If you conduct a search for “marriage” in the sermon series archive at SermonAudio.com, you’ll find some 300 results. Taking a conservative average of eight sermons per series, that comes out to roughly 2,400 total sermons. To put that in perspective, if you were to listen to one sermon per day, it would take you until the spring of 2023 to get through all of them.
On the other hand, if you do another search, this time for “singleness,” you’ll find exactly six results. Even if we naively assume that all the sermons in these six series are exclusively about the unique challenges and joys of singleness (which is unlikely since three of the series include the word “marriage” in the title as well), that would still only be 52 individual sermons. Tackle one of those per day, and you’ll be done by early December.
Now this isn’t exactly the most scientific form of research. But nevertheless I think the data is fairly indicative of what many church-goers could confirm through personal experience. In general, the church talks much more about marriage and family than it does about singleness. And considering the fact that over 50 percent of the adult population is single (according to a 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report), this imbalance is problematic.
One of the regrettable results of this collective silence is the fact that many Christians have unknowingly bought into misleading myths about singleness in the church. Although our intentions may be good, our lack of conversation about singleness has led us to believe things that simply aren’t true. And although this isn’t the time or place to make an exhaustive list of such myths, I’ll briefly highlight three. Hopefully these will spark some of your own thoughts about how we misconstrue singleness in the church.
Myth 1: Single people joyfully embrace the gift of singleness. The fact of the matter is that singleness is hard. And many single people genuinely struggle with their position in life. It’s easy to romanticize singleness and think that every single person lives in a perpetually serene state of “Jesus-is-my-husband” satisfaction. But many battle bitterness and resentment. To expect them to be perfectly content in their singleness is dangerous and unloving. The church should be a place where our single brothers and sisters can be open about their struggles, free to speak honestly about their experiences and their longings.
Myth 2: Single people aren’t trying hard enough to get married. Sure, there are rare cases of apathetic, unmotivated single people who are cavalier about potential relationships. But the single people I know aren’t lazy. They’re not letting opportunities pass them by. They’re not fluttering their lives away on frivolous activities. They’re prayerfully and submissively following God. And at this point in their lives, God hasn’t led them to a mate. So instead of burdening them with guilt for not scrounging up a spouse, we should celebrate their faithfulness, purity, discernment, and patience. And perhaps more importantly, we should be seeking to learn from their example. In an “I-want-it-now” culture, our single brothers and sisters can be some of our most needed teachers.
Myth 3: Single people are missing out on relational intimacy. Marriage is a wonderful thing, and it represents a bond between two humans that is truly extraordinary. But the Bible repeatedly affirms that there is a higher relational reality than even the marital or familial bond, and that reality is our communion with Christ and his church. Whether you’re married, widowed, or single for life, this bond of faith is readily available to you. And frankly, I’ve found that many single people are more tuned into this reality than their married brothers and sisters. Yes, singleness is hard. But I don’t know many single folks who are looking for pity. They don’t need it. Their relationships are meaningful, their friendships are deep, and in many cases they’re miles ahead of the rest of us in experiencing God’s beautiful design for community.
These are just a few of the myths that we entertain. And while there are perhaps many more that could be listed, the best way to learn them is probably to get to know some single friends, ask them about their experiences, and let them help you identify the false assumptions you may have unknowingly bought into. It’s through friendship and listening that true learning takes place.