Are pastors and churches doing a good job of preparing women for marriage?

Disclaimer: This post mostly targets young, unmarried women.

Let’s start with famous pastor Mark Driscoll explaining how men are to blame for single motherhood:

Part of it is the unintended consequences of divorce. Forty percent of kids go to bed at night without a father. Not to be disparaging toward single moms, but if you’re a single mom and you’re working 60 hours a week, and you’ve got a boy, and he’s home all by himself with no parents and no dad, he’s just going to be hanging out with his buddies, feeding himself pizza rolls.

The number one consumer of online pornography is 12- to 17-year-old boys. What that means is he’s home eating junk food, drinking Monster energy drinks, downloading porn, masturbating and screwing around with his friends. That really doesn’t prepare you for responsible adulthood. That’s a really sad picture, especially if you’re a single gal hoping to get married someday. You’re like: “Seriously, that’s the candidate pool? You’ve got to be kidding me.” That’s why 41 percent of births right now are to unmarried women. A lot of women have decided: “I’m never going to find a guy who is actually dependable and responsible to have a life with. So I’ll just get a career and have a baby and just intentionally be a single mother because there are no guys worth spending life with.”

First, notice how Driscoll is apparently clueless about the fact that many single mothers have lots of children precisely so that they don’t have to work, and can just live off of welfare. But that doesn’t fit his narrative.

My main point, though, is that the Bible says that premarital sex is wrong for men and women, but Mark Driscoll knows better – he thinks that it is only wrong for men. And that the consequences of it can all be blamed on men. Driscoll also says that Christian women who choose to have recreational premarital sex with non-Christian men should expect those men to commit to them. He also has said men should not pass over single mothers, although the sociological data shows that single mothers are more likely to divorce if they do marry, which is bad for men financially. The same is true for women who cohabitate – there’s a higher risk of divorce if they do eventually marry the person they are cohabitating with.

If you look at the sociological data, single motherhood by choice is extremely harmful to the child- we should not be condoning this by telling women “it’s not your fault, it’s the fault of bad men, so just go on and keep choosing bad men!” As my friend and fellow woman-blamer Dina would say, “No, Baby, No!”

To respond to this problem, here is a post was written by Lindsay.

First the picture she posted:

Focus on the Family says: blame the man
Focus on the Family: blame the man for what the woman does

Now here is what Lindsay says about the image above:

Focus on the Family recently posted this meme on their page.

At first glance, many people might be tempted to agree with it. But the statement in the poster is actually false.

The truth is that there are plenty of loving, gentle men who are worthy of respect but whose wives are not responding properly to their love and gentleness. Plenty of women have fallen for the feminist ideas that they should never submit or let a man lead them and will be difficult to live with, no matter how wonderful their man is. Even among women who are not feminists, it’s difficult for many women to follow a husband’s leadership because our sinful nature is in rebellion against God’s plan.

Submission and following our husbands is something that must be learned, not something we’re born with or develop naturally. Women aren’t naturally good and kind any more than men are. We’re all fallen. We have to work to develop good habits and learn to do what God wants of us.

It certainly is easier for women to follow a loving, gentle man, but the poster is wrong in assuming that the only barriers to a woman following her man are his flaws. That simply isn’t true. Women also have to overcome their own flaws that stand in the way of the proper relationship they were meant to have.

Unfortunately, this attitude that women are naturally good and that men are the flawed ones that need to change is very prevalent, even among Christians. Imagine the outrage people would have if the scenario was reversed and the poster said something like this:

“Men are usually comfortable being kind and loving to their wives if their wives are submissive, keep up their appearance, and respect them.”

People would be up in arms over such a statement that assumes that men are always wonderful if women will just behave as they should. Why is it any different if the assumption is that women are always wonderful if men are behaving properly? Both are wrong. Both sexes are responsible for their own actions, regardless of what the other person in the marriage does.

Note that the Bible does not qualify the command in Ephesians 5 that women should submit to their husbands by making it conditional on anything that a man has to do. A man has separate duties, and those are not conditional on anything a woman has to do, either. He has to get up and go to work to provide for the family, whether she does what she is supposed to do or not. It’s a moral obligation. The command to not deny each other sex except temporarily and by mutual consent is not conditional on anyone’s behavior. NO SEX-WITHHOLDING, if you believe the Bible. It doesn’t matter if you are feel happy or unhappy, you are obligated. That’s what it means to take responsibility to perform an obligation!

What I have been seeing lately is older Christian women telling younger Christian women not to take seriously the obligations of complementarianism, but to instead make sure they choose a man who will let their desires rule. As someone who is used to not getting my own way, but instead putting God first, I find the idea that my resources will be redirected to making my wife feel good rather than serving God as a team to be absolutely horrifying and unacceptable. I have been entrusted with significant resources by God, and much is expected of me and my marriage. I really wish women would understand this – I have a Boss and my purpose in life is to serve him effectively. We are in a battle here in this culture, and there is a lot I want to do. I want a wife who will sacrifice her own happiness and needs as much as I have, and help me to serve my Boss. She needs to have experiences that prepare her character for that role. I am not asking for any more self-denial and self-sacrifice than I am willing to do myself, and I am not asking for her to do these things for me, but for our Boss.

As someone who has made sacrifices to prepare for marriage in areas like chastity, education, career, savings, apologetics ministry, etc., I am often shocked when I meet women who have – throughout their entire lives – always done what felt good to them. And yet many of those women tell me what a great Christian wife and mother they would make. I often find a huge mismatch of education, career, financial assets and chastity between men and women in relationships, and I believe that much of it results from pastors and church leaders giving Christian women this implicit green light to let their feelings and desires override the plain meaning of the Bible. Christian women need to understand that doing whatever feels good to you over and over is not consistent with the example of Jesus, nor moral teachings of the New Testament as a wholeMarriage is hard work, and you need to train yourself to get used to it by repeated exposure to experiences of self-denial, self-sacrifice and self-control. If your preparation for marriage is studying what feels good, working wherever feels good, spending money in order to feel good, etc. you are not preparing for marriage. There is no “happy path” to a great marriage.

Greg Koukl has a wonderful line: “the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle”. That’s right. Lindsay and her husband have been married for five years*, and they have never shouted at one another once. That takes wisdom. We ought to be listening to people like Lindsay and her husband about marriage. I know I listen to them. If you want to know what to do to have a good marriage, why don’t you just ask Lindsay? Similarly, my best friend Dina has an extremely stressful job dealing with difficult customers and life-or-death situations every day. She has so much responsibility at work that she makes my job look like a boiling an egg. And yet whenever I ask her for anything, e.g. – “play a game of Memoir ’44 with me”, she almost always does it, even when she doesn’t feel like it. I ask her why, and she says “because although you are very demanding, your needs are easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy compared to what I had to deal with today at work!” That’s why I encourage women to do hard things.

*=Today is their 5-year anniversary! Congratulations, Doug and Lindsay! I admire you both so much, and you make me feel validated about my vision for marriage, and my high standards.

12 thoughts on “Are pastors and churches doing a good job of preparing women for marriage?”

  1. I’m sure you’ve already heard my opinions on this. It does absolutely no good to blame the other gender because each time you do, you are simply handing your own power away.

    Rather then both of these things being perceived as untrue, they are actually both true. “Women do follow gentle and kind leadership they respect” and “Men are usually comfortable being kind and loving to their wives if their wives are submissive, keep up their appearance, and respect them.”

    Women can be with non believing husbands and actually transform the entire nature of that relationship simply through their own submission. Men can transform themselves into someone gentle, kind and consistent and win her respect.

    That is what our pastors need to be teaching, that marriage is actually a covenant between you and God and that the onus of making it work is really on you, not your spouse.

  2. Too many in protestant Christianity today are following a “pastor” and not Jesus. Recently over some sort of fellowship breakfast I had with a bunch of other fellow Christian men, Pastor Driscoll was casually mentioned. I gently criticized some of his methods, and his incorrect take on scripture, and what I disagreed with on……..

    The look of shock over the faces of these men astounded me, and some of their comments that followed I was more surprised at.

    “You know, that may be true what you said brother….but he is God’s anointed. You can’t criticize him…”

    “He’s a man of God, he made a mistake, you are not allowed to judge…………….”

    “He saved so many people, how can you disagree with him?”

    “He’s a guy’s guy and I like him, he shoots from the hip in a way Christian men can understand. You can’t criticize him because he has the “charge” from God to lead”

    “People make mistakes, and he confessed his sins. Move on.”

    “Men are a bunch of crybabies today, and we men have to take a stand and slap these whiney churchboys into action. Men are supposed to behave like men, and Pastor Driscoll knows what he is saying…..if you are offended, or don’t like it……that means the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. Maybe you have to grow up!”

    Anyway…….this is only going to get worse in protestant Christianity……and the attacks, smears, and put-downs from the pulpit to men are only going to intensify. Sooner than later, we’re gonna start hearing from pastors that “Jesus didn’t really mean for you to be married to a fellow believer……” because the marriage crisis in the Faith is now reaching crisis levels.

    Right now in the church I see women out of wedlock having babies, and churches throwing them “baby showers” to help them, and encouraging them (thus making the practice acceptable to others)

    All I can do is pray for His will to guide my life,l and love Him for what he delivered me from………..

    I tried ONCE to hold someone accountable in my church and was “spoken to” by one of the elders for “judging” and being “hurtful”

    She asked my opinion. I gave it. She didn’t like it, she “tattled” on me. Feelings now matter more than the Word of God in church today.

    I was soldier on as best I can, focus on my own purity, and Holiness…..as for anything else????? Don’t know what to do in the church anymore concerning women.

    1. This sort of heretical mix of irrationality and peevishness, is largely why I don’t attend church. What on earth can one say when confronted with that level of uniformity in foolishness? Most of them are just nonsense. Not even standard “non-judgmentalism,” just, “he does good stuff don’t criticize him.” Sounds more like a cult groupie.

      God’s anointed…..infallible? Really!?!?

  3. So what if a godly christian man never marries and vice versa for a christian woman.

    Also what if say a guy is like 38 close to being 40 and he does meet a godly christian virgin woman but she is 20 and is not interested in the guy?

        1. Jesus wasn’t married. Neither was Paul. Neither are Catholic priests. Neither were countless men and women who loved God, and Believed that Christ was the Savior foretold!

          The Bible speaks a lot more about standing firm, and living a righteous life…worthy of His favor than marriage, or children.

        2. Well, yes. I think that the general command is for people to do that. But also check out 1 Cor 7, where Paul says that his recommendation is for people not to marry. I personally need to get married, but I think I will need to find someone who is supportive of my desire to make a difference for God.

  4. While I agree with much of what you wrote in your post about what is Biblically expected of men and women before and after the wedding.

    Men and women are to not have premarital sex or involve themselves in something that causes them to sin by their thoughts or actions. Husbands and wives are both supposed to be there for one another through the good and the bad, sickness and health… I think you get my point. Men and women are meant to have worked on themselves growing in their relationship with God while growing up in God’s word, the Bible. I also agree that the number of single mothers, who may or may not receive assistance in raising the child(ren) by the man who fathered the child(ren).

    Children are somewhat held accountable for how they were raised and what they do after the age of accountablity/understanding, but their parents will also have to stand in judgment for how their child(ren) behaved. Parents are also responsible for how children are raised and what they were exposed to as a result of their parenting before and after the child(ren) have reached the age of accountability/understanding.

    Once a child becomes a young adult and is out in the world they are responsible for choosing a partner that is “evenly yoked” with them. They are responsible for their behavior during the courtship/dating period, engagement and then the marriage. They should encourage each other to grow in God and make God the foundation of their marriage. Both the husband and wife, without that foundation and even yoking the marriage will not have the best chance to become the partnership it is meant to be.
    All the choices above are derived in part from the foundation the parents, Church leaders, Pastors and even down to the Sunday School/Bible study leaders help lay in the life of both men and women for their life and, if one is meant to be, marriage later in their life. The teachings should come from the Bible and always each sermon/lecture should have a Biblically derived root to make the teachings true and to create a health personal relationship long before a courtship and marriage relationship is formed.

    I was surprised when you referred to “no sex withholding.” A woman does not have to always just say ok when her husband desires sex, nor does it work the other way around. If the wife or the husband does not desire to have sex right at that moment, and the one desiring it should understand sometimes their partner does not feel well or whatever the reason is. I want to try to clarify my standing on this point, I am not saying that either spouse has the right to withhold sex because of an argument, disagreement or other such thing. Instead I am saying that both have a responsibility to take care of the other and to treat them well, part of this is respecting the feelings and the wellbeing of the other.

    Sorry for the length of my response. I hope that I was clear in my reasoning and will happily discuss or elaborate on any part of it. I also do not mind a rebuttal it someone disagrees with what I have said.

    1. Sex withholding doesn’t mean you never say no to sex. It means that you withhold sex over a long period of time when it is possible for you to have sex. Obviously, if one person has a physical disability such that they cannot have sex or if spouses are unavoidably apart from one another, they aren’t withholding sex. But when one person consistently refuses without just cause, it’s withholding sex and it’s wrong.

  5. To short answer your title question, “No”.

    The churches I am familiar with, most christian books, and christian women’s conferences prepare christian women to be everything but wives and mothers. The current focus is training christian women to be like men; to be empowered, to go into leadership, to start their own ministry, to go on short term mission trips, to get a college degree and focus their teens and 20’s on college, building a career, traveling, and dating around so they have less regrets later. Marriage and having children is an afterthought, a hobby for later.

    One example, Liberty University (founded by Jerry Falwell) is now sponsoring the “Propel Women” movement:

    http://www.liberty.edu/online/liberty-news/?MID=145216

    Should not they be propelling Jesus? Should they not be propelling men? Women’s leadership has given us Prohibition, Abortion on Demand, No Fault Divorce, and the heroic single mother.

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