Doing Missional weddings

I’ve spent the last two weekends in Jacksonville and Cleveland (watch the first 3 seconds closely), but prior to that I officiated two weddings in two weekends. The first was in Orlando for my close friend Nathalie, whom I met several years ago while speaking at a youth camp, and her husband Kevin. The second was in Dallas for my own groovy-artsy-hip sister Misty and her groovy-artsy-hip husband Brian, and I co-officiated this with their pastor Danielle Shroyer. (And let me be the first to suggest we find a better term than “officiate”).

While preparing the messages and prayers for these weddings I was reminded how as Christians every area of our lives belongs to God’s mission.

And this includes our marriages.

square nat

Yet I don’t think I’ve ever been to a missional wedding nor heard a wedding sermon written with a missional bent. So I began wrestling with how to give a missional-shaped wedding would look like and how to communicate this to both the couple and larger audience in attendance. Broadly speaking (which by no means diminishes the truth of a statement), weddings today (both outside and inside the Christian community) are focused almost solely on the two persons being married. Now please hear me because I don’t want to rain on anyone’s white wedding nor be a reception-party pooper. We ought to pop the champagne and celebrate the couple and their new life together. The problem however is that this is what most weddings focus solely on. (Read my earlier sentence; the word solely is where my beef lies). This simply misses the target. And it probably explains why the majority of weddings end up costing exorbitant amounts of money ($30,000 is the current average in this country) and producing months of stress beforehand for the couple (and usually for their parents and close friends, too). Budgets and perfectionism go unchecked when we lose sight of what a Christian wedding should be.

We’ve got a nice train of thought going here but I need to change the direction slightly because we’ll only understand what a Christian wedding should be if we first understand what a Christian marriage is for.

The backdrop of the Christian life (which for most folks will include marriage) is God’s healing purposes for creation. Sin, death, and the devil have wreaked cosmic havoc; but the good news of the gospel is that God is putting the world back to rights. His mission is holistic and comprehensive – it includes humans, their relationships, and the world they inhabit – and to be a Christian is to be a part of this global restoration project (which in shorthand is called the kingdom of God). And it’s within this grand narrative of God’s mission that we find a place for Christian marriage and the intense love, intimacy, and pleasure that should be a part of that marriage.

Now back to weddings. Considering God’s bigger purpose in marriage means weddings should be about the couple’s commitment to one another and to God’s mission. Furthermore, Christian weddings ought to include not only the commitments of the couple but also a commissioning of the couple. Prayers, scripture readings, homilies, and even vows should point toward the couple’s new life and new vocation together.

All this can sound a bit abstract so let me put a little flesh on the skeleton I’ve outlined above by sharing some snippets from the two weddings I recently did.

Kevin & Nathalie’s wedding
Journeying together with God


“As Christians we have this long family history that goes all the way back to Abraham and Sarah. God began his cosmic redemptive project with this elderly man and his barren wife. And I want us to look for a moment at the calling of Abraham and Sarah, for I believe that if we listen close enough the same calling can be heard today in our midst. But rather than it being the elderly Abraham and barren Sarah, it is the young Kevin and beautiful Nathalie.

God calls this ancient couple to leave all that they had known and go on a journey with him. Yes, they traveled across land but this wasn’t just a geographical journey, it was a spiritual journey. They had to leave the comforts they’d always known for this was a call to not become too settled or too content.

You see, newly weds have a tendency to become settled and content. They have a tendency to turn inward those first few years and become concerned only about themselves and their own happiness.

Now God certainly wants you to enjoy your new life together, he wants you to experience the joy and the intimacy and pleasure and sacredness of marriage…but I also think God wants there to be a certain degree of holy discontentment in your marriage. Now I don’t mean a discontentment with one another but a holy discontentment with how things are in the world.

Things are not the way they’re supposed to be and that’s why God called Abraham and Sarah to journey with him. He had a greater purpose for their lives than to simply stay at home and take care of the aquarium. He had a greater vocation for them than to just build a big fence around their house and accumulate lots of stuff.

Now you two are making a geographical journey right at the beginning of your marriage with your move to Ft. Lauderdale…but I think God is calling you (just as he did Abraham and Sarah) to join him on a spiritual journey. God wants you to be spiritually on the move, on the go. God is putting the world back to rights and he wants to use you as a couple for that cause.

And there are thousands of ways this can work itself out in your marriage – such as your home becoming a place of hospitality for others, learning that you serve better together than separate, or people being able to look at your relationship and get an idea of what God is like…”

Brian & Misty’s wedding
The Pattern for Christian Marriage

“The passage that you chose to be read today, Ephesians 5:1-2, tells us to be ‘imitators of God’ and then points to God’s giving nature – it talks about how Jesus gave himself up for us.

It’s God’s giving nature that is supposed to be the pattern for the Christian life and also Christian marriage. God’s gift of the Son to the world ought to be what your marriage is modeled and shaped after.

So my prayer is that you would fully give yourselves to one another in this marriage, and then together as a couple, as one unit, you would give your marriage to the world as a gift. Now I know this sounds radical and I know this sounds different from the norm. That’s why it sounds Christian.

Misty, you’re my only sister so I’m a bit biased but I think you’re so incredibly talented. And Brian you’ve got your own unique giftings – and I might add, a fantastic mustache. You guys are like a bundle of creative talent, you’re like the art couple of the century. And I think there are reasons you’ve been so blessed, I think God wants to bless others through you.

So it’s to that end that I now want to pray for you.

Holy and loving God, we thank you for Brian and Misty, for how you’ve worked in each of their lives and for how you’ve now brought them together as one unit, one flesh. We pray, O God, that you would bless this union, that you would bless this marriage as they give themselves to one another. Walk with them, strengthen them, wrap them tight in your love and your grace. And we pray, O God, that you would not only bless their marriage but that you would bless the world through their marriage. I pray that many others would benefit from this union. Might they reflect your character in how they treat one another, support one another, forgive one another, and love one another. Might they find real, tangible ways to be, as a married couple, a gift to the world. In your name, Amen.”