One of the nation's largest churches has begun the new year with an emphasis on strengthening families.
At a time when a lot of people are disillusioned about marriage, Willow Creek Community Church's Bill Hybels wants Christians, at least, to know that the institution of marriage was designed by God.
"Sometimes we go through history when marriage seems woefully out of fashion," the senior pastor told his congregation in a weekend sermon. But, he said, "marriage is not going away."
"God invented this thing (marriage) and when you live it out according to His plan it's the best way to do life," he highlighted.
The South Barrington, Ill., megachurch kicked off "The 2010 Family" series this month in an effort to help build "better families" and to learn from the authority of Scriptures, as teaching pastor Darren Whitehead explained.
Addressing the topic of marriage in the latest message, Hybels provided the congregation with five "key compatibilities" to look for in a marriage partner.
He first encouraged Christians not to be yoked with nonbelievers, noting the priority of spiritual compatibility.
"God of all people knows how deep a person's faith permeates their inner being," the senior pastor said. "When a man or woman fully surrenders themselves to Christ, it has massive implications for their inner world."
It changes the way they think, behave, love, how they handle money and how they spend their spare time, Hybels noted.
"When you're a fully devoted follower of Christ your faith is not a little p.s. on the end of your resume. Your faith becomes your core identity," he stressed. "When you're in a lifelong partnership with someone who has Christ first, there's a valuing of each other's faith that actually contributes to the health and well-being of a marriage."
Other compatibilities he listed as critical in a partnership include character, emotional, communication and mutual physical attraction.
And all five, including sexual chemistry, are needed, he said.
"Sometimes in faith environments we get all spiritual about this courtship, dating and marriage thing and we don't actually live in the reality that we're wired up as physical, sexual creatures who have an awareness of who we're sparked by," the megachurch pastor noted. "This can be discounted in certain environments. I don't think it should be here."
His talk came just after a live interview with Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton and his wife, Katie, on the church's stage. The couple shared about how faith helped pull them through as the baseball player struggled with a drug and alcohol addiction.
Hamilton's wife has forgiven him.
Willow Creek's "The 2010 Family" is a six-week series. Calling family a central unit of society and life, Hybels is hoping that "God will strengthen every family at Willow" over the next few weeks.