Marital Status in the Church
I’m a PK. Pastor’s Kid. I grew up in the church as a slightly feisty and infamous half-pint. In other words, I had attitude! I would often declare that I would “never marry” and that “God had called me to be single FOR LIFE”. I was absolutely certain that someday He would call me to a far off mission field. (I’m not really sure why I was so preoccupied with marital status back then.)
Most folks chuckled at this, but I believed it with all my heart and although I dated a bit in high school, I was still adamant about being “called to be single” as I headed off to college. I was far from God at that point, and not yet headed back to Him, however He was still working in my life and in my heart. He was still poking holes in my false assumptions about my life.
Because He was getting ready to show me and lead me to the man who would end my chances at staying single. The man who won my heart and walked with me back to the heart of Jesus.
You see, I was wrong. God had not called me to be single. But God has called me to marry and called me to serve, just as He has called my husband.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I want to expose another false assumption that is floating around out there. Have you ever been involved in a home church that is thriving with this service and that, this activity or that event, and plenty of extra hands to help out. Have you ever noticed that the names typed in the bulletin next to a ministry, or the names called out in appreciation for hosting an event, belong to married couples?
How blessed that church, any church, is to have married couples willing to work and serve their local church! (And how blessed those couples are for the opportunity!) But I want to speak to the heart of divorced men and women, and lifelong singles.
[Tweet “If you’ve assumed that ‘church work’ belongs exclusively to the happy married couples with 2.5 kids, you’ve assumed wrong.”]
The Bible calls us all to serve, regardless of marital status.
Now the Bible talks about qualifications for being a pastor, deacon, or elder, and I feel neither called nor qualified to describe those roles and their requirements. No, what we’re talking about today is serving, (what used to be called “lay ministry”). You know, volunteering in the nursery, kitchen, parking lot attendants, greeters, prayer teams, tech booths, women’s or men’s ministry, youth group, church maintenance, kid’s church, outreach ministry, visitation and benevolence. Roles that churches always need filled and places of ministry where every volunteer is a blessing.
Hear my heart: if you are single, or divorced, and your heart is in the right place with God (you are well discipled and spiritually healthy), God wants to see you serving in His church every bit as much as He wants to see those married couples serving.
A few years ago Paul and I were a part of a church in the chilly northeast. I was struggling to go deeper with God and frustrated at my “slow growth” (I’d only truly been serving God for a couple of years.) A woman was in our church who loved Jesus VISIBLY. I consider her a mentor. She taught me so much about studying the Bible, about worshiping, and about allowing God to heal circumstances and guide our individual ministries.
She taught our women’s Bible study often and was active in the church in other roles as well. Guess what? She was divorced. Yup. Not so many years before that her marriage had ended; and she had a choice. Take the divorce label and quietly worship God, letting others serve His kingdom, or recover, allow Him to work in her, ready her, and go back into the field for Jesus. I am so glad she chose to receive God’s forgiveness and healing and serve Him mightily. Her example of loving God will never fade from my mind.
In the same church a woman who is close to my parent’s age, a woman who desperately loved a good and merciful God, took time to speak into me. She was quiet and serious, and I’m not gonna lie, a little bit fierce on the outside. But she sat with me, she listened, she prayed. Oh, she prayed and she prayed and she prayed. I’ll never forget her prayers, her no-nonsense Biblical wisdom. Allowing this older woman to teach me about praying through my past was the catalyst that God used to bring me total and complete healing on some very tough topics. I know that it was the Holy Spirit’s skills, as our beloved Comforter, but this woman had a big hand in it. Guess what? She was single. Lifelong, never been married, single.
And it wasn’t just me. I saw these two women minister to others in the church and the extended community time and time again. I was able to witness “big” and “little” things they did for the kingdom of God. I know that God was working mightily through both of them, and still is.
So divorced, or single, don’t let it stop you from doing kingdom work. Don’t let it stop you. Be at work in God’s church no matter what your marital status. God can do miracles through you.
ONE last thing. I truly believe that divorce is not God’s will or plan for my marriage, your marriage, or any marriage (excluding truly biblically justified cases). That said, God can use you despite being divorced, just as He can use me despite my past sins.
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