I’ve determined that church people really hate singles issues. Now they don’t hate singles (even though some singles might feel that way). I think they for the most part really do care. But I think they hate it and avoid dealing with it.
I’ve been thinking about why they feel that way, and I’ve come to some conclusions. This is not meant to be exhaustive, just my first thoughts.
First of all, people they care about are hurting. There are people that church leaders care for that really want to get married. They see the desire in their people’s hearts and it bothers them that they aren’t met.
Secondly they hate it because it leads to all sorts of messy problems within the church that they don’t have good answers for. This guy won’t leave this girl alone. These two went out three times and now the girl thinks because it didn’t work out that the guy is a player out to do harm. A single man has the qualities to be an elder, but what if he dates someone in the church, what if it doesn’t work out? What if he dates someone from a different church? What if a woman from the church likes him and he isn’t interested? Is he more likely to fall into sexual sin than a married man? What does that scripture about the husband of one wife mean? (For the record it means don’t have more than one wife).
It’s a mess. It’s not supposed to work this way. But our culture has changed. Marriage is in the decline. If we were to continue on the trend we are on right now, married people really will be in the minority in our country. But the church isn’t set up for that. It also isn’t set up to help us navigate our way out of it. And that is freaking frustrating.
Thirdly, church people hate singleness because there is no easy biblical answer to the problem. There are some biblical answers, but we don’t like most of them. So what mostly happens instead is that we end up trying to make them up. We like nice little bible answers. We like when we can say to a married man, “Love your wife in this way or that, because a verse in the bible says it that way.” Or to a married woman, “respect your husband this or that way because there is a verse or two in the bible that says it that way.”
One of the reasons the Church likes to talk about marriage and family (not the only reason) is that it makes a really good sermon. Singleness. . . . not so much. Not only that but you can toss a word or two into a marriage sermon about singleness because most single people in the church want to get married. Married people aren’t interested in the single sermon. They should be, but they’re not.
The word singleness isn’t even in the bible. Actually I guess the word is in 2nd Chronicles but not the way we mean it. Dating is not in the bible. Neither is courting in case you thought it was. Taking a wife in the bible often meant literally taking one – and that probably won’t preach.
You see the problem with dealing with singleness is that you actually have to get dirty to do it. To give any sort of answer that matters you have to jump in with the single person. You can’t quote a verse, do a study and walk away feeling good about yourself because it won’t do the trick.
To deal with singleness we’d have to deal with things like the call to celibacy. That actually is in the bible, but in 20 years in church I’ve never once heard a pastor do it justice. I for sure have never seen a small group set up to determine if you might be called to it.
To deal with singleness we have to get in with the single person and help them navigate why they (that one person) is single? It requires actually walking through things like, fear of commitment, awkwardness with the opposite sex, communication with the opposite sex, confidence around the opposite sex, insecurities and sin, not to mention the sins of consumerism, sexual immorality, and laziness. It means dealing directly with people’s wounds over an extended period of time. It means dealing with fear – not creating it.
We can tell men to man up and women to dress up until we are blue in the face but at some point we have to actually know the man or the woman and find out what’s up. We can talk all day about God’s timing and waiting on the one He has for you, but at some point we have to move beyond sounding deep and go deep with people.
It means not pretending that there is biblical answers where there aren’t. And church people hate that because they want there to be a biblical answer even where there isn’t one. By the way this includes single church people too.
If the Church is interested in changing the trend and reaching out to the unmarried (50% of America is unmarried. 80% of those between 18-29 are) then maybe it’s time the Church “Man’s Up” itself and rethinks how it goes at this deal.