We live in interesting times. I don’t want to call them hard times because I don’t think that is very intellectually honest. In most ways we have it easier than any generation before us. We have advantages and wealth, that no time period has ever had. Frankly we even have more peace than pretty much any period in history.
The one place this might not be true, although I would need further study, is mental health. At the very least we can say that it has not improved over the last few years and certainly not in the 2020 during COVID.
I knew this would be true of singles, having been single until I was 40, and I offered some thoughts here. Might be worth a read. I also knew that it would impact kids, and I’ll have more to say on that later.
But today I want to look at an interesting statistic from a recent Gallup Poll. Now if you read through this study, you see lots of interesting things. You can see we’ve got things to work on from looking at the starting point for each demographic and how they compare. But today I want to focus on something really interesting in relation to the Church.
I’ve seen a lot of conversions (or arguments might be a better word) about the inclusivity of Christianity. Some say that Jesus was all inclusive. Others say that it is a narrow road and that the Kingdom is actually very exclusive. I want to offers some thoughts on this.
First I think that our current culture inclusivity it a sort of virtue. It seems that many want everyone to be included in everything. There is a lot good about this idea. Far too often people have been left out, or even kept out, of opportunities and experiences that they should not have been. That’s a fair critique of parts of our society. So everyone wants everyone to be included. I think that’s a good desire.
The flip side of this is that not everyone is the same. People don’t all have the same skills, talents and even desires. And, no matter how we might try to rig society we will never have equal outcomes for all. It’s literally impossible and extremely unreasonable. And frankly a dangerous plan.
But the real question as a Christian is what does Jesus teach and what does He say about the Kingdom in this regard? Here are my thoughts.
Many of you may remember the movie Jerry Maguire. In it Jerry is a sports agent and his assistant Dorothy falls in love with him. Jerry at first loves her but isn’t what one might call “in love” with her.** But at the end, Jerry realizes that he and Dorothy belong together. He goes to her and says, “You complete me.” They live happily ever after.
Now from a theological standpoint, there’s all sorts of things wrong here. As I’ve mentioned over and over here, what we often do in Christian culture is just take secular beliefs and dress them up into Christian ones. For example we take the romantic idea of the one, dress it up and turn it into the “one God has for us.” These examples go on and on.
But today I want to talk about the idea of two people completing each other. We talk about this all the time. Many times we hear how a person couldn’t be who they are without their spouse. We talk about how a person couldn’t do the ministry work they do without their spouse.
You may have seen in the news that a man recently “married” a hologram. Yes you read that right. A hologram. Now before you get all judgmental here please listen to the man. Akihiko Kondo points out that, “I believe that the shape of happiness and love is different for each person.” Does this sound familiar?
I’m not here to bash Kondo today. What I want to do with this post is discuss a couple of things. 1. We are careening off the rails as a culture and 2. What should it look like as the church to stand in the middle of it.
This is the last post in a series about what it might look like to make the church unmarried friendly. We’ve talked about why this is so important for the future of the church and why it matters in the big picture. Last time we talked about the theological side of being a church that welcomes 66% of folks who don’t go to church – the unmarried. Today I want to get practical
The question you need to ask is what is the user experience for a single at your church? Here’s what I can tell you experientially; I was single until I was nearly 41 years old and one of the hardest places to go was church. The experience was mostly not good.
So what does it look like, or maybe a better way of saying it, what could it look like?
For the last several years we’ve been hearing from all sorts of places about how millennials are leaving or have left the church. In reality at some level church membership and attendance is down across all generations.
This gallup report shows a lot of interesting statistics about church membership. The bottom line however is that it has dropped significantly over the last 20 years. Not only that, but when we look at millennials (those born from 1980-2000 – those aged 19-39), they have lower numbers than previous generations had at their age. Only 42% of millennials are church members.
While the number of millennials who claim a religion at all is lower at 68% than the average of all Americans (77%) their church membership is even lower.
Now we could list a lot of reasons for the drop in church membership – not only for the millennials but for the country as a whole. But there is one reason that I’ve tried to hammer here over and over and yet no one seems to recognize it. That is, that single people, by and large, don’t go to church.
Today I want to revisit the idea of the “gift” of singleness. I was reminded of how messed up our theology of singleness seems to be by this post at Relevant.
Now to be fair, the author says some good things so I want to point those out. He rightly says that the Church is too focused on marriage as the only path. He also rightly implies that the Church is terrible at dealing with single people. And he even goes so far as to say that not everyone will or even should get married. Amen!
However, the problem here is that he links the gift of singleness to all people that are not married. This idea is rampant and it’s bad. It’s terrible theology, and it leads to confusion. Now I’ve written about this a ton, but like I said, we need to keep revisiting this.
In my last few posts I’ve been talking about how we publicly shame men, even the good ones, from the pulpit and on the internet. Note that I’m talking here about how Christian men shame other men. This doesn’t include all the other people doing it.
Before I say any more, I want to say that I’m not bringing all this up to play some sort of men are the victim card. I’m mainly bringing it up because it’s not effective in any way. Frankly its part of the reason guys don’t go to church. (There are other reasons, but that’s for a different day).
Today I want to venture deeper into the other side of this whole deal. How does the way that Christian men call out good men impact Christian women. While I’ll touch on some ways it affects marriages, my main focus will be for the unmarried.
I’ve shared a lot of things on here about what I’ve seen done wrong in how we talk to/about men – single and married. Let me share about one of the best events I’ve ever been to and why it stood out.
A group held a special event a couple of years ago in a community near me. They hosted a “Father’s Night”. They invited the people from the community to come to the school auditorium to honor some fathers from the community. They first had three very different speakers talk about fatherhood and what it means. Then, get this, they actually honored some fathers with fatherhood awards.
I have spent a lot of time here railing against what I have called the Church’s Nuclear Family Idol. What I’m realizing is that there are a lot of people in certain corners of the church that are railing against that idol but in a different way. Therefore I feel the need to clarify two things – 1. What I’m speaking against and what I’m not and 2. What is the rightful place of the nuclear family in the church.