Marriage and family take place within the larger family of Christ’s church. Church is not just a building or a dutiful Sunday attendance; it is a community of faith and accountability, and for marrieds, a support system and place to serve. Churches are made up of imperfect people and are therefore imperfect institutions, but it is within our church family that our marriages have a place to thrive.
In this episode of Verity’s Honest Marriage series, Josh and I talk about the many churches we’ve attended over the years (having moved several times), the benefits of being involved, how we choose a church, and why serving together is so important (and how to do it).
Phylicia: Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where every woman is a theologian.
Hi, guys, this is Phylicia Masonheimer and welcome back to Verity Podcast. We are in the middle of the Honest Marriage series and my cohost for this series is my husband, Josh.
Josh: Hey, guys.
Phylicia: And so for this episode, we’re going to talk about how to be involved in the church and how to navigate church as a married couple. We have talked a little bit about the theology of marriage in earlier episodes, but this time, we’re talking about some practicals. And because church is such a broad topic, we’re going to talk about it in three sections. First, discussing the benefits of being in a church as a married couple. Secondly, discussing how to choose a church as a couple. And third, how to serve in a church together. So, we hope to keep this pretty concise. And I mean, suffice it to say, we having moved around as much as we have, we have been in quite a few churches.
Josh: Yeah, we have.
Phylicia: And we were in two churches together when we lived in Virginia then one in Pennsylvania, and we’ve been in two since we were back in Michigan. But we also visit churches when we travel and we especially, love to visit our friends’ churches when we are out of state. So, it’s been really cool to actually get to expose our kids to these different denominations, and church environments, and also experience those together.
Josh: Yeah, it’s fun.
Phylicia: Okay, so, let’s start with the benefits of being in church as a married couple. When Josh and I were talking about this before we started recording, the first thing that we thought about was accountability.
Phylicia: So, Josh, what do you think as a husband, maybe what does accountability look like for you in the church?
Josh: Well, I’m part of an accountability group and, you know, we meet once or twice a month, and it has been a really great place for me to just air my thoughts or concerns about my personal growth, or my growth in my marriage, or struggles that I may have. So, we are able to just have an open discussion with each other about our purity, how we are uplifting our wives, and how we are handling tough situations, and we admonish one another, and we text throughout the week, and encourage one another to put in the best effort, and to serve the Lord as we serve in our marriage.
Phylicia: I love that because it makes me think of that Hebrews verse that says, to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Phylicia: That spurring is like the picture of like a rider and a horse, pushing them forward, almost sometimes painfully pushing them forward?
Josh: No, horses don’t like spurs.
Phylicia: [laughs] Horses do not like spurs. But to have a friend that will support you, and walk with you, and even correct you from a place of love is just such a healthy thing to have. So, accountability, I think that is perhaps the biggest thing. I find it so interesting that, you know, especially, post-COVID, people still are not coming back from online church. I know it’s not to do necessarily with the politics of COVID all the time. I think that’s actually sometimes an excuse for people to not put themselves back into community and back into accountability where people can know what’s going on in your life, and speak into your life, and form those relationships. It’s a lot easier to isolate and I would say that’s a really dangerous way to live your marriage.
Josh: Yeah. You’re just kind of off the deep end where no one knows what’s going on.
Phylicia: Right. Yeah.
Josh: You don’t have any sort of compass but yourselves of course, family, maybe.
Phylicia: Yeah. And so without a compass or without people who can say, “Hey, how are you guys doing? What’s going on? How’s your walk with the Lord?” That’s you’re just basically drifting. The only people holding you accountable are yourselves and that’s a really dangerous place to be. Marriage is supposed to be a part of this greater marriage between the church and Christ. It’s a family within a family. When you don’t live that way, you live unanchored from the thing that is going to help you most in your marriage. I’m thinking back, we’ve talked about this before in the previous episode when we lived in Pennsylvania, how the church there really supported us.
Josh: Yeah, and you were going through a lot then.
Phylicia: Yeah, and our marriage was too.
Josh: Mm-hmm. Where you had that group of women since day one that you met with and had your community in.
Phylicia: Yeah. So, that’s one benefit, is like, the accountability. Then yeah, that community support, emotional support, those friendships and mentorship. Another benefit, of course, is teaching which we didn’t talk about before we were recording. [laughs] But scriptural teaching and learning more about the Lord.
Josh: Yeah, sometimes, people in the hubbub of life don’t get to open the Bible during the week. So, church is at least one place to hear the truth spoken.
Phylicia: Right. Which ideally you would be seeking the Lord daily, but in seasons where that’s not as frequent, at least having that Sunday, where you’re coming under that teaching, and you’re learning, and you’re being taught scriptural truth is, it’s so important to do it together, especially.
Phylicia: Yeah, it’s like an accountability session right there. You’re coming back and it’s like, oh, like, “Have you been in the word” and just sharing the teaching together from the message that you hear, you can reflect on it in the week as well.
Phylicia: That’s been something that we’ve done since we were dating really after the sermon discussing it in the car and stuff?
Phylicia: That’s actually one of our– I don’t know, I’ve enjoyed that. We will be in the car and we’ll ask each other, “So, what do you think of the sermon? What stood out to you? What did you find impactful?” I think that’s a really helpful way to process together what you heard because you each take different things away.
Josh: Right. Each have your own perspective.
Phylicia: Yeah. So, those are just a few of the benefits. And I mean Scripture talks a lot about this. In fact, we had a verse here in Ephesians 4. Right before the Ephesians 5 passages, we looked at in earlier episode’s where it talks about unity in the body of Christ and it says, “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.”
So, Paul here is talking about the church as a whole and we as a married couple are a part of this picture and I find it interesting that everything he’s commanding here to the whole church is also what he commands in marriage.
Josh: Yeah, that’s true.
Phylicia: There’s no command in marriage that isn’t also found to the entire church, men and women both. So, everything we’re called to do for each other, to be humble, and gentle, and patient bearing with one another in love, maintaining unity in marriage, that’s all expected of the church at large. So, it’s really great practice for a married couple to be in church, because you’re practicing the character traits you’ll need in both places.
Josh: Yeah, those are also a number of the fruits of the Spirit.
Phylicia: Yeah, that’s a good point. Actually– [crosstalk]
Josh: Where if you are in the spirit, and communing, and you know, following the Lord, then you’ll exhibit those fruits.
Phylicia: Yeah, that’s a great point. I’ll turn there in Galatians 5, where it says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control against such things there is no law.” It’s so true. There’s like five of those that he mentioned in this Ephesians passage and its evidence of the Holy Spirit working in your life towards your spouse and towards your church.
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Now, I want to move us to our next thing we’re going to talk about, which is how to choose a church and Josh and I have done this multiple times. [laughs]
Phylicia: And had to change churches for a variety of reasons. So, we’re not experts on this but we have done it many times now, and I don’t know, I guess we’ll just try to give a few practicals that have worked for us, and you can pray about it, and see if it’s something that would work for you, and where your situation is. My first thought is to pray, which seems very obvious.
Josh: Mm-hmm. Definitely that there’s prayer like taking place on a Sunday morning as well as encourage throughout the week or some places have like a prayer vigil. And then–
Phylicia: And then praying together, though, about the choice.
Phylicia: That’s what I was thinking is how we would pray about our church decisions until we had a sense of peace about what decision we were making. So, do you have any other thoughts about how to choose a church or something that we did when we were in that process?
Josh: I think for us what we were looking for was that, like I said, there would be prayer, also that the Bible is opened, and read from on a Sunday.
Phylicia: Seems simple but– [laughs]
Josh: And we always looked for the Holy Spirit to be exhibited in a seeking of the Spirit for the message and for direction, because that’s the true compass in addition to the word. Then community has been a big aspect for us that the church is community focused. So, these things may vary person to person of course, but they were kind of the core values that we looked for in our church hunts.
Phylicia: Yeah. I think you brought up some really important points. Now, one thing that made it a little easier for us, correct me if you think I’m wrong, but I think it was a little easier for us because we both come from very similar church backgrounds. We were both raised charismatic, and then became more, I don’t know, non-denominational Baptist over time or attended Baptist churches I should say?
Phylicia: So, we both are very comfortable in environments that are less liturgical. We’re fine with the liturgical environment, but we’re perfectly comfortable in a more expressive church environment. I think that when you have a couple where one comes from a very fundamentalist background, very strict Baptist background, or very liturgical background, and the other is from a more expressive tradition like a charismatic church, that’s going to be a little bit more difficult to navigate. My encouragement, theologically, would be to really get to the root of the reason why you like certain things about a church, and remember that preferences, like worship style are a third-tier issue. They aren’t the top tier, they aren’t the most important thing. The most important thing is if the church adheres to the orthodox doctrines, a sound teaching that’s been historically taught over the course of the church, and if you need more on that, I have a whole episode on how to determine core doctrine that you can listen to.
Then your second-tier issues are really important. They’re like infant baptism versus believers’ baptism or whether church practices spiritual gifts like tongues or not, those are really important and they change the culture of the church. So, you do want to be sure that you are unified on those things too. The preferential things like worship, style, and such. Those things are third-tier issues. So, hopefully you and your spouse will unite around the core doctrines, and then those secondary issues like baptisms choices and things like that, so, you can go to the same church. But sometimes that takes time to process through that, and land in the same place, and compromises need to be struck on some of these things because they are a big deal. We had it easier.
Josh: A lot of churches too, not all I guess, have like a new members class or like a class that you take if you’re interested in becoming a member, and those typically go over the statements of faith and the core values of the church. So, if you’re able to stick around long enough through the third-tier stuff, then you can really find out like what they actually value and you may be surprised.
Phylicia: Yeah, that’s a really good point because we’ve been through multiple members classes to find out what the doctrines of the church were and if we agreed with them, and if it’s a place we wanted to stay, and there were always things that we did not fully agree with at the churches that we were in. We were like, “Well, you know what, it’s something that we’re willing to submit to because it’s not a core doctrinal thing and we’re just going to let that go.”
One thing I thought you brought up about community, I kind of want to backtrack a little bit. There was a church that we were in for a while in Virginia, and it was a big, big, big church. So, we both knew that in order to make the most of a big church or any church, you have to get involved right away, and you need to make connections, make friendships, have people over, get in community with them, be intentional. That is how church works. So, that’s our first thing when we join a church, that’s the first thing we do is we get connected, we find ways to serve, and we start inviting people over. But at this church, it was so big and we were just looking for a small group that really focused on the Bible itself, we ended up in a small group with people who were what, 40 years older than us?
Josh: Yeah, they were in their 60s plus.
Phylicia: They were all in their 60s, and 70s, and 80s and it was the sweetest thing.
Josh: It is so welcoming, though. They’re like, “Oh, young blood.”
Phylicia: They were so excited to have us and they were so sweet.
Josh: We even went to a picnic they had.
Phylicia: Yeah, we went to a picnic, we did stuff with them. We were in that small group for like a year, maybe?
Phylicia: And it was the sweetest time. We did end up leaving that church because we needed people in our stage of life, and we wanted a church that was smaller, and had a more word for focused Sunday sermon, but it was a really sweet time. So, I don’t know, I guess, I think of that as like example of two things. Be open minded to how to get involved in church with your spouse, but also, if you need people in your stage of life, there’s nothing wrong with leaving a church to find that because we, especially, now that we have small children that has been so important to us is to have people who are in our stage of life and that is a huge factor in what church we end up in. And also, just being in our immediate community or actual city as much as possible.
Josh: It does help to cultivate friendships that you’re going to cultivate outside of church. Like you said, in the community, if that area is your community, and that way you can really go deeper with those people, and have accountability because someone that you’re just on the surface with isn’t going to hold you accountable.
Phylicia: Right. It is really hard to go deeper if you’re only seeing someone once a week. It’s having people over during the week, having a small group, the current group that we’re in, the small group we’re in at our current church, we see those people Sunday, we see them Monday, and we see them Wednesday, at least I do. You see them twice a week, I see them three times a week, and that just really helps build those multiple touches of community where people know you and they’re walking with you in your real life.
Phylicia: So, choosing a church, I would just say, pray, get on the same page together, discuss it, walk with one another, and make sure to know the difference between a core doctrinal issue or a secondary practice issue in the church, and those issues of preference. We don’t want to mix those up or elevate those preferential things to the very top of the list. Okay, final thing. How do you serve in a church together as spouses when you have different gifts and maybe a bunch of children? [laughs]
Josh: Which I think is funny, the way that we are serving right now is kind of the opposite. Like you are watching babies and I’m teaching kids.
Phylicia: [laughs] It’s true. You got yourself roped in. So, right now, yes, I am volunteering in nursery watching babies–
Josh: I’m teaching third through fifth graders.
Phylicia: And Josh is helping teach third through fifth graders and one tip that we have is, if you’re serving in church which I would argue that as much as possible, you should be because we’re not meant to be consumers in a church. We’re meant to be people who are giving of ourselves. I can tell you that we have three children, six, four, and one, and since they were born, we’ve been serving in the church in some capacity. And that might be one Sunday a month, but it’s something that we really believe is important because we’re not consumers, we’re people who are called to serve. This is even before I was in real ministry outside of the church. So, right now, I am taking care of babies in the nursery once a month and you are in middle school ministry or elementary?
Josh: Yeah, third through fifth.
Phylicia: Yeah, third through fifth. And so, what we try to do, this is my hot tip is schedule our serving for the same day, the same Sunday, because that way we are in our separate areas volunteering on the same day, and then the rest of the month we can sit together. Because otherwise what happens is, you actually only get two Sundays a month that you’re in service together.
Phylicia: And that’s not that many. [laughs]
Josh: Yeah, and you can share the sermon with one another but for you to really hear, like the Lord speaking to you, it is more effective to actually sit through the sermon.
Phylicia: Together, yeah. When you’re watching babies, sometimes, I can catch the sermon because it’s streamed in the nursery, but a lot of times I can’t because the babies are very busy. So, I don’t actually get to participate and it’s better if we can be together. So, we try to schedule our serving opportunities on the same day.
Phylicia: Now, there was a period of time in one church that we were in where we loved the college ministry for three and a half years or three years, and at that point we were attending the first service, and our kids were with us during that service in church while we trained them to sit through, and then the second service, they went to nursery and we taught that class together, and a lot of what we did in that class was because my gift is teaching. I taught and then Josh would help facilitate discussion, and did a lot of more of the– during the week one-on-one discipleship with the male students. So, we loved that.
Phylicia: It was a really special, special three years.
Josh: Yeah, and like all those kids are still around, and they’re starting to get married, and growing up, and it’s cool to watch them, and it’s like a connection that we have, even though, we don’t see them that often, it’s like, “Oh, I know you.”
Josh: We have like, we shared a special experience.
Phylicia: Yeah, we love them, and yeah, to this day it’s just so fun to see what the Lord’s doing in their lives, and where they’re going, what they’re doing, and so it’s just a blessing to our marriage to serve together even though we have very different gifts, you know, Josh and I would go over the text or the subject together, and then I would teach it, and he would be in there with me. Sometimes, we have children sleeping on the floor in the class. [laughs] There were times that happened.
It was a lot of work, but it was really special at the same time to serve alongside one another in that way. Even though, it was a huge sacrifice of time, and we had small children the entire time, it was still a really great experience. So, we did that for three years and now we’re not in college ministry anymore, but it’s– still there’re so many creative ways that you can serve. At other churches, we served in refreshments at that one church.
Josh: Yeah. I think there’s definitely a void in the church. Like, that’s why I’m teaching third through fifth graders right now instead of being just like a helper on the sideline is because there is just a lack of help. I think it’s important, like you said, not to be a consumer, but to serve like, your kids are being watched and cared for as well. At least you can do is chip in.
Phylicia: Yeah, and I think that’s like some people think that’s really offensive. I’m a really busy person. Reality is, everybody’s a really busy person and Josh–
Josh: Top priorities.
Phylicia: It is. It’s about priorities and the funny thing is that, when you serve alongside your spouse, I feel like it actually really grows you with your spouse, and it teaches you things about yourself and about your spouse that you didn’t know. It strengthens you. Josh and I had so many great conversations when we were leading college ministry and when you’re praying for students, or thinking about how to present a lesson, or navigating the discussion, what we learned through that taught us a lot about each other, and about our marriage, about our individual gifts. I noticed things about Josh’s leadership that I didn’t notice until I saw him helping lead this college class of students. Getting rid of that consumer mentality, I think, really will do a lot of favors for your marriage, but also for the greater family you’re a part of in the church.
Josh: Yeah, definitely.
Phylicia: Do you have any other thoughts in serving? I was thinking about serving in other churches that we’ve been in, and things would that we’ve done, and one that popped into my head was Vacation Bible School.
Josh: I was just going to say that. Oh, man. That was an experience.
Phylicia: Okay. So, we have to tell that. Let’s end with this story because serving together as a couple is not always going to be easy. Sometimes, it will be really hard and its first season, I think there are seasons where you don’t do as much like what we’re doing now isn’t anywhere near as much work as when we did college ministry, because that was every single Sunday for three years, and what we’re doing now is once a month helping with the children’s ministry. But when we were engaged and then first married, we were again at this very large church in Virginia.
Phylicia: Huge, thousands like 7,000 people. We decided– [crosstalk]
Josh: Twice as many kids.
Phylicia: Twice as many kids.
Phylicia: And we had no kids. We should make this point. We had no children yet and we volunteered for Vacation Bible School this one year.
Josh: Whoever leads Vacation Bible School is a saint, like anyone who serves in it, power to you.
Phylicia: They deserve all of the medals and the trophies, all of them. They deserve awards. Because we were both in kindergarten, was it kindergarten?
Josh: I think so. But you were the leader of 24 kids and you had a couple of helpers.
Phylicia: I had two helpers, and had 24 kindergarteners, and you had how many?
Josh: I was a helper with a smaller group like 13, but I was put in charge with the problem child.
Phylicia: [laughs] Poor child.
Josh: He literally put his head through a tablecloth.
Phylicia: [laughs] So, one of the hilarious things was, we were both in school and working at this point, and we still look back on that week as the most exhausted. I still would say, I was more exhausted that week of working full time, and then going to VBS for three hours, and then going home than I have ever been in the history of my license. And that includes newborns waking up multiple times.
Josh: It was rough.
Phylicia: It was rough but it bonded us together. We served together, we learned a lot, and now that we do have kids, we continue to serve in the church together, and I think it really does a lot for us.
Josh: It’s all easy compared to VBS.
Phylicia: Yes. So, our advice is, do VBS when you’re engaged-
Phylicia: -or first married and everything is easy after that. [laughs]
Josh: Right. [laughs]
Phylicia: Not really. [laughs] I hope that those who are listening are encouraged to nail down their priorities when looking for a church and to assess if they’re being consumers in church or if they’re actively serving their family and their body of Christ, and to seek accountability because that is so important for your marriage.
Josh: I think it’s important too for those who are established and have a mentor or accountability for you to pray about when you might be at a point to mentor someone younger than yourself.
Phylicia: Yes, yes.
Josh: Because there’s all this wasted knowledge. That could be you know, once you consume all the experiences and mentorship of an older person in your life, you then need to pour that out into a youth and be their mentor.
Phylicia: Everybody can turn around and give that wisdom to someone just a little bit spiritually younger than them.
Phylicia: Yeah, there’s always– it’s tightest to the older and the younger. The older men, the younger men, the older women, the younger women, you might be, a 26-year-old wife with no kids, but you can disciple the 22-year-old young woman in your church like, it doesn’t have to be this huge age gap. You don’t have to be 45 to do this, but everybody– everybody can glean from what you’re learning and what the Lord is teaching you.
Phylicia: All right, guys. Thanks so much for hanging with us again for this episode. We’ll be back next week with Episode 9, and then we’ll be wrapping up this series at the end of the year in December. We appreciate your listening, and as always if you enjoy this series or you just enjoy Verity as a whole, we would love it if you would give us a review that helps other people find the podcast. We’re so grateful for you and we hope you have a wonderful week.
Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Verity. You can connect with fellow listeners by following me on Instagram @phyliciamasonheimer or on our Facebook page by the same name. Also, visit phyliciamasonheimer.com for links to each episode and the show notes.