As senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, I am often on the receiving end of faith-based questions from people of all walks of life.
Here’s one that came my way recently — and my answer. I hope this will be helpful to many people who might be struggling with the same issue.
Question: “I can’t always get my spouse to attend religious services with me — and it’s frustrating. What happens when one spouse believes in regular attendance at services while the other doesn’t? And will our kids suffer?”
Answer: In an earlier “Faith Feedback” piece for LifeZette, I explained the importance of Christians marrying other Christians. Not only is this God’s best advice (2 Corinthians 6:14), but marrying another Christian also prevents many of the challenging life situations that arise when spouses do not share the same spiritual values. This question is a perfect example of what can happen when married couples are on opposite sides of an important spiritual issue.
If you are a Christian whose spouse is opposed to spiritual things and church attendance, one of the most important things you must do is maintain a humble attitude and a Christ-like spirit. Don’t harass your spouse about not going to church with you. Be careful not to criticize, judge, or demean your loved one with a condescending tone.
In addition, don’t preach, belittle, or quote Bible verses to your spouse, as harsh words will only harden your partner’s heart further. It was Ben Franklin who wisely said, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” Loud arguments, snarky put-downs, and other strong-arm tactics are not going to positively influence your spouse toward spiritual things or future church attendance.
Instead, live out your Christian life openly and honestly — and allow your vibrant Christian testimony to speak for itself. Let the light of Christ shine forth in every aspect of your life and marriage (Matthew 5:16). Exchange anger for patience — finger-pointing for a servant’s heart — and criticism for love.
Your actions as a faith-focused individual will speak louder in favor of Christianity than your words ever could (1 Peter 3:1-2). Even if your spouse is resistant to church attendance, do invite your loved one for special services, concerts, and important holidays such as Christmas and Easter. While you don’t want to pester your spouse, you do want to stress that he or she is always welcome.
When children are a part of the equation, you will need additional discernment and patience as you discuss their church attendance with your spouse. You have a responsibility to raise your children to know the Lord (Proverbs 1:7), but you shouldn’t want a world war to achieve it.
Strive for a calm, civilized discussion about the children’s attendance at church services, or some other age-appropriate ministry or youth group. In addition to God and the gospel, a good church will also teach your children about right and wrong, loving others, and service before self. I hope that you and your spouse come to a friendly agreement about your children’s church involvement.
Above all else, pray earnestly for your spouse, as prayer unleashes God’s power (James 5:16). Ask God to soften your spouse’s heart toward church and spiritual things. You might feel you are trapped in an impossible or dead-end situation (Luke 18:27) — but God can still do the impossible!
Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 18 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.