Several years ago our lead pastor gave a sermon on singleness. I laugh as I type that because we have a church that has a high percentage of singles and yet even we have had only one sermon in the last seven years directly aimed at this question.
He actually did a really good job but then he did something that hacked off a lot of people. He basically said that some of the reason people are single is that they are awkward and don’t know how to approach another person. The thing is that he is absolutely right. But the bad thing was – that was the extent of what he offered to do about it.
There is a major problem within the Church in this arena (and when I say Church, I mean as a whole – local churches, the body as a whole, christian books – all of it). It can identify all the problems and can tell us what not to do, but they offer nothing to help you actually do it.
The Church is great at telling us what marriage is and how to have a good marriage, although they can oversell the toughness of it (future blog). They have seen that marriage needs help and have responded.
They are also great at telling us what to do and not do once we are dating. Our church actually has a position paper on dating. But the problem is they don’t have one on singleness itself (being called to celibacy and how that relates to everything else) and they don’t offer anything about how to actually get a date to begin with.
Here’s what you can learn (right or wrong) about singleness from the Church.
- Who to date and who not to
- How long to date
- What not to do – i.e. Don’t have sex
- What marriage is and that it should be the goal
- How to not marry people you shouldn’t
Do you notice a trend? The Church seems mostly concerned with controlling how we date when/if we do. I’m not saying this is the heart of the people, but to me it has often seemed like they are more worried about whether or not I have sex or date a non-believer than about whether or not I’m called to celibacy or marriage, let alone how to pursue either one.
Here’s what I’ve learned from the Church in the last twenty years about celibacy. Ready? Nothing. Here’s what I’ve learned about creating attraction and actually getting a date. Same thing – Nothing.
Mostly what they have offered is spiritual platitudes like, “God will bring you someone” or “In His time God will provide the “right” person”, “Wait for the right one” and on an on. But they have offered basically no plan for how to engage that.
Now some people would say (and I would have said this in the past) that it’s not the Church’s job to play matchmaker or to help people get married. But now I disagree.
If you are going to try to tell me who to date and how to “behave” then give me the plan to get there. If it is your job and your business to keep me from having sex and to have me “marry right” then by all means tell me the plan.
Here’s a great example. In the 90’s there were all these books about Biblical dating. Ignoring the fact that there is no Biblical dating plan, even if there was one, what was the plan to get the date. If for example you as a church are going to say that your people should use “courting” instead of dating, then you’d better have a plan to help people do that. Create a community of people that live that way, that can help others actually do it.
If the Church is so bent on everyone being married, then come up with some ways to help people achieve that. Don’t just give us a list of specific don’ts and then offer up random theological platitudes for the do’s.
It’s a double standard and the worst part about it is that it drives good single people away from the church. We get tired of being told what we should have and can’t do without any sort of plan of what we can do.
What do we do with our need for physical intimacy? Why can’t I get a date? How do I gain confidence with the opposite sex? Why am I afraid of commitment? Where can I lead? How do I know if I’m just supposed to stay unmarried? What’s the plan?
If it is the Church’s job to control what singles don’t do, give us some things to do. And here’s the thing about it – that will actually preach and most of it will cross over for married audiences as well.
What is your church’s message to singles?