Do you attend different churches as a husband and wife because you can’t agree upon the same one? We’ve been presented with this scenario quite a few times, so we thought we’d address it in a Marriage Insight. This dilemma isn’t entirely common, but it seems to be getting more so. SHOULD you attend different churches as a married couple? Our short answer is, “ideally, no.” A husband and wife are supposed to “cleave together as one” after they marry. How do you truly cleave if you are divided in this way? It will cause a type of division—no doubt. BUT… and that is the operative word here, there may be some exceptions.
Attending Different Churches
Of course, if you are in different locations, that would be one exception. Sadly, some spouses are located in different parts of the country, or in different countries for various reasons. Some of those reasons are necessary; others are not. We won’t go into those reasons, but it does happen. So that “exception” is more understandable.
But what about spouses who live together and yet they can’t agree upon the same church? Is it okay if they attend different churches? Our answer is still the same, “Ideally, no, they shouldn’t attend different churches.” But if, at this point, they can’t agree upon going to the same church, it can be a better alternative than continuing to argue about it. This type of fighting can cause damaging cracks to the relationship. It is better to attend different churches, at least for a while, until you can work out a more peaceable solution.
But we have to admit, we haven’t seen a couple who have been able to successfully navigate going to different churches. We’ve seen it eventually divide them in various ways. However, on the Gregory Dickow Ministries web site, there is a different view.
Here is a small portion of the answer given:
“I’ve seen people, where one spouse goes to one and another spouse goes to another. And I’ve seen that work fine. They get along and they have great relationship; it’s successful. I mean, it’s three or four hours a week where you’re apart from one another.
“But you have to value the same things. That’s the most important thing. You have to value God’s Word as final authority in your life. You have to value your fellowship with God. And you have to value prayer. You have to value reading the Bible. You have to value tithing and honoring God, putting him first in your money. If you both agree about that, it’s not a problem if you go to two different churches.”
We can see his point. Even so, it is the rare couple that can attend different churches and still be close to each other —especially spiritually. So keep that in mind that this is more of the exception, than the rule.
To give you more to glean from we did some research for suggestions from other web sites. Below are portions of some of the answers given. After each one we are providing links for you to read their answers in their entirety. They have additional info posted that you will want to read on this issue. Plus, some of them have helpful comments posted after them that you may want to read. Do your due-diligence on this and read all you can. Pray, read, glean, and use the info you believe God would have you.
FIRST, on the Issue of Attending Different Churches:
From the ministry of Focus on the Family, they suggest:
• “Give your relationship priority. God doesn’t want a dispute over church choice to tear your marriage apart. Try to compromise in a way that both of you can live with. …Expect that if you’re both seeking what God wants, have a spirit of unselfishness, and genuinely wish to serve the needs of your spouse rather than your own needs first. God will lead you to a good solution.
• “Try creative alternatives. For example, you might try the ‘mix and match’ approach. Many churches provide both ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ services. Some couples attend a Saturday night ‘contemporary’ meeting but also occasionally a Sunday morning ‘traditional’ service at the same church.” (Phillip J. Swihart from the Focus on the Family article, What If We Don’t Like the Same Church?)
Please note that Billy Graham and his wife Ruth came from different denominations. And yet they came to agree upon attending one church. They were both strong willed people, and yet they made it work. However, when asked about this issue of attending different churches Billy wrote:
“The Bible doesn’t say anything directly about this. The problem didn’t arise because Christians were few in number in those days.”
… But then Billy goes on to say:
“If it’s at all possible, however, I certainly urge couples to attend the same church. Not only will it help them grow closer to each other and to God, but it will help their children learn about Jesus.”
We whole-heartedly agree. That is optimal. We believe a married couple will have a tendency to grow spiritually closer to each other if they attend the same church. Plus, unity between parents benefit the children. But we especially appreciate what Billy said at the ending of the article.
“Above all, put Jesus Christ at the center of your lives — as individuals and as a family. When our lives are centered in Him, disagreements begin to fade. Remember the Bible’s admonition: ‘Let us not give up meeting together… but let us encourage one another.‘” (Hebrews 10:25) (This quote comes from the article we encourage you to read in its entirety, plus comments afterward: Does the Bible Say a Husband and Wife Must Go to the Same Church?)
Focus on Christ
And that’s the point we want to make. It concerns our focus. “When our lives are centered in Him, DISAGREEMENTS BEGIN TO FADE.” It is when one or both of us don’t have our lives centered in Him that disagreements accelerate. Look again at your focus.
On this same issue, below is a portion of some thoughts another pastor wrote on his church’s web site. (And then we recommend you go to the linked article afterward to read the rest.)
Pastor Jay wrote:
“So, One Spouse, Two Churches, here is what I would do. I would sit down and pray for wisdom. I would then talk with both of your pastors. If one of you goes to my church, I would actually tell you to go to the other church rather than remain at the Bible Church with your divided communities. Remember, almost every church records its sermons now. If you love your current pastor’s preaching, just listen to it online during the week. Which of you should sacrifice for the other?
“I don’t know for your situation, but given my view of a husband’s leadership role, I think he should hand over his rights. You should go to your church —at least as a starting point. That is sacrificial leadership. His desire should be for you to be blessed and he should try to take the lead in protecting the integrity of your holistic participation in Christ’s body.
“God will lead you. I believe he wants you at the same church, given what he says about the church in His Word. The church is a place that is a load bearing wall. It is meant to be very influential in our lives, and so the most important people in our lives should share that with us.” (Read Pastor Jay’s entire answer in this GospelObsessed.com article, One Spouse Two Churches)
Here is one more insight given on the issue by another minister. This gives you more to prayerfully consider. In an “Ask the Minister” article for the Lorain County Free-Net Chapel, a question is asked pertaining to two spouses who attend churches in completely different denominations and worship styles. Here is a portion of the answer that was given:
“…I just thought that I would remind both of you that nagging each other about your faith does nothing to convince the other that you are right and the other is wrong. As for this being good for the family and your marriage or not; well, that all depends on how much you love each other. If you respect her, you will allow her to worship at a church, which she believes in. To be honest, if she is truly desiring to please the Lord, she will be a better wife to you, and will love you too.” (We encourage you to read the rest of the answer given at: ASK THE MINISTER)
We agree with what this minister wrote. Giving each other space and grace on this issue seems to be more in line with God’s will than fighting over it. This is insulting to God to fight over where you will go to worship Him. Don’t you see the enemy’s fingerprints all over this?
Please, please, please don’t fight with one another over where you will worship God. Recognize that this is a plot of the enemy of our faith to hurt God, and to separate you in your “cord of three strands” covenant marriage. (See: Ecclesiastes 4:12.) Don’t give in to this manipulation by the enemy. Call a truce. Unite. Take each other by the hand and pray about this together. Continue to pray individually, as well. And keep praying until you are united as one.
Ask God to give you wisdom as to how to come to a peaceable solution. It may even be a temporary bridge solution that you use to lead to another solution. But don’t fight over it. Realize that the enemy comes to divide. God comes to join us together in strength of LOVE—God’s type of love, not the world’s. Go with God on this.
We are told in God’s Word:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Please note that it does not say one denomination, or a physical building, but one body. The context is the body of the church —all of us corporately that believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Also note that we are told in God’s Word:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
May it be so by the way we live with one another in our marriages, Lord… may it be so.
Cindy and Steve Wright
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