February is here and with it comes the reminder that love is in the air. Valentine’s Day is approaching and with it a chance to promote the sacred bond of man to woman in Holy Matrimony. But does our world today view marriage in the same light or with the same reverence as it once did? The answer, sadly, is no.
There have been many factors that have led to this including the sexual revolution that began in the ’60s where the culture began to openly decouple sex from the marriage union. Pair that with the lack of understanding of what marriage truly is, and we see how culture has largely shaped where we are today. In a Breakpoint.org article John Stonestreet and Shane Morris reported, “Overall, belief in the importance of marriage is at an all-time low. According to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, just 29% of Americans say it is “very important” for a couple who have children together to be legally married. That’s down from 49% in 2006.”
It seems culture just doesn’t think marriage is important anymore. However, our hope is not found in culture, but in our Savior and His Church. If we are to see lives truly changed and hearts turned to Jesus the church must invest in the relational health of its members and community.
In their book Endgame, John Van Epp and J.P. De Gance highlight the importance of authentic relationship and marital ministry, and the key role The Church plays in it. They say, “The content of evangelism will always be the Gospel. But the platform for evangelism in the 21st century is relationships. The collapse of relationship health has closed many hearts to the Gospel message. We are now at our endgame and the Church must make the strategic move to serve this essential need of relationship health with those who are dating and those who are married. It is only then that we will watch hearts open back up.”
Today’s culture champions “hooking up” and cohabitation; throwing off the “shackles of tradition” and “sliding” into a relationship without truly discussing what it’s all about or where they want to go. We’re seeing many people question whether marriage even matters anymore. The research is clear that marriage in fact does matter and it’s up to the Church to present the truth of why.
In his book, The Future of Christian Marriage Researcher Mark Regnerus asks the question, “Why is marriage important?” He goes on to say, “Society needs marriage for its practical purposes… it’s hands down the best environment to raise children. It’s been proven to benefit mental health, promote stability and community flourishing. Marriage has historically been looked at as a cultural achievement, conveying community esteem.”
Amy Morgan also cites Mark Regnerus in her article titled, How the Church Can Counteract Divorce, Cheap Sex Culture|Researcher Recommendations. “Mark noted it is incumbent on the church as a whole to esteem marriage, because ‘without marriages they will diminish. Very few social institutions are in the marriage esteeming business anymore.’” These words loom heavy over the church. If nothing is done to esteem and preserve marriage, then churches in this nation will continue to fold and the Gospel movement will slow to a crawl. However, even as I write these words, there is still hope. Mark went on to say, “We’ve believed marriage will be just fine, but it will not be unless it has social support. Churches are one of the few places where marriage engenders social support.”
Again, from Endgame, “churches have both the opportunity and the responsibility to seriously invest in this mission to strengthen healthy dating practices, marriages, and families within both their congregations and their communities. Churches can become the primary source of relationship health that individuals and couples within their communities desperately need and want. This is the new mission, the new outreach platform for the church in the 21st century.”
We stand in agreement that marriage is important for society as a whole and the church is the key to helping couples strengthen their relationship. We believe that this will also produce a rise in church attendance and an increase in people coming to faith.
One way churches can encourage healthy marriage is by promoting and rallying around National Marriage Week. February 7th marks the start of National Marriage Week, an annual campaign that brings together churches, organizations, and individuals to build stronger marriages. So let us stand together as the Church and champion what God has made holy. Marriage is to be embraced and celebrated, and the Church is called to support what God has ordained to be good.
Another way is to focus on building a strategic and sustainable model that will reach couples in your congregation and community. The Central Arkansas Marriage Initiative is here to help you with your marriage ministry needs. For more information and to set a time to meet please contact Jason Ancarrow at email@example.com. Together we can see the city flourish.