Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Smoking a Turd in Purgatory

This is for the pastors out there (and those who influence them). Because there are some things that pastors do (and neglect to do) which, if there is a Purgatory, merit smoking a brown one to contemplate their crimes.

I don't know if it is cowardice, laziness or stupidity, but I cannot believe that pastors are not aware of the execrable state of marriage in our culture. Our children are watching marriages crater all around them. They lack role models of faithfulness and unselfishness. Our culture has lost a sense of shame for unfaithfulness, divorce and out of wedlock births. They are inundated with filth and worldliness by Hollywood (the marriage experts, if frequency brings expertise), false expectations and the raising of selfishness to a virtue. Pastors know all that and still marry two people together with little more than a one hour chat (if that) and a beatific smile. If this is you, I have two important words for you:

You suck.

Light one up and press your lips on it.

This is one of the most important aspects of your ministry. You are sinning if you don't do it and learn to do it well. It makes all of the difference in the world. Do you believe me? Consider this. I've married one to four couples a year for the last four years, probably an average of two per year. Guess how many Christian couples I've lost? Zero. Considering there are danger zones at years three and eight, we are defying the odds. How's your lazy and irresponsible technique working for you?

Well, this is your chance to change. Below I'm going to give you enough information to get started being faithful in this area of your ministry. I'm going to keep you from the stinky lips.

First, I tell all Christian couples that I will only marry them if they commit to 8-10 sessions of premarital counseling, which includes assignments and reading. I will do non-Christians in 6 sessions, just to try to get them in. I don't get many takers because of you guys who marry people with no counseling for 50 bucks (not that I'm bitter).

Second, I make sure that they understand the Gospel and that I do not have an “unequally yoked” couple. It is important that we investigate actual fruit, not the profession that the good looking guy first made three weeks ago. This is also the point where you begin to ask, Is this going to be a train wreck? If so, do what you can to slow the process down to the point where one of them sees what you see and hits the brakes.

Third, determine whether there are huge unaddressed issues. You have to ask specific questions. This where you send someone to the DivorceCare workshop or sexual abuse recovery counseling. If they are blending families, seek a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for additional direction. If there is a former spouse, have the new potential spouse call the former spouse and ask the question: Is there anything I need to know?

Fourth, give a theology of marriage. I have found Marriage and Family Life Conference material helpful as well as Kenneth Matthews's Commentary on Genesis (chapters 2-3).

Fifth, talk about money. Discuss basic financial principles and their financial goals. Have them draw up a budget and make sure it is reasonable. Larry Burkett's Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples isn't bad.

Sixth, talk about the differences between men and women and their communication styles. Love and Respect is very helpful. If you buy the video series you can just have them watch it.

Seventh, talk about sex and have them read a good book about it (this one if they've never been married and this one if they have), even if they are not virgins or were previously married. Talk about expectations and how to resolve difficult issues. Talk about boundaries with the opposite sex and affair-proofing a marriage.

Eighth, talk about plans for the future and expectations for roles. Discuss family traditions and how to set appropriate boundaries with the couples' families. How many kids do they wish to have? How will they discipline? What would their dreams be for their children?

That should be enough to get you started. Please do this.

And here's something else. You could call up couples you have already married and do "post-wedding" counseling. Don't wait for them to ask for help.

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