by Sheri Mueller
As I think back, there were three very significant decisions my husband, Jim, and I have made as a couple.
The first was finding a church that was vibrant, alive and relevant. The second, joining a couple's Bible study, a small group. And the third decision was serving in ministry together.
These "connecting" components—church, small groups, and ministry—have grown our spiritual intimacy beyond our wildest expectations.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 tells us, "If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble" (NLT). This verse applies to our marriage in so many ways. When Jim and I tried to do our marriage alone without God and other Christians to hold us up, we failed miserably. If there is one piece of advice we can give any married couple, it is this: Don't do marriage alone.
I know each one of us can come up with all kinds of excuses not to attend church. It's not relevant, it's boring, I can't stand the music, and I'd rather stay in bed. Church attendance has to be a joint effort-you both need to be there. Look for a church that you both love! The effort is worth it.
When a couple in deep weeds comes to us for advice we often ask, "When it the last time you were in church together?" They will look at each other, shrug their shoulders and tell us they don't remember. When you are disconnected from your church family, you are disconnecting yourself from God and your marriage. It is not possible for you to grow as a couple or family without a firm foundation in a local church. I know this is true because it was very much the life Jim and I lived for the first 10 years of our marriage. We didn't attend church, ever. Not even on holidays. We had no place to go, no one to lean on, and no one to ask for help when our marriage started to crumble.
One of the best books I've read on community is John Ortberg's, Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them. John writes: "God created human beings because he was so in love with community that he wanted a world full of people to share it with. He wanted to invite all of us to dance with Him, Christ and the Spirit."
He also says: "We all have a deep desire to connect. The yearning of our soul is to attach, connect, to love and be loved, is the fiercest longing of the soul. Our need for community with people and God is as essential as food and water. This need does not go away. It is a need that can be met through God and his church, God and his people."
Small Groups are where we found acceptance. It was where we studied the bible and discovered we could not do life alone. We realized we were not alone in our marriage struggles and challenges of raising godly children. Our church family fed us, paid our bills and prayed for us when we lost our jobs. They enveloped me with prayer, cards and phone calls when my mother passed away. I know it would have been extremely difficult to walk through these valleys of life without our group.
Groups put people in our lives who hold us accountable. They help us keep promises and encourage us to grow. We can't do that on our own. Group is a place of safety, openness, and sharing. We need people to nudge us and sometimes give us a good swift kick when we're taking the wrong path. Simply, we need others to walk beside us! We discovered group to be necessary to spiritual growth as a couple and as individuals.
The third component of connecting with other people is ministry, or serving together.
Learn what your spiritual gifts are, then find a ministry that you love to do. It might be serving the poor, cleaning the church, teaching kids, helping in your local food pantry, and building homes for Habitat. What's your passion as a couple? Jim and I love to volunteer at our church and serve as marriage mentors.
Discover what it means to serve God and others as a team. Your marriage will grow in immeasurable ways. You'll be an upfront witness to the spiritual gifts God has given your spouse.
We've experienced the thrill of seeing God work through answered prayer and watching Him come through in the most difficult of circumstances. Our faith has grown, our love has grown and we've had the opportunity to share our love of Christ with many, many people.
Watching God use Jim's evangelism gift has grown my faith in immense ways. Through Jim, I've grown to be a fully devoted follower of Christ, watching God work in the frontlines, even touching atheists and agnostics. It is something I would not have experienced if we weren't serving together.
Copyright (c) 2004 Sheri Mueller. Used with permission
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