It seems like lots of evangelical churches are good at matching people with Jesus. They’ve got the meeting, dating, engagement, and vows down to a science. In a sense, they function as JesusMatch.com. Nothing wrong with that, finding a relationship is important. And getting matched with Jesus is the most important connection a person can make.
But once you're hitched, then what? It seems like a lot of churches aren’t quite sure what the marriage afterward should look like. After the rice has been thrown and the “Just Married” signs have been scrubbed off the car they start floundering when they try to address the spiritual equivalent of diapers, crabgrass, and bills. Or even “date nights.” So the sermons return again and again to the matching stuff. Even when most of the people in attendance have been members for years.
So what should it look like afterward? "Progressives" move the scene of the action to social activism and justice, often with a political flavor. More conservative churches sometimes focus on personal holiness and “overcoming sin.” Or else they go on a crusade to root out heresy. And they have their own version of politics, only taken out of the playbook of a different party.
While I’m interested in helping the poor, doing my part for the environment, and strengthening families I’m not always sure that I want a church (on either side of the spectrum) to deliver prepackaged formulas on those topics. And heresy hunting seems to do far more divide the body of Christ than build it. I also get concerned because some traditional church talk about personal holiness and “overcoming sin” has a way of driving things underground, creating a whole range of “things we don’t talk about.”
Deeper Bible study and discipleship seem like worthy focal points for mature faith. It also seems to me that one aspect of the LTR with Jesus has to involve dealing with complexity and even disappointment. People who are dating put their best foot forward. In like manner, churches that focus heavily on matching people with Jesus put his best foot forward. The message seems to be that coming to Jesus will fill all emotional longings and solve all of life’s problems. Life will be an ongoing experience of incandescent bliss in the new life Jesus gives. And real life after the “I do” of conversion is never that simple. Difficult problems don't vanish overnight. And sometimes, instead of the perfect relational partner, Jesus feels more like a spouse who just won’t talk. We want a clear response and we face what seems like divine silence instead. And that’s much harder for us to talk about, and that may be one reason why evangelical churches in particular seem to keep coming back to the JesusMatch.com message.
So what should the marriage afterward look like? What should churches do to create a place where Christians can grow and mature and live with Jesus for the long haul? It's worth a second look.