Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Letters to My Non-Churchgoing Friends (#9: My Spouse Isn't Supportive)

Dear Friend,
In these letters, I’m addressing common reasons people give for not participating in a local church. Here’s one I often hear from married people: “I can’t get my spouse interested in church. With no support at home, it’s hard for me to motivate myself to even find a church home.”

Statements like these have, in the past, usually been made by wives about their husbands. I personally believe that the reason for this is that historically, in every culture, men have been taught that they don’t need others, not even God. For men who believe this, the idea that we need to admit our sins and surrender to a Savior is radical. I believe it even frightens them. Our bluster about not needing a church or our claim that we can just as effectively worship God on the fairway of Hole 13 often masks our fear. (I know. I’m a recovering control freak who used to like to keeping my life God-free.)

The New Testament portion of the Bible, both in its accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry and in the letters written by some of His earliest followers, shows us that women have always been more open than men to Christ’s call to repentance and new life through faith in Him. This may partly be because in the cultures in which Christian faith first took hold, women occupied an inferior status. They didn’t suffer from the control freak hangups that so often prevent men from pursuing a life of faith.

But more importantly, through Christ, women saw that in God’s eyes, men and women, both made in God’s image, are equal.

In recent years though, I’ve met a number of married couples in which the traditional pattern has been reversed: the man has wanted a connection to Christ and the church, while the woman resists it. Whichever spouse disdains church involvement, it’s hard for the other spouse.

This is what I tell married people who want to be part of the church, yet are married to folks for whom that isn’t important:

1. Don’t let the objecting spouse keep you from being involved in a church. If you believe that the church is important for your spiritual well-being and growth--and I obviously believe that’s true, you should forge ahead with church involvement. Make it clear that weekly worship and pursuing your own personal area of Christian service are priorities in your life.

2. Don’t criticize your spouse when she or he refuses to go to worship or church functions with you. No one has ever been successfully harried or insulted into faith in Christ or church involvement.

3. Pray for your spouse. Ask God to open their will and heart to the possibility of church involvement.

4. Enlist the prayer support of Christian friends. Ask them to ask God to help you to maintain a strong connection with the church and to pray for that openness in your spouse I mentioned above.

5. Love your spouse.

I can’t guarantee that resistant spouses will join you in worship if you follow these steps. But I can guarantee that if you don’t follow them, they won’t be involved and it’s possible that you’ll lose your motivation, too. Don’t let anything keep you from being connected to Christ and His church!


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