Gospel Centered Marriage
Comprehensive Gospel-Centered Pre-Marital Mentoring Program
Welcome to the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage” pre-marital mentoring page. We want this page to provide everything you need to provide every engaged couple in your church with a mentor couple who can walk them through a comprehensive pre-marital program. We also want to see the experienced marriages in your church enriched as they invest in engaged couples who are just beginning their marital journey.All the components necessary to launch this ministry at your church are available at: www.bradhambrick.com/gcm
The following message was given at The Summit Church on February 9-10, 2013. It examines the implications ofJesus’ call to discipleship in Luke 9:23-24 for marital conflict and romance.This sermon represents the core concepts that are developed further in the“Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage” seminar series that is comprised of:FoundationsCommunicationFinancesDecision-MakingIntimacyThe content of this sermon became the foundation for my booklet Romantic Conflict: Embracing Desires the Bless Not Bruise.
Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy - Part 5
If you do a good job applying chapter four and have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of intercourse, then you may be wondering, “Is there really anything else we need to know? Let us go and do our thing already.” Which brings up an important point, you can be so intentional that sex becomes mechanical and loses its passion.There is still more to learn – things that can enhance your sexual experience and common obstacles to avoid – but do not fall into the pattern of thinking that you need a “Masters in Sexology” in order to enjoy a satisfying sex life.Sex is not unlike tennis. You can enjoy the game whether or not you know all the fundamentals and strategies. Many people who have never had a tennis lesson enjoy the game more than the “professionals.” You can lose your love of the game in the effort to master the game.But there are some basic principles and advanced strategies that those who excel at tennis share in common. Most of those who love the game of tennis over a long period of time either pick up on these or seek ways to learn them. Likewise, this material is intended to reinforce those things that you naturally do well and refine those areas where you are not getting the optimal, mutual enjoyment from your romantic efforts.In this chapter, we will pick up where we left off last chapter. In the last chapter we did not get any more physically intimate than a passionate kiss and caressing your spouse’s cheek. Hopefully you now have a much greater appreciation for how much affection can be communicated and passion generated from romance available while your clothes are still on.Now we will transition to the point where you communicate to each other that you would like this romance to “lead to something else.” For many couples this can be an awkward juncture. Initiating sex can be a point ripe for confusion (“I didn’t know that’s what you were asking”), crudeness (“I don’t like it when you talk about sex that way”), or rejection (“I know you’re [legitimate reason], but it hurts when you decline my initiation”). So we will discuss the challenges and opportunities around initiating sex.Then we will look at how to understand, protect, and build upon the phases of arousal in intercourse. Arousal should build momentum. When you build upon it, the experience escalates into something increasingly wonderful. But when you break the momentum it can be hard to regain it. The better we understand the physical and emotional processes that contribute to arousal’s momentum the more consistently (never perfectly) we will use it in our favor.Finally, we will refocus ourselves on the real meaning of sex. The goal of marital sex is not to have the intensity and synchronization of your orgasms perpetually increase. Aging bodies won’t allow that. Pinnacle experiences never sustain a life-long relationship.Even in marriages with the most vibrant sex lives, sex comprises only 60 minutes of their week at most (three occurrences lasting 20 minutes each). It’s the other 167 hours that will define the relationship. Sex, at its best, only celebrates the other 167 hours. We will consider how to remind ourselves of this truth and of those facets of our relationship with God which sex was given to teach us.
Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy - Part 4
How do you feel as we get ready to talk about sex? Nervous, excited, guilty, awkward, self-conscious, aroused, or tired of me asking question and ready to get the conversation started? Surprising to many people, the first step towards a great sex life is the ability to talk about sex. Sex is a “team sport” and communication is essential to anything involving the synchronization of two people’s bodily movements (not to mention schedules and emotions).For many couples the most beneficial thing they will gain from this chapter and the next will be a conversation guide. Hopefully, the content will be informative and stimulating, but what they really need most-first is a series of positively-framed prompts to have some awkward but exciting conversations they may only try to have when one of them thinks “the moment is right” and the other is not so sure.But even when there is agreement on the frequency and initiation of sex, communication is paramount to a healthy and thriving sex life. Talking about sex should not just be educational (i.e., learning what your spouse does and does not enjoy), but also arousing (i.e., part of the foreplay and building of a healthy sexual tension between husband and wife which adds to the climax of intercourse).“Many couples find it uncomfortable to initiate sexual conversations and openly discuss individual needs and desires (p. 16)… Great sex is based on mature lovers who can be honest with themselves and with their mates. They are self-aware and assertively communicate (p. 17).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex
Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy - Part 3
What is the love story mold into which you want your marriage to grow? Cinderella, Pretty Woman, Snow White, Titanic, Gone with the Wind, It’s a Wonderful Life, Sleepless in Seattle, Grease, Jerry Maguire, Dirty Dancing, etc…? Whether the plot line comes from Hollywood cinema or not, we all have an ideal “narrative” we want our marriage to follow.As one friend of my wife pointed out, “All chic-flicks are about the same thing. The guy does everything the girl wants to win the girl’s love and attention. She gets to be a god.” The same could be said of the pornographic films to which many men are becoming addicted, “The girl does everything the guy wants to win his love and attention. He gets to be a god.”This is the really dangerous parts about our ideal love stories (even more than sexual lust); we are a god in the story–the story centers on us. Everyone else, including God, is a supporting actor in our story. This tendency doesn’t go away when we get married. In fact, for many people, it only gets worse as we try to make our “forever relationship” into the “happily ever after” we’ve been creating with each book we read and move we watch. This was the human tendency before modern media, but the multi-billion dollar, idealized story-telling industry greatly exacerbates the tendency.In this chapter we want to combat these tendencies in two ways:Examine how and where a non-gospel narrative takes root and gains power in your marriage.Discover simple, powerful practices to keep the gospel as the grand narrative of your marital love.In order to help you appreciate how we’ll approach these two things, consider the following question, “How does a news story catch traction and gain definition in our modern media?” The answer is “sound bites” – a clip is played over and over, and opposite sides compete so their phrase is used to describe the event.This is more than political theatre or the product of cramming world news into a 30 minute program. It is a basic human tendency played out on a large scale. We give things meaning and reinforce that meaning through frequently repeated small messages or images. This is as true of individuals as it is of cultures.Where does it happen for individuals? In our self-talk, the things we replay in our minds. As Paul Tripp is fond of saying, “No one is more influential in your world than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” We spin (for better or worse) the events of our lives and quality of our marriage in our own mind constantly. The bias of our “coverage” will either be gospel-gospel-gospel or self-self-self.
Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy - Part 2
Which system is the right system? What gauge is the right gauge? What metaphor best captures what we’re supposed to be paying attention to? If you have read many books on marriage you know how confusing these questions can be: love languages, pink hearing aids, blue sun glasses, love tanks, love banks, waffles, spaghetti, Mars, Venus, his needs, her needs, love, respect, love dare, seven key questions, seven minute solutions, new marriages by Friday, fourteen secrets, etc… (that’s from a two minute search on “marriage” on a Christian bookstore website).Is all this language different ways of saying the same thing or do we need to know this many different systems?You hear one couple talk about how a book / speaker completely revitalized their marriage and another couple tells you the same book / speaker didn’t do anything for them, is totally unrealistic, or created tension in their marriage.How do we know what is “worth our time” (which is limited and we’d prefer not to waste)?If you let these kind of questions stress you out, then you likely either to do nothing or fail to enjoy whatever you do in pursuit of marital romance. In this chapter, we want to do a few things to help you navigate these challenges.Describe why understanding differences is importantOutline the kind of differences acouple needs to be aware of (main focus)Caution against common misuses of our differences
Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy - Part 1
What are we going to talk about in this seminar? Sex… romance… affection… affirming words… weekly date nights… talking about our feelings… vulnerability… What is “intimacy”?Chances are you won’t create something you can’t define and many couples have a hard time agreeing about what counts as intimacy. “Agreeing to disagree” is definitely not the solution to this dilemma.For this seminar “intimacy” will be used to capture the full breadth of romantic activities shared by husband and wife; from encouragement, flirting, serving, and handholding to romantic get aways, long love letters, and gourmet sex. This seminar is about maintaining a deep sense of enjoyment for each other.It is easy to allow the awkwardness of this subject – talking about emotions, affection, and sex – to prevent a couple from enjoying some of marriage’s sweetest fruit. It takes a mature man and woman to flirt tastefully over a lifetime, put their dreams and desires into words consistently, and talk wholesomely about what is sexually enjoyable.Most of these are conversations you should not be having with anyone else, so it makes sense there would be some awkwardness. Don’t allow the potential clumsiness of speech or action to prevent you from pursuing and enjoying the spouse God has blessed you with.
Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Decision Making - Part 5
We’re now in a position to discuss headship-submission. From chapter two, we know what we’re after (God’s will). From chapter three, we’ve assessed how to make wise, mature personal decisions which lay a foundation for joint decision making. From chapter four, we’ve examined consensus as the preferred first-choice for how to make marital decisions. But those approaches will not cover everything.The big question now should be, “What’s left? If we do a good job with what we’ve already learned, shouldn’t that take care of decision making?” Not every couple is asking that question, but for couples where there is general unity “what’s left” should be the tone of thought at this point. Otherwise you’re expecting authority to accomplish what only maturity can do. But even with a mature couple there will still be an answer to the question, “What’s left?” Here is a list of the kind of things that are left.After deliberation a husband and wife still disagree about what should be done. Time constraints do not allow for a more collaborative decision making process. When a member of the family needs to be protected from their own choices. When an uncomfortable example needs to be set for the family to follow. When an important question needs to be raised that is currently being avoided. For many couples this articulation of when headship-submission is relevant challenges pre-conceived ideas about what biblical gender roles ought to look like. It is much less about who is “in charge” and more about what are the unique ways a husband and wife love/serve one another in the midst of a difficult decision.“When the solution to a problem seems to boil down to the question of who is ‘in charge,’ it means that more important questions aren’t being asked (p. 17).” Winston Smith in Who Does the Dishes?There are three questions we’ll seek to answer in this chapter.What Is a Biblical View of Authority?How Should a Couple Make Headship Decisions?How Should a Couple Follow Up on Headship Decisions?
Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Decision Making - Part 4
For some consensus is the epitome of all things good… “if only everyone could get along and agree on the kind of world that was best.” For others it is the encapsulation of all that is wrong with the world… “trying to get everyone to agree results in bland, sterile uniformity with no conviction or passion.” When you consider anything significant out of context you will eventually reach those kinds of polarized positions. That is why we are considering consensus decision making in the context of individual and headship-submission decisions making.Consensus is neither the Savior nor the villain of a marriage. It is that important middle ground between exclusive individualism (living as independent decision makers – “just roommates”) and corporatism (allowing all decisions to be decided on the basis of authority – “controlling”). Most of the really enjoyable parts of marriage will be experienced through consensus. If we didn’t believe this we would be content to remain single (individualism) or would gladly give away our freedoms and voice in decision making. But you didn’t. You chose to get married because you thought “doing life with” your spouse was superior.The goal of this chapter is to teach, or at least reinforce, the skills of consensus decision making so that this approach can comprise a larger and larger percentage of your marital decisions. The maturity of wise personal decision making (chapter three) is assumed and the necessity of headship-submission decision making (chapter five) is anticipated. But as often as possible, you should desire to decide together.We’ll address this subject in three questions:What do consensus and friendship have in common?What decisions fit in the “consensus” category?What is the process for consensus decision making?