Skip to comments.Are We Afraid of Single Pastors?
Posted on 03/20/2011 7:03:47 PM PDT by TheDingoAteMyBaby
Is being a Protestant single pastor like being a married Catholic priest? Is it an oxymoron?
I never would have thought so until the economic crisis hit, and I had to find a new pastoral position. For the first time in my career my future was in the hands of a search committee, rather than a personal connection.
Im ordained, 37, single (never married), with experience pastoring in large churches. Given my credentials, I had zero anxiety initially. Then I started reading job requirement phrases like these in pastoral job applications:
-We are looking for a married man -Preferably married -Is married (preferably with children)
These churches explicitly were not looking to hire someone single--like Jesus or Paul. I then was surprised to discover that even though the majority of adult Americans are single (52 percent), that only 2 percent of senior pastors in my denomination are single! Something was clearly amiss.
Why were so many churches requiring a pastor to be married? Jesus wasnt. Paul wasnt. Almost all pastors were single until the time of the Reformation. Is it wise to require that our Evangelical pastors be married? Is it biblical?
Some Perspective from Church History
For the first 1,500 years of church history singleness, not marriage, was lauded as next to godliness. Let me say that againfor the first fifteen hundred years.
St. Jeromes 4th century holiness codes (which were widely embraced), taught that celibate singleness was 100 percent holy, widowhood 60 percent, and marriage a paltry 30 percent. One reason for this pervasive way of thinking was an overly physiological interpretation of Psalm 51:5. In sin my mother conceived me was taken to mean that the act of having sex was sinful because it passed on the sin nature.
Thus married couples who kept having sex were considered only 30 percent holy. Widows were no longer having sex so they moved up the perceived holiness ladder to 60 percent. Celibate singles never had sex. Ergo, in the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, singles were the moral high class of society.
Sound ridiculous? It was. It still is. It made an idol out of singleness.
One of the biggest scandals of the Reformation was Martin Luther preaching that it was okay to renounce your vow of celibacy. Against Jerome and the church fathers, whom he criticized as never having written anything good about marriage, he had the audacity to preach that marriage was a good thing. Then the former monk did the most unholy thing imaginable: he got married. Its quite possible that no one in the history of the church has done more to elevate the status of marriage than Luther.
The Middle Ages undervalued marriage and over emphasized singleness. Today Evangelicals do just the opposite: we undervalue singleness and over emphasize marriage. History reveals that its hard for us Christians to think of marriage and singleness as equally good. But scripture beckons us to do just that.
Singleness is Good
Paul opens his chapter on singleness and marriage by saying, It is good for a man not to marry (1 Corinthians 7:1). Its good? Have you ever heard singleness taught as good from the pulpit? Paul would be happy if all men (vs. 7) were single, celibate, and serving Christ undivided by the concerns of a spouse and children. Now to the unmarried and widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do (vs. 8). Are you crazy Paul? Do you really think someone can stay unmarried and be an effective senior pastor? You seem just a bit out of touch with our Evangelical culture.
Paul wasnt crazy. There is nothing more holy, righteous, or godly about marriage than there is about singleness. Nothing. They are both equally good before God. Thats Pauls message in 1 Corinthians 7. If youre married, thats wonderful. If youre single, thats wonderful too. You can effectively pastor the church single or married.
We need to move from a church culture that says Many of my best friends are single to one that can say Many of our best pastors are single. I dont want to lose heart; I want to believe that its possible for 650 million Evangelicals to finally embrace the equal dignity the Scriptures bestow upon both singleness and marriage.
The bottom line is that it is not about being single or married. Its about being called and gifted by the Spirit to minister to people both like and unlike us (race, gender, marital status, etc). I plead with search committees everywhere to reflect on the implications of 1 Corinthians 7 before overlooking your next single pastoral candidate. They deserve to be evaluated on their excellence, not their marital status.
Mark Almlie is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church.
As long as your celebate and not gay, I don’t see the problem.
Or a pedophile but maybe thats covered under the gay thing
In my experience, never-married men are very underrepresented in churches.
My mother's pastor is single, and I believe my mother would agree with you.
People who are single into their 30s and 40s also want someone who can relate to them, too.
You know, a lot of people are hung up the “husband of one wife thing” but it never seems to apply to never married only divorced men. It seems to me everyone is hung up on something but Jesus was the only one “Hung Up” on a cross.
I was told by a Pastor friend of mine that years ago Pentecostal churches strongly suggested marriage to their ordained Pastors, because the feeling was that if you were married, you wouldn’t fall into a sinful relationship with any female members of the congregation.
Just tell them that your a widow by choice.
I think the single girls like the idea.
I personally know of one who landed the handsome single pastor. They now have three kids and I firmly believe are very much in love. She had been the director of music but I don’t think she has done that anymore. She does sing specials sometimes and has a pro voice.
**As long as your [sic] celebate [sic] and not gay, I dont see the problem.**
Would you say the same about a Catholic priest who is celibate?
Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and that’s just what I can remember in my lifetime. It’s silly to think that marriage prevents immorality.
Being Catholic, I don’t care if a Pastor of a Protestant church is single or not. And I don’t think being single means you can’t relate to certain people or situations, and I don’t believe being single makes you more likely to be a child molester as many perverts marry just to cover up their true self.
But I do have an Aunt that says her church prefers their Pastors to be married because usually the spouse takes a big role in the church and organizes church groups, teaches Sunday school, etc. She even says years ago their Pastor wasn’t so great but his wife was wonderful and held bake sales for the church where she baked everything herself and she was a professional pastry chef. Hey, whatever fills the pews!!
And that is not in any way a minor detail, nor is it something that can be fully understood without experiencing life as a couple.
Some congregations have other preferences for similar reasons. A church focused on outreach to a large population of addicts may specifically search for someone who was an addict, or grew up in a home with substance abusing parents.
There is a place in the body of Christ for every one, but not every place may be best filled by just any willing applicant. The elders who make a call for a congregation are tasked with finding a proper fit. They may make mistakes, but these sorts of requirements for different congregations are necessary.
The true issue is not if your status is single or married, it’s all about HOW you live it.
I see almost a schizophrenia in churches where they tell the singles to be content in their lot in life, yet they center most or all of their programming around marriage, children and family ministries. Single young women will attend a family-oriented church, but I don’t think as many single men will.
We have a single pastor (associate pastor albeit) that is adored and revered. I am however, in a large metropolitan area, so the needs of many need to be served, and he has found a comfortable niche with our youth. Is your focus perhaps too limited in population size?
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