By D.A. and Elicia Horton
First, unmarried brothers and sisters, know that we view you as spiritual warriors in God’s army, equally co-laboring on the front lines! The body needs your vantage point, voice, and vocation to reach and disciple the lost.
We want to speak life to any wounds you may have experienced within the church and acknowledge the giftedness of your status, provide a biblical framework for it, and create spaces of inclusion for you.
We often hear unmarried believers express frustration about the lack of space for them in the local church. Many feel that “singles ministry” is like Youth Group 2.0 or College Group Part 2, lacking biblical and practical depth.
Church events, sermons, and the overall rhythm of church life seem directed toward married couples and families, causing many singles to feel like second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Please know this couldn’t be further from the truth!
We know from Scripture that the Holy Spirit does not indwell married saints in a greater capacity. The gospel does not declare that unmarried people receive a discounted payment for their sins.
On behalf of church leaders and married Christians this side of eternity, we offer a heartfelt apology for not including you more; for pigeonholing you to volunteer in ministries you feel profile your unmarried status; for assuming you have more than 24/7/365 to live on mission.
These misunderstandings have created feelings of abandonment, isolation, and neglect, causing you to feel like stepchildren in the body of Christ.
To both the married and unmarried, we say let’s seek to understand how the unmarried status is a gift. First Corinthians 7 has much to say regarding this.
In verse 7 Paul says, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” Paul admits in the next verse he was unmarried when he wrote this epistle.
Marriage is not a prerequisite for being used by God to edify others, including those who are married. Let us say that one more time: Marriage is not a prerequisite for being used by God.
Paul also said each person’s status was a gift. In this context, gift means God-given generosity to find contentment in sexual matters.
There are different statuses for the unmarried—divorced, single, and widowed—and Paul’s wording provides comfort and truth that God has given them all grace for this specific season, allowing them to mature and participate in church life.
Gleaning from the rest of Paul’s letter, here are some benefits of this grace, available to married and unmarried alike: boasting in the work of Christ (1:28-30); holding others accountable (chapter 5); the ability to flee sexual immorality (6:12-20) and idolatry while doing everything for God’s glory (chapter 10); walking in wisdom regarding Christian liberties (chapter 8); and participating in the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34).
It also includes edifying the body through spiritual gifts (12:1-11); embodying God’s love (chapter 13); participating in orderly worship (chapter 14); walking in assurance because of the Resurrection (chapter 15); and helping those in need (16:1-4).
No matter your age or status or whether you’re loving singleness or lonely, God has not forsaken you. His grace will never run out.
Now before you assume these concepts are unrealistic, consider 1 Corinthians 7:8-9: “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Yeah, Paul just got real. Let’s not be so naive regarding the desire for sexual intimacy and pleasure. God created it as a gift, and abstaining is tough when you desire it.
Sometimes you may be tempted to put yourself in a situation where your goal is to have sex, while other times you may give in for a moment’s pleasure when someone has pursued you.
This is when authentic accountability and biblical counsel are necessary.
Paul says it’s “better to marry rather than to burn with passion.” However, we know that marrying just to have sex is not healthy.
That’s why Paul makes the appeal regarding self-control. He also urges those who are able to remain pure to stay unmarried so they can avoid “worldly troubles” (7:28).
Paul unpacks this in verses 32-35: Married people face family responsibilities that may limit living on mission. Many singles also know such limitations because they, too, are blessed to have children.
Their availability for mission trips, serving in ministries, and fellowshipping should be based on their children’s needs. After all, their children are their first ministry, not the programs their church offers.
It’s important to empower the unmarried to use their spiritual gifts and God-given talents beyond babysitting or serving as youth workers or Sunday school teachers.
They should be invited to speak into situations and offer counsel gleaned from their unique life experiences, biblical knowledge, and ministry expertise.
Single brothers and sisters, the truths you mine during your personal devotion time can and should strengthen those sitting around the table you’ve been invited to.
We pray you will receive more invitations to share meals, and that when you do, you’ll contribute what’s simmering in your hearts.
We benefited greatly from this when some sisters in our local church lent us their expertise about our son Duce’s speech delay. Their counsel was comforting and timely, and we didn’t take it with a grain of salt simply because they’re not parents!
No—we affirmed their skill sets, education, and training and followed their advice. This is one simple way of affirming the unmarried: inviting them into community, allowing them to provide counsel and wisdom as God leads.
Finally, ministry leaders, let’s stop trying to play matchmaker. We have made that mistake and stand corrected.
If our unmarried brothers and sisters do express a desire to be married, we must not automatically turn into matchmakers who seek to hook them up with every prospect we come across.
Instead, we should affirm that their desire is not sinful (1 Corinthians 7:9, 28) and ask to walk alongside them through the process of praying for a spouse as they remain pure until the Lord answers favorably.
We should also desire to protect their hearts. Sometimes, infatuation and longing for the one can blind a person to the dangers others may see.
This is why gospel-saturated marriages are necessary in local churches: They provide those who desire marriage with a picture of two broken people who have entrusted their hearts to God and each other while living in a broken world that keeps trying to break them apart.
A gospel-saturated marriage puts its blemishes on display so onlookers can see the present-tense work of God. This will help the unmarried who desire marriage to not allow the idea of marriage to replace Jesus on the throne of their hearts.
For more from D.A. and Elicia Horton, visit entertheringbook.com
D.A. and ELICIA HORTON (@da_horton and @ea_horton) teach and serve together at Reach Fellowship, a church plant in North Long Beach, CA, and have been blessed to counsel couples jointly for over 10 years.