The following is from my book, Standing Ovation. Two co-pastors are driving in a car, on their way to pick up a couch for their teen room. Cy is one of the pastors and the other is Andy. They have had deep discussions in the past but this takes it to another level.
Cy said, “I did a search on Amazon a couple of days ago. I wanted to see what the difference would be on the amount of singles and married books available in the Christian section. Did you know that Amazon has 26,000 books listed under Christian Married?”
“I didn’t. That’s a lot, I guess. What about the singles?” I answered.
“Only 11,000. That’s almost a two and a half to one ratio between marriage and singles books.”
“It’s probably due to women buying these books when they are married.”
“I’m sure it is, Andy. But why aren’t the women buying the single books when they are single? Because there is nothing special about being single. The church tells you that there is something special about being married.”
What could I say, I thought. “That is good information. But I really don’t know how to process that right now.” I was silent, watching the other cars on the six-lane highway.
Cy continued, “I’m not saying that marriage is bad. Let me make that clear. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that I think the Christian church has placed too much of an emphasis on being married.”
I challenged, “Give me an example.”
Cy was ready, “No problem. Let’s look at the personnel of any major church in the area. What do you think the percentage will be between married pastors and single pastors. And then let’s talk about how most of the single pastors will be youth and high school leaders. It’s a system.”
“Then what do you think the percentage is?”
Cy thought for a couple of seconds. “Really? I have no idea. But I would be surprised if it wasn’t at least 85 percent married people on staff.”
I replied, “That would be quite a bit. But is it a problem? And what would be the answer?
“I don’t think there is an answer. That’s just the way it is. But I think the church does pay a penalty. Or at least adds to the problem.”
“What do you mean?” I was confused, “How so?
“I mean that the divorce rate is about the same for Christians and the rest of the world, correct?”
“Well, I think some of that can be attributed to the fact that younger single people look at those in positions of power within the church and see that most of them are married. They conclude that getting married must be the thing to do. I’m not saying everybody, I’m just saying it is something that happens and it’s not addressed by leadership. Younger people are constantly emulating the people that are older. That’s the way it’s been and how it’s going to be. If we have leadership that is almost all married then singles will say to themselves that the only way that I’m going to become a leader within the church is to get married.”
“I don’t know, Cy.” I said, “I think that is just the way the world is today. That is just how our society operates.”
Cy replied, “I agree to a point. But I think the facts bear it out. As I told you with the book selection. 26,000 to 11,000. There is no denying that. There are a lot more Christian books on being married.”
“Okay, I’ll give you that. But you said that it had become an idol. What did you mean?”
“Well, if people are going to sacrifice their life because they think they should be married because everybody in the church is; then yes, it is an idol. But not only that. Honestly, I can say that singles are a forgotten group in the church, mainly ignored. Leadership throws the singles a bone by letting them have a retreat or a dance but they don’t really care comparatively. It’s not that way with married people in the church. They have more resources, more excitement because church is all about family, right? Have you heard that before?
“Come on, Cy. That is not true.”
“Really. When was the last time you saw a church, including ours, that goes out of their way to help singles? To make them feel like that they are an integral part of the church. That you don’t need to be married in order to matter.”
“But they do matter,” I demanded.
“And how would they know that, Andy. On Sunday’s we get so excited and have announcements about engagements and baby dedications, all of which makes the single person feel like they need to do something in order to be noticed or be part of what is going on. Marriage becomes the idol. They think to themselves that they will not reach this coveted status until you become married. Become married and then you can enter the promised land. That’s what it is. Marriage is the Christian equivalent of the promised land.”
“That’s funny.” I chuckled.
“No, it’s not. But think about all of the good stuff you get when you are married. You get this big ceremony, you are fawned on, talked about, invited places, celebrated. You are celebrated. You are now a full-fledged member of the Christian club.”
“Come on, that’s a little much.” I raised my eyebrows.
“Is it?” replied Cy. “And then there is the topper. Sex! They get to have sex. Good, legal sex. Are you kidding me? What is there not to want?”
“Well, I’m going to need some time to process this. I guess I don’t feel like that. But of course, I’m married.”
“EXACTLY!” Cy yelled.
“But what is it that we can do? I mean for the single people we shepherd?”
“First, we do a series on what we just talked about and make sure that the singles know that they are a treasured part of the church. That we care about them as much as anybody else.”
“Why don’t you think that we have never heard about this before?” I asked.
Cy replied, “I can only give you my opinion about this one, Andy. I think that if you were to ask any single person in the church if they feel they are getting the short end of the stick, they would say “no.” I think they would say “no” because they don’t know any different. They don’t know they are being treated differently. They believe they are in that particular stage of their Christian life. They feel that they have to first lead the non-exciting single life, pay their dues, with the hope that one day they will reach the promised land.”
I switched gears. “We’re not going to talk about sex are we? You know how I feel about it.”
Cy laughed, “Of course we are! We have to. But I’m doing it. I think it is so hypocritical to see pastors that have been married for thirty years and having sex for that long telling a single person that they need to stay celibate. I mean they really do need to stay celibate, but the credibility of someone who hasn’t been celibate in thirty years isn’t going to cause many people to want to be. Before I was all in with Jesus I used to hear those pastors and laugh to myself. They wouldn’t last two weeks in my world.”
I said, “But they are just preaching the Word, my brother!”
Cy agreed, “They are and what they say is absolutely true. I think it’s just my cynical mind.”
“I’m serious. It’s true, darn it. But that’s another reason I think the church is under serving singles. Let’s see. If you have two people in the church and they start dating. And then people in the church will begin pestering them about getting married and that’s only after a few months. If they don’t have the life experience or they don’t have anyone mentoring them, then the next logical step is going to be marriage. I’ve seen it time after time.”
Maybe I’m extreme. I don’t think so. Marriage is a coveted status within the church whether leadership acknowledges this or not. Just something to think about.