It’s been a weird few days here. Brian and I have spent the last couple of days talking about starting a marriage – I don’t know what to call it – a collective? a ministry? a toolbox? a website? a conference? whatever. It started a couple of days ago when I popped off on my Facebook page about how much I wished there was a really great marriage conference for people whose marriages are more like our own – theologians call it “egalitarian” meaning that we believe in a marriage of equals, that we are co-leaders and our marriage is more about lifting each other up and following Jesus together as one.
It was just a spur-of-the-moment rant born of frustration to be honest because even though there is amazing theological basis for this kind of a marriage it never seems to make its way out of the silo of academia or even strong local churches so sometimes it feels like the popular and prolific teaching in the modern Church leans more towards a form of soft patriarchy. I’m kind of over the language of patriarchy being acceptable in church.
And just because we believe in a marriage of mutuality doesn’t mean we also don’t need a few tools in our toolbox for things like conflict resolution, finances, sex, romance, aging, navigating crisis or change, all of that same stuff because hello, we’re all people with real stuff to deal with and marriage can be hard sometimes no matter what your theology is. And there is a real lack of resources for people who don’t fit the dominant narrative of Christian marriages for whatever reason, too.
Anyway, I did a little FB post about it and it kind of took over my life for a bit. In less than 24 hours I had heard from more than a thousand people. People who want a conference, people who want access to teaching, people who wanted to volunteer, ones who had already developed that very material but it wasn’t reaching many people, ones who wanted to speak, ones who had ideas for topics to cover, ones who were just cheering the idea on and saying “I’m in!”
I was flabbergasted. And overwhelmed. So now what?
After all, marriage ministry isn’t my lane. I haven’t ever written a book about marriage. I rarely write even essays about marriage and even when I do it’s never prescriptive, it’s more testimony. I don’t even attend the marriage workshop thing either: the only couple of times I’ve been to a marriage event, I didn’t really dig it. We don’t read a ton of marriage books. We don’t counsel couples in our real life – at least not formally. We have only been married for fifteen years and while not all sunshine and roses, our marriage has been strong and I believe we have loved each other well in all seasons. I freely admit that I came into marriage – and so did Brian – with a good toolkit of practical skills for making a marriage “work” because of our families of origin. We had fantastic examples of commitment and fidelity and honour and love and even romance lasting a lifetime – and the older I get the more I realise both how rare that is and how deeply valuable.
Basically our only claim to marriage expertise is that we think we have a pretty good and healthy marriage, centered on Jesus, and we like how we do things. We don’t claim to have it all figured out.
So I was sitting there with emails and tweets and notes and phone calls and messages with topics and stories and pleas and hopes and I looked at Brian and said, “Well, now what?”
We seriously prayed and talked and sought counsel all weekend about what to do with this obvious need. We began to see a pattern in all of the emails and messages for two tiers of need:
- a need for the theological foundation for a marriage of mutuality to become more accessible to regular folks and
- a need for practical skills and help in implementation.
We seriously contemplated getting this thing off the ground – an organiziation, a non-profit, a ministry to resource Jesus-centered, kingdom-focused marriages.
The thing is that the more we looked into it, the more we realised that all of the stuff is already there.
The leaders are here. The teaching is here. The gatherings are here. The workshops are here. The video curriculum is all here. There are books! There are leaders who have been in the trenches for marriage ministry for many many years, longer than we have even been married and with much more experience and wisdom than I could dream of having.
So we’re not necessarily against starting a marriage thing. It’s just that it’s not our lane at this time for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is a sense of calling to that place.
I remember when Brian and I were thinking about planting a church a while ago. We ended up deciding to come alongside of an existing regular imperfect church and throw ourselves into a small community and serve there instead. Even if we did someday plant a church (which we haven’t done and still don’t feel compelled to do) it would be from a place of relationship and wisdom rather than a sense of “I’ll just show up and show’em all how it’s done.”
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not anti-church planting in the least but I do wonder why we are often so eager to start new things when the faithful ones who blazed the trail are there with their wisdom and their anointing and their counsel, ready to empower and equip and love us. I see the same dynamic in the justice sector: people always love to start a new non-profit instead of coming alongside of existing non-profits that have already done the hard work and put down roots, who have something to teach us all. It’s sexier to start a new thing, I get that, but I don’t think the Kingdom of God is always about the slick and sexy new thing.
I think I’ve landed in a similar place for the whole marriage ministry/gathering thing. I do see the value of a gathering. And I do see the value of the creation of a website with resources, articles, theological teachings, or weekly e-newsletters. I see the value of a collective of leaders all united to teach a Jesus-centered, kingdom-focused view of marriage and family.
It’s just that we also see and affirm the work that’s already being done and at this time we want to come alongside of those leaders to amplify their work and to get it into the hands of the ones who need it.
Maybe someday we’ll see a way clear both practically in terms of schedule/season of life to take a more active role there. Maybe not. But in the meantime, something good and real and healthy is already happening here.
Brian and I are compelled to collaborate with others instead of competing.
With that in mind, I’d love for us to amplify and point towards the resources, leaders, gatherings, and websites that have ministered to you in your marriage. We intend to put together a post of resources for egalitarian or mutually-submissive marriages within the next week or two based on your input.
Please share your recommendations in the comments – and include links please! I don’t think I’ll be able to hunt up everything myself and I certainly can’t vet or approve them all.
I’m particularly interested in practical and theological resources as well as resources for families or marriages who feel under-served in the Church.
Let’s collaborate for strong Jesus-centred kingdom-focused marriages.
UPDATED TO ADD:
photo courtesy of tina francis photography