A single-minded look at the goodness of our embodied selves

Single Minded is a parachurch ministry “about singleness, for everybody.” It began in 2018, when Dani Treweek, the founding director and chair, saw an opportunity to equip and teach a particular group of people.

Sam Allberry, a pastor, speaker, and writer from the UK, was visiting Australia, and Treweek invited him to speak at a day conference for and about singleness. It was a testing-of-the-waters as nothing like it had happened before, and tickets for the event sold out in the early bird phase.

In the years since, the yearly conference, along with complementary webinars, has welcomed guests from abroad and local places and covered topics that intersect with singleness, such as friendship, sexuality, pop culture, loneliness, and contentment.

The opportunities to keep growing Jesus’ church in thinking about how to live lives that honour Jesus – either in our singleness or in loving the singles in our churches well – have continued to grow.

This year, the day conference has had Livestream attendees from across Australia, Hong Kong, the UK, and the US, and is being run in two major cities (Sydney last weekend and Brisbane next weekend).

We spent time considering how our bodies are made by God: carefully, deliberately, lovingly …

Sam Allberry returned to speak this year on “being a body.” Sam is in the process of moving from his native Britain to the US, where he’ll join the staff at Immanuel Nashville. In Australia, we’re likely to recognise his name from popular Christian books such as Is God Anti-Gay?, 7 Myths About Singleness, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? and What God Has To Say About Our Bodies. He also co-hosts a podcast titled You’re Not Crazy: Gospel Sanity for Young Pastors.

I’d never heard Sam speak before, but I’d found 7 Myths About Singleness to be so helpful that I kept a note with a quote from it somewhere I could see it every day for years, so I was keen for the conference. I found him to be a gifted and gentle speaker, and he taught with humility, compassion, and deep faithfulness to God’s word. His talks were excellent, and if you have the opportunity to hear him speak somewhere, take it.

Single Minded 2022 was on “Being a Body,” which focused on the overwhelming goodness of us being embodied people for Jesus. We live in a world that says our bodies exist for pleasure and self-expression, and that this must be pursued at all costs. But the Bible tells us that our bodies have been made for holiness and self-control, and that rejecting this comes at great cost. Such conflicting messages can leave us feeling that the world says nothing but “Yes!” to our bodies, while God says nothing but “No!”.

We spent time considering how our bodies are made by God: carefully, deliberately, lovingly; we were invited to consider what it means to be “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We saw that God intends goodness in our bodies, even though living in a fallen world means they might not look or work the way they’re supposed to, and this is true even if how we feel about them and in them is complex. Our gendered bodies reflect our created nature, and it’s when we have men and women working together that we show off being made in the image of God – a surplus of one gender doesn’t make up for a deficiency in the other.

Sam challenged our culture’s belief that the body is a costume we could take on or take off; that the body is merely a canvas for adorning to express the true and inner self. When God makes humans in Genesis 2, he doesn’t start with a soul and then build a vessel; he makes a body and breathes life into it. We don’t just have bodies; we are embodied creatures. And yet, at the same time, we are more than our bodies, which is wonderful news if the way we feel about our bodies is complex.

There isn’t anything else quite like Single Minded anywhere else in the world.

For a topic so fraught with strong feelings, Sam did an exceptional job, gently walking us through the hard things to lift our eyes to Jesus. He acknowledged that our bodies can still cause us pain or shame, but we are still fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves us dearly and has bought us at such a high price, and that we shouldn’t despise what God loves. We have the Holy Spirit living in us, and he wants to be there; there is no body unfit for the Spirit to dwell in if we’ve placed our trust in Jesus.

Sam encouraged us to apply a few different things to our everyday lives – he reminded us that it’s not an unspiritual thing to look after our bodies. He taught us that the body that pleases Jesus is the one that we offer to him. And that, because our bodies are for Jesus, we should steward our bodies for glorifying God with the same gentle diligence that we would apply to a priceless, loaned, family heirloom. Our bodies are instruments for God’s righteousness, there is a goodness to them now, and there will be an even greater goodness to them when we reach the New Creation.

As you may have noticed, these talks could have encouraged any group of people – Single Minded is about singleness, but it is also for everybody.

Following the talks were reflections from men and women who experience different kinds of single life (never married, widowed, divorced) and how Jesus speaks into their embodied experience. We draw from the Scriptures first to inform our thinking, but there’s also so much depth and value to be gained from hearing how others live for Jesus in their circumstance, which was deeply encouraging.

A couple of Q&A sessions also punctuated the day, with Sam Allberry and Dani Treweek answering many general and specific questions people asked. The quantity and quality of both question and answer testify to the importance of this ministry. There isn’t anything else quite like Single Minded anywhere else in the world, being focused on thinking about how singleness and the Christian life fit together. It’s such a gift, and Australians are blessed to have it on our doorstep. Given that there is so much opportunity for teaching and equipping the church to think and love singleness and singles well, the Single Minded Council is working at expanding its horizons to become “the go-to global voice on singleness for Jesus’ church.” It’s an ambitious goal, but when there’s nothing else like it, and the goal is Jesus’ glory, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get on with it.

You can register for the Single Minded Conference in Brisbane on August 6 here.

Brooke Hazelgrove is a student at Moore Theological College in Sydney. She grew up in a small coastal town and lived in a slightly bigger one before moving to Sydney to study. She loves to write about metanarratives and how living for Jesus impacts everyday life, and she makes things in her spare time.