Helping build strong marriages begins with recognizing their unique place in God’s creation
When you hold your first-born child, you immediately recognize two things. First, you realize that you are holding a miracle you did not create—but God did. Secondly, you are keenly aware that this miracle needs to be protected by you.
I have been counseling couples for more than 20 years, and I am well aware that just as each child is created by God and needs to be protected, equally so does each marriage. As the shepherd of a flock, be it a church or ministry, you are the protector for the marriages in your congregations and ministries.
Thank you for the many hours that you have invested in birthing marriages, offered premarital counseling and helped to save struggling couples. You have both the scars and joys shepherds accrue in having a family full of marriage from every level of depth.
Healthy marriages are the greatest asset in God’s family and your local ministry. The Scripture states in Hosea 4:6 that “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.”
Helping Those You Shepherd
I remember the media asking one of the most bizarre questions in American history a few years back: “Is marriage defined between a man and a woman?” Christian leaders from all over jumped in. Yet I believe they were still using secular definitions of marriage to answer a biblical issue when they said marriage is between a man and a woman.
Most secularists believe marriage is between man and a woman. They also believe it’s something two people do together. Biblically, marriage was never between a man and a woman. Marriage from a biblical perspective is between God, man and woman. Marriage is something God does; He created us to become one flesh.
In my new book The Miracle of Marriage, I go into great detail explaining that God created man, then woman, and then He made His final creation in the garden, His masterpiece—marriage. Marriage is the final act of creation, not woman.
God was creating us in His triune image. Understanding that there is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He also created a trinity on earth, man, woman and Himself. This earthly
trinity can multiply.
I think this earthly trinity is why the devil despises Christian marriages. This trinity on earth is most like heaven; three beings in unity, serving and loving each other. My marriage to my wife, Lisa, is a miracle. God did it, not me. God—not man or woman—
created marriage. This understanding of marriage makes it much more
God-focused than just between man and woman.
Marriage is just like that baby that we were talking about earlier. Protecting it often starts before birth. The mother exercises, eats better and takes all those vitamins.
A marriage is conceived while two young people are dating or
courting. Most churches are not
proactive in helping this future marriage start off in the best manner during its conception.
‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
I am surprised as I travel and speak at marriage, men’s, women’s, singles’ and pastors’ conferences that really few churches have clear expectations, boundaries and guidelines for dating/courting couples. Most churches have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for dating couples. So many sheep get damaged in this process of Christian dating and it is truly heartbreaking.
Most families have guidelines for dating. I do for my daughter and son, and some of you do as well, but church families handle this conception stage less than wonderfully. If you want a copy of the individual church dating policy for couples, send me an email, and I will email it to you for free.
One thing I believe that helps is that when a couple decides to date, they have an accountability couple. This couple meets twice a month to renew physical boundaries to make sure the courting couple is staying accountable to their goals of sexual purity. Couples with accountability during conception do much better during the trimesters of their future marriage. Many churches have a type of premarital counseling. As a leader, be clear on what the goals are. I would recommend some personality and relationship testing to give couples helpful information before they marry.
Most churches are awesome at the birthing stage of marriage. Seminaries are good at preparing us for this. Here, everyone is happy and celebrates the miracle of marriage. The first year of marriage is when couples are forming their ideas about sex, money, church attendance, children, work, tithing and many other large ideas. Having mentor couples intentionally help the first year of marriage helps clarify values and manage conflict, which can grow this miracle towards adulthood and reach the goal of until death do us part.
Many churches are good about the inoculating of marriages. This is your marriage retreats and weekends, as well as marriage classes. These are all great, but I would make sure that these events are more practical rather than just someone speaking about marriage.
I like couples to walk out with real tools that they learned in the conference I participate in to help them have a better marriage months and years down the road.
Threats to marriage are significant for today’s couples. Never before has the miracle of our triune marriage been so under attack. There are some major battlefronts facing the
marriages in your flock or ministry.
First, there’s the media. I believe media evaporates more of the church’s time than anything in world history. I am surprised when I ask Christian couples how often they watch television or sit in front of their computer for entertainment. It’s not uncommon for them to sit for two to four hours a day. That adds up to be 14 to 28 hours a week or more than 100 hours a month in front of secular media, a lot of it not edifying.
This wasted time leaves them too tired to read their Bibles, pray together or do active ministry. Couples subjecting themselves to watching murders, rapes, crimes, adultery and fornication many hours a week could easily experience what Lot did, a vexed soul by hearing and seeing unrighteousness. This habit limits Christian couples’ spiritual gifts and ministries during a time when we need every gift and ministry active to advance the kingdom of God.
The second is sex. In my lifetime, we went from I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners—who were filmed sleeping in different beds—to a porn store in your home called the Internet. Porn is one of the leading causes of divorce today, and Christian couples are not immune. During my Sex, Men and God conferences, more than half of the men attending will admit to sex addiction or being addicted to (not struggling with) porn.
The Cancer in Every Church
This cancer is in every local church and ministry. You can be aware of this reality or in denial, but it’s real. The marriages under your care will pay the price or benefit from your leadership in this area. We either proactively shepherd our sexual flock or we will continue to have the casualty of more marriages damaged by pornography and sexual addiction.
Because every Christian is a sexual being, these issues are not just men’s issues either. Christian women are looking at porn in record numbers as well as getting involved in sexual relationships through Facebook and other social media networks. We can no longer have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This year alone, I have had several pastors’ wives who have confessed in my office to having gone outside their marriage sexually.
Like the two and a half tribes who crossed over the Jordan to fight for their brothers’ inheritance, we must cross over from being compliant while the enemy murders Christian marriages. When I speak at men’s and women’s conferences, I train attendees to ask their spouse and same-gender friends about pornography use, self sex or sex outside of marriage.
In one church, I recommended that the women go home and ask their husbands about these behaviors. The next night, I had the men and a revival of sexual repentance occurred. This church not only had me stay over and preach five sermons, but the congregation started support groups for male addicts and a group for wives of these men.
Your church and community can really use a freedom group and partner’s group to help them heal. In these groups, sex addicts can check in with each other for accountability, work through structured materials, and get and stay free.
The antibodies for this cancer are already there. They are not staff members. They are other men who have struggles, but have experienced some freedom and have a heart to see men free. They are other women who have been through this pain and also have a heart for women living in this situation. As a leader, all you have to do is call them out. They will pastor these hurting people and even better, people get saved in these ministries.
Helping Them Heal
For the past 20 years, I have seen the miracle of healing for the addict, the spouse and families ravished by pornography and sexual addiction. I am a local church man and believe the local church can shine by healing marriages, which the enemy has marked to murder. I say murder because I believe every marriage is a living triune being designed in God’s image. I am not talking about divorce, but murder of God’s creation. This view of marriage allows the protector in me to stay motivated to keep marriage alive and vibrant.
The last major battlefront is the past. As you sit in your office again with another struggling Christian couple, you may be trying to discern what is creating the noise in their marriage. You go through some of the “he said, she said,” but something just doesn’t add up. Then the Holy Spirit (the real counselor) tells you to ask one or both of them a question. The question leads to the past. The past may have been a story of abandonment, physical or sexual abuse, rape, controlling parents, or many other of the sad stories that you regularly hear.
The fact is that the past, whether it’s abuse, family of origin issues or a previous marriage, has not been appropriately or honestly dealt with. There could be anger, unforgiveness or just more pain still surrounding this issue. The person telling their story to you will need a journey of trauma work, counseling or other processes you may have found helpful when counseling others.
There are several ministries like Cleansing Streams, where people in a local church intentionally address issues from the past. I believe the community and the church have hurting people who could greatly utilize these types of ministries to help heal, and as a result have better marriages.
You will also run into a second issue when dealing with people’s pasts—secrets. Secrets can be about what the spouse has done that he or she has yet to be honest about. Generally, one spouse will feel that the other isn’t being honest about something. Even though he or she denies this, there is unrest and noise in the marriage. This can be frustrating. Who do you believe? You’re trying to discern and put the pressure on for one to come clean or the other to believe the best. This goes up a notch when the accusation is about infidelity.
The Truth Sets Us Free
A long time ago, the Lord showed me the story in Numbers 5 about a man accusing his wife of infidelity. He took her to the priest, and then she would drink water with some temple dust in it to decide if she was being honest.
Today when people fly in for a three-day intensive session with me, I don’t have them drink anything in order to get the truth. Instead, we offer the accused the opportunity to take a polygraph. Just giving them this opportunity tells the other spouse quite a bit. If they refuse or make excuses, the spouse and I both know that the accused is most likely hiding something. In my experience, I have never had someone object who didn’t have something to hide when they took the polygraph.
I have also seen accusations totally stop if the accused is actually innocent. This is a wow for everybody. I have seen countless marriages saved by polygraphs. In some cases, they take ongoing polygraphs to verify the cancer of adultery or pornography has stayed in remission. The truth does set us free.
The marriages in your church and ministry are severely being marked for murder, but God wants you to become more equipped in this critical area of His kingdom.
I realize ministry is so multifaceted, and your time is limited. You don’t have to tackle marriage ministry by yourself. The best marriage ministries I have seen are led by those who witnessed someone’s effective ministry, and gave them opportunity and encouragement.
You are God the Father’s voice in so many ways. I hope you can continue to lead and inspire others to enjoy their miracle of marriage.
About Our Guest Editor...
Want to Hear More froM Dr. Doug Weiss?
Catch him during the next ‘Ministry Today’ conference call
Dr. Doug Weiss is the guest on the Ministry Today/Ministry21 Network’s conference call in November. Join us for an hour of interesting conversation with the nationally known Christian counselor on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT and 1 p.m. PDT. Here is the call information: Dial-in number (712) 432-1001; access code: 465167955#. Listen in as we to talk to Dr. Weiss about strengthening marriage.
You will also want to call for our December discussion when we talk to pastor and marriage expert Jimmy Evans, who wrote about avoiding the traps of ministry marriages in this issue of Ministry Today. Jimmy has served as the senior leader of 10,000-plus strong Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, Texas for the past 29 years. He is also the founder and CEO of Marriage Today, a ministry that is devoted to helping couples build strong and fulfilling marriages and families.
Listen in as we to talk Jimmy on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT and 1 p.m. PDT. Dial-in number (712) 432-1001; access code: 467245262#.