October 20, 2001
(Third of a 5-part series)
Couple Mentoring: How To Save Nine of
Ten Troubled Marriages
More than 1.1 million marriages
fail each year in America. For the one million children involved, the
experience is absolutely shattering, whose effects often last well into
The reason most marriages fail is selfishness.
The reason the best marriages thrive is selflessness. The central issue
facing American families is this: How can selfish couples be inspired to
Arguably, that is the job of
organized religion. Or it should be. Jesus summed up the basic message
of Christianity in five words, ''Love your neighbor as yourself.'' What
neighbor is closer than a spouse? As St. Paul put it, husbands should
''love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves
himself'' (Eph 5:28). Sadly, few clergy preach this sermon.
No wonder Barna Polls reveal
the divorce rate of active Christians is about the same as the
unchurched. In fact, Barna reports the divorce rate is even higher among
Baptists and non-denominational Christians than unbelievers!
The problem is not so much a
lack of sermons as it is a failure by pastors to realize that there are
couples in their pews who've learned to move from selfishness to
selflessness. Those couples have not been identified and trained to tell
their inspiring stories of recovery to those whose marriages are
One church that did so is First Assembly of God of
Rockford, Ill. Dan Qualls, Associate Pastor, asked this question, that
any pastor could ask, ''Are there any couples whose marriages were once
on the rocks, but are now in a state of healing? If so meet with me
after the service.''
Fifteen couples met with him,
14 of whom became Mentor Couples. Over five years they worked with about
150 couples headed toward divorce, losing ''only a handful to divorce,
not more than 10,'' says Mary Cotner, who leads the Marriage Ministry
with her husband, Bob.
Her marriage nearly failed
because Bob was an alcoholic. When he drank, he became abusive. She
threatened to leave with four kids unless he changed. He made the right
choice, with the help of his faith. He recalls, ''I believed that Jesus
could deliver me from that evil, and He did.''
When they meet with couples for
whom alcohol is an issue, he can say with authority, ''I have learned to
''trust the Lord with my whole heart and lean not to my own
understanding.(Pr. 3:5) In the past, I allowed myself to deceive myself
and I was successfully destroying my marriage. I was violating Mary.
However, Jesus delivered me.'' He not had a drink in decades.
Such a couple is a treasure to
Pastor Qualls: ''They provide tremendous relief for the pastoral
staff,'' he says. ''They are like a pit bull dog, who will stick with a
couple through thick and thin. I can hear them in an office near mine
meeting with a couple for two-three hours. They pour their heart and
soul out, an enormous time investment.
''Couples relate better to the
Marriage Saver Couple than to a pastor or a professional counselor.
There is a greater level of honesty and rapport. They can share their
story which gives hope. These couples have been in trouble themselves.
They have learned to trust the grace of God, and have an unswerving
commitment, and genuinely love these people.''
Another key ingredient was that
''we had a woman's point of view and a man's point of view,'' says Lisa,
whose marriage was saved by meeting with Raymond and Robin Talon. Her
issue was that Tommy went out drinking with his buddies, and then would
lie or cover up his escapades. When she discovered the truth, her trust
in him eroded.
Raymond told Tommy, ''Your
marriage is more important than having a beer with friends. If you
get sick, who will be in the room with you, your wife or the guy you
drink beer with?'' By contrast, Robin advised Lisa, ''You can not change
him. You can only change yourself. Let the Lord change him.'' In fact,
as she stopped showing distrust, Tommy sharply cut back his evenings
with the guys, while retaining the right to do so once in a while.
First Assembly is one of dozens
of churches in which in which back-from-the brink couples are trained to
share their stories of recovery with couples in crisis. They save nine
out of ten troubled marriages! Other churches will be trained to do so
Nov. 30- Dec. 1. To learn more see
Changed lives, change lives.
Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.