Friday, July 1, 2016
About 15 years ago, George Barna, a church sociologist, did a survey of pastors that discovered that 95% of pastors, when asked “What is your least favorite thing of being a pastor?” answered “Weddings.” Those who know me, know that I heartily concurred with this evaluation. I was troubled by the amount of money spent on weddings. Couples thought nothing of spending $5,000 on a dress, $30,000 on the dinner, but balked at the $350 our congregation asked to cover our costs associated with the wedding. More troubling, many couples attempted to take over the holy space with secular rituals that were out of step with our Christian values. Weddings were definitely prime evangelical opportunities, but they could be exhausting and stressful diplomatic battles.
However, over the last 5 to 7 years, I can say that I have enjoyed every wedding I have performed, and no longer dread the call from a couple seeking my assistance. What happened?
Surprisingly, I think it is the accelerated secularization of the country which has alleviated most of the pressures associated with weddings. In the past, secular couples would come to the church, wanting to use the congregation’s building as a prop for their fairy tale wedding. That has not happened in recent years. Secular couples no longer see the church as the back drop for their wedding; and, those couples that do seek out the church setting, are serious about God being a part of their marriage ritual. There is a greater honesty by couples about what they expect in their wedding, the role of the church, and the presence of God.
I do just as many weddings for secular couples as I did 10 to 15 years ago, but the weddings are in parks, homes, beaches and wedding halls. I no longer have a turf to protect. I still have an evangelical opportunity to tell them about how God can bless their marriage in the years to come with help, support, and love.
The larger issue of this post, then, are some of the positive affects of the continued secularization of the culture. Many Christians see this as a great tragedy. Not I. I think it has led to an honesty that is refreshing. Secular couples are no longer masquerading as a churched couple to please the institutional church, and couples for whom their faith is is important are fervent in their demonstration.