This is my second and final post on my experience with church singles ministry.
I should make it clear that I have never felt rejected or discriminated against by other Christians for being single and divorced in my church. The problem is not so much that single Christians are discriminated against. The rest of the church forgets they are there. They are not important enough to discriminate against.
This can be bad for a church because single people are not “burdened” by families and can be an asset for a church. They have more free time and they can contribute more to church ministries. Instead, a lot of churches do not seem to know what to do with single Christians because they assume there is something not right with them.
In the secular world there is a movement known as the Marriage Strike or Sexodus where some young men are giving up on marriage and choosing to stay single. Unfortunately, instead of using their singleness and more freedom to do something significant with their lives, they tend to withdraw into a fantasy world of internet porn and video games. Single people tend to have bigger DVD collections than married people.
I doubt if I had been able to do my Master’s degree if I had been married with children.
Christian singles should look upon their time of singleness, however long it may be, as an opportunity to advance God’s kingdom in ways they could not do if they were married, rather than a time to make as short as possible.
Evangelical churches place a lot of emphasis on families and children, as though they are the only ones there. Single people contribute financially to churches through their offerings, but often, little or none of the churches’ resources are devoted to singles. I agree raising and discipling the next generation should be our priority. I would not like to face their challenges. But there does not mean there has to be any competition or conflict of interest between ministering to families and children and ministering to singles. What is good for singles is also good for families.
Just as singles need to really believe that their value and wholeness is found in Christ alone, rather than a human relationship, so Christian families and children can only spiritually survive the onslaught of internet porn, social media, gender issues, consumerism, etc., if they have faith that their value and wholeness come from Christ alone, not these idols.
I am concerned that some churches may inadvertently be working against this. They place so much emphasis on families and ignore singles, that they can send the message that if you are not part of a nuclear family, you don’t count. They are sending the message that it’s not Jesus who is the source of our value and significance, but our families. If we unintentionally teach younger people that their value and significance comes from something other than Jesus, we should not be surprised if they give up on Jesus altogether and look for their worth and wholeness in whatever else the world has to offer.
My church puts more effort into its Mothers’ Day service than its Easter Sunday service. That’s not an exaggeration. The service is used as an outreach to attract mothers but at the same time it alienates some single people who stay way from Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day services.
There are also those from dysfunctional families who must feel alienated at services focusing on how wonderful parents are.
Christians need to come up with a theology of divorce. When I was a young Christian, I was basically told God had picked my perfect match out for me and I should trust God and wait. If you think this through – if God has chosen someone for you to marry and God also wants marriage to be for life, then Christian divorces just should not happen. When my marriage broke up, it was shattering, like truth was broken. I felt betrayed by God and it took me years to recover. I do not think I am the only Christian who has ever felt like this.
Christian marriages do not typically end through mutual consent. There is usually one side who has no say in the matter. But this one tends to disappear from church. They do not know how to process the feelings of shame and abandonment by God. Churches do not appreciate how much effort it takes for some divorced and single people to stay in the church.
Contrary to those who quote Jeremiah 29:11 out of context, God is not here to give us a prosperous and successful life. God’s purpose is to be holy and to have a deeper relationship with Him. This is more likely to be achieved through suffering rather than success (Romans 5:1-5, James 1:2-4. 1 Peter 4:12-13).
This can include divorce. In one sense being divorced has been a good thing because it has enabled me to see some of the problems with the evangelical churches and not to be contented, which I probably would not have been if I were just another middle class family man.
As I said earlier, a singles group can be a refuge for single people where they do not have to fell like they are the odd one out and they have been left behind while all their friends are getting married. But then I became part of the problem by getting married.