If you’ve ever visited a church website (spoiler alert: you’re on one now), you’ve probably seen your fair share of stock photos. What are stock photos, you might ask? They are the pictures that are purchased from websites that tons of churches and organizations use to present… well, a certain image. Usually it’s a perfect looking family – everyone good-looking, well-dressed, and cringe-inducingly happy. How are they that happy?
It can give you the impression that the church is only a place for people like that – the perfect, 2.5-kids, white picket fence, no problems nuclear family. When you arrive, there are marriage message series, marriage classes, moms groups, and everything in between. And don’t get me wrong – these are good. We need healthy marriages and community opportunities for busy families. As a husband and dad with 2 kids – believe me, I need all the help I can get! We look nothing like the stock photos. We are a hot mess most days!
But then there’s the rest of us.
Statistically, 45% of US adults are unmarried. If you include kids, that’s a 3rd of our population as a whole. At most, most churches have provided small groups or singles groups to this segment of the population. In my 15 years of ministry, I’ve noticed a subtle expectation grow within these groups: marriage is the next spiritual step forward for unmarried folks. We’ve often equated marriage with spiritual maturity.
I’ve talked to many singles that have struggled to find a place in the church as a result of this reality. When the church as a whole makes being married the unspoken “next step,” you never arrive if you’re single.
Of course, getting married is good. But it isn’t a higher spiritual reality than being single. How do I know this? Our example of perfect humanity – Jesus – was an unmarried man who never had sex. Paul wrote most of the New Testament, and most scholars think he was unmarried as well. In his 1 Corinthians 7, Paul both speaks of the benefit of marriage and the benefits of singleness. The Bible certainly honors marriage, but it does not lift it above singleness onto a new spiritual level.
So single folks (and single again folks), you are not second class citizens in the kingdom of God. As a pastor, I’m sorry if the church has historically made you feel this way. We have many singles and married folks in our City Group, and I can say with certainty that we married folks need the voice and perspective of our single friends (and hopefully vise versa). We don’t want singles groups and married groups, we want the Church – a diverse family that reflects every relationship status – single, dating, married, and divorced.
This weekend at Restoration, we are continuing are series called #TheStruggleIsReal, where we are talking openly about common struggles we face in our everyday lives. This weekend, we’re talking about relationships – and how every relationship status (not just marriage) is an opportunity to show the world what God is like. So no matter what you’re relationship status, this weekend is for you!
Grab a friend and bring them along Sunday night!