Instinctively when you hold your first born child you immediately realize 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 twenty 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.
Thank you for the many hours you have invested in birthing marriages, offered premarital counseling and helped to save marriages that could be saved. You have both the scars and joys shepherds accrue in having a family full of marriage from every level of depth.
I’d like to take a few moments to help you help those you love. Healthy marriages are the greatest asset in God’s family and your local ministry.
The scripture states in Hosea 4:6 that my people perish for a lack of knowledge. There isn’t anyone who could argue that an intact marriage has diminished some in the Christian community regardless of denomination.
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 and 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 (Discovery Press, 2011), 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 marriage. This trinity on earth is most like heaven; three beings unity, serving and loving each other.
My marriage to Lisa is a miracle; God did it, not me. God created marriage not man or woman. 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 of marriage.
I am surprised as I travel and speak at marriage, men’s, women’s, singles, and pastor 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 its truly heartbreaking. Most families have guidelines for dating, I do for my daughter and son, and most 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 helps is when a couple decides to date, that they have an accountability couple. This couple meets twice a month to renew physical boundaries to make sure the couple is staying accountable to reach their goals of sexual purity. Couples with accountability during conception and the trimesters of their future marriage do much better. 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 the couple 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 the marriage is forming its ideas around sex, money, church attendance, future children, work, tithing, savings, dating, and many other large ideas. Having mentor couples to intentionally help the first year marriage helps clarify the marriage’s values and manages conflict which can grow this miracle toward adulthood and reach the goal of death do us part.
Many churches are good about the inoculating of current marriages. This is your marriage retreats, weekends or marriage classes. These are all great; I would just say make sure that these events are more practical and just someone speaking about marriage. I like couples to walk out with real tools that they used in the conference to help them have a better marriage months and years down the road.
Threats to marriage are significant for today’s couples. Never before have the miracles of our triune marriage been so under attack. The following are some of the major battle fronts I see facing the marriages in your flock or ministry.
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 fourteen to twenty eight hours a week or over one hundred hours a month in front of secular media.
This wasted time leaves them too tired to read their Bible, 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 ancestry of Christian couples often limits their spiritual gifts and ministries and today we need every gift and ministry active to advance the kingdom of God.
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. Pornography is one of the leading causes of divorce today. During my Sex, Men and God conferences, more than half of the men attending will admit to being addicted (not struggling) with porn or sex addiction.
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 be benefited by your leadership in this area. I speak at pastor’s conferences and get welcomed into the marriage ministry of Jesus Christ. Every Christian is a sexual being. We either proactively shepherd our sexual flock or we will continue to have the causality of more marriages damaged by pornography and sexual addiction.
These issues are not just men’s issue either. Christian women are looking at porn in record numbers as well as getting involved in sexual relationships through Facebook and other social 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 half tribes that crossed over the Jordan to fight for their brothers for their 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 them 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 on Thursday 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 started support groups for male addicts and a group for wives of these men.
Your church and your community can really use a Freedom Group and a Partner’s Group to help them heal. In these groups they check in with each other for accountability, work through structured materials (101 Freedom Exercises, Discovery Press, 2009 and Steps to Freedom, Discovery Press, 2008), check in with each other during the week, 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 and have some freedom and a heart to see men free. They are other women who have been through this pain who also have 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.
For the twenty years I have seen the miracle of healing for the person, 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 the enemy has marked to murder.
I say murder because I believe a marriage is a living triune being designed in God’s image. We are not talking about divorce; we are talking murder of God’s creation. This view of marriage allows the protector in me to stay motivated to keep marriage alive and vibrant.
As you sit in your office again with another struggling Christian couple you may be trying to discern what is creating the noise in this 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, a 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 can be stuck anger, unforgiveness, or just more pain still surrounding this issue. The person telling their story to you will have 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 has 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 which I call, secrets.” Secrets can be about what the spouse has done that they have yet to be honest about. Generally one spouse will feel that the other isn’t being honest about something, even though they deny 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.
A long time ago the Lord showed me in Numbers 5, about a man accusing his wife of infidelity. He took her to the priest where 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 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 this spouse 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. The truth does set us free. I have seen countless marriages saved by polygraphs and in some cases they take ongoing polygraphs to verify the cancer of adultery or pornography has stayed in remission.
You are a leader and marriages in your church or ministry are severely being marked for murder. I hope that you find all the articles provided here in some manner helpful for you to become more equipped in this specific area of ministry.
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 a pastor who have bore witness to someone’s ministry and gave them opportunity and encouragement.
You are the Father’s voice in so many ways. I hope you can continue to lead and inspire others to enjoy their miracle of marriage.
Douglas Weiss, Ph.D. is the author of The Miracle of Marriage, Psychologist and Conference Speaker. You may find him at www.drdougweiss.com
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