Christians are making serious efforts to restore marriages and families in the U.S. where broken homes seem to have become the norm.
New initiatives and projects continue to pop up as Christians see America reaping the consequences of divorce, fatherless homes, and out-of-wedlock births.
"What happened?" asked Jeff Fray, a psychologist and consultant, during a leadership consultation, convened by Mission America Coalition (the U.S. Lausanne Committee), which concluded Wednesday.
He was lamenting the plummeting marriage rate in America (from 72 percent of adults in 1960 to 52 percent in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center), along with the higher percentage of children born into single parent homes.
Only 5 percent of children came into the world in America to a single parent in 1960, Fray said. That has grown to 42 percent.
"It doesn't take much working that math to understand really what we're faced with in the culture here today," he remarked.
Over 4,000 Christians from around the world had voted in October during the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization to make marriage and family one of the key areas of focus. This week's event was the kickoff for that effort.
"What we are making the case for here today is that in our country today that there is a relational hunger that's really intense and that we have an answer for that relational hunger – the person of Christ and the transformation in the relationship that happens through that," Fray of Marriage CoMission stated.
Fray is hoping to get more churches focused on relational ministry.
"If we do an effective job of preparing people with a Christ-centered relational worldview, ... picture what that means," he said. "If we equip them to lead strong families, we'll see arising a new generation out there of hope-filled children who will shape the future."
So what did happen between the 1960s and now?
The sexual revolution, for one thing. It unhooked sexuality from commitment, Fray noted.
Then there was the advent of no-fault divorce, which unhooked marriage from children, he lamented. Previously, a spouse had to go before a judge and prove that he or she had a just cause to divorce. Today, spouses don't need to go through any evidentiary proceedings or make a case.
"The purpose of the union itself ... which has been about the children became about the parents, the couple, 'our satisfaction,'" he pointed out.
"What we know about that is you can't get no satisfaction being self-centered in that way," the speaker stressed. "A marriage that's self-centered is not a marriage that is revealed in Scripture."
Joining Fray and thousands of other Christians in the marriage movement are film producers, ministry heads and retail giants.
Stephen Kendrick, who just came out of a successful run with the marriage film "Fireproof," has a new film he and his church are putting out this year that tackles fatherhood and the lack of it in America.
With some 36 percent of kids in America living without their biological fathers, and with fatherless children being at greater risk of suicide, poverty and imprisonment, Kendrick felt God telling him to make his next film (after "Fireproof") on fatherhood.
"The future success of the next generation hinges on the success of fathers in this generation," said Kendrick, producer of the upcoming film "Courageous."
"The strength or absence of a child's relationship with his/her father is the number one predictor of the future well-being, of the success of that child," he highlighted. Moreover, a child is "20 times more likely to live for God and stay in the church if dad is leading spiritually in the home."
"Courageous" is set to hit the big screen on Sept. 30. In the meantime, Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble are working to strengthen families through the small screen in people's homes.
Lance McAlindon, chief research officer at Front Porch Entertainment, did the research for the corporate giants and found that there was a void in family entertainment on T.V. that nobody was filling.
He found that only 10 percent of all programs on network T.V. are free of violent, sexual content and foul language – and those shows are "Dancing with the Stars," "American Idol," and Monday night football. Zero scripted shows are free of such content.
Taking those findings, P&G and Wal-Mart began "Family Movie Night," producing television movies that the entire family could watch. The shows have been designed to support the values "that mom tries to teach her kids," McAlindon explained.
On another level, McAlindon said they're trying to send a signal to Hollywood by getting strong ratings on Family Movie Night. So far, they've had 25 million viewers since launching last year. They've premiered four movies so far.
Simply put, they're "criticizing [Hollywood] by creating good," McAlindon said.
"We know we have a significant challenge before us," he acknowledged. "We're trying to be a light within a very challenging space right now."
Other marriage and family initiatives include FamilyLife's The Art of Marriage video event, hosted in churches across the country; National Marriage Week USA, which takes place every year in the run-up to Valentine's Day; the Marriage Mentoring Initiative, where seasoned couples are linked with less experienced ones; and LoveIsHere.com, which features date night ideas and webisodes where Nathan and Brittany Fray travel the country asking people about the meaning of love and gleaning wisdom from other couples.
"There's a marriage movement afoot," maybe even a "love revolution," said Jeff Fray, one that restores "other-centeredness."
"God has revealed Himself to us as a unity of father, son and holy spirit. He is a relational father. Through the other-centeredness of His love, that's what He calls us to through marriage and family."