What's Behind Successful Marriages?
- Mark Earley Prison Fellowship President
- 2005 13 Jul
The glossy, coffee-table book was grandly titled The Greatest Weddings of All Time. It featured media stars like Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, Ted Turner and Jane Fonda.
Sadly, most relationships like those didn't last very long -- which is probably why the book celebrates great weddings instead of great marriages. Many of these couples apparently had no idea what qualities to look for in a spouse, or how to keep a marriage together.
This is tragic -- not only for the people involved, but also because many of our young people idolize those they watch on television or in films. And they're imitating what they see -- one reason the divorce rate even among Christians is so high.
What is the Church doing about this? Not nearly enough. Too many churches have allowed their role to deteriorate to being little more than what author Mike McManus labels "wedding factories."
In his book Marriage Savers, McManus explains how many churches help couples prepare for elaborate wedding ceremonies but not for lasting marriages. This is a scandal. The Church needs to boldly proclaim the biblical teaching on marriage and offer practical help to engaged couples and to couples in strained marriages.
In Marriage Savers, McManus identifies a number of excellent resources churches can use. For engaged couples, there's a program called FOCUSS. A couple fills out a questionnaire that provides an objective snapshot of their relationship's weaknesses and strengths. Then, older couples, who have been married for many years, teach them concrete strategies for tackling the weak areas.
Churches can also train what McManus calls "back from the brink" couples -- those whose marriages nearly broke up. After their own relationships have been healed, these couples can mentor other couples in crisis.
For separated couples, there is a program called "Reconciling God's Way." A support partner meets for twelve weeks with the spouse trying to save the marriage. When a separated spouse takes part in this program, the chances are better than 50 percent that he or she will be able to restore the marriage. And churches can help stepfamilies by creating stepfamily support groups.
Has your church become little more than a "blessing machine"? Why not introduce your pastor to programs like FOCUSS? And if your own children are marrying, find them a church with rigorous premarital programs and support for couples after they marry.
I hope you'll continue reading the rest of this series as "BreakPoint" addresses marriage. Current trends notwithstanding, God intends for marriages to last a lifetime. It's up to God's people to begin teaching couples how to have a marriage that endures.
Next week: The Truth About Cohabitation Before Marriage
Copyright © 2004 Prison Fellowship
BreakPoint with Chuck Colson is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on more than 1000 radio outlets nationwide, BreakPoint transcripts are also available on the Internet. BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship: 1856 Old Reston Avenue, Reston, VA 20190.