Thursday, January 31, 2008

Big Wedding, Little Marriage

by Alex Bryan

The cost of a typical wedding these days can be enormous. $20,000, $30,000 and a whole lot more. Flowers, music, venue, food, pastor (that’s a big ticket item right there for sure), announcements, dresses, suits, ties. This doesn’t even take into account the honeymoon or all the gifts given to the bride and groom.

So, if more money is being spent on weddings than ever before, why are divorce rates not plummeting? Why are marriages not happier and more long-lasting than ever before? Why is this not the golden age of martial bliss?

How about this: what if a couple took half (say $15,000) the wedding costs and applied this to post-marriage counseling? What if they invested in mini-honeymoons twice a year for the first ten years of marriage? What if they took that money and found ways to invest in the strength and beauty of their relationship?

Switching gears now. Enormous amounts of time, money, energy, prayer, creative action are put into evangelistic meetings. Sermons, music, brochures, venue, Bibles, materials and on and on. So we should be in the evangelistic golden age of the church…. But the opposite is true. The non-churched statistics grow each year. We are not doing better. We are losing the battle.

An idea: what if we took half the money and energy and brainpower we put into “reaping events” (meetings designed to help people make “decisions” for Jesus) and instead invested this in training and equipping church members to build authentic relationships with people, create opportunities for them to serve the community, and invested heavily in their own growth as disciples of Jesus? What would happen if we put the majority of our money in SOWING AND WATERING instead of GROWING AND REAPING?

While wedding days and evangelistic meetings have their (important) place, I wonder if marriages and marriage to Jesus would be a whole lot better with greater emphasis on relationship-building over the long haul.

Photo credit: Martina Konietzny Photography


  1. All I can say is Amen! Wouldn't that be neat?

    Meanwhile, as the denominational ship continues sailing, nothing is stopping individuals from (i.e. me) engaging in sowing practices in their own lives. That's all we're really responsible for. A whole denomination doing it together would be cool, but it would take a move of God to make it happen.

  2. I had never really thought of making that analogy between weddings and evangelistic meetings. But after reading your very insightful article, something hit me. It's all for SHOW! Hey, I had a big, fancy wedding. I didn't spend $20,000 but I spent more than I should have and started out my marriage in debt. But I felt pressured into doing that. The whole, "what would people think?" question was constantly in my mind when I considered scaling back or cutting corners. Weddings often become a competition of who can outdo who. Is it not the same with the evangelistic efforts? The churches and conferences want to put on something fantastic that will wow the souls into the church. And what is the ultimate goal? Big-number baptisms! Not keeping these newly won souls in the church. Just as the ultimate goal of the wedding is to have the day of your dreams and an event that will have people talking for months about how great it was. Not making sure the marriage lasts 50 + years.

    What you propose is wonderful but sadly I think most engaged couples aren't looking at things that way...if I could do it over I sure would. Thankfully after 11 years my marriage is still in tact. But what about those individuals who did come into the church through evangelistic crusade or by some other means, but eventually drifted back out because the "honeymoon" ended and they saw some things in the poeple that they didn't like or they weren't able to connect with anyone in the church on a real and personal level. Or just as many divorce because they simply don't understand what it takes to have a successful marriage, some have left the church because they didn't know how to have a real, meaningful relationship with God.

    You really could go on and on with this analogy and I appreciate you for contributing something so thought provoking and profound. Once again, this blogspot has not let me down.

  3. It seems a bit foolish. Me sitting here at work, in a hospital, loudly saying "Amen, Rock on brother!" but it was worth it! Succinct, powerful, and right on!

    and see some simple ideas that others are attempting. (Used to be called Ordinary Attempts, but they've since changed their name.)

  4. Alex. I appreciate your post and agree wholeheartedly. The whole number's game irritates me to no end, as I am confident it does our Saviour. What is the value of one soul?

    The whole process of Church/Evangelism in general can sometimes depress me, and I have avoided participating due to the fact that I reside under (and I said under) the leadership of a very oppressive and conservative U.S. SDA conference.

    However, last year I felt that God was calling me to put my neck out and accept a position within our local church. Perhaps, I thought, he could use me to bring in change. The first board meeting I attended was a 3 year planning committee. In that committee, a conference official totally dismissed my comments about the post-modern generation and post-modern Christianity/Adventism, stating it as a non issue and an overblown concept. Then the said individual started throwing out statistics (number of baptisms as compared to cost of evangelism efforts, number of baptisms compared to advertisement costs, goals for baptisms/conversions as compared to those leaving...) The comment that nailed it for me was that if an advertisement in a paper cost $X.00 dollars and yielded only one baptism, it was not worth it! Can you believe it? I was horrified and left that board meeting saddened and once again, left pondering the future of my church and where I could possibly fit in and make a difference. I so desperately want to make a difference for the Kingdom of Christ. Moving is not optional - there are so many hungering for grace and mercy and love here.

    Shortly after that, I read in an Adventist publication that the church was proud to expect 10,000 new baptisms in Madagascar. My thought is, how many will revert to their animist ways once the thrill and exuberance is gone and the circus leaves town? Where will the mentors be?

    Where will I be? That is the thought that I am left with.

  5. good points on both accounts, and a nice parallel illustration.

  6. Alex,
    This is an excellent metaphor, but I don't know how to change things. Some pastors are supportive of new ideas and some aren't. Mine seems to be, but we all lack time and finances. The programs we can afford are the satellite programs and once we had an(sigh) Amazing Facts evangelist.
    I really could not support that one. It comes down to personal evangelism which I am not good at; if God brings a seeker into my life I will talk about faith if they want to listen, but I have no desire to attempt to convert other Christians.
    We have different gifts and I would rather put funds into community needs and witness. For the secular community, there could be relevant seminars on faith, spirituality, and health but my version would not be accepted by an SDA church I am sure. I do have lots of ideas.

  7. sorry, the analogy breaks down for me. In the book "surprising insights from the unchurched" (a non-SDA book) says that Adventists are the BEST at reaching the unchurched (as far as denominations go - and slightly less than the non-denoms). As a whole, how do SDAs reach the unchurched? through out public evangelism meetings. We don't do it any other way. Surprising to find out, we aren't turning the metho-piscop-bapto-terians into Adventist, but rather 70% of our baptisms are coming from the non-churched category. Sorry, your analogy breaks down into the smush of why Adventists don't like evangelism, rather than something that is really working....the only Adventist churches that are reaching the non-churched and growing (in real growth, not transfer growth) are those that are contemporary in style, but are doing traditional evangelism. That's a quote from one-Adventist Church Growth specialist Russell Burrill. I'll stop and await the retribution from this blog, but I could go on and on....

  8. I don't think it hurts to try new methods. Something has to be done to move forward in the process. But like my brother Rog said, it's true, we are doing better than anyone else.

    But let's keep experimenting and trying new things.

  9. Oh my oh my oh my!

    I found your article after a very dispiriting business meeting at our local church.

    The pastor told our church at a business meeting two months ago that he was planning to do evangelistic meetings in the spring and fall of every calendar year. Our head elder immediately said, "We need to have one." Sigh.

    We live in a VERY churched community and only have 12-15 people in attendance in our church each week. Our demographic is six retirees, two middle-aged people, and two young couples (each couple has one toddler).

    An evangelistic series! You have to be kidding! We can't even get our members to church each week, and those who do come, 2-3 fall asleep during the services (and I'm not talking about the toddlers)! My husband does the pulpit duties EVERY WEEK and he is SS Supt. twice a month. I teach SS EACH WEEK (with no substitute when I'm gone). Our head elder plays the piano, gives a sermon or two each month, and teaches the cradle roll. There is no one to adequately reach a multitude for the meetings and there isn't a safe church home for new members to live in!

    What ever happened to the Christ-model of evangelism? (Pray-Serve-Teach).

    I'm tired of evangelistic meetings wasting money and painting our church as fanatical crazies!

    I believe in our church's doctrines, but as I said at the meeting today: I don't think there is anything sinful in believing we shouldn't have evangelistic meetings. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we need to have meetings to show people the way to Christ.

    Besides, aren't we supposed to be preaching Christ, not Seventh-day Adventism?

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I'll be checking in your blog from now on!