After twelve years of being a pastor I have conducted many sessions of marriage counseling. There seems to be one consistent theme: each individual wants me to tell their spouse what they need to fix. No one ever comes in thinking that they themselves are the problem. They all “know” that their spouse is the problem.
The Word of God teaches us that we must all give an account before God. We are going to give an account of ourselves. We are to judge not because we will stand in judgement before God for our own deeds. Suffice to say: we are only responsible for our actions. We can only control our own actions. We will give an account for our own actions.
We cannot change someone’s actions or thoughts. We can, however, change our own. That is the only control we have in any relationship. We can make sure that we are doing the right thing, that we are responding the right way and that we are handling each situation the way that God wants us to.
The recent supreme court ruling on homosexual marriage has ignited a firestorm surrounding whether or not a church and or minister should be required to perform a same sex wedding. Can a minister deny performing a same sex wedding on the basis of his/her faith?
The assumption is being made that Pastors marry heterosexual couples without hesitation. This is simply not the case. Any Pastor with standards and a high regard for marriage evaluates every potential marriage ceremony individually. There are multiple reasons a Pastor may excuse himself from performing a wedding. I have personally declined several. The Word of God commands individuals to not be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers”. Scripture forbids a minister from marrying a Christian and a Non-believer in marriage. The first question I always have is in regards to their faith.
The issue of divorce and remarriage is also a hot topic among church leaders. This issue alone will affect the decision of many ministers in whether or not they will perform the wedding. I require three sessions of pre-marital counseling which some couples don’t want to go through. This eliminates some potential ceremonies. I have a pastor friend which requires potential spouses to take a test first to gauge how well they complement each other. There are others who want a marriage reception atmosphere (alcohol and music) which is against my standards and they find other arrangements for their ceremony.
Marriage is a sacred union that must be taken seriously. I feel it is important to note in our discussion of marriage today that the issue of heterosexual vs. homosexual may be grabbing the headlines but I for one take many, many other things into account. I have several members of our congregation which respect my high standard for marriage and while I was not able to perform their own wedding they are still a part of our church. Marriage is a divine picture of Jesus’ relationship with the Church and is not to be taken lightly even in a heterosexual ceremony.
The following list of ‘Five Essentials for a Lasting Relationship’ are taken from a booklet of that name that I give to every couple that I counsel or am about to marry. It is written by Pastor Ron Berrus of the Bible Baptist Church of Shiremanstown, PA who is a friend of mine.
Essential #1 Respect – demonstrated to your spouse through Listening. I Peter 2:17
Essential #2 Honesty – demonstrated to your spouse through Speaking. Ephesians 4:15
Essential #3 Commitment – demonstrated to your spouse through Serving. Micah 6:8
Essential #4 Acceptance – demonstrated to your spouse through Embracing. Romans 15:7
Essential #5 Forgiveness – demonstrated to your spouse through Praying. Ephesians 4:32
To read a full pdf copy of Pastor Berrus’ book click here: http://www.ronberrus.abwe.org/site_content/attachments/0000/1729/A_Booklet_Five_Essentials_Web_Ready_04_20_09.pdf
The struggle for churches in the beginning of the twenty-first century is how to reach the younger generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we move into a Post-modern world we are faced with new challenges. How do we reach our culture without being influenced by our culture?
The Millennials are defined as those born between 1981 and 1997. They are the younger generation and they are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers. They think different than Generation X, Baby Boomers or Builders. They have a post-modern philosophy (more about that in the next post). After much research and many surveys it appears that Millennials value: Sense of Community, Value of Opinion, Need to Participate and Finding something Genuine. In the case of religion we find that they like for church to feel like church. They are not turned off by stained glass, older hymns or sacred traditions.
So how can we relate to these Millennials today?
1) They value community and participation over a sense of individualism. We need to make them part of the group. We need to get them involved in our small groups, Bible studies or classes where they form relationships. We need to have specific outings or activities just for them. We need to give them a cause. They want to be part of a group with a name and job to do.
2) They want their opinion to be heard and to matter. We need to get Millennials onto committees or boards where they can influence the church with the knowledge they possess. Audio and Visual committees, Outreach committees, Marketing programs, Building committees, etc. We understand the value of wisdom on Deacon boards – but there are many other ways for MIllennials to participate.
3) They are attracted to something genuine and quickly see through something fabricated. We must stick to the Gospel and the importance of a changed life. We must teach and value the attributes of God. We must value the Word of God. If the Millennials are going to be part of a church, that church MUST stand for something or else they will find something else worth putting their time and support behind.
* I am convinced that the ‘feel good’ methods of church growth over the last thirty years will have no impact upon Millennials, in fact, it may just turn them off.
A failure to communicate is at the core of every relational problem. Marriage problems, family difficulties, work stress and more is generally centered around or the outcome of a communication problem. We must begin fixing our relationship problems by fixing our communication woes. Here’s some initial steps:
1. Don’t assume. Many, many, many of the relationship problems that I have counseled with are the result of misunderstanding. One individual assumes what the other one really meant by something. One made a comment and the other misunderstood what they meant or what their real intention was. We focus on supposed intentions. We jump to conclusions. We are judgmental even if we don’t think we are.
2. Lead the conversation. Leading the conversation does not mean dominating the conversation. It does not mean doing all the talking. Leading the conversation is done by asking the key questions or redirecting the conversation back to the topic you wish to cover. This can be done subtly and with few words. It is often best done with a question.
3. Listen, Listen, Listen. A good communicator listens to what others are saying. So often I have been in a conversation where you can tell that the person I have been attempting to talk to is distracted and focused on getting out their next sentence whenever I am talking. Listening involves turning off cell phones, putting away laptops, muting televisions and powering off radios. Focus on what others are actually saying. Work at listening.
4. Compliment. Give compliments to those you are talking with. Compliment their help, their time they have given, their understanding and their interests.
5. Keep emotions in check. Don’t argue. Don’t get mad. Don’t lash out. Don’t call names. Bite your tongue. Don’t let your emotions control your comments and your responses. Stop and think before your speak. Don’t just blurt out what is on your mind. Slow down.