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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41 responses to “When Spouses Attend Different Churches”
Different ideology tends to put children in confusion because the parents have inculcate in to them with different ideas gotten from different churches rather different denominations.
I think this article is written without proper consultation with the Bible. If we all married people will just do as the God has commanded, then we will have a happy marriage.
Ephesians 5:22-33 – Has God not instructed the wife to follow the husband in all things? ALL is the keyword and that includes place of worship. If the wife thinks the place of worship the husband takes them to is not a good one, then she has to run back to God who has commanded her to follow the husband in ALL things, and ask Him to redirect the husband to the right place. Being disobedient to God’s precepts is what is causing all this trouble of failed marriages.
Eve, who is the mother of all living, did the same thing. Adam told her what God had commanded; do not eat from the tree. Yet she ate. If only she had listened to the husband. Yet Adam being a loving husband (husband is commanded to love the wife) did the right thing by also eating the fruit, thus not letting the wife carry the punishment alone.
Peter later came and reminded women to be like Sarah. Imagine if Sarah was disobedient to Abraham? The lineage for the Messiah coming would have been distorted, as well.
My wife asked me this question: “because the Bible says I should follow you in all things, does it mean if you are going to jump in a hole, I should jump with you?” This question obviously is a question of a disobedient mind set.
My response was simple “what if God is leading us to the hole to save us from impending calamity and I being the head of the house, He has revealed to me that we should go jump in that hole? Yet you refused to follow and you end up being doomed like Lot’s wife?”
The husband and wife must worship in one church. If they are one, they must function in oneness in all things. The house must be under the leadership of the husband and if the husband is not God fearing, the wife must be extremely prayerful for God to intervene in the husband’s life. If the wife is not God fearing, the husband must be extremely prayerful for God to bring the wife under His canopy.
I am facing the issue as a husband and it is eating me up. I tell my wife all the time “two cannot walk together unless they agree.”
I agree 100% percent. The only difference is my wife is Catholic. I gave a year of my life assisting to her church when one day the priest says lets pray to the virgin so she can intercede for us, The Holy SPIRIT SAID LEAVE NOW. Thats when I heard the Lord speak to me calling me into my calling. It’s not easy. I have been serving the Lord Jesus for the past 4 years now and I have prayed and constantly praying and she is still not by my side in my same church. I have not given up; it is hard, ABSOLUTELY HURTING. I PRAY TO THE LORD’ “is it me? is the problem me? Lord examine me; if it is me, fix me.” Definitely it creates a not so pleasing environment. Among other things the Word of the Lord says James 4:17Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”
I ask for prayer from all of you, I am not bashing religion but the Bible is so clear, we fight every day to be a little like Jesus every day.
Welcome to my world. You are not alone. My wife too is Catholic. I have told her to attend her church if that makes her happy. But the simple truth is, divided worship will not unite the family. Jesus clearly says “a house divided cannot stand.” This is a true statement and God doesn’t lie.
However, prayer and fasting I believe will help. We are now at a point where she understands that division and fighting will not work. And she has acknowledge her wrongs. Leaving man’s tradition will be the work of God, not by our own methods. I will advise you to pray and fast and then try to get you and her to study the word together. Eventually God will free her. This is my own plan and I believe God will open her eyes.
Pray for me as I pray for you.
I will pray for both of you. I am the wife, and have wanted to bring our family out of the Catholic church. My husband does not want to leave. Our children attend an evangelical Lutheran school and I desperately want to worship there. I have cried and prayed, knowing my husband is the head of the family. Nagging and whining will not move him. Only God can. My heart hurts, aching for a true Christian community and fellowship. If anyone is reading this and cares to pray for me, I would be so grateful. God bless us all in our walk with Jesus.
My pastor’s wife stopped attending the church where he is the senior pastor. She abandoned the women’s ministry as well as Bible study. The pastor does not comment on it. Nobody holds him accountable. It has been over 3 years. No one knows if they are still together as man and wife. No one knows what the problem is. Congregation size is about 50 members. Your thoughts…
I was told by my husband to stop attending church he previously forced me to join him or I leave his house. This is a church I have aligned myself to and have become a worker and a deaconess.
I’ve had to leave several churches after I lost confidence in the pastor for cutting off communication with me, in some cases after insulting me. My wife moved with me, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly. Eventually, we found a church we both liked, and were happy there for several years. But my wife is more traditional than I am and began to have problems with it. As a favor to her, I went with her to another church, even though the pastor told me I would “struggle” there. And indeed, I found myself frequently disagreeing with the sermons and emailing the pastor. My wife began to find this embarrassing and encouraged me to return to our previous church, which I was very happy to do. She continued to attend her church until it became clear that her Bible study group was overtly political, and into conspiracy stuff. At that point, she had to leave that church, and find a more conventional one, but not mine.
So you see it can be a lot more complicated than some of the answers here, most of which interpret the Bible to say to go to the same church, but differ on whether it says they should go to the husband’s or wife’s church.
The Bible says the wife should follow the husband in all things. Ask yourself. What is the thing, other than serving God together? How are you united when both are in different locations? You meet new people and she meets new people. The door for temptation is wide open. You may see a woman and become attracted to her because you both believe same thing. She may find a man who she becomes attracted to because he believes same thing like her. All these can happen because of this separation. Because we refuse to do what God has commanded.
Worshiping separately is the devil’s will not God’s will.
Thank you, your content is so good. I am a minister (pastoring a local church) but can’t move from that level as my wife left the church and is ministering for another Church. Our Church requires that every minister should have his spouse to be part of the church. She is adamant to leave this church. I am thinking of quitting the ministry as the Pastor I started with. I am now a Reverend heading to be Bishop; kindly advise.
You are the head. You should not follow. Read what the Bible says. Wife, follow your husband in all things. If you follow, what do you think will happen? Are you obeying God by following or is she disobeying God by not following you? Let her be. You stay where you are and pray for her. That is all. We tend to interpret God’s word to suit our situations. Do not do that.
Unless your church is not preaching as it is written, then leave. However, she is being disobedient to God’s precepts and order of things.
In 1997 a new minister came to our church and led a group to leave and start their own church over theological directions the denomination was taking my wife was a close friend of this minister’s wife and assumed I would leave too. I tried to go with her but couldn’t cope with it. I stayed with those who stayed. I still grieve over it but soon after the split in the church she said she had put her friend first and would come back if I wanted her to. I felt it should be what she wanted and my love for her made the sacrifice of releasing her to be herself and she did the same. I thought I was to love her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. I felt that as her husband, the sacrifice of love was mine to be made. No one from either church tried to talk to us or guide us. She was happy before the split but needed her friend and this other church. I should have put our marriage first but she could still see her friend and others there.
It is important to be in the same church. At times we have been to each other’s church or special events together and working together in our work helped. We do love each other. We go to the same home group from the church she felt and we also go together to the church she left each month. We have daily communion with each other.
She is happy and I can’t be controlling and demanding about going to church together as she would be unhappy and doing a lot of good there. There are many books and helps on Christian marriage but few on compatibility and adjustment in marriage where couple are different in significant ways that don’t often present difficulties until later in the marriage. I wish I had been more aware before marriage as it affects our children also.
My doctor tells me I’m grieving and I can’t tell him why. I have journaled a lot and would like to write a book on it but it would hurt her. I don’t want that. The only advice I can offer is make decisions that strengthen your marriage and not let emotions (that may be based on love) cloud judgment and wise counsel from others. Our marriage has only worked by giving each other the freedom to be ourselves while enriching our marriage in other ways and our family life with our children and their spouses and our grand children.
My husband and I have served together in lay-ministry at the same church for several years. He recently accepted a full-time pastoral role at a new church, however the transition timeline placed upon us was extremely unhealthy. While the interview process took 2.5 months, he was expected to start 5 days after he had received the offer. We were both in positions of leadership at our home church and the sudden demand did not allow us the time and grace to transition out of our ministries in a way that mirrored the call to biblical love and care towards the people in front of us.
My husband of course had to make the full transition first, but I was left behind scrambling to tie up loose ends. (I told leadership at the new church that I needed a month to transition the 3 ministries I was leading, one of which is the largest in our home church. I provided a clear start-date for when I would have everything wrapped up, and was initially told that that was okay).
Even though I have been splitting my time and faithfully attending their services every week in addition to those at our home church, I have heard nothing but a litany of complaints about the fact that I did not immediately drop everything and come. I am getting to a point where I feel so resentful that I don’t want to transition at all. The entire environment feels cold and hostile, and I honestly do not feel safe moving from a community of love and grace to a place of judgment and wrath.
I am not asking for any advice, as I fully intend to honor my commitment to my husband and the Lord. I am, however, asking for prayers– Prayers for strength, prayers for healing, and a hedge of protection over my marriage.
Dear Brokenhearted, I prayed for you just now and will pray again for you when my husband gets home. Also, I encourage you to also post this on the Prayer Wall. You can see the link to it on the Home Page of this web site. You can shorten it a bit or leave it as it is. But many people pray for the prayer requests on the Prayer Wall. This request not only effects you and the churches you’re serving but also can put a strain on your marriage in different ways. That’s why I encourage you to post there because you will have even more people praying for you. “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2)