Do you and your spouse long to seek and serve God together? Clint and Penny Bragg believe that, just as every individual has a calling from God, every marriage has a specific mission. And they want to help you find yours.
In this weekly guide for couples, the Braggs will help you pursue a lifelong spiritual journey. You'll begin to engage together by writing a marriage mission statement. Through lessons drawn from military strategies, you'll then be challenged to get in step with God's commands, combat fear, and defeat the enemy's attacks in every aspect of your marriage. You'll learn to safeguard your relationship from division and exercise humility. Your Marriage, God's Mission is full of innovative ideas such as assessment tools, guided exercises, and original prayers to deepen your relational intimacy and recognize how God's mission unfolds over time.
Informal and practical, with links to videos of couples sharing their hard-won experience, this book is a fresh look at how any couple can discover God's mission for their marriage by discovering more of Him.
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About the Author
Clint and Penny A. Bragg serve as marriage missionaries through the work of Inverse Ministries, their nonprofit organization. They share their testimony with audiences, teach seminars for couples, and equip ministry leaders. Their own story of reconciliation has been featured on multiple national and international television and radio programs. The Braggs are an active part of a countrywide network to strengthen, reconcile, and restore marriages.
Read an Excerpt
Marriage on a Mission
If you take missions out of the Bible, you won't have anything left but the covers. — Nina Gunter
The Bible is full of special people sent on specific missions. Moses's mission was to bring the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. Joshua's mission was to lead God's people into the Promised Land. Rebuilding the ruined city of Jerusalem was the task given to Nehemiah. Esther's mission was to save her people from annihilation. Jesus's mission was to do the will of God the Father. The apostle Paul was charged with spreading the gospel and establishing the early church.
Not only did God choose certain individuals to carry out specific missions, but He also chose couples. In the Old Testament, God revealed His original design for marriage through Adam and Eve. Abraham and Sarah were chosen to give birth to many nations in order to establish God's covenant. In the New Testament, Joseph and Mary's mission was to parent the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. The charge of spreading the gospel was given to Priscilla and Aquila. All these couples were given a marriage mission: a specific task assigned by God to be carried out together to accomplish His will.
In fact, God has a mission for every marriage, including yours. No matter your age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, life circumstances, or denomination, there is something unique that He wants you to accomplish together over the course of your lives. Whatever God's mission for your marriage includes, it is designed first to honor Him and then to impact others.
The goal of Your Marriage, God's Mission is to help you discover God's mission for your marriage and assist you in its development, growth, and ongoing assessment. To do so, we'll share about our own process of discovering God's mission for our marriage as well as that of other couples we've met along the way. You'll also find helpful tools and innovative ideas within these pages, but we promise not to spoon-feed you with prescriptive advice or a set of linear steps. Discovering God's mission for your marriage isn't a program. It's a process. While we often wish we knew both the end result and the means to get there, God isn't like that. Neither is marriage or His mission for it.
However, we do know that discovering and living out God's mission will give your relationship a much greater sense of purpose and meaning. Your marriage, unreservedly set on God's mission, possesses the power to impact families, neighborhoods, churches, communities, and the world! And no one is better suited for the task than you.
Just as no two marriages are alike, God's mission for every marriage is also unique. The processes He uses to guide each couple differ as well. As your marriage grows and your life circumstances change, your mission may also change or morph into something new. Or you may have one solitary mission throughout your entire marriage.
Having said all that, there is a common purpose in every mission: God created marriage as the vehicle by which the gospel is transported throughout all generations. As you experience God together, your earthly mission will begin to reflect that purpose, set forth before time began. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10 NKJV).
In these latter days, as we await the return of Jesus Christ, our world is quaking with financial upheaval, tragedy, terrorism, shifting weather patterns, and health epidemics that span the globe. We believe God is giving His people one last opportunity to reach up and grab hold of His heart, His plans, His purposes, and His mission.
This is your chance.
Now that you understand a little more about what a marriage mission is, the remaining chapters in this phase will explain why your marriage needs a mission and how to discover yours.
God, there is much more to marriage than we ever imagined. We believe You have a purpose and a mission for us to accomplish as a couple. Help us discover the task You have assigned to our marriage. Open our hearts and minds to hear what You are saying as we begin this process together. Make us sensitive to Your Holy Spirit and give us wisdom to make choices in accordance with Your will. Help us remain faithful and committed to meeting each week, without interruptions. Guard us from allowing other things to take precedence over this time we're setting apart. Our marriage and mission belong to You. In Jesus's name. Amen.
Taking the Next Step
Use these questions as discussion points. You may also wish to record some answers or insights in your journal.
1. When you hear the word mission, what images and words come to mind?
2. What do you hope to gain from meeting together each week? Discuss your hopes and expectations as well as your concerns.
3. Choose the day of the week, time, and place you'll meet each week. Identify any possible distractions or interruptions. What will you do to protect this commitment?
Why Marriage Requires a Mission
Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole.
— Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
There are several reasons why the marriage relationship requires a mission. We already know that missions are one of God's primary means to accomplish His will on earth. But the purpose of a marriage mission doesn't stop there. The process of discovering God's mission allows you to encounter Him as a couple. In other words, discovering God's mission for your marriage is also about discovering God. The process is just as important as the final outcome.
Let's use the very first couple recorded in the Bible as a tangible example of this truth. Adam and Eve were designed to be the model of God's marriage covenant, and right at the start of their mission, they had the opportunity to encounter God. The Bible says that Adam and Eve "heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day" (Gen. 3:8). God was literally in their midst! But instead of engaging in that intimate experience together, they gave in to temptation and sin. Unfortunately, we live with the fallout of their choices. But because Christ fulfilled His mission to save us from all sin, we don't have to live under that penalty.
When you choose to pursue God and His mission together as a main priority in your lives, be assured that God will show up. No matter how long you've been married, what your marriage history has included, or what you're up against right now, engaging in the process of discovering God's mission together will serve as a catalyst for an authentic encounter with Him that will change your marriage forever.
Another reason marriage needs a mission is that it puts you in joint pursuit of common goals. Plenty of things in your daily lives can divide or weaken your relationship, such as keeping up with the rapid pace of your surroundings, responding to the varied needs of family members, overbooking your schedules, or meeting the requirements of demanding jobs. People, addictions, and other pleasurable attractions can act as divisive agents. But a marriage set on God's mission means you're both working toward shared goals, serving God together, and experiencing common events.
Our friends Dan and Pam have discovered that God's mission for their marriage is tutoring at-risk kids. We can think of no better couple to carry out this mission than them, given their personalities and talents. Their common goals are not limited to helping these underachieving children perform better in school. They also seek to demonstrate tenderness and compassion for each child's overall welfare. This includes actively helping the children's families by preparing snacks and donating school supplies. When lives are transformed at the tutoring center, Dan and Pam get to experience that joy together. When needs arise, they strategize in prayer and planning. When troubles surface, they share in the same sorrow. Their mission bonds them more tightly together.
In addition to encountering God and working toward common goals, you get to use your gifts, talents, and abilities for the good of others when your marriage aligns with God's mission. For example, one couple at our church is gifted in coordinating and serving people. They combine those skills and carry out their marriage mission by preparing meals for bereaved family members and friends following each memorial service.
Our friends Charles and Melanie possess musical talents. Their mission? To colead worship and inspire the next generation to use their God-given gifts for His glory. Their talents could have easily led them in different directions or put them in a competition against each other. Instead, they have allowed God to fuse those talents and gifts together for the benefit of others.
Conversely, a marriage without a mission has a high potential of running on parallel tracks: two people married by contract and obligation but living separate lives. This type of relationship lacks focus and is ruled by haphazard behavior, impulsive decision-making, and cyclical offense patterns. Picture two soldiers in the same fighting unit whose lack of coordinated effort results in their fighting against one another. What ensues is "friendly fire": spouses misidentifying each other as enemies who eventually become targets. Instead of operating as a unit the way God intended, such couples end up merely coexisting. Oftentimes the distance between spouses increases over time until what started as two parallel tracks diverge farther apart. These marriages pack the highest potential for crisis, separation, and divorce.
Besides running side by side rather than united, a marriage without a mission fails to take its proper place in God's overarching purpose for all mankind. Think of God's greater purpose as a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece is created to fit perfectly together with other pieces, displaying a larger picture only He can see. Some pieces are tiny; some are bigger. Some pieces are void of color; others are vivid. But every piece is needed to fit together and create the overall picture. Take one piece out of the puzzle and the picture is incomplete.
Marriages were not designed for spouses to operate separately but to be joined together as a symbol of Christ's relationship with believers, exhibiting God's glory for all time. The more couples there are who choose to discover God's mission, the more glorious and extraordinary the final masterpiece will be.
God, although we may not know what Your mission for our marriage is yet, we understand why we need to have one. Help us take the next right step in this process of discovery. Make us aware of the gifts and talents You've given us, and show us how we might use them to serve You and others. We need to work toward common goals, but we want them to align with Your will. We want a marriage that is united, not divided. Help us take our place in Your bigger picture. In Jesus's name. Amen.
Taking the Next Step
Use these questions as discussion points. You may also wish to record some answers or insights in your journal.
1. In your own words, explain one reason why every marriage needs a mission. If you're keeping a journal, write down that reason and place today's date next to your entry.
2. Do you know of a marriage that seems to have accepted an assigned task from God? If so, what is their mission and how are they living it out?
3. What are your spouse's greatest strengths, talents, or abilities? What are yours? Do you have any strengths in common? If so, what are they?
Taking Stock of What You've Got
There has never been a package like you ever before in history, nor will there ever be again.
— Laurie Beth Jones, The Path
Marriage missions vary drastically. God's creativity is exhibited and displayed by the wide variety of tasks He assigns to His people. To begin the dialogue and discovery of God's special mission for you, think about the kinds of military missions you're probably familiar with. Each one has its unique purposes, characteristics, and challenges.
* Search and rescue mission: Enter into an area of destruction and save lives in peril.
* Courier/cargo mission: Retrieve and/or deliver goods or correspondence.
* Fact-finding mission: Gather data for a specific purpose.
* Diplomatic mission: Participate in matters of government or diplomacy.
* Recovery mission: Repair or find something that is lost.
* Spy mission: Uncover trade secrets and expose enemy plans.
* Combat mission: Fight and conquer an enemy.
* Convoy/escort mission: Provide protection for and/or accompany others.
* Reconnaissance mission: Obtain information on potential enemies.
* Discovery mission: Enter uncharted territory hoping to find something new.
* Encounter mission: Interact with a particular being, culture, group, community, or tribe.
While God's mission for your marriage may contain various elements of each of these military missions, its most prominent purpose is far greater than all of them combined. God's mission for you is a sacred mission. The word sacred means dedicated or set apart as special in some way. Your mission is sacred because no one else's mission will be exactly like yours, and you'll travel on holy ground with God-territory already given to you as part of your inheritance in Christ.
You may not be sure exactly what that means yet. That's okay! Penny and I weren't sure either. All we knew was that God was stirring something in us, and we wanted to discover what that something was. At that point in our lives, we didn't even know God had a special mission designed just for us. However, we made one paramount decision that you have already made: meeting together weekly.
Every Sunday night at seven thirty, we met on our couch, read a verse or passage from the Bible, talked about it, and prayed together. What we were doing seemed simple, but in the long run it would prove revolutionary. What started as just a good idea became the backbone for marital stability and growth. Together we were seeking and encountering God in the quietness of our home, and it was a beautiful thing. Unbeknownst to us at the time, these meetings would also become the means through which we'd discover God's mission.
Weekly Devotion Time, Ron and Doris 4:20 minutes
Once we got a consistent weekly meeting routine down, we decided to read a Christian book together too. One of our most significant experiences occurred when we read Bruce Wilkinson's The Dream Giver, a modern-day parable. The book tells the story of Ordinary, a person who leaves everything familiar to pursue his Big Dream. When we reconciled, we both felt God had planted a dream or seed of some sort in our hearts. The Dream Giver watered our seed and gave it a ray of sunlight. We began actively dreaming with God. What if we were able to help other couples in some way? What if God has a special purpose for our marriage that reaches far beyond us? How can we figure out what that purpose is?
STEP ONE: IDENTIFY YOUR INTERESTS
Perhaps you have a dream, or maybe just a slight inkling, about your mission as a couple. It could be something like, "A common desire we both share is to help underprivileged children in our neighborhood. Maybe that's part of our mission."
No mission is too great or too small. While your head may be swimming with uncertainties, one thing you can be assured of right now is that God has given you special interests, hobbies, and talents that will contribute to the mission He has for you. Start there.
You may or may not be aware of all the abilities God has given you, but you can probably name some personal hobbies and interests. On the following pages you will find an extensive list that combines all these things; look through the list and circle the top ten items you possess to the greatest degree. You may find it helpful to think about the things others have said about you, such as, "You're so good at teaching," or, "You're such an encourager." Once you've circled your top ten, place a star next to the areas where you think your spouse excels. (If you think of something that is not on the list, add it.)
Now that you've circled your top ten special interests, hobbies, and talents, rewrite them in the space below. You may find it helpful to number them in order of importance to you.
If you want to get more specific in discovering your gifts and talents, the Internet furnishes spiritual gifts inventories that are much more detailed and extensive than what we've included here. But for the most part, the exercise you've just completed is enough to begin honing in on the possible services your mission may include.
Excerpted from "Your Marriage, God's Mission"
Copyright © 2017 Clint and Penny A. Bragg.
Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Phase I — Induction and Mission Ops,
1 Marriage on a Mission, 23,
2 Why Marriage Requires a Mission, 27,
3 Taking Stock of What You've Got, 31,
4 Your Marriage Mission Statement, 43,
Phase II — Basic Training,
5 Weapons Training, 53,
6 Marching in Formation, 67,
7 Breaking Down Fear, 79,
8 Preparing to Possess, 89,
Phase III — Planning and Protocols,
9 Operational Order, 101,
10 Your Marriage Mission Creed, 111,
11 Sharing Your Rations, 121,
12 Active Duty, 133,
Phase IV — Hazards and Hostiles,
13 Know Your Enemy, 143,
14 Sneak Attacks, 157,
15 Incoming!, 167,
16 The Beauty of Battle Scars, 181,
Phase V — Checkpoints and Charges,
17 Patrolling Your Borders, 191,
18 R and R, 201,
19 Forward, March!, 215,
Appendix A: Resources for Recovery, 227,
Appendix B: Resources for Recovering from Loss, 229,