By Dave Willis
I recently sat down with a young couple in my office at church. They have been attending for a few months and the military moved them to our area, so they don’t have any family support system here locally. Our church is the only local family they have.
As we began our meeting, the wife started crying almost immediately. The stresses and strains of the move had taken their toll on this young family. The husband’s long hours and stressful new responsibilities had only increased the tension at home. They both needed the marriage to be a source of strength and encouragement during this difficult time, but the foundation of their marriage felt like it was crumbling.
The husband and wife were each dealing with the stress in their own ways. They weren’t communicating with each other. They weren’t supporting each other. They were drifting further apart instead of facing their struggles hand-in-hand and side-by-side. They desperately wanted to make the marriage work, but they weren’t sure where or how to begin.
I prayed with them and reminded them that with Christ as their foundation, they would weather any storm. I told them that they didn’t need to face their challenges alone. God calls us to carry each other’s burdens and to find healing and support within Biblical community. I gave them some resources to help them start renewing their relationship and connected them into a small group where they could find friendship, mentorship and practical support to help them through this challenging season. I recommended a good Christian counselor who could provide ongoing support and guidance. Over time, their marriage experienced healing and transformation.
Each week, countless couples walk into our churches. Many of these couples appear to have everything together, but behind those smiles often hides a different reality. So many marriages are hurting. Our churches need to be a place where broken marriages can be healed and strong marriages can grow even stronger.
As a pastor and the founder of a marriage ministry, I’ve had thousands of interactions with married couples from all over the world. Many of these interactions have taken place in our church, but countless more have taken place online with people desperate for help who feel they have nowhere else to turn.
These interactions have taught me a few things about the current state of marriages. First of all, I’ve learned that all married couples need encouragement and practical tools to help them. Second, I’ve observed that most married couples don’t know where to go to get the help they need. Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), I’ve realized that churches should be a huge part of the solution to solve the modern marriage crisis; but sadly, most churches don’t know where to start.
I believe creating and cultivating a church that champions healthy marriages is one of the most practical investments of time and resources a church could make.
There are several reasons why churches need to do more to build strong marriages, and here are three of the most important factors:
1. Marriage, by God’s design, is the foundation of the family
Building stronger marriages will lead to stronger families which creates stronger churches, which creates stronger communities, which creates a better world. Marriage is uniquely and sacredly designed to display God’s kingdom on earth. When marriages improve, nearly everything else improves as a result. When marriages are hurting, nearly everything else suffers as a result.
2. Marriage Ministry is effective outreach and evangelistic, because marriage is one of the few areas where even those outside the church are willing to listen to what the church has to say about it
Through our online ministry we’ve found that many unchurched couples are willing to attend a church if that church can provide practical help for their marriage. When we’ve done sermon series or conferences around marriage, we’ve always seen a boost in attendance and many first-time guests.
3. If people don’t get answers about marriage from the church, they’ll get answers from the culture (which is why so many marriages struggle)
It’s our sacred responsibility as followers of Christ and ministers of the gospel to lift up the value of a Christ-centered marriage. We must teach our congregations how to make their marriages all God wants them to be.
Dave and Ashley Willis are the founders of StrongerMarriages.org which reaches more than one million readers monthly. They live with their four young sons near Augusta, GA where Dave serves as a pastor at Stevens Creek Church. For additional resources, please visit DaveWillis.org.