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.
The true issue is not if your status is single or married, it’s all about HOW you live it.
And sometimes when the New Testament is speaking about the concern for someone of a particular status, and where they might be “tempted” in that status, the problem is not what they may do TO SOMEONE ELSE if so tempted, it’s about the danger to their own soul for accepting an erroneous behavior out of that temptation.
In terms of single or married, the risk of being tempted to err lies within the person, not their status; for clearly some may come to be more tempted to err if single and others if married.
G-d KNOWS everyone is unique in their own person-hood.
So again I repeat: The true issue is not if your status is single or married, it’s all about HOW you live it.
I’m not sure what area of the country the author is located.
One of the qualifications for a pastor is that he rules his own house well, and has his children in hand (I Timothy 3:4).
Only way this *should* happen is if he is married or widowered. Otherwise, he’s a fornicator of some type, and not qualified for the ministry any more.
Really, it doesn’t get any simpler than that. It really doesn’t *matter* what “1500 years of church history” says about it - that is completely irrelevant. The Bible is what matters, not the erroneous practice of a lot of people who weren’t spiritually discerning.
Nonsense. For a man to fill the role of a pastor, one of the most basic, baseline requirements is that he leads his own family well. That requires him to have a family. If he doesn't, then there's no reason to think he can lead a church (I Tim. 3:5). There are a lot of single men who perhaps have exemplary personal lives - but that does not make them qualified for the pastorate. Seriously, the Scripture is pretty clear on this matter - I don't see what is so hard to figure out about it.
Oh, believe me- I agree with you. I’m 36 years old, Christian, and single.
...not that being married has been a deterrent to wandering eyes, although it helps somewhat.
Single pastors, youth pastors more so, have to put up with imaginative/dramatic young women (maybe young men, too) who create problems for the pastor. Finding an assistant postion shouldn't be as difficult, maybe in a university town. IMO, it just depends on the congregation.
A friend of mine was a Baptist minister and when his wife died they let him go. It was very sad. Imagine losing your wife and your pastorate.
Frankly, I think the fundamental problem here is that so many people have this attitude that the church (which is local, btw) exists to service their particular needs, as if it were a smorgasbord where they get to take what they like and leave the rest.
That's not the way it should be. The church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is HIS church. It exists to honour and exalt HIM, not entertain and meet the "niche needs" of this group, that group, or the other group. Indeed, if taken too far, the demand for "niche groups" within a church is simply division and heresy (the true meaning of that word) since it is dividing the body of Christ into a bunch of different sets of people who each think that the church exists just to cater to their particular station in life. It doesn't. The church exists to fulfill the work of holding up Christ before the world and fulfilling the great commission. People serve the Lord in the church - together AS a church.
So Catholics want you to not be married and Protestants want you to be married?
I am a single 50 year old male and have been divorced for 20 years. My ex had an affair and it ended in divorce. Unfortunately, I feel very uncomfortable going to church as a single man my age. I am a Christian and, unfortunately, I am not attending church right now. I sort of feel dysfunctional not being married and having the average 2.2 kids.
The marriage thing is sort of funny. Peter is considered by Catholics to be their first pope. Peter was married but they don’t allow their priest to be married. If it was okay with Jesus, I believe it should be okay with the Catholic church. Unfortunately, doctrine created by men and what is Biblical is oftened blurred.
I can understand concerns some folks would have about a single pastor. Every church has families that have marital issues. A lot of the married men may feel uncomfortable with their wives meeting a single man. That’s not me but just a reality. I know the Rev. Billy Graham went to great lengths not to be put in uncomfortable predicaments with women.
I feel the need for a good church too and I don’t think I’d have any issues with you being my pastor.
I really do hope you find a church that is great for you.
I want a pastor who is humble before God, and desires to be true to the word of God with all his heart.
I do not want a pastor who has it in his head to do something, and so reworks the word of God to justify his desires. It’s an attitude problem that will lead to big trouble at some point.
So is singleness a gift?
In some cases, it can be. But it's not a gift that qualifies someone for the pastorate.
Our church extended a call to a young single pastor. Within two years, he had married a single young lady in the congregation.
There are Biblically sound churches with successful singles ministries of long standing. Off the top of my head, the Vineyard Church. They may or may not be your theological cup of tea, they lean somewhat Pentecostal. But, they’re out there. Give it a look. No need to soldier on without fellowship because you’re single.
I Tim. 3:5 — For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?
I don’t believe a man has to be married to know how to rule his own house. Ruling your own house can relate to many things other than just marriage.
Additionally, some of the disciples Jesus chose were single. Therefore, I am okay with it.
Those comments appear to be speaking as to the qualities of an overseer, or deacon who is married and do not make an injunction against being single; if they did, then Paul himself, as well as many others could NOT have been leaders in the early church.
Sorry, but that's ridiculous. Your house is your family, and further v. 5 SPECIFICALLY links this to the raising of children. Given what the Scripture actually says, what exactly is that you imagine these "other things" might be?
Additionally, some of the disciples Jesus chose were single. Therefore, I am okay with it.
Which ones, and how do you know they were single? The only disciple for whose marital status we're actually told is Peter - and he was married. Anything beyond that is just unsubstantiated speculation - a flimsy basis on which to build any doctrine.
If you are a good preacher and communicator, any church that hears you will forget their preference for a married preacher. Paul told Timothy not to let people tell him he was too young to preach. Well, we can’t control what others think or say, but we have the option of keeping our eyes on Christ, doing what he leads us to do, and doing it with all our might. So, ask for the opportunity to deliver a sermon, and to be chosen based on your preaching abilities, not marital status.
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