That may seem like a weird blog title, but I think pastors have some genuine fear about preaching on marriage and relationships.
In the past few weeks as I have talked with pastors about our series through the Song of Solomon, many of them have expressed how they would never preach through that book. In fact, I looked at the websites of churches who “preach through books of the Bible verse-by-verse,” and the Song of Solomon is one of the books most pastors skip.
I’ve already detailed why a pastor should preach on marriage, relationships and singleness on a yearly basis, but why don’t they?
Here are a few reasons:
1. Their marriage isn’t what it should be. I think this is the reason pastors don’t talk about marriage, relationships and sex in their sermons. Their marriage is falling apart. They aren’t happy, their wife is miserable, maybe they are having an affair, are addicted to porn. In short, if they preach on marriage they would be a hypocrite. Honestly, I’ve had a number of pastors tell me this is the reason they don’t preach on marriage, and every time I hear it, my heart breaks. Not only for their church and what they are missing, but also for the pastor and his wife.
They are stuck, and they don’t know what to do. They are sad, heartbroken, miserable, angry with each other, fighting off bitterness, maybe considering a divorce (but they don’t know how to support themselves if they get divorced). They may even be considering cheating on their spouse.
If this is you, you shouldn’t preach on marriage, but you also need to not walk through this alone. You need to take a break from ministry, involve your elders, see a Christian counselor. Something. Anything to work on your marriage to get it on the track it needs to be.
2. Marriage, being single, divorce are all private matters, and many pastors fear private matters. Many pastors, believe it or not, are fearful of diving into the personal matters of your life. Money and sex are topics pastors are afraid to talk about, often because they think their church doesn’t want to hear about those things. Honestly, what the Bible says about these two topics is probably something everyone in your church wants to know.
It is difficult to wade into the waters of porn and sexual addiction, divorce, unhappy marriages, and brokenness. It is uncomfortable and not very fun. But as a pastor, that is where your people live and need your help.
3. They don’t want to exclude anyone. This is a real reason why many pastors don’t preach on marriage and relationships, and I understand it. It is hard when you talk about roles in marriage knowing that a single person is sitting there who finds this completely irrelevant, or a divorced person who begins feeling guilty about their failure. It is hard to talk about being single and purity as your married couples sit there and think, “What does this have to do with me?”
Those are all true.
At the same time, part of teaching your church is helping them understand that just because something doesn’t feel relevant doesn’t mean that it isn’t relevant. I need to know the struggles of someone who is single or dating so I can be a good friend to my single and dating friends. The same goes with divorce and marriage. If you are single, you may be married one day, and it is great if you can learn a thing or two now before getting there.
4. Pastors don’t want to deal with the pain that comes with it. The moment you start talking about marriage, relationships, divorce, dating and sexuality, you are about to open a can of worms that you may not want to in your church. You will find yourself wading into abuse, anger, bitterness, addictions, hurts and family of origin issues that often feel like a web that will never untangle. I had a pastor tell me he doesn’t preach on these topics because he doesn’t want to deal with those hurts in the lives of his people.
Yet this is the exact spot most of the hurt in your church resides, these topics. These are the fights that couples are having, this loneliness is why singles hurt so much at night and why they fall into arms they shouldn’t and pull up websites they shouldn’t. This hurt and disillusionment is why wives get bitter and why husbands aren’t servants to their wives.
5. Pastors don’t want angry emails. As someone who preaches on these topics regularly, and having preached the Song of Solomon twice in the seven years Revolution has existed, I can tell you that marriage, divorce, dating, sexual addictions, porn and sex are fast ways to get angry emails.
Just tell a wife that the word submission is in the Bible. Talk about sex and see what happens. We challenged married couples to do something sexual everyday for 30 days. Some people loved that, others didn’t. I heard from both. I had people tell me the Song of Solomon shouldn’t be in the Bible, that it really isn’t about sex but about God’s love for us. If you have read through the Song of Solomon, it’s kind of awkward; it’s like being a voyeur to someone’s sexual life. It’s descriptive, clear, intimate and inspired by the Holy Spirit just like John and Romans are.
If you preach on these topics, don’t go into them blindly. You will make people angry. Some is to be expected. When you talk about forgiving someone who abused you or your ex-husband, expect some anger and hurt. This is natural and okay. This is an opportunity for you to disciple someone to be more like Jesus. Will that be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.