Flourishing and Single in the Church

Often times, when we talk about church growth or planting a common marker of health is when families, especially young families start to attend and make the church their own. This is a good thing and pastoring a small church with some amazing families, I get the inclination. But what of those single, both by choice or by circumstance? If the church is meant to be their family as well, how are we endeavoring to give them space for flourishing?

Part of the problem is expectation. In the church, there is an assumption that human completion is in pairing off. While this is a wonderful and biblical thing, it is not the only thing. So as a church maybe we stop assuming a single person needs to be married. Instead, we should be taking steps to integrate everyone into the life of the church regardless of relational status.

Next, do single people have a voice in the decisions of the church, in the progress of the life of the church? Give them a place and hear them. Let single people communicate what support they need and how you can best encourage them in the faith.

Then in our preaching, and discipleship, the ideal presented is following after Jesus, surrender all of our lives, married, single, whatever, to our Savior for his glory and our good. Are we up for this?

I know that at Reservoir we have a way to go before we are seen as a church for the flourishing of single people. But let’s lean into it and see what the Lord will do.

 

Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel

41ocxno-hol-_sx326_bo1204203200_I have just finished this brief but beautiful book on the the biblical theology of marriage and how we can look at it as more than a mere institution but something meant to convey so much more than what we typically settle for. This is an important topic and not because of political realities at play but because the church is called to live in response to the gospel letting our marriages point back to it.

Ray Ortlund Jr. is responsible for this entry into Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology series and as can be expected from Ray it is wise, direct and full of the grace of the gospel. Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel is a journey through the Bible, seeing marriage as presented in Genesis, Law, Wisdom and Prophetic books and in the New Testament. All along the way Ortlund makes clear how God’s love for his people is artistically foreshadowed and a mystery revealed in marriage.

Because Christ worked to save and claim his bride, the church, we have a picture of how husband and wife relate, cherish and desire one another not only for their benefit but for the glory of the gospel.

The book lands with a discussion of modern issues surrounding marriage and how we can live our relationships faithfully and as designed. Not everything is covered here, this isn’t a marriage help book, but it is an accessible introduction to marriage in the Bible and it is well worth the read.

Below are some choice quotes from the book:

“Nowhere else does the creation account of Genesis 1 refer explicitly to sexuality. Animal reproduction is assumed, but human sexuality is celebrated, though its deeper meaning is not yet explained.”

“When we trust God enough to accept his account of manhood and womanhood, the relational quality of our marriages today can open up to deeper possibilities than we could ever create out of our own personal or cultural narratives.”

“He let us keep his priceless gift, though we sometimes misuse it. But what every married couple needs to know is that their marriage is a remnant of Eden. This is why every marriage is worth working at, worth fighting for. A marriage filled with hope in God is nothing less than an afterglow of the garden of Eden, radiant with hope until perfection is finally restored.”

“Everything the people of God failed to be and do, Jesus was and did for us all. He, not the law, is the defining center of how God relates to us. So the Bible has a forward tilt built in, with all aspects of the Old Testament leaning toward Christ: “And the Scripture, foreseeing . . .” (Gal. 3:8).”

“Your imperfect marriage in the world of today is as sacred in the sight of God as was the perfect marriage between Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Your marriage is a grace from above. Your marriage is a miracle. Your marriage came to you with the touch of God upon it, and it remains dear to him. Your marriage has the potential, by his grace, to bring redemption into the broken world we all live in now. Your imperfect marriage is, therefore, worth celebrating. Jesus thought so.”

“After every societal failure of mankind litters the course of human history—with brief flashes of brilliance here and there, but all of them eventually slipping into decline—the holy city, the sacred society, the new Jerusalem created by the miracle of God’s grace will endure as the refuge of God’s people. This city will not weary us with noise and stress; it will not defile us with corruption and pollution. This holy city will be an experience of romance, prepared as a bride, adorned in her wedding dress for her husband, suggesting intimacy and warmth and softness and joy and love and bliss as our constant experience there. Isaiah prophesied to Jerusalem, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5). Even so, it shall be—and forever.”

“If the Bible is telling us the truth about reality, then the time has come for all Christians and churches to pray for power, to think with clarity, to confess with humility, and to shout with joy on behalf of God’s priceless, blood-bought gift of marriage. And to God alone be all the glory forever.”

 

Reflections on Marital Bliss

As I have been thinking about my good friends’ Ben and Adrienne’s new marriage it has given me sweet reminders of how great marriage has been and a realization of how much I still have to learn.

Stacy and I will celebrate three years of marriage next month and yet it feels like we have been together much longer. We are comfortable with each other and are starting to understand each other. And now we are raising a daughter together which has been its own life altering experience!

I don’t think we take enough of the in-between time to recognize the strengths of marriage. What I mean by “in-between” time is times other than anniversaries, special occasion or the death of a spouse etc. The everyday. The life lived one week or one day at a time.

My focus going forward, and my advice to younger couples, will be to focus on honoring the marriage consistently and in all times, hard and easy, remember and prioritize the good.

No if only Stacy wouldn’t laugh at me when I try on skinny jeans…