In this episode, Dani Treweek helps us see a richer theological vision for singleness—one that shows us what life will be like for all Christians in the future. She argues that by thinking theologically, we will better appreciate the single men and women in our communities, and better appreciate our place and God’s vision for us if we are single.
My particular experience of singleness is categorically different than that of someone who has had a relationship that fizzled, or who found love and lost it. Not only can I imagine how heartbreaking and soul crushing that is, but I’ve experienced the fizzling without the courtesy of a clear relationship status.
Since 2014, single adults have outnumbered married adults in the United States, but church ministries and programs often don’t reflect this reality. Pastors rarely talk about singleness or dating from the pulpit, and churches struggle with integrating singles into church life. If it’s difficult to be a single woman in the church, imagine the burden of being a single woman in church leadership.
My focus was on myself and what others were doing for me. I then began to consider how Jesus models a different focus altogether: He intentionally set his sights on others and how he could serve them. In imitation of Christ, then, we are to be the friend we’ve always wanted.
I wrote a guest post for Equip last spring which addressed the priority of spiritual family in the Christian life. I’d like to follow up on that post by engaging in some more reflection on the ideas I presented. In an age where more and more people feel ostracized by the church, this discussion may be more important now than ever before, at least in American culture. Getting the family of God wrong means getting the church wrong! And that’s something we just can’t afford.
This scene is common nowadays. Christians can’t ignore the subject of homosexuality, as it’s so interwoven with our culture. We need to know how to engage with it, following the example of our Lord Jesus who was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And this requires us to pull up a chair and listen well to those who’ve walked its road.
ARE WE REALLY IN DANGER OF MAKING AN IDOL OF THE FAMILY?
“One of the acceptable idolatries among evangelical Christians is the idolatry of the family.” That’s what I tweeted last week. To be honest, I didn’t think much about it. I’ve said similar things in sermons for the past decade, and I’ve tweeted similar things before. But this time—I was later told by friends who track with Twitter more closely than I do—the statement took on a life of its own as this one sentence was liked 1,600 times and bandied about on social media for the next few days. Unknown to me, I was (depending on who you ask) suddenly saying something wonderfully courageous or terribly misguided.
There are two popular, misleading ways of relating the Bible to dating. The first is to think that because the Bible does not speak about dating, we have liberty to dive headlong into romantic waters, guided only by desire to get married. We'll call this the libertarian approach. This view allows us to imbibe secular dating-game platitudes like the currently popular sage wisdom called flirtexting.
It's the hot topic of the moment. Christians, the church and the Bible seem to be out of step with modern attitudes towards homosexuality. And there is growing hostility towards those who hold a different view. So is God homophobic? And what do we say, and how do we relate to to both Christians and non Christians who experience same-sex attraction.
THE GOOD LIFE IN THE LAST DAYS: Making Choices When the Time is Short
Do you feel the tension between living the good life and dying to self? You know Jesus calls you to take up your cross and follow him, sacrificing yourself to serve in his vital gospel mission. But you also know the heart of the gospel message is grace and freedom, and enjoying God’s abundant generosity. Quite possibly you also know the horror stories of some burned out Christians, as well as the frustrating stories of those who just don’t seem at all ‘switched on’ to the mission. In The Good Life in the Last Days Mikey Lynch helps you: zoom in and take a close look at the hard sayings of Jesus and the apostles, zoom out to look at the full counsel of God, discover a joyful wisdom (beyond simplistic clichés) that shows you how to live the good life in the last days.
While singleness is often widely misunderstood by many in the church today and often viewed in negative terms, the Bible speaks about it very differently. This book sets forth a positive vision of singleness by responding to 7 common misconceptions, such as the notion that singleness is too hard, requires a special spiritual gift, is a hindrance to ministry, or is a waste of sexuality. Addressed to the church as a whole and written by a single pastor, 7 Myths about Singleness will help readers better understand, support, and empower the singles around them to contribute to the flourishing of the church as a whole
Single women make up a quarter of the adult evangelical church population, compared with single men who form only a tenth. These figures have generated much debate, not least because of the problems some face finding Christian partners. So who are today's single Christian women? What issues do they face? What are they saying about the church and their place in it? Based on research with nearly a hundred women, this is the first book to address the situation of these women today. It investigates key issues facing single women, looks at singleness in biblical context and suggests ways for the church to respond.
SEX. Splashed across magazine covers, billboards, and computer screens - sex is thrilling, necessary, unavoidable. And everybody's doing it, right? // In Real Sex, Lauren Winner speaks candidly about the difficulty - and the importance - of sexual chastity. With nuance and wit, she talks about her own sexual journey. Never dodging tough terms like "confession" and "sin", she grounds her discussion of chastity first and foremost in scripture. She confronts cultural lies about sex and challenges how we talk about sex in church (newsflash: however wrong it is, premarital sex can feel liberating and enjoyable!)
It hurts when the one you love doesn't love you back. It's hard to be the object of someone's desires when you just don't feel the same way. How should Christians deal with these situations? There are hundreds of books describing how to build lasting relationships or how to lead a chaste life as a single person. There are very few books, however, describing how to deal with unrequited love. With Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Laura Smit fills this void. Smit tackles this universal human experience with intelligence, sympathy, and wit.
SINGLED OUT:Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today's Church
Authors Christine Colón and Bonnie Field thought that by a certain age they would each be married. But they watched that age come and go--and still no walks down the aisle. In Singled Out, they reflect on their experience--and that of an increasing number of Christians. Rejecting overly simplistic messages from the church about "waiting for marriage," they explore a deeper understanding of celibacy that affirms singles' decision to be sexually pure, acknowledges their struggles, and recognizes their importance in the church community.
WHERE TO FIND HOPE & HELP AMID THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION
It’s no secret that the Western world has undergone a dramatic transformation regarding issues of sexuality and gender identity. Twenty years ago, the widespread acceptance of gay marriage seemed largely unthinkable. Even just 10 years ago, issues of transgenderism were far from mainstream consciousness. Many in our culture have seen these shifts as an unqualified good, a needed sign of progress toward a more just and inclusive society
We are talking about theology, maturity, history, emphasis, holiness, sin, language and culture. Our guests are Rev Dr Wesley Hill, from Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburg and Jackson Stace from Liberty Christian Ministries Inc. Sydney
Each single person will have a different experience. There are age differences. Being single at 20 is very different from being single at 30, 40, or 70. There are circumstantial differences: some have never married, while others are divorcees, widows, or widowers. And there are experiential differences: some have chosen to be single and are basically content; others long to be married and feel frustrated. What does the Bible say to all these people?
Our story seemed to come right out of a movie. We had been dating for two and a half years when God planted a desire for Jesus in my heart. I began yearning for him; she didn’t. I started seeking him; she just watched. I rose up and followed him; she stayed put. Our relationship stretched, frayed, and finally ripped apart. I walked away from the girl I was sure I would marry.
While the first 1500 years of the Christian church resulted in an unbiblical and unhelpful elevation of celibacy and denigration of marriage, the 500 years that have passed since the Reformation have achieved just the opposite. When pastoral attitudes and theology are 500 years in the making, there can be no quick fix. Nevertheless, if we wish to be committed to loving and honouring our never married, divorced or widowed Christian friends and family, here are a few ways forward for us to consider.
It is true. We evangelical Christians really do have a problem with singleness. The diagnosis of this problem with singleness is multi-faceted, but it begins with something as simple as the words that we use.
I had bought into the modern hierarchy of relationships, with marriage sitting at the top. Unless I got married, I could never experience the greatest expression of love between people. I could be miserably married or miserably alone. A catch-22. And there was nothing I could do about it. Or so I thought. Fortunately, God’s vision for human flourishing looks very different.
She sat across from her counselor, sweaty hands clutching her seat, pulse racing, eyes trained on the ticking clock. As she recounted various events in her life—moments of spiritual darkness, emotional abuse, and crippling self-doubt—her counselor nodded, listening to words she’d never been brave enough to speak out loud.
I recently found myself in tears over a beautiful white couch. Someone had kindly offered this couch to me for free, but I had no way to pick it up, transport it, and store it. After more than a week of text messages, face-to-face requests, and social media posts, I found myself unable to move the couch the night before the deadline I had been given.
It’s that time of year, when countdowns abound and hints of dresses appear on Instagram. The floral arrangements grow and grow and grow and the invitations flow and flow and flow. It’s an exciting time of year for some but for others it’s a time that serves as a three month long reminded of what they do not have and what often feels so very out of reach, and that reminder can lead to loneliness and that loneliness sinks deep and is hard to shake sometimes… and so, here I am. I’m getting married in just over a month and feel a little like I’ve become one of those reminders.
Christians who are single often feel acutely the hardness of their singleness. Deep sadness, boiling anger, overwhelming disappointment, bitter grief. What am I to with these emotions? I am convicted that God’s word is true and good, yet my experience doesn’t seem to line up with the Bible’s description of singleness being ‘good’. It feels anything but good.
It was an elderly Afro-Carribbean woman who said it. “So my dear, you’re here with your husband?” She gestured to my friend, who was actually there with his wife (not me). “Oh no, that’s just my friend. I have no husband.” “Ohhh!” She purred, “so you’re freeeeeee. A free woman.” I assume that like many before her, she was referring to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 7 about the benefits of singleness, but unfortunately, like many before her, she put the emphasis totally in the wrong place.
As our married friend gazes earnestly at us and ponders aloud how it can possibly be that we haven’t been snatched up yet, we know their intentions are good. We know they think they are complimenting us. We know they are trying to say they think we’re great, and that they just can’t understand why Mr or Mrs Right hasn’t recognized what they see so clearly...
We say that we as a community celebrate single people, but when do those celebrations actually happen? Tolerating or even valuing something isn’t the same thing as celebrating it. [...] Our churches might value single people—but how are we celebrating them?
The underlying assumption of these questions and answers is that our aim is to lead surrendered lives, that we let God be god, the idea at the heart of being a Christian. Each of the four sections of the catechism deal with a “jurisdiction,” if you will, of God’s sovereign reign in our lives: over our status, our self-image, our sorrows, and our futures. These are all his to shape and defi
Mother’s Day stirs up so many different emotions for us. Becoming a mother is one of the most gratifying aspects of life. Having children is a lifelong journey of laughter, tears, duty, and delight, with endless opportunities to learn something new each day. For many, though, Mother’s Day is a deeply painful holiday.
In a story polished to a fine gleam by Disney, pop music and the rolling fairytale of our Instagram feed, we are told that the destination we are all heading for and the only thing that will complete us is our soul mate. Marriage, in this narrative is an idol. And when the story goes off course, it leaves us feeling empty and hopeless. But Paul has a different story to tell us in 1 Corinthians 7, one that gives us a blueprint for greater contentment: stay where you are; serve God where you are.
The fact that “home” is so often the location of such inner turmoil for single Christians can actually be a great blessing. In fact, in it is precisely one sense in which we unmarried Christians are called to faithfully exhort, encourage and even (lovingly) rebuke our married brothers and sisters in Christ.
My generation, which came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, was inducted into the idolatry of love through romantic movies and love songs. The film The Princess Bride captured the vibe. It’s a sarcastic fairy tale, but it’s a fairy tale. Picture two blond and beautiful individuals, detached from all family and meaningful relations, alone in the world, beset by misfortune, yet trading ironic quips and saving themselves by the power of “true love.”
I don’t often find myself wishing for a man, which is quite a confessional way to start this article, but there you have it. Yet this week, I moved house, and 7 of them came to help, or more precisely 4 men, 2 teenagers and a tween. None of these men are related to me, and none were known to me just 3 years ago. And yet they made me misty-eyed as we drove in a convoy of trailers down the main street connecting old house with new. This is church family, sweating and schlepping my furniture at 8am on a public holiday Monday. Of that I am sure.
It was fairly obvious to me, from the minute I first met Jesus, that Christianity meant signing up to be countercultural. When I told my friends that I believed in Jesus, some of them no longer wanted to be around me. When I shared with my family that I believed God’s design for sexual fulfillment finds its home in marriage, they had a borderline intervention, desperate to convince me that I would never find a healthy relationship if I took sex off the table.
In a culture where online communications and communities can be set up in seconds, it is striking that loneliness is still rampant. Even in the church, a place where we might hope for an oasis of love and acceptance, we can find interactions awkward and superficial. It’s for this reason that Vaughan Roberts takes us back to the Bible, and challenges us to consider our need for true friendship. He’s both honest and clear in his approach as he shows us that knowing and being known by God is the hope we need to begin to deal with the sickness of our ‘self–love’ society.
THE PLAUSIBILITY PROBLEM: The Church and Same Sex Attraction
It's all very well to say that the Bible is clear when it talks about homosexuality. But is it realistic? Isn't it unrealistic and unfair to those who struggle with this issue? Doesn't it condemn them to loneliness, a lack of fulfilment and the loss of basic human satisfactions like sex and marriage? Is what the church teaches a plausible way of life?
BREAKING THE MARRIAGE IDOL: Reconstructing Our Cultural and Spiritual Norms
Should all Christians be married?Although we might quickly respond "no," our cultural stories and normsincluding those in the churchoften communicate "yes."Theologian and husband Kutter Callaway considers why marriage, which is a blessing from God, shouldn't be expected or required of all Christians. Through an examination of Scripture, cultural analysis, and personal accounts, he reflects on how our narratives have limited our understanding of marriage and obscured our view of the life-giving and kingdom-serving roles of single people in the church.In doing so, Callaway helps the church craft a new story that transforms the way we look at marriage and affirms the contributions of all to the body of Christ.
ONE BY ONE: Welcoming the Singles Into Your Church
In One by One, Gina Dalfonzo explores common misconceptions and stereotypes about singles, including the idea that they must be single because something is wrong with them, and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways they are devalued, like when sermons focus overmuch on navigating marital relationships or raising children. She shows how the church of Paul, who commended those who remained single, became the church where singles are too often treated like second class Christians. Then she explores what the church is doing right, what unique services singles can offer the church, and, most importantly, what the church can do to love and support the singles in their midst.
This book offers a historical survey of celibacy in the church and the theological basis for what many Christians experience in their own lives. By examining the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, early church writings of East and West, and commentators of the Reformation until today, Annemarie S. Kidder develops a theology of the single life applicable to both women and men, Protestant and Catholic. A revealing study of the theology and practice of celibacy, this book offers a concise overview on the topic by exploring the primary historical sources. It examines the biblical antecedents of the practice, the stories of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, and the views of early commentators and church fathers, such as Origen, Tertullian, Methodius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine. The views on celibacy of such church reformers as Martin Luther and John Calvin are examined also, as well as contemporary treatments of sexuality, sexual activity, and the current debates regarding chastity and abstinence in the church.
Nearly half of today's adult population is unmarried. Most churches, however, emphasise marriage and family in a way that leaves many Christian singles feeling like second-class citizens. Although Jesus himself was single, the single state is often regarded as a problem in itself (rather than as having problems, as marriage does). By contrast, The Single Issue sets out a positive, biblical view that honours singleness as a status equal to marriage. Avoiding trite advice on how to suffer through the single life, it offers practical insights on key concerns such as sex, celibacy and the constructive use of solitude - and points the way to a Christian community in which all members are equally valued.
FAMILIES AT THE CROSSROADS: Beyond Tradition & Modern Options
"Scant decades ago most Westerners agreed that . . . Lifelong monogamy was ideal . . . Mothers should stay home with children . . . premarital sex was to be discouraged . . . Heterosexuality was the unquestioned norm . . . popular culture should not corrupt children. Today not a single one of these expectations is uncontroversial." So writes Rodney Clapp in assessing the status of the family in postmodern Western society. In response many evangelicals have been quick to defend the so-called traditional family, assuming that it exemplifies the biblical model. Clapp challenges that assumption, arguing that the "traditional" family is a reflection more of the nineteenth-century middle-class family than of any family one can find in Scripture. At the same time, he recognizes that many modern and postmodern options are not acceptable to Christians. Returning to the biblical story afresh to see what it might say to us in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Clapp articulates a challenge to both sides of a critical debate.
REDEEMING SINGLENESS: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life
Though marriage is highly esteemed throughout Scripture, the Bible also affirms singleness as an important calling for some Christians. Redeeming Singleness expounds a theology of singleness that shows how the blessings of the covenant are now directly mediated to believers through Christ. Redeeming Singleness offers an in-depth examination of the redemptive history from which biblical singleness emerges. Danylak illustrates the continuity of this affirmation of singleness by showing how the Old Testament creation mandate and the New Testament kingdom mandate must both be understood in light of God’s plan of redemption through spiritual rebirth in Christ.
We are talking today to Mitch Smart, an associate Presbyterian Minister, from Dalby in country Queensland, Australia. Mitch says he’s known he was same sex attracted since his teens. Mitch joins Dominic Steele to tell his story of living a ‘double life’ in his early twenties, before things came to a head in Dubbo in country New South Wales. And then his journey working things out with God, and into Evangelical Presbyterian ministry and heterosexual marriage.
Fresh from the Singleminded Conference, we speak to Conference Chair Dani Treweek about how we can better love and pastor the single members of our church family? What are the particular pastoral issues that singles face? How can we encourage single Christians in their gospel maturity, contentment and service?
A healthy marriage is a tremendous gift and blessing. Marriage is God’s idea, and it is to be held in honor (Heb. 13:4). But one may also serve and glorify God in singleness. We follow a Savior who was single, and the greatest church planter ever—the apostle Paul—was also single. Single pastors have various advantages in ministry, such as flexibility in schedule.
If your church is like most churches, around a third of the people sitting in the congregation on any given Sunday are single. Some have never married; others are widows, widowers or divorcees. What’s it like being single and Christian? How can we think biblically about the subject? And how can churches minister more effectively to the many single people in their midst? Dani Treweek is currently doing some postgraduate research into these questions, and she joins us in this episode not only to share some of her personal experience of being single (and ministering to other singles), but to give us a sneak peak at the results of her research.
Apple or Android? Which is better? More than likely you have an opinion on which is better than the other. But when you stop and think about it you soon realise that both of these types of phones are good. They are different from each other in many ways, but both of them are good. So how do we decide which we should choose? One of them will be a better choice for each of us.
There are moments in our lives when we have startling clarity about a painful memory or circumstance in which we find ourselves. It is at times only a moment, and other times it shakes us so deeply we know we'll remember it from then on. There was a moment like this for me in 2012.
In the last half a century, we evangelicals have continued to stand at odds with the world around us on important matters such as the significance of marriage and the purpose of sex. However, when it comes to the world’s insistence of the centrality of romantic love as necessary for ultimate happiness and fulfilment we haven’t always been as discerning.
I was single all through my twenties, and I enjoyed it a lot of the time. When I wanted a particular food for dinner, I ate it. When I wanted to take a week to hike a one-hundred-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it. When I felt called to pursue graduate work in another country, I went. And there were other, less selfish benefits, including more time and energy for building deep friendships and fruitful ministry. But, all in all, I found singleness pretty tough.
FIVE LESSONS ON FRIENDSHIP FROM ESTHER EDWARDS BURR
To students of church history, Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758) is known today as one of eleven children born to Sarah and Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian. To students of American history, she is known as the mother of Aaron Burr Jr., Thomas Jefferson’s vice president who mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in an illegal duel in 1804.
Have you always wanted to be married? As a child, did you dream about what your spouse would be like and how many kids you would have? Or maybe you’re more like me. Your desire for these things came later. Maybe you wanted to be on your own for a while, enjoying the freedom and benefits of adulthood. But now you would prefer a little less freedom and a lot more companionship. You would like to share your life with someone and long to settle down and have a family.
Sexually chaste Christian singles are such an important resource for the church today. As contemporary Western culture drifts further and further from its Christian past, sexual self-satisfaction has become the goal of life. Culture battles over same-sex “marriage”, issues of gender and transgender identity, and even the ruckus about the aggressive promotion of gender fluidity by the Safe Schools Coalition, all stem from one source: the assumption that that in order to be a complete, whole, healthy human being, we need to be sexually satisfied