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Single and Christian: What We Get Wrong: Gen Z Roundtable Part 1

with Barbara Fortilus, Chloe Whiteford, Joshua Bernard, Logan Fry, Zion Adams | July 28, 2023
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Single and Christian: Does it get a bad rap? On Real Life Loading, Shelby Abbott hosts Gen Z guests Barbara, Logan, Joshua, Chloe, and Zion, who talk through concepts of singleness to the next level—which, they argue, can be a high-octane experience in God's hands. They also get honest about what it's really like to be single in the Church—including misconceptions, representation, leadership, and even what not to say to singles.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Show Notes

  • Shelby Abbott

    Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States. Abbott is the author of Jacked and I Am a Tool (To Help with Your Dating Life), Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress and DoubtLess: Because Faith is Hard. He and his wife, Rachael, have two daughters and live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

A Gen Z roundtable talks through concepts of Christ-following singleness to the next level—and gets honest about what it’s like to be single and Christian.

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Single and Christian: What We Get Wrong: Gen Z Roundtable Part 1

With Barbara Fortilus, Chloe Whit...more
July 28, 2023
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Season 1, Episode 47: Single and Christian:
Let's Think Bigger (Part 1 of 2)

Guest: Chloe Whiteford, Barbara Fortilus, Logan Fry, Zion Adams, Joshua Bernard (Gen Z Roundtable)

Air Date: July 29, 2023

Chloe: I would say it's really easy to see relationships and/or marriage as like the final destination. Especially in church, because most people are married there. It's like, this is what you do. And so it's kind of like you want it, but then it's almost like sometimes it can become, maybe an idol is not the right word, but for me to feel like I've arrived, I must like meet this requirement.

Shelby: Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading.

I'm your host, Shelby Abbott, and I think it's highly important to admit that a lot of Christians in our modern times have gotten singleness wrong. What do I mean by that? Well by and large, singleness has been viewed in the church as other or a holding pattern until someone gets married or something to be corrected.

But what do actual single people who love Jesus have to say about their life experiences in the church without a spouse. We're about to find out. Today I'm talking with five singles, three women and two men about their lives. We're going to cover a lot in our conversation, including how to have a correct Christian perspective on singleness, wrestling with the unmet desire to be married, and dealing with temptation and desire. It's an honest and raw conversation, so let's get into it.

Okay. So I wanted to very quickly go around the table and have you introduce yourself and say how old you are. So I know that might seem a little bit uncomfortable, but I think it's good to get a frame of reference of where you're at in life stages. So why don't we start with you, Barbara?

Barbara: Oh man. My name is Barbara Fortilus. I am 33 years old.

Logan: Logan Fry. I'm 26.

Joshua: My name is Joshua Bernard. I am 27.

Chloe: I'm Chloe Whiteford. I'm 19.

Zion: Zion Adams, 24.

Shelby: Okay, so we got a good like smattering of ages here from 33 down to 19. And the thing that all of you have in common, other than being followers of Jesus Christ, is that you're single. That's what we're going to talk about today.

We're going to have an honest, open, frank conversation about singleness, your experiences in the last several years being single, and basically what God has taught you, and what you can do to teach others about how to understand, appreciate - and maybe perhaps - embrace singleness in ways that we, most of us believe that the church has not done well.

I want to throw this out as just an open question any of you can feel free to answer - not none of you, because somebody has to answer. But I want to start with this. How can I or maybe anyone, embrace a more godly vision of singleness? Give us a little picture about how to do that kind of broad picture.

Logan: Well, I can start. Thanks Logan. I think a godly vision of singleness is really looking at the Gospels and how Jesus lived a single life. I think something that we often as the church can forget, even though it's so important, is that Jesus is single and did His ministry single. I think often when we have this mentality of marriage can be a superior way to live. We are losing the fact that our Savior lived a single life and had a flourishing ministry.

Looking at God the Son that is single, is a great way to have a better godly understanding of how to live singleness by following His example.

Shelby: Yes. That's a great place to start. Yes. Does anybody want to add something onto that?

Joshua: Yes, I mean, I would agree with that for sure. I think that a lot of times it's viewed as like this is like a stepping stool that I have to get onto, and I have to get past this stage of singleness to actually be effective for the gospel.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Joshua: A lot of people don't realize that, when Jesus has saved you, He saved you. And your mission starts at salvation. Your mission starts then. And it's not okay, I can't be effective in ministry until I have a family, or I feel like I've kind of met the quotas of this world.

I mean, it's something that like you have to genuinely like be truly sold out for Jesus. You have to truly be in love with Jim. You have to truly follow Him with all you have and all you don't have. And so I think that's a good way to put it. Jesus was single and it's something that people don't talk about, people don't really think about. Sure, He loved families. He's the head of our family, but while He was here on earth, He was single, so yes, that's a good point.

Shelby: Zion, I saw you point earlier.

Zion: I'm staying with them on single, I think we undervalue the impact singles can have in terms of sharing the gospel. Because like my story is just as impactful as a married couple story when it comes to that. So, I feel like we're kind of underrated.

Shelby: Yes. What, what are some ways do you think that we do undervalue the fact that singles can be a purposeful and powerful tool in sharing the gospel?

Zion: Like in most church leaderships, those leaders are married. You don't really see a lot of single leaders in the church. I understand there's in some ways, you want to have like, leadership being married, so they don't - not messing around or nothing like that. But like I can have, again, I can just have just as much an impact as a single man and speaking into someone's life just as a married couple that kind of thing. And I feel like as a single sometimes, that can be undervalued or stepped on I guess.

Shelby: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Chloe: Can I add that I think a huge advantage of being single in the church is that we are significantly, we have significantly more freedoms with our time to be able to serve and be present and be involved. Whether or not we’re being used, I want to say like used fully, like we do have time to be able to invest that married people just don’t.

Shelby: Mm-hmm. Yes. First Corinthians talks about that too. There's like Paul calls it, you're not burdened by having a family and taking care of what pleases your wife or your husband. You're untethered in that way.

So, one of the, you know, things that we talk about is that singles do have the ability to be able to embrace like a more open schedule, they have a more opportunity to be able to invest time in other people, which is a great thing, but it's not just that for singles. I don't want us to think that, “Oh, you're just can be utilized. Let's like put you in the machine and crank you through ministry to be able to do stuff.” You're more valuable than that. What are some other ways that I think that the church can look at singleness and value you, not just as like a category, but as a person?

Logan: I think singles bring a different perspective to the world that married people bring a beautiful perspective to the world, and then excluding the singles from a conversation, that's a whole demographic population that you're excluding from leadership.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Logan: And, I know for myself and my story, being able to look up to someone as a single leader, seeing their value, and someone pouring into me and knowing that I am single, it means a lot of that representation.

So, when you're in a place where no one is allowing or empowering single leaders, you're missing like a huge portion of the population. I think the Census Bureau came out and said like, 48% of adults are single. That's like, that's almost half of the [adult] population. That's a significant amount.

Shelby: Right.

Logan: So, if everybody is valuing marriage and not singles, then you're having 48% of the population that feels completely undervalued. Which I think is as the Body of Christ and as churchgoers. Like that's a huge miss.

Shelby: So yes. Why do you think that some singles are not promoted? Kind of what you were saying is like different leaders represented from upfront, why do you think that that is a problem within the church?

Barbara: I think because we're always so focused on temptation. Like from my example of going to a church previously, I remember a person being told that before he grows in his leadership role, that he must get married.

Shelby: Really?

Barbara: Yes. And I guess it's because like the temptation of falling short. Right? And so we hold this expectation over people's head to say that this is probably the maximum lifestyle that you can reach. I think we hold marriage to such a high standard. that if they're not married, they're, they're looked at differently. They're looked at like they can't provide wisdom and leadership and all these other things. So to me, I feel like it's always been about temptation and I don't know where that comes from.

Shelby: The way that we look at singles is like, oh, they're like tempted in a way that maybe married people or not.

Barbara: Yes, sexual temptation.

Shelby: Yes. All right. Have you guys experienced that personally? Has anybody ever looked at you and said, “Nah, you're single.” Maybe they wouldn't have put it that way, but like, now that we're going to not include you in the conversation?

Logan: Oh yes. There's the narrative that we, I don't want to speak for everybody, but I think a lot of single people get where there's something wrong with you if you’re single.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Joshua: If say that you got this, say that-

Barbara: You got the single disease.

Logan: Yes, and that's such a lie. But, yes, I've had people say, “Oh, you we're giving this position to a married person,” or, you know, whatever example you want to give. It all comes back to, you look at a single person and you think there's something wrong with them.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Logan: Because they “haven't arrived,” air quotes here. But they haven't arrived at marriage, so they haven't arrived in life. And so, looking at us as less than, or something's wrong with us, or they're probably struggling with temptation. They can't lead in the church, whatever.

Barbara: As if married folks don't struggle with temptation.

Shelby/Roundtable: Yes, yes, yes.

Joshua: I would say there's that thought that like if you're married, like you had to do something to get there. And so there's kind of a connotation that like they've lived better or they've lived well to attain to like where they are now. And sometimes that may be true. Maybe there's like some things that they, you know, put some effort into.

But I think overall, it's not to say that if you're single, that you're not living well. And so like even in church leadership as you were mentioning, like it would be very encouraging actually to see someone who lives singleness well, to see someone who's walking well with the Lord; who's not married. Because they're not tied together.

You know, you can't say, “Oh, you're not living well if you are just married.” And so, yes, to your point, yes, there is temptation. But it's common. It's, it's common to men. It's not something that only single people deal with. Married people deal with it. People who are single may fare a lot better than someone who's married and vice versa. But I think my thought is, is definitely there is that kind of stigma that if you're married, that if you have a family, like you have the ability to do better, to have more self-control, which is not always the case.

Shelby: Okay, so I want to ask you guys, there's a couple of questions that I feel like might be helpful for you guys to address, because I know that they've been questions that single people have asked quite a bit, or they've been asked to single people.

One of the questions is, if God puts on my heart to be married one day and I'm currently not married and it's not [quote unquote] “happening for me,” how do I deal with that?

Because that's one of those things they're like, well you've probably heard married people say to you, well if God puts it on your heart, He'll eventually give it to you. How would you respond to that kind of question or at least statement?

Joshua: This is a really good one. [Laughter]

Shelby: Yes. I want to hear from you guys - never married people take a crack at it. I'd like to actually hear single people talk about it.

Zion: So I, we kind of talked about it before this, but I'll bring it back. Before this, we talked about the verse in Psalms, Psalm 37:4, where David's like, delight yourself in the Lord and he'll give you the desires of your heart [Paraphrased], kind of thing. It's like this idea that the more I delight myself in Him, the more it's like, okay, He's all I need. Like, okay, maybe it is a part of my plan for me to get married, but if not, that's okay. I'm delighting myself in Him kind of thing. So I just thought that was something.

Shelby: Yes. That's good. Mm-hmm.

Chloe: I would say it's really easy to see relationships and/or like marriage as like the final destination because, especially in church, most people are married there. It's like this is what you do. And so it's kind of like you want it, but it's hard for it not to, at least in myself, like become in maybe an idol is not the right word, but like for me to feel like I've arrived, I must like meet this requirement.

And also like, you just want it, like you want a built-in best friend that you can have for the rest of your life. But then I guess it's almost like sometimes it can become an idol to where it's something I need to be taking to the Lord - because yes, it is like a true desire.

I don't want to say to all singles like, “Oh, it's an idol, sorry. Take it to God because you're sinning.” It is a true desire. But yes, like He will give us the desires of our heart. So either eventually I'll get married or I need to lean in closer to Him and see if my desire is lining up with His plan for my life, because it might be different. And then if His plan for me is to stay single and not be married, I don't want to be married because I want what He wants.

Joshua: Mm-hmm. Right. That's good.

Barbara: I want to say, what helps me to just chill when it comes to me kind of misconstruing the verse of “delight in the Lord and He'll give you the desires of your heart.” I've always taken it as like it's a promise that God's given me. He didn't promise me that. He's promised me salvation, if I seek after Him.

He promised me that He could be my peace, my anchor, my provider, all these other things, right. He's my end all be all. If I were to seek after Him, like Fry was saying, then He will give me the desires of my heart. And when those moments where I start to feel like I'm lonely or to feel I don't have other words for it, hot and bothered, or to feel like whatever emotion or feeling that I'm going through, if I delight in Him, He would give me the desires of my heart.

And so though when I have those moments and I give it to Him, I don't have them anymore. Like He fulfills me. I don't know how He does it, but I'm no longer feeling lonely. When I'm feeling some other kind of way, those thoughts go away - when I'm not like desiring, when I'm not focused on it so much, those thoughts and those feelings go away.

So He never promised me marriage, and I think that's where the church and Christians overall has given a false meaning to that verse. Like He promised me Himself. And if I so happen to get married, thank God, but if I don't get married, thank God too.

Because according to Paul, undivided is better. So there is a freedom, as we mentioned before, there is a peace, there is just this amazing relationship with the Lord when you're not having to answer to anyone, or you're not having to like be - and I don't want to make Mary sound like this - but like, yes, you got people to answer to - you can't do whatever you want.

And so, but with Him, there is this sense of freedom. There is sense of it's just me and God and we're doing it. You know what I'm saying? And so, yes, He didn't promise me that and that humbles me every time I get a little crazy about like, God, where's my boo at like? You know, but He's like, chill.

Logan: Pete [?] has this great quote where married people point to the depth of Christ's love, because I love one person like so much. But single people point to the breadth of Christ's love, because they have capacity to love so many people at one time. I just loved what you were saying, “If you or I only have Jesus and nothing else, it's still enough.”

Barbara: Right.

Joshua: Yes, it can be very hard. I'll be real with it. People always give you that quote and they're like, okay, God told me I'm going to have a spouse, or they'll get very caught up on that, but the reality is we are not promised one. Like you said before, it is a good desire God has woven that into the design, but it's going to be really hard. But as everyone has said, it's like He's given of Himself. What greater thing can we ask for?

We can get someone here on earth, yes. It even says, you're not going to have your spouse in eternity. But it's like you have who you are going to have for all of eternity right now. I think that it's important for single people to note that our desires aren't always equivalent to a promise of God or something that He desires.

It is not bad to say, “I want a husband; I want a wife; I want a family.” But truly as everyone has said, we really should delight in the fact that we already have the greatest relationship we'll ever have. We should delight in the fact that there is no greater love that we can ever have. I think that a lot of what singles may get caught up on is if they don't see that happen, they'll be I can't trust God, or okay, I'm not hearing God.

Shelby/Roundtable: Yes.

Joshua: Or okay, like this is a problem with me, or this is a problem with God. When in reality in those spaces, you don't want to back off and be like, okay, I don't know; I'm not sure. In those spaces, you want to go to the cross. You want to go to Jesus, and you want to say, “Okay, like I'm really struggling with this and I don't know.”

You have to come in humility and say, “I don't know if You will give me this, but this is my desire.” But nevertheless, I have to delight in You. Show me what Your will is. Show me what the way is. I can see that being a problem for single people, just like the trust aspect and the faith aspect, but all the more we should go back to His Word and to the cross.

Shelby: Yes, and that you mentioned on the other side of eternity, that we will be the Bride of Christ and our Groom will be Christ our head. And so in a sense we will be single in the future. Not really, but you know what I mean.

But when we think about that, that's going to be eternity, for us forever. So that should, in a very real sense, give enormous dignity to the fact that single people are right now are experiencing a taste of what eternity will be like in the future. So it's not this less than status, it's like a very special status. It's got a lot of dignity to it.

All right. So Barbara, earlier you mentioned feeling some kind of way or “hot and bothered.” Well, I want to go there for a little bit so buckle up. How do you guys handle, sexual desire when you're single? Because we're in - I love this question - because I love this question. We're in an environment right now in our culture that elevates sex
in ways that it was never meant to be elevated to. How do you guys deal with that?

Zion: A buddy of mine, I'm going to shout him out, Landon. A buddy of mine, we've been going through this series by Ben Stuart called Rest and War. In it, he goes over sexual temptation.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Zion: One of the things that we learned out of it is, when I'm feeling tempted, especially in my signals when I'm feeling tempted, kind of rewire my thinking kind of thing. Maybe find another outlet, pray about it, have a accountability partner to talk about it with.

Shelby: Mm-hmm, yes.

Zion: Because it's like, as a single, godly person, I'm not supposed to act out on it. And I don't want to act out on it, but like find ways to rethink or rewire your mind when you're struggling with it.

Shelby: Yes. That's good.

Joshua: Yes, just keeping, like you were saying, just keeping people up to date like in your life. I think it's good to have accountability partners. It's good to just even be real with it. Sometimes you might think, “Oh, I don't want to like talk about this right now. I don't want to confess to my dude today, then tomorrow and the next day”

But I think it's just being real with just where you're at and getting what you need from the Lord, and confessing before the brothers. And yes like you said, the culture it's idolizing sex these days. I think we can't say that we're not subject to that. It's everywhere. It's in the media. It's everywhere that we can go. I think we do have to be a little bit more careful with what we're taking in, but also if that's what we're moving forward to our greatest desire is not going to be Jesus.

Like that's kind of feeling, I think we talked about this earlier, just like the theology of okay, once like I'm married or I can have sex or I can do this, I've arrived. There's another place that I haven't arrived to and it's kind of like the icing on the cake. Like this is a threshold you need to reach. When in reality God created it for marriage and that's great and all, but our ultimate intimacy has to be with Him first and foremost. I think sometimes it's hard to convey that in our culture, even to nonbelievers. It's hard to convey that and to make that thought process known because it's just so foreign to them.

I think it's also good to keep up with other singles, keep up with other people, don't just be the person always going to confess. But go see how your brother's doing. Go see how your sister's doing.

Shelby: Be part of the solution for them too.

Joshua: Yes, go in and make sure they're doing okay, ask them about it. It's not something to be ashamed of. I'd rather a brother ask me with good intent and make sure I'm okay than not say anything and nothing gets said. And then it's like, okay, well now I'm going to just continue walking down the path of sin. So yes, it's a very real thing. I don't think that we can all sit here in good conscience and say, “Believers don't struggle with that and single people don't struggle with that, because we do.” But I think it's good to acknowledge it and just be a part of the solution, but also really lean on the Body of Christ - that's what we're here for. God designed it that way.

We're not out here - yes we are single - marital status, but we're not just alone you know. We have people that we can rely on. We have people that we can fight for and with.

Shelby: Yes, if anything it could foster greater sense of community by like pushing toward, like being with one another as opposed to isolating yourself.

Barbara, it seems like you wanted to say something earlier.

Barbara: Let's just start off by saying it's hard. It's hard out here, okay. And I would say to allow the Lord to help you, to be fully aware of yourself and your triggers. What are you consuming yourself in? I know that was big for me.

I am a social media manager, so I'm always on social media, but guess what my algorithms are showing me? It's showing me a bunch of married couples all the time. It's showing me the relationships, the things that I desire deep down inside. And so when I start to look at those things, what I start doing in my head, I start creating theaters, right? And I start to go in a place that I don't, I don't need to go.

Just being aware of what you're consuming yourself with, what you're seeing, who you're talking to, where you're going, things like that - refrain from those things. The Bible says the flee, you know, so flee.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Barbara: Consume yourself with the Lord. Consume yourself with the body as you're mentioning. Consume yourself with the Word of God. Consume yourself with prayer.

I'm kind of giving more practical things like, stopping things at the initial thought.

Shelby/Roundtable: Mm-hmm. Right. [Laughter] Amen. Yes, for sure. Spot on. Yes.

Barbara: Stopping things at the initial thought because it's so true what the word says is like He gives you a way out.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Barbara: But there is a moment where we're choosing and we're choosing to say, “All right, Lord maybe I should, you know, go with You this later.” And there's times where we're just like all right Lord, “Nah, I think I want this more.”

And however that person's leading, you know, deciding to jump into that sin, like whatever. But like we have to make daily decisions; we have to die to ourselves; we have to like die to our flesh. It's not this cliche thing, but no, it's like real. You have active decision making with yourself every single day so you won't fall into temptation.

And so for me, when I am “hot and bothered,” [Laughter] I have to make those crazy decisions. If you're up late, call the friend, get up. Go walk around somewhere, just run. So those are just like the practical things.

It's definitely hard because it's just so consumed in everything that we watch, everything that we turn on, everything on social media, the music that we listen to it, the books that we read, like it's everywhere. So you have to really let the Lord cover your mind and cover your heart and cover your eyes. Um, Yes.

Zion: Could I share one more thing?

Okay, so another thing we learned in this series is if you want to remove something, we have to replace it with something. You can't just re try to remove that and then just leave it empty. Because eventually it's going to creep back in kind of thing.

Shelby/Roundtable: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Zion: So one thing that I've done, like with me, social media is tempting for me. So one thing I've done, just being transparent, is remove myself from social media. I've removed it. Then I'm replacing it with other things like Right Now Nedia, the Bible app, just different outlets to again rewire and shift my mind and focus.

Joshua: Yes, that's great.

Shelby: I’ve got to say that I really appreciated the transparency with everyone during our round table conversation and make sure you come back next time, because everyone from our time today will actually be on the next episode as we talk about some advantages of being single, dealing with envy and jealousy, and finally, what the Bible actually has to say about singleness.

Now, if you liked this episode of This is Real Life Loading or thought it was helpful, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend. Wherever you get your podcast, it could really advance what we're doing with Real Life Loading if you'd rate and review us. It's decidedly easy to find us on our social channels. Just search for Real Life Loading, or you can look for our link tree in the show notes.

I want to thank everyone who's on the real life loading team: Chloe, Josh, Kaytlynn, and Jarret and Bruce, because he was on our team and then he wasn't on our team, and now he's back on our team again. So Bruce, welcome back to the family.
I'm Shelby Abbott. I'll see you back next time on This is Real Life Loading.

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