Family: The Smallest Church

Truth, Time and Trouble in Marriage

Agapé’s FamilyLife movement has always been about expressing a very practical gospel to those who don’t know Jesus and strengthening the discipleship of those who do … all in the context of marriage and family.

Biblical truths and principles can have a positive impact on your marriage whether you know Jesus or not. But letting Jesus into the cracks and crevices of your life and marriage will truly change everything.

“It’s quite easy to put on a mask at work or even at church,” says Christine Daniel, who co-leads FamilyLife with her husband Mark.

It’s at home that the rubber meets the road for most people. That is where your core relationships are built. When you think about it, the family is the smallest church – it’s where a life in Christ really starts.

Social Action

FamilyLife’s ‘A Day Together’ events are open to all and usually run in collaboration with a local church. It’s a fantastic way for churches to serve and connect with their wider community – it’s taking part in social action and meeting a felt need. The sessions are useful regardless of your faith background or the state of your relationship, addressing core issues like communication, conflict and simply growing and changing together as a couple. Speakers share candidly about their own marriage stories and how their faith has made a difference. “These events really do help people with their relationships. We help those that are interested in taking steps towards Christ, and we help believers to press in and live out their lives in Christ more deeply,” says Christine. ‘Together’ small group materials offer a natural follow-up to the events, giving couples the opportunity to build relationships and dig deeper into the spiritual concepts introduced at ‘A Day Together’.

Spiritual Multiplication

Mark and Leonie came to an ‘A Day Together’ event run by her brother a few years ago – they had never experienced anything like it before. Something happened to them as individuals and in their marriage. Mark grew as a husband and as a father, and they were excited to be able to disciple other couples and watch them grow. They developed a heart for their community. They now run marriage events in their church and are passionate about running ‘Together’ groups. They are thrilled to be involved in a ministry they can do together.

FamilyLife isn’t simply about events and study materials. They want to see Jesus make a life-long difference in couples and for that change to multiply exponentially. “Events are a great doorway in to seeing what FamilyLife is all about,” says Christine. “The Together materials are absolutely key because they give couples a context for developing a personal ministry in their own homes.” FamilyLife hold an annual ‘Vision & Equipping’ weekend to inspire and expand their growing network of volunteers all around the country. It equips those who are already involved and acts as a taster of what it COULD be like for those who are considering joining the movement. The theme of this year’s V&E Weekend was ‘Incarnate.’ “What does it look like for the Word to really be made flesh in us? Several months ago someone shared this quote with me: ‘You might be the only Bible your friends ever read’ … this clinched it for me,” says Christine. “How are we representing God in our own daily lives and relationships? This is the foundation of what we do.”

V&E sessions focussed on Truth (God’s principles), Temptation (will we choose God’s way or our own), Time (becoming like Christ does not happen overnight) and Trouble (how God uses tough times to make us more like Christ). As part of the weekend, Mark and Christine shared the story of how God used ‘trouble’ in their own marriage. “In our case God has shaped us enormously as we’ve wrestled with past sins and the pain those have brought into our marriage,” shares Christine. “We’ve had to INCARNATE (Ephesians 4:32) and, as we have forgiven, we have been freed to love one another again. God has genuinely given us compassion for one another, and we are much kinder than 30 years ago! As we look back, the truth we mostly live out in our marriage is Romans 8:28.

“That is, God has used ALL THINGS – the good, the bad and ugly stuff of life – to shape us for the good. Naturally we still have a long way to go but we have become more like Jesus over time and our marriage is something than glorifies God … well mostly anyway!”

The Heartbeat

“Above all things, we are most excited about seeing people’s lives changed. There is nothing more exciting than that. A couple came to A Day Together back in 2010. He was an avowed atheist and came reluctantly. She had a church background. They came and had a very good experience. We received a series of texts over the next six months to tell us they were still working on their marriage and that their grown up kids had noticed the difference. They really benefited from the practical gospel. Over the years, we have prayed for them a bit and we have seen them occasionally. Then last autumn they invited us over for supper. When we arrived he started asking one question after another about God and Jesus. They have since been to church with us, and we’ve met them a few times to talk about faith – they are hungry to know God. Watching what has happened in their journey over these years has been so exciting.”