Qualifications of a Pastor: Single or Married?

I recently stumbled across an article discussing the qualifications of pastors with the emphasis on a pastor being married or single. While the issue at hand isn’t one of grave importance, I think it’s an interesting topic.

There are three main articles I read:

1) A New York Times article about a single pastor being unable to find a pastoral position.
2) A response to the article by Steve Dewitt, a single pastor I’d never previously heard of. I think he offers some good insight, though (and actually, I added his blog to my reader as a result). I originally found this article on The Gospel Coalition blog.
3) Al Mohler’s response to the NYT article. Al Mohler is a guy whose opinion I greatly respect. He’s the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and he has a radio program–The Briefing–that I listen to (can be found on his site or in podcast form on his feed or on iTunes). He brings a very knowledgeable and biblical perspective to topics.

Here are some not-so-brief thoughts I have on the whole topic at hand. I encourage you to read the articles above prior to reading the following.

1) I don’t think Scripture is excluding single men from being pastors. I don’t see it saying that only married men are qualified.

2) I do, however, think that Scripture alludes that most pastors will be married. I think that this is by intent. Now, for what intent I am not sure. It could simply be that because more people are married than stay single, the easy conclusion is that numbers will lead to more married pastors than single pastors. I personally believe that there a little more intent than just that. The fact that the authors of the New Testament books that discuss the topic (most of whom are regarded as being single) chose to speak in terms of a married pastor says something.

3) While this may be what the authors of the bible felt as well (though I cannot claim that), I think that in terms of ministering to a whole congregation, a married pastor has an advantage. I clearly can’t speak from experience but being married and having children puts a pastor through what the majority of people in his church will experience–and I definitely think this would be beneficial. Single pastors are likewise advantaged in certain ways, which Steve Dewitt does an excellent job of describing. Now, this obviously leads to the discussion of what a pastor’s main role is and I think that is a different discussion (especially when some pastors, like Mark Driscoll for example, are basically solely teaching pastors). So again the passages in the NT aren’t indicative enough to only choose a married pastor because it will depend on the needs of a church.

4) Speaking of, when it comes to the role of a church looking for a pastor, I think that it is wrong to discriminate a candidate just because they are single. This, of course, should be followed by my belief that if a church is looking for someone that is heavy into shepherding and ministering to the flock (see point 3), not accepting a single pastor candidate is not discrimination.

5) However sad it is, there is definitely some extra weight of society’s baggage that those who remain single will have to carry with them. By this, I mean things such as the regard that older single men might be homosexual or people jumping to conclusions about a single man’s interaction with women. Ultimately, the church and all believers are still marked with sin and live in a sinful world. These thoughts and stereotypes probably play a factor when churches are deciding on a future pastor.

When it comes down to it, God is the one who ultimately appoints pastors–married or single. A pastoral ability is a special gifting granted to certain people. God can and does choose to equip pastors as He sees fit. This reminds me of part of a John Piper tweet I saw the other day that said “It is the breath of the Almighty that gives wisdom not the burden of age (Job 32:8-9).” This really made me think; and it also relates to this discussion. Just because someone hasn’t had the experience of marriage doesn’t mean God can’t equip them with extra-ordinary wisdom in such matters.

Also important to keep in mind here is the fact that marriage, eternally speaking, is a fleeting thing. It is a gift of God that is meant for this lifetime but won’t be important in the next. This point is brought up in the above articles, but I think it is worth reiterating. A few months ago I was loaned Piper’s book This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. He does a great job of reminding married couples of this and his chapter on singleness was very insightful for me. Don’t get me wrong–I think marriage is a very special covenant. But it isn’t as important as the new covenant through Jesus. Being the only single person in my group of friends from church, I hope and pray that my example of singleness is a “walking sermon.” I’m not often vocal about it, but I hope to convey my beliefs on marriage being an important thing with the addition that it is very clearly not of eternal importance. It’s a matter that as a single person I need to be careful to approach with humility and delicateness.

All in all, this is an issue that isn’t worth dividing over but does bring up some good discussion.

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