Church & The Single Life: The Holes in Church SINGLES Programs

I used to attend and work at one of the many southern California megachurches, which at the time had a large population of singles, ranging from college students all the way up to singles – well – of a certain age. I think a church ministry for singles is good. It means we can have a place to meet with no cover charge, our own music, and frequent, helpful reminders about not having sex until marriage. 

But I also think sometimes church singles groups can miss the mark in addressing the specific needs of people in this stage of life.

Here in southern California, singles are a fairly large demographic, which I think is also happening across the country. Having grown up in the Midwest in a Baptist church, I understand that marriage is still largely the highest ideal, particularly for people of faith. (I don’t think biblically that’s true, but I get it.)  But being single in the 21st Century is very different than it was, say in the 1970’s or 80’s. 20-something singles seem to be taking their time, enjoying life and dating, and building meaningful careers. Singles in the 30-40 range are (A) divorced, (B) single parents, or (C) have never been married and are watching their biological odometer wondering where they missed the freeway off ramp to marriage. 

It seems to me that people of all ages in this “Single” category face some differing issues. How can the church address them? If you’re in this category and attend church, what do you need?

For purposes of this discussion, let’s say you’re single, somewhere between the ages of 30 and 50, you attend church, and faithfully participate in singles gatherings, or Bible studies, social activities or serving opportunities. It used to be that, depending on church size, a pastor would be provided (married, of course) or volunteer leader, some administrative support, and a place to meet for studies and socials. It wasn’t a bad deal. You’d have a safe environment to meet eligible people in your age range and it was cheaper than on-line dating. 

It was a good option to meet nice, comparatively normal people who share your core spiritual values. 

Today, it seems that most singles programs have transitioned to College or “Young Adult” ministries, and the Small Group or Life Group model as part of the larger church Small Group program. Everyone is encouraged to be in a group, and singles can either mix in with marrieds and seniors, or have their own groups. The focus is right, and it’s a positive way to incorporate singles into the overall church community.

At the same time, the mixed-small-group megachurch also did an annual Relationship message series. A series: like three weeks in a row, there’s just so darn much valuable information to talk about for married people.

I don’t know if you’ve thought of this yet, but single people have relationships too. 

We even have relationships with married people – as in many of my best friends are married. 

I’m not sure why a relationship series would refer only to marriage, and not the myriad of other connections we have with family, friends, and coworkers, married, or single, or same-sex. It seems – well, a bit small-minded. 

The bottom line is that we have to figure out how to live with being single, for however long that may be. 

Think about it this way: what if I have to deal with being single for the rest of my life? The traditional sexual purity issue, for example, takes on a whole new meaning. The Church shouldn’t be afraid to be inclusive and focus positively on living life “alone,” and all the relevant issues involved. (See: Jesus; the apostle Paul.) And, odds are that most married people will find themselves single again, at some point in later life. (Consider how a Relationship series feels to a widow.)

I’ll share one short story from the megachurch. It was the Saturday night service, and I think the message was on relationships. The pastor was talking about dating, and threw out as sort of a humorous aside, “And if you’re a guy who’s not dating, you’re just dumb all day long.” Which got a bit of a chuckle from the audience. I didn’t find it quite that funny. 

We had a good working relationship, so after the service I walked out to the parking lot with him, and as we chatted, he could tell I was upset, and asked why. I said, “Because I think you called me dumb.” 

His mouth dropped open, and as he put the pieces together, he stopped. “No! I was talking to the guys who are sitting around and not asking women out!”

I took a breath, and responded, 

“But it feels like you’re saying single people who aren’t dating are dumb. And why make fun of us at all? Most of the single people in this church study their Bibles at home, they pray for their friends, they volunteer, they care for their parents, they go on missions trips, they tithe. And they do it all even though nobody sees it.” 

He stared at me for a long minute, and then said, “I should affirm them.”

I said, “Well, that would be nice. Or at least acknowledge the lives we’re trying to live in following Jesus.” 

The Church really provides the only answer – the unconditional love of God, a family of believers, and a caring community of prayer and support. They just have to stop pretending it’s temporary until everyone gets married, and focus on who single people are: a part of the body of Christ; that place where everyone can know they do not face life alone.

-Jan Lynn

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jan attended college in southern California, bringing her practical Midwestern sensibilities with her. She’s survived careers in education, advertising and the megachurch. Today Jan works as a freelance writer, offering a casual writing style that cuts through the clutter of business-speak, balancing imagination and brand voice to present an authentic message.  Connect on LinkedIn: 

Dealing With the Singles’ Feels for Christmas

As singles, we deal with a lot of mixed feelings, emotions, and situations over the holidays, and I’m hoping a couple of holiday survival tips will help. (See How to Light Up For Your Singles’ Christmas ).

Today I’m going to start the discussion by saying I just bought myself a very nice Christmas present. It’s something I’ve wanted for quite some time, and I’m very excited about it.

A little backstory:  I was married for many years, and my (now former) husband used to buy me something really special for Christmas. Or my birthday. You know what I mean. Usually our significant others give us a significant gift, because we just want to be a little extravagant in demonstrating our love. It really can be difficult as a single at Christmas not to receive a significant gift. I’m not talking about being greedy, selfish, or requiring something extravagant. I also don’t mean to denigrate all the thoughtful and generous gifts from family and friends. I love getting books and calendars, sweaters, scarves, and gift cards. I’m just thinking of that one gift you get that is just right, whatever it is, and which required some thought or planning, some special knowledge of your interests or passions, and says you are special to someone. 

I remember a few years ago when I felt a pang of disappointment as I watched my sister open a box of beautiful earrings from her husband. It’s simply one of the things you miss when you’re not dating or married.

So here is my encouragement to you. First, if you are already anticipating a let-down or disappointment as you head for Christmas, good job looking ahead and paying attention! Take evasive action immediately.

Plan now not to be miserable. Think of ways to divert it. Make plans with friends. Have a Sunday afternoon holiday open house and invite your neighbors. Volunteer somewhere locally.

My evasive action was to buy a beautiful cross necklace for myself. I’ve never had a cross necklace, so though not expensive, it is significant to me. (Please don’t mention it again, I want it to be a surprise.) I’m going to wrap it up in a box and wait four more weeks (while I’ll mostly forget about it) and then open it on Christmas morning. Mostly I can’t wait for my sister to ask, “Who’s THAT from?!”

Lastly, I encourage you to consider if there might be something more specific inside your loneliness. Is it grief? Regret? Anger? I’m not invalidating loneliness, it’s just that other feelings may have clearer mitigation strategies. I can honestly tell you I don’t battle loneliness at Christmas. Because I’ve learned that what I do battle is disappointment. If you can identify it, you can get ahead of it.

Start managing your feelings right now.

And if that’s more than you can handle today, just throw them at Immanuel’s feet. He is not put off by overwhelming emotions. He came to be with us…to be like us. And by the way, he never married, so I suspect He experienced His share of both loneliness…and disappointment.

-Jan Lynn

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jan attended college in southern California, bringing her practical Midwestern sensibilities with her. She’s survived careers in education, advertising and the megachurch. Today Jan works as a freelance writer, offering a casual writing style that cuts through the clutter of business-speak, balancing imagination and brand voice to present an authentic message.  Connect on LinkedIn:  

How to Light Up For Your Singles’ Christmas

“It’s the most wonderful time…of the year!” Well, maybe… unless you’re single, never-married, childless, recently divorced or widowed. It can sometimes feel like the days leading to Christmas tick off with an ever-growing sense of dread. 

That’s because the holidays are often a difficult time for singles. We feel awkward at parties surrounded by couples. We feel lonely. Our families continually ask when we’re going to bring a nice guy (or girl) home for Christmas. We find ourselves innocently lingering in the general beneath-area of the mistletoe. (…maybe that’s just me.) 

How can we best deal with the variety of feelings we encounter during this meaningful but culturally over-hyped holiday? Here’s my recommendation. Pay attention to your inner dialogue as the holidays approach. What specific situations or expectations make you anxious, or feel like a potential trigger?  

For me, it was the disappointment each Christmas of never receiving a “special” gift.

You know, something a tiny bit extravagant from a significant other. Because sometimes, waiting for that special person can cause us to “temporarily” put decisions and experiences on hold thinking we will save them until we meet Mr./Ms. Right. So we don’t buy dishes, jewelry, or plan exotic vacations, because we’re waiting to do those things with that special someone. I confess – I realized that although I had always wanted a cross necklace, I had never bought one because I thought it would be the perfect gift to receive from a significant other. 

So the first tip for surviving the holidays is:  Don’t put off doing special things.

If you want a set of Christmas dishes and can afford them, buy them now. Bake cookies, even if you just take them to work…the fragrance will linger in your house through the next day. Burn the fancy candles. Put a fire in the fireplace. Decorate your home for Christmas. Yes, even if you live alone. (If you’re going to be alone anyway, opt for doing it with as many twinkle lights as possible.) Put up a Christmas Tree. A real one. If you have any positive childhood memories of Christmas at all, the smell of a Christmas tree every day will bring them all back. Open a bottle of wine while you decorate it. Yes, an entire bottle, just for you. (No, you don’t have to drink it all, but it’s not like you have to drive home.) And use a fancy glass. If you don’t drink, make hot chocolate and put in lots of marshmallows.

Buy yourself a special gift. Think meaningful, not necessarily extravagant. Then wrap it up, put it under your tree, and – this is important – take it wherever you go to open presents. No opening it at home and then going about your Christmas Day. THIS meaningful gift has to be opened with all the others. In my experience, it garners a fair bit of attention, delicious confusion (“Wait, you bought that?”) and a fair sense of empowerment.

So don’t wait. Live your life now. John 1:4 says, “In him was life, and that life was light…” Celebrate Christmas in every way you can.

-Jan Lynn

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jan attended college in southern California, bringing her practical Midwestern sensibilities with her. She’s survived careers in education, advertising and the megachurch. Today Jan works as a freelance writer, offering a casual writing style that cuts through the clutter of business-speak, balancing imagination and brand voice to present an authentic message.  Connect on LinkedIn:  

Not Every Single Person Wants or Needs To Be Married

I was fifteen going on sixteen when I first got the inclination that I might not be destined for marriage. This was despite growing up reading a ton of romance novels and despite growing up and being nurtured in the midst of strong family bonds, and despite being surrounded by couples or people hoping to become one.

Throughout my growing up years, I don’t remember ever hearing a conversation that affirmed not wanting to be in a relationship or married. However, I do remember having to ‘force’ myself to embrace the idea of being part of a couple. Even years later when I dated, coupling and marriage thoughts occurred in my mind more out of effort, rather than as a natural need or want.

I was fifteen going on sixteen when I first got the inclination that I might not be destined for marriage, nor would it be part of God’s plan for my life. As a young Christian and without any affirming messages in church and society (other than the Roman Catholic Sisters/Nuns), I didn’t understand what the Spirit was saying to me. I was fourteen going on fifteen when I first received the call to ordained ministry. That, I understood fully but my father didn’t (because there were no models of clergywomen in the Nigerian Anglican Church), so I was required to pursue my previous chosen path while clarifying the call I heard. Many years and a degree in a medical science later, I received and answered the call to full time ministry.

Equally, lack of affirming postures, practices and theologies of singleness resulted in my submitting myself to accept a life similar to those around me: date boys and aim for marriage, even if neither sparked passion in me. It felt more like a duty…

Many years of dating and a marriage and a divorce later, I have found the courage to reconnect with, explore and own what I first knew in my spirit at fifteen years: I am not created for marriage. I love people. I love and affirm the gift of marriage in others, but it has never been a desire that sprang up on its own in me.

I had just turned forty when I started to ask myself about what I really wanted in life, and I found that marriage was nowhere on that list. The relationships on that list were multiple sincere friendships without sexual attachments and authentic (Christian) community. I found that I did not need or want to marry to have a handyman who could fix broken things around the house. I could either fix them myself, or else ask a friend or hire someone to fix them. Marrying so as to have someone do the heavy lifting around the house seemed a petty reason for marriage.

As a single parent, it would have been nice to have someone help with household and parenting chores, as well as help with the bills. Yet, observation of the lives of married couples showed that being married was not necessarily a guarantee that one’s partner always automatically shared these responsibilities. Thus, I concluded that marriage was not the answer to such needs for help. Help comes from members of society who are willing to function as members of our community.

Also, whereas the body’s biological rhythms sometimes made me horny, I was not interested in having sex to satisfy those urges. Masturbation could easily satisfy those needs and I did not see the need to create a relationship just for five minutes of sexual activity once or twice every month. As I grew older, even the horniness almost disappeared and I would go for months at a time without experiencing it.

I share these experiences to highlight the societal/cultural expectations, as well as the biological rationalizations for marriage. Church (excluding the Roman Catholic Church) and society mandate marriage (you will never be considered for certain jobs except you are married), and you are told that your body’s natural sexual rhythm is an argument for marriage. Actually, the latter is a lie. Despite many Christians naming sex as a reason to get married, Paul’s advise in Scripture is based on ‘if you cannot control your need for sex’  (1 Cor.7:9), NOT ‘marry so you can have sex’ which many in church and society have erroneously perpetuated.

I have come to the conclusion that there would be less divorces and more happier marriages if singleness were more affirmed and embraced equally alongside marriage. This allows people know they have a choice -enough scriptural conversations exist to affirm the fact that marriage should never be forced upon anyone nor should anyone be manipulated into embracing marriage. These conversations present the idea of ‘choice’ between singleness and marriage. This is why Jesus easily existed as a single man and despite all the criticisms of Jesus by his enemies, not one of those criticisms were about his single state.

Singleness and marriage are equal representations of the Imago Dei. No one is less the image of God for choosing one or the other, because singleness and marriage each contribute to the flourishing of society, that continuation of God’s will for humanity and creation. Church and society can demonstrate this equal worthiness and affirmation of singleness and marriage in the church by upholding and providing role models for both.

All too often, the model of singleness upheld in church and society is that of a single ‘waiting’ to be married. However, that is not the only kind of single(ness) that exists in Christian history.

Jesus’ ministry itself highlights a couple of unmarried women, Mary and Martha, who contributed greatly to Jesus’ ministry. Nowhere is Jesus recorded chastising these two women about their lack of marriage, nor persuading or preaching that their lives needed the fulfillment of marriage. [It would also appear that their brother, Lazarus, who lived with them and whom Jesus rose from the dead was also single. So here was a family of single people!] On the contrary, we see Jesus humble those who valued marriage above their humanity. We see Jesus tell them that human fulfillment is rooted in doing God’s will, not in having sexual relations or marriage. He went further to tell them that marriage is non-existent in heaven!!!

Yet, of all the things Christians aspire and look forward to about Jesus’ coming, the church conveniently forgets to mention that singleness is something we ought to learn how to embrace and affirm on earth here, because that is what exists in heaven! [Matthew 22:19-20]

If the goal of being Christian is to live as we would live in the presence of God in the new heaven and the new earth, and since Jesus, the only one to have seen God face to face, has told us that life in the new heaven and new earth does not include marriage, shouldn’t the church create more room for singles and singleness in theology, ministry and practice? Shouldn’t the church on earth be now heavily invested in learning how to live the abundant life as single people whose lives, work and ministries are critical and vital to the life of the church and society?

I believe that one common mistake many make is that if you are single, i.e., unmarried, you are out of relationship. Yet, single people have more access to relationships than married people. So why the false ideology and notions of ‘aloneness’ as it concerns singleness?

The real issue at play is that married folks and those seeking marriage ostracize and discriminate against single folks. This ostracization and discrimination creates a sense of lack in single people which then makes single people gravitate towards marriage in order to gain acceptance in society and church.

Removing this discrimination against single people would allow church and society learn and benefit from the relationship-creating capacity of single people. This is a necessary gift for enriching and creating and strenghening church and community bonds.

Church, it is time to start honoring in our bodies and relationships, that which we shall all be when we meet Jesus face to face – single.

May we find the courage to affirm the older singles in our midst, but also create room in church and society to embrace, affirm and model that not everyone has to choose physical intimacy or marriage to be fully accepted into church and society. Neither is our worthiness or the worthiness of our contributions determined by marriage or singleness, but rather by the fact that each person, whether married or single, is inherently worthy because he, she, or they are created in God’s image and will one day stand before God in this capacity – single and equal with all others.


Singleness, Transformation & the Age of Branding

It is not news that women and men are constantly barraged with messages telling them exactly what to do to change into the kind of man or woman that appeals to the opposite sex. It is impossible to spend time watching TV, walking in the grocery store, driving on the highway or checking your social media sites without a seemingly never-ending stream of how to be sexy or what it means to be truly masculine or feminine. The right make-up, the greatest six-pack, all to attain the attention (and singular commitment) of the opposite sex.

In addition, the days of social media we have become accustomed to putting forward a ‘brand’. It is quite easy to get confused about who we really are. Indeed, not only are we told how to change, we are constantly reading things like: “Real women have…” and “Real men do…” Our identity is being challenged, often for things that are beyond our control.

What should our response to this be as Christians? How much should we let these cultural norms and ideals impact the person we put forward as our true self? If we believe, as many Christians do, that the Bible is meant to transform us, what impact does, or even should, it have?  Do we believe that the bible is meant to transform us? our culture? our mind? our relationships? our dating? What do we think as we read:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12: 1-2)

What are we thinking as we read this? How are we meant to apply this to our lives? Where does this passage fit when are finding just the right filter to use when we post just the perfect picture, or when we find the cleverest level of snarky to get many likes on Twitter. I imagine that those who were raised in a purity culture will immediately think of how we were taught to “save ourselves for marriage”. Although this is not at all what this passage is talking about, it has been used for that agenda often in my experience. However, this passage is all about relationships, which is easily noted if you read on in chapter 12 and 13.

I once read a book A Jewel in His Crown by Priscilla Shirer. In it she talks about the kind of transformation that has a more biblical emphasis. In her quest to become a godly woman she was seeking to be transformed from the loud, bold person she naturally was into a quiet, feminine woman. I appreciate what Priscilla brings to the table. She is a talented teacher and writer (and preacher, although I am not sure she would own the label) and I do not want to do her any disservice, but this part of her book is troubling. What do those women who are naturally loud do? Are they supposed to make themselves smaller? How about if they hate make-up and dresses? Does that make them less of a woman?

I have a good friend who struggles with deep insecurities. He is drawn to strong women and would likely do well in a relationship with one but instead, his masculinity is constantly threatened. It is threatened largely because he has bought into a particular idea of what it means to be a man and it is almost completely the opposite of him.

The thing is, I don’t see these kinds of ideas in the Bible. We are told to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, but nowhere does it say that we need to fit into gender stereotypes that are very fluid anyway. (After all, men in the bible wore dresses, something that would be considered female only dress by many in Western culture. Just a very easy example or something much more complex.)

Let’s look at the examples where we see transformations played out.


He is the picture of brashness and passion. If John Eldredge had a particular biblical character in mind when he wrote Wild at Heart it was likely someone like Peter. Yet Peter has an undisciplined brashness and passion. It pushes him to think of himself and the power (and prestige?) he could attain by aligning himself with the Christ. How does God transform him? Take away his passion? No. Make him into a man who is no longer brash? No, not really. Jesus begins by challenging Peter’s quest for power. He does not challenge Peter’s passion; he challenges the focus of that passion.


            She was a successful businesswoman. Then she finds Jesus. He transforms her passion and drive and focus. She works alongside her husband, but her husband is never the focus. We never hear of her being chastised for taking a dominant role. We never see Paul saying, “No, you must ask Aquilla’s permission to support my ministry. You must let him make those decisions, you must let him step forward; don’t get in the way of him living out his godly masculinity. You must let him deliver (and interpret) my letters.

The thing is, God has created us, without mistake, exactly as we are and he uses the very qualities that he has given us, our personalities, our gifts, our talents, even the accident of our privileged birth or our singleness or married-ness and He takes these very things that are just a part of who we are, and he forms them into tools useful for bringing glory to God and honor to the name Yahweh. God uses it to transform and impact the world around us.

The truth is, when we deny and squelch how we are created we are working at cross-purposes with God. But when we embrace it and let God shape it, we live full and impactful, glorious lives that are being transformed in the image of God.

Being Single in a Married World

For a long time one of my favorite movies was When Harry Met Sally. Although it is no longer my favorite movie, I still enjoy it, but one line has always reverberated in my head. It is when Carrie Fischer’s character tells Meg Ryan’s character, “Well, at least you could say you were married…”

It can be difficult to live as a single person when those who are married are still considered to be ‘winning’ at life, and although much has changed since When Harry Met Sally first came out and people are getting married much later in life, that reality still has not changed.

Now, add to that reality being single in a church context. Over and over, we hear of the church as the bride of Christ. Marriage is a biblical analogy that is used to depict our connection as humans, especially the church, with God, particularly the person of Jesus. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how the institute (some would still say the sacrament) or marriage can attain the level of godliness.

The problem is, where does that leave singles? And how does it impact our way of talking to even the very young in our communities (by this, read children, babies, even toddlers). I am dismayed to see two and three year olds encouraged to talk about the opposite sex as boyfriends or girlfriends. This is done in a sexualized way. “Do you want to kiss them?” etc. This way of speaking to even very young children does not exclude the church, in fact I hear much more  of it in the church than outside the church with people who would not claim any particular Christian affinity.

Youth groups can easily descend into dating opportunities and adult singles groups become just a bare step up from the local bar meat market as a way to find a partner. Please don’t misunderstand me. I have zero problems with people meeting and dating in the context of their church community. My issue is that from a very young age we are socialized, even in the church (especially the church?) to only think of the opposite sex as a potential partner. This has a way of objectifying them, making them less than human, and destroys the capability to create healthy relationships and friendships between the genders. More on this later.

In church singles groups, Bible studies, meetings, any new person to the group is ‘fresh meat’, and they feel like ‘fresh meat’. And it is not much better outside of the singles scene. I could go on for quite awhile on how hard it can be to be friends with married people. How lonely. How awkward. But I have the privilege of having a couple people who are married and are my friends. Simple. No weird dating questions. No jealousy. No being friends with just the wife and the husband resenting the time we spend together. I am welcomed into their growing family and I am simply their friend.

I wish I had more examples of this. More cases where I am welcomed with open arms. But it is extremely rare. And they are not friends with me because they are taking pity on the poor single person. They love me because I am me. Actually, I was friends with the husband long before they started dating, and she loved me because he did. At first. Now she loves me because she knows me, and I return the feelings. But when I consider how most of us have been socialized, it should not be a shocking that this is a rare thing.

I remember having a somewhat heated discussion about who has it worse as a single person in the church, men or women. My friend maintained that men did. His reasoning? Well, if a woman is single, people feel sorry for you and just think you couldn’t get anyone to marry you. (How awful is this?!) If you are a man and unmarried, they question your masculinity: either you are gay (and don’t even get me started on that) or that you aren’t man enough to 1. Ask in the first place or 2. Capture a woman’s heart. His reasoning speaks volumes.

I remember when I was first getting to know a male friend. He seemed to delight in sending me articles like “Experts Say The More Intelligent a Woman is, the Less Likely She is To Get Married”. Of course, his idea was that men would not marry someone they thought was smarter than them. This particular man was (and is) impressed with my intelligence and these sort of statements were often meant to be a compliment. So, what do we do to change this?

First, I think the church needs to begin to reframe and rethink the way it socializes its children. The world would be so much better off (and the church) if they didn’t tend to think of people in overly sexualized ways. When we have a habit, from a very young age, of thinking of people as potential sex partners, either lovers or the enemy of purity and godliness. We come up with things like the “Billy Graham Rule”. We make it extremely difficult to work together in the real world because the other is just a sexual object.

We must stop sexually objectifying little boys and girls (most understand how bad that is, when I put it that way) and start encouraging them to learn how to value friendships across the genders. We must help hormone filled teenagers (both girls and boys) learn to control their thoughts and actions instead of inadvertently teaching them that they are slaves to these things. After all, the Bible teaches us that part of the Good News, the gospel, is that because of Jesus we are no longer slaves.

Purity culture pits male against female (and treats anyone who doesn’t fall within a strict ideology of what that means as not quite human). Girls are inadvertently taught that their self-worth and identity comes from being able to capture a male. Guys are taught that their self-worth and identity comes from being able to capture a girl (or even as many girls as possible). Purity culture rises from this ethos.

Second, stop playing with pornography. This is not just a man’s problem. Addiction to pornography is on the rise among women too. It is destroying our ability to interact with the opposite sex. If we are only sexual beings, then even the most innocent of touches will be misconstrued if it comes from the opposite sex. (Actually, that is an oversimplification. Touch becomes more and more complex and fraught with danger in general.)

Third, start reframing our way we talk about God and the church. Yes, it is absolutely ‘biblical’ to use the marriage analogy. But I think we miss the point because we get caught up in the word ‘marriage’. Ultimately it is about deeply personal intimacy.

Fourth, talk differently about marriage. These days, in our highly sexualized world, it has become about sex and procreation, and while these are parts, even important parts, of marriage, they are not the most important parts. The best sex in the world and the most beautiful kids will not, on their own, keep a marriage together. If the intimacy, and I mean so much more than sex, if the intimacy and relationship and communication disappear, the marriage will crumble. We see the same thing in a close friendship and we see the same thing in the church. If I stop listening to my friends, I stop caring about what hurts their hearts or uplifts their soul. If I stop sharing parts of myself, the relationship will ultimately die.

Changing how we interact as humans, single or married, will have the potential to change how we live in the church, deepening our understanding of the relationship between God and the church.



What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

I have been thinking about singleness a little bit as it is Valentine’s Day.  Someone on the Biblical Christian Egalitarians page, I think, recommended that Valentine’s Day should be a second Thanksgiving.  Although no one I know cooked a turkey today, the concept of being thankful is solid and great for every day.  Gladness is good for the heart (Proverbs 15:13).  Thankfulness is always recommended in prayer and often leads to experiencing God’s peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

I listen to podcasts a lot and pick them with the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Since I really like Andrew Farley’s focus on Jesus + Nothing, a.k.a. New Covenant grace through Jesus is greater than the Old Covenant Law (see Hebrews), I’ve been listening to a lot of his podcasts and his live show where he answers callers’ questions about grace and applying it to daily life.  He had one podcast featuring a man named Ryan who fought cancer at the young age of 35.  Ryan began to worry that he would die and leave his wife and two kids behind and he mentally ruminated on his wife perhaps marrying a jerk in the future.  He became so concerned that he told his wife about the fact that he was worrying yet knew it was an invitation to trust in God and surrender that worry.  He, in a sense, had a “what’s the worst that could happen?” moment.  So, he decided to trust God with that scenario, that he may die and his wife may remarry, but God is in charge.  No matter what happens, God has got it.  His wife even approaches him, crying, and tells him she’s okay with him dying.  Of course, she does not want him to die, but they both realize that even if the worst happens, God has them.  They will be all right.

It made me think of singleness.  Would it really be so terrible to remain single?  Christian dating sites have made me lean toward the answer “no”.  Lots of Christians seem still hooked on a religious, legalistic, complementarian mindset that I really don’t care for anymore.  It didn’t sit well with me when I was given the questionnaire from a potential suitor about how submissive I would be and how many kids I would be willing to have.  I wanted to reply, “Wow!  Umm, how about we not discuss these things until we meet in person for coffee? Actually, scratch that, I already know I don’t care to meet you no matter how cute you are in a photo.”  I didn’t know such men still existed in the 21st century.

But, all that aside, what if the worst happens?  What if I never get married?  Would it be so bad?  Would it mean God loved me less?  No, of course not.  God doesn’t love anyone less.

Emma from VineLife Manchester mentioned in her podcast episode (11/13/16) about how she and her husband John wanted children and she had a miscarriage very early on in her first pregnancy.  She did not get pregnant for another year and it was the worst year of her life.  She began to believe that if she and John did not have kids that there was nothing but a sad life for them.  She said she realized that thought sounded ridiculous, but I thought it sounded honest and true and reflected back to me and I’m sure many others, too, where our thoughts can sometimes go.  It is kind of natural to go to a hopeless place when things aren’t working out.  She meditated on Philippians 4:11-13 and realized that her contentment comes from Christ.  She does now have two lovely children with her husband John, but when we’re going through things, our vision is very limited.  She wasn’t told that she and John would have Olivia and Asaph.  They got to live into the process of having children.

Maybe to have a dream, the dream does have to die, at least at first or maybe for awhile.  Is that so bad?  Does it mean God is bad because He doesn’t tell us the future?  No.

So I am content in the not knowing and the living with Jesus in the present, knowing that even if the supposed worst thing happened, whatever that is, whether it be death, no naturally born kids, singleness, bad leaders, taxes, etc., that it really wouldn’t be the end of the world.

by Jennifer

The Church Marginalizes Singleness Because it has Neglected Widows

Part 13 of a series. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12

Over and over in scripture, believers are told to care for widows, and God says strong things against believers who fail to care for widows.

What does your church do to care for widows?

When was the last time your pastor preached about the importance of caring for widows?

When was the last time caring for widows was discussed in your Sunday School class or small group?

When was the last time money in the church budget was set aside for widows?

When was the last time your church did something specifically to help widows?

Chances are if your church does do something for widows, it’s in the form of a support group. One of the monthly highlights for one of my neighbors is the widows club meeting with other widows from her church. On the internet, I have heard of other churches with support groups for widows. But overall, care for widows is lacking in most churches.

Why have churches neglected widows?

Widows make churches face all the realities of singleness, such as a single woman having no male head, husband to submit to, etc. They also make churches face the unpleasant realities of death and aging, and that the life expectancy is higher for women than for men. Widows, many of whom are elderly, don’t make the church look as hip and cool as young people do. Since many widows are past childbearing age, they have no potential for bearing the children churches see as essential for growth.

Caring financially for widows takes money. Financially supporting widows means less money for large, fancy church buildings and programs. Financially supporting widows means less money for the pastor’s salary, requiring him to live in a modest house, drive a modest car, take modest vacations, and not attend so many conferences. Financially supporting widows means less money to hire staff for tasks many pastors dislike, such as visiting shut ins, administrative work, and counseling.

Nor is caring for the needs of widows as ego boosting as creating a special church program, speaking at an event, or writing a book or article.

By marginalizing singleness, churches are enabled to neglect widows and thus ignore some difficult realities of life and spend their money and energy on more ego and finance boosting activities and demographics.

The Church Marginalizes Singleness Because Divorced People are Proof that Divorce is Not the Ultimate Sin

Part 12 of a series. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11

This post is dedicated to my maternal grandmother, a woman of God who was living proof that divorce is not the ultimate sin and that divorced people can lead happy, meaningful, blessed lives. This series has been written and posted in the room in Grandma’s beloved “Hoosier House” where her time on earth ended October 17, 1997 with her younger daughter, my mom, and me at her side.

For many Christians, divorce is the ultimate sin. A husband can molest his and other children, beat up, threaten to kill, and verbally abuse his wife and children, rape his wife, get a woman not his wife pregnant, patronize prostitutes, be addicted to pornography, have multiple affairs, and spend all the couple’s money on frivolous things leaving his family starving, in rags, cold, or homeless, yet if his wife divorces him, she is considered to have committed a sin greater than all of his.

A wife can be verbally and physically abusive to her husband and children, get pregnant by a man not her husband, have multiple affairs, and spend all the couple’s money on frivolous things, yet if her husband divorces her he is considered to have committed a sin greater than all of hers.

Spouses seeking divorce are sometimes told that if they divorce their spouse, they will be miserable for the rest of their lives and that the short term happiness of divorce will not be worth the long term pain the rest of their lives. Over and over they hear that God hates divorce, and are often considered to be second class Christians. Many Christians shun them, opportunities in the church are closed to them, and they are constantly exposed to the stigmas of divorce.

Even though divorce is difficult, there are many divorcees who have risen above those challenges to lead happy, meaningful, blessed lives and who were, and are, Godly, wonderful people.

My maternal grandmother was one of them.

Divorce was not something she wanted. But my maternal grandfather did, and scripture says in I Cor 7:15 to let unbelieving spouses depart. So she did, especially as Grandpa, who had already tried to harm her once, might have killed her had she not granted the divorce. It was a painful chapter in a life that had been mostly hard.

But Grandma overcame those difficulties and her faith in God was an inspiration to all. God did not punish her severely or ignore her prayers because of her “sin” of divorce. One of her prayers God answered continues to bless me to this day.

At the time of the prayer, Grandma was living in a big house in Ohio.

Her children-two daughters- and four grandchildren lived in Indiana.

Grandma was getting old, and asked God what to do with her big house and her life.

At the time, my parents-Grandma’s younger daughter and her husband- did not have a garage.

God gave the solution to both Grandma and my parents: build a garage and attach a house for Grandma to it.

They began construction on the building. Grandma put her house on the market and prayed for a buyer.

It sold within a month before Grandma’s “Hoosier House” was finished and she had to live with older daughter who at the time lived just down the road from younger daughter until it was finished.

Grandma lived in that house the rest of her life and Mom thinks they were some of, if not the happiest, years of her life. She ministered to her family, to people in a nearby nursing home, and others whom God put into her path.

When she got sick with her final illness, her daughters, both nurses, took care of her in her home with no assistance except for home hospice care in the last days of her life. She died quietly with Mom and I at her side and the following morning, fall 1997’s first frost carpeted the ground. Grandma had been dreading winter, and God took her just before it hit. When we took her body to its final resting place in Ohio, the trees along part of the route were at their peak autumn colors. To me the lovely trees were a sign of God’s love to one of his departed servants.

As of this writing, I have lived in Grandma’s “Hoosier House” almost nine years and that arrangement has been a blessing to both me and my parents. Before I moved here, we let another family live in the house for several months which was a blessing for them. When the day comes that my parents and I leave the property we have called home for decades, I am sure Grandma’s “Hoosier House” will be a blessing to those who own it after us.

Godly divorcees leading happy, meaningful lives are a problem for churches. How can they preach that God hates divorce, that it is the ultimate sin and that divorcees will be miserable the rest of their lives when there are divorcees in their midst who prove otherwise? How can the church make divorcees seem like horrible people when they are constantly proving otherwise?  How can they discourage spouses miserable in their marriages from divorcing when there are Godly, blessed, happy divorcees around?

By marginalizing singleness, churches can discourage divorce even when it’s the best option for a couple’s marriage, for one or both members of the couple, and for the sake of their children if they have them

Singles are Marginalized in the Church Because Marriage is Seen as a Cure for Sexual Temptation

Part 10 of a series. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

Several years ago, the pastor of the church I attended courted, got engaged to, and married a girl in the church in about three months. Shortly before they married, I seized a chance to ask the bride’s mother why they were getting married so fast.

One of her reasons was the fear of them yielding to sexual temptation.

I was shocked and disgusted.

At the time I was 26 and had managed to live a celibate life with zero support from the church and am not a pastor nor closely related to one. The pastor was five months, ten days younger than me and the son of a pastor. His bride, who was the daughter of a pastor and granddaughter of another, turned 18 several days after their marriage. Despite the lack of church support, I’d been able to resist sexual temptation, so why couldn’t they, especially with their pastoral backgrounds and large amount of church support?

The bride’s mother had married at 18 or 19 to an extremely patriarchal man and her mannerisms indicated that she was not the happiest in her marriage. She knew nothing about the realities of singleness but was clearly aware of I Cor 7:9, which says that it is “better to marry than to burn.”

When one looks at the whole of scripture, it’s clear that marriage is not the cure for sexual temptation, despite what Paul says. David had several wives, yet still raped Bathsheba. Solomon, Jacob, Elkanah, and David all had more than one wife, and all those men except Elkanah had mistresses in addition to their wives. Many rapists and child molesters are married men; both married men and women cheat on each other.

It is highly degrading to marry someone simply to have all the sex one wants. Each person consists of body, soul, and spirit. Souls and spirits exist even when the body fails. Nor is lots of sex always possible in a marriage. Spouses spend time away from each other for various reasons, such as work and ministry related trips. Spouses get sick or exhausted, making sexual intimacy difficult. A loving spouse does not demand sexual intimacy when the other is sick or tired. To get married just for sex is a recipe for potential marital trouble.

So what was Paul saying in I Cor 7:9?

To my understanding it is that marriage is the only place for sexual relations with another person.

Using I Cor 7:9, churches often push their youth into marriage or to pressure a young woman into marrying a sexual offender. They use it to defend marriage and speak out against sexual immorality.

Singles rain on that parade.

Not every single with a strong sex drive can find a spouse with an equally strong sex drive that they can also be soul mates with.

To live a Godly life, they must learn to resist sexual temptation.

By resisting sexual temptation, they prove that marriage is not crucial to resisting sexual temptation.

Thus it is possible for youth with raging hormones to delay marrying until they have found someone who is both soul and body mate.

Delayed marriage is a huge problem for many churches.

Delaying marriage helps individuals, especially women, become more independent and confident. Independence and confidence means that someone will be more likely to question church leadership and stand up to them if they have concerns.

Delaying marriage also means fewer children.

A woman with a strong work history and marketable skills is better equipped to leave and divorce an abusive husband.

Married people are also more likely to attend church than single people.

Marginalizing singleness by promoting marriage as the cure for sexual temptation enables churches to keep both men and women under the authority of church leadership and enables them to yield to the lusts of the flesh.

%d bloggers like this: