So after our Discipleship Conference last night, I came home to watch the TV that had accumulated for me on the ol’ TiVo. One of the things I grab is ABC’s World News; have since before Jennings went off the air. The story that caught my eye was churches in Clacakamas County, Oregon banding together to promote marriage as a positive for the community. Here’s a quick rundown of the concept:
- None of the pastors there will marry you if you haven’t been through the counseling program.
- The premarital counseling program is designed to have the affianced confront the implications of their commitment before they enter into it.
- After marriage, support is there from the community—including community date night, where babysitting services are provided to allow parents to have some meaningful time together outside of the whole parenting thing.
See, what it is for these folks is a commitment to marriage by the community and marriage in the community. Within reasonable bounds, the couples confess things to each other with an eye towards making things work. Clackamas County’s divorce rate has noticeably dropped as a result, which has to be viewed as a positive. [Before you argue that some divorces are necessary, please note that this program is essentially designed to sniff out those truly incompatible and have them realize this prior to making the lifelong commitment.]
Now, this relates back to the discussion in the Discipleship Conference from earlier, which covered David on the lam from Saul and how the church responded to his desperation. I won’t belabor the example, but the central point of the message was that Ahimelech provided bread and a sword—sustenance for David and his men, and a means in which to engage his problems. And truly, that’s all the church is supposed to do—meet people’s immediate, desperate need and equip them to face their problems head-on. If we can simply do that, we’ve met a major commitment we have to the surrounding community.
We’d like to pretend, though, that all these desperate people are outside the church doors on Sunday, and we know that’s just not true. Sometime, we’re even the desperate ones, all but wailing to reach out and just blurt out our problems, but checked by the twin pillars of Pride and Fear of Rejection from doing so. Our charge as a church body is to be as Samson to those pillars and push them down by fostering a community where we can feel safe in communicating these issues to each other. It is a daunting charge, to be sure, but one for which Jesus gave no less than His life.