F R I E N D S – Don’t Let The “Friend Zone Anthem” Be Your Song

So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends.  It’s all over pop radio right now.  The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone.  In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.

Here’s the videowarning, there are a couple of bad words in the song.  If that bothers you, don’t watch it.  Here’s a video with just the lyrics without any bad words.

Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years.  (Some posts are linked below).  But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.

Let’s first define some things.   I’m not saying now, nor have I ever said, that you can’t have friends of the opposite sex.  That is not what the friend zone is.  I have had many female friends over the years.  The friend zone instead occurs when one person (usually a guy**) is romantically attracted to another person (usually a gal) but the feeling is not mutual.  What the woman says to the guy is that “I don’t want to date you, but I want to be just friends” or something to that effect.

What happens next is that the guy thinks that if he stays friends, and in fact increases his friendship with the woman (because after all she just invited that friendship verbally), that eventually the woman will see him in a different light and become romantically attracted to him.  The guy does all sorts of nice things for his friend.  The woman, may well appreciate some of those things, but at the same time doesn’t become more attracted, and in fact usually less so.  This is because that plan is no where in the vicinity of how female attraction works.

Some might say, what’s the big deal?  Everyone needs friends right?  What’s the harm?  In a way that is what the song/video seem to be saying.  That’s why its the Friend Zone Anthem.  Just a part of life, poor guy.

But the truth is there actually can be a lot of harm.

First, it isn’t really an honest relationship.  What I mean is that the guy is being a friend to “get the girl”.  That’s not usual friendship.  Also, many times when the woman says this, it is her way of saying no, not her way of saying let’s hang out more.

Another thing that can happen is that the guy can get mad at the woman.  This happens because in his mind he’s working to win her affection.  She gives it to other “unworthy” guys who don’t treat her as good as he does.  Let me be clear right now on this part.  No woman owes you her romantic feelings.  You owe no woman yours.

It’s also a colossal waste of energy, emotion and time.  If you spend all of your time as a guy trying to “win your friend” you just become more emotionally invested.  You don’t spend time meeting and trying to date other women.  The truth is, if you want to be married, you don’t have time, energy, emotions or resources to waste chasing someone who wants to be “just friends”.  It’s not worth it.  There are plenty of others.

Here’s the point:  The harm in the friend zone is that people get more hurt than they have to.

Look, I lived this as a young adult male.  I was always this guy.  So I’m not writing this as someone who has always been above this speaking down to you.  I’m writing it to implore you to avoid it.  Like the plague actually.

How do we do that?

First, let me say this to the ladies.  If you are in this spot where you have someone in the friend zone, I get it.  But you have to draw a harder line.  Say no.  Don’t say, “no but I want to be friends”.  Just don’t.  You are not being nice.  You are either being naive or you are using this guy for whatever he does for you.  The best thing you can do for him is tell him no and then not hang out “as friends”.  It might be hard.  But it’s right.  Better for you and better for him.

If you are a guy who finds himself in this spot, it’s time to change.  Right now.  Walk away from it.  Now.  You won’t be hurting her by doing this.  You aren’t missing an opportunity with her later.  She is not The One.  You are only hurting yourself.

Don’t be friends to get her to like you.  Don’t be friends and hang out with someone you break up with.  Don’t hang out with someone as friends who you went out with a few times and she still wants to hang out as friends but not date you.  Don’t do things for her thinking it will change her mind.  Walk.Away.Now.  Move on.

Again, is it easy? Probably not.  But is it the truth?  Yes.

What you don’t want be ever is the guy in this video:

This is a real life picture of what it looks like.  Even better, he’s still hanging out with her apparently:

Take a good look at this guy.  I’ve been this guy.  Don’t be.

Friend Zone Post Links

Get Out Of The Friend Zone

Avoid The Friend Zone

Why It Doesn’t Matter If You Treat Her Better

Don’t be Friends First

You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

Quit Being Nice

Avoid The Nice Guy Trap

** I understand that this can happen the other way around where the guy tells the woman that he just wants to be just friends.  However it is far, far less common and usually ends much, much more quickly.  But, if you are in that situation, everything I just described applies the other way around.

You Can’t Have It All

Carrie Underwood accidentally stirred the the twitter pot recently when in an interview with Redbook she said that at 35 she may have missed her chance to have a big family.  This was of course one answer to one question in the interview but people jumped on it.

Now Carrie wasn’t trying to say that no one over 35 can have a kid.  She also went on to say that they have talked about adoption and they do a lot to help kids which she enjoys. But that wasn’t good enough for many who insist that there are no limits to fertility.

I bring this up because I think we need to be honest about where our culture is at. Especially as we navigate singleness, marriage and children.

First, we have convinced ourselves that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40.  But that simply is not true.  We tell folks not to hurry and grow up, to enjoy life before marriage, to take advantage of singleness.  Frankly we worship youth in our culture.

One reason the secular culture (with the western Christian culture often tagging along) worships youth is that we don’t have a right view of eternity vs. the temporal life.  Without going into a complete ten page theological dialogue here I want to address this.

In the temporal life we have a physical, and even eventually a mental peak.  What I mean is that at first, physically we are growing and then maturing.  But at a certain point, we start to age in a different way.  We have passed our peak physicality.  This is true for me at 45 years of age.  I can get in the best shape possible but odds are I won’t jump or run or even lift what I did in my 20’s.  All of my reverse dunking on the basketball court is in my past, not my future.  Eventually my body will diminish even more.  Someday, my mind will probably start to do the same.  This is called reality.

In our current culture people don’t want to peak, so they come up with ways to extend the peak.  Now I’m not suggesting that we should quit working out at 40.  Not my point at all. But the goal isn’t to stay young, it’s to stay in the best shape possible because our bodies are from God (not to mention we will feel better and all the other benefits of that).

What I’m suggesting is that worshipping youth and denying reality is not healthy.  It is especially not healthy if it is used to justify not growing up, not being committed to growth as a person while denying consequences.  I think this mentality is one of the things that really hurts single people today.

We’re telling people, and in frankly in particular women, that you can have it all.  But you can’t.  None of us can. Our choices have consequences.  If we don’t talk about those consequences with young people we are setting them up to be severely disappointed as they get older.

Now I know that there are exceptions.  I also know that science and medicine have in many ways extended not only our age expectancies but also women’s fertility.  But there are costs even to that.  If a woman waits until her late 30s to start having kids she is more likely to have trouble getting pregnant and more likely to have complications affecting both her and the child. These are actual facts.

This doesn’t even include the fact that it is harder for a woman in her 30s to get married than a younger woman.  Again, we can cry that it’s not fair.  I get that.  But that won’t make it any less true.

Now here’s the thing, I’m not telling anyone what choices to make.  What I want to suggest is two things.

First, understand that you are probably not the exception.  In other words, count the cost of your decision making.  Do you want to get married? Do you want a big family?  Then go ahead and work for that.  If that’s not what you want, then don’t.  But don’t believe the lies that you can have all that you want whenever you want it without any cost.  Live in the real world.

Secondly, I want to encourage you regardless of what you want to see the eternal view not the secular one.  What I mean by that is that when you view your life as a believer from an eternal perspective, it changes the peak dynamic.  You will still have a physical and mental peak in the temporal life.  But that’s not the end.  Instead, when you die you will be with Jesus in the present heaven, which will be better than any peak you had here.  Then at the resurrection and renewal of all things – the final heaven – you will never peak.  You will continue to grow and grow and grow.

What this means is that I can go ahead and grow up.  You don’t have to fight to “stay young” so to speak.  We can have a long view and understand that God is growing us overall, calling us to grow more and more.  That even in my aging in the temporal life, God is growing me.  There is no need to delay adulthood.  There is no reason to delay responsibility.  In fact the opposite is true.  You want to grow as much as possible.

Should You Budget Money For Dating?

The other day while driving I was listening to some Dave Ramsey.  In case you’re not familiar, briefly, Dave wants people to live biblically with their money, meaning stay out of debt, control your money instead of letting it control you and be generous along the way.

He has a radio show and people call in with all kinds of scenarios asking his advice.  Very rarely do I ever see Dave not have an answer.  In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it . . . until the other day.

A young never married guy called in and said, “Hey Dave, I’m following your plan.  No debt, I have a budget etc.  I’m not married but I want to be.  Here’s my question, how much should I budget for that pursuit?”

One thing about Dave is that he’s always honest with people and he just laughed and said, “I have not been in that world for so long, I have no idea.”  After both he and the caller laughed a little, he did toss out a couple of thoughts, but it made me think of a couple of important ideas and some practical ones if you find yourself in that position.

To begin with, as a single person you need to have a handle on your money.  I’ve written once about this before, but you and your money are not less important because you are not married.  The biblical principles for money apply to all of us, no matter what our marital status is.  I messed this up quite a bit in my 20 years of singleness (as well as doing a few smart things) and I’ll share more about that later.

Secondly, I think it can be really healthy, if you are in search for a spouse mode, to intentionally budget both some money time in that direction.  It is ok, and in fact I would suggest a good idea, to be intentional about looking for said spouse.  As is well documented all over this blog, I’m not a big believer in platitudes that say, “It will just happen” or “God will bring you the one at the right time” or “being content with singleness“.  Again, there are probably double digit posts here on this.  We have to act.  Especially if you are out of college and living in the “real world” so to speak.

Now this is different than obsessing over it, making it an idol, being desperate for it, or letting it run your whole walk with God.  That’s all bad and admittedly it can be a fine line.  But intentionality, especially when involves doing it with God and within His guidelines, is always good.  In any context including this one.

That means I’m going to have to carve out time and, as the caller mentioned, carving out some budget money is not a bad idea either.  But again, I need to be intentional with both, because I don’t have a limitless supply of either.

Let me throw out a few ideas about how one might do that. A couple of caveats here.  I did some of these at some level, but I did not really handle my money as well as I should have as a single.  Also, these are just ideas.  I would really love it if some others would chime in here with either ideas that they’ve used or that they might try out if they thought about it.  Finally, this assumes that you actually have a budget.  If you don’t I’d start there**.

I think I’d start with an overall spouse search budget.  Then I’d have a couple of sub categories.

I’d have a meet people budget.  Depending on your mode of operation this could include different things.  But as an example budget an amount for online dating.  Look for deals.  A couple of hints here.  Rotate your paid subscription to different sites.  For example, sign up for three months of Eharmony, then if you want, sign up for three months of Match.  They’ll let you keep your profile for free so you can easily rotate the one you are paying for.  Look for promos.  Eharmony will do free weekends for example.  The point is, part of your monthly budget could go to this.***

Then have an an actual go out with these people budget.  If you aren’t in a relationship this does not need to be large amount.  I know there is debate in certain circles about the guy paying which I get.  I think in general it’s good for us to pay.  However, we should have a budget for what we are paying and frankly I wouldn’t bust your budget meeting someone the first couple to times.  It’s ok to go somewhere nice, but just be smart.  Too much too soon is not helpful anyway.

Now, if you get serious about someone, it is time to stop putting money in the meet someone budget, for now, and start putting more into the actual going on dates budget.  Eventually if things go really well, you could start a ring budget.

A question I thought of is this, “What if I have dating budget money left over at the end of the month?”  Maybe nothing shook out or led to any dates.  Or maybe a couple of inexpensive meet ups but nothing beyond that.  Great.  Now I have extra money.

I don’t think I’d roll it over into the dating fund of the next month although maybe now and then you could.  Perhaps put it toward savings or towards a particular purchase you’d like to make in the future.  Maybe some months you spend it on you.  The point is, you don’t have to spend all you have allotted each month, but you have it if you need it.

The point here is have a plan.  See what works.  Try different things.  But budget for it.

I welcome other thoughts here.  What do you think?

 

** For a great budgeting app go here.

*** This is a pretty good breakdown of some different sites.

You Are Not Just An Animal

It’s funny the things that you remember from college classes.  I remember one of my favorite classes was an introduction to philosophy.  I loved this class because the professor was very unbiased and we got to write some really cool papers.  (One of my papers was: Is the judaeo-Christian ethic sufficient for handling environmental issues.  The answer was of course yes – which I proved rather convincingly I might add).

One of the great moments of the class that has always stayed with me was a video in which a female pastor of some kind said, “The thing that separates humans from everyone else is our ability to sin.  Nothing else on earth can sin.”  That, friends will preach.

I bring that idea up today because I want to look at a couple of important things that we have sort of accidentally gotten backwards in the western church when we talk about singleness, marriage and sex.  That is, that you are just an animal instead of a person.

It seems to me that when it comes to sex and to some degree dating, we have taken choice out of the equation.

We’ve made men animals that cannot control their sexual desire.  The message is that sexual desire for men is king.  You can’t possibly contain it.  I remember as a young man hearing a lot about how all men lust.  In fact you can’t help but lust.  Men are “always” thinking about it, acting upon it in one way or another, and of course seducing women who oddly enough according to many church leaders do not have this out of control sexual desire.

Women you see are also not able to control themselves.  The difference we’re taught is that they don’t desire sex as much and only give into sex because they are tricked by the men who are being overcome by their sexual desire.  So men are the perpetuators of out of control sexual desire that they can’t control and women are the victims of sexual desires that men can’t control.

There is a lot wrong with this and a lot of bad results.

We all, men and women, are created sexual beings.  Every.Single.One.Of.Us.  God created us, and He created sex.  But unlike animals, God created us in His image.  And because of that He gave us moral agency.  We can choose what to do with our desires (not just sex).

If we say that men can’t control sexual desire then we are taking away their God given moral agency.  On top of that, while church leaders are trying to not call women out, they are actually taking away their moral agency as well.  They can’t possibly say no to men’s lack of moral agency.

But in reality, sin is a choice.  Attraction is not a choice.  Action is a choice.  Desire is not a choice.  What I do with it absolutely is a choice.  When we take that choice away, in essence we are taking away the responsibility of sin.

This teaching makes sexual desire itself bad.  We also then say essentially that “sexual desire is bad, and the only way to redeem sexual desire is marriage.” That is ridiculous and completely backwards and leads to all sorts of problems.

God gave us marriage pre-fall (before there was sin).  He gave us sexual desire to bond inside of marriage.  This is what God meant when He said the two become one flesh. God did not create marriage to redeem sex.  He created sex to enhance marriage. Feel free to tweet that.

It also completely rules out celibacy as a gift, calling or vocation in the Kingdom.  It says that you can’t be holy or complete without marriage.  If no one can control their sexual desires then they can’t possibly be expected to be celibate, let alone called to it.  And yet both Jesus and Paul say that celibacy is an option, and actually a picture of what the Kingdom will be like.

As a bonus this also cuts us off at the knees when it comes to the same sex marriage debate.  If sexual desire is something that can only be redeemed in marriage then we have no answer.  If marriage makes you holy then we we either have to come down on the side of same sex marriage or tell people that are attracted to the same sex that they can’t really be whole or holy.  We’ve created a false choice and churches are choosing one or the other.  Both are completely wrong.

We are not actually animals though.  We are persons.  We are not victims of our actions, we are responsible for them. We, both men and women, have moral agency.  Not only that but in Christ we have the Holy Spirit. Sexual desire is not king, Jesus is.  That has to be the starting point to the discussion.

Ministry To Singles Vs. Singles Groups

One of the debates that I’ve seen in churches and even among singles in churches is should we or should we not have singles groups. I’ve seen a lot of different approaches in my over 20 years as an adult single. I’d like today to offer a few practical thoughts on this.

Before we dive in, I want to acknowledge that this can be a really tricky conversation for churches because there are a lot of different voices.  It is however extremely important that churches think about unmarried folks.  As I’ve written there is an extreme lack of this in most of our church culture.  We have created a nuclear family idol which I’ve written about at length.

It is vital that churches stop doing this.  Not only does it alienate singles that are following Jesus, it also keeps non church attenders away.  66% of the people who don’t go to church in the United States are unmarried.  This means that if you want to reach out to the “unchurched” there’s a better chance than not that you are reaching out to unmarried folks.  If there are more unmarried folks than ever before . . . well you see the problem.

In general, grouping people at church into separate groups is a bad idea. An example is the youth group that is completely separated from the rest of the community.  This leads to youth only knowing how to integrate with their own age and therefore less likely to integrate in a church in the early twenties when they are out on their own.

This is why I’ve never been a fan of the singles group per se for several reasons.

First, what does single mean?  Singleness is not actually a biblical term.  There are not yet married, those called to celibacy, divorced and widowed.  Those are all completely different from a biblical and pastoral care perspective.  Completely different.  I guess you could try to have a group for each, but that seems a bit crazy.  Treating all of these as the same is one of the huge mistakes of the modern church.

Secondly, what happens to the single that gets married.  Do they then “graduate” into the married group?  Let’s say you are in the singles group or singles small group, building relationships and community in the church. Then you get married.  Now you leave those relationships and move “up” to new married friends?  Just typing that seems ridiculous and yet many times this is exactly what happens.

For me personally what I wanted as a single in the church was to be seen as an equal, not a special case. In fact one of the reasons I chose the church I did at age 30 and single was that they didn’t separate singles out.  Small groups were mixed.  Leadership was available to singles.  I even led small groups with marrieds in them – as a single.  Crazy I know.

However this doesn’t mean that we can’t minister to singles specifically.

While I’ve railed against the church’s nuclear family idol, I’ve also said and believe that a lot of the ministry to marrieds in the church are pretty valuable.  I don’t understand why we can’t do the same for the unmarried.

This to me is how we can bridge the gap between two contrasting ideas that most singles seem to want.  They want to be equal and part of the bigger picture.  But they’d also like to meet other people in their context as well as learn how to live as a single following Jesus and even how to get unsingle in a Godly way.

What I would propose is this:  Don’t segregate singles out from the other things that you are doing.  Don’t do this on purpose or by accident.  Some examples of making singles feel unwelcome:

  • Constantly making church about the nuclear family in message or method
  • Women’s bible studies and small groups that only meet during the day (which is really a stay at home moms’ bible study, not a woman’s bible study)
  • Having no place for those that are called to celibacy to be celebrated or supported
  • Creating all of your small groups (or Sunday school or what have you) based on marital status
  • Not including singles in leadership opportunities

Does you messaging and group dynamics feel inviting to the unmarried person that walks in your door?  If not that’s problem number one.  Start there.

Do provide singles with opportunities relevant to their context.  We do hundreds of marriage seminars, retreats, mom’s nights out, parenting helps etc.  We need to do the same thing for the unmarried.  This would include things for the more specific groups such as those called to celibacy, the divorced as well as the not yet married.  This does several things:

  • It says that we have something to give and/or teach them.  Which we do.
  • It creates space for some singles to meet each other.
  • Sends the message that we value those living in those contexts
  • Creates the space for actual pastoral care for those people

In other words, we can have ministry to “singles” without having “singles groups”.  If I had a large enough church I’d have a staff person committed to this.  We have a pastor for everything else under the sun, why not this?

Attraction Vs. Action

One of the constant conversations on this blog is the idea of attraction.  I’ve written a ton about it and even have whole posts about it.

Today I want to sort of clarify a few thoughts about attraction.  Many of these I’ve said before but I thought it might be good to put a few main thoughts into one post.

First off it is important to understand that the feeling of attraction is never, for any person, a choice.  It is not an in the moment conscious decision.  From day one, none of us, or at least no one that I know, has ever said, “I’m going to feel attraction for this person and not this person.”

This is true for every person.  This is even true, if I may be so bold, for people who would be attracted to the same sex – once or always.  Attraction is a gut level feeling.  I see someone or meet someone and I’m attracted, or I’m not.

Let me say again, the feeling of attraction is not a choice.

However, what we do with that attraction is a choice.  This is also true for every single person.

Attraction of course awakens desire to do something about said attraction.  But the truth is that I don’t have to, often should not, and frankly sometimes am commanded not to act on that attraction.

Here’s an obvious example.  Let’s say that I’m married.  I feel attracted to someone who I’m not married to.  I’ve made a vow not to act on that attraction.  I’m commanded in the scriptures not to act on it.

Here are a couple of other examples.  Let’s say that I’ve made vow to celibacy.  I meet someone and I’m attracted.  My desire says that I want to act.  But because of the vow that I’m committed to honoring I should not act on that.  Just because someone is called to celibacy does not mean they never feel attraction or never have the desire to act on that.

Or let’s say that I’m attracted to someone that I know is not a believer and/or is bad for me and my walk with the Lord.  I’m for sure attracted, but I don’t have to act on it.

This leads to a second point about attraction:  There are many things that influence the feeling of attraction.  Some of these things we can actually work on and might impact over the long run who we are attracted to.

Things like past sexual events in my life, what I believe about myself and God, looking at porn or reading “romance” novels, how I’m feeling that day, or even how much I’ve had to drink can influence my attraction to someone.

I can also feed or not feed attraction.  If I am attracted to someone that I know I need to not pursue, then I can either feed that or not.  If I start to respond to it, or put myself in the position where the attraction will grow, then I’m setting myself up.  This leads to the classic, “I know it’s not right, but I can’t help what I feel so I’m going to act on it at least a little” scenario.

Instead, I can admit that I’m attracted, but recognize that I shouldn’t pursue it and avoid situations that will further that attraction and increase the pressure to act on that feeling.  You may not be able to help what you feel, but you can for sure help what you do with it.  Again, attraction and acting on attraction are two completely different things.

The inverse here is also true of attraction.  Some people get frustrated because not enough people find them attractive.  We need to recognize that we can work on being more attractive.  We can learn what is and isn’t attractive. We shouldn’t have in our mind that we have to “perfect” to be attractive but that’s not a reason to not attempt to be attractive to the people that we want to pursue or be pursued by as the case may be.  I’m not talking about being “fake” here, but you aren’t going to pursue someone that you aren’t attracted to, so you can’t expect that from someone else.

Finally we have to think about how we handle ourselves when we feel attraction to a qualified person.  Do we start to try too hard, cling too much, become needy, desperate or controlling.  Or maybe the opposite.  Do we run, avoid it because we don’t know what to do with it.

Here’s what we can’t do.  We can’t pretend that attraction doesn’t matter.  That is living in the pretend world.  It absolutely matters.  Attraction is from God.  Now it’s all jacked up thanks to sin, no doubt.  But that’s true of everything.

There’s a lot of freedom here.  If we can understand that attraction is not a choice but that action is, we can work on both.  If we equate the two, then we will constantly be in trouble both in how we view ourselves and others.  I need to run both attraction and acting on it (or not acting) through the lens of my walk with Jesus.

The Church Should Focus On It’s Own Family

Many years ago when I was driving through Colorado Springs I saw a bumper sticker directed at Focus on the Family that said, “Focus On Your Own Family”.  I thought it was sort of funny but I didn’t really give it a lot of thought.  But the phrase sort of stayed with me.  Whenever I’d see something from Focus I’d think about that sticker and smile.

But in thinking about it, this might actually be a good idea.  Now to be clear, before I start, I like a lot of what Focus the organization does.*  I’m not picking on them here.  However, the Church’s focus on the nuclear family is a huge problem with far, far reaching implications.

As I’ve stated many times, I’m not against the church teaching on family or how to be a good husband, wife, parent or even child.  I’m not against that all.  If I’m married and/or have kids, I need to learn how to do that in a Godly way.  In other words, if that is my context, I need to follow Jesus and grow in my ability to fulfill that role.  Absolutely.

However, if that is the focus of our church or if we lift up the nuclear family as the answer to how the kingdom advances, or as the thing that helps make us holy, or makes us eligible for leadership in the Church or as the model for the church instead of the other way around, we end up on seriously shaky ground.  Frankly that is exactly where many churches are today either by intent or by accident.

The kingdom does not advance by the nuclear family.  It advances through Jesus and His family.  The nuclear family does not make us holy, Jesus does.  Being married is not a requirement for leadership in the church – hello Paul and . . . uh . . . Jesus.

I’ve covered all of that before.  But what I want to say today is what brings us back to that bumper sticker.  What if the Church focused on it’s own family.  Because frankly most church families are a mess and that’s not even to speak of the body of Christ as a whole.

Now I get that church is messy. It’s made up of humans and we are all sinners.  People sin.  Against God, against each other, against non believers.  Whole nine yards. That’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is are we teaching our churches how to be a family.  Is that our focus?  From a global level: How do we treat fellow believers that we don’t quite theologically agree with?  How do we talk about them behind their backs?  How does the “local church”** talk about missional “para church” parts of the body and vice versa?  How do church planters talk about the old church that is literally down the street?  Protestants and Catholics how we doing?  This list could go on and on.

From a particular church level:  How welcoming are we to new people that might join our family?  Have you gotten to know anyone in your church family?  Is our teaching inclusive to those who have a nuclear family and those who don’t?  Do we love each other?  Is there actual church discipline?  Who is accountable to who?  Who actually knows anything about the people leading the small group?  Could anyone walk in and feel welcome?  Not necessarily agreed with, but welcome.  Do we hold the Kingdom picture of advancement or the “lets live in the nuclear family bubble” picture?  Are the people Jesus welcomed welcome?  By each member?  Again the list could go on.

Bashing the church is not my point here.  The point is this – the church should focus on it’s own family.  We should be focused on getting our own stuff in order.  We should remember that marriage and the family point to God and His family, not the other way around.

You see God is the creator of the family unit.  He really is.  This means it’s a good thing.  But just like everything else that He created we tend to start to count on it instead of God.  We start to elevate it over God’s Kingdom, just like we do many of his other good creations.

Jesus said, Who are my mother and brothers?  In other words, who is my family?  He answered, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother”.  At the end of the day, and for sure at the end of days, the Kingdom family will be the one that lasts.  It will be the one that is most important and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the nuclear family.  The church should focus there.

When we don’t do it, we set up everyone to fail and alienate many.  When we do focus on the Kingdom family we set up everyone, including those with nuclear families, to thrive.

 

 

* Focus does a lot of great things – especially in regards to children and parenting.  For example, if you’re a parent and not looking at Plugged In for movie reviews you’re missing out.

**The idea of the local church is totally misunderstood and mis-taught. First, in the city and suburbs there is almost no such thing as a “local” church.  Parishes are long gone.  People drive by 50 churches on the way to the one they want to go to.  The local church in the bible was all the people in that location, regardless of the place they worshiped in.  When God looks at your town, He sees one church, not hundreds.  Your church is not the answer.  The Church is.