By Lore Ferguson Wilbert
She’s been single for centuries and watched hundreds of thousands of her friends marry. She’s been groaning for two millennia, aching for her groom to come and wed her in an eternal marriage. She is the ultimate single.
The Church, more than any entity, understands the ache of singleness, the longing for Christ’s return. Kathy Keller says, “Singles have in many ways more of an opportunity to display what it means to be Christ’s spouse in their singleness [than married people].”
This is a needed reminder for both single and married Christians. For singles it means this unique time of undistractedness points them to the deep truth that we are all unfulfilled until Christ’s return. For married couples it says even marriage cannot provide eternal and lasting joy.
How can singles uniquely serve the local church and how can the local church joyfully serve singles?
Church, affirm singles: Sometimes the local church can forget two of the loudest voices in the New Testament were single men (Jesus and Paul) and that Paul called singleness a gift (1 Corinthians 7:7). Instead of treating someone’s singleness like a “meantime,” affirm singleness as a good and timely gift.
If God has not given the equally good gift of marriage to someone, it is because it’s not best for that person at that time. What a single has today is a gift, so affirm it as such. And don’t affirm only the gift of singleness—affirm the gift of the single. Single people are a gift just as they are.
Church, help singles: One of the aches of singleness is the lack of a partner in all of life. Doing ministry is difficult and coming home by yourself every day can be a constant aching reminder of how alone you feel. There is no one with whom to process the complexities of life. This also has ramifications for sanctification since there is no constant iron sharpening iron agent in our lives.
Church, help singles by opening your homes to them, not just for special events and perfectly ordered dinners. Open your homes to them in all their messy glory. Teach men how to serve wives and children. Teach women how to care for husbands and children. Be their family in the aching absence of their own family.
Church, hire singles: It’s commonly heard that singles have more time and money than married people, but for the godly single the opposite might actually be true. A godly single will be spending life, finances, energy, and time on the things of God (1 Corinthians 7:32). The unmarried will actually have more to give to the local church than the married.
Most singles are able to devote significant time to the study of God’s Word, meetings and discipleship, and creative space for brainstorming and problem solving—all of which are great assets to the local church. Value these assets instead of valuing only the status quo.
Singles, serve the church: The previous point is true—your singleness should be spent for the good of the church. But the point is moot if you’re not actually doing this. Because you’re doing much of life alone, there are activities and events on your schedule that aren’t shared with a partner, so there will be a measure of commitments you have that keep you from being the carefree picture of a typical single.
But margins exist all around your life—early morning meeting times for discipleship, weekends given to serving your local church, and evenings to practice hospitality in your home. These might not be official roles, but they could bring you into official roles you desire. Be faithful with what you have and trust the Lord to grow you and your gifts in His time and way.
Singles, protect the church: Singles, you have the ultimate role model in the local church for what singleness ought to look like. She is broken and blemished, but she is becoming beautiful and worth protecting. Think of the deepest angsts you have as a single. The Church experiences those same longings. She’s groaning for her groom, longing for intimacy, fasting until the final feast.
Protect her chastity and purity by living lives that are chaste and pure—not because it proves you ready for ministry, but because it brings you ever closer to the culmination of all things and the wedding feast of Christ and His bride.
Singles, love the church: One of my favorite lines of any book is from The Jesus Storybook Bible after the creation of Adam and Eve: “And they were lovely because He loved them.” What made them beautiful was the reality that they were loved by God. Often we struggle to love what God loves (His bride) because we do not feel loved by her.
I want to tenderly encourage you to learn to love what God has called lovely and what He loves. The bride of Christ will be blemished and broken until she is presented spotless before her groom—so you will feel the angst of what is not yet perfect. Love her anyway. Love her into loveliness.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert
Lore is a writer living in New York and the author of Handle With Care: How Jesus Redeems the Power of Touch in Life and Ministry.