The married couples in the zone led by Ong Wei Ren had a glimpse of an upcoming ministry in City Harvest Church in a marriage workshop conducted by Pastor Jeremy Choy.
Divorces are more prevalent in Singapore today than 30 years ago. According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, 16 per cent of the 2006 marriage cohort divorced by their 10th anniversary, compared to 8.7 per cent of 1987—almost double the divorce rate. Among those divorced, 29.4 per cent dissolved their marriage between five to nine years, and the median duration of a marriage was 10.4 years.
While Singapore had a lower divorce rate compared to other developed countries like the United Kingdom traditionally, the rate seems to have converged in more recent cohorts, such as the 2006 one.
Several factors appear to contribute to this rising trend, including the rise in dual income couples as well as modern social norms that treat divorce with less of a stigma.
However, the Bible remains clear that marriage is a covenantal relationship that should not be broken easily.
For this reason, a marriage ministry is in the works at City Harvest Church. Couples in the zone led by pastoral supervisor Ong Wei Ren caught a glimpse of what’s in store at a June 19 workshop conducted by Jeremy Choy, the pastor overseeing CityFamilies. This session was held to address questions couples might have about guarding their sacred union.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT MARRIAGE
Setting the definition of marriage in the biblical context, Pastor Jeremy referenced Ephesians 5:22-23, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church, and He is the Saviour of the body.”
Marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the church—groom and bride—as an intimate, covenant relationship. He further explained, “Our marriage is to bear witness to Christ’s love for His church through mutual love and submission between husband and wife.”
While those might be the biblical roles within marriage, the reality is that sin leads to the subversion of roles. This is where a wise couple conducts checks and makes a hard and honest assessment of themselves and their marriage, he said.
The cue in making marriage work lies in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
There are five ways to cleave. The first way is to cleave spiritually. That means to develop spiritual intimacy with each other. The Whole Life Inventory, an in-depth survey on the state of church members over different aspects of their lives, found that three in five Christian couples in Singapore have never read the Bible together or do so less than once a month. Pastor Jeremy encourages the married couples to be intentional about building their spiritual lives together.
The second way is to cleave intellectually. That is to develop intellectual intimacy, where the couple can share an understanding with each other. The third way is to cleave financially—to develop financial intimacy by planning finances together transparently.
The fifth and sixth way is to cleave emotionally—to develop emotional intimacy through bonding and to cleave physically—that is to develop sexual intimacy.
When a couple experiences issues in bed, Pastor Jeremy says, it is usually because the other forms of intimacy have been neglected.
BUILDING A MARRIAGE THAT LASTS
For distressed couples, besides the attitudes of willingness, intentionality and humility, there are five beliefs that need to be in place before the marriage can work. A couple needs to know that “my environment does not determine my state of mind” and to accept that “people can change”. In a desperate marriage, they need to know that they have more options than just resigning themselves to a life of misery or getting out. Lastly, they need to know that their situation is not hopeless.
There are many barriers to intimacy and the chief one is a couple’s busy and occupied lifestyle. To prevent these barriers, couples can work on joint parenting, healthy escalation of conflict, validating each other’s feelings, among other ways.
Dr WF Harley listed down the five most basic needs of each gender in his 1986 book, His Needs, Her Needs.
He listed a woman’s five most basic needs in marriage as affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support and family commitment. A man’s five most basic needs in a marriage would be sexual fulfilment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support and admiration.
Using this list of a man and woman’s basic needs, Pastor Jeremy covered potential actions wives and husbands can do for each other to build a marriage that lasts.
He suggests that a wife works on respecting their husbands and understanding what matters to him. They can start small by creating conversations that surround their interests. What wives should avoid is disrespecting their husbands, second-guessing them, and putting them down.
Speaking to the men, Pastor Jeremy taught that their wives need their approval, acceptance, affirmation, appreciation and acknowledgement. He encouraged them to seek to understand their wives’ hearts and dreams, to start sowing into their love bank and to speak their wives’ “love language”. They should also treat their wives forgivingly, lovingly and tenderly.
The men should also take the role of a spiritual leader at home and provide financial security. Things that they should avoid doing is to be apathetic, indifferent and to procrastinate.
As for the matters that couples can work on together, Pastor Jeremy recommends discussing boundaries. Boundaries change with the seasons of a marriage, and an example of where boundaries apply would be platonic relationships with other members of the opposite sex,and guarding the sources of intimacy.
Pastor Jeremy and his wife, Annie are co-labouring with other couples in CHC to start a marriage ministry. The ministry has sent 30 marriage mentors for training, and these marriage mentors will progressively guide and disciple married couples.
The ministry will be organising workshops and marriage retreats that will equip couples with skills to maintain and build a godly marriage—one where husband and wife continually rediscover each other, find restoration and recommit their love to each other. Pastor Jeremy prays that with the help of the Lord, the spark of romance will be reignited, and lasting love can be restored in every marriage in CHC.