My Place in the Church
One of my fears in being single is the fear of being alone, without a connection to a family of my own or a community. A Christian, however, is never alone because first of all, God Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:8) and secondly, because God has created a body of believers as a precious gift of community for us.
Being single, it can seem like there isn’t a place for you in the church, though. Marriage is highly honored (as it should be), and depending on the nature of the city or community, the church can be made up primarily of married couples and families. I used to automatically remove myself (either physically or emotionally) if I felt that I was the only single person at a church gathering. I used to feel as if I wasn’t as important in the church because I’m not married. The result? I hid inside myself and stopped serving. But it is Satan’s lie to think you are not valuable in the church.
Our diversity should not hinder the church’s unity. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 gives an excellent analogy to explain how the body of Christ should function:
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?
As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
So whether single or married, if you belong to Christ, you belong to the church, and you are extremely important. Romans 12:4-6 says, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
God gives each of us different gifts. Those gifts might change at various times during our lives; what God expects is for us to use what He has given us today for His glory. Singleness is not to be despised; it is a precious gift from God. Speaking of his own singleness, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:7, “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” He continues in verse 17 to say, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”
We humans tend to gravitate in friendship towards people who are the same age or in the same stage of life as we are. These friendships are often “easier” because the things we have in common are more obvious. Since nearly every other woman at my church who is my age is married with kids, friendships have been a struggle. Sometimes this has made me feel like I don’t have any friends. But I have learned to see the church as my faith family, and this has stretched me to extend friendships beyond people who are just like me. If you think about the biological family that God created, the members are typically all different ages. They have different personalities, different strengths, and are in different stages of life—yet they are one family. The same is true about a church family. There are all different ages, people have different jobs, are at different maturity levels in their faith, and are in different stages of life—yet they are unified together in Christ.
In her book Single and Lonely: Finding the Intimacy You Desire, Jayne V. Clark puts it this way:
We’re big on family, but we tend to think of it narrowly—as in our own personal, nuclear families. Yet when Jesus was told that his mother and brothers wanted to speak to him, he said “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers . . . Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48, 50). Jesus was redefining and enlarging the meaning of family. It’s still based on blood—but it’s his shed blood.
When you look at Genesis 2 through the lens of Jesus’ work on the cross, you will be blown away. Yes, it’s wonderful that a husband and wife become one flesh; but it’s even more wonderful that Christians comprise the body of Christ, so connected with each other that if one part suffers, we all suffer. If one part is honored, we are all honored. It’s incredible for a husband and wife to come together, to be fruitful and multiply; but it’s even more incredible that Christ grows and multiplies his kingdom by sending flawed people like us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
As I began to see the body of Christ as my family, I began to extend my friendships beyond what was comfortable. I sought friendship with a college girl who is six years younger than me, I befriended an elderly lady who became my “pew buddy” for a while at church, I invited a mother and her two children to go out to lunch after the service, I began to really talk to the people I interact with in ministry. It’s amazing what can happen when you are willing to seek friendships in this way. Many great relationships have begun to develop—ones I would not have expected—and I have been incredibly blessed.
A little over a year ago, some people in my church lost a dear member of their family. Though I did not actually know the family, I was asked to serve dessert at the funeral. Since I was available, I was able to help with the event. A few weeks later, I cooked a meal and brought it to the grieving family members. They were surprised by my generosity because I did not know them personally. “But you are part of my family,” I told them. And I want to love my family.
Being single may mean that I do not have my own husband and family, but in Christ I have been given a family larger than I could imagine. I can pour my life and heart into these people because my devotion is to the Lord for His glory. “An unmarried woman is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit… I am saying this for your own good… that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:34-35).