brady boyd On Letting God Be God
Couples Connection 3 ways to start a Marriage Ministry
Don’t Tweet me
5 Tips for reaching the ‘unplugged’ July // August 2013
Equipping Christian Leaders to Grow
An open letter to pastors’ wives
It’s time for a
Guest editor Jimmy Evans offers a challenge—and solution—to the church’s marriage crisis
Jentezen Franklin, Rick Bezet, Benny Perez, Derwin Gray Pastors share their personal marriage struggles and how they navigate the challenges
Ministry proofing your marriage
Do you have what it takes to plant a life-giving church?
YOUR VISION. GODâ€™S PLAN. OUR HELP. The Association of Related Churches is an organization that provides financial support, resources, and, above all, relationships that you can count on at every turn. For more information on launching a church with the ARC, visit arcchurches.com to get started today! Or, check out arcchurches.com/join for more details on becoming a part of our mission as a partner or member. Together, we are making a difference!
aug 9-10 â€˘ livE simulcast EvEnt During this global two Day simulcast, Jimmy Evans will help thousands of couples discover how to have a beautiful, passionate and lasting marriage characterized by fulfilling sex, romantic love and healthy communication. EvEnt highlights: the one element every good marriage has in common the three steps to striking your sexual match vow renewal ceremony, and much more!
visit marriagetoday.com/simulcasts to register your church or small group today.
c o n t e n t s V o l . 3 1 // N o . 4
J u l y // A u g u s t 2 0 1 3
With marriage under attack from all sides, Guest Editor Jimmy Evans offers a prophetic message and challenge to the church regarding one of greatest crises of our time
14 | Calling for a Revolution!
MarriageToday’s Jimmy and Karen Evans know firsthand that even the most seemingly hopeless marriages can be restored By Lindy Lowry
What the church can do to stem the tide of divorce and family breakdown engulfing today’s world By Jimmy Evans
56 | MARRIAGE A three-pronged approach for ministering to couples in all stages of marriage
8 | MINISTRY OUTSIDE THE BOX Indentify your community’s persona | Jump-starters for a communication strategy | How to reach the “unplugged” in your church
28 | Marriage Builders
Jentezen Franklin, Benny Perez, Derwin Gray and Rick Bezet share practical tips on how they keep their own marriages strong By Lindy Lowry
60 | FAMILY How to deepen or restore your family relationships
38 | The Day Hope Died
16 | It’s Time for a Marriage Revolution
How can marriage survive deception and infidelity? One couple tells their story of devastation, restoration and redemption. By Chris and Cindy Beall
42 | An Open Letter to Pastors’ Wives
Being the wife of a pastor is anything but easy. Here’s encouragement for those on this uniquely challenging journey. By Karen Evans
62 | RESOURCING Three strategies for using simulcasts in your church
12 | Kingdom Culture Three truths every ministry couple needs to know to keep their marriage first By Joe Champion 66 | Pastor’s Heart Lessons in the art and practice of handling disappointment in ministry
46 | Making Your Marriage Ministry-Proof
Five time-tested principles for sustaining your marriage amid the challenges of life and ministry By Chris Hodges
50 | Marriage Vision
You’ve likely spent years forming, shaping and refining a vision for your church. Have you done the same for your marriage? By Jimmy Evans 4
MinistryToday July // August 2013
Ministry Today (ISSN #0891-5725) is published bi-monthly by Charisma Media, 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746. Periodicals postage paid at Lake Mary, FL 32746 and at additional entry offices. Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distributing) Sales Agreement Number 40037127. Subscription rate is $24.97 for six issues and $39.97 for twelve issues. Canadian subscribers add $5 per year for postage, other countries add $10 per year for postage, payable in advance in U.S. currency only. Postmaster: Send address changes to Ministry Today, P.O. Box 6102, Harlan, IA 51593-1602. Send undeliverable Canadian mail to: 1415 Janette Avenue, Windsor, ON N8X1Z1. © 2013 by Charisma Media. For advertising information call (407) 333-0600. Nothing that appears in Ministry Today may be reprinted without permission. PRINTED IN THE USA
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D ea r Pa st or, I in vi te yo u to jo in th e N at io na l In st itu te of C hr is pe rs on al an d le tia n Le ad er sh ip ad er sh ip de ve lo fo r a lif e- ch an gi pm en t. W he n I ng ye ar of ch ur ch es , I kn ow th in k ba ck on m y ea rly da ys pa w ha t a ye ar in th st or in g sm al l e N IC L w ou ld ha le t m ys el f fo rg et ve m ea nt to m e. th os e aw kw ar d, W he n Iâ€™m te m ac hi ng I ne ve r is ta ke -fi lle d da ys ea ch le ct ur e as of on -th e- jo b le ap pl ic ab le as po ar ni ng . I w or k ha ss ib le rd to m ak e to m in is tri es , or lif e. ga ni za tio ns an d le ad er s at ev er y pl ac e in
Pa st gr ad ua te s ha ve in cl ud ed le ad er s fro m vi rtu or ga ni za tio n. Pa al ly ev er y si ze st or s of sm al l to an d sh ap e of ch m ed iu m si ze d ch ur ch an d m an ag er s of sm ur ch es , m eg a ch ur al l bu si ne ss es , ch es , st aff m em be rs , an d ch ur ch la y m ak e th e N IC L le ad er s ha ve bl a ric h le ar ni ng en de d ea si ly ye en vi ro nm en t. ar af te r ye ar to
H er e is w ha t th e pa st or of on e ve ry sm al l ch ur ch w ro te : â€œD r. R ut la nd , I ca nn ot th an k yo u en ou gh fo r tw I w as re lu ct an is tin g m y ar m t an d I gl ad ly ad to at te nd th e N m it I w as w ro ng . B oy IC L. I kn ow pa st or a ch ur ch , w as I w w he re I am th e ro ng . A s I to ld th e cl as s, I on ly pa id st af f re le va nt to m y m em be r. I ju st ch ur ch . Ev er y w on de re d if cl it w ou ld be as s, ev er y to pi H ow ca n I th an c an d ea ch le ct k yo u? Ju st th ur e hi t m e lik e e le ct a th un de rb ol t. ur e on re cr ui tin vo lu nt ee rs w ou g, tr ai ni ng , m an ld ha ve be en w ag in g an d m ot iv at in or th th e pr ic e g of th e en tir e ye ar. Th an k yo u ag ai n. â€? I am co nv in ce d th at th is w ill pr ov e to be so va lu ab gu ar an te e. Pl ea le to yo u th at yo se jo in m e fo r a u ha ve m y m on ye ar th at w ill ab so lu ey ba ck yo ur le ad er sh ip te ly ch an ge yo ur . lif e an d pr of ou nd ly en ric h
M ar k R ut la nd , Ph . D. Ex ec ut iv e D ire ct or, N IC
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Ministry Outside the Box ideas, insights & inspiration beyond the norm
Jump-Start Your Communication Strategy Some will say the very act of sitting down to come up with a communication strategy will improve how you communicate. Though that may be true, it helps if you’re asking yourself and your team the right questions.
leaders to share their heart about whom they would like to reach, they will most likely speak of reaching those who do not already know Jesus. This step is critical because it will drive how you communicate on your website and
Question 2: How are we going to reach our audience on the weekend and during the week? The weekend seems easy, but without a strategic plan, it will turn to chaos. You’ll need to put together simple
Question 1: Who is our church trying to reach? You might be tempted to answer, “Everyone!” But start with your church’s mission statement. Everything you do will trickle down from the mission of your church. If your church is like most, it probably has some sort of evangelistic phrase in its mission statement. In fact, if you asked your senior
from the stage. It will force you to come up with a communication system that’s easy, obvious and strategic. It will mean giving preference to the outsider who hasn’t yet been to your church, instead of the insider who has been there for years. If the mission of your church is to reach those not in the church, then start talking to them!
criteria to determine what will be talked about through your bulletin, from the stage and on the weekend. The easy criteria to start with is the percentage of your total audience that a particular announcement applies to. If it’s below 90 percent, then you might not want to talk about it from the stage. If it’s below 50 percent, then you might not want to talk about it at all on the weekends.
8 MinistryToday July // August 2013
But don’t stop there. Your online efforts should continue to engage and dialogue about the same things emphasized on the weekends. Your website should be the most trusted source of information. All other media (e-newsletter, social media, etc.) should point to that content. The most important element about reaching your online audience is engagement. Don’t just tell them the information you want them to hear. Dialogue with them. Ask questions. Post photos. Asking these two simple questions will begin to frame a strategy from which to start. Focus on communicating creatively and effectively with the people already connected to your church to get them motivated, excited and equipped for outreach. Then you can begin to focus on external marketing based on your mission and budget. J o e P o r t e r is the communications director at Whitewater Crossing in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, in addition to maintaining his photo and video business. Adapted and used with permission from churchmarketingsucks.com.
Don’t Forget About the Unplugged The rise of the Internet, new media and mobile technology has ushered church communications into a new digital era. As a result, churches have worked hard to create a flawless user experience, engaged social networks and search engine-optimized websites. But while churches are working hard to keep up with the changing digital culture and reach emerging generations, I fear we’ve left behind a large group of people. Meet the “unplugged.” Myth: The unplugged are all senior citizens. Truth: The unplugged are not just those eligible for the AARP. Simply put, the unplugged are those in our churches who are not regularly visiting the Internet or socially engaged online. They think Facebook is a mystery or a joke. They may have an email address, but they rarely access it. They tend to be employed in vocations that don’t require frequent computer use. To label any one age group as the unplugged is a vague generalization that dismisses the idea that everyone needs access to information despite their tech level. So, how do we keep up our online strategies while still caring for the unplugged? Think hub and spokes. I look at communications as a bicycle: two wheels move the bicycle forward (online and offline). Just like you use Facebook, Twitter, email and other tools to bring everyone back to © istockphoto/BeholdingEye; BrianAJackson; petekarici
key points on your website, use platform announcements, signage, posters, people and other efforts to point the unplugged toward one central hub that hosts all your communication pieces.
Tips for Creating a Central Hub Designate a central area in your church where all your communication pieces can be found (ie., an information kiosk or visitor center). If this doesn’t already exist somewhere in your space, it’s time to create one. Determine whether the space should be staffed or stand alone by considering the pros and cons of each option. Place the hub centrally in your space and visible from as many areas as possible.
Begin With the End in Mind Undoubtedly, you’ve spent much time thinking through and strategically addressing your online audience. If you haven’t already, consider creating content
that can translate easily from web to print. Each page on your website exists because it presents valuable information to the curious churchgoer. Display the information found on the website on printed cards, recycling web text and adapting the information as needed for an offline audience. Remove the hyperlinks and include any titles of documents to pick up, the name of a person to contact or how to register. For dynamic online content that changes week to week, such as calendars, blog posts, email campaigns and prayer requests, compile a stapled booklet of printed copies and make it available as a weekly or monthly touchpoint.
Maintain a Simple Event Registration Process Keep the offline registration process simple, universal and immediate. Rather than coming up with a different way to register every time, create a one-size-fitsall system that people become familiar with, and point them to the same system for every event. Each time you announce an event from the platform, be sure to have a universal event registration card in the seatback that can July // August 2013 MinistryToday 9
Ministry Outside the Box V o l . 3 1 // N o . 4 Publisher/Executive Editor Steve Strang firstname.lastname@example.org
be completed and placed in the offering plate. One church leader recently told me about a huge push they were doing for an event. They had promoted it, then set up stations in their lobby for people to sign up immediatately. A seemingly brilliant idea! The only problem was that all of their stations had MacBook Pros. People wanting to sign up kept looking for a mouse, a click button and couldn’t navigate the “two finger scroll.” “We walked away knowing that we ‘over-teched’ the process for our audience,” he said.
Use Face Time Never underestimate the power of a staff member’s personal invite or time spent casting vision for involvement. Communications is every staff member’s job. Full buy-in from your senior leadership is vital for the rest of the staff to jump on board. Convince senior leaders of the need to be involved in the communications process, as well as the need to promote and use it. Be sure they are familiar with any systems of recruitment or registration. Do this well in advance. Craft clear objectives for weekend service conversations 10 MinistryToday July // August 2013
between staff and congregation members. Make sure they communicate volunteer needs for upcoming church-wide events, event attendance goals and other pertinent important points.
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Some Final Cautions: Don’t reinvent the wheel. The unplugged typically represent a small percentage of your overall audience. Create a simple, sustainable way for them to have access to the same information the “plugged in” do. Avoid conflicting systems at all costs. Someone will always want to post a sign-up sheet for something, even if you’ve created a thoughtful process for collecting registrations. Conflicting systems only confuse people and weaken the system. Remember, it takes both wheels spinning together to make the bicycle move forward, and it takes an online and offline system to move the people in your church toward the unique calling God has for them. J o n R o g e r s works with numerous organizations, specializing in communications, graphic design and social media. He is a Creative Missions missionary. Adapted and used with permission from churchmarketingsucks.com. © istockphoto/asiseeit; Nikada
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God created and designed the world for us to enjoy. Included in His plan is health, prosperity, and wholeness and soundness for our family. A Godly marriage is a successful marriage. That was God's original idea that if couples remain committed to Him in their relationship, their union will survive even the most difficult times. This book "God's Design for Marriage The Road to Success" is a success worldwide and has helped many families and dating couples.
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By Joe Champion
A Couple First, Ministry Leaders Second Three truths and four questions to assess your marriage
henever two type-A personalities combine in a marriage, as well as in a ministry, the results can often be catastrophic. Most ministry couples will tell you it’s far too easy for a couple serving together in ministry to allow their passion and drive to blur the lines between building a church and raising a family. As pastors of Celebration Church, a church we planted together nearly 13 years ago in Austin, Texas, there’s one thing my wife, Lori, and I know for sure: You cannot fake a great marriage! Marriage requires consistent investment, cultivation, intentionality, selflessness and, of course, God’s intervention! This truth rang loud and clear in the early stages of planting our church. Because we couldn’t afford office space, we made the decision to office out of the only place we could: our master bedroom. Big mistake, right? At first, it had its advantages. We never had to deal with Austin traffic! But as we soon discovered, the most intimate space in our home always reminded of us of our work instead of each other. I’ll never forget one evening when, after putting our three boys to bed, I was, shall we say, “in the mood.” Thinking that Lori would be too, I simply said, “Come to bed, honey.” Her response to me clearly indicated we needed to make some adjustments in our marriage and approach to ministry. “I’ve got to finish what I’m working on! We have a printing deadline, you know!” she answered back. It wasn’t the first time one or both of us had allowed our marriage to be set aside, but this evening was the last straw for both of us. We had to acknowledge that our marriage demanded and deserved our best energy, passion and protection, both individually and as a couple. The following are three simple truths that have helped our marriage thrive over the years, despite all the opposing forces that serving together can bring:
to always keep our romantic feelings for each other alive. You know, the ones we had before all of the church budgets and board meetings! Regular dates, whether day or night, must remain a necessity. Do not confuse eating, sleeping and working together as actually spending time together. Keep your connection as unified as possible.
“Do not confuse eating, sleeping and working together as actually spending time together.”
1) We have to commit to keep our connection. While serving in ministry together, we must make a commitment 12 MinistryToday July // August 2013
2) We are co-laborers, not competitors. Learn to celebrate the complementary gifts God has given one. When our church first began, it was Lori who would knock on doors and invite neighbors (and strangers) to our house to share the vision God had given us. Not me. I never wanted to do it, but she kept pushing me. And through the years, as Lori became more of a behind-the-scenes organizer, it was then me who was pushing her to use her gifts as a communicator and worship leader. And although she never wanted to do it, she loves it now! We have become each other’s biggest cheerleaders, simply because we empower each other.
3) We are indivisible! As couples in ministry, we can have strong individual opinions about a variety of things. But it’s imperative that we have an even stronger resolve to always be quick to forgive. There’s no place for low blows. Fighting fair is when you can learn to love and respect each other, as God has demonstrated to us all. Today, I challenge you and your spouse to pause and ask each other the following questions: Are our priorities in order? Are we spending too much time with church matters? Is there still romance in our marriage? How are we encouraging and supporting each other in our individual roles? J o e C h a m p i o n is the senior pastor and co-founder of Celebration Church in Texas—a multisite church in Austin. He constantly seeks ways to combine efforts to make a positive impact in the local church, in Austin and in the world. Visit his blog at Joechampion.com to learn more.
Calling for a MarriageTodayâ€™s Jimmy and Karen Evans know firsthand that even the most seemingly hopeless marriages can be resurrected and restored
jimmy and Karen Evans recently celebrated 40 years together on May 11, 2013â€”the same year their international ministry MarriageToday turns 20. The Texas couple has devoted their lives and ministry to showing couples Godâ€™s plan for marriage.
By l indy l o w ry, gener a l edi t or
wenty years ago in April 1993, a 39-year-old pastor woke up from a dream at 3 a.m., feeling like he’d heard from God. “I saw my wife, Karen, and I sitting on a TV set talking to people about marriage,” says Jimmy Evans, founder and CEO of the international ministry MarriageToday. “I just had a strong impression in my heart that God wanted us to do a TV ministry that was very compassionate, excellent and about marriage.” The next two mornings, he awoke from the same dream. But not unlike other leaders who receive a calling, Evans told God, “I’m not qualified. You need to find someone else.” Still, he knew he’d heard from God and shared his dreams with Karen and the elders of Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo, Texas, where he has served as senior leader for 30 years to date. As he continued to pray about it, Jimmy says God gave him several promises and began to fulfill them. A little more than a year later, Jimmy and Karen had produced several pilot programs as a result. The vision God gave Jimmy 20 years ago is now thriving, with the MarriageToday With Jimmy and Karen Evans broadcast reaching more than 110 million U.S. households and 200-plus countries. He recently released his 12th book, Lifelong Love Affair: How to Have a Passionate and Deeply Rewarding Marriage, and each year MarriageToday’s marriage seminar simulcasts are seen by tens of thousands in churches and homes throughout the world. Jimmy Evans is a church leader passionate about helping marriages amid an ever-growing national divorce epidemic. That’s why we asked him to help us create an issue of Ministry Today that would inspire, challenge and equip leaders to not only champion marriage in their churches, but also on the homefront. As he points out in his cover story (page 16), more than 40 percent of first-time marriages end in divorce. Sadly, that 40 percent includes church leaders. Our guest editor understands this reality well, having almost been part the statistic. Only three years into their marriage, the once deeply in love high school
sweethearts (they met in high school biology class and married at age 19), were on the brink of divorce. After two years of marriage, Jimmy began to be verbally abusive to his wife, and she gradually began to stand up to him. Both were convinced they had married the wrong person. One night, believing the marriage wasn’t salvageable, Jimmy told Karen to leave. “Karen had confronted me again about golfing too much, and I just said, ‘Get out,’ ” Jimmy remembers. That night, the Holy Spirit convicted him, Jimmy says. “I told the Holy Spirit, ‘I want You to teach me how to be a husband,’ and that ‘if You’ll help us, we’ll help others.’” Jimmy is quick to say their marriage was not saved overnight. But that prayer was the beginning of healing—and their ministry. He and Karen recently celebrated 40 years of marriage on May 11, 2013. And both say they’ve never been closer. But the road to where they are today has been far from smooth. The Evans family knows what it’s like to see their marriage—and thousands of others—not only resurrected from the ashes, but also restored in a culture that says marriage is dispensable and in a church environment that often places more emphasis on leaders’ ministry success than the success of their families. I hope you’ll be encouraged by the similar stories of restoration and redemption in this issue, and that the insights of the many leaders we’ve assembled (Chris Hodges, Rick Bezet, Derwin Gray, Benny Perez, Brady Boyd, etc.) will challenge you to become a marriage builder both in your home and your church. Ultimately, Evans is calling the local church to revolution and, like true revolutionaries, to lead the charge and act on their convictions! He believes churches are focused on the casualties, investing more resources in divorce recovery than marriage building, and in the process missing the call to strengthen marriages before the fatal blow. “Every church and every church leader should be in this battle to strengthen couples before it gets bloody,” he says. “The price is far too great.” I couldn’t agree more.
July // August 2013 MinistryToday 15
It’s Time for a
MARRIAGE REVOLUTION What can the church do to stem the tide of divorce and family breakdown engulfing today’s world? Jimmy Evans offers a prophetic message and challenge to the church to wake up and acknowledge who the real enemy is in this battle—and to reclaim and restore what God created for good. By jimmy evans In America, one divorce happens every 13 seconds, equating to 6,646 divorces per day and 46,523 divorces per week. 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce. 43 percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers. Half of all American children will witness the breakup of a parent’s marriage. Of these children, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage. 65 percent of altar-bound men and women live together before getting married. People who live together prior to getting married are 40 percent more likely to have marriages that end in divorce. Divorces for couples over 65 years old have doubled since 1980. »
July // August 2013 MinistryToday â€‚ 17
n u m b e r s a r e s o b e r i n g . Our world is corrupting at an alarming rate. I read those numbers, look at the culture around me, hear the stories of moral failure among church leaders, and everything I see indicates we’re living in the last days. The spirit of the anti-Christ is palpable and growing in its manifested intolerance of anything that represents moral and spiritual absolutes, especially traditional Judeo-Christian values. As the tide of spiritual and moral lawlessness rises, the church is left with a three-fold dilemma: he
about our guest editor...
jimmy evans knows firsthand that no marriage is hopeless. The first few years of his and wife Karen’s marriage almost ended in divorce. Only by applying the principles their international ministry MarriageToday teaches were they able to save their relationship. Today, after 40 years together, they understand that no matter how bleak a marriage may appear, every couple has a 100 percent chance of success in marriage. Since founding MarriageToday in 1994, the couple has encouraged and coached countless couples. With more than 50 percent of unions ending in divorce, they are committed to restoring the dream of marriage in America. In pursuit of this mission, MarriageToday offers seminars, 100-plus resources and the national TV program MarriageToday With Jimmy & Karen, which reaches more than 80 million households in North America and 200-plus countries online via satellite. Jimmy is sounding a call to church leaders to start a marriage revolution in their own marriages and the churches they lead. “There is a fierce battle being fought for marriage in America right now, but we can win it,” he says. Currently, he and Karen divide their time between Amarillo, Texas, where he serves as senior elder of Trinity Fellowship, and Dallas, the location of MarriageToday’s headquarters. He and Karen have two grown children (both are contributors in this issue, pages 60 and 62) and four grandchildren. 18 MinistryToday July // August 2013
1. How do we stand up for the truth without sounding like homophobic neanderthals? 2. How do we uphold the biblical standard for marriage when divorce is as common among Christians as it is for non-Christians, a growing number of couples in our churches are living together, and a majority of the population is sympathetic to gay marriage? 3. How do we heal the pain and devastation in people in our churches and communities in ways that will effect real change and not just treat the symptoms? If the church is to be a redemptive force in society and accomplish the mission that Jesus gave us to be salt and light, we must learn to understand and address these questions. And at the same time, we need to remember that though the problems around us are extremely real and ominous, our God is powerful—and our gospel is perfect for times like these. I truly believe we can change the world, but it will take a revolution—a marriage revolution! Back to the Beginning
Solving any problem starts with getting to the root of it—not just treating the symptoms. Tragically, in America we’re spending trillions of dollars dealing with the symptoms of the breakdown of marriage: poverty, crime, juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy—just about any major cultural issue. It’s time to admit that the root or cause of all of these problems is the breakdown of the traditional family unit—and that the foundation of the family is marriage. We can spend a lifetime dealing with the symptoms of the problem and never really change anything. And, by the way, I am all for helping hurting people regardless of whether it’s a symptom or the root issue. But as we minister mercy to those in need, we must also have a strategy to fix the real problem. Without it, there will never be true transformative change. Remembering that it was God who created marriage in the first place is essential. Marriage appears first in Genesis 1, and its creation is detailed in Genesis 2. God created marriage first because it serves as the foundation for every other institution in society, including the church. Ultimately, world history shows us that a society never rises above the level of the health of its marriages and families. America is a good example. When the American culture honored traditional values and considered marriage to be sacred, the nation thrived and became the greatest on earth. Then the social engineers showed up (they always do). They promised that liberal family laws would free us from the what they
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“We need to remember that though the problems around us are extremely real and ominous, our God is powerful—and our gospel is perfect for times like these.” deemed were mora l shack les that traditional Judeo-Christian morality had placed on society. That was a rou nd 50 yea rs ago. Since then, America has experienced non - stop mora l deg radat ion a nd societal devastation. Now the social engineers are furiously trying to solve the problems their predecessors created with more liberal laws and by spending trillions of dollars treating nothing but symptoms. It’s like trying to solve the problem of a hole in the ground by ordering more shovels. Unfortunately, I see many denominations and churches mirroring the social engineers. In the midst of our culture’s moral upheaval and in the name of political correctness, a growing number of pastors and church leaders are abandoning the Bible as they resign themselves to a lifetime of spiritual symptom solving. I guess 20 MinistryToday July // August 2013
they believe that by appeasing and befriending the problem, somehow they can solve it. They couldn’t be more wrong. God created marriage as the foundation of society—period. There is no plan B. Marriage reflects His nature and perpetuates the values and virtues of His Kingdom generationally. I’ve seen that even when unbelievers are married in a traditional union, it causes them to act in a manner consistent with the character of God and the values of His kingdom, such as fidelity, commitment, sacrifice, service and love. As a leader in God’s church, remember t hat He ha s aut hor i z ed a nd empowered you to ma ke disciples and transform culture. You don’t have to give in or give up. By focusing on the problem (making the main thing the main thing), you and your church
have the potential to revolutionize our communities, nation and world. We ca nnot focus on sy mptoms or secondary issues and make a significant difference culturally. With the exception of the gospel message, the most important message in the world today is marriage. Regardless of the condition of your own marriage or whether or not you feel qualified to teach or minister on this subject, we must reclaim this territory for God and consider it holy ground. From here, the marriage revolution begins. To ensure victory, as church leaders we need to focus our thoughts and efforts on three things:
We mu s t wake u p to t h e devil’s schemes. As I said earlier, God created marriage as society’s first and essential foundation. It’s recorded in the first two chapters of Genesis. But then in the third chapter, Satan appears as a serpent to tempt Adam and Eve. We commonly refer to their sin as the “fall of man.” L et me cha llenge that concept. Genesis 2 records that Adam (“man”) wa s c reated before Eve. I n fac t , Adam named all of the animals on the earth before Eve was created, and
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that had to have taken a while. I find it interesting that before God breathed life into Eve, the enemy ne ver tempted Ad a m when he was alone. If he had, we could refer to that as the “fall of man.” Instead, the devil waited to attack until Eve—and therefore marriage—was created. Evidently, he knew Adam was no real threat on h i s ow n . B ut s ome t h i n g changed when Eve showed up. Then Satan seduced them to sin. It wasn’t just the fall of man. It was the fall of marriage—a strategic attack designed to divide t hem a nd to neut ra l i z e t hei r potential as a married couple. You see, the devil is a strateg ist. He k nows that if he ca n dest roy m a r r ia ge, he h a s by default destroyed societ y. Broken marriages result in broken men, women and children. They cause broken churches, schools, financial institutions and governments. All the devil has to do to win is attack marriage successfully—game, set, match. After the fall of marriage in Genesis 3, look at what happens to the world. Ada m a nd Eve sta r t a fa m i ly that proves to be highly dysfunctional. By Genesis 6, the earth is full of rampant violence and immoralit y, just like our world today.
“Marriage is the foundation of society, and the Word of God is the foundation of marriage. Our revolution begins when we put on the helmet of salvation and pick up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit.”
Fighting the Real Enemy
But let’s look at this in a different way. If the devil can break down society by attacking marriage, then what happens if we leverage the authority and revelation God has entrusted to us to reclaim and restore the institution of marriage? In a word, revolution! We can reverse the curse and truly restore individuals and institutions to their God-created purpose. I truly believe that healthy marriage is a game-changer for the world. But to effect change, we must wake up and become strategic. We’ve spent too much time reeling from the problems of our society as we blame the government, Holly wood or someone else, when in truth we are not 22 MinistryToday July // August 2013
wrestling against f lesh and blood. People are not the problem. This is a spiritual battle against Satan and his forces. We have been empowered by God to fight and win this war! And we must be prepared, knowing that at some point every marriage w il l come u nder spirit ua l at tack , especially the marriages of pastors and church leaders. You can expect to face temptation in your marriage because again, Satan is a strategist. He places a high priority on destroying church leaders’ marriages. He knows that when our own marriages are suffering, we won’t preach about marriage because we feel unqualified to lead in that area. He knows that if © istockphoto/mediaphotos
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he can destroy our marriages, he can demoralize church members and discredit the work of Christ in the world. To date, he has been highly effective in that area. Sadly, the past and current failures of pastors’ marriages are why a growing number of people are leaving the church or not showing up in the first place. It’s time for us to open our eyes and fight the real enemy, remembering that Satan’s stealth approach makes him most effective. Think about it: To tempt Eve, he took the form of a serpent. Serpents are dangerous, in part because they blend into their environment. By the time they strike, it’s too late. When the devil attacks our marriages, typically by the agency of demonic spirits, he doesn’t appear as the devil. He simply slithers up and begins his mind games, whispering thoughts of temptation, deception, accusation, confusion, fear and so on. Chapter 10 of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians tells us: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do
not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Cor. 10:3-6). The battlefield of marriage is our thoughts, our minds. Consequently, we have to learn to take our thoughts captive as well as train those we lead to read, believe a nd med itate on God’s Word, specifica lly on what Scripture says about marriage. The sword of the Spirit easily vanquishes the devil’s every attack. A nd we mu st lea r n to e x pose Satan’s lies as he takes advantage of our ever y wea kness, failure, fallen desire and life disappointment. The devil and his minions are always up to no good, but when we’re going through difficulties in life and marriage, they a re especia lly busy. At
t hose t i mes, it’s v it a l t hat we’re especially vigilant and accountable. We all struggle in marriage; we should never be ashamed of that. It’s how we struggle that determines if we will succeed or fail. Marriage is the foundation of society, and the Word of God is the foundation of marriage. Our revolution begins when we put on the helmet of salvation and pick up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit.
We must stand up to the d e c e p t i o n o f o u r c u l tu r e with the truth of God’s Word. I’ve never before seen the church and its leaders so paralyzed and timid on an issue than they are with homosexuality and gay marriage. To a large degree, the same thing is true with the entire issue of sexual moralit y, cohabitation and the biblical definition of marriage. As I mentioned earlier, one of the dilemmas facing us today as church leaders is how we can take a stand without sounding legalistic and hateful. The answer is actually very simple, exemplified in the greatest revolutionary in the history of the world: Jesus Christ. Jesus came to a broken world just like ours and started a spiritual and cultura l revolution that continues today. How did He do it? Thankfully, we have the playbook: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The word glory basically means what you’re famous for, your premiere attributes. Jesus came to redeem the world from sin, and to do so He used grace and truth. It is His nature to show both attributes. But He was also full of grace and truth because hate and lies broke the world. Only grace and truth could fix it. You cannot separate the two. One of the church’s greatest failures today is choosing to focus on either grace or truth. The imbalance is deadly. Grace without truth is meaningless, just as truth without grace is mean-spirited. They must work together. And grace must go first because everything God does must be based 24 MinistryToday July // August 2013
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out of compassion. You’ll never reach, or desire to reach, a person you do not love. As you look at our broken world and the broken people in it, go beyond their behavior and realize they’re precious in God’s sight. Realize that much of what they do isn’t intentionally bad. A lot of the sin in people’s lives happens simply because they don’t know any better. They’re just trying to find a way to medicate their inner emptiness and pain. It can’t be overstated: Ensure that everything you say and do is birthed out of compassion and grace. But t hen comes tr ut h. Wit hout tr uth, g race becomes a n enabler, allowing us to stay the same. Truth doesn’t mean law. Rather, truth is the knowledge that sets us free to live as God designed. Grace tells us the good news that we are loved by God without merit. Truth tells us the good news that God has a plan for our lives to make us successful and fulfilled. I love gays. I love people who are
cohabiting, who are sexually immoral like I was before I received Christ. But I love them too much to agree with them. They are not living in truth. And regardless of what they think about me or whether or not they will listen to me, I will lovingly stand for truth according to Jesus’ example. But my motivation is love for them and our society. I believe a person who tells you what you need to hear demonstrates greater love than someone who tells you what you want to hear.
We mus t speak up abou t marriage in our churches. Many churches have more divorce recover y ministries than ministries that bu ild a nd support ma rriage. I believe in helping people who are hurting and recovering from divorce, but we must be marriage-building churches first. We must preach and teach about it, ma k ing marriage a pr ior it i z ed, f u nded a nd feat u red part of the life and ministries of our
churches. Virtually every healthy and growing church I know of is a marriage-building church. If you are a preacher or teacher, you might not feel qualified to speak about marriage for some reason. That’s pretty common. Never before have more resources been available to help leaders who want to prioritize marriage ministry and become marriage builders. Throughout this issue, we’ll feature resources, ideas and stories to inspire and help you improve both your own marriage and your church’s ministry to engaged and married couples. I hope you’ll be encouraged and blessed through what these writers have contributed to help you and your church grow. I also hope you’ll take up the cause of marriage at this critical time. May God help us as we raise the banner of marriage and recommit to fulfilling Christ’s commission to preach the gospel to every creature and make disciples to the ends of the earth. Let the revolution begin!
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Jentezen and Cherise Franklin lead Free Chapelâ€™s Annual ONE Marriage Conference. Theyâ€™ll be married 26 years this fall.
Married 14 years, Benny and Wendy Perez lead The Church of South Las Vegas, which they founded 10 years ago.
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Michelle and Rick Bezet planted New Life Church in Central Arkansas in 2001. The couple recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.
Derwin and Vicki Gray lead Transformation Church in Indian Land, S.C. He and Vicki have been married 21 years.
Pastors share what they do to keep their marriages strong and how their churches are coming alongside couples to provide necessary tools for healthy marriages
Builders By Lindy Lowry
ow do you and your wife keep your marriage prioritized above ministry? What is your greatest challenge in keeping your marriage strong? What is and isn’t working in your church to reach couples and strengthen their marriages? We asked a group of pastors these questions and more. What follows are their insightful responses, as these leaders give us an inside look at how they pursue marriage and deal with the inevitable struggles, as well as how they’re leading their churches to help build marriages. And we are richer for their experience.
Our Panel of Pastors Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church in Indian Land, S.C., and is considered to be one of America’s leading voices on multi-ethnic, multi-generational, missional ministry. Derwin has been married to Vicki (he calls her his best friend) for 21 years, and they have two children. Derwin’s new book, Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future (Thomas Nelson), releases this September. Connect with him at the church’s website, transformationchurch.tc.
Benny Perez has been called one of the leading voices to this generation. After experiencing one of the greatest youth revivals to ever hit the northwest, Perez felt called to begin a church in Las Vegas. In 2003, he and his wife Wendy founded The Church at South Las Vegas, where nearly 3,200 people attend. He and Wendy have been married 14 years and have four children. Connect with him at his blog, bennyperez.org. Jentezen Franklin is the senior pastor of Free Chapel with locations in Gainesville, Ga., and Irvine, Calif., which each year draws more than 14,000 students to its annual Forward
July // August 2013 MinistryToday 29
Student Conference. Franklin is a New York Times best-selling author, and his televised broadcast, Kingdom Connection, reaches millions in more than 120 nations. Jentezen and his wife of almost 26 years, Cherise, have five children and live in Gainesville. Connect with him at jentezenfranklin.org. Rick Bezet is the founder and lead pastor of New Life Church in Central Arkansas and is a founding board member and overseer of the church planting organization ARC (Association of Related Churches). In 2001, he and his wife Michelle set aside Rick’s future as a professional golfer to follow
my children, and then the church. And every time I talk about it, our church family applauds that. Vicki and I sincerely believe that the greatest worship, discipleship and evangelistic resource we have is our marriage and that our marriage displays Jesus’ relationship to His bride, the Church. Rick Bezet: One thing that helps us keep our marriage first is setting aside one day each week for a “date day,” which works really well for us. Plus, day dates are more affordable because our kids have free babysitters (school), and you can see matinee movies, have a light lunch, etc.
“Marriage in our culture is under attack at every level. But we know that the darker the room, the brighter the light!”
God’s call to central Arkansas to plant a church. Now, 11 years later, New Life has seven campuses, an Internet campus, and 18 total services. Rick and Michelle recently celebrated 25 years of marriage, and they have four children. Follow him on Twitter.com/rick_bezet. Let’s start by talking about one of the greatest struggles among church leaders and their spouses. What do you and your wife do to keep your marriage prioritized above ministry? Benn y Perez: Wendy and I always have an open relationship with a licensed marriage counselor. We’ve found that many couples are intimidated or hesitant to enlist the help of a third party, but for us the benefits outweigh the risks. We both know we need a safe place where we can be transparent with each other, and also another voice keeping us accountable for making our marriage a priority. Derwin Gray: I preach often that my first priority is Jesus, my wife, 30 MinistryToday July // August 2013
Perez: We also have weekly date days. For us, going out at night wasn’t as effective. We’d get tired or just not want to make the effort after a long day. So we regularly get a babysitter and take some time to just be with each other. And probably once a quarter, we take a short overnight stay with each other—even locally. We’ve found it helps us communicate more effectively and strengthens our bond. Bezet: We’ve also learned how fun it is to have something to look forward to as a couple. We love to dream about what’s coming up, milestones in our lives with our kids, etc. Right now, we’re excited that our youngest son, Tanner, is heading to college in the fall, and we just celebrated a huge milestone in our marriage: 25 years! Jentezen Franklin: I think we have to remember that pastors are real people with real marriages, and all marriages have issues that take a lot of work at times. Many wonderful speakers have explained that you move out of the “in love” experience and
realize the fact that love is a choice and it takes work. Whether or not you’re in a smaller ministry that may not be as complex as a larger ministry, you have to work together as a couple to ask what the priorities are. I don’t care who you are, every couple struggles with keeping that connection. There are so many distractions, pulls and challenges to closeness and connection. Since time is in such demand for us, my wife and I have to make decisions together about things that require time and together ask, “Would this be good or not good for our marriage? Is this good or not good for our family?” Jentezen, how do you keep your marriage strong when you travel so often to Free Chapel’s sites in Georgia and California? We try to travel together as much as we can. I don’t accept any invitations that are detrimental to my family life and would interfere with birthdays, family functions, etc. Without sounding over-simplified, find time to talk, have fun, show love, and to be more accepting that marriage is about forgiving each other’s flaws. No matter how much my wife and I have disagreed about something, we try to keep respect in it and find a way to work with each other. When you work hard, you need to play hard. My wife and I know the value of taking several trips per year as a couple and as a family away from the hustle and bustle of ministry life. What are some insights and practical suggestions you’ve learned from other leaders and mentors that you’ve implemented in your own marriage? Gr ay: Early in our ministr y as i ntenerate eva ngel ists, I t houg ht preaching was my first ministr y. I would come home tired and totally ignored Vicki and my kids (they were young at the time). Thank God our mentors, Alan and Mary Bacon, set me straight. Alan told me, “If you’re too tired to minister to your family, then you quit preaching, because the greatest sermon you’ll ever preach is loving your wife and children.” Bezet: We are incredibly blessed
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to have Brother Larry and Melanie Stockstill as our pastors and mentors. Michelle and I have tried to follow the example they set. One of the most important things they taught us, and modeled in everyday life, is the value of integrity. They are both extremely mindf u l of how they counsel the opposite sex so as to always be “above reproach.” For example, they taught us the importance of not riding alone in the car with someone of the opposite sex; not talking about relationship issues with someone of the opposite sex; and in every way possible, living a life that is above question. What is your greatest challenge in keeping your marriage strong, and how do you navigate it? Gr ay: Forgetting that my identit y is not found in the success of the church. When I forget that Jesus defines me, I tend to overwork and not be present in the midst of family life, or I’m too tired to engage with my family. For Vicki, what makes her a great leader is that she’s task-oriented, but when her task orientation is not fueled by the gospel, she can tend to become a workaholic, too. We realized this fairly quickly, while we attempted to plant a church from scratch. Bezet: Sometimes your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. As our kids have grown up, it seems like the issues they face are more complicated, and often Michelle and I want to parent them differently— definitely a challenge. But we have learned to ask each other, “Are you saying ‘no’ just to say ‘no,’ or are you hearing from God?” Perez: Communication. Early on, we rea li zed we cou ld say the same thing and hear it t wo different ways. We’ve used methods from Love & Respect, our favorite marriage book. We also get elementary in our approach at times. We are intentional at repeating back to one another to make sure we’re on the same page. Some might find it laborious, but it’s a lot better to communicate during the foundation than to build a whole house and realize the visions didn’t match up. 32 MinistryToday July // August 2013
How soon did you and Wendy realize this was a challenge? Perez: Probably the first day after the honeymoon! Let’s be real, marriage takes work. And then once you’ve kind of got it figured out, you or your spouse changes! It’s an ongoing growth process for every couple. Fr anklin: We realized it was a challenge right from the beginning,
“Teaching marriage principles has no power to transform a heart; only Jesus and His gospel can do that.” —Derwin Gray too. When you come down out of the clouds and your feet hit the ground after the honeymoon and you start living life and solving life’s challenges, you start seeing that it’s not so easy. Many wonderful speakers have explained that you move out of the “in love” experience and realize the fact that love is a choice and it takes work. I don’t care who you are, every couple struggles with keeping that connection. Cherise and I know that to stay connected, we have to keep mindful and on task. To stay close you have to find time to talk. Not just surface talk, but to go a little deeper. For men it takes work to do that, but it’s a necessity. How does your church reach out to and minister to couples?
In your experience, what really works? What really doesn’t? Gray: Our church offers premarital and marriage counseling led by trained lay leaders. We also have professional counselors who are involved in ministering to marrieds. First and foremost, we preach and teach couples the gospel! We believe that when a heart is ravaged by the gospel of grace, married people will begin to grace one another. I think we spend too much time teaching people pragmatic principles that are Christ-less and lifeless. Teaching marriage principles has no power to transform a heart; only Jesus and His gospel can do that. Don’t get me wrong. Learning to listen and discover your spouse’s love language is very important, after their hearts are overflowing with Jesus’ abundance of grace. When a person grasps the reality of the gospel, it’s hard not to serve and forgive and love your spouse. I know I have become a better communicator and listener abecause the gospel softened my heart to pay attention to the needs of my wife; and the same for Vicki. We’re trying to teach that at our church, and it seems to be working. Perez: Three things: 1. We are huge proponents of professional counseling! As consumers, we will have no problem buying the latest pair of designer jeans and then not want to invest in ourselves or our marriages. Some of us are actually investing more in coffee than in our marriages. There are excellent tools that can turn your marriage around, and sometimes it will take an investment. But investing in these tools can reap incredible fruit in your future and for generations to come. 2. Small groups. Maybe your marriage isn’t a 911-emergency or you absolutely do not have funds for oneon-one counseling. We believe that small groups are an incredible way for couples to debunk myths (you’re not alone or the only one to have faced these challenges) and learn from others’ experience. It’s a great way for experienced couples to mentor others. Or for younger couples to feel supported and encouraged. 3. Also premarital counseling in small groups. What doesn’t work is
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just telling a couple to tough it out and pray more. Praying obviously helps, but we need to also equip our people with tools! And then allow God’s grace to empower us to use those tools. Bezet: We also have three main strategies for ministering to couples: life g roups; ma rriage classes a nd retreats; and marriage counseling. We believe that getting people plug ged i nto bibl ica l com mu n it y works! Many couples attend church week after week but never develop deep, transparent relationships. An isolated couple will struggle with many
Even if there is incredible, miraculous improvement from the counseling sessions, our ultimate goal is to connect them to a life group, to friends, and to a leader who will take care of them. Fr a n k lin: We have seen a great response to our One Marriage Conference events in California and Georgia. We also have many small groups that are designed to provide growth opportunities for couples. We even have a small group designed for couples threatening divorce and separation. It has really helped for us to encourage people to get involved in a
“Waiting until your church is large enough to do something for couples doesn’t work. Start small, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”
of common issues, but without friends and mentors to encourage and pray for them, their struggles turn into makeor-break issues. We have seen over and over that married couples who are connected to one of our life groups will thrive in all seasons of life. During the hard times, they have the support they need to weather the storm. And in the good times, they’re the ones offering strength and encouragement to others. We also offer marriage classes and retreats a few times a year. Many of the people who ask for help with their marriage are not connected to anyone in the church. They don’t have friends in the church or are not in a life group. We invite them to attend a class or retreat, and then connect them into a life group. The hope is that the class/ event will not only help their marriage, but also help them build friendships in the church. For marriages that need help with a very specific issue, or are in a desperate state, we connect them to a couple in the church who has been trained to counsel. 34 MinistryToday July // August 2013
small group. That is the interesting th ing about ou r ca mpuses. Sma l l groups like these seem to make a large church much smaller. You need people involved in your life to encourage you that God will help your marriage; tell you that marriage is worth working on; and sometimes even tell you when you’re going down the wrong path. Couples today are challenged with more ways to get themselves into trouble. With Facebook being a popular way to socialize, people are being led down the primrose path to affairs and inappropriate relationships. Good point. How are you dealing with these cultural challenges at Free Chapel? Some of our small groups focus on issues that couples currently deal with such as a spouse struggling with pornography or learning what the Bible says about counter-cultural issues like open sexuality. Our speakers at the marriages conferences stress that the Bible says we should be satisfied with
the wife of our youth and flee from the destruction caused by sex outside of marriage. I would encourage churches that wa iting until you feel you church is large enough to do something for couples doesn’t work. Start small, but you’ve got to start somewhere. We may not be able to do everything, but we can do something. What are your suggestions for leaders of churches that may not have the budget to hire a Marriage and Family Pastor but do recognize the great need to minister to couples? Perez: One way to minister with fewer resources is to recommend existing, trustworthy community outreaches already available in your area. We don’t employ professional counselors at our church, but we do have a trusted list of local Christian counselors to give to those interested in professional counseling. Also, get to know churches in your area. Maybe another church has great marriage classes. Recommend those! We recommend another local church for small groups addiction recovery. They are doing it so well that we prefer to partner with them. Fr a nk lin: We recently had Jimmy Evans come to our 2013 One Marriage Conference, and he has created a great group study called Marriage on the Rock. Our couples small groups do studies like this to build and strengthen marriages. I would encourage under-resourced churches to start small and build on at least one thing. Humble beginnings seem small, but God just needs people that are willing to persevere, be faithful and to dare to dream about doing new things. Bezet: The greatest resource any pastor has is the people in the church. In Ephesians, we read that the fivefold ministry exists “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” At New Life, we try very hard to do this very thing! Many of our pastors are not paid staff. Our pastors lead lay leaders who lead life group leaders, and much of the work of the ministry is done not by the apostles, teachers, pastors, evangelists,
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or prophets, but by the saints. Gr ay: A s a chu rch pla nt, we learned early that desperation produces innovation! We didn’t have enough money to paint the walls of the warehouse where we hold our weekend gatherings, let alone hire a marriage or family pastor! I deeply longed for our church to operate as a local body led by the priesthood of the believers, so we made an intentional commitment to leadership development in our church. In three years, God has really blessed our efforts to have a strong team of premarital and marriage counselors led by lay people. A lot of leaders long to see their lay people take that kind of ownership. How have you approached this at Transformation? Gr ay: First, we’re theologically convinced that God’s people are a “royal priesthood,” therefore, our congregation must be equipped by the pastor-elders to live out their calling. Second, we prayed for God to raise up gifted people within the congregation to be a part of this marriage ministry team. Third, we developed systems, processes and intentional training so they could be unleashed. How would you rate the importance of marriage ministry in the church to grow a church of spiritually mature disciples? Fr anklin: We recognize that keeping marriages strong is a must to making future disciples of future generations. If you can help a couple get closer to God and experience His reconciliation power, then you’re influencing multiple future generations. Bez et: Joh n 10:10 say s t h at the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, and we rarely see so much joy, peace, energy, purpose and legacy stolen as we do when a family is under attack. W hen a fa mily is dysfunctional, it hurts the members of that family in tragic ways. But it also robs the church of the potential ministry that families would be engaged in if they were walking in God’s purposes for their marriage. 36 MinistryToday July // August 2013
is worship. We want to connect them in a small group, to serve on a ministry team, to see their vocation as serving the world, to live a life of financial generosity and, to live an inviting life of being on mission with Jesus. Perez: At our church, we talk a lot about our personal marriage journey. We let them know it’s ok if your marriage isn’t perfect. It’s ok to need help. We focus on God’s grace and His sufficiency in us and through us as our power to keep loving, keep respecting and keep going.
Frankin: Well, we’ve seen God do a miracle restoration in many marriages that were once heading for divorce. We have even seen couples call off divorce after the papers had already been filed. God has blessed Cherise and me with almost 26 years of marriage. We‘ve had rough times like others, but the work has paid off. We still hold hands, and we still have fun together. Our kids know that their parents work on their marriage, and that has given them a sense of well being. They may say, “Oh gross!” when they see us kiss, but inside they’re happy about it. Gray: When we started, a couple came to one of our services on the verge of divorce. Now, they’re serving on the pre-marital/marriage counseling team. Because we attract a lot of non-Christians, we’ve seen a lot of couples in our church who were once shacking up now getting married. Perez: Our fruit is our kids. We love our church. We love our city. But the most important people and our first church are BJ, Bella, Benaiah and Bébé. They are astounding kids. They love church. Love Jesus. Love the ministry. Nothing is more important to us. Bezet: The greatest challenge is the magnitude of the need. Marriage in our culture is under attack at every level. But we know that the darker the room, the brighter the light! Many of the most miraculous marital turnarounds we’ve seen have developed into the greatest lay pastors and leaders! When marriage is a main focus, the healthy marriages influence and attract those who are struggling. When someone is forgiven much, they love much. When a couple is healed and given another chance, they run to the hurting marriages they see. Like most churches out there, we definitely aren’t the best church when it comes to marriage ministry, but we are always trying to learn from other churches, and at the end of the day, we are 100 percent committed to helping marriages in our church and community stay healthy.
What fruit have you seen from keeping marriage a front-burner focus in your church and your own family?
L i n d y L o w r y serves as general editor of Ministry Today. To read an expanded version of this article online, go to ministrytodaymag.com.
Healthy, thriving families will help other families, who will turn around and help others, thus making disciples. Gray: This question hurts my heart deeply. As Christians, we’re not doing so well with marriage. We have to minister the life-giving gospel of grace to married people. Graced people grace one another. Our discipleship strategy to everyone is intentional. We want to equip our people to see that all of life
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How can a marriage survive deception and infidelity? Chris and Cindy Beall candidly tell their personal story of devastation, restoration and redemption. BY CHRIS AND CINDY BEALL
Hope An expectation of obtainment. To expect with confidence. I hope that I get that promotion. I hope that my children don’t get hurt. I hope that I find an amazing man to marry. Everybody hopes in something. For something. It’s as natural as breathing. I (Cindy) hoped that one day I’d find my knight in shining armor. I didn’t know when he’d arrive on my doorstep so while I waited for him, I made a list of things that I desired to find in my future husband. Tall. Musical. Loves Jesus. Sensitive. Funny. Respectable. Admirable. Honest. Trusting. Protecting. Handsome. I hoped for a lot. Finally, he found me. And I found him. We were smitten with each other from our very first date. Apparently, he liked me so much that, unbeknownst to me, he put a down payment on my wedding ring the next day. And 10 months later, I got a new last name. American author Catherine Marshall said, “God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope.” I had no idea how applicable this quote would be in my life one day. But nine years into our marriage, everything crumbled. Actually, it crumbled before that. I just didn’t know it. I’d come to find out that for a period of about two and a half years, my pastor-husband, Chris, acted out on his very sordid addiction to pornography and committed multiple acts of infidelity, including a pregnancy from one of the women. The day he confessed all of this to me was the worst day of my life. I came to realize that it was just the first of many worse days in my life. My marriage died. So did my hope. Those of us who have been given the privilege of pastoring get to do what very few people get to do. I (Chris) was given the opportunity
Denise Love, 2 Little Owls Studio; © istockphoto/R_Koopmans
to provide leadership, care, direction, correction, teaching and compassion to God’s church and His people. What an honor and a privilege this was for me. Pastors are human, though. We sin just like everyone else. Our pastoral profession does not exempt us from the struggles the rest of humanity faces. What if we wake up one day living in a world of sin? What if our private lives bear little resemblance to the sermons we preach or the counsel we give? What if, in the absence of accountability, we have allowed pornography and sexual sin to take root in our lives? Due to the fear of losing our jobs, we find ourselves with no other option but trying to manage the sin and attempting to overcome it on our own power. That was my life. In addition to the very real fear of losing my family, I battled those exact fears, which kept me from confessing the bondage I was in. These fears kept my healing at bay. I had struggled with pornography since I was 8 years old. And contrary to what many believe to be true, it only got worse when I got married. When I stepped into my first vocational pastoral position, I struggled even more. After serving on two different church staff teams over a period of many years, I took a position with Craig Groeschel at LifeChurch.tv in 2002. By this time I had allowed my pornography addiction to get completely out of control, to the point that I had physically acted out and had been unfaithful to my wife multiple times in the previous city where we lived and ministered. I was sure that moving to a new city and working in a new church was a way to have a “do-over” and avoid having to expose my sin.
July // August 2013 MinistryToday 39
Chris and Cindy Beall
“What if our private lives bear little resemblance to the sermons we preach or the counsel we give?” —Chris Beall But God had other plans. During one staff meeting six weeks into my job at Lifechurch.tv, Craig shared about being “the real deal.” He challenged us that if we were dealing with some sin issues in our lives, we should confess it to our supervisor and we would find grace. God completely broke me that day, and I confessed ever ything to my wife, my family and to Craig. I had been unfaithful and dishonest, and because of that, I resigned my position on staff at LifeChurch.tv. I knew ministry was over for me, and I was completely fine with that. Next to being restored in my relationship with Christ, I wanted to stay married to Cindy and keep my family intact. I had no idea if that would be possible. Or if she would even want that. I (Cindy) had already allowed my mind to go down the single mother path. I didn’t want to be divorced or raise my young son alone, but the alternative—staying married to a man who’d absolutely destroyed my heart—was something I was just not sure I could do. I begged God to heal my devastated heart, desperate for my pain to subside even just for a few moments. Although a huge part of me wanted to just cut my losses and hit the road, 40 MinistryToday July // August 2013
there was still this inner voice that kept asking, “What does God want you to do?” For several days I beseeched God, asking Him to give me a Word to stand on. I knew then, even in the pit of my despair, that I needed to be grounded in whatever decision I made because to weather the obvious storms that would come my way, I would need the only thing that could withstand the tumultuous winds: The Word of God. He spoke to me through a ver y u n l i kel y, m i nor prophet n a med Habakkuk: “For the re vel ation await s an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (Hab. 2:3, NIV). That verse may not mean anything to you, but it means the world to me. It’s the very word I needed from God as I was contemplating my future. After this word was confirmed to me by two individuals on the same day, I heard God whisper this hope to my heart: My child, I know you don’t understand what I am asking of you. I know you don’t think anything good can come from this situation. But I need to you trust Me. And one day, you will see all that I am doing and how I am working this for your good and My glory.
So I stayed. And although His peace fell upon me as soon as I proclaimed my trust in Him, the pain and heartache took their own sweet time to diminish. Thankfully, God was ever present. On the days when I could barely lift my head from the pillow, He gave me strength. When the images came flooding into my mind, He gave me peace. When the pain bombarded me and suffocated me like a blanket in 100-degree weather, He comforted me. Had I never needed comfort, I would not have known the Comforter. He will provide the same for you. Strength. Peace. Comfort. Hope. Now I can’t promise that He will remove the storms from your life. I can’t promise that you’ll have a comfortable, pain-free existence on this earth. I can’t promise that you’ll get everything you want and dream for. What I can promise is that when you are weak, He’ll be strong. When you think you can’t take another step, He’ll carry you. When you are in despair, He’ll be your hope. We find these truths in Isaiah 40:30-31: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Hope in the Lord. Even if you think your situation is beyond repair, please believe this truth: Our God is the God of the impossible. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Hope in the Lord. Today, C h r i s a n d C i n d y B e a l l speak openly about their difficult journey that nearly destroyed their marriage and ministry in 2002. Through God’s grace, they have inspired thousands of couples and have returned to full-time ministry. Chris returned to LifeChurch.tv as the Oklahoma City campus pastor. Cindy’s first book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken (Harvest House), released in 2011. The Bealls recently celebrated their 20 years together on an anniversary trip to New York City. For more on their story and the healing that has taken place in both Chris and Cindy, go to Cindy’s blog and website, cindybeall.com.
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An Open Letter to
MARRIAGE CHAMPION: Each year, Karen Evans speaks to thousands through conferences and the TV show MarriageToday With Jimmy and Karen Evans
e i n g t h e w i f e o f a pa s t o r
for 40 years has had its share of challenges that thankfully we learned to navigate, especially early in our marriage. We were 28 years young with two small children when Jimmy accepted the call to lead Trinity, which made for several very difficult years for our marriage and family. I know our struggles are not unique to ministry couples—far from it. So when Jimmy asked me to write for this issue, I knew I wanted to share some of my own experiences and story in an honest letter to pastors’ wives. (If you’re a pastor reading this, you’ll likely gain some real insight into your wife’s journey.) What follows are some specific lessons— sometimes lea rned in ha rd ways—to encourage you that you are not, and never have been, alone.
42 MinistryToday July // August 2013
Marriage and family are prime targets for Satan, especially pastors’ marriages. When we began MarriageToday, we were actually going though the toughest times of our lives and marriage. We began to recognize that marriage and family are the areas Satan attacks the most. If you’re a pastor’s wife, you need to grasp that Satan wants to destroy your family even more than the church. Understanding how God sees me gives me the freedom to be myself. I knew I was not the typical “pastor’s wife.” I didn’t teach or have any musical abilities. Our church never put pressure on me to be anything more than Jimmy’s wife. However, the first couple of years were very trying. Jimmy and I had no
mentors or experience. We loved our church and the people, but the stress began bearing down on us personally. I was fighting feelings of not being the wife Jimmy needed to lead the church as well as my own insecurities. The greatest struggle for me was to not feel guilty about who I was as a person before we came to the church. I would beg God to change me and tell Him I would accept the gift to speak if He wanted to give it to me. The yea r before Jimmy beca me senior pastor, I had begun reading the Word every day. I had made a commitment to God to know Him and Jesus for myself. I was growing in my relationship with God and His Word and realized I was gifted in serving. I loved discipling women to grow in Christ. I also had a love for prayer. I found that
By K aren Evans
Encouragement for the Journey serving in different areas of ministry helped me feel accepted and take my mind off myself. The real changes came when I began to see myself through the Word and not my fears and insecurities. The Lord was healing me by His Word, and it caused me to start to see value in myself. I began to deal with the guilt and see my worth as a child of God and to not feel unworthy if I loved being a wife and mother. I began to accept myself and not be afraid to just be me. W hen the mini s tr y c ome s before the marriage, something has to give. Being married to a pastor is even more of a reason to keep your marriage first. Because of his own fears, Jimmy began to disconnect from us emotionally and mentally, which
caused me to withdraw, too. Ministry began to take its toll on our marriage. The constant stress of trying to raise young children was difficult. I knew in my heart that being honest about the stress was important. I supported Jimmy with all the church issues but couldn’t accept his behavior of checking out on us at home and leaving me feeling like a single parent. The resentment toward each other grew. I would seek counsel from elder friends, but even they didn’t seem to have answers. After months of fighting, we began to realize that the ministry had come before our marriage. It’s funny, but during that time I never questioned if Jimmy was supposed to leave the church. He actually was the one who offered to quit to save our marriage. I knew quitting was not the answer, but protecting our
marriage before the church was. We began to talk about how to cut back on the demands. Jimmy encouraged me to see that just being his wife was a full-time job along with parenting and volunteering at church and other places. My own journey of healing and maturing came as we both learned how to lead the church and have a great marriage. After years of Jimmy driving himself to exhaustion and sickness, we now go over what is important and the timing of his schedule together. Above all else, keep your marriage first. What one of us goes through affects both of us. Being the wife of the senior pastor had even more challenges. I love our church, and the people are amazing. But every church deals with struggles and pain and hurts from July // August 2013 MinistryToday 43
other people. Often, we would hear about people we loved leaving or talking bad about Jimmy and the elders. It hurt deeply to lose relationships; it seemed as if people cared more about the issues than the friendships. Many times, Jimmy and I would talk about quitting the ministry altogether and moving where no one knew us and just be normal church people. But our hearts wouldn’t let us. We would pray and talk and pray some more and forgive again and again. We dealt with the hurts by talking about everything and not allowing each other to withhold forgiveness or harbor secrets. Jimmy and I are accountable to each other, and he’s accountable to our elders. I have even personally called some of his close elder friends to tell them about situations that were affecting him personally. He and I are one, so what we go through individually affects us both. If you know situations at church are affecting your spouse, don’t be afraid to get help!
Kids, even pastor’s kids, must find their own faith. We also knew our children were in a fish bowl. So we talked to them about how even if we were working outside the church, we would still require them to live in a way that honored God. We never allowed the church to put pressure on them. But at the same time, we knew it was hard for them. As much as we wanted to protect them, they had to find their own faith and go through the many character-building situations of life. Despite the potential hurt and betrayals of friends, relationships are still worth it. Being a pastor’s wife can be very lonely. I have always had close friends, but I can remember times of feeling very alone in the midst of it all. We give so much of ourselves to the church, and sometimes it’s easy to lose our identity. Most of us go through these common feelings, but as a pastor’s wife we’re afraid to let ourselves be honest with these issues.
I prayed ea rly on that the Lord would bring me friends I could trust. Mature friends who stay with you through the hard times are invaluable. I don’t fear being vulnerable as much as I fear the rejection from those I love. I want to affirm all of you who have had betrayal and loss. It hurts more than most people in your church could ever understa nd. You k now both or most sides of every story, and keeping your mouth shut is hard and lonely. But the Lord sees and knows, and it’s still worth developing relationships that go through the fire with you and are standing with you after the smoke clears. Being honest about what you need is the first step to getting what you need. It’s important to let your husband know when you have a need to just vent and when you want him to give his counsel. Many times I’m dealing with issues of my own and just want to talk. I’m not necessarily asking
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Jimmy to fix it. Sometimes I just need him to be my friend. Let your husband know up front what you’re thinking. Be honest about your fears. It’s also just as important to let him talk and not give advice unless he asks for it. Jimmy and I share the same values, but there are times he doesn’t need my answers as much as my understanding. The role I play is vital to our family—and ministry. Through the years, I’ve learned that serving Jimmy in our home is just as important as me serving in the church. I have tried to keep our home a place of peace and rest and order. Even though Jimmy w ill help me a round the house, I always consider him and his schedule and how I can better serve him so he can come home and get away from the demands. We are empty nesters now, so it has been a give and take through all the different seasons of our marriage and children growing up. My friends at church know that Jimmy has been able to do what he does because of my support. I don’t struggle anymore with my destiny being like others, whether it’s at home or in ministry. I have no regrets about making our marriage first and our home a safe haven. The Lord has honored our hearts and given us so much to steward, but the most important thing has been to keep our relationship with Jesus first and then with each other. I love being a pastor’s wife, and I love our church. Through all the years of trials and joys, I am so grateful for what the Lord has done in our lives and the church. Being part of the bigger body of Christ is an amazing thought, so to all of you who serve alongside your husbands, I say thank you. I appreciate and love the differences we all bring as women, wives and pastors. You are a beautiful part of not only leading but also being an example of helping and serving others. Well done, my friends! K a r e n E v a n s i s co-founder of the international ministry MarriageToday with her husband Jimmy Evans. She and Jimmy have been married for 40 years and have two adult children. July // August 2013 MinistryToday 45
Throughout their 27-year marriage, Chris and Tammy Hodges have never mentioned divorceâ€”one of the time-tested principles that have proven invaluable for sustaining their marriage amidst the challenges of life and ministry
By Chris Hodges
y wife Tammy and I first met while she and her family were missionaries in Germany. I later proposed to her in a little café just outside of Hamburg. Now 27 years later, we’ve been in full-time ministry together the entire time and have five kids. We’ve lived life—and ministry—together. Just like any other married couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. But I can honestly say that other than my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with my wife continues to be the best part of my life. When others ask for our “secret sauce,” I give the credit to God, to Tammy and to the principles our parents taught and modeled in front of us. Amidst the many demands of ministry and family life, over the years five principles have become especially important in sustaining our relationship. On the next few pages, I share them, prayerfully hoping that these insights can help you make your marriage ministry-proof. 1) Understand and receive love from God first.
I am completely convinced that my ability to love and stay faithful to my wife is a direct result of my love relationship with Jesus. Scripture tells us, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NIV). Being unconditionally loved by Jesus gives us the capacity to love others. The more we know and experience His love, the more we must give to others. Bottom line: If you can’t love a God who’s kind, gracious and perfect in every way, you can’t expect to love a person who isn’t. As Paul prayed, “May your roots go deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love, and may you be able to feel and understand ... how long, wide, deep, and high His love really is, and experience this love for yourselves” (Eph. 3:17-18, TLB). This love relationship with Jesus requires us to lay down our lives to receive it. Daily I practice the discipline of “crucifying my flesh” because my old sinful nature keeps trying to rise up out of the grave. But that simple little discipline reminds me that, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20, NIV). The practice of dying daily (1 Cor. 15:31) keeps my sinful nature in its © istockphoto/leeser87
place, and that is always good for Tammy because dead men don’t get angry. Dead men don’t get jealous. Dead men don’t complain. And if Christ is truly living in me, then His nature comes out, not mine. 2) Divorce is not an option.
When Tammy and I first got married, we agreed that the only condition for separation was death—till death do us part. Throughout our entire marriage, we’ve never even brought up the possibility of divorce. Murder, yes (just kidding). Divorce, no. It’s not on the table. The kind of love God gives us is unconditional, agape love, which explains our definition of marriage: “an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.” Someone once shared the two laws of married reality with me. No. 1, you married an imperfect person. No. 2, you’re not so hot yourself! So funny, but so true. Great marriages don’t have fewer problems than not-so-great marriages. In most cases, they have more problems, which is how it may feel in ministry sometimes. The people in great marriages have just decided that they’re going to stay committed no matter what. Commitment means being willing to be unhappy for a while until we work it out. I truly believe you’ll never build a great marriage unless you throw away the option of divorce. Take it off the table. 3) Leverage your differences to make you stronger as a team.
By God’s design, men and women are very different. Tammy and I could not be more opposite. If I feel hot, she’s freezing. If I want to spend, she wants to save. When I want to watch Dumb and Dumber, she wants to watch Pride and Prejudice. But we still love each other—probably even more July // August 2013 MinistryToday 47
than if we agreed on most things. Our differences can either irritate us or entertain us. In ministry especially, they can either drive us apart or make us better as a team. It’s all in how we respond to our differences. Other couples often ask us how Tammy has managed her role in the church. I’m all for women leading in whatever capacity God has gifted them, but Tammy genuinely feels her primary calling is to be a
wife and mom. She doesn’t desire to be on stage at all. When we first got married, her greatest fear was that I was going to require her to be like the stereotypical pastor’s wife. Today, she often thanks me for letting her be who she is and not pressuring her to be someone she’s not. In the same way, I am who I am and most people couldn’t live with me for a single day. Our family regularly reminds
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me that no one could live with me other than Tammy (thanks, family). But it’s true. I feel empowered to lead and fulfill the call of God on my life because Tammy appreciates me just the way I am, even though it’s very different from who she is. Just remember what Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). 4) Make marriage a priority.
In the age of busy schedules and life’s demands, it’s easy for you to become like two ships passing in the night. But a healthy marriage requires both of you to make your time together a priority second only to your time with God. Marriage has to be a priority. Tammy and I are as busy as any other couple, with five kids, a dog and a church that has grown very fast over its first 12 years. There’s never enough time to do everything. What this means is that somebody or something is going to feel left out and neglected. In his book, Choosing to Cheat, Andy Stanley insightfully writes, “The real question is not ‘Are you cheating?’ but ‘Who are you cheating?’ ” The solution is simple, but applying it can be difficult. Make an appointment with your spouse and keep it. Put up a boundary around this most important relationship and then honor it. Literally schedule date nights and family times on your calendar, then refuse to move them. For 27 years, Tammy and I have been faithful to our date nights. Sometimes we didn’t have the money to do much, but we always did something, even if we just sat in a coffee shop talking and listening. For marriages to thrive, schedules must reflect the huge priority of each other. In other words, cheat at work if you must, but do not cheat at home. 5) Keep the romance alive.
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Romance isn’t just for Jane Austen books and Lifetime movies. It’s critical for a healthy marriage. I’ve always been amazed that when couples are first dating, they work so hard to impress each other, but as soon as the real relationship—their marriage—begins, they stop. Think of it this way: Who doesn’t enjoy a warm fire on a cold night? But that crackling fire doesn’t happen by itself. You have to remove the ashes, set 48 MinistryToday July // August 2013
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“Great marriages don’t have fewer problems than not-so-great marriages. In most cases, they have more problems, which is how it may feel in ministry sometimes. The people in great marriages have just decided that they’re going to stay committed no matter what.” Say “I love you” every time you part ways. ● Go on a date every week. ● Kiss unexpectedly. ● Apologize sincerely. ● Laugh at his jokes. ● Husbands, ask her to marry you again. ● Wives, say yes. So how do you keep marriage alive and healthy through the demands of ministry? The bottom line is it takes work. Love is a choice, not a feeling. Love is getting up in the middle of the night with a sick child even though you don’t feel like it. Love is patient when your husband is uptight even when you’d like to ignore him. Love is kind when your wife is irritable even though
Tammy and Chris Hodges
the kindling, go outside to the log pile, brush off the snow, bring the wood inside and keep logs on the fire. It’s a lot of work. And before you know it, the embers are burning low and you need to put another log on the fire. Too many couples have an unrealistic expectation that their love relationship should stay red hot. It doesn’t. Like that fireplace, a relationship takes careful attention and regular maintenance. Make the effort, and you’ll reap the benefits. A few simple ways to keep the fire burning: ● Start each day with a hug. ● Compliment freely and often.
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you’d like to snap back. Love is giving a person what they need, not what they deserve. Marriage is a daily commitment to put your reactions aside and put on love: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:14). C h r i s H o d g e s is founding and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands with campuses across Alabama. He is also cofounder of ARC, which has launched hundreds of churches nationwide, and founder of GROW, a coaching network helping pastors break barriers and reach their growth potential. He and Tammy have five children and live in Birmingham, Ala. He speaks at leadership conferences worldwide and is the author of Fresh Air.
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“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” —Proverbs 29:18, KJV
Chances are you’ve prayed about a vision for your church for years and have spent weeks writing a vision statement that you protect and when needed, refine and redefine. Have you done the same for your marriage? By Jimmy Evans
ver met anyone who opened your eyes to something that revolutionized your life? For me, that guy is my ministry friend, David Smith. More than 20 years ago after a game of golf, in casual conversation David unknowingly introduced me to an idea that ever since has been a game changer in my marriage. Anyone who meets David for the first time quickly discovers he’s married—happily married. David talks about his wife Linda all the time—even on the golf course where many men seldom talk about their wives. I’ve always admired that about him. When I spent time with him, he constantly complimented Linda and went out of his way to build her up in front of others. He talked about how beautiful and caring she is, how much he liked her cooking, how good she was with the kids, how much he looked forward to going home to her in the evenings, how lucky he was to be her husband. No matter what topic we discussed, it seemed he’d find a way to bring Linda’s name into the conversation, always in a kind way. It was no different when the two of them were together. They complimented each other incessantly and never put each other down. It was obvious they were crazy about each other. At one point, I remember thinking, David is the only guy I know who has a better marriage than I do. Karen and I had a wonderful marriage at the time, but still I found myself jealous of their relationship. I often wondered about his secret. »
July // August 2013 MinistryToday 53
One day after a game of golf on the way to dinner, David mentioned in passing that he and Linda would soon be leaving for their vision retreat and that they were looking forward to it. “What’s a vision retreat?” I asked. He seemed surprised. “You mean, you’re the ‘marriage guy,’ and you’ve never heard of a vision retreat?” he asked half joking.
my time was spent praying and seeking God’s guidance for our congregation. Our pastoral staff would meet regularly to discuss our church’s vision, and we even had a detailed vision statement we had crafted years earlier. We’d refer to it often and read it aloud in meetings to make sure we were on track and staying there. All of us wanted to make sure God was at the helm when it came to making decisions for our church and
Karen and Jimmy Evans
“As a pastor, I knew how important it was to have a vision for my church. ... So why not implement that same concept into our marriage and family?” David explained to me that each year he and Linda went away alone for several days to seek God’s vision for them as a couple. They called it their “vision retreat,” and it was a non-negotiable component of their marriage. During their vision retreat, they used the time together to seek God’s guidance, to pray together, talk through issues that needed to be discussed, and make decisions about their family, marriage, careers and anything else going on in their lives. He told me that he and Linda had been doing a retreat this for years and that it had done more to strengthen their marriage than anything they had ever tried. I was fascinated by the idea. As a pastor, I knew how important it was to have a vision for my church, and a lot of 54 MinistryToday July // August 2013
community, so we spent many hours in prayer, seeking God’s guidance and direction for our fellowship. So why not implement that same principle into our marriage and family? The idea made perfect sense to me. Honestly, I was a little embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it earlier. I couldn’t wait to tell Karen about the idea and immediately began planning our own retreat. Our First Vision Retreat
That weekend, I made arrangements with friends to borrow their lake house just outside of Dallas so that Karen and I could get away for a few days and relax and spend time talking about our vision statement. It was a beautiful and private location, with a great front porch and
miles of trails where we could get away to walk and talk. It was the perfect place to be alone and seek God’s guidance. Karen and I had long since overcome the struggles of our early years and I’d had a very strong marriage at the time, but there was still tension in a few areas. It was the mid-’80s, and Karen and I had young kids at home. My career as a pastor and speaker was demanding, keeping me away from home far more than either of us really wanted. Money was also tight, which always leads to friction. So we had some issues we needed to work through. We committed to using this time productively. In hindsight, that weekend away did more to strengthen our marriage than anything we had ever done, just as it had for David and Linda. It was only four short days, but at the end of that time we felt closer than we had in years. Not only that, but we had a clear direction for our marriage and family—a written set of goals and promises we were committed to carrying out. Money and finances had always been a source of tension with us. We usually avoided the subject altogether. I’ve always been a spender and never worried much about budgeting or saving, while Karen is extremely thrifty and cautious about spending money. We’ve always been extreme opposites in this area, which through the years created a lot of conflict. We didn’t fight about it very much—only because we didn’t talk about it. But during our vision retreat, we spent time praying and discussing our finances and came away with a clear plan of action—a compromise we both felt good about. Suddenly money was no longer a topic we avoided. We had a written plan, and we both committed to sticking to it. Afterward, finances were no longer a point of tension. We simply stuck to the plan that God had given us and stopped worrying about it. The same was true when it came to my career. When we committed it to prayer, the fact that I had been spending too much time at work and would probably face burnout soon became obvious to both of us. So we drafted a clear plan of action for
» continued on page 64
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Ministry Life: M a r r i a g e
Ministry By Jimmy Witcher
The Frontline of Offense
A three-pronged approach for ministering to couples in all stages of marriage
At our church, we only marry couples who have completed an extensive pre-marriage process. “We find that couples who work through key issues, such as finances, children, sex, husband/wife needs and inlaws prior to marriage are much more likely to be successful, especially in the first few years,” says Matt Spears, our 56 MinistryToday July // August 2013
executive pastor. The process provides couples with communication tools that become invaluable later in their relationship. While the specific process varies, from regular classes taught by trained volunteers to individual counseling by the marrying pastor, we unapologetically and rigidly follow this policy.
marriage enrichment strategy.” In these specially tailored groups, people can get the hands-on mentoring they need as they live in community with each other. Our small groups meet for 13 weeks, taking couples on a journey of personal discovery and giving them practical tools for their marriages. Using resources such as the Marriage on the Rock curriculum kit and Five Days to a New Marriage, groups can take couples to a whole new level of understanding each other and learning to effectively communicate. We’ve seen hundreds of marriages—from those in crisis to couples happily married for decades—take their relationships to a new level in just a few weeks. “Every successful marriage needs communication skills to overcome selfishness and embrace God’s grace,” Spears says. “The key is finding mature leaders who have worked through these issues and empowering them to help others.” Couples in Crisis
J i m m y W i t c h e r serves as senior executive pastor of Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, Texas, where he oversees the church’s volunteer-led, robust and thriving marriage ministry.
Marriage-Focused Small Groups
Marriage training is an essential part of any successful church strategy. At our church, we preach an annual message series covering many marriage topics, from communication to parenting to sex. But while preaching regularly on the subject is critical, it’s only one facet of equipping. We also strongly encourage couples to be involved in a small group— what our marriage and family pastor, Joab Purdue, calls “the heart of our
W h i le g roups of fer t he neces sa r y tools to help couples enrich and advance their marriages, some relationships requ ire more direct intervention. We approach counseling on several levels. The vast majority of it is handled by our volunteer counselors. These incredible individuals go through our training process and then open up their schedule a few hours each week to counsel couples. “Most people a re su rprised to find that their issues are not unique,” explains Gail Stennis, our pastor of care and counseling. By identifying mature leaders and holding two to three training classes each year, Stennis maintains a solid volunteer counselor base. For the more difficult cases, she refers the couples either to a staff pastor or a local
ave you ever stopped to think and seriously consider that the local church—your church—is the frontline of offense in the battle for marriage and ultimately the family? It’s a daunting thought. God instituted marriage as one of the foundational principals of mankind, and since the moment of its inception, this sacred bond has been under attack. How is a pastor, whose time and capacity are already spread paper thin, supposed to wage a war for these covenant relationships and maintain a revolution of this magnitude and importancewhen the world is working to make them ever more dispensable? At our church, Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo, Texas, we’ve developed a three-pronged approach for making marriage a front-burner issue and meeting people where they are, whether they’re just beginning their marriage, have been married for a while and are still working hard at it, or are struggling in their relationship. We’ve taken our marriage ministry and released it to our volunteers to execute, lessening the need for staff while simultaneously training people to come alongside each other to minister as everyday disciples. Essentially, we focus on marriage in three areas: pre-marriage counseling, marriage enrichment/building and crisis care. Here’s a brief summary of what we do and why we do it.
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Christian counseling service. Along with regular counseling, we also recommend that couples in crisis attend a marriage intensive such as The Hideaway Experience or The Refuge at River Falls. "Whether it's couples who have decided to divorce or 40-year veterans, we've witnessed miracles take place at these events," Spears says. "They have had a radical impact on marriages!"
The intimate setting combined with professional counselors who follow proven processes yields tremendous resu lt-even for the most seemingly hopeless cases. We also recognize and understand that while marriage retreats and counseling are exceptional and effective resources, sometimes people need to be healed. A critically wounded soldier doesn't have much fight left in him/her.
He isn't able to engage in battle. So we offer opportunities for healing, such as THE SUMMIT weekend, a retreat at which we help people address their past and identify areas of bondage that are keeping them from finding freedom, and as a result stifling their relationships. We design THE SUMMIT to help people experience God through inner healing and deliverance. We also offer what we call "Sensitive Needs" groups, targeting specific issues affecting individuals and marriages, such as Healing for Adult Women of Childhood Sexual Abuse; Boundaries; Freedom from Alcoholism; Victory over Anger; Leaving the Gay Lifestyle; Freedom from Sexual Addiction (for both men and women); Coping with Husband's Sexual Addiction and more. If you go to our website, the home page clearly states that Trinity Fellowship has "one mission in mind: to help you Experience God, Find Community, and Fulfill Your Purpose." We were created on purpose, for a purpose, by a God who loves us and wants great things for us. \li;thcn we're doing what
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He created us ro do, we find complete and total fullness of joy. But for some, that purpose and the joy that comes with it seems far away and our of reach. We believe that offering these kinds of resources will help us fulfi II rhar mission as we minister ro those in our church and local community. As church leaders or really anyone in this culture, we don't need ro read statistics to know the battle for marriage is raging. We all know we're facing a divorce epidemic and the breakdown of the fam ily. But I do believe that the church is God's Plan A (there is no Plan B) for redeeming the world and marriages. It starts with us as leaders saying marriage is important and we're going to fight for it. Then we have ro dr ill down ro the "how's" and figure our how we're going to focus our efforts on developing processes, attracting and training volunteers and leveraging existing resources ro get us one step closer to winning the fighr. Marriage is the bedrock of our society, and the local church offers rhe key ro its survival. • 58 MinistryToday July II August 2013
ENCOURAGER SCHOOL OF KINGDOM MINISTRY
in honor of Jack Taylor
Ministry Leadership: Fa m i ly
B Y J u l i e A lb r a c h t
Lessons in Hindsight
n a recent interview for our daughters’ new school, I was asked some personal, thought-provoking questions about my walk with God. My answers surprised the interviewer a little: “I didn’t grow up in a home that served God,” he said,
“Those of us who grew up in the ministry or who are raising children in it know it’s far from easy or perfect.” “so I am fascinated by those who did. I always just assumed their lives were easy and somewhat perfect.” I am so thankful that not only did I grow up in a home that served God, but that my parents devoted their lives to helping others serve Him as well. However, those of us who grew up in the ministry or who are raising children in it know it’s far from easy or perfect. I love my dad for many reasons, but I adore the fact that when I was asked to write this article, he said, “Share what you need to share to help other ministers and their families.” So as the daughter of a pastor, I want to offer a few thought-provoking questions based on insights I’ve discovered in hindsight to help you in your family relationships. If you’re dealing with any regrets, I hope you’ll find healing and even keys to restoring those relationships. 1) Are your kids secure in their identity as children of God? My 60 MinistryToday July // August 2013
parents did many things right. I cherish the fact my dad always adhered to his statement: “I would raise you the same if I were a minister or an appliance salesman.” I don’t ever remember feeling pressure to behave a certain way because of his profession. Children of ministers or high-profile parents need to know the church isn’t where their security lies, but rather in being a child of God. 2) Does your family feel neglected most of the time? It’s so easy to start down that slippery slope and believe ministers have a get-out-of-jail-free card with their families because of the work they’re doing for the kingdom. Growing up, this was probably my biggest issue with my dad. I needed more quality time with him. He was often gone in the evenings and on weekends, and when he did get home he was exhausted. As an adult, I’ve shared with him that I felt his job in ministry came before us. He knows his actions make it very difficult to argue with me. His heart was in the right place. 3) Do you know how to be real with your family? Many people are turning away from the faith, including those raised in the church. I believe this stems from a feeling of hypocrisy as we watch our leaders say one thing and do another. Our families keep us grounded; they see us at our worst. Your congregants and supporters, on the other hand, can often make you feel great about yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to be with them than with those who call you out from time to time. Not only does your family need you desperately, but you need them. 4) Are you praying for your family? Not long after I got married, I received a prophecy: “The prayers your dad prayed for you will liberate you. Your dad and you won’t always see eye to eye, but his prayers for you have been powerful.” Growing up, my dad and I had few disagreements. However, during a devastating season in our family, our relationship began to crumble. Underlying issues and pressures grew to a level our family could no longer contain or ignore. I’m so thankful for the breakthrough and healing that’s taking place in our family by getting real and getting help when needed. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many families who don’t have this happy ending. I don’t believe in spiritual formulas, but I do believe in the power of prayer. Trust in prayer over the power of your platform. We will all make mistakes as parents, regardless of our profession. Trust the Holy Spirit’s direction, and speak to our Savior often about your family. J u l i e E v a n s A l b r a c h t is the daughter of Jimmy and Karen Evans. She is a consultant to ministers and their families, a writer and an interior designer. She and her husband, Cory, have been married for 17 years and have twin 11-year-old daughters.
Four questions for deepening or restoring family relationships
Revolutions. requ1re lll~lTf) IJIJ'I,I f) Nilllii~S Jeff and Debby McElroy are a couple on a mission. "For too long, marriage conferences have been very stale, too academic, or led by couples who act as though their marriage is perfect," says Debby. "That just makes me throw up a little in the back of my throat," adds Jeff. "I can't relate to that, and I don't think other people can either. And I'll tell you another thing," he continues. "It seems like too many marriage conferences and books have the approach that if you can make the husband act more like a woman, you can make the marriage better. I'm crazy enough to think God made men to be men and women to be women, and you can still have a great marriage without the husband having to trade in his man card to do it!" "We just try to be authentic," states Debby. "We don't have a perfect marriage ... mainly because we're in it! But we do have a perfect God who has loved us through our selfishness. We want couples to know how to trust Him in their marriage as well."
To help get couples more connected to the Lord, the McEiroys use a unique approach. For featuring their Marriage Tune Up conferences, every couple who purchases tickets from the hosting church Jef f & D e b by Mc E l roy gets a free pair of tickets to invite an "unchurched" couple to attend free of charge. "Our job isn't to draw couples to us. Our job is to connect people to the church and the body of Christ. That's where lasting marriage enrichment happens," states Jeff. "We also want couples to see that working on their marriage doesn't have to be a boring, laborious process," adds Debby. "We want them to enjoy it so much that they're already looking for the next opportunity to grow their relationship." Their approach seems to be working. The McEiroys' unique blend of comedy, drama, and music that opens the heart for deep, scriptural insight, have them in high demand from churches and communities looking to save marriages and families. Jeff and Debby have led multiple marriage and parenting events for some of the largest churches in the country like Willow Creek Community Church, and have worked in partnership with some of the most respected leaders in the movement like Jimmy Evans' Marriage Today and Prepare-Enrich, to produce their critically acclaimed Prepare To Last pre-marital resource. The McEiroys are also used by Chick-fil-A's WinShape Marriage Foundation as adjunct faculty and featured speakers in their marriage programming. Whether through their Marriage Tune Up conferences, their Spice Up Your Marriage Date Night lntrodueing the events, Home Improvement and Parenting with Purpose conferences, Marriage Under Fire marriage retreats for military and first responder couples, or their ReGeneration Experience marriage intensive retreats for couples in crisis (through which they've seen a 90% success rate in saving desperate marriages) , Jeff and Debby McElroy are truly a couple earning their stripes as revolutionaries for the cause.
Y19ÂŤ1" :hfLaff!age f
For more information on the McEiroys and their ministry, go to foreverfamilies.com or call their office at (865) 769-2611 .
Resourcing By Brent Evans
In the Battle Together
Three strategies for using simulcasts in your church
s president of the ministry my comfort of their homes. We had an as a place to find hope and healing dad, Jimmy Evans, founded, I’ve estimated 60,000-plus people partici- for any marriage issue. A marriage been serving him for almost a pate in this one event, both live and enrichment event can get unchurched decade. This year, we’re celebrating the via simulcast. couples who want to fix their relation20th anniversary of MarriageToship not only in the door, but day, so I’ve been along for a good possibly in a future new memportion of the ride. From day bers class. We promote all our one, MarriageToday has always events through our marketing focused on equipping the local cha nnels, including our T V church to succeed in the area of show and website, in the hope marriage. My dad, who has been of driving couples to simulcast a pastor for 30 years, frequently locations. says, “The local church is the 3) Address vital but “uncomhope of the world.” for table” subjects. Ta lk about We sincerely believe that. se x? I n chu rch? T he t r ut h We see our broadcast ministry is that pastors don’t a lways as the “Air Force” in the battle want to (or even know how to) to save marriage and the local approach difficult and imporchurch as the “A rmy,” w ith tant subjects like sex, divorce, its massive supply of ground B r e n t E v a n s is the president of MarriageToday. He lives cohabitation or blended famtroops. We absolutely know that in Southlake, Texas, with his wife, Stephanie, and their two ilies from the pulpit. My dad we can’t win this war without children, Kate and Reed. is a gifted communicator and strategizing with each other. is excellent when it comes to For t he la st few yea rs, one of Over the years of producing simul- delivering biblically based, sensitive our greatest tools for empowering casts, we’ve seen churches leverage information in a way that doesn’t churches to reach and teach couples our events in unique and effective alienate spouses or couples. in their churches and communities ways. If you’re considering hosting a Our simulcasts are seen by groups have been the simulcasts of our live simulcast or just learning about them, as small as two couples all the way to marriage conferences. If you’ve used consider these specific strategies to audiences with multiple thousands in simulcasts, you know how easy they make the most of your event: attendance. No matter your church are to host. Tech-wise, all you need 1) Launch spring and fall small groups. size or budget, you can leverage simulis an Internet connection and a view- Simulcasts are often thought of as casts to minister to couples in your ing device. Simply put, you set up “one - a nd- done” t y pes of events — church and community. All you need a “watching environment,” invite a it’s a great weekend experience, but is an Internet connection and a desire bunch of people to come to a certain what’s next? Churches that have used to help those who desperately need a place at a certain time, and then sit our simulcasts as kickoffs for their stronger marriage foundation. We can back and relax while real-time, quality seasonal small groups have told us it win by working together. content is streamed to everyone sit- makes a huge difference in couples’ ting in the room. participation and ministr y followMinistryResource Each year, we facilitate two mar- through. To extend the impact, MarMarriageToday’s next simulcast, “Sex, Love & riage simulcasts. The most recent was riageToday provides curriculum kits Communication,” is Aug. 9-10, 2013. For more broadcast live during Valentine’s Day as part of its simulcast package. A information on hosting or registering to view the weekend and drew 300 host churches simulcast event that leads into a sixsimulcast, go to marriagetoday.com or contact nationwide plus people and churches week, marriage-focused small group email@example.com to learn about from multiple countries around the can be a powerful thing. the simulcast and other resources to help curb world. We a lso gave couples t he 2) Think community outreach. We want America’s divorce epidemic. option to stream the event from the the loca l church to be thoug ht of 62 MinistryToday July // August 2013
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» continued from page 54 my schedule. It took work on my part to stick to the plan, but I committed to listening for and heeding God’s voice and staying the course. We also wereTime able _______ to discuss some important issues related Date _______ Proof # _______ Initials _______ to raising ourRep. kids—a subject that alwaysIssue creates tension and Acct. _______ Mag. _______ _______ difficult challenges between couples. Karen and I were no difPlease view this proof carefully (paying close attention to ferent. During weekend away, and/or we made decisions about spelling). Clearlyour mark any corrections changes to be made. schools, how we discipline andinitial family times. Once we sought Check the appropriate box and below. No changes/corrections will be made without theitproper authorization. God’s vision for our family, became clear what we needed to Note: After initialing this proof (or the reproof—if necessary), do in several areas that had been hanging over our heads, often Charisma Media will not be held responsible for any misspellings/ causing frustration. errors undetected by the advertiser and/or Acct. Exec. Afterward we never argued about these areas of marriage ■ Approved as is. and parenting again. We simply stayed true to the vision Initial DateGod ■ Changes/corrections gave required. us and moved forward. Acct. Exec.
Advertiser ■ Reproof necessary A Non-Negotiable for Our Marriage
Since that time, vision retreats have become a regular, nonnegotiable part of our marriage. Every year, we plan quality time away to seek God’s guidance. It’s clearly one of the best decisions we’ve ever made and has honestly made a dramatic difference in how we relate to each other as a couple. Like David, I can say that our vision retreats have proven to be one of the greatest strengths of our marriage. When you don’t have a clear vision of where you’re going, it’s impossible to stay together. If you have no idea about your destination, then how do you know when you’ve arrived? How do you know when you’re on the wrong path? The great thing about going to the Lord and getting His vision for your marriage is that it’s absolutely stable. You go through a discouraging or difficult time, and that vision stays before you as a testimony that God has a purpose for your life and marriage. We also began promoting the idea as an integral part of our ministry to married couples, and we even created a manual to help couples plan their own vision retreats. We’ve helped thousands plan and implement vision retreats in their own marriages. The feedback from couples has been phenomenal. If vision retreats aren’t a regular part of your marriage, I can say firsthand they should be. And if you have any areas of sensitive or recurring conflict, I suggest you plan one sooner rather than later. Like us, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t think of it earlier. One final word to leaders: Don’t let the vision for your church be the vision for your marriage or come before your marriage. Keep your marriage first by keeping your vision fresh, clear and unified. After their first few vision retreats, J i m m y a n d K a r e n E v a n s wrote the 40-page booklet The Mountaintop of Marriage to walk couples through the vision retreat process step by step. For more information on how to plan a vision retreat, visit marriagetoday.com/ visionretreat. Excerpted and adapted with permission from Lifelong Love Affair by Jimmy Evans (2012, Baker Books). 64 MinistryToday July // August 2013
P a s t o r ’ s
H e a r t
by Br ady Boyd
Letting God Be God
Lessons in the art and practice of finding life-giving perspective
ou probably know by now that being a pastor doesn’t shield you from disappointments. Sorry for the buzzkill beginning, but that’s the truth. The offerings will sometimes be less than your church expenses. The sermon you planned to preach was a lot better than the one you actually preached. People will leave your congregation for the silliest of reasons. The list could go on and on, I promise. But the good news is that God is working at all times on our behalf in the invisible realm—although that invisibility sometimes causes us distress. So we wrestle. We admit disappointment. We engage in earnest dialogue with our God. In the end, we come around to the same vow: “I trust you, Father. I really do. And while I don’t understand what You’re doing, I know You’re guiding me. You’re still God, and You are good.” These days I’m learning a few things about how to let God be God in my life. Hopefully, sharing these lessons will help you do the same in your life and ministry.
they rub off on me. Secure people live free from anxiety and fear. They are immovable, unshakeable, firm. And they teach me to live this way, too. I’m married to the most secure person I know. Pam and I have gone through some of the biggest traumas and crises a couple can face, and yet she remains fixed and steady and sound. When I arrive home each afternoon, I know I’ll be walking into an environment marked by peace. Being married to someone like that is a huge gift.
“When I get rest, I notice how my anger has diminished and my perspective has shifted.”
1) I’m most vulnerable to feelings of insecurity and disappointment during a season of significant change. Criticism of any kind is never fun. But it carries a special sting when I’m operating off my normal routine. During a typical week, I have systems in place for staying connected to Christ. But toss a new role, a new city, a new house in the mix, and those systems take a hit. I’m thrown off balance. I’m uncertain. I’m tired. This is when Satan loves to strike. Simply knowing when to watch out for these conditions that weaken me helps me block the enemy’s predictable blow. 2) There’s safety in numbers. Specifically, the more I can hang around secure, measured, kind people, the more
MinistryResource In his new book, Sons and Daughters, Brady Boyd looks at the interweaving of God’s grace and our daily lives: How do those who know they are God’s children think, speak, and act differently? Discover how to live like you belong to God. 66 MinistryToday July // August 2013
3) It’s really difficult to stay disappointed in someone or some circumstance that you’re praying for regularly. I’m reminded of this country song I heard about a heartbroken guy who finds himself sitting in church one Sunday, devastated over losing his girlfriend—so upset he’s actually open to advice from a preacher. “Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn,” the preacher says. “Let the good Lord do His job, and you just pray for them.” So the guy decides to pray for this gal—that her brakes would go out, that her birthday would come and nobody would call, that her dreams would never come true. Not exactly the kind of prayers I mean.
4) When you’re wrestling with disappointment, a good night’s sleep works wonders. I mean it. Before you reply on Facebook or Twitter or email or pick up the phone and fire back, go to sleep. Have some quiet time. Do anything to recenter yourself so that God has the chance to speak to you. When I get rest, I notice how my anger has diminished and my perspective has shifted. These four lessons—when I follow through on them—give God room and authority to change my perspective, soften others’ hearts (especially the ones I’m praying for) and, ultimately, to be God in my life. B r a d y B o y d serves as senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. Married to his college sweetheart, Pam, he is dad to two kids, Abram and Callie.
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Published on Jun 27, 2013
Serving rising leaders within the church by empowering them with effective tools for Spirit-led ministry. Guest Editor: Jimmy Evans, a churc...