Today on the broadcast, author Wendy Widder and various guests give practical advice to singles on how to become an active part of the Body of Christ.
Today on the broadcast, author Wendy Widder and various guests give practical advice to singles on how to become an active part of the Body of Christ.
Wendy: I think one of the first things singles – especially those who have been hurt by the church in the past – have to be willing to do is forgive and to move on and to recognize that, "All right, the church messed up and maybe I messed up, too, but I'm part of a family here, and I'm part of the body, and I will make myself belong. I do belong here. What can I do to work that out?"
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 15th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll talk today about how singles and the local church can love and serve one another more effectively.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. Dennis, I've had occasion where, for whatever reason – my family's been out of town, or I've been in a different city, but I've gone to church alone. And I don't know how long it's been since you've gone to church alone, but it's a different experience going to church alone …
Dennis: … it really is …
Bob: … than going as a family. First of all, you wake up on Sunday morning, and you think, "Do I really want to get up and go to church?" And, if I don't, nobody's going to know. You know, the accountability – it's all what you want to do. And then when you get there, who am I going to sit with? Who do I want to sit with? Do I want to sit by myself? What if I don't find anybody to sit with, and I don't like sitting by myself, and who am I going to talk to before and after – you don't feel that when you're getting the kids together, and you're all going to sit together as a family. But when you go alone, it's a different experience.
Dennis: And when you go with your family, there are so many different – well – stops – to be able to connect with other people. You're dropping your kids off in the nursery or in Sunday School, or you're engaging people before you sit down in the service, and then after the service, you've got kids running up, and they're begging to go to lunch and who with, and there's all these ways you can connect with the community of faith on a Sunday morning. But a single person, a person who doesn't have the rugrats hanging on and wanting to get together with other children – that single person is really in a – well, they can be left in a lonely state but with a real decision – am I going to reach out? Am I going to go to church, first of all, as you talked about, and then, once I get there, what's my responsibility to begin to reach out to those people around me?
Bob: We wanted to spend some time tackling some of these issues this week, because we came across a book called "A Match Made in Heaven," by Wendy Widder, who joins us in the studio this week. Wendy, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Wendy: Thank you.
Bob: We also have a studio audience of singles who have joined us to interact over some of these issues, and welcome to our audience. Everybody say hi.
Bob: With the audience, you have to tell them to speak, or they'll just nod.
Bob: Because it's a radio program, they don't want to make too much noise in the middle of a radio program. Wendy, you made the statement once that singles can feel a little like being a dill pickle in a fruit salad, especially at church. Explain why and what you meant by that.
Dennis: Wait a second – a dill pickle …
Bob: … in a fruit salad …
Dennis: … in a fruit salad?
Bob: Like, you're messing everything up.
Wendy: That's right, it certainly doesn't fit. The majority of church activities, it seems, are centered around families, and when you come in as a single, you don't fit, and that's pretty evident in a lot of churches. You just don't belong there.
Bob: Did you feel that when you went visiting churches in your new hometown, just like, "I don't belong here?"
Bob: And why?
Wendy: Everybody has their family to sit with; everybody, as Dennis said, has kids to drop off and people to meet and places to go, and if you come in as a single, especially if the church doesn't have a singles ministry, you are really out in left field, trying to figure out how on earth to get into the game.
Dennis: I had a friend of mine who was really irritated that he attended a church for two or three weeks in a row and not a single person spoke to him. One of the cool things about the church in the 21st century is we have big churches that have big programs and have massive numbers of people worshipping on Sunday morning, but one of the weaknesses of the big church is that it can be, at points, very impersonal, especially for a single person who is trying to find a place to connect. Have you found that to be true?
Wendy: Yes. The bigger the church, the harder it is. And I face that challenge, too, as someone who has been in a church. You look around, and you're not sure who is new. You're not sure who hasn't been attending for five weeks already, and you should have said hi three weeks ago. I mean, that's the challenge.
Bob: And in our culture of privacy, I look at people who come and go, "Do they want somebody to talk to them? Or am I going to make them feel uneasy?" You know, churches have this funny way, as they introduce different people who are visiting. Some will say, "Let's have all the members stand up and all the people who are visiting remain seated." Others will say, "Let's have all the people who are visiting stand up." Other will say, "Look around and see if you know anybody who is – who you don't recognize and introduce yourself." There is just this awkwardness about how can we make people feel comfortable? Do they want to be acknowledged or not? And that's true whether you're married or whether you're single, but it's a part of the tension that you feel. Here I am, a married guy – let's say I see a single woman in her 30s visiting the church. Should I go over and introduce myself and say, "Hey, welcome, glad to have you here?" Or is that going to be awkward?
Wendy: It may be awkward, but I would suggest you should do it appropriately.
Bob: And bring my wife along with me, right?
Dennis: You know, what I think is happening on Sunday morning, though, is I think you have a ton of people who all have their own agendas, and they're coming with their own worries, their own set of concerns. Maybe it was the argument they had with their spouse or with a kid on the way to church that morning, or a single person who had a weekend alone and is feeling sorry for himself or herself. So we arrive at church on Sunday morning, and I think, too many times, we're waiting for someone to reach out to us when what we need to do is reach out to others and begin to introduce ourselves to other people in the church and begin to engage and ask some questions about how you might be able to fit in.
I want us to talk today, Wendy, just about how a single person can do a better job of getting into the fabric and the fiber of a local church. So I want you to help singles, now, because we have a lot of singles who are listening to this broadcast who have given up on the church. They may attend a church, but they're not involved in small groups; they're not really getting a lot of takeaway; truth be known, they may be going there hoping to find someone. But help a single in the local church to begin to be a part of what the local church is all about.
Wendy: I think one of the first things singles, especially those who have been hurt by the church in the past, have to be willing to do is forgive and to move on and to recognize that, "All right, the church the church messed up and maybe I messed up, too, but I'm part of a family here, and I'm part of the body, and I will make myself belong. I do belong here. What can I do to work that out?" And so you have to be willing to forgive the past hurts.
I think a second thing …
Dennis: … before you go there, I'm going to ask our guests here in the studio – any of you really have an ouch when it comes to looking back over your experience as a single person with a local church?
Bob: You've been stung by a church you've been a part of before?
Unidentified Speaker: I can't really say I have personally, but the group I've been a part of over the past year or so, every one of them, it seemed, had a big beef, if you will, with the church and some things that have happened over the past couple of years.
Dennis: Someone else?
Unidentified Speaker: I've had friends who said that in other churches they've gone to, because they were divorced, they felt like they were shunned. That, you know, now that you're divorced, we're sorry you can't teach this class, or you can't participate in this, or, well, you know, that you're a lesser citizen. And whether the divorce is your decision or your spouse's decision or however you get to that point, at some point you have to move on, and you have to have – I mean – if God will forgive you, shouldn't the church members forgive you? You know, I have a friend who had a child and, I know, in the singles group, we were in the younger singles group in those days – we were under 30 – and she had a child, and in that group I don't think anybody else did at that point. There may be one – no – I don't think anybody else did. And that was hard for her, because she felt like, even within the singles group, that, you know, she was odd man out, because anytime we went to do something, she had a kid. Did she bring the kid with her? You know, she couldn't afford to get a babysitter every time. And I think it's real easy for us to just – even among the singles, sometimes – to just say – to kind of put each other out or whatever.
Unidentified Speaker: I was a part of a church where it was a growing church, and so we always had space issues and, you know, trying to fit people where they needed to; where certain classes could go; and it seemed like it happened a lot with the youth group and with the younger singles group. At that time, I was part of the college group. But whenever one group needed more space to move into a different area, it was usually where the singles group was, and so the singles group would get kicked out, you know, get moved to a closet somewhere, to have Sunday School class.
Dennis: As single people, again, attempt to connect in the local church, you've exhorted them, first of all, to forgive. You were about to mention a second thing before I rudely interrupted you, Wendy.
Wendy: This goes along with forgiving, but I think we singles have to be careful how we speak about the church. It's easy for us to be the victim and to point out all the things that the church has done wrong and forget that we're part of it. And we're not winning any battles by speaking ill of the church. We're really wounding ourselves, and we belong to the body, and so I think we have to learn to season our words with a bit more grace, and that goes along with the forgiveness.
Bob: You really pointed singles to a different path than I think many of us follow in trying to resolve some of these issues. I think a lot of singles might look around and go, "I don't fit here, and so I'm moving on." There'd never be the conversation with the church leadership; there'd never be any attempt to try to raise an issue and see if it can be bridged. There's just the consumer mentality that says, "You know, I didn't find what I was looking for, I'll go to the next store." You think singles need to make the extra effort to at least raise the issue before they would eventually move on?
Wendy: Yes, and not just singles. In our culture, we come, and we attend and leave churches easily. We change them as fast as we might change hats, and there's something wrong about that. We don't approach the church as if we really have a commitment to it, and I – that was one of the reasons I liked the title of my book, "Match Made in Heaven." I wanted to think of this as I've sort of married myself to this church. I've committed to this church, for better or worse, and as long as I'm in this area, and they're remaining doctrinally pure, and those kinds of things aren't issues, I'm stuck here. I'm stuck in this relationship, and how can we work together and just as in a marriage. It's not easy, they tell me. And there you have to be committed through thick and thin, better or worse, and you work it out.
Dennis: It, frankly, is one of the beefs I have about the single community, is that there isn't enough perseverance; there isn't enough, really, hard commitment to try to make things work and to work things through. Singles like to keep their options open. They don't like to place their bets and say, "Here is where I'm going to go to church." And so there aren't many singles listening today who can identify with your statement – "I've been a part of this church for 30 years," because they're still shopping churches. There are some that aren't a member anywhere. Is that healthy?
Wendy: No. I call them "satellite singles" or "smorgasbord singles." Singles ministries exist in communities all over town, and they all have their different things that they offer, and I have had friends who shop around, and you take the best of what's available – Bible study here, volleyball team there, missions trip here, and you shop around, and you just get the best of everything, and you might call yourself a member of a church, but you don't really commit to it. And I don't have a problem with taking advantage of opportunities for service and for fellowship in other churches. That's not the beef I have. But if you fail to commit to one local church, not only are you missing out on what you can gain from being part of the body, but they're missing out on what your gifts are and what you have to contribute to them.
Dennis: Mm-hm, I agree. We have some laughter in the audience, and I'm just wondering if it needs to be publicly shared what you're laughing about, Jared [sp].
Unidentified Speaker: Exactly what she says – I mean – you see it all the time – they just don't want to commit, and they just want the next best thing.
Bob: So if the church down the street offers Krispy Kreme with the coffee …
Unidentified Speaker: … we're going.
Wendy: I want to be careful, because that better option thing is one of the – can be one of the positive aspects of singleness. I don't have to have a schedule that is so contingent on other people's schedules, like a spouse or my children. And so I do have a little more – I don't want to say I have more time, but I have a little more flexibility in my time and my scheduling, and that can be a great advantage. The disadvantage is when we use that for our own benefit all the time, and we hold out for the better option.
Dennis: I'm not talking about flexibility.
Wendy: I know. I just wanted to be careful not to slam all my single friends.
Dennis: I'm not going to slam the singles, either. I love them, or we wouldn't be having these broadcasts. I just see a tremendous need. If you're going to grow spiritually, you've got to sink some roots down. You've got to place your bets. You can't keep living life like you're waiting for the next trip, waiting for the next program, waiting for the next girl you're going to meet, or the next guy you're going to meet. Instead, you have to say, you know what? This is where God's called me. I'm single. I don't know if I'm permanently single and have the gift of celibacy, but I want to fulfill what God has for me. And the mistake I've seen too many singles make is, they're circling the field, but they never land the plane. Does our audience agree with that?
Unidentified Speaker: Yes.
Unidentified Speaker: I want to say that if you go to a church where, say, basically everything else is fine but the singles group isn't very active or there isn't very much that, you know, you have the ability to create those things. You can take the initiative. It's very easy to sit back and do nothing.
Bob: You know, healthy relationships involve commitment, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, I mean, those are characteristics of any kind of a healthy relationship, a healthy marriage.
Dennis: Yeah, but they also involve one other thing you didn't mention.
Bob: Which is?
No, seriously, any relationship that has any depth to it has pain attached to it, and I think singles sometimes, because of their tendency to idealize relationships – they get wounded by the local church, by people there, and they, "I can just go somewhere else." And …
Bob: … welcome to the cycle, right?
Bob: What's going to happen at the next place?
Bob: The same thing.
Dennis: I mean – all of my adult life has been one long process of learning you know what? I have to let go and forgive when people hurt me, whether I'm single, whether I'm married, or whether I'm a parent. And if you don't let go, what do you become? A bigger old person. You make those choices one at a time. You string them together, and they become a life. And I just think singles today really need to keep short accounts.
Bob: So whether it's friendship or whether it's a relationship with others in the body of Christ as a whole, if singles, Wendy, aren't committed, if they don't sacrifice themselves, if they don't press into the pain and offer forgiveness, they're just going to bounce around and maintain shallow, superficial, unfulfilling relationships, aren't they?
Wendy: Yes. And every program that the church tries to do to help matters won't. Because if the singles aren't committed to saying, "All right, you try it, we'll see if it works. If it doesn't, we'll try something else, and I'm here. I'll stick around, and I will work with you to help you understand me, but I also want to understand you and how can we make this work."
Dennis: I think married people could easily say the same thing that singles say. You know, we come here, and we still have marriage problems, we still have problems with our kids, we're going to go to some other church. We're going to find another place to belong. We get hurt, our needs aren't being addressed. I think the word today for singles is, as you just said, Bob, make a commitment, forgive, press into the pain, and persevere and don't give up and keep growing.
And, Wendy, I want you to make, as straight as you can say it, a word of exhortation to that single woman or man right now who has given up on the church. I mean – that's off the radar screen. They listen to Christian radio, read some good Christian books that are on the bestseller list, listen to Christian music, but they've given up because it – the local church – is irrelevant. What would you say to them?
Wendy: Part of Christianity is the love that we have for each other. And if you're not involved in a local church where those kinds of relationships are happening in the hard times and good times, then I don't want to question someone's salvation, but I wonder if that's really Christianity. Christianity apart from the church – it doesn't exist. Christ came, and when He died and was raised again and went back to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, the church was born. We're part of it. And if someone wants to claim to be a Christian and not be involved in a church because they don't need it or "I've been hurt" or "I can learn these things other places," I don't think so.
Bob: I think it was Augustine who said "He cannot have God for a father who does not also have the church for a mother." The relationship there is that integral, and if this is the body of Christ – and I know somebody can say, "Well, yeah, I'm a part of the universal church that" – well, okay, how is that being lived out.
Wendy: And Paul didn't write letters to the universal church. He wrote letters to the local churches who had problems.
Dennis: And what you're saying is if God be our Father, and we are followers of Christ, we are going to be drawn to spend time with other people …
Wendy: … our brothers and sisters …
Dennis: … yeah, who are Christ followers.
Wendy: Christ our brother and other Christians are our brothers and sisters. We're a family.
Bob: We could think of your book as Wendy's letter to the churches scattered abroad through America, couldn't we? Part of – not that we're putting you on …
Wendy: … no, please don't do that …
Bob: … apostolic ground here …
Wendy: … definitely not.
Bob: Wendy's written a great book. It's called "A Match Made in Heaven," and it's a book not just for singles, it's a book for anybody who cares about the church of Jesus Christ.
Dennis: You know, I was just thinking, Bob, we've been doing radio for 12 years. This is the first time we have ever really had a guest, male or female, claim apostolic authority.
Wendy: I didn't claim it, you gave it to me, and I don't want it.
Dennis: When the words gets back to Grand …
Wendy: … take it back …
Dennis: … to Grand Rapids, when the word gets back to Grand Rapids …
Bob: … she could be in trouble, do you think?
Dennis: I don't know about tar and feathering. It may not be out back there.
Bob: Well, let me be clear on Wendy's behalf – she is not claiming apostolic authority for her writing, but we do have copies of her book available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Again, the title of the book is "A Match Made in Heaven." You've also written a book for singles called "Living Whole Without a Better Half," which deals with a lot of the issues that singles face as singles. We have both of the books in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if folks want to order both of them, we can send along, at no additional cost, the audio of this series, either on CD or on cassette. So contact us at 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com and let us know what you need. We'll get you fixed up and get these resources sent out to you. Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY or you can order online at FamilyLife.com.
You know, I saw the e-mail not long ago from one of our listeners who is single who said she listens virtually every day to FamilyLife Today and one of the reasons for that is, she said, that she hopes one day that God might open the door for her to have a husband and have a family, and she wants to learn now what she'll need to know then so that she can be a godly wife and a godly mom. She said she did not grow up in a home where she saw that modeled, and so she's trying to learn from other places how she can live to honor and glorify God in her marriage and family, should God open that door for her at some point in the future.
And that's our mission here at FamilyLife. We want to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time. And whether you're single or married, whether you have children or you're childless, we want to be here to help equip you to win in life's most important relationships – your relationship with God and your relationship with friends and family members. This particular person who sent us a note also said she supports FamilyLife Today as a Legacy Partner. Legacy Partners provide monthly support for this ministry and, I'll tell you what, during months like July and August, when typically donations are down, it's our Legacy Partners who help make sure that there's enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month, and we appreciate you.
If you're not a Legacy Partner, and you'd like to find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner, call us at 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com. There's information available there. If you are a Legacy Partner, don't forget that this month our way of saying thank you for your contribution to our ministry is to provide you with a book called "The Christian Husband," and you can simply request that when you send in your monthly contribution to FamilyLife Today. Once again, for more information about becoming a Legacy Partner, go to our website at FamilyLife.com or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY.
Well, tomorrow we're going to continue to look at the relationship between singles and local churches and find out what both the singles and the local churches can do to make those relationships work better. Wendy Widder will be back with us, our studio audience will continue to be with us tomorrow, and we hope you'll be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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