On one of the Christian radio stations I listen to, they have a segment entitled “60 Seconds of Encouragement.” It is from a world famous preacher and it plays a short clip of one of his sermons. Usually it is exactly what it says, but apparently not always.
In an attempt, I can only assume, to shame or scare parents into church attendance, the pastor gives the harsh statistics about the relationship between parental church attendance and children remaining in the church. 83% if both parents attend, 55% if the father attends, 15% if the mother attends.
Well, gosh, thanks for encouraging all the single moms and dads out there. Because this job isn’t difficult enough without pastors going around saying things like this. It doesn’t really matter if this was only a clip and there might have been more to the sermon, this is the clip they chose to play on the radio. Exactly how is this encouraging?
There are so many things wrong with this clip I’ve had a hard time writing this entry (I’ve been working on it for two weeks).
First, this is what happens when you use shame in sermons. There is no reason to shame God’s people into obedience, at least not this sort of shame. I think we can all agree that when we read certain passages in the bible we experience a certain degree of shame and guilt because we know we have not done as we’ve been commanded. That is good shame, this is the kind that changes our hearts and brings us to repentance. The shame used in this clip is the kind that beats people down and ultimately destroys them. Seriously, what use is there for me to get up early tomorrow and get my kids to church? There’s such a slim chance, according to this pastor, that it will make a difference. I might as well sleep in.
Second, this is the usual callous disregard for the single-parent family that the church is, sadly, famous for. There are so few of us that we were never factored into the thoughts that went into the decision to choose this clip to play on national radio. The single-parent, the abused child, these are those that pastors really don’t think about when they are writing their sermons. I know because tomorrow I will have to sit through yet another annual sermon on how wonderful our mothers are while the scenes of violence and cruelty from my childhood play in my mind.
Third, and this is the most important thing to remember, statistics mean nothing to God, so for the love of Him, stop using them. Here in the real world, we know that statistics are always twisted to suit whomever is using them, and I haven’t seen them used a whole lot differently in the church. We could argue that the pastor “means well” but it is pretty careless to go throwing this data around with an open disregard as to whom it will effect and how.
God really doesn’t care what Barna finds in their research. He pays them no attention. I can tell you this with 100% assurance because I, and others like me, are still in the church when, according to Barna, we should have “cursed God and died” long ago. I was raised by hypocrites who beat us and abused us and dragged us to church every Sunday. They said grace at dinner and evening prayers before bed and watched (and exposed us to) porn and had extra-marital affairs (which they also exposed us to).
So, God says “thththttpppptsss” on your statistics.
Seriously, He’s God. He made the universe from nothing. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. Do you really think these statistics can keep Him from saving our children? I mean, how do people interpret this? God says to the single mom, “Oh, sorry, I only save 15% of kids from families like yours and that quota is filled for this generation.”
There is so much more at work here, things we as single parents can actually do something about (we really don’t make enough use of prayer and bible knowledge). We are working with God who has promised to be our spouse and to be our child’s other parent. Consider your ex for just a moment…OK, isn’t this a better deal? (And, not to belittle the loss of the widow or widower, but even as wonderful as your spouse was, God is infinitely better…which I’ve heard is really saying something) God is your child’s other parent. The God who created them, who planned out the course of their life, who loves them more than we can ever consider loving them, so much He sent His own Son to die for them.
And there’s the rub. When you use statistics this way, you deny, yes, YOU DENY, that God sent His Son to die for the child of the single mom and dad just as much as He sent Him to die for those of so-called intact families.
Single moms and dads, it’s really time to thumb our nose at the statistics and to live in the hope that only God can give. Not as the world gives. So don’t listen to this garbage, listen to your Father, who loves you and promises to always be with you.