A Plea to Singles for Missions
by Jeffrey Bush
Some time ago I wrote about the dangers of being a single (unmarried) missionary. It was not meant to be a doctrinal or exegetical study, just practical thoughts about true dangers that exist for unmarried missionaries. There are legitimate limits, concerns and temptations that come along with being a single missionary, but now I would like to give another angle for you to consider.
Although this article is geared towards thoughts about any unmarried person in missions, a large majority of single missionaries (historically, as well as today) tend to be women. It seems to be somewhat of a divided topic for pastors and churches as they pray about supporting or sending out single missionary ladies. Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it wise? Should I be for it? Should I be against it? Allow me to give you a few thoughts to chew on as you form your opinion on whether or not to support a single person, especially a lady, as a missionary.
- There are misunderstandings about her ministry.
Biblically, a woman cannot be a pastor or preacher (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:5-6), but we must remember that ministry is not only done behind a pulpit. A single lady missionary can help with children’s ministries, ladies ministries, music, organization, secretarial, orphanages, discipleship, preparing materials, evangelism, and assisting the missionary couple and their children. The time, flexibility and help a single lady missionary can give is invaluable.
One of the best examples I have seen personally is Beth Quinn (formerly Beth Johnson). She served with a missionary family in Tunisia and helped in the education of missionary children, served in many ladies ministries, kids ministries and was invaluable to my missionary friends in Tunisia. God has now given her a husband, Sam, and they are blessed with two children as they serve in the UK.
We personally require that a single lady missionary works under an established missionary family. Her protection and possibilities seem much better working under another missionary. I have seen many good, single lady missionaries that are a blessing and help to the missionary family they serve with as well as to the many people they minister to on the field. They might not be able to be the pastor, but their talents, time and efforts are incomparable.
- God has used many single lady missionaries!
I love reading missionary biographies, men and women of the past that God has used to spread the Gospel around the world. As a result of missionary biographies, my faith has grown, dreams have expanded and my heart has been stirred. We may be very familiar with William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and CT Studd, but let me assure you that there have been single lady missionaries that have impacted the world and caused growth to God’s Kingdom because of their lives, service and witness. A few of these single lady missionaries are: Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Ida Scudder, Elizabeth Elliott, Gladys Aylward, Corrie Ten Boom, Rachel Saint, Betty Greene, Isobel Kuhn, and Lillian Trasher. I am positive there are more, but those are a few that I have personally read. I am almost positive that if you read them, your respect towards single lady missionaries will be much stronger than it is currently.
- A single person may actually be capable of doing more for the Lord than a married person.
1 Corinthians 7:32-34 teaches that a married person is busy taking care of their marriage and family, but an unmarried person is free to care for the things of the Lord. A married lady may have to get home to the kids, tend to the house, assist her husband, or take care of meals for the family, but a single person’s responsibilities are less complicated. As a result, a single person can stay later to visit, disciple, prepare and serve in ministry. The flexibility of an unmarried missionary makes them almost unparalleled. As the apostle Paul said, “Brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none.” (1 Corinthians 7:29). Knowing the Lord is soon returning, Paul urged the Christians to live, work and serve as if they were single — their only love and responsibility being God and God’s work!