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MarriageToday’s Jimmy and Karen Evans know firsthand that even the most seemingly hopeless marriages can be resurrected and restored
Twenty years ago in April 1993, a 39-year-old pastor woke up from a dream at 3 a.m., feeling like he’d heard from God.
“I saw my wife, Karen, and I sitting on a TV set talking to people about marriage,” says Jimmy Evans, founder and CEO of the international ministry MarriageToday. “I just had a strong impression in my heart that God wanted us to do a TV ministry that was very compassionate, excellent and about marriage.”
The next two mornings, he awoke from the same dream. But not unlike other leaders who receive a calling, Evans told God, “I’m not qualified. You need to find someone else.”
Still, he knew he’d heard from God and shared his dreams with Karen and the elders of Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo, Texas, where he has served as senior leader for 30 years to date. As he continued to pray about it, Jimmy says God gave him several promises and began to fulfill them. A little more than a year later, Jimmy and Karen had produced several pilot programs as a result.
How do you and your wife keep your marriage prioritized above ministry? What is your greatest challenge in keeping your marriage strong? What is and isn’t working in your church to reach couples and strengthen their marriages?
We asked a group of pastors these questions and more. What follows are their insightful responses, as these leaders give us an inside look at how they pursue marriage and deal with the inevitable struggles, as well as how they’re leading their churches to help build marriages. And we are richer for their experience.
In America, one divorce happens every 13 seconds, equating to 6,646 divorces per day and 46,523 divorces per week.
Forty-one percent of first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.
Forty-three percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers.
Half of all American children will witness the breakup of a parent’s marriage. Of these children, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage.
I love to eat! When I was in high school, I would go for a day or two without eating and never even notice. We had plenty of food; I was just busy with other things. Now I barely go for an hour or two without being tempted by something with enough calories to add pounds just by looking at it.
I appreciate a nice restaurant with quality food and great service. I love Atlanta, but it did take some getting used to “all things fried” and sweet tea so sweet it can take the enamel off your teeth. So each time Patti and I find a really great restaurant, we are thrilled.
Large and small restaurants share a similar purpose. They want to serve good food, provide good service and make a profit. But they are different in nature. Small, one-of-a-kind restaurants have different concerns than the larger “mega” restaurants, chains and franchises do.
My wife Ann and I lead busy lives. Yet, despite the flurry of activity, God has protected us from the ravages of spiritual collapse. One of the reasons is that we’ve been able to keep up a daily personal devotional life. For us, it’s a key to sanity!
Many of us are task oriented. What we DO is the measure of our success. If you ask people why Jesus was successful most will point to the to the things he did. “He healed the sick…cast out demons…raised the dead…preached to the multitudes”…and the list goes on. And yet, there’s an aspect of the Messiah’s life that involved doing ‘nothing,’ but spending time alone with the Father. So significant were these times that all four Gospels mention them. In fact, Luke 5:16 says that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Worship leaders are some of the first people to get to church and some of the last to leave. We plan all week for a practice, only to find the singer we’d hoped to feature on a song has called at the last minute and says she’ll be out of town. We work hard to lead a team toward excellence, yet we all know the feeling of finding out five minutes before rehearsal on Sunday morning that our drummer is sick and won’t be there.
God, did you really intend for me to go through this? I used to ask this often. Our church secretary can attest to the number of times I’ve said, “I just wanted to play my trumpet and my piano, and that’s it; God got me into the rest of this thing!”
As I was thinking about these all-too-common worship leader experiences and pondering a point from my pastor’s recent preaching, something clicked for me. God knows what tree I’ve climbed! Let me explain.
In Luke 19:2-8, we find Zacchaeus strategizing so he can encounter Jesus. The short man ran ahead of the crowd traveling with Jesus and found a sycamore tree to climb to boost his chances. I imagine him saying to himself, “Thisis the tree I’ll climb to see Jesus. He has to come through this road!”
The truth is, it wasn’t Zacchaeus who knew where Jesus would walk; it was Jesus who knew where Zacchaeus would be.
Today, God knows every single struggle and joy you go through as a worship leader. He knows the number of hours you put into arranging a song, learning the chords and figuring out different ways to play it so it will sound fresh and new. He knows when the arrangements you work so hard on at rehearsal come out exactly as planned—as well as when they flop! (And we all have some flops once in a while.)
He knows the happiness you feel when everything goes well on Sunday and the disillusionment you experience when it doesn’t. He even knows when you struggle to reveal to others those inner feelings, for fear they’ll either think you’re self-consumed or that your sole concern is how the music sounded rather than what God did in the service or whether He was truly worshipped.
God knew where Zacchaeus was. He knew his status in society, his fears, his problems, even his thieving. He knew the emotion Zacchaeus would experience when Jesus called out his name in front of so many people, most of whom he knew despised him.
Let me remind you today that just as Jesus knew about Zacchaeus, He knows and cares about your emotions, triumphs and failures. You’re not just "Worship Leader No. 1087"!
Jesus also knows your name, and in the same way He called Zacchaeus by name down from that tree, He calls your name today. He knows what tree you’ve climbed into, and He wants to hear all about what’s going on with you. He cares for you!
Your tree may be the ministry or church that you’re helping to lead. It may even be the team you’re on. God knows why you’re on that tree and not on another, and He knew this is where He was going to find you and change your life.
I encourage you, as the Word says in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (NASB). Have a heart open to what God wants to teach you while you’re on this tree. Often He’ll even show you why you’re there and give you a deeper purpose.
Worship leader, you are not alone. Jesus knows what tree you’re on!
Denis Campos serves as the director of Christ for the Nations’ Advanced School of Worship and Technical Arts.
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