FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 4, 2012
Contact: Eric T. Skelton, Executive Director
Great Marriages Racine Holds Public Signing of the
Racine Area Community Marriage Agreement
Racine—“Today we make our mark and agree to raise the bar for marriage. We intend to lift, value and strengthen marriage in our community,” said Pastor Pat Faulk of Calvary Memorial Church and founding board member of Great Marriages Racine.
From the steps of the Racine County Courthouse, Pastor Faulk gathered with more than a dozen pastors to sign the Racine Area Community Marriage Agreement (CMA). The agreement is a commitment by these clergy to take specific steps to strengthen the institution of marriage in their community by implementing in their churches proven reforms for couples both before and after a wedding.
Eric T. Skelton, Executive Director of Great Marriages Racine, said “We are very excited about this public signing event. We have a modest start with 34 pastors representing 25 churches and organizations in the Racine area. We look forward from this event today to build momentum and see many more churches join us in strengthening marriage.”
Pastor Doug Aldrink from the Christian Reform Church of Racine spoke to the many problems facing the institution of marriage and the impact on our nation, state and community from divorce and cohabitation. He was followed at the podium by Pastor Willie Scott of Christian Faith Fellowship Church who noted that the institution of marriage was designed and created by God; therefore, he and his fellow signers have a responsibility to “speak boldly about this marvelous union God has made called marriage.” Finally, Pastor Scott Brownell of Racine Assembly of God said of the CMA, “it is our commitment to be used by the Lord to transform this community one marriage at a time.”
The following pastors have signed the CMA:
|Ted Danes||All is Well Counseling Center|
|*Nathan James||Calvary Memorial Church|
|*Pat Faulk||Calvary Memorial Church|
|*Ethan Davis||Calvary Memorial Church|
|*Richard Ferrell||Calvary Memorial Church|
|*Willie Scott||Christian Faith Fellowship Church|
|*Doug Aldrink||Christian Reformed Church|
|David Kehrli||Community Christian Church|
|*Rich Doering||Community Church of the Nazarene|
|*Dino Galati||Faith Community Church -Racine|
|*Listowel Ayensu-Mensah||Faith United Methodist|
|Dave Sincock||Fellowship Baptist Church|
|*Ryan Reed||First Church of God|
|Ray Christensen||Gospel Lighthouse|
|Jim Olson||Grace Chruch|
|Cole Griffin||Grace Chruch|
|Samuel D. Jackson||Grace Chruch|
|Isaac Miller||Grace Chruch|
|Jerry Cornett||Greater Grace Temple|
|Elis Ramsey||Greater Shiloh Cathedral|
|*Tony Gulbrandsen||Immanuel Baptist Church|
|Jason Holm||Northside Calvary|
|*Glenn Lawson||Plymouth Congregation Church|
|*Scott Brownell||Racine Assembly of God|
|Bishop Kirby||St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church|
|*Edward Mitchell||St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church|
|Anthony Balistreri||Stand on His Word International Apostolic Ministry|
|*Vito Monteblanco||Taylor Ave Church of the Nazarene|
|Jeff Butler||True Life Church|
|RL Woods||Word of Life|
|*Jon Nelson||Youth for Christ|
|*Frank James||Changing Lives Ministries|
|*Francisco Golón,||Racken Ministries|
|Jason A. Montano|
* These pastors were in attendance at today’s public signing event.
Great Marriages Racine was launched with the assistance of Racine pastors and Wisconsin Family Council. Wisconsin Family Council is an organization dedicated to strengthening marriage and family.
Great Marriages Racine is a collaborative effort by area churches to provide encouragement and resources to lift, value and strengthen marriages.
by Eric T. Skelton, Executive Director
How do you minister to a couple who is heading towards or in the process of divorcing?
I get a wrenching feeling each time I hear of a couple in our congregation or community who is heading toward divorce. Most commonly one of the spouses has decided to end the marriage and the other spouse is numb. One is callous, cold and unwilling to seek help. The other wants to fix the marriage and make it work.
Friends, family, fellow Christians stand around them equally at a loss of what to do. Many folks know divorce is wrong, yet they don’t know how to help the couple avoid the train wreck they are headed for.
The default question for many questions to asked their hurting friends is “have you talked to your pastor about this?” All eyes turned to you, the pastor. And so it is that a hurting man or broken women calls on you hoping you have an answer for how to save their marriage.
What do you do? You try to bring hope, healing and peace to a situation that is filled with lies, deceit, and little truth regarding the reality of divorce.
I would suggest every pastor get a hold of the resource Choosing Wisely Before You Divorce by Church Initiative. Here is what their website says about this material:
Before You Divorce provides a “reality check” for the divorcing couple. Through videos and a workbook, this marriage crisis intervention tool provides a realistic and stark picture of the impact a decision to divorce will have on each partner and on those around them.
Before You Divorce provides you with a Christ-centered, biblical strategy for stopping divorce.
Let me say it works. We have counseled only three divorcing couples. All of them we took through Choosing Wisely Before You Divorce. None of them completed the entire video series; however, all of them remain married. Most of them didn’t complete the course because it is so stark and revealing that they quickly look for other alternatives.
Don’t feel you have no solid tangible tools for the divorcing member of your flock. Look at Choosing Wisely today. I believe you will praise God the first time you use it.
INFIDELITY is rampant in nature. Birds, mammals, amphibians and even fish all cheat if the conditions are right, forcing mates to remain perpetually vigilant. People are no different. Although cheats are publicly condemned, or in some cases impeached, infidelity is common and public disapproval does little to dissuade the sinner. The disapproval of God, however, is a different matter, and a new study suggests that prayer can indeed guide people away from adulterous behaviour. Read more…
A key element of ministering to marriages in your congregation is to preach about marriage from God’s word. The world, the flesh and the devil continue to promote lies about marriage. Consistent application of God’s word is the only antidote for these lies.
Great Marriages Racine encourages pastors to preach about marriage at least once a year. The repetition is necessary to repair the damage from our culture to the image, ideal and importance of marriage. In particular, the main purpose of marriage as being a living flesh and blood example of Christ’s marriage to his bride the church cannot be preached enough.
We encourage you to marriage into your preaching schedule.
by Rick Czechowicz, M.Ed, MA
It was Rob and Nina’s first counseling session following their most recent major blow-up. After three kids, two life-altering separations, ten declining years of marriage, and a boatload of resentment, life as they knew it, had all but unraveled.
In response to their counselor’s opening question, Nina tearfully broke the ice.
“I’m not even sure where to start. It’s like we’re total strangers. Just existing in the same house. We don’t take much time for each other anymore. Seems like all we do is argue. Rob’s always busy.. and angry… stressed about work and money.. and whatever. We hardly ever make it to church anymore as a family. We keep saying how things need to change, but they don’t. I guess I’m starting to lose hope that they ever will… “
Nina’s voice trails off, and then goes silent as she stares motionless at nothing in particular. There is an awkward silence, as Rob goes next – his voice, at first, intense and staccato.
“The reason we don’t talk anymore because we can‘t. I get sick of fighting with her, so I just hold it all in. Then she accuses me of not caring or running away from our problems. She has no clue what I put up with at work. It’s not like I want to be away – or that I want to travel so much. I don’t have a choice.” After an abrupt pause, Rob’s voice softens and cracks, barely pushing out his last comment. “Then two weeks ago … I get home from a business trip… and she tells me.. she’s not sure if she loves me anymore…”
It wasn’t always like this for Rob and Nina. In the early days, their marriage seemed to have all the right stuff. Mutual love and respect. Shared goals. A genuine commitment to their faith.
So what went wrong? How could such a seemingly idyllic and well-grounded marriage descend from the penthouse to the outhouse in such a relatively short period of time? To better understand Rob and Nina’s plight and their journey to despair, let’s drop in on the lives of another fictional couple to see what they in common, then offer some tried and true solutions.
This is the story of Phil and Marnie. After decades of planning, scrimping, and wise investing, they were now only days away from breaking ground on their new luxurious dream house on the lake. But just before the final meeting with their contractor, he sent them an unexpected phone call. Apparently, some recent unanticipated price increases from suppliers had taken them significantly over budget. Unless certain immediate cost cutting measures were taken, they could expect to produce another sizable cash outlay.
Disappointed, yet determined, Phil and Marnie explored their options – then came to a decision on how to bring their project back under budget without sacrificing any of the look, feel, or elegance of their new home. It was final; they would trim the necessary dollars by cutting corners on the quality of the foundation. Thinner and shorter support walls. A much cheaper grade of concrete, and reducing the number of footings to the bare minimum were now part of the revised cost cutting plan. The savings would be more than enough to keep all the extras they were so looking forward to enjoying. Besides.., they reasoned together, the foundation just gets back-filled with dirt anyway…
Fast-forward to ten months later after their gala open house when Phil starts to notice some disturbing trends. Mysterious cracks appear in the kitchen ceiling. Several doors refuse to close properly, and the sculptured steps off the rear veranda take on a curious bent and forward lean. “Normal settling,” assured their contractor, but Phil and Marnie weren’t convinced.
Later, there are more problems. Then one fateful rainy night in the span of just thirty-minutes, their worst fears are realized. At the tail-end of a long horrendous downpour, the west end of the house begins to rock and shift on its weakened axis. Within minutes, the rest of the house quickly follows suit and the horrifying domino effect begins. Key support walls start to heave and buckle unable to sustain the weight of the heavy oaken rafters. The frightened couple barely escapes to safety, only to witness in one surreal and paralyzing moment, the entire structure collapsing on itself and crashing to the ground in a twisted pile of brick and wood and shattered glass. Their long-awaited and cherished lake house is suddenly reduced to a smoldering mound of unsalvageable rubble. Phil and Marnie’s life-long dream had now disintegrated into their worst nightmare.
The names and the settings are different in these two stories, but would you agree that the outcomes are strikingly similar and predictable. Perhaps if these two short-sighted couples would have paid more attention to the wisdom Jesus shared in Matthew 7:24-27, they could have saved themselves a good deal of unnecessary heartache.
“So then, everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. The rain comes down, the waters rise, the wind blows and beats against that house but it does not fall because it is built upon the rock.”
Sadly, the news is not as good for the foolish man who builds his house on the sand. The same storms that are unable to move a house built on the rock, has little problem destroying a house, and a marriage, built on a totally inadequate and shifting foundation.
Three Questions: What or whom is your rock? What is it specifically, that holds up, supports, and sustains everything you are and do and work for and trust in? And is your chosen foundation strong and secure enough to bring you safely through the torrential downpours and painful storms of life?
Jesus said, “…in this world, you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There are essentially two kinds of “trouble” in this life. The kind of trouble we can avoid and the kind we can’t. Both couples in our story received a good measure of self-inflicted pain as a result of choosing wrong or inadequate foundations on which to build and live their lives. They deceived themselves into believing that any old foundation would do just as nicely as the right one, namely, the foundation of Jesus Christ alone – or in the case of Rob and Nina, that the whole concept of foundational living wasn’t all that important or necessary to sustain.
Let’s make something perfectly clear. The only sure and immovable foundation for all our lives is a personal, intentional, intimate, surrendered, and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Hymn writer Edward Mote had it exactly right in 1834 when he wrote these words, still as true and vital today as there were then;My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness I dare not rust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand All other ground is sinking sand.
There’s more to this hymn, but you get the idea. Jesus is, always has been, and always will be the only sure foundation worth trusting in, building on, and living for. For those who choose otherwise, we offer the following painful words of truth from pastor and author John Piper from an article entitled, “Jesus is Precious as the Foundation of the Family (1982).
When this world is over and we all stand before the judgment seat of God, many will look back with shame and dismay at how small was the place granted to The Son of God in your daily lives; how seldom you spoke to him, how little of his word you learned, how half-hearted your resolve to obey, how narrow the sphere of life in which you eagerly sought his lordship. And on that day, you will wonder no more why you were so unhappy in this life; it will all become clear; half-hearted allegiance to the lordship of Christ in the practical affairs of life not only robs Jesus of the honor we owe him, but also robs us of our joy and purpose.
Here’s the good news. For those who choose Christ as the constant and abiding foundational rock for their lives, that future day of regret can dissolve into a non-issue. Maybe our old testament friend Joshua said it best in offering us the kind of wisdom, instruction, and godly priorities that both honors God and best serves those who follow Him for a lifetime.“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
by Rich Doering, Community Church of the Nazarene
I knew that what I was about to say to them would catch them off guard. They were a young couple, excited about their future together, excited about taking this next step in their lives together. By all accounts, they were filled with excitement when it came to our first pre-marital counseling session.
Who wouldn’t be? After all, they loved each other and were forging ahead to create a life together. They had a wedding to plan, details to iron out, people to talk to, arrangements to be made. They loved each other and that was evident as they sat next to each other in my office, both of them seemingly eager to start the “pre-marital stuff.”
The problem, though, is that I knew they lived together. In fact, they had lived together for a number of years. I had only recently gotten to know them and the subject of residence had yet to come up. However, I’d done enough checking to know that when we sat down together that afternoon in my office, it was definitely going to come up. But how?
I’d like to give you a little sneak peak into what this conversation was like and how it went. After pleasantries and sharing excitement and handing out materials and such, I proceeded to go through the process of sharing with them the Racine Community Marriage Agreement. I shared with them that I, along with numerous other pastors and churches throughout the area, had come together because of the alarming rate of divorces, broken homes, broken people and devitalized marriages there are in Racine. I shared with them statistics and then I walked them through the objectives laid our in the Marriage Agreement.
One of those objectives is as follows…
- Require Extensive Premarital Training (including inventories), and waiting periods (4-6 months*). During this period, couples will be encouraged to live apart and practice sexual abstinence.
I then, very directly, asked them about their living arrangement. They shared with me that they had lived together for quite a period of time. Most of the reasons they gave were financial in nature. The whole time I just sat and listened and asked leading questions. I made sure that they understood by my body language and inquisitiveness that I was not sitting in a place of judgement.
When they finished talking about living together, I shared with them, again, why the co-habitating part was in the marriage agreement. Then, gently, I shared with them my desires. I told them that my desire for them was that as they moved into marriage that they place themselves in the best possible position to be blessed by God. I also shared with them that sometimes that requires hard and uncomfortable choices. I also shared with them that, as a Pastor, my responsibilities go beyond just performing a ceremony. I have this awesome responsibility to stand before God on the day of the marriage ceremony and commit this couple to Him.
I then shared with them one of those “nail in the coffin” statements we all dread. I told them, “I need you to know, I’ve made a commitment not to marry a couple who is living together.”
Now, think about that statement for a second. Left by itself it can be easily misinterpreted as judgmental and a bit harsh. However, when you look at the things I shared with them beforehand, the statement falls within in a bigger, more compassionate context. And the compassion doesn’t end there.
“Here’s what I’d like to do,” I said. “Ultimately, it’s not really my decision as to whether or not I marry you. It’s your decision. It is your choice. I know we’ve talked and in no way am I judging you. However, as a Pastor, I am committing to do what I need to do in order for you to start off on the right foot in your marriage. I want to ask you to consider putting into as much as you possibly can as well. Can we meet again in a couple of weeks so you can share with me what you would like to do? If you have any questions or want to know some ideas for what you might be able to do, I want you to know I’m more than happy to help and give advice. But ultimately, this is your decision.”
Before anyone can talk I already have my calendar out and I’m scheduling their next session. While I’m doing that, I also make sure they each get a copy of a handy little booklet called, “Helping You Decide” by Great Marriages Racine Director Eric Skelton. It’s a straightforward look at sexual relationships before marriage and every Pastor should have a handful for situations like this.
Once the next appointment was scheduled, I prayed a MAJOR prayer of blessing over this young couple and let them know that I would be praying for them daily as they educate themselves and make a decision. They left my office, I believed, in high spirits.
Then the day of the next appointment came. I received a message on Facebook. They weren’t going to make it. After a week or so of scrambling and chasing, I finally nailed them down for our appointment.
Honestly, I pretty much figured they had made up their minds and me being included in the process was probably out of the picture. I was kind of dreading the appointment if I can be honest about it. I figured I’d have to squirm a bit and somehow try to respond to their desire to move forward anyway without any adjustments.
I’m so glad I didn’t hold to those assumptions. Come to find out, we just had a couple of scheduling errors and as this couple sat in my office the first thing they wanted to talk about was how one of them would be moving out within the week and moving in with a family member, a strong Christian in our church. Not only that, they had decided to shorten their already lengthy engagement by about 6 months.
Needless to say, I was one happy pastor and the entire pre-marital process with this couple has now taken on a completely different flavor.
I share this exchange with you for a couple of reasons. The first is, I wonder how many times we fail to have that conversation due to fear? That leads to the second observation: I wonder how many times we forfeit incredible opportunities to pour into people’s lives because we fail to have those conversation in truth and love?
Would you join me in having these conversations?
Many Christians and non-believers agree there is a continued slide in America with respect to marriage. Both generally agree that this has damaging impacts on our society. Much scholarly work by secular scientists have shown devastating impacts to men, women, children and society as a whole from divorce, cohabitation and the decline of marriage.
But do we agree on why marriage is good and right and divorce, cohabitation and homosexual unions are bad or wrong? No we don’t and it is important to clearly understand this distinction.
Recently, two articles appeared in the New York Times regarding marriage. They brought to mind a line of reasoning that is dangerous for Christians involved in the marriage movement. The first article spoke of a polygamous relationship that is actually part of a TV show. The second article, How Divorce Lost Its Groove makes the case that many younger marrieds view divorce more negatively than folks who married in the 70’s.
In the first article about polygamy, one might ask the question “how does polygamy hurt traditional marriage.” Just because a man wants to marry two women, doesn’t in itself follow that the act somehow harms other marriages.
In the second article the author points out that younger folks avoid divorce because it hurts children and themselves. I get the sense from the article that the goal is to have painless divorces.
Do you know sometimes I wonder if we are not using the same argument to support the marriage movement. Do we believe that because of the emotional, psychological and fiscal cost of divorce and cohabitation they are worse choices than marriage? Do we believe that given the choice between solid marriages and cohabitating unions, society is better off with marriages? Is this the reason for why we defend marriage?
If so, I think we are wrong. Here is why: marriage was created by God and therefore it is ‘very good’ to quote Genesis Chapter 1. God hates divorce. Cohabitation is the sin of fornication. Homosexuality is the sin of trading the natural for the unnatural. God warns that sin and in particular sexual sin brings destruction.
Our purpose for lifting and valuing marriage must be based upon truth found in the character and nature of God. Since He created marriage and made it good, it is good. We should celebrate that fact. In addition, God has said there are things he hates and there are things he says are sin. We should therefore uphold those truths. The reason we fight to hold marriages together should be because God hates divorce. The reason we are against cohabitation is because God says it is sin. The reason we are against homosexuality is because God says it is sin.
Not surprisingly these sins also have consequences that we can see and measure in our lifetime. However, it is not because of those consequences that we seek to eliminate divorce, cohabitation and homosexuality. It is because they are sinful and counter to the truth of God.
My encouragement to you is to speak, teach and preach God’s truth about marriage, divorce, cohabitation and homosexuality. We must stand for marriage for the sole reason that God created it good. We must stand against things that destroy what God created and we must call those things God calls sin, sin. We may even want to avoid using statistics if for no other reason than to keep us from using them as a crutch.
We often get asked by pastors, “ok, I see that we have a problem, so what do I do?” Honestly, you can’t DO anything until you truly see , accept and live the purpose of marriage.
Our churches are filled with ‘do’ something efforts. Consider this, would you rather have a church filled with people doing Christianity or ‘being’ like Christ? I think we can agree the latter and often we find a lot of folks who fit the former.
In the same way, if you want to do something for marriage in your church, don’t! Instead understand the primary purpose of marriage in God’s Word: a living flesh and blood example of Christ marriage to his bride the Church (Eph 5:32.) This is the primary purpose of marriage.
Your first step in reforming your church’s ministry to marriages (or starting one) is to live out this purpose in your marriage. Your congregation must know and understand this purpose and live it out in their marriage. This is the starting point.
What does this mean? It means a marriage that reflects Christ marriage to his bride the Church. With divorce as common in the church as in the general population, we unfortunately are not ‘being’ Christ with respect to marriage.
The other dramatic recognition about marriage is it holds a most special place in God’s word, for he uses marriage throughout scripture as a picture of the gospel. It is the primary way the gospel can be exemplified. He started at creation by creating man, woman and marriage and he concludes the Bible with a wedding feast. To communicate the gospel message, marriage is used as the primary human relationship and institution.
If our mission is to make disciples then marriage is the primary tool we are to use. Marriage must be in the DNA of the church.
What do you do? Start with living out this purpose for marriage. Once you have a purpose, drive and initiative come naturally. When driven to do something, one will do it. But it all starts with purpose.
We often get asked how our ministry is going. Our reply is usually, ’it is a real blessing.’ This is so true. God has blessed us on so many levels.
Unlike other missionaries who serve outside the US, our greatest challenge is not building relationships in order to communicate the gospel of Christ. Our greatest challenge is busyness and apathy.
Over the past several years, we have met with, talked to and work with hundreds of pastors around the state of Wisconsin. No matter the church, one thing is true, pastors are busy. It is hard just getting an appointment with a pastor in order to help them with marriage ministry. Our enemy has buried pastors in busyness and not all of it is purposeful.
The other challenge we find is really apathy. There is a staggering apathy in the church when it comes to valuing, enriching, and restoring marriage. In light of the grim statistics about marriage in our state and county of Green, you would think pastors would be quick to act. Unfortunately, we find too many buried under a multitude of other activities.
Every pastor I have met has shown a heart burdened for the condition of marriages or the institution itself. Every pastor we meet believes it should be of the highest priority in the church, yet we find little follow-through in creating marriage ministries.
This is frank and direct language. It may even frustrate you. Instead of being frustrated with me for pointing out what I see, can this motivate you to work with us? Will you use us to change the culture within your church and community? Our purpose is to value, enrich and restore marriage through the local church. We need pastors, church leaders and all Christians to live out marriage as God intended it. Use Great Marriages Racine as a resource for your church.