A pastor—we will call him Reverend Galsworthy—was meeting with a young engaged couple, and he could not help heaving a quiet sigh of frustration. Kirk and Gillian, you see, were like most of the other couples he had met with lately. They wanted to be married right away—no premarital counseling. They were also living together. When their pastor asked if they would consider living apart until their wedding day, the couple emphatically refused.
Instead of insisting, Rev. Galsworthy gave up and went along with the couple's wishes.
What a terrible mistake. In my view, pastors like this ought to have their marriage licenses revoked. As my friend and marriage expert Mike McManus writes, ministers who go along to get along are complicit in America's divorce rate—among the highest in the world.
Mike and his wife, Harriet, have just written a new book titled Living Together: Myths, Risks, & Answers. Its target audience is pastors who have no idea why or how they should counsel engaged couples.
For example, pastors ought to insist that engaged couples live apart and remain chaste. If they object, they ought to be told that couples who live together in a kind of "trial marriage" are 50 percent more likely to divorce than couples who do not cohabit. As the McManuses note, "What four out of five [co-habiting couples] experience is really a 'trial divorce.' The only question is whether they will break up before the wedding or afterwards."
There is also the matter of pre-marital counseling. Couples often brush aside the need for it. They are convinced that love will overcome anything. Bunk! Counseling is absolutely essential.
The McManuses describe a Christian couple they once counseled: Hector and Teresa lived together, but kept separate bank accounts. Teresa fought with Hector's family, and Hector spent large amounts of money without consulting Teresa.
Mike and Harriet McManus had the couple take a premarital inventory called PREPARE. This questionnaire helps couples determine if they are truly compatible and predicts marital success with 80 percent accuracy.
Although hesitant at first, Hector and Teresa agreed to live apart until the wedding. The McManuses also helped the couple see their independent attitudes would damage their future marriage. They taught them what a nurturing, biblical marriage is all about.
Today, five years after tying the knot, Hector and Teresa are happily married—and they credit marital counseling for their success.
Too often today, young couples accept secular teachings on love, sex, and marriage—destructive teachings that they absorb through films, television, and academia. Christian counseling helps couples recover centuries of wisdom: that in the happiest marriages, husbands and wives are chaste beforehand and faithful afterwards. They submit to and serve one another, and bring their marriage under the Lordship of Christ.
I suggest you give your pastor a copy of the McManus's book, Living Together. And tell him how wonderful it would be if your church was known as the one where divorce was almost unheard of—because couples were so well prepared for marital bliss.
And if you know a couple planning to marry—give them a copy, too. You will be giving them the perfect wedding gift: the gift of a happy, lifelong marriage.
From BreakPoint®, March 19, 2008, Copyright 2008, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship