Lessons from My Father: Marriage


Sean McDowell interviews his father to help you strengthen your marriage or prepare for a future marriage.

SEAN: Dad, are Christians really getting divorced as often as the rest of the public? What does your research show?

JOSH: I would say it’s about 15-20% less for Christians than the general public. But some studies show it’s almost equal. When I first researched this I thought the numbers might reflect that people were divorced before they became Christians. But, sadly, the research does not back this up. Many become Christians, get involved in the church, and then get divorced. One of the reasons is because everyone brings their past history into a relationship. Since many people bring their hurts into the church, including past experiences, change doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years of discipleship and mentoring to start to change. And often couples don’t have that.

SEAN: What can young couples do to succeed in marriage?

JOSH: Probably one of the best things is to find an older couple in the church that really seems to have it together and spend time with them. Ask them to mentor you. I just don’t know how you can really make it in today’s culture if you don’t have that. Second, every three years go to a Family Life Weekend to Remember. I’m dead serious about this. There’s so much pressure against marriage today, and so we need constant reinforcement.

SEAN: Can you give me one example related to marriage that you learned the hard way?

JOSH: Learning to give your mother details. I’m a big picture guy. Details bore me to death. I’ll leave details to someone else. Dottie is so detail-oriented, and I didn’t learn that about her at the beginning. For example, I’d come home and a dear friend of ours had a baby. My wife would ask its gender, weight, and name. I didn’t know. I just knew it was a human baby! That affected our relationship. So, I have learned to come home with all the details and it has made a big difference to Dottie. But I still have to work at it.

SEAN: What can the church do as a whole to foster healthy marriages?

JOSH: The pastor and the leadership of the church need to model it. Have the pastor model that his wife and his family don’t come before the ministry, but are his first ministry. A pastor needs to talk about his relationship with his wife and kids, but it better be real, because the church will see right through it. He needs to get approval, of course, and share appropriate stories. But the congregation needs to see this. Also, during prayer time, have a husband and wife come up and pray together. I would do as much as I could to combine the two together. And finally, use a family life ministry from outside the church that can help strengthen families and marriage within the church.

SEAN: Given that marriage seems to be under increased criticism in our culture today, how important do you think it is to reach in our non-believing world that we have healthy marriages in the church?

JOSH: If commitment to family does not start at the top with church leadership, it will never permeate out into the community. If I were a pastor, the first thing I would do is deal with proper teaching from Ephesians on marriage. Churches need to teach about the nature and function of the family. What does submit mean? What does leadership mean? In terms of counseling, Dottie and I prefer to meet with a couple than an individual. We rejoice in meeting with a couple. Finally, if you don’t have a loving, intimate relationship with your kids, fix that first.

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