Officiating the weddings of unbelievers can be a key to reaching them.
Pastor, thank you so much for the awesome job you did at our wedding. You helped us become a little less skeptical of the Christian faith.” I was encouraged by this feedback but haunted by it as well. How many opportunities to impact unbelievers have I missed by refusing to do their weddings?
In most large U.S. cities, 25 to 45 percent of all weddings occur outside the church. And that percentage is rising. According to a 2006 survey by Condé Nast Bridal Media, there was a 9 percent decrease in the number of couples married in a church or synagogue last year.
While an increasing number of weddings are held in parks, banquet halls, museums, hotels, and private homes, the vast majority of couples say they want some spiritual elements in their ceremonies. Yet many pastors refuse to serve these couples on one of the most important days of their lives. Here are some of the reasons they give:
* They don’t attend my church.
* They’re already living together.
* They’ve been previously married.
* They’re not interested in premarital counseling.
I appreciate the concerns behind such objections. Yet ultimately I feel they reflect a “bounded set” approach to Christianity—we’re concerned with who is “in” and who is “out” of the kingdom of God. I think we need to view people from a “directional” perspective: Are they heading toward or away from God? With this approach, anything we can do to help people move toward God is a victory and worth our energy. We meet them on the journey; not at the destination. I have found that performing weddings for unbelievers can provide great soil in which the seeds of faith can germinate. One couple I married emailed me this note shortly after their wedding day:
“When we first met, I described myself to you as an atheist and asked if it were possible to ‘leave God out of the ceremony.’ You kindly told me that you desired to serve us best, but that leaving God out of it was not possible because God was a part of you. I was not sure what you meant, but I trusted your promise not to ‘preach’ to us on our wedding day. I have to say that I can no longer call myself an atheist. Rather, I am probably an agnostic, because I just don’t know the answer. You’ve shown me that it’s OK to question, as long as I am still en route. Since we are moving in a few months, we were wondering if you could point us to a church in Seattle with a pastor like you. You’ve made us think that we might be missing a part of life, so we want to give it a try.”
I’m not the only pastor who has discovered the evangelistic potential of performing weddings for nonbelievers. Dozens of pastors have emailed me their own stories, detailing the opportunities for influence that come from participating in these special occasions. If you are a pastor that feels a missional tug toward engaging in the lives of those far from God, then consider becoming one of the growing number willing to bring Christ-like love to couples on their wedding day. Yes, it requires crossing a conventional boundary, but it’s worth it. There are spiritually thirsty people waiting for us on the other side.
Bill Yaccino is executive director of Catalyst of Lake County (Illinois).
This article “Wedding Witness” by Bill Yaccino was excerpted from: Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal. www.christianitytoday.com June 2009. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”