhoods or around the world. We are ALL called to take care of the widows and orphans around us. We are ALL called to care about the Gospel message being proclaimed among unreached peoples around the globe.

Dreams of What Could Be

What would it look like if churches became serious about not seeing singles as merely a ministry within the church, but instead started viewing us as a force to be mobilized within our cities and around the world?

What would it look like if, instead of investing countless hours, massive amounts of money and all of our best energies on “finding the right one,” we as singles simply viewed our lives as not our own?

What if, instead of asking “Where can I find a mate?”, we FIRST asked “Where is God working and how can I be a part?” This is my dream for single American Christians.

I can think of three benefits of singles like me first looking to Christ and the world at large instead of looking first to find a wife or husband.

  1. Glorious kingdom of God expansion – Some of the best missions and ministry efforts in church history have been accomplished by single adults committed to our Savior. Think about what a city like Atlanta (my hometown) would look like if the thousands of singles who gather each week to meet each other were instead equipped and deployed for the work of the Gospel in their city and the world. Many fatherless children could have role models. Widows would be cared for. It would be amazing! Think of the places in the Middle East and East Asia, which are deprived of the Gospel, having a massive new number of committed believers laying down their lives for the sake of kingdom expansion in these areas. It would literally change the world!
  2. Personal growth and discipleship – When I meet single people committed to first looking to Christ and the world’s needs, I am blown away by their character and Godliness. When we look first to God’s calling over and above our personal desire to find mates, I believe we will experience personal growth and fulfillment in ways about which we can only dream.
  3. Meet like-minded SINGLES with REAL potential – This is what baffles me most when it comes to the common American Christian perspective on singleness. How can you better judge someone’s fitness and desirability as a mate: “chatting” over the Internet, or serving alongside other singles to meet the needs of the impoverished in your own cities? Consistently, I have seen the best marriages start by people meeting while jointly serving in missions overseas or in ministries within their own cities. If we look first to Biblical callings in the world and not to our own pursuit of a mate, then we are actually more likely to find someone who is ideally suited for us!

In the end, I am single, and I do hope to be married one day, a thought I’m sure many others reading this would echo.

However, I am, first and foremost, a child of the living God, a servant of my Savior, Chris Jesus. My desire is to live my life through this grid in all things. This is bigger and more wonderful than my relational status.  I dream of churches and communities of single Christians who understand and live their lives accordingly (and help me to do the same).

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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One comment

  1. What is a biblical single?

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