I see a lot of people these days critiquing the so called prosperity gospel. This prosperity gospel takes several forms and extremes. Sometimes it’s used to suggest that if I do certain things then God will give me worldly prosperity. For example if I tithe then God will give me a lot of wealth. Or if I give my life to Jesus, then my life will go the way I want it to. The idea is that doing what God wants will alleviate my suffering in this world sort of runs counter to the idea of picking up my cross.**
This is of course not true. Now it is true that God rewards faithfulness. It’s important as we critique the prosperity gospel peddlers that we not lose that truth. Otherwise we’d have to toss out a lot of scripture. But God doesn’t promise rewards in the way that we often like to see them. That’s the key distinction.
The other night I was perusing some old videos of a great teacher named Bishop Fulton Sheen. He is actually really entertaining. In this particular video he was talking about the difference between nice people and awful people. At one point he said this, “A nice person who drinks too much is an alcoholic. An awful person who drinks too much is a drunkard.” It’s funny and it’s brilliant.
One of the things I’ve tried to help guys with here over the years is the idea that your goal is not to be a nice guy. In fact I’ve said that you need to just quit being the nice guy. I’ve talked about avoiding the nice guy trap. I’ve talked about how women say, “He’s a nice guy but . . . ” when talking about a guy they are not attracted to.The bottom line is that women are not attracted to nice guys. I’ve shared all of this from the perspective as a guy who has in the past, and in fact still, struggles with being the nice guy.
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.
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.”
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.
So recently Charlize Theron stated in an interview that she was shockingly single. She said she was available and that someone just needed to grow a pair (Christian leaders would say “Man Up”) and ask her out.
As soon as I saw this story I started laughing. I laughed for two reasons. First, I knew that a bunch of people would ask her out through various means and second, that she was completely full of it.
And . . . that is exactly what happened. A good looking man from Kansas City (shout out to my home town) sent in a video asking her out. She signed a picture for him. Uh yeah, not what he had in mind. You can see both her original statement and the guy asking her out in this video here. It’s great.
There is so much great material here it could probably be 5 posts but I’m going to break it down in one and look at what we can learn from it.
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.