Here’s a perfect follow up to Sunday’s message WHAT DOES JESUS SAY ABOUT DIVORCE. It’s written by my friend, Bob Russell, and is reprinted with permission.
Have you ever heard these statistics? “Fifty percent of American marriages end in divorce and the divorce rate in the church is just as bad as the divorce rate in the world.”
I’ve always had serious doubts about those stats. They didn’t seem consistent with what I was witnessing every day. But they are often cited by the world to undermine the credibility of those of us who stand for Biblical marriage. “What right does the church have to say anything about the traditional family when Christian marriages are a total failure?”
However, a recent book by Shaunti Feldhahn titled, “The Good News About Marriage” is shattering some of the spiritual myths about the widely accepted divorce statistics. The author has recently completed an eight- year study that points out that the statistics that have been reported repeatedly by the media are nowhere close to being true.
Half of all marriages are not ending in divorce.According to the Census Bureau, 72% of those who have ever been married, are still married to their first spouse! And the 28% who aren’t, includes those whose spouses have died. Feldhahn writes, “No-one knows what the average first-marriage divorce rate actually is, but based on the rate of widowhood and other factors, we can estimate it is probably closer to 20-25%. For all marriages (including second marriages, and so on), it is in the 31-35% range, depending on the study.”
Feldhahn suggests another myth that needs to be countered is the notion that “A George Barna study found that the rate of divorce is the same in the church.” She writes, “Actually the Barna Group found no such thing and George Barna himself told me he would love to correct this misunderstanding…because he wasn’t studying people “in the church.”
The Barna Group studies were focusing specifically on the divorce rates of those with Christian and non-Christian belief systems and didn’t take worship attendance into account. The vast majority of Americans profess to have Christian beliefs but less than a third actually attend church regularly and take their commitment to Christ seriously.
Feldhahn wrote, “So I partnered with the Barna Group and we re-ran the numbers: and if the person was in church last week, their divorce rate dropped by 27%. And that is one of thesmallest drops found in recent studies: overall, regular church attendance lowers the divorce rate anywhere from 25-50%, depending on the study you look at.
If I am interpreting her statistics correctly, that means that 80-90% of marriages where the couple attend church regularly remain INTACT. That’s still too many divorces, and since, “God hates divorce,”we need to do what we can to enhance relationships and deepen commitments. But it debunks the lie that Christian people who go to church are just as quick to get a divorce as those who don’t.
There’s an old saying that any lie, no matter how absurd, if repeated often enough will eventually come to be believed. Let’s not believe this myth anymore. While the church has flaws that need correcting, let’s quit bashing the church for sins it hasn’t committed. Let’s honor those who have remained faithful. Let’s encourage our youth to respect Biblical marriage and get involved in a local church. Let’s not buy into the falsehood that we have no right to espouse traditional marriage because it has been a complete failure.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).
*Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-trained social researcher, popular speaker and best-selling author of “For Women Only”, “For Men Only” and “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages”, which have sold more than 2 million copies in 22 languages worldwide. Her research is regularly featured in media as diverse as The New York Times and Focus on the Family, Cosmopolitan Magazine and The Today Show. With “The Good News About Marriage” Shaunti is eager to support leaders in moving marriages from discouragement to hope. Get updates at www.goodnewsmarriage.com.