Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Question about Church Ministries

Should churches have something for singles beyond the usual college-age groups?

I've been pondering this question off and on for a while now. Usually after a conversation about it with someone.

It's a tough question to answer. On one hand, if church is a family, then segregating according to marital status and using it to define where people fit seems unnecessarily divisive. On the other hand, the older you get as a single person in the church, the more difficult it often becomes to meet other people who are also single.

So, how should we answer this question? How do we move forward as a church family on this?

As a single person in the church, who is beyond the age for the typical college-age ministries, I wonder if the answer to this question is both yes and no at the same time.

Yes, because there is less opportunity to meet other Christian singles the older you get. Sometimes it would be nice to meet with other people whose life circumstances in this regard are similar to yours. Being a single adult in the church, trying to follow Jesus, has some different challenges than others face. Or, at the very least, those challenges faced are handled in a much different way than for others.

It's natural for us to look for people similar to us in some ways to connect with. Singleness is on area of life where that can be difficult to find. Even if it's not the only area you look for common ground, it is one of the things that comes up.

But, my answer to this question is also no, because a God honouring community should be a place where everyone belongs regardless of marital status or age. One aspect of a person's life circumstances shouldn't be used to define people, no matter what it is.

There is a danger in creating groups or ministries like this that we begin to draw dividing lines that dictate where we've decided people belong based on their marital status. This limits and excludes people from using their God-given gifts and abilities in the church. There is a danger that we can use the existence of a ministry for singles to keep them out of other ministries. That's why my answer is also no to this question.

I don't know that this is a question with a clear answer. Or with the same answer for every church, or for every single adult in a church. If it was that easy, it wouldn't have taken me this length to try to answer the question. It would have just been a one word answer.

Should churches have something for singles beyond the usual college-age groups?



It depends on the church.

It depends on the single adults in a church - if they're asking for and looking for something like this.

But, whether a church does it or not, marital status shouldn't be the only determining factor for participation in most ministries within the church.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Unhelpful Advice we Sometimes Give

Sometimes in Christian circles we offer advice that we mean to be encouraging, but is anything but to the one we speak it to. I'd even say the majority of times it's actually hurtful to the one we're offering it to. And it's usually a generalized statement made off the experiences of a few, but is ultimately not true for most of us.

We mean the words with the best of intentions. We're usually really trying to be encouraging and helpful. But, when we fall back on these words, they have the opposite of the intended effect on the one hearing them. They cause pain and doubt and questions, rather than encouraging.

I've been on the receiving end of these words frequently. Almost always in conversation about my singleness and desire to get married one day. I've lost count of the number of times. the response I've received from well-meaning people has been something along the lines of:
"You just need to stop looking and start enjoying your life as it is, and then God will bring you a husband."
I used to just quickly change the subject or look for a way to get out of the conversation when I heard that sentiment. These days, I'll question you on why you said that. Yes, politely, but for a few reasons I can't just leave that statement unchallenged anymore. I makes some clearly untrue assumptions about me and declares as a promise something God never promised:

1) These words assume my life is revolving around finding someone to get married to.

But, if you were to take just a moment to look at what fills my time and the relationships I have, it would become clear that my life is not all about one thing. I've filled my life with many things that I believe God has given me for this time in my life.

2) These words assume I'm not enjoying my life as it is and that I can't as long as I still desire to get married one day. 

Yet again, if you paid just a bit of attention to my life you would see that I have a life I enjoy, all while still holding onto this desire. I'm not sitting back and waiting. I'm living life to the full as it is right now, but should the opportunity to get married come, I'd gladly change things in my life.

3) These words declare a promise God never made and makes it conditional on what I do.

They basically tell me that once I get my life to the point God wants it, He will give me a husband.
Where in Scripture does God promise us everyone will get married? Where in Scripture does it say that once we're doing life the right way, God will give us certain things for reaching that point?

The theology in this "advice" is wrong and kind of scary. There is not support in Scripture for these words.

Whatever the heart is behind these words, and many others we regularly use, they aren't helpful and can actually cause more hurt.

The people who I've appreciated the most in conversations, are the ones who just listen and don't offer me their advice for what I should or shouldn't do. They listen. They care. And they don't feel like they have to have the answer.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

God is Gracious!

Recently some of my posts have been talking about the dangers of building our life on lies, of refusing to listen to the truth, and of going our own way. If that's the only part of the picture we see, then it would be easy to get depressed and lose hope. But, as we continue to look at Isaiah 30, we see the hope and the way to grab hold of it again.

"People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although, the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying: This is the way; walk in it."
                                                                                  -Isaiah 30:19-21 (emphasis mine)

These verses begin to outline how God responds when Israel turned from their disobedience and cried out to Him. In the verses following these ones, some of the specific ways God would bless Israel's repentance and obedience are outlined.

I was struck by the words: "As soon as He hears, He will answer you." God's response to a cry to Him of true repentance is immediate. All we have to do is say the words.

He doesn't wait for us to start changing things to prove it, he responds immediately. He will help us change our actions as soon as we acknowledge we turned away and that we want to go back to His way.

God will become our Guide again. He will help us to walk according to His plan for us. Then we can life His life for us.

It all begins with simply calling out to God.

Is there a place in your life where you've gone your own way and you need to get back on God's path?

Are you will to confess it?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Challenge that Comes with Summer

It's that time of year again - the time where I often sturggle with a very empty calendar. School's out for kids and most other activities at church stop as well.

I get it. When kids aren't in school that changes a lot for people. And the weather is nicer, so people want more flexibility in their schedules to enjoy it.

But, it's also a hard time of year for some of us. The end of June doesn't mean much for me. I still get up and go to work each day. The difference being, I spend most of my evenings and weekends at home alone. The things that filled that time during the school year aren't happening and the people I would have seen during that time are busy with their own families then.

I get it. This is time you have for all the things that are filling your time.

But, it's also hard and lonely for some of us. Even though I like time for myself, five nights a week for two months get to be too much of it - especially when you add the weekends to that time as well.

If I had my way, all the Bible studies and other groups would continue all summer, so the changing of seasons wasn't signified by too much time alone. But, I know that doesn't work for many people, so I try to be flexible and understanding. I will deal with the changes that come with the end of June.

I'll spend more time alone and won't complain about it. I'll enjoy a lot of it. But, I need some help from other people too. I need you to still be available sometimes for coffee, or supper, or some sort of activity. Or an invitation to join your family for something once in a while.

Whatever it looks like, I still need people in my life and things to do. My hours outside of work still need to have something in some of them - the same as yours do. The difference is that I need you to be a part of that, because it's not something that automatically happens with other people being at home.

When I ask about planning something to be a bit more consistent over the summer, I'm not asking because I'm trying to tie you down to something. I'm asking because I need to have some things planned to get through the much more significant time alone that I have. I understand you have other things planned with family, or might be away on a vacation, and I'll work with that, but I'm also asking for some help in having things to do when I ask those things.

And when I'm disappointed that something won't work or gets cancelled, know I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. I'm disappointed that a change in my summer evenings and weekends isn't going to happen now. I'm realizing it's another night alone now because there's nothing on my calendar now. I'm not blaming you for it or trying to make you feel bad, but I'm struggling with what this means for me now. And I need the freedom to be disappointed for those moments, because it's hard.