Social pressures continue to take their toll on marriage relationships in China. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, nearly 3 million couples filed for divorce in 2012. Christian couples have not been immune from these pressures, so churches are increasingly becoming involved in ministries to strengthen marriage relationships.
The article translated below is about a talk given by a Beijing pastor on the growing popularity and importance of marriage retreats.
The October 1st National Day Holiday has officially ended, and at this time there are, of course, a variety of holiday topics being discussed. For example, which tourist attractions were filled to overflowing with people; which attractions had many times the normal amount of trash; and how a new cycle of holiday syndrome has begun, to name a few. But besides all of the noise that is a part of the National Day Holiday, in many cities, one by one, churches have started holding marriage retreats, mens retreats, womens retreats, and other events during the holiday. The retreats allow people that are usually very busy to rest during the holiday, while at the same time being spiritually blessed. They allow families to be able to walk on the road of grace.
These days in the city, more and more working people are coming into the churches. These very busy people are concerned about nothing more than their families and children. Because of this need, more and more city churches have begun to place an importance on caring for and shepherding married couples. The result of this is that all kinds of marriage retreats, men's retreats, and women's retreats are also becoming more popular.
Regarding why the church places an importance on marriage retreats, Pastor Zhou Ming of Beijings Olive Tree Church shared two key reasons:
1. The Church needs to protect the sanctity of marriage
These days, people do not have enough respect for marriage, and each person regards marriage from their own selfish perspective. Its even come to the point that the problem of homosexuality is increasingly serious. People have lost their awareness of the true significance of marriage. In an era such as this, if the church cannot maintain the sanctity of marriage, and if the church cannot be a witness, then it is hard to imagine what the result might be.
The church needs to increase the level of importance it places on guarding marriages. The true meaning and significance of marriage must be taught in the churches: one husband and one wife, one man and one woman, for your whole life. There are all kinds of problems in society, but whatever kind of social problem there is, you need stable marriages to be the foundation.
If the family structure is muddled and messy, then society will also be unstable. As the human race develops, moral and value systems will face a series of attacks. Moreover, future generations will face even more serious problems. In this, the church must be a witness; it must protect the Word of the Lord. The church must become a Pure Land where the sanctity of marriage is guarded.
2. The Church Needs to Create an Environment That Promotes Emotional Growth in Marriages
Why do we need to hold marriage retreats? Pastor Zhou Ming explained that, in this day and age, there is nothing that promotes stable emotional growth between husbands and wives. In society, most people say marriage does not need to be set or definite. At any time, a marriage can change, and each person can have freedom. That type of talk seems logical, but in actuality it is totally wrong. Even though everyone yearns for a good marriage, they cannot actually maintain one, so in the end, they run away [from the responsibility].
Because of this, the church needs to create an environment that helps brothers and sisters triumph, and holding retreats is a great way to do that.
To learn more about divorce in China, this article, Divorce Rates in China: What is Going On? in Psychology Today provides an excellent overview.
Image credit: Romance, by Stuart Richards, via Flickr
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