Pastor, Your Sheep Are Hurting


posted by on Biblical Opinion, Divorce Encouragement

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Christian churches often think of themselves as the last line of defense for marriage. For those Christians untouched by divorce, marriage is the sacred union ordained by God, it binds one man and one woman together so the “two become one flesh” until death do they part. But this traditional Christian marriage is under assault by an anti-trinity of powerful and dark forces, those being hyper-sexuality, rebellion and pride.

Faith, on the other hand, is supposed to be stronger than all these dark forces. It is always supposed to save souls and marriages alike. After all, “The family that prays together stays together”…The quoted line of church leadership has always been that: “Christian couples who marry in the church after receiving premarital counseling, and who attend church and pray together, will experience one divorce in 39,000 marriages.”

But then came the data. In 2008, George Barna’s Research Group sampled Americans regarding their divorce rates, and he found that divorce was highest among those who identified themselves as Christians, but it was much lower among those who identified themselves as atheists. Now maybe we can write off this disparity by saying that many atheists don’t bother to get married in the first place, but that’s not the point of this article…

The point is that: the church has a major divorce problem, and I think it could do a better job of recognizing and addressing it.

Most churches are very good at providing strong communities for families to thrive. Most churches are very good at offering marital counseling, and teaching that love is a commitment, not a feeling, and that God hates divorce. But, in only doing this, many churches are simply leveraging moral emotions and guilt in the service of the ideal marriage. Churches often pound the nail of moral and marital purity with no perceptible fall-back plan for anyone, other than guilt and shame, when a pew-sitter finds himself or herself in the aftermath of a marriage that has gone off-the-rails.

Even though most divorces in the church leave behind at least one newly-single person who is literally broken-beyond-measure, many Christian churches and their members seem to have no ability, or possibly no guidance in how to extend grace and mercy to these fearful and often emotionally paralyzed individuals. Newly divorced people, regardless of their position in trying to save and redeem the marriage, often find themselves ostracized and effectively removed from the fellowship with no support at all. This is tragic and so unnecessary.

So, what’s the answer? I believe the time has come for pastors and church leadership to publicly admit they have a growing number of hurting divorced people in their midst. I believe they need to become much bolder in speaking from the pulpit and elsewhere to the congregation’s need to extend recognition, grace and support to those who are broken and trying to rebuild their lives after a divorce. And I believe that nearly every church should have some sort of divorce recovery person or program in place; or at least they should be moving in that direction.

I think it is way past time for churches to openly recognize their divorce problem, and to provide a realistic way forward for those caught up in it. Those are my thoughts; I’d love to hear yours

1 comment

  1. Laurel

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