The church has a problem. The first and most important problem confronting the church is that Millennials are not going to church. The second problem is that singles now are the majority of the population. Although singles are now the majority, the church continues to treat single congregates as inferior to married churchgoers.
The church must separate itself from secular society. However, the church and Christians have failed at this on many social issues by simply defaulting to what society and civil law says is right. The same is true for the church when it comes to singles. Society pushes singles to date and then cohabitate, if the couple doesn’t marry. This has created the dating industrial complex. The church is guilty of joining society’s bandwagon by making singles feel uncomfortable for not being in a relationship or being married in the church. This can be seen by the church’s emphasis on the importance of marriage— to the point that it is an idol—and having church singles groups that are essentially places for Christian singles to find someone to date. There are two ramifications for the church not having a theology of singleness and devaluing singles. First, by defaulting to relationships and marriage as the only option, the church and Christians have accepted secular beliefs about relationships and marriage that goes against what the Bible teaches. This would not be the case if the church taught a theology of singleness and Christians were aware of it when it came to modern society’s beliefs about relationships and marriage. Second, singles are leaving the church because the values of the single life are not acknowledged and singles are unwelcome by the church. If the church wants to reach out to Millennials and the single population, the church must recognize that singleness is good and have a theology of singleness.
The church treats singles by either dismissing them or suspiciously looking at singleness as unnatural. By dismissing singles, the church is banishing singles from the church. This means that the church is also disregarding what the Bible says about singleness. For Protestants who follow the tenet of Sola Scriptura, this is a problem. For the Catholic and Orthodox churches, this can include Tradition with what the Bible says about singleness being good. If the church does dismiss singleness, then it will continue to views singles with suspicion. This is a result of Christians elevating marriage where it has become the church’s Golden Calf. The church looks upon singles suspiciously because they do not meet what it means to be a true Christian because they are not married. This is an instance where the church and Christians have been influence by secular society and completely ignored the Bible. The consequence of this for the church is that it has forgotten singles in its pews, disregarded what the Bible says about singleness, and is a part of the secular world instead of being set apart from it. The church should have a theology of singleness and make Christian singles feel welcome again at church.
The church historically acknowledged that singleness was a righteous and holy state. This was based upon both Scripture and history. Christ says in Matthew 19:12 that there are three reasons why people are single, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” There are those who have been single from birth. There are those who have been made single to serve man and are unable to have children. There are those who have chosen to devote their singleness to God. The third version is found in church’s that have holy orders and religious vocations. There are many Bible passages that address singleness, but here are three:
“7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.”
“26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”
The main points that Paul is addressing to the unmarried in this section are threefold (26-35):
- Those who marry will have worldly troubles (26-28).
- The existence of the universe does not depend upon marriage (29-31).
- Singleness provides an opportunity for undivided service and attention to the Lord (32-35).
“38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.”
By making marriage an idol and demanding that all singles marry, the church has forgotten Paul’s message in the Scriptures about singleness that can be summarized as:
“I wish that all were [single] as I myself am… I want you to be free from anxieties… [and be] anxious about the things of the Lord… [to] secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”
This is a quick survey of what the Bible says about singleness. The church should have a theology of singleness and welcome singles in the congregation. The church has a long history of having a positive view of singleness, but singleness is now negatively viewed and portrayed by the church as an oddity of life. It is not an oddity. It is Biblical and a way to devote oneself to God without the distraction of an earthly husband or wife. Who are you going to serve when it comes to singles, society or God? Christians must remember that “they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:18).