marriage care

Posted: January 22, 2011 in Marriage
Tags: , , , ,

I will be honest.  I’ve been avoiding this topic.  I guess mainly because I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve got it figured out.  Maybe we can make this collaborative?

I am concerned and my concern is growing.  It seems I have more and more friends whose families are struggling – families that are involved in church, even in ministry.  As I drive around town, I see more and more churches with banners for Divorce Care.  Don’t get me wrong – I think that’s a great idea.  I think the church ought to be the place where hurting people can go to find acceptance, unconditional grace, and healing.

I guess I just want to see churches doing at least as much – probably more – for marriage care as they do for divorce care.  You know, the whole “ounce of prevention” thing?  I’m sorry, but the annual marriage weekend doesn’t add up to an “ounce of prevention” when it comes to marriage.

Why is the church struggling so much in this area?  I’m not a psychologist or a counselor and I didn’t even sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night.  But I do have a few ideas.

  1. I think it’s obvious that the family is a high priority target for our spiritual enemy.  What quicker way to distract a church – or even destroy a church – than to tear families apart, especially the families of those in leadership.  I have no problem saying that this is a spiritual battle.
  2. All too often, church is a place where we feel like we have to hide our problems and put up a false front.  Nobody is perfect, but for some reason, there is pressure to act like you are.  I heard a speaker recently say that “if the penalty for disclosure is the same as the penalty for getting caught, I will hide until you catch me.”  That’s kind of how it works in church.  The result is that we have no “small” problems in church, only “big” ones.  We don’t hear about the kid struggling with depression, until he takes his own life.  We don’t hear about the girl experimenting with drugs, until she’s an addict.  We don’t hear about the couple struggling to communicate, until they separate.  We’ve got to be able to admit that we’re struggling and ask for help before our problem or weakness takes us over the edge.  And I think it has to start at the top.
  3. Church has become a place where we mind our own business.  It’s not cool to get involved in someone else’s problems.  We’re into the “one another” passages when it comes to loving and serving and encouraging.  But as a church, we’re also instructed to admonish one another, confess our sins to one another and be accountable to one another.  Jesus even gave us instructions to do this correctly.  This can only happen where there is commitment.  When people get “offended” at church, they usually just move to another one. But if I know that I am loved and accepted and that my friends want what is best for me, no matter how badly I screw up, then I can allow others to speak into my life.  That’s dangerous, but it’s the kind of church I want.

So, let’s collaborate.  What will it take to become that kind of church?  What have you tried that worked?  What are your big ideas? Let’s hear it!

  1. Jon Kelly says:

    Sounds very familiar, friend. Just heard a couple of great podcasts by Mark Driscoll (think what you will of him, I like him) on marriage and family, the man’s role, and the woman’s role. #3 above is a great observation. Too many people still have the old mindset of not wanting to get into other’s business. Biblically, though, that’s exactly what we’re to do.

    • Lara Gifford says:

      I loved your post..well said! Chris and I are saddened by the many unhealthy marriages in the church. As you said, not because we have it figured out or never struggle, but because it’s such a distraction from kingdom work! Early in our marriage, we nearly threw it all away, but as we began to rebuild our marriage on Godly principles, it became more and more apparent that there has to be a much stronger VERTICAL focus, than a horizontal one. I am going through a book right now with a young girl who is getting married in a couple of months. It’s called “The Sacred Marriage” I highly recommend it!

      • JHaskell says:

        Great comment, Lara. Thanks for the note. Devotions for a Sacred Marriage is one of the most influential books that Lori and I have read. We give it as a wedding present to every young couple that we meet. We should talk!

    • JHaskell says:

      Hey…I like Mark Driscoll, too. I would probably break his messages up into series, but I like his thoughts. 🙂

  2. Chris McGown says:

    The main problem with churches is…well, people. We don’t set aside our sin-natured humanity when we walk through the doors. Oh, those who have matured in their faith have a much better control of that nature, and we/they become a better reflection of Christ. But in my experience, this only represents a small fraction of those in attendance on any given Sunday.

    Even setting aside the cynical (phonetic pun intended) view of the pervasive sin-nature; there still a natural desire to keep our less perfect side private. Call it “pride”, call it “modesty”, call it what you want; the reality is; it an intuitive behavior. And, I don’t think it is too far of a stretch to say it is how God created us.

    While families are a casualty of this atmosphere, in a much broader sense, the real loss is relationships. We’ve somehow lost the close brother/sister relationships that were typical of the early church, and even the church of my childhood.

    There are very few fellow parishioners I see between Sundays. And I can’t tell you the last time I got a call when I missed a Sunday.

    There was a time when the Christian fellowship (Church) took a front seat in almost all family, calendar, and social decisions. This is no longer the case in most families, nor for most Churches.

    When you are actively involved in Christian fellowship, the little things in your “brother’s” life are easily noticed and addressed. They don’t build until explosion, because the closeness makes that sort of obliviousness too dangerous to both the greater good, and (of course) them/ourselves.

    It is only when a relationship is deep and meaningful, that truth is be freely exchanged. Unconditional love, a natural result of such inter-twinned Christ-centered relationships, is a foundation that Paul seems to have taken for granted when he gave the instructions you referenced.

    Family is, at it’s heart, nothing more than a formal relationship. It, like any other fellowship, must but be actively forged and constantly re-enforced through acts of unconditional love and done so intentionally.

    In my opinion, it is only when our Christian Fellowship regains its role of dominance in our life, will we see a reversal in a trend of cheapened, disposable relationships of all kinds–including family.

    That’s my two cents.

  3. All right, you’ve pulled me in. My wife and I attended a marriage conference by Dan Allender two years ago and it absolutely changed our lives. I thought we were doing pretty well in our marriage, but boy did I ever find out that wasn’t true. How did that happen? Well, we marched into what Dan calls the “DMZ’s”, the demilitarized zones, which are those areas we purposely avoid because we know they are too hard and too explosive. We sweep those under the rug and just go on. This goes along with your second and third point. So what did we do? Melissa and I and a small group of friends decided to go into those places as couples and we had each other as support. We agreed to keep it real, keep it honest, and keep it focused (no passing blame or accusing someone else). It was butt UGLY. My wife whipped the fire out of me. She discovered her voice and she used it quite well to bring up things that were holding us back. I walked around like I had been beaten with a stick for a week. But you know what? God came and met with me and showed me she was right and that to know Him better, I needed to deal with the things she spoke about. Now our marriage is incredible. Church should work the same way. God is looking for us to drop our masks. Our masks are what are keeping us from seeing the love in His eyes that can heal us and set us free. We are made to live as the person God made us to be and honor others for what God made them to be. For example I disagree that we are made to hide the less attractive things in our life. God’s way of dealing with issues are to get them in the light. Light conquers darkness without argument every single time. But even though I disagree with something that a brother has said, I don’t shun him. There are ways of being real and being honest without being rude. As the church it is time to discover what I would call “the culture of honor” where we allow people to be who they are (who God created them to be), not just who we think they should be. I’ve gone too long.

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