Living missionally in marriage causes us to remember that marriage was meant to express God’s character and grace in everyday life.
As we prepared for marriage, Schuyler and I went through premarital counseling. Every meeting we had with the couple counseling us, they would say something like, “We can’t tell you how important it is for you guys to get involved in a community at the start of your marriage. You need people around you and a mission to go on together.” If I am honest, as someone who has a heart for the lost and has a desire to serve those around me, I thought their continual reminders were frustrating. Every time they reminded us of the importance of being involved in a missional community, I had some “eyeroll” moments in my mind and thought, “Well, obviously we will be in a missional community. Why wouldn’t we want to go on mission together? It can’t be that hard to go on mission and be in community. Of course we will do that, it’s what we should do.” It was as if they thought it would be difficult for us to want to be in community at the start of our marriage. And, they were right about the importance of being in a missional community, and the struggle it might be to desire that.
My husband and I have been married for close to eight months now and we got involved in a new missional community together right after returning from our honeymoon. Like any missional community, there are aspects of community life that are difficult, not glamorous, and messy. We are very passionate about the mission and we are dedicated to the group we are going on mission with, but even so, it has been difficult to want to leave our house and go on mission. Most nights, it seems like it would be much easier, and even more fun, to stay at home with my incredible husband and enjoy life together. For us, it has taken the Spirit’s work to humble our hearts to see why the couple who did our premarital counseling was right in the wisdom they gave us. In this first year of marriage, we have needed to be a part of a missional community for the sake of our own marriage and displaying God’s character to the world around us. I want to share four key insights we have learned about the importance of being involved in a missional community our first year of marriage.
Without a Mission, Marriage Is Centered on Self
My marriage is not about me. My marriage is not about Schuyler. The purpose of marriage is to display God’s heart for humanity and to uniquely show the world what the Kingdom of God is like. God created marriage for the purpose of mission to the world. Just as we are called to worship and love God with all of our being, we are called to worship Him in marriage. When I want to stay at home with Schuyler all the time and never go on mission, I am being really selfish. My heart is focused on it being easy and fun to stay at home all day with the one I love while forgetting that the world needs to see the goodness of God displayed. Of course our marriage is far from perfect, but with the empowerment of the Spirit, our marriage can bring the truth of the Gospel to our unbelieving friends through the ways we demonstrate God’s love, repentance, forgiveness, and thankfulness. Without mission, our marriage becomes all about what we want or what is easiest for us and we are missing the beautiful opportunity to worship God through serving others by letting them see our marriage. Mission reminds me that God did not intend for me to simply have joy and romance through being married. Rather, God intended for His mission to go further through out marriage.
Going On Mission Helps Me Remember My Spouse Was Made for Good Works
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells the church in Ephesus, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Part of being married to Schuyler means that I get the joy of encouraging, reminding, and challenging him to walk in the good works God has called him to. Actively going on mission not only reminds me that we are all called to love God and love our neighbor, but it encourages me as I see the ways Schuyler has been created to do that. As I see Schuyler shepherd the hearts of people or share his story with unbelieving friends, I am always brought to a place of thankfulness for the ways God has created him to bring the Kingdom near. Going on mission helps me remember that God’s plans for Schuyler far surpass his marriage to me. God’s plans for Schuyler are good. And, I remember that most clearly when we go on mission together and I see him use his gifts.
All Marriages, Including New Ones, are Better with Community
I have never argued with anyone more than I have with Schuyler in these first several months of marriage. I have never struggled through life and have recognized my sinfulness more than I have in marriage. However, I have also never been more thankful in seeing God’s faithfulness and graciousness than I have these past months. Despite all God is doing in our hearts through marriage, we need community around us. We need people younger and older than us in the faith to encourage us, equip us, rejoice with us, and challenge us to be more like Jesus. We need people to pray for us in our marriage and point us back to Jesus. We need community to remind us of all the amazing things God is doing outside of just what He is doing in our own hearts. Most of all, we need to see a bigger picture of what God is like through being around fellow imagebearers. We know God more fully through knowing and being known by others around us. I need to see God in ways I do not see Him through Schuyler. I need other imagebearers to remind me of the truths of God’s character in unique ways and in ways Schuyler cannot show me. Our marriage is better when we spend time around people we are vulnerable with, people we can help together, and people who show us more of what God is like. Just as everyone else in the Body needs one another, we need others in the Body of Christ too.
We Need to Be in a Missional Community to Know One Another Better
Before our marriage, Schuyler and I had seen one another in many contexts. However, we were not a part of a missional community during our dating season (this is one thing I wish would have been different for us). Through being a part of a missional community now, I have learned much more about Schuyler. We need the circumstances of a missional community to show us the depths of our hearts in ways that being at home does not. Being in a missional community has revealed sin, bitterness, and the judgmental tendencies of our hearts more than any other part of our marriage. For our own sanctification, we need community to show us the ways we do not love like Jesus. In our marriage, being a part of a missional community has caused a lot of sin to be exposed. Some of the ways that Schuyler and I respond to people when we are frustrated is very similar, so at times our sin even plays off one another. Being a part of a missional community has forced us to confront the ways we often do not love people, are quick to be judgmental, and our pridefulness in the ways we think we are right. And in that, we have learned more about one another. Specifically, we have learned how to preach the Gospel to one another and bring one another to a place of repentance. We have learned how to repent together, pray together, and trust God together. We have learned to rely on the Spirit to give us grace for those around us. In knowing one another more fully and being honest about our sinfulness more openly, we have been able to show grace to one another and disciple each other in becoming more like Jesus.
Missional community is messy, but beautiful and essential for all believers. Specifically, missional community is necessary for newlywed couples to learn how to worship God in their marriage. Living missionally in marriage causes us to remember that marriage was meant to express God’s character and grace in everyday life.
- How can marriage be worshipful to God through life in community and life on mission?
- If someone looked at your marriage, what would they say about God?
- In what ways is it challenging to view your marriage as others-focused rather than self-focused?
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