J. Gordon Duncan

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The Church Does Not Do Singleness Well – Lauren Winner

Continuing in the thoughts gathered from Lauren Winner from this past CCEF conference, below is her discussion on why singles are essential to the work of the church.  Surprisingly, the answer is not that they are vital because they have more time.  Enjoy.

Singleness is vital in the church and God’s economy.  The church has to become a community that not only holds up biblical truth about sexuality but also has to become a community that functions well as both single and married people.  Take A.A. for an example:  they are group of people expecting transformation and they expect it in community.  That should be at least a partial definition in the church for single and married folks.

By 2010 only 20% of American population will be married with kids but despite those stats, the church does not do singleness well.  The church holds married as the norm and superior over single.  This is theological problem.  Marriage and singleness were not given to individual people but to the church and both witness to the church different theological truths and pieces of God’s economy.

Marriage witnesses a picture of faithfulness that instructs us not just about marriage but about God’s commitment to us and gives hope that we might faithful to our spouses.  Marriage is not just two in one but two together within and for the whole and must persevere in love because the community needs to see God’s love actualized among God’s people.

Singleness witnesses to the church as well.  People think that singleness is only blessed because they have more time, but there is much more than that.  The main gift is that just as marriage instructs the church so singleness instructs the church in something just as vital.  Henry Nouwen said, “God will be more readily recognized as the source of life in celibacy because singleness becomes a living sign as the centrality of the living sanctum that no human can violate.”   Aquinas said that everyone believer is to cultivate a vacancy for God.

This is more obvious in single than married folks because married folks make the mistake of thinking they need God less because they have a spouse.  Church makes the mistake that the family is the primary source of sanctification and grace in the human life.  The place to find those things is not in marriage but in the church.  We hold that we will be at our most self as we stand before God at the eschaton and there Jesus says is not that we will cease to be at relationship with those we have here but the relationship we will be in will be the Christian relationship with other Christians

Singleness tutors the whole church in the primacy of relationship with Christ.

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.  Click and help me earn a penny.


November 18, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,


  1. Amen! It’s time for the church to repent of its attitude toward singles and get with the program. Ministry to singles is NOT optional. A vision for singles is NOT optional.

    Comment by GayleR | November 18, 2009 | Reply

  2. J Gordon Duncan – I’m not mad at God and don’t hold God accountable. I hold myself accountable for being so gullible by accepting what I’ve heard in church either from a pastor or what is accepted by the congregation as being true about singleness. Read the posts about “singleness” and you will quickly discover there is a tremendous amount of “emotional” and “psychological” pain or suffering being experienced by Christian singles. After reading Julia Duin’s book, “Quitting Church” and from my own experience, I would say at most perhaps 1 in a 1000 singles would agree that “singleness” is a blessing and opportunity to serve the Lord. And Chapter 5 of the book specifically deals with singles and how they are abused, that’s right ABUSED, by the church. Others singles are “suffering” in silence. There is obviously something very seriously wrong with the Church because of the large number of singles with this pain and all the Church can say is basically too bad, deal with it. The church needs to wake up. Young people today are better educated, will question what is being taught and won’t accept the status quo.

    Comment by Harry | November 18, 2009 | Reply

  3. I love Lauren Winner and I agree that the church has not done singleness well.

    In my view a big shift in singles at church has been from primarily older divorced people and widowers to people in their late 20’s and 30’s who have just been doing life in “community” and not settling down. Some by choice, some by lack of choice.

    I don’t think the church has necessarily intended to do singleness poorly, it just seems like they don’t know what to do. I have had staff ask me at my church, “What could we do for singles?”

    Anything that is suggested, in my head I can immediately hear my friends saying, “I would NEVER do that!”

    So there is this tension. I don’t believe that there is any ill-will on the part of married people in the church, and I don’t think unmarried people know what role they want the church to play.

    Its a tough situation–but I love the way Lauren Winner frames her points. Both intellectual, realistically thoughtful and Biblical. This is how change will happen.

    Comment by Joy Eggerichs | March 25, 2010 | Reply

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