John Fuller: As a “Kingdom Single”, you are complete in Christ. That’s the message on this Focus on the Family broadcast featuring Dr. Tony Evans and Lisa Anderson. Kingdom Single is also the name of Tony’s new book, published with Focus on the Family. And today, we’re continuing a conversation recorded in Dallas, Texas. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus President Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, I really enjoyed discussing the single life with Dr. Evans and Lisa Anderson talking through some of the challenges and concerns that many, many singles have and getting encouragement from Dr. Evans on trusting Christ with our lives. I mean he is so good at delivering the “believe” message. Believe!
Last time, we talked about the importance of contentment and the desire for sexual intimacy and what it means to be a kingdom single, fulfilled in Christ completely. And we’re gonna continue now with more discussion about finding community, how the church can help singles in that way, and more about our divine purpose.
John: And Dr. Evans, of course, the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, he’s been on this broadcast a number of times. Lisa Anderson, the Director of Boundless, our outreach to singles, and the host of The Boundless Show, a radio show and podcast. Let’s go ahead and listen in.
Jim: Tony, welcome back.
Tony Evans: Hey, I am delighted to be with Focus on the Family.
Jim: Down here in Dallas. Lisa’s joining us, Lisa Anderson, our Boundless…
Lisa Anderson: Great to be here.
Jim: Describe Boundless real quick.
Lisa: Yeah. We’re a community for single young adults, primarily. We’re focused on maturing in Christ, owning our faith, dating with purpose and preparing for marriage and family. That’s what God has for us. And so, it’s a fun community feel for singles who may feel alone in their churches, because maybe they are one of a few singles, or they just feel a little disenfranchised. So we put our arm around ‘em and say, “We’ve got stuff for you here.”
Jim: Dating with purpose. Now, you – you might wanna add, dating for a biblical purpose.
I don’t know…
Lisa: And not necessarily born out of my own story and example, let’s be honest. Okay?
Jim: Sometimes us guys might, you know, date for a purpose, right?
But we wanna honor God in all of that.
Tony: There you go, there you – well said. Good – good correction.
Jim: Hey, Tony, how can the Christian single go about keeping their focus on God, rather than being preoccupied with the idea of marriage? How do you – how do you get up every morning with your friends, who now are married, maybe late 20s, early 30s, late 30s – how do you get up in the morning sayin’, “Okay, I’ve got that desire, but I gotta get on with the day, before the Lord?”
Tony: Well, first of all, the best thing a single can have is purpose. When you have a sense of divine calling – and every Christian has a divine purpose. If we, as Christians in general, but if single Christians would put as much energy into finding and fulfilling their purpose as they do for thinking and pursuing a relationship, they would be much more fulfilled, but because the relationship side sometimes trumps the purpose side, and the relationship side is not being fulfilled, it now clouds your pursuit of finding your divinely ordained reason for being. So, God has a purpose for you.
Jim: Tony, let me ask you, as a theologian, you look at church history. And, uh, I’m not quite sure about this, but I think Martin Luther began to change the idea of marriage in the church. I mean, the church up until that point esteemed singleness. Certainly for leadership, that was a must, prerequisite, that you were not married, single-hearted for the Lord, for pastoral leadership, for being a priest. Martin Luther certainly contributed to the idea that you could be a holy person and be married. But, how did that transition take place in the church, where we valued singleness as, in some ways, as the highest order, and married couples were kind of second-class?
Tony: Well, it was because the example of Paul set for many a biblical pace of somebody unmarried who was totally devoted and who did so much for the kingdom of God. And the idea is that they would be undivided and undistracted. And the Bible is clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that if you are married, you’re supposed to be divided, because you have a responsibility to your family that does not allow you to pursue your calling in the same way as a single person who does not have that responsibility. And so, the higher you went up the leadership ladder, the more expectation it was that you were focused and undivided, until it became apparent for many that that was not going to work and them stay holy.
Tony: And so the Bible says, “If you desire to marry, it’s a good thing.” So, God doesn’t prohibit marriage. But He says, “If you’re not married, don’t be distracted like you are married.” And we’ve got single people being distracted as though they have a family, when they don’t. And if you do that, then you’re being in a position that God doesn’t want you in, as a single Christian.
Jim: Man, there is a lot in what you just said. Lisa, when you look at the – the culture, the media culture, describe that for today as being a single, because there’s so much bombardment, especially sexual themes and those kinds of things. How is that managed in today’s culture, being single with all this, kind of pounding in on you, this cultural diatribe?
Lisa: Yeah. Well, certainly the culture and the media’s given us this weird script that’s borne out a lot by entertainment. So, whether the ‘80s and ‘90s rom-coms or TV shows that are kind of like, in an hour and a half, you should be able to cycle through a relationship that will end up giving you a happy ending. And so we’re expectant of that. And so I think we’ve reduced it, even within the church, to a bunch of tips and tactics. So you know, if you just do these five things to get a mate, or here’s six ways to get a guy interested in you, or here’s – you know, go to another seminar, do this, do that. And so, we’re frantically running around, finding ways to improve ourselves and to self-actualize and to be what we think we’re going to be that’s going to be attractive, rather than, as Tony is saying, growing in Christ in a way that allows us to just chill and be like, “God’s got this.” And then, in turn, you know, then we can see what – what God does through our story. And so I think it can be frustrating, because meanwhile, while we’re trying to do this, it’s burning us out. And so, then we just turn in the opposite direction and try to self-medicate, whether through entertainment or through our jobs. I mean, I had a friend who told me, “Lisa,” she said, “I might as well just put in more hours at work, because that’s where I’m seen and validated.” And so…
Jim: Oh, wow.
Lisa: …It’s this idea of, you know, I’m not getting it from the relationship that I’ve been told I need to have. And so, I’m just gonna bide my time and fill my heart with other things.
Jim: Tony, in reaction to that, when you think about it, people being validated in other ways, rather than relationally, that has a lot of danger around it, doesn’t it?
Tony: Well, it absolutely does and because you can be taken off course and wind up allowing something to either illegitimately validate you, because you’re giving it more than it ought to have, or you can wind up being distracted in the wrong direction. And that’s where balance comes in. You want to – far too many singles are not enjoying life, okay? They’re frustrated at life, because it’s not giving them what they want right now, particularly on the relationship side. And that’s a sin too. It is a sin – let me go back to what I said in the last broadcast about Adam. All the trees that he was to partake of, it was commanded that he enjoy them, not requested that he enjoy them. So, if you are so targeted in one direction that you’re not taking advantage of all these trees, all these opportunities, all these freedoms, all these great things that God has provided, you’re sinning by not enjoying.
Jim: Now, that wasn’t like, eat your broccoli, was it?
Tony: I hope not.
Lisa: Well, and then what’s crazy, Tony, is that, you know, then the single people talk to the marrieds, and they’re like, “Oh, no, just be glad you’re single.”
Tony: Oh, absolutely.
Lisa: Because I get some of the worst scripts about marriage from my married friends in the church, who are like, “No, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” So, you’re kinda like, “Where” – you know, what do you do with that?
Tony: Better to be happy and fulfilled single than a miserably married person.
Jim: Yeah. And the issue is both are true. And married couples that are struggling need to grow in their marriage. They need to work at it, just like a single needs to grow in their singleness toward God. Right?
Tony: Yeah, absolutely.
Jim: All of them toward God. Tony, in that regard, what can a church do? Does the church – broad church – do a good job with singles today? Or do we marginalize them in service and in inclusion within the church?
Tony: The – we’ve not done – overall, we’ve not done a good job. And we have a reality now. 50 percent of the population’s single. That’s pretty much reflected in the church. So, that means you must provide ministry to and ministry through singles. If this is your undistracted group, then that’s where you should get most of your energy from in the church. And then, we – we have so many millennials. You know, I’ve called you young people, because you’re strong. Then we should be activating them to get kingdom work done, celebrating them, making a big deal about how God’s kingdom is going to be advanced through this church, through the church, because of the single population. But, in doing that, you’re also engaging them, with not only the church, but with one another.
Tony: And so, you’re building community. You’re getting ministry done at a higher level, because of the lack of distraction. But then, you should provide in that context a meaningful community, so that they know that they’re not alone and that the church is standing with them and not just using them.
Jim: Yeah. Lisa, does the Boundless community feel that way with their church? Or what do you hear from the hundreds of thousands that participate in Boundless?
Lisa: Yeah. I think there’s some frustration because – you know, and much of it is – there’s well-meaning stuff going on in the church, but it is largely programmed for marriages and for families. I remember my pastor saying a few weeks ago that he heard a friend talk about a – a Sunday school class in his church that was a mix of marrieds and singles. And it was called “Pairs and Spares.” Um…
Lisa: That is, like, not okay. So, sometimes it’s just verbiage…
Jim: “Pairs and Spares.”
Lisa: Sometimes it’s just the way people approach it. Sometimes it’s keeping the singles at the proverbial kids’ table, this idea that you’re only mature and sanctified once you’re married. And so, I think, exactly as Tony said, singles need to be called out of the back pews, where they’re sitting with their double-walled coffee mugs, taking in the show. They need to be encouraged to serve. They need to be put on committees. They need to be – if you have a single CPA dude in your church, he should be, like, serving somewhere with his giftings and his skills, you know. And don’t assume that, “Okay, well, they’re gonna be the consumers of this church. And then, all you married people, just jump in, and you gotta run this place.”
Jim: You think about that, Tony – how many singles are sitting in the pews hearing – what Lisa described, rarely hearing something aimed at the single community?
Tony: Yeah, absolutely. And yet, there’s so much in the Bible that can be targeted right to them. At our church, you cannot join, unless you agree to serve. So, you can’t even become a member. So that way, we make sure that everybody has the opportunity to use their gifts, skills, talents and energy for the advancement of the kingdom of God. And, because we have, like most churches, a large group of singles, we can get more ministry done from and through them, because, in most cases, they’re not going home to a family. And they’re looking for things that will positively utilize their time.
Jim: Yeah. So often I’ve said it here on Focus on the Family, the importance of relationship, because God has wired us for a relationship. I never intend that to be a cutting remark. How does a single find community that’s healthy, so that that need of human relationship, human connection, can be there?
Tony: Well, first of all, you need to be part of a church that’s healthy.
Tony: And the healthy church is going to provide an environment where you not only are learning the word of God – because you can learn the Word of God without goin’ to church. You can listen to my radio broadcast. You can listen to…
Jim: Urban Alternative.
Tony: Right. You can listen to Focus on the Family.
Jim: I love it.
Tony: You can get the Word – you can get the Word, without going to church. The reason why church was created was to create community among God’s people. And so, if community is not part of – of the life of the church – if it’s just going, seeing a program, hearing a sermon, hearing a song, and leaving, then that’s not a biblical church. And so make sure you’re part of a healthy church. If you’re part of a healthy church, then make sure you’re not only receiving from the church, but you’re giving back to the church. It’s a quid pro quo relationship in the kingdom of God. And therefore, you’re building relationships, while you serve, at the same time being ministered to.
Jim: That is good. Lisa, have you found that to be true as a single?
Lisa: Yeah. And I think we have to find ways that we can connect across generations, across demographics, across relationship statuses. So, it’s not about, like, let’s just put all the singles over in the singles’ ghetto, and then the married sit there.
Jim: The singles’ table.
Lisa: At the single kids’ table.
Jim: Yeah, the single kids’ table.
Lisa: Yeah, exactly. But it really is finding – I mean, I’ve reached out, whether it’s friends that used to be single and are now married, or just older couples in the church, to say, you know, “What are our commonalities?” We talk about what we’re learning from Scripture. We talk about what our struggles are. We talk about career. We talk about common points, what’s going on in the church, where are we serving, rather than making it about, well, I can only hang out with married people, because that’s where I am in life. And so – and sometimes for singles, it involves, really, you know, stepping up and asking for hard things, to ask for community. When I’ve walked through really tough seasons, I had to stand up in front of my Sunday school class and be like, “Okay, I need some help moving,” or, “I need help caring for Mom,” or, “I need help” – you know, this and that. And – and then, it’s God’s responsibility to work on the hearts of the people to say, “I’m gonna step in and be your family where you don’t have family.”
Jim: You know, Tony, as Lisa’s saying that, it’s interesting, because I think we as married couples think singles probably are solely dedicated to the Lord. They kind of have a – the opportunity to be in a much better place, potentially, because they can move and do what they want to do. I’ve never thought about, you know, how many married couples step up to help out a single. You know, it’s usually, “Do you want to help me babysit? Or can you babysit for us?”
Lisa: Yeah. And it – I mean, and that’s true. And that should – singles should be babysitting for the married couples in their church.
Jim: Well, I appreciate that.
Lisa: That is – I mean, again, the last thing a single person in the church needs to do is sit around to be angry and bitter and criticize the pastor and everyone in the church. That’s ridiculous.
Jim: But looking for opportunity to help singles too, for married couples to say, “Hey, let’s have Lisa over. Let’s help her move.”
Jim: It’s just usually we don’t – we don’t think about it.
Tony: Yeah. You – we have to create a couple of different dynamics. First of all, you have to have something that singles feel that they can gravitate to with other singles. But then you must simultaneously have things where there’s interconnectedness between couples and singles because that is how the body of Christ is made up. And so, if you’re 50 percent of America, 50 percent are single, and they’re in the same church, there’s gotta be ways to connect them with one another, so that they can see the mutual benefit.
Tony: The single person can see, hopefully, a healthy relationship. But the married couple can then also assist the single. So both sides should be helped in that.
Jim: It’s a good reminder, because I’ve not even thought about that, to be honest. And I’m sorry about that.
Lisa: Well, Jim, I think one of the misperceptions that a lot of marrieds have is that singles lead these amazingly interesting and fabulous lives.
Lisa: Like all we do is just jet-set around the world and just do exciting things and…
Jim: You got time and money.
Lisa: Exactly. Surely, you must do that. That’s all you do. You’ve got all the time in the world. Right. And that’s not true. You know, we’re just tryin’ to pay our bills and make things happen and go home on the weekends and do all the home projects we couldn’t do during the week. And, you know – and so there’s, I think, a lot more commonality than we think. And so, when they kind of band together – just a few months ago, I mentioned, you know, my mom was sick. My sister came out and visited, ended up being hospitalized. All of a sudden, I put a shout-out, and my friends descended. I had friends, married and single, going to visit them in the hospital, providing meals, sending cards, you know, picking them up, bringing people – you know, my mom and sister to appointments and stuff. And my sister, who doesn’t even live in this state, said to her friends and family back home, “Lisa has amazing friends.” And it was just indicative. And those friends did not just spring up overnight. Those were relationships that were built over months and years, here in my community.
John: This is Focus on the Family and that’s Lisa Anderson along with Dr. Tony Evans talking to Jim Daly in Dallas, discussing Tony’s book, Kingdom Single, which is a great resource. And be sure you stop by the Boundless website to see the various writings and the podcast and radio shows. Focusonthefamily.com/radio is the starting point.
Jim: Tony, I’m mindful of the single parent. And so often we don’t know the circumstances of that. We quickly judge what’s happened, you know, that there was some problem. But, oftentimes it’s the death of the spouse. And, you know, my heart grieves when somebody shows kind of contempt for the single parent, you know. But, we don’t know what’s happened. It may have occurred for biblical reasons, what have you. But speak to the single parent heart here because they’re also struggling with a lot more.
Tony: And that is a particularly great burden in the African-American context where it’s so large.
Tony: Um, 70…
Jim: Yeah. Over 70 percent.
Tony: 70 percent of children are born to single parents. And so – so that need is great. When God said He’d be a mother to the motherless and a father to the fatherless, He didn’t mean He’d be a floatin’ spirit in never-never land. He meant He would work through His people to provide surrogate support for family. The job of the church is to fill in that gap. And so, at our church, when we have single parents, we’ve had them bring their cars up to be cleaned and to be serviced. We’ve had them bring their kids to have some men – particularly bring the boys so that some men from the church can be around them and mentor them. And so, the church needs to provide so that that single parent is not forsaken. If she is seeking to please the Lord and seeking to see her children raised in the Lord – because most of the time it’s women – then the church should come and surround her with the support of the family of God, so she knows that she doesn’t bear this extra burden alone.
Jim: You know, my pastor, Brady Boyd at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, he said something that has stuck with me, that if you want to hear from the Lord – if you’re struggling hearing from the Lord, take care of the widow and the orphan, and the Lord will speak to your heart. That has just sat with me. Because, if you think about that, if churches did that, like in that single-parent environment, in essence – particularly, again, for women – I understand there’s single-parent men as well – but they are widows of sorts…
Jim: …if there’s no man covering. And I don’t mean that as a, you know, a modern-day negative. If there’s no male spiritual leadership in that home, that’s what we should do as church.
Tony: Absolutely. The – every single parent should be part of a fellowship of believers who helps cover them. Covering is a biblical concept. This is the concept of covenant. And in a covenant, you are covered.
Tony: And far too many single women and single parents are living their lives uncovered.
Jim: Yeah. And in part, that’s – I think, in this country, at least, that’s part of that independent spirit. You know, we don’t wanna step on each other. In fact, I’m sure, Lisa, that sometimes when we’re saying, “Yeah, you get spiritual covering there” – woo – with a little bit of a bristle, maybe?
Lisa: It – not really at all. I mean, at this point, especially where – because there are so many single adults who do not have fathers in their lives, for whatever reason – absentee fathers, their fathers are gone, their fathers are in another state, or their fathers aren’t believers and don’t even understand or care about their role. And so, I think it – you know, just using an example of a single mom, I just talked to a – a Boundless fan the other night who’s a single mom. And she said the challenge is in addition to feeling, like, you know, when she’s at church, that um, she said, “You know, when I was single, it was hard enough. Now that I’m a single parent, it’s really rough, and just the perception in the church.” But she said the problem is, “I go home, and I’m constantly – my kids are just takers.” You know, and who to – to have someone to pour into her when she’s just, you know, being taken from, taken from, and the assumption there, she said, “I have to go to church to be poured into. I don’t get it anywhere else.”
Jim: Wow, that’s good. And we need to be mindful of that. Tony, as we kind of near the end here, I want to be mindful of something we’ve talked about throughout the two days we’ve been together. And that is how to know I’m pursuing the Lord. So how does that single person determine if their heart is truly aligned with God’s heart? What questions should they be asking themselves in their singleness that “I’m on track with God”?
Tony: Well, first and foremost is to begin each day with an orientation. “God, my life is in Your hands today. And enable me to respond to whatever I face today, personally, privately or publicly in a way that brings You glory and that pleases You.” Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5 that he always sought to please the Lord. So, if pleasing God is your orientation, you have set the stage for God to be comfortable with you today, because He knows He doesn’t have to fight the world for your attention, because you’ve already given your attentiveness to Him. And then, as you move throughout that day, make your decisions in light of how you started your day. When you make those decisions in light of how you started the day, God – you – it will be able to be said like to you like it was said to Joseph, “And God was with him.”
Jim: Yes. For the single who’s really strugglin’ to feel appreciated, to feel like I’m in the right place – maybe they’re striving for that relationship, for that future marriage that they’ve wanted for so long, male or female – remind them of their status in Christ, how God is viewing them.
Tony: Well, you have been fully loved. If you’ve come to Christ, you are fully forgiven. You have God’s spirit living within you. And you are what Ephesians 1 says, “Accepted in the beloved.” So, you do not have to find acceptance. You are accepted. Other people can recognize that acceptance, validate that acceptance, but they can’t determine it. That’s already been determined by God. So anybody else’s acceptance is at a lower level, ‘cause God is at the top of the food chain, so…
Jim: That’s right.
Tony: And He has already accepted you. So, here’s what you do. You regularly thank God for His acceptance to remind yourself that you are accepted and then ask God to reinforce it as He wills, as you move throughout your day in life.
Jim: That’s really powerful.
Lisa: And can I just say, Jim, one thing that I’ve learned recently that I’m sad to say I learned so recently is that my…
…my singleness is not the biggest thing about me, nor is your marriage or Tony’s marriage the biggest thing about you. We are blood-bought heirs of God that have an eternity to look forward to. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. And that levels the playing field. It gives us access to our Father. And it just shows that God has unique purposes for each one of us, and He will accomplish what He wants to accomplish in our lives.
Jim: Well, again, well said. Give us the – the Boundless benefit. So if I’m single listening, why should I go to Boundless?
Lisa: Because we are just a community that wants to put our arm around you. We have advice. We have resources. But more than that, we are letting you know that as you walk this journey of life, single, whether you’re gonna be married someday or not, you are not alone. You have the Lord. You have us. You have a community, and we want to prove that to you, through our community.
Jim: Go there – boundless.org. It’s a great place for community.
Tony, ending with this question of the heavy-hearted person, uh, there’s a man or woman, or many men and many women, listening right now. And they’ve wanted to be married their whole life, and it hasn’t happened for them, you know, for whatever reason. They may be giving up that hope that is within them. How do you help that single person trust God with their future? Speak directly to them.
Tony: Well, I want to say to you who have not had your dreams fulfilled and your desires met that God is the God of the unexpected. Throughout the Bible, you’ll see this word – suddenly. That’s when God comes out of nowhere and blows your mind. Unexpected. So you be faithful where you are and give God the right to use that word on you.
Jim: Tony, so wonderful. This has been a terrific two days. Thank you for Kingdom Single, for writing it and for believing in singles and their role in the church and their contribution. We so appreciate you being with us.
Tony: Well, thank you for having me, and it was an honor to work with you on this publication.
Jim: Lisa, also thanks to you for your leadership with Boundless, your joyful spirit in your singleness. You’re quite comfortable with it. You make everyone laugh and everybody feel at ease when they’re around you, and it’s a wonderful treat to work with you.
Lisa: Thanks, Jim.
John: Dr. Tony Evans and Lisa Anderson are guests today on Focus on the Family. And if you’re single, please connect with us, and get a copy of Tony’s new book, Kingdom Single. It is such a good resource and full of great insights and biblical wisdom. And learn more about Boundless when you have us. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY – 800-232-6459. Online we’re at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: And if I could, remember, when you support Focus on the Family with a financial gift, you’re helping us to encourage singles and help married couples and provide resources that they need. If you make a donation today for any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Kingdom Single as our way of saying thank you.
John: And again, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Well, join us again on Monday as Bri McKoy reminds us of the heart behind fellowship and hospitality.
Bri McKoy: If you go into a meal with someone and think, “This person’s gonna leave a meal and love Jesus,” – can Jesus do that? Yes. But usually it’s over time. And I think the reason it’s over time is because we are not the Savior. Jesus is the Savior. And we are supposed to be responsive to the Holy Spirit. And we are supposed to show up and love like Jesus did, invite people’s stories into our lives like Jesus did and show compassion.
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