Here’s the truth about our culture right now. Close to 50% of marriages will end in divorce. Stats show that nearly one third of first marriages will end in divorce within the first 10 years. When you add in out of wedlock births, close to 60% of kids in high school don’t live in their “nuclear family”.
The Church has seen this and tried to respond. . . mostly by talking about marriage and family. But as an unintended consequence we have sometimes made family an idol. And for all of this attention to family, we are not winning.
We have this idea that if we do enough teaching on marriage and family that everything will turn around. We have hundreds of books. We hold seminars and conferences. We have Focus on the Family, we have churches named the Family Church. We have outreach to families. We say, “We are going to be doing a sermon series on marriage so invite your neighbor.”
We’ve created this idea of the Biblical family. This is a little crazy when you consider that there probably isn’t one marriage in the Bible that you would want to emulate.
Now to be sure there are great principles in the Bible for marriage. But really they are mostly the same principles for all of life. How do you love another person? If you’re married, that should be the number one example of that. It’s your number one covenant relationship.
But the Bible isn’t about family. It’s about God and us, mainly God actually. Jesus says unless you hate your wife and children, you can’t follow me. How do we reconcile that with how we teach all this stuff? Jesus is obviously not saying to hate anyone. He is however saying that He comes first – and that is true regardless of marital status. So the real question is regardless of my context how do I follow Jesus? Seems to me we ought to talk to the other half of the peoples’ context.
Now before you rip me, let me say that I’m not against any of this. I think it is vital the Church talk about these things. I know that I have been impacted, even as a single, by these teachings. I’m for it and I’ve encouraged us as singles to learn from it for a variety of reasons. I’ve seen marriages and families be saved by it. But this focus on the family will not turn the tide because singles aren’t there to listen to it.
Married people already go to church. Most of the people that don’t go to church are not married. According to Barna 37% of them have never been married at all.
What used to happen is the Church would lose the young 20 somethings and then when they got married they would come back. The problem is that now they are not getting married. Only 20% of those 18-29 have ever been married. That means that we are losing the late 20 somethings. It means that the neighbor you are supposed to invite to the marriage sermon series – they are single.
We can’t just say let’s save marriages because if we’re not careful, there won’t be any marriages to save. We need a theology of singleness to go with our theology of marriage. We need to offer some practical help for single people. We can’t just say get married and then we will help you. We need to help people figure out if they are called to celibacy or marriage and then help them do it.
Let me give you an example from my own church (which I love). At my church we have what we call position papers. These are “brief” papers that say where we stand on certain things. So for example we have papers on baptism, communion, the end times, etc.
So of course we have a paper on marriage. We also have one on divorce and remarriage. We have one on Christian sexual ethics. We even have one on “dating” (we’d be better off with a position paper on how to get a date). But we do not have one on singleness or celibacy. And our church at one point was 50% single! If we don’t have it, who does?
I’m not mad, bitter or whining. That’s not my heart at all. But, we are losing and this is part of the reason why. We need to deal with it.
Catch this: Most of the battle for sexual purity, Godly marriage and family, and even the hot button issues like homosexuality and abortion, cannot be won without a right theology of singleness. People are lost and confused.
You CANNOT change this without a right theology of singleness. And that theology has to go WAY beyond what not to do on a date. Until it does it’s going to get worse, not better.
What is your church’s theology of singleness? What is yours?