When Spouses Attend Different Churches

Spouses different churches - Stock Adobe CanvaDo 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?)

SECONDLY:

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)

And Then:

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?

Above All:

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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Comments

15 responses to “When Spouses Attend Different Churches

  1. If both husband and wife are living together, it seems that the issue is pretty clear based upon the Bible. For our Lord and Savior Jesus, unity among His disciples is a high priority. We are supposed to be one body. If a husband and wife are both disciples of Jesus, and both desiring to live obedient to Him, it seems that they would naturally choose to attend the same Bible-believing church, together. If a husband and wife attend different churches, it must be that 1) one of the churches is not a Bible-believing church and one of them does not want to go there for that reason, or 2) one (or both) of them does not understand the importance of unity among the body of believers. If they cannot be in unity and attend one church, it is a warning sign for their marriage and their walk with the Lord, and it will most likely take a toll on their marriage relationship over time if either one of them is serious about following Jesus in their lives. My two cents… :>)

  2. Thank you for this article. My spouse and I find ourselves in this dilemma. He decieded to join the Jehovah Witnesses whose doctrine is different from other Christians. For instance they do not believe in the Trinity. They believe Jesus is Arch Angel Michael and isolate themselves to be with only those who are in their faith.

    I find this is disturbing. I have tried talking to my spouse but he won’t listen because they have been advised that the mainstream Christians have pagan practices, plus his mom and sister are Jehovah Witnesses.

    We have a three year old son and my prayer is that God shines in my husband’s heart to truly get to know Jesus. In the meantime I am trying to keep the peace and respect his wishes.

    1. My heart goes out to you Libby, as a wife and as a mom. Essentially, you are living with a spouse who is an Unbeliever (although he and his fellow “Witnesses” would not see it that way… just the opposite). You may gain some insight as to how to live with him by reading through the topic found at: https://marriagemissions.com/category/unbelieving-spouse/. You may even want to post your situation on the Prayer Wall that you can find on the Home Page. Many people pray for the requests that are posted there. I hope this helps in some way. God bless.

  3. Someone from South Africa wrote the following to us: Thank you for your weekly message. It is much appreciated. I have a slightly different scenario – where only one spouse attends church – and the other spouse is totally disinterested. I find this puts quite a strain on the marriage – although my spouse never discourages me from attending.

    He plays sport while I attend church. But I am finding that after many years of marriage, we seem to be drifting into two completely different worlds. 3 of our 4 children have left home, and are living in different cities, leaving only one at home, who is at university. Conversation is strained, as we have so little in common to talk about. Any suggestions? Kind regards.

    1. I recommend the same thing to you that I previously recommended to Libby. Please read through the following topic because you are dealing with someone who is acting like an unbeliever. Please read through the topic found at: https://marriagemissions.com/category/unbelieving-spouse/.

      It takes a very special spouse to be able to put up with this. But keep in mind that you may be the only “gospel” that your husband will read right now. By approaching your husband as Jesus would have you approach unbelievers, you may inspire him to someday venture off of the sport field to follow you to church one day. This is what happened to my brother. For years and years he had absolutely no interest in going to church with my sister-in-law, or us. But eventually God started speaking to his heart as he saw her and our unconditional love for him. It made him want to once in a while attend her or our church (we lived in different cities). Eventually he started going more and more. He told all of us to back off and let him do this his way. Then one day he accepted Christ God’s way and everything changed. I pray that someday this happens for you and for Libby.

      You never know what God can do as we make ourselves available as God’s colleague in showing Christ-like love to our spouse. Love as Christ does. While we were yet sinners, He died for us so we can live eternally. He didn’t wait until we acted in ways that pleased Him. He reached out to us, and lived, died, and rose again for us. Our sacrifices are nothing compared to His for us… and for your husband, should he someday wake up. In the meantime, find ways you can connect, love him as Christ would have you, and see how God can unravel this thing. I pray strength and wisdom for you as you do.

  4. Someone from outside of this country wrote the following: Thank you so much guys for this! To think that I saw this email soon after praying about this issue is indeed a blessing.

    My family is currently going through this situation right now and it has caused me no little pain and heartache. But your advices are so much helpful. I’m truly short of words because I didn’t think there were resources out there that addressed the situation. Thanks again and may God bless you.

  5. Thank you so much for this article. I am currently going through the same issue. My spouse and I started off attending the same church. Somewhere along the line she became uninterested in church activities. She also alleged that that the pastors and leaders were gossips. In fact, almost every message was directed by the pastor to spite her or a product of another gossip. These allegations were too heavy and I didn’t see or hear what she was seeing or hearing in church. I also know a little about God’s judgement on accusations brought against His servants (Moses, Aaron and Miriam).

    We left the church eventually (though not just because of her) and started attending another Bible believing church. Things were going on well at this church as we attended it together (with our three children – 6, 4 & 1 year). Again, she has decided to stop attending church because she believes there is some form of gossip. I have tried to talk to her calmly but she seemed to uphold her decision to leave the church above our marriage.

    So, for one year, she has been attending another church with our youngest son while the two other children attend a different church with me. It grieves my heart deeply but I have prayed about it and believe God to do something about it.

    When I go to church and see couples, I have this awful feeling about myself. Sometimes, I feel I am failing at holding my home together. May God help me.

  6. This is quite a delayed response but I’m going to add it. The denomination my husband and I have attended for years is some distance from our home, and it’s current stand on LGBTQ is that it is sinful. Our child is now an adult and has come out to us. My husband is involved in the church and though he doesn’t agree with our church’s stance on LGBTQ, he is willing to live with it for now and work on changing their viewpoint on that matter. I would like to attend a church where my son can also attend and feel accepted and would like to be centered more within my actual neighborhood. I also find that people in my church are “money and success oriented” and unduly impressed with wealth. So far, I have continued to attend church with my husband, but am increasingly growing frustrated with the situation. It would be very very difficult to start new elsewhere, especially for my husband who is very loyal to the denomination and it’s traditions, but I don’t know a solution to this… other than I attend a different church.

  7. Suppose a couple, both born again believers, both in a positions of serving, attended the same church together for several years but then God clearly calls the wife out and sends her to a different church. The couple has prayed about and discussed this together and are both equally ok with going to 2 different churches because they feel walking in obedience to God is most important.

    The husband remains at the church they attended together and the wife takes up with the church God called her to. During her time there God grows her exponentially, she becomes filled with the Spirit and now prays in tongues. This is a complete different instance of any article I have been able to dig up. Some folks find this wrong, feel they should be “one”, call it an act of disobedience because she is not being submissive to her husband, and others have called them a house divided.

    So I’d like some feedback on this in this instance where God has given direction and the person instructed to move, moved. The wife believes this move is for a purpose (which at first was not revealed but now has been) but also believes it is for a season and when that season is over God will place her and her husband back in the same church.

    1. If you and your husband are in agreement with this, why not? It’s a problem if it divides you in your marriage. If you’re both growing spiritually in your churches and it’s working for you in your marriage, then I see no problem with it. If you come to a place where this is separating you in unity as a husband and wife then it would be time to revisit this issue. In the meantime, do what both of you believe God is leading you to do, and don’t listen to the counsel of others if in doing so it would bring problems in your marital and spiritual life. Every marriage is different. You are united in this decision as a husband and wife… and you both believe God is in the middle of it, so go for it!

  8. I attend a different church from my husband. He just became more actively involved recently; before he was abroad so I had a good chance to worship freely. He now demands that I should stop going to my church regardless of the roles that I have been given. Our marriage is in strife. My husband’s church is not Pentecostal. I also find it so empty. I don’t enjoy anything about that church.

    1. Well, the Bible says that the man is the head of the house, and to be spiritually correct, you should go where he wants to. But like Cindy has said before, if you are growing spiritually at your own churches, and you get the Ok from your husband, it would be OK. BUT if you attend different churches, you need to each go to each other’s functions etc… (here it comes…) BE CAREFUL, affairs start in church too.

  9. My husband and I are currently battling this. We are not arguing. I go to church with him when he is able to go. HIs kids sports often get in the way or some random excuse. When he doesn’t go, I attend a church that is closer because I want to get involved and the church he wants to attend is close to an hour away. I want us all to go to the same church, but I can’t continue to go back and forth from these two churches. I don’t want to drag the my kids back and forth to different churches because it gets confusing and they make friends and one week they see them and the next they don’t. I am lost on what to do.