Steve DeWit, who is single and is a pastor, pens a poignant article at TGC on the issue of single pastors, sparked by a recent NYT piece on the subject.
Albert Mohler also blogged about this, but from a different perspective.
But I found Pastor DeWit’s observations on 1 Timothy 3 persuasive:
Arguments that cast Paul as prioritizing marriage in ministry wrongly make the helpful reality of marriage a biblical preference. It is important to note that the pastoral qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 were written by a single apostle (perhaps a widow or even a divorcee but nevertheless single). Would Paul write qualifications that handicapped himself as a pastor? Further, we have no indication that Timothy and Titus were married. Yet they are charged with identifying and laying hands on elders who would serve under their leadership. It seems that what is good for the apostolic goose should be good enough for the pastoral gander.
Finally, if we affirm that 1 Timothy 3 teaches that marriage is a near requirement for pastors/elders, in order to be consistent we would need to require a pastor to have children as well. Taken one step further, he would have to have more than one child since “children” is plural. This is all unnecessary and unwarranted. Paul is simply describing how a pastor/elder must be faithful to his wife IF he is married, and he is describing the quality of a pastor’s parenting and leadership IF he has children.
And I found this section from Pastor DeWit to be especially moving:
Every married pastor would affirm that a godly wife is a wonderful blessing both personally and pastorally. We should recognize and celebrate that a married pastor’s marriage is a tremendous asset in both his personal growth into holiness and the resources it generates for shepherding a flock.
But we must also recognize that a pastor’s singleness is equally valuable in different ways. Speaking from experience, singleness has its own anvil on which God shapes character and pastoral gravitas. In addition, single pastors have some tremendous gifts to share with their congregations. When I speak of my loneliness, how many hearts leap with hope identifying with my trial? When my voice quivers as I describe life lived with unmet and unfulfilled expectations, what heart can’t hear the echo? A normal red-blooded, sexual, single, Christian man battling all the normal desires yet pursing contentment in Christ is a living sermon that Jesus alone is sufficient. These strengths, combined with the greater energy and time that single pastors can pour into their churches, should lead us to conclude that singleness ought not be viewed as a negative. If Paul was serving on the search committee, I think he’d argue for it as a positive.
Read the whole thing here.
It’s worth noting that this is a subject where biblical theology can be enormously helpful, and no one has done more insightful work on the issue from this angle thanBarry Danylak in Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (Crossway, 2010). It may be worth reprinting again John Piper’s foreword, which provides a helpful summary:
* * *
The greatest, wisest, most fully human person who has ever lived, never married. Jesus Christ. His greatest apostle never married, and was thankful for his singleness. Jesus himself said, that in the age to come we do not marry. And he added that the age to come had already broken into this world.
Therefore, the presence of single people in the church not only “attests the sufficiency of Christ for the reception of God’s covenantal blessings in the new covenant,” but also reminds us “that the spiritual age has already been inaugurated in Christ and awaits imminent consummation.”
When I met Barry Danylak at Tyndale House in Cambridge, England, in the summer of 2006, I was amazed at the research he was doing on a biblical theology of singleness. Not only was the scope of it unprecedented, but the theological and practical insights struck me as biblically compelling and practically urgent. I don’t know of anyone else who has ever provided the extent of biblical reflection on singleness that Barry has provided for us here.
Both marriage and singleness demand the most serious and solid biblical insight. These are realities that affect every area of our life and thought. We cannot settle for superficial pep talks. Our lives cry out for significance. And significance comes from seeing ourselves the way God sees us. Including our singleness. My guess is that virtually every single who reads this book will finish with a sense of wonder at who they are, and how little they knew about this gift and calling.
Barry is keenly aware of the progress of redemptive history and its stunning implications for the single life. Early in that history, marriage and physical children were fundamental to the blessings of the Mosaic Covenant. But they are not fundamental to the New Covenant the way they were then. And what is beautiful about the way Barry develops this historical flow is that the glory of Jesus Christ is exalted above all things.
Barry elevates but does not absolutize the calling of the single life. It’s greatness lies in this: “It is a visible reminder that the kingdom of God points to a reality which stands beyond worldly preoccupations of marriage, family and career.” Indeed. And that greater reality is the all-satisfying, everlasting friendship of Jesus himself in the new heavens and the new earth. Marriage and singleness will be transcended, and Christ himself will make those categories obsolete in the joy of his presence. A life of joyful singleness witnesses to this.