By Bill Thomas
Nearly one of every two people in the United States is likely to be single. A recent census showed that 124 million people in the U.S. are single, which is about 50 percent of the population. I know that sounds like a lot of people, but the statistics don’t lie. According to that same census, about 107 million Americans 18 and older were categorized as unmarried. Of that group, 47 percent or just over 46 million, are men. I’m one of them.
More than Ever
Singles come in three different packages: divorced, widowed, and never married. A surprising finding of this census is that there are more single guys today than at any other time. The number of single men between the ages of 18-25 is almost double what it was in 1960.
It was surprising to see that 23 percent of single women regularly attend church. That sounds low, but more shocking is that only 15 percent of single men attend church regularly. What’s the message for the few single guys who are faithful each Sunday and what’s the message to the church ministering to what is fast becoming an unchurched group?
For those of us who are single and are active in the church, there are some things we need to remember. First, we need to recognize that a relationship with a woman is not the most important thing. It doesn’t matter what societal norms are or what some well-meaning Christian friends may say. Your relationship to God through Jesus Christ is the most important relationship you can ever have. John records Jesus’ words in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Though that statement isn’t politically correct, it’s still true. There is no way to eternal life with God except through Jesus Christ. Nothing else is as important.
What Really Matters
Whether you’ve been divorced, widowed, or have remained unmarried, you probably have encountered a few Christians who thought your life would be so much better and your service to God so much more meaningful if you could just meet a godly woman. Just to be clear; there is nothing wrong with meeting a godly woman. I’m guessing there’s a lot right with it. But it doesn’t define you. So guys, remember, no matter what anyone else says, your relationship with the Lord matters more than any other.
It’s also important to recognize that there are many ways single men can serve the Lord and his church. We don’t have to wait until we have a family to be useful for kingdom work. We are not broken Christians who need fixing before we can do something. Use your gifts and talents. First Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
As we do this, we need to be wise. As a man who’s never been married, it’s unlikely that the church is going to use you in the nursery, preschool, or maybe even the elementary school department. That’s especially true if the leadership doesn’t know you. How do we handle that? Don’t get frustrated or quit because you can’t do what you want. Start by serving in areas where your congregation most needs help, and serve there well.
A Tough Challenge
Because of how single men have acted in the culture in which we live, we have a tough challenge. We must live godly lives and be above reproach so that people can see our hearts and know who we are and whose we are. That takes time and integrity. No shortcuts.
So what do we do to prove ourselves? Get involved. Go to the men’s group. Help with worship set up. Work at the Vacation Bible School carnival. Do what work you can and are able to do. Be faithful in the small things so that you can be trusted with bigger things.
One of the challenges Christian single men face is how to date. We understand the biblical warning not to be yoked together with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14), but dating is tough, especially as you get older. At some point, most of us want to date. What do we do? Adam McLane wrote a blog post he titled, “Where are all the Christian men?” In it he noted that “for every eligible single Christian man I meet, there seem to be 20 eligible women.” He asks, “Where are the dudes?” He answers his own question with challenging words. He says, “Is it that there are no single men? Or is it that there are single boys who are the age of men? I think the latter.” That’s tough to read, but I think he’s on to something. Guys, we must step up and be godly men. Show character. Work hard. Be a man women respect. Date godly women, those with whom we can share our faith journey. Finding a wife isn’t the most important thing, but doing it the right way matters.
The last challenge I’ll mention for single Christian men may be the most important. We need to be intentional about growing in our walk with Jesus Christ. It’s obvious by looking at the numbers that we’re one of the smallest groups that attend church. Young adults who are part of the millennial generation attend church more frequently as a group than single men do. We can’t let negative peer pressure bring us down. We have to be committed to the truth that Jesus Christ and a relationship with him can change the world. We need to be hungry for that kind of adventure. Men like the apostle Paul, John Wycliffe, George Fredrick Handel, and John Stott made incredible contributions to the kingdom. A single Christian man is free to serve the Lord in ways others can only dream of. Be bold and make good use of the season of singleness.
Two thoughts for churches: Give the single guys a chance. Consider how they might serve well and use their gifts. Don’t reject a candidate for ministry just because he’s not married. Remember that single people, like married couples, need to be challenged to surrender more to the Lord, to serve him better, and to share him with others. They need reminders of purity and witness. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the only ministry a single person is looking for is one that yields a mate.
In Ecclesiastes 3 Solomon noted that there is a season and a time for everything under Heaven (v. 1). For some, it may be a short time. Use it well and grow deep in your walk with the Lord. For others, it may be longer. If so, seek to follow the Lord and trust where he leads you. For all of us, make the most of it when it’s just you.
Bill Thomas is the Associate Minister at First Christian Church in Washington, Missouri. He is an adjunct professor for St. Louis Christian College, Florissant, Missouri, and Central Christian College of the Bible, Moberly Missouri.