Being Salt and Light in Your Church

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because a couple goes to church they have great a marriage.

Two couples

This is the third part in my series on how your marriage can be “salt and light” to those around you, in accordance with Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:13-14. You might want to check out Part 1 and part 2 as well.

Today I’m talking about being salt and light to the other couples in your church.

Don’t Assume

Do you assume that couples in your church know what a biblical marriage looks like?  Fewer than you think actually understand the depths to which marriage is meant to be passionate, intimate, selfless, exciting and enduring. Very few probably know the extent to which God is pro-marriage, pro-intimacy, and pro-sex.

Sadly, too many would probably describe biblical marriage with rules like “don’t get divorced” and “don’t have sex outside of marriage” and “pray together every day.” Sadder still, and maybe because of a lack of understanding of what marriage is really about, the divorce rate among “nominal” Christians is actually 20% higher than those with no religious affiliation.[1]

Christian World View of Marriage

Os Hillman, who I quoted in my first Salt and Light post, explains further our misplaced expectations of the media’s world view this way:

It is unrealistic for Christians to think the national media will report without their worldview eventually showing up in their reporting. The only way to change this is to impact the individual who will then adopt a Christian worldview. Sadly though, less than 19% of the Christian population has a Christian worldview. So, how can we expect the media to have a Christian worldview if we in the Body of Christ do not even have one? We are losing the culture both within the Christian community and outside the Christian community.

I don’t know where his 19% number comes from or whether it’s accurate, but my experience has been that there is certainly not a widespread understanding among Christians of what it means to have a thriving biblical marriage.

Trumpeting the good news of God’s great plan for marriage is the main reason I do what I do here.

Who Owns This Problem?

I’ve said for a long time that Christians should have the most amazing marriages. We have the secret! We know the One who designed it! Yet the contrast between the church and the world is not what it should be.

Barna Research’s Project Director Meg Flammang said of their findings on divorce statistics: “We would love to be able to report that Christians are living very distinct lives and impacting the community, but … in the area of divorce rates they continue to be the same.” Truthfully, the Barna data is misleading in that it doesn’t distinguish between those who are actively practicing their faith and those who simply report themselves as believers, which does make a significant difference in the statistics.

However, I stand by my contention that there isn’t a big enough distinction between marriages inside and outside the church.

One reason is that most churches focus a lot more on pre-marital counseling and divorce intervention for marriages in crises than they do on strengthening “average” marriages. This is supported by a recent survey conducted by fellow marriage blogger at Mission Husband.  Gerald writes:

For the most part, most of this survey turned out like I had assumed it would. Sadly, I think ministry to “normal marriages” in the church (ie ones that aren’t falling apart yet) is for the most part coming up very short in most of our churches. From: “The Church and Marriage; Are we doing enough?”

So whose job is it to get those in the church to take marriages to the next level? Pastors? Church leadership? Christian marriage counselors? No! It’s our job, yours and mine. It’s up to everyday believers like you and me, who know and want to share about God’s design for marriage.

But What Can I Do?

The 2011 State of Our Unions report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia offers some insight into this question. They report that:

Husbands and wives with high levels of social support for their marriage are at least 23 percentage points more likely to report that they are very happy, or almost 50 percent more likely to be very happy in their marriages, when family and friends are invested in their marriages. Moreover, a high level of support from family and friends is one of the top five predictors of marital quality and stability for married mothers in this study.

Simply stated, you can make a huge impact on other marriages simply by providing marital support to your friends. Here a few ideas on how you can impact the marriages immediately around you in your own church.

  • Start a marriage small group in your church (or join one).
  • Set up a date night babysitting exchange for couples with young kids.
  • If your marriage is struggling, find and befriend some couples whose marriages you admire.
  • If you have a strong marriage, get together with some couples you think could benefit from your experience.
  • Ask your church to plan a marriage-building retreat into next year’s calendar and budget.
  • Offer to lead your church’s participation in this year’s National Marriage Week events this coming February 7-14.

What do you say? Are you ready to get engaged for the sake of the marriages around you? Do you have some more ideas on what we can do in our local churches to strengthen “normal” marriages? What have you already done or are you doing? Share your thoughts below!

Let Your (Marriage) Light Shine

Are you hiding your marriage under a bushel basket or putting it out on a stand for all to see?

Shine

Nothing promotes marriage like great marriages!

What is a Great Marriage?

There is an important distinction between a “great marriage” and a “perfect marriage.”

We need to be genuine and real about our marriages. Being salt and light is not a matter of pretending to have the perfect marriage (such a thing doesn’t exist anyway). A great marriage is one with the same real struggles and problems that all marriages face, but one that comes through it all stronger and closer than ever.

Being salt and light, as Jesus said we are to be, takes more than simply having a great marriage. It involves helping others to have great marriages too. It means letting your marriage light shine.

Helping build great marriages is not just the job of pastors and church leaders. It’s not just the job of marriage counselors. It’s not even just the job of marriage bloggers. It’s the job of the church. That’s you and me. That’s everyone.

Promote (Your) Marriage

Part of being salt and light in the marriage context means promoting your own marriage.

Here is a question I posted a while back: “What are you doing on a regular basis to demonstrate how important your own marriage is to your life, to the fulfillment of your hopes and dreams, and to your daily happiness?”

If I were to ask your friends and co-workers how important your marriage is to you or how happily married you are, what would they say? Stop and think about the image of your marriage that you are projecting.

Don’t misunderstand me, promoting your marriage doesn’t mean being boastful or arrogant. It just means you should not hesitate to make it known how important your marriage is and how much your spouse adds to to your life.

Here are some examples I gave previously:

  • Don’t hold back from saying “I love you” or using other words of affection to your spouse when you are talking to them on the phone when others might overhear.
  • Tell your friends about great date spots you and your spouse have found. Mention how important it is to you that you have regular date nights and alone time together.
  • In an appropriate setting, re-tell something special or thoughtful your husband or wife has done for you recently.
  • Hold hands in public. Depending on your comfort level with PDA, even hold each other and/or kiss in public.
  • If you see an obviously happy couple, don’t deride them to your friends but praise them. ”Isn’t it great to see such a strong and happy marriage.”
  • Never tear down your spouse in front of your friends. Rather, praise him or her and express thankfulness for marriage and your spouse. Be generous with positive words.

Promote your own marriage. Brag on your spouse. Let people know how great it is to be married. When you do these things, you are casting a positive marriage light to those around you. I believe great marriage are contagious.

I’m sure you can think of more ways to promote your marriage. Let’s hear them!

 

Image credit: siwasasil /123rf.com

Is Your Marriage Salty?

Reclaiming marriage from the culture starts with your very own marriage.

Salt of the earth

There is no doubt that the enemy has had his sights on the media and entertainment world for a long time. These are two of what Os Hillman calls “The Seven Mountains of Influence.” Especially for young people, these are huge influences in our culture.

So when I first started preparing for this post, I gathered a bunch of blatantly anti-biblical, marriage-maligning examples from today’s media and entertainment industries. It was easy to find tons of atrocious examples of such shows and movies. For example, the new TV show, “The New Normal” advertises itself this way: “Two gay dads and a baby mama create a totally new kind of family comedy.” Family Comedy? Normal? Really?

Suffice it to say that examples like this are everywhere.

But then I came across an article by Os Hillman that struck me rather dramatically.  His article opens with this thought:

Christianity has become a sub-culture that is more known by what we don’t like than what we believe. In the eyes of the secular world we have become a right wing political action group instead of a loving, caring Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our message has been shut out because of the way of the messenger. We still have the right message, but we have failed to deliver it in a manner consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus modeled love and mercy and sought to change the hearts of people before He expected to see change in their behavior. Few people are attracted to Christ through a boycott.

That’s a pretty stinging indictment, and it really convicted me. Protests, boycotts and even blog posts filled with outrage will do little to reclaim our culture.  So, I decided there is little point in me writing a rant against today’s movies, TV shows and music. For the most part I’d be preaching to the choir anyway.

So What Do We Do?

I’m calling you to consider a different kind of action: be salt and light. That’s what Jesus calls us to be. In Matthew 5:13-14 He put it this way:

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.  Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.”

I don’t mind if you feel compelled to write letters of objection to networks or to boycott advertisers of certain shows that you find offensive. Do what you feel is right. But I agree with Os, these actions will do little to actually change the hearts and minds in our culture.

And it’s hearts and minds that God is after. When hearts and minds are changed, behavior follows. That’s the way Jesus did it where he walked here on earth.

Start with Your Own Marriage!

First and foremost being salt and light for marriage starts by you having a great marriage yourself.

Nothing promotes marriage like terrific marriages!
So here are a few of my thoughts on how to counter the media’s negative marriage messages with your own marriage:

  • Know what you believe about marriage and why. Explore the fantastic biblical truths about marriage how God designed it to work. Read the Bible. Read what trusted authors and scholars have to say. Talk about it with your spouse. (My own “What I Believe About Marriage” series starts here.)
  • Make your marriage a priority. Invest in your marriage with your time, attention and energy. No more giving your spouse and your marriage the leftovers after you’ve invested yourself in everything else.
  • Be rooted and grounded in love. Ephesians 3 tells us that knowing the Love of Christ is the key to fullness in God. It’s also the key to fullness in marriage. You cannot fully know how to love your husband or wife if you do not know the love of Jesus. And “know” in this verse means an experiential knowledge, not head knowledge.

This isn’t exactly the post I thought I would write concerning the media and entertainment – and probably not what you expected from the headline.  Still, I’m absolutely convinced that the best way to counter the media’s negative messages concerning marriage is to have an overwhelming number of great marriages as a shining example of what marriage can be like.

What do you think it means to be “salt and light” with your marriage?

Image credit: reich / 123RF Stock Photo

Married 30 Years Today

Today, my one true love and I celebrate 30 years of marriage!

 

That’s a bit of a mind-boggling number because in some ways the marriage journey that Jenni and I have traveled together has flown by. In other ways, I feel like we’ve earned every one of those 30 years.

What’s Our Secret?

It’s hard to point to a single thing that I would say is THE key to keeping your marriage strong and healthy, because a great marriage takes time and attention to a lot of little things every day. But if I had to pick one thing, it would be Jesus. He is the foundation of our marriage and our example of relentless love and grace. It is the love he displays for his bride (that’s you and me, by the way) that has taught me most about how to love my bride. It’s what I refer to as the bridal paradigm.

If you want to know more of our “secrets” to a long, happy marriage, I have a new article up on Your Tango called “Why After 30 Years Of Marriage, The Best Is Yet To Come.” It talks about the importance of always believing that the best years of your marriage are still ahead of you.

If you want to know a bit more about our history, which started way back when Jenni and I met in sixth grade, you can read it in the post called “Our Love Story.”

Let me close by saying a public thank you to the love of my life.

Sweetheart,

I am so thankful for you and for our marriage. I can honestly say that I could not be the man I am today without your love, encouragement, support and patience. You bless me more than I can possibly describe. You still capture my heart with one glance of your eye.

Here’s to another 30! The best is yet to come!

3 Rules of Happiness in Marriage

Happiness is a by-product of a great marriage, not the main goal. 

Happiness in Marriage

I’ve pondered before whether or not happiness is really the right goal for marriage. Lately, I’ve been rethinking the whole question of happiness. I’d like to share my thoughts and get yours.

The following three statements, which may seem at first blush to conflict with each other, are the three happiness axioms I’ve landed on:

  • The primary purpose of your marriage isn’t to make you happy
  • You need to take responsibility for your own happiness
  • Love and serve your spouse as if their happiness depended on you

Happiness Defined

What does it mean to be happy? Truthfully, for some reason I’ve never much liked that word; it has always seemed a bit shallow to me. I’ve typically thought of happiness as being controlled by external circumstances and therefore fickle and fleeting. I know, I’m weird like that.

But the dictionary says that to be happy is to be “delighted, pleased, or glad” over something or someone. Happiness is “characterized by pleasure, contentment, or joy” in response to the things going on around you. These actually all sound like pretty good things.

Goal vs. By-product

So after some consideration, I’ve resolved in my mind that happiness isn’t a bad thing at all, but I still don’t believe that we should look at marriage as primarily about our personal degree of happiness.

To me, happiness is still best viewed as a by-product rather than a goal. A relationship that has personal happiness as its main goal is going to miss some deeper things that underlie a long-lasting marriage. Selflessness, surrender, intimacy, joy, peace, and holiness all come to mind as worthy goals but are things that also tend produce happiness as a result.

I Am Responsible For Me

I’ve often heard folks blame their spouse for their unhappiness. I’ve heard it used as a reason for divorce. I’ve heard it used to defend some pretty cruel behavior. “I deserve to be happy” is the common mantra.

That doesn’t cut it with me.

I have learned over time that I can’t hold my wife accountable for my happiness. I have to place the burden of my happiness squarely on my own shoulders and own up to the fact that if I’m unhappy, I’m the one that has to do something about it. It’s my choice. My happiness is my responsibility.

I Take Responsibility for You

By extension, then, my wife is also responsible for her own happiness.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I should act that way. Instead, I should purposefully try to make her happy, as best as I know how. I should love her, serve her, lead her and cherish her in ways I know delight her.

Her happiness should be important to me because we are one, and I get to share in any happiness I bring to her life. How cool is that? Why wouldn’t I want to make her happy?

Our Ultimate Source of Happiness

Both my wife and I know that ultimately God is our only reliable source of happiness.

We find in Jesus all the things that make marriages truly happy and enduring: selflessness, surrender, strength, intimacy, joy, peace and holiness. All these he makes available to us and to our marriages.

So next time you are feeling unhappy with your spouse or with your marriage, realize that you have the power to choose happiness, regardless of what your spouse does or doesn’t do. Realize that love, joy, and peace can all be yours by the Holy Spirit. Then turn things around and choose to do something purposefully just to make your spouse happy. I think you’ll be amazed at the good fruit it produces.

 

Happiness in Reverse

I shared this TEDtalk with our small group a few weeks ago (thanks to The Generous Husband). It’s a compelling and humorous case for the fact that we often look to outcomes in order to gain happiness. We say things like “If I work at it then my marriage will get better. And when my marriage gets better, then I’ll be happy.” But that is actually backward.

Direct TEDTalk Link

Shawn Achor makes the case that by choosing to be happy now, we actually stand a better chance of having a better marriage. Fascinating concept. I like it.


What’s do you think of my three axioms of happiness in marriage?

  • The primary purpose of your marriage isn’t to make you happy
  • You need to take responsibility for your own happiness
  • Love and serve your spouse as if their happiness depended on you