If we are silent about what God has said about the gift of singleness (1 Cor 7), those who are single in the church will be vulnerable to deceptive philosophies of the world. Consider these two examples of how singles are hurt by a lack of teaching and biblical discipleship in the area of singleness.
I had a conversation with a single, twenty-five year old man. He was a serious Christian and was making preparations to leave for the mission field. He did not have an overwhelming desire to be married, to have sex, or to have children. He believed that God had given him the gift and calling to be single. He was involved in the singles ministry at church, but after a while became fed up and left. What got him so upset? People continued to say things to him such as, “So, are you dating anyone?” “You know, I met a really nice girl the other day. I think you would like her.” Obviously, these were well meaning Christian friends. No offense was intended. This particular singles group offered little teaching on the gift of singleness. Even though that should have been a fundamental discipleship issue for that context, it was rarely discussed. What was the end result? A man who believed he had the gift and call to singleness was regularly being pressured toward marriage! I don’t blame him for leaving.
On the other hand, I once spoke with a thirty-year old woman who very much desired to be married, have sex, and have children. God had not yet blessed her with a husband. She continued to pray for God to prepare her to be a godly wife and mother and to hurry up and bring Mr. Right onto the scene! Yet, do you know what her friends and pastors were telling her at church? They were telling her to “embrace and celebrate her singleness!” They were not just counseling her to “be content and to trust God with your desire for marriage,” but telling her to accept and embrace her singleness. I think this is unconscionable. This woman had a desire for marriage, sex, and babies. Yes, her current state of being single was something to accept from the sovereign hand of God, but not to be embraced. She left hurt and confused.
One of the top priorities in our ministry to youth and young adults must be to help them discern whether God has called them to serve Him through marriage or to serve Him through singleness. This can be very difficult to discern, and for some they may sense a particular leading in one direction only to have God redirect them later. Thousands of vital life decisions are affected by the two potential callings of marriage and singleness. It should be a central part of our discipleship conversations with youth and young adults.