Recently, I was asked by a pastor friend of mine to help him consider how to handle singleness from the pulpit and frankly throughout his church. I of course said, “Read my blog – duh.” Just kidding.
First of all, this man should be commended for taking it on and asking questions (not just of me). I’ve written before about how your pastor probably doesn’t get it. This is how one gets out of that situation – because anyone can get it.
Now I have some thoughts on what a sermon series on “singleness” would look like. I’ll share some of that soon. But one of the things I think a pastor runs up against if he wants to talk about singleness from the pulpit is that most likely the majority of his audience will be married.
This is one of the good reasons that churches do marriage sermon series. They are trying to help people who are married. And they know if they do have single people there, that most of them want to be married and therefore might be able to gain something from it. In fact as I’ve written before – as a single you really should pay attention to that sermon series.
But the problem comes when this same pastor wants to talk about singleness. How does he “sell” that to a mostly married crowd? Today I’m going to tell you exactly how I’d do that. In other words, I’m going to tell you why all this stuff we talk about here should be important to married people in the church. Very important actually. There are many reasons, but here are a few – in no particular order.
For starters, most married people, have single friends. They work with single people, live down the street from them, sit next to them at church. Married people need to know how to best minister to these people – and not from a place of superiority. I think there are a lot of married folks who want to care about their single friends but don’t know much about it. Learning more would help. In the same way that I tried to learn to minister to my married friends (and even challenge them) even though I wasn’t married, married people need to do that as well.
This leads to a secondary point. 50% of American adults are unmarried. Most of those people (as in literally most) don’t go to church. So if we are going to invite a friend to church, there is a good chance they will be single. If we are serious about reaching out into the community, learning how to think about singleness and the Gospel is pretty key.
Another reason married people need this information is that many of them entered marriage under wrong premises. Yes the marriage sermon helps here. But so does the sermon about not being married. When you knock down all of the spiritual platitudes that we tell single people (God has someone for you, hasn’t brought you the one yet, is waiting for you to be ready, save yourself for marriage, etc.) we also help married people who are struggling in their marriage because they believed in those exact platitudes and now they are being let down by them.
Let me promise you this. If a church did a gutsy sermon series on the unmarried and the Gospel, they would rock a lot of married people’s worlds. In what would eventually be a good way, some crap would hit the fan. Not only that, but there would be some marriages that are struggling in which by the end of this series, they would become committed to figuring it out. They would be thankful.
Talking about singleness in all it’s forms, also reminds married people, that yes, you are in a covenant relationship for life, but your identity is not in that. You were created unmarried and will be resurrected unmarried. Not to mention, that talking about the holiness of celibacy also raises the holiness of marriage. When we look at both together we get a better picture of the Kingdom.
Further, most married people will also become (or already are) parents. If I had a church with a lot of parents of adolescents, I for sure would want them to know the stuff we talk about here. Because how else are they supposed to help their kid walk through it?
Parents need an accurate view of what is going on out there. If all they know how to offer their kids are the spiritual platitudes that the church throws out to the unmarried, they are setting their kids up to fail – and possibly fail hard. It is vital that parents understand as best they can the scene today and all that goes with it. The more they understand the better they will be able to advise, comfort and hopefully guide their children. I don’t think this can be overstated.
Finally, and maybe most important, many of the things that we need to talk about with singles, have just as many (if maybe different) implications for those who are married. The Gospel is the Gospel. Switching contexts won’t change that. Just like I’ve heard pastors say in a marriage sermon, “Single folks this applies to you” they would be saying, “Hey married folks, this applies to you.”