3 Ways the Church Can Talk About Sex Better

1. Encourage singleness and celibacy as a strong viable option.

Oh how we’ve gotten this wrong.

There are some scriptures the church just flat out doesn’t like. Case in point, Paul’s exhortation – “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am.”(1 Cor. 7:8) Some translations even say “…it is better for them to remain unmarried…”.

Too much of our modern church revolves around the coveted family unit. Our churches host marriage conferences, provide parents nights out, and offer marriage counseling. There’s obviously nothing wrong with any of that, but we’ve got to ask how we’re welcoming, accommodating, and caring for the single person. Singles ministries withing churches need to a place for single people to do kingdom work together and not an easy place to find the last single people to hook up with.

This problem is most glaring when we teach that the reason for sexual purity is because “God has someone for you”. What if he doesn’t?! What if his desire for that kid in your youth group, that 20 something in the your small group, or that widow in your pew  is to remain single so that they can be focused on as Paul puts it “the Lords affairs”.

We speak outside of scripture and give promises that God does not give when say or imply that the reward of a sexual purity is a spouse. Furthermore, that is simply an inappropriate motivation for the Christ follower to wait until marriage. Christ himself should be the motivation.

2. The emphasis must be on sexual purity vs. “virginity”.

Way before The Bachelor, the church had it’s own little rose ceremony. If you grew up in the church any time after 1980 then you have probably been subject to The Rose Ceremony. Someone produces a rose and has everyone in the room touch it and feel it, while he/she lists off a laundry list of reasons why sex before marriage is a bad idea. Often times in this laundry list, little or nothing is actually said Gods holistic design and desire for sex in the life of the Christ follower, rather time is spent talking about the dangers of STD’s and how being a teenage mom or dad will destroy your life. Also, bonus points for doing that thing where you hold a role of masking tape and put a sharpie market through it to illustrate the size of microscopic holes in a condom compared to the size of an STD. At the end of the virginity sales pitch the rose has made it’s way around the room and back to the speaker. The speaker then takes the now wilted and decrepit rose, holds up a new rose in pristine condition, and asks the captivated audience “Now, who wants this rose instead of this one?” Fade to black.

Of the myriad of things wrong with this picture, I’ll constrain myself to the most flagrant. Leave it to human beings to replace God’s desire for sexual purity with something like virginity (something that is lost and cannot be recovered). The God of the Bible does not seem to be concerned with virginity but rather sexual purity, and contrary to what some have taught, those are two different things. A person who does not fit the dictionary definition of a virgin, can still be sexually pure through the transformation offered by Christ. On the same token someone can be a virgin and be far from sexually pure.

Obviously, sex even once, outside of it’s proper place is not consequence free and indeed many have endured some hardships because of it, but to emphasize something that is lost and can never be recovered is simply the antithesis of the Gospel. Our hope in Christ is that he can redeem all things, including our sexuality.

3. Talk about sex within the context of a complete life of the Christ follower.

For someone on the outside looking in, it probably looks like Christians are obsessed with sex. We tend to gravitate to one of two extremes. Either sex is a dirty word that we never talk about and when sexual immorality takes place it receives the deepest shame to the point that members of the body feel judged and unwelcome OR in an attempt to show the greater culture that we Christians have just as much super awesome sex as everyone else, we hyper sexualize everything. This over-sexualizing happens in subtle ways, like the pastor who declares that his wife is “smoking hot“. Rather than following cultures lead or simply doing the opposite of culture, we must first follow Christ with our life and then see what that means for our God-given sexuality.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

13 thoughts on “3 Ways the Church Can Talk About Sex Better

  1. Great points Shane. To your first point, I’ve found something interesting when looking for a church. I’ll visit the church’s website and try to read up on what they believe, etc. and I’ve found multiple churches in my area that require the pastor and even deacons/elders to be married. I’m not sure, but I’m assuming they might be afraid of the complications of a church leader dating, especially dating other people in the church. I understand this to a certain extent, but what kind of example does it set to the single person in church that every single church leader is married?

  2. Really like this one, Shane.
    And Tucker, I haven’t noticed that, but maybe it just hasn’t stood out to me. Which shows I probably am not empathetic or aware of how singles would feel in the church, yet.

  3. Great post. Would you care to expand on point #3? I think a lot of this post’s application hangs on that point.

  4. kennetha  I’m happy to although I’m not sure what you’re looking for. Instead of making sex everything (obsessing) or nothing (neglecting), we need to think about what rightful God-given place it has in our lives.

  5. beardonabike “Rather than following cultures lead or simply doing the opposite of culture, we must first follow Christ with our life and then see what that means for our God-given sexuality.” I totally agree with this sentence, and in many ways it says everything that needs to be said. But, how does that sentence flesh out in real life? A lot of the sexual boundaries and definitions for married people have been spelled out by the Bible, our culture, and intrinsic morality. But, there is a lot less definitions or stories for a single’s sexuality. I would love to hear some more details, specifics, or “how it worked for me” stories from the sentence I quoted.

  6. As someone who married at 37, I can go on forever about the ways in which single adults over 25 or so are not welcome or comfortable in most Protestant churches. I visited churches where I was told point blank by the “welcome committee” caller that “there is really nothing for you”. I briefly attended a church where I was told I could not volunteer with children’s programs because apparently singles are all potential child molesters. And the “singles bars for Christians” that most larger evangelical churches call a “single adults group” are among the worst experiences of high school cliques and meat markets I will ever know. Now I’m happily married and happily Catholic. And I’m valued as a confirmation teacher for middle schoolers and the singles in my parish are valued for who they are by a church that holds singleness as a vocation equal to marriage or ordination.

  7. I love this. It brings up so many thoughts for me. 
    I agree with point 1 completely. I would love to find a church where an important place for singles is as carved out as it is for the married and families. This place shouldn’t be just as an arena for multiple single people to come and meet like a mixer, but somewhere that a single life devoted to the worship of Christ is encouraged. It should be a counseled group in which advice is given, because even though a person chooses to be single and live a life for Christ doesn’t mean that loneliness doesn’t still set in or that being somewhere that has hordes of couples present isn’t still a constant reminder that though you are accompanied by the presence of God you are BY YOURSELF. Rather than having just classes that prepare a person for marriage, why not have classes that prepare for singleness.
    When it comes to point 3, I have also heard that pastor call his wife “smoking hot,” and that doesn’t necessarily show the kind of relationship God wants for a marriage. Usually, from what I have heard friends and family say, it seems like when Christians finally enter into marriage and have God bless their sexual lives they fail to utilize that blessing and their marriage seems very unhappy. I think lots of people are afraid to enter into a marriage because they are afraid they will also lose their sexuality and be stuck in an overly-prudent, unhappy relationship. I think the church needs to emphasize more of how sex within a God blessed marriage is super important. 1  Corinthians 7:5 says “Do not deny yourselves to
    each other, unless you first agree to do so for a while in order to
    spend your time in prayer; but then resume normal marital relations. In
    this way you will be kept from giving in to Satan’s temptation because
    of your lack of self-control.”

  8. @a What a sad experience. I hope these kind of churches wake up to the fact that what they are doing marginalizes singles in a way that Jesus came to do away with. 
    Thanks for sharing.

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