Tag Archives: Marriage

Focusing on the family doesn’t help the church… nor the family

The other day I read something that said, “Our churches need to realize how essential strong families are to the church.” I couldn’t help but thinking, “In this country, I think it’s the other way around.”

I won’t say that James Dobson started the family-centered trend, but his Focus on the Family ministry certainly brought families to the forefront in our churches. Now churches are focused on how to cater to families. Parenting classes. Marital workshops.

Far too often, our children grow up with a church focused around them. Children’s church so they don’t get bored. Youth ministry designed to keep them entertained. Campus ministry that isn’t designed for discipling, just a desperate effort to somehow keep our kids going to church once they leave home.

Family focus has led us to value youth sports over church attendance, family meals over pot lucks, school plays over midweek gatherings. If we find time in the midst of all of our family activities, we’ll go to church. If not, well… family is the most important, right?

Our families need to understand that they need the support of a strong church to grow as they should. If we want to build our families, let’s do so through building our churches.

Want strong families? Teach people to be like Jesus. Want good parent-child relationships? Let them bond through serving other people.

A few writers these days are speaking about the idolatry of families. I think we need to recognize that danger. Our children need to know that God is the most important in our lives. We communicate that with our words, but also with a thousand small decisions we make along the way.

Yes, there are ways of “doing church” that end up hurting the family. But healthy Christian discipleship builds families. Worshiping God together bonds a family. Christian service unifies our homes.

And let me say that I think there is a lot of good in marital workshops, parenting classes, youth ministries, and children’s church. But they can’t be pop psychology with a little Bible thrown in. They need to have a Bible focus, a God emphasis, and the goal of making these families part of a strong church.

Focusing on the church won’t always produce a perfect family. But focusing on the family above the church will almost always yield a dysfunctional faith. Which will eventually produce dysfunction in the family.

The next time I’m invited to speak about families or marriage or parenting, I’m going to go tell people that they need to be more like Jesus. That’s the focus I think families need.

Marriage Inside Out

blog tour
CIOTo promote this year’s Summer Blog Tour, we’re giving away one set of Church Inside Out, both book and workbook. Just leave a comment below then enter over HERE.

Richard May continues our blog tour today:


The years that our marriage was a disaster, each of us believed that a change in behavior or attitude of the other person was the key to our happier future. At some points we could have said that the change in the other person was the key to our future relationship status. We were thinking Outside-In. We nearly divorced.

She had a list of things that needed to change about him. He needed to be more organized, dead-line efficient, trustworthy and connected. That’s the short list. Since she is a nurse, she had a care-plan for each of her marital health goals and she was determined that he would be a compliant patient.

He had only one thing on his list of things she needed to change. She needed to quit being so negative about all those things she wanted to change about him. By the time the worst came, he lost hope in her ever being more positive; the marital health would increase exponentially, he conceded, if she would just be less negative.

Paul’s instructions to wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves and masters in the Letter to the Colossians begins with this: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (3:17).

The pursuit of a whole, healthy, holy relationship begins, not with the adjustments of a spouse, but with the commitment to a mindset; the mindset that everything done will be done because Jesus wants it done. Any growth starts inside the mind and heart of a husband or wife. Moreover, since the motivation is about what Jesus wants, then, no less-than-desirable response from the other spouse changes the behavior. After all, it’s not about them; it’s about Jesus.

Someone asked leadership guru Zig Ziglar about marrying the wrong person and he replied with this:

“I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person, but I do know that many people have a lot of wrong ideas about marriage and what it takes to make that marriage happy and successful. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible that you did marry the wrong person. However, if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. On the other hand, if you marry the right person, and treat that person wrong, you certainly will have ended up marrying the wrong person. I also know that it is far more important to be the right person than it is to marry the right person. In short, whether you married the right or wrong person is primarily up to you.”

Choose your mindset. Your mindset will guide your behavior and that will create renewed feelings about your spouse and your marriage.

We tried the experiment of developing a strong relationship by getting the other spouse to behave like we wanted. It was a failed experiment. It was an outside-in attempt. Start in your mind and heart. Decide you will be who you ought to be regardless of the behavior of your spouse. For us, “being the right person” means doing what Jesus wants. Do everything, including marriage, in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father.

That’s an Inside-Out marriage.

08 Richard May - picRichard May and his wife JeannaLynn together run WGHJ Ministries: a full-service, spiritually focused marriage mission center with international impact by coaching couples, supporting couples in ministry, and providing marriage related resources for churches, universities, organizations, and communities. You can get more information on their website: www.WGHJministries.com; or follow their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WGHJMinistries.

Coffee and headship

Coffee ServiceWhen I get up in the morning, I make coffee. It reminds me who I am.

I’m not talking about the need for a caffeine fix. A lot of times the coffee sits around over an hour before I drink any. Caffeine doesn’t particularly wake me up. I don’t drink coffee as a drug.

But I prepare coffee for my wife. And I wait to drink it with her. I get out two mugs that match. Not the same mugs every day, but I want our mugs to be the same.

Most of our mugs have been in our home for a decade or two, so they show some wear and tear. I pick out the better of the two mugs and use that for my wife’s coffee.

Most of the time, I prepare both cups and serve her hers, putting in the sweetener and milk that she uses.

So hooray. I do a chore around the house. Am I looking for a medal?

No, it’s not about that. This little morning ritual reminds me who I am. I take seriously what the Bible says about me being the head of my family. (Feel free to argue about whether head means “source” or “leader” or whatever you choose) As head, from what I read in Ephesians 5, I’m called on to do several specific things.

  • I’m to love my wife (and family)
  • I’m to serve her
  • I’m to sacrifice for her

To me that’s what it means for me to be the head of my family. And making coffee in the morning reminds me of that.

Image from MorgueFile.com

Building the church by building our families

weddingOn October 7, I published ten affirmations about marriage. Since then, we’ve been looking at the ten. Here’s the last:

Our church needs strong, healthy marriages.

Some people rankle at the idea that the church needs anything. Christ built and sustains the church. Does the church really need humans?

I understand that line of reasoning. I even agree with some of the sentiment. But I also know that God expects us to do our part to see help the church grow. (Ephesians 4:16) And a bit part of that is helping our families, our marriages, be strong.

There have been cultural shifts that have damaged marriage. The sexual revolution, from birth control pills to changing moral values, was in many ways an assault on the family. Marriage became optional. Divorce became acceptable. Children were seen as a hindrance to career and freedom. Sexual identity became a sea of confusion.

Some speak of restoring traditional values. I prefer to speak of restoring godly values. The church needs to focus on the home, building marriages and strengthening families. We need to enunciate our belief that families matter, that building a home is our highest priority. We need strong, healthy marriages.

Affirmation #10: Our church needs strong, healthy marriages.

Speaking words of grace to those who have divorced

weddingThe ninth of ten affirmations about marriage is this:
God hates divorce; God loves divorced people.

Yesterday we talked about recovering the first part of that statement, of proclaiming and living as a church the fact that divorce goes against what God wants. Today I want to reflect some on the second part of the statement: God loves divorced people.

It’s not easy to combat divorce without communicating some sort of assault on those who are divorced. We need to remember that those people have not removed themselves from the reach of God’s love. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin. Even a divorce that was carried out in a sinful manner can still be forgiven by God.

This isn’t the post where I look at all the ins and outs of divorce and remarriage. I may do that someday, but today isn’t that day. My point today is that even as we denounce divorce as being contrary to God’s will, we need to let divorced people know that God’s grace reaches them just as it reaches us. Whether they’ve been wronged or they have wronged another, God can heal that hurt and wash away all sin. Divorce need not define who they’ve been nor who they are going forward.

If we are going to stem the tide of divorce and speak with a prophetic voice to the generations to come, we will need the help of all Christians: single, married, divorced. We all need to affirm with one voice this two-faceted truth: God hates divorce; God loves divorced people.

So again, here’s affirmation #9: God hates divorce; God loves divorced people.