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?
In the last couple of posts I’ve been trying to make the point that if we want to do evangelization in the current western culture we have to have the unmarried in mind. Two thirds of those that don’t attend church are unmarried. I’ve asked the question, is your church unmarried friendly. The obvious answer for most of us is no. So what would it look like if it were? Today I want to take a stab at the beginning of the answer to that.
There are at least two parts to this. First there is a belief side. This is the broader, overall view that we need to have in mind. It includes theology but also practical belief. The second part is the practices part. What does it look like fleshed out. What are some best practices that make the unmarried feel welcome? Assuming correct theology and practical belief, how do we put it into practice?
Today we’ll look at the first part. In my next blog we’ll take a stab a the practical implications.
As you may know, Christians around the world are being persecuted at a high level right now. I saw an interesting article about what one political group in India wants to do. They want to sterilize Christians as well as Muslims. You read that right. Confess your faith, be sterilized.
According to the article:
“Deva Thakur, vice president of the radical Hindu Mahasabha Party, has called for the forced sterilization of Indian Christians and Muslims. The radical leader also called on Hindus to have more children in order to counter the rise in India’s Christian and Muslim populations.”
Needless to say, this is an inhumane and terrible idea. But it sort of raised some thoughts for me about things we’ve talked about here in regards to the church and the family of The Kingdom, vs. the church of the nuclear family idol.
The real question is this, can you breed out Christianity? It’s actually a really, really interesting question. The answer is of course no. But it’s not as simple as even I might like it to be.
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.
One of the thoughts in our culture right now is the idea of how unfair and hard particular situations are. It’s an interesting time. I think maybe in past generations we sort of pushed down a lot of our feelings of hard. In other words there was a lot less analysis of and concern for our feelings. Part of that was simply the fact that we had less free time, less technology, less ability to see the whole world around us and compare our lives to others.
Whatever the case we are making up for it now. Hard is the new cool. Everyone needs to somehow earn their hard merit badge. I get it. I’m part of it. While there is nothing wrong with acknowledging hard things, I wonder at what point this becomes counterproductive. Fairly quickly I think. It also can be really confusing. I think this is especially true in the church when it comes to sex, marriage and singleness. And I mean the whole church today, not just evangelical culture, but all the different church cultures.
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately as I’ve been reading some scripture is idea of choice in the face of different contexts. The particular scripture that started this thought was 1 Peter 2:13-20. Here Peter instructs even servants to submit to their masters. . . even the bad ones.
Now obviously our culture and history has a lot of impact on how we read that. But Peter’s point isn’t that slavery is good. Or that unreasonable masters are ok. The point is that regardless of my circumstances and context, I’m called to act as Christ would. Peter and the early Church Fathers backed this up with their lives. They actually did endure extreme injustice with joy. In reading their writings, and writings about them, you can’t really help but be amazed by it all.
This is true for every area of our lives of course. Our income level, our job, what country and situation we live in. But for the sake of this blog it also relates to singleness, dating and marriage.
When I was in high school and college, one of the things that I battled with constantly was the idea that I wasn’t “good enough”. I battled this in almost every area of my life. I saw myself as decent, but not great at pretty much everything. The things that I did care about (sports for example) I worked my tail off to become great. But I never saw myself as arriving at greatness.
Nowhere was this more true than with the opposite sex. I was constantly in the friend zone with the girls that I liked. I thought I was physically not attractive enough. Later I thought I wasn’t making enough money. The list goes on. One of my go to thoughts was, “I’m just not good enough.”