Reflections on preaching on singleness

Yesterday I preached one of the most difficult messages I have tried to tackle since I have been at Sanctuary: God and the love life of a single person. I had some Scripture to teach on, but I did not feel comfortable.

In the church, married people are usually the dominant demographic. The church holds marriage classes, preaches on marriage, and devotes massive amounts of resources toward discipling married people's children. Singles often feel left out of much of what is going on at church -- a significant demographic that somehow remains invisible. I would wager that the ratio of marriage sermons to singleness sermons is at least ten to one. Add that church cultures often carry an expectation that if single people would just do this and fix that, they could get on board and join the ranks of the married. One would think that church is the best place for a single person to bring the experience of singleness, but reality is often far different. It grieves me that Sanctuary has sometimes felt like that kind of place for our unmarried members.

I felt like a mismatch for the sermon yesterday. For many single people in their 30s or later, being unmarried is the most stressful part of their life. I wanted to connect, but I knew that experientially I did not have solid ground to stand on. I have been married for 24.9 years. I never have used a website like eHarmony or ChristianMingle.com. After 21 years of raising kids, I consider a quiet house to be a wonderful treat. I don't know what it's like to find a quiet house and a solitary meal completely draining.

And yet mixed with the discomfort and doubts, I preached with hope. What matters isn't that I can put myself into the shoes of a single person who is wondering whether they will ever settle down with that special someone. What matters is that if the church is its most God-infused self, it offers the best place in the world to process single life. Nowhere else can one bring one's full range of emotions, be authentic with them, share them in a mixed group of singles and marrieds, receive support, be ushered into the presence of Jesus, and be a vessel of grace for others. Nowhere else can one take part in a mystery that exemplifies all this like the Communion table does. I want to reach for that kind of reality as a church.

Today I'm still wrestling with the awkwardness of yesterday's message, and I wonder how well it connected. But I take peace in knowing the answer isn't the preacher or the church. It's the One who is preached and who meets us in Communion. The greatness of church is that we get to walk the path together.

Comments

  1. You speak of married people. You speak of single people. What about old buzzards? We are left out in the cold. No one asks me to go to church. There are a lot of old buzzards that have nothing to do and have life experience that would bring richness to church. They have disposable income and are at a point in their life where they discern the importance of leaving a legacy that brings people to Christ Jesus. They need the comradery of other people who believe. How many people reach out to Grandma or Grandpa or the neighbor down the street? They need to be fed. They have that void. They want to make the most of the time they have. And they are potential risk takers for Christ. They bring warmth to the church that nurtures the church. They have the time to strengthen the foundation of the church. eissler

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  2. My dear "old buzzard" friend... Let me tell you about one of the great tragedies of the church in our day: we tolerate the elderly (barely) but we don't esteem elders. Ours is a culture that worships youth and discards people quickly. When I read the Bible, on the other hand, I see a culture where one's esteem grows the older one gets. That's how I want it to be. I value wisdom, and wisdom rests with those who have seen a lot of life and have walked with God. Such people are to be listened to and revered in the community of God's people. You are one of those who has gained wisdom, Mr. Eissler. May you see God's blessing in the company of his people. You certainly have it in my house.

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