How did MarriageToday get started?
In 1993, I woke up three mornings in a row with God giving me a vision for MarriageToday. Like any time the Lord speaks to you, it was subjective and hard to explain to anyone else. But in my heart and spirit, I could see a television program with my wife, Karen, and myself sitting on a set talking to people about marriage. When I received the vision, the Lord also implanted this Scripture in my heart, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift a standard against him.” (Is. 59:19)
It took about a year for us to begin producing programs, but within a couple of years we were purchasing time on major networks. We are now in our 20th year of production. The vision the Lord gave me 20 years ago is thriving, and we are now being broadcast into over 110 million households daily in America and to over 200 countries around the world. It’s very exciting to see what God is doing.
Every couple thinks their marriage has a unique set of problems—do you hear many similar stories everywhere you go?
I believe this is one of the most dangerous dilemmas facing many marriages. When we do marriage seminars and counsel couples individually, what we find is that, in most cases, they feel like their problems are unique. Because of this, they feel like others can’t understand them and will look down on them for what they are going through. When they find that their problems are common and almost everyone is going through or has gone through something similar, it sets them free to be honest and get help.
However, on the other side of that issue is the feeling of shame and fear when people don’t get help. Those feelings keep them from sharing with others. They put up a front while they secretly struggle or believe they are doomed to failure and call it quits.
I hope everyone reading this will believe me when I say—we are all the same! There are unique elements to every person and couple. But when it comes to how we struggle in marriage and how the devil attacks us in family relationships—we’re more alike than different. Don’t let the devil keep you in shame and fear by making you feel like you are the only ones going through problems.
I can’t name one church that doesn’t make keeping marriages together a priority. That said, more Christians are getting divorced than ever. Where’s the disconnect between the church’s emphasis on marriage and the practical reality?
I get really passionate regarding this issue. As a pastor for over 30 years, I’ve preached regularly on marriage and built a strong local church marriage ministry since the day I started. Part of my passion concerning the issue of marriage stems from the fact that I started in the ministry as a pre-marriage and marriage counselor.
But I can tell you that many churches have more support for divorce recovery than for couples preparing for marriage or those who are already married. I’m not against divorce recovery in any way. I believe it’s necessary. But if we had better pre-marriage and marriage ministry in the churches, we wouldn’t need as much divorce recovery.
Also, I don’t believe any church should marry a couple that hasn’t gone through pre-marital preparation. A couple that hasn’t been properly prepared is set up for failure. It’s the church’s responsibility to set the standard and give people the training they need. Much of this can be done by lay leaders in a small group setting or as marriage mentors assigned to pre-married and newly married couples.
At MarriageToday, we have created many resources specifically designed to equip the local church. I realize that a lot of pastors who have a heart for marriage don’t feel that they are qualified to teach or counsel on a wide variety of issues. I understand that. It’s exactly why we do what we do at MarriageToday. We specialize in marriage and love to come alongside the local church to equip them.
How difficult is it to get troubled couples to begin to be hopeful again?
It totally depends on how teachable they are. All of us begin in marriage relatively ignorant and unexperienced. The difference between those who struggle chronically and ultimately fail is they will not turn to God and get the help they need.
I have had family members, neighbors, and good friends divorce without ever asking me for help. They may have been embarrassed or just felt that their problems were beyond help. But I have also seen thousands of crisis marriages resurrected over the years because they turned to God and were teachable.
The happiest couples I have ever seen are marriage seminar groupies that come to all of our seminars. Some of them have been married for over fifty years—and they’re still coming to seminars to build their marriages. There has never been more help available for people wanting to succeed in marriage. The key is to be humble and teachable and admit that we need constant help and encouragement in marriage. No one is the exception.
If a couple is coming to a MarriageToday seminar in a last-ditch effort to save a troubled marriage, what kind of advice would you give them to prepare for the experience?
Just to come and don’t let anything keep them away. The act of attending a marriage seminar says so many things about a couple. First of all, it says they’re fighting for their marriage. It also says they’re humble and willing to get help. Finally, it says that there’s still an ember of love burning in their relationship.
We have seen thousands of divorces cancelled and marriages miraculously healed at our seminars. I believe when a couple attends and just gets into the atmosphere of God’s Word and power—anything is possible.