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Holly Bird on... Debunking the Myths of Singleness

Holly Bird on... Debunking the Myths of Singleness

Why is the topic of singleness relevant to the Church?

There are a number of reasons why this matters so much to the whole church. Many people are marrying later, or not at all, and so we are seeing a significant growth in the number of single people in society and also in the church. Of those who are presently married, over half will become single again, either through divorce or bereavement. As life expectancy continues to rise, the “single again” category in our churches is also growing. But more than that, the Bible reminds us that the church is a body and the flourishing of any part is in the interest of all the parts. No one profits when singleness isn’t handled well in churches. This is why the main passages in the Bible concerning singleness are expected to be read and understood by all of God’s people. There are significant and surprising things the Bible has to say about singleness which we all need to know.

May I ask how you relate to singleness on a personal level? Do you think you empathize more with marrieds or singles?

I’ve been single my whole life, so I relate to singles in that sense. But I am also aware that experiences of singleness vary enormously. I know people who have been bereaved early in married life, or who have gone through very painful divorces, or who have never married for different reasons. All these experiences are very different, so we mustn’t presume that our own particular experience of singleness tells us much about anybody else’s. I also identify somewhat with marrieds in that I am in my 40s and so virtually all my closest friends are well into married life. I have walked closely with many through their experiences of marriage and it has opened my eyes to a number of the blessings and challenges it presents.

Can Christian singles experience true intimacy while remaining celibate?

Absolutely. And we must. We are not designed to live without intimacy. The problem is that our culture has so narrowed its view of intimacy that many of us do not have a category of non-sexual and non-romantic intimacy. But the Bible thinks of intimacy in far broader ways than we do. Friendship, for example, is a deeply intimate concept in Scripture. A friend is not a casual acquaintance, but someone who knows your soul, your inner life. Jesus classified his disciples as friends precisely because he had revealed everything to them (John 15:15). The church is meant to be the place where this is most fully realised. If we are being authentic to the New Testament vision of church, we should be and feel like a family. 

What is one of the most-often believed myths about singleness?

The most prevalent seems to be that singleness is intrinsically bad, that being romantically and sexually unattached is somehow a violation of one’s own humanity. This is reflected in how we often talk about some people needing a special “calling” in order to be single, or we think of the “gift of singleness” not being something all single people necessarily possess. But the New Testament speaks of singleness in all sorts of positive ways. 

What are some ways of battling against the idea that singleness is God's second best?

It helps to see how Scripture speaks of both singleness and marriage. Both are gifts (1 Cor. 7:7). Neither marriage nor singleness is a solution to the frustrations of the other. Paul speaks of marriage bringing certain “worldly troubles” and of singleness providing certain advantages for service to Christ and his kingdom (1 Cor. 7:28, 35). Both marriage and singleness also have their unique ways of pointing to the gospel. Marriage points to the relationship between Christ and the church. Singleness shows us the gospel’s sufficiency, pointing to the fact that in the age to come we will not marry or be given in marriage; Christ will be our all-glorious groom. Singleness anticipates this reality in the here and now: marriage is a good gift, but is not essential. It is Christ alone that completes and fulfils us.

What are some ways families can serve the singles in their church?

I think the most important thing is for nuclear families to realise that they are not designed to be self-contained and self-sufficient. This is a significant cultural pressure, but is profoundly unbiblical. The church itself is a family, and nuclear families are meant to be part of that wider whole and actually need to be. Involving singles in family life is therefore not just a kind thing to do for singles but a beneficial thing to do for the family.

This book seeks to help Christians—married and unmarried alike—value singleness as a gift from God so that we can all encourage people who are single to take hold of the unique opportunities their singleness affords to contribute to the flourishing of the church as a whole.
 
“Far too often, the church regards single Christians as people who need to be fixed or fixed up. Sam Allberry provides a pastoral guide to correct this and help the church live like the family of God.”
ROSARIA BUTTERFIELD Former Professor of English, Syracuse University; author, The Gospel Comes with a House Key 
 
“Allberry opens our eyes to how we can better understand ourselves and one another, how we can better steward our married or single lives, and especially how we can stop chasing the myths that break our hearts.”
RAY ORTLUND Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee
 
Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
7 Myths about Singleness (Paperback)
Sam Allberry
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