Posted in: Marriage and Family
Churches Should Invest in Marriage Ministry
by Phil Smidt, Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle
We Need Marriage Ministry
My wife and I recently celebrated our 18th anniversary, finally reaching adulthood in our marriage. God has been gracious to us, as we have experienced marital growing pains of all sorts from my wife Jen’s toddler-like tantrums to my own teenage-esque legalisms.
We are grateful God has been committed to growing us up in relationship with him and each other.
Every person pursuing marriage and married couple is in a phase of maturity and character development where they need godly instruction and encouragement.
But, if the church isn’t providing that for them, who will?
Without a strong vision of marriage from church leadership, people will turn elsewhere for their marital cues and cures.
When the church doesn’t lead people toward Christ, they turn elsewhere, embracing influences that are anti-Gospel.
A recent article compared dating to car shopping, suggesting you try out at least twelve people, helping you decide what features you’d like in a spouse. At the same time it suggested dating over thirty people might mean you’re “too picky”.
"When the church doesn’t lead people toward
Christ, they turn elsewhere, embracing
influences that are anti-Gospel."
What’s the best way to spice up a stale marriage? A popular women’s magazine offered wives these tips: take a break from your husband, flirt more with other men, and “satisfy yourself” more frequently.
Advice is superficial and sometimes dangerous information; it is unable to change hearts that long for something more. The Gospel offers transformation.
When sin is exposed, grace can be applied.
We all need to change. We want successful marriages but without a biblical framework, we end up loving ourselves more than our spouses.
As couples get exposed for who they are, they either fight against each other, or fight for each other through truth and repentance. Marriage is the perfect platform for teaching two self-centered individuals to become one, receiving and sharing God’s grace, love and forgiveness.
Building oneness allows them to accept and minister to the other’s weaknesses and flaws, so they can grow as friends and companions, watching each other’s back instead of stabbing each other in the back.
Jesus’ grace covers a multitude of marital woes and is the mechanism for change.
"Jesus’ grace covers a multitude of marital woes
and is the mechanism for change."
Effective marriage ministry is:
1. Proactive not reactive
Church leaders can’t be on their heels regarding marriage. Provide strong and comprehensive marital teaching and training that is focused on building a Christ-centered union instead of catering to the couples’ felt needs.
Premarital couples are low hanging fruit, full of hope and anticipation, desiring strong marriages. They represent the future leaders and parents of our churches. Invest in them now, launching them on a redemptive trajectory.
Continue ongoing opportunities for married couples to grow and serve through teaching and application in community.
2. More Gospel conversations, fewer counseling appointments
People, not programs, need to be developed to care for others. We can equip and encourage our leaders to live in grace and repentance and model this to others in community.
Recruit and deploy healthy married couples as mentors who help others. Train them to shepherd premarital couples full of hope and married couples losing hope.
Marriage mentors can be equipped to be Gospel-conversationalists, not advice givers and problem solvers, pointing others to hope in Jesus and the cross.
3. All about Jesus
Jesus created marriage and he is both the example and empowerment for husbands and wives.
Only Jesus changes hearts leading to transformed marriages. Redeemed couples need to share their marital stories where Jesus is the hero, not them.
As more married couples begin making disciples in their own homes, neighborhoods and cities begin to be transformed.
Effective marriage ministry inspires couples to reflect Jesus to others- the reason God created marriage in the beginning.