What proportion of our church community do you think are single – whether because they’ve never married, or because they’ve experienced divorce or lost a spouse – 10%, 20% or 30%?
We sometimes talk about ‘church family’ – but some people, especially if they’ve never been married or have children, find that language difficult – so I try to talk about ‘church community’ instead.
We often talk about families – and how we’re working, with God’s help, to encourage the next generations to choose to follow Jesus as their Lord and Saviour for themselves.
But we don’t often talk about single people – despite Jesus himself being a single man! So over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to take a break from our Proverbs series, and look at singleness in the Bible and in church life. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and eventually got round to!
This mini-series isn’t just for single people; it’s for married people too. Not least because at least half of us who are currently married will land up being single again one day. But also because part of being church community together, part of being a good brother or sister to those who are single, is to understand more of the challenges and joys of being single, and knowing how we can love and encourage and serve those who are or who become single.
The flip-side is also true, and so when we look at marriage and parenting in Proverbs later in the term, those talks won’t just be for married people or parents. They’ll be for everyone – partly because some who are currently single may get married or become parents at some point. But also because part of being church community together, part of being a good brother or sister to those who are married and those who are parents, is to understand more of those challenges and joys, and knowing how we can love and encourage and serve those who are or who are married or parents.
Back to the two talks on being single. We’ve got two guest speakers. Eleanor Jeans is an old friend and colleague of mine from 20 years ago. She’s never been married; she’s written a course called Securely Single, and she’s going to be speaking on Singleness and Identity this coming Sunday.
The following week, Jonathan Berry from Above Bar Church will be speaking on Singleness and the Lord. He describes himself as same-sex attracted, and has previously worked for True Freedom Trust, an organisation which helps gay and same-sex attracted people in the church.
Now I know that with the discussions we’ve had over the last few months in our church community and in the Church of England about blessing gay relationships, me inviting someone who is same-sex attracted to speak could be misunderstood. So let me just try to offer some reassurances.
First, for those who might be worried that this is just me trying to promote my opinion on sexuality issues, it’s not. Jonathan isn’t going to be speaking on sexuality or marriage; he’s going to be speaking on being single. I’ve invited him because he’s a great Bible teacher, and because as someone who’s made a life-long commitment to being single, he’s ideally placed to speak with integrity on this topic.
Second, I know there are some in our community who aren’t sure that it is possible to be gay and be a Christian, let alone be gay and be a preacher or pastor. Let me reassure you that Jonathan is a wonderful servant of Christ; I’d urge you to listen to him and weigh up what he says. But again, the main reason for inviting him isn’t because he’s same-sex attracted, but because he’s single.
So there we go – two sermons coming up on the Single Christian and the Single Saviour. That second Sunday is Remembrance Sunday – we’ll have a 2 minute silence as part of the service, and if you haven’t yet heard, we’re also having a church lunch after the service to which everyone is invited.
I’d love everyone to listen and learn from this mini-series – whether you’re in the 30% of our community that are single, or the 70% that aren’t. And I hope that lots of the cell groups and others will have discussions off the back of these talks. There’s a few other resources that we’re highlighting as part of this mini-series, and I’d certainly welcome anyone who wants to chat with me about how our church community can be more welcoming to single people and can better serve those who are single.