Marriage Mission

By Mark Mittelberg
By Suzanne Gosselin
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a man and woman pray together
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Having a "missional marriage" can be as simple as turning your eyes toward Jesus and stepping into the opportunities He provides for you ... together.

When my husband, Kevin, and I married 10 years ago, we wanted a marriage mission. We wanted our marriage to be about more than just us. Individually, we desired to live for Jesus, but more than that, we wanted our marriage to reflect Him in ways we couldn’t do as individuals. While we desire to have a marriage that reflects God’s love and impacts others with the Gospel, living out that calling while having a family can be challenging. Busyness, relational tension, stress and even laziness have often distracted us from that higher purpose. That’s why I’m inspired by the stories of couples who have prioritized a missions mindset. They show that having a “missional marriage” can be as simple as turning your eyes toward Jesus and stepping into the opportunities He provides for you … together.

Marriage mission: Showing hospitality

Jim and Ann met while serving in a college-and-career ministry at their church. The group started with only six members but grew to more than 40 members within two years. Serving together, Jim and Ann recognized they shared a calling to outreach. After marrying and entering graduate school, they took jobs as residential advisers for first-year students in the dorms.

Ann says they initially took the jobs to survive financially, but three years later they were still in the dorms, transporting students to church, hosting Saturday breakfasts at noon and inviting students in to talk at all hours. “We were able to share our lives in very personal ways with students who were making important choices while living away from home for the first time,” Jim adds. “They could see us do our best to follow Jesus, and we could be involved in their lives in significant ways.” That became their marriage mission.

Hospitality at home

During this time, Jim and Ann adopted 1 Thessalonians 2:8 as a “life verse” for their marriage: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (NIV). During the past three decades, the couple has shared their lives and home with thousands of people, building a thriving, transformative Christian community. “Our desire is for people to be comfortable in our home and find a space where they can be real,” Ann says. “We want to be willing to hear, embrace and walk with people through life’s struggles and joys, and be authentic and open about our own.”

Hospitality in the community

One of those struggles for Jim and Ann was their 10-year stretch of infertility. Twelve years ago, Jim and Ann adopted their son, James, and soon after discovered they were expecting their daughter, Julia. These days, hospitality looks a little different for Jim, a math professor, and Ann, an occupational therapist. “Since having children, our ministry has shifted from adult ministry to service to our neighborhood, children’s sports teams, and families in our church and school,” Ann says. “As our family and life change, I want to look for creative ways to extend love, community and friendship to those God places in our path.”

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Marriage mission: serving overseas

Before they met, Kevin and Anna already had a strong sense of mission. The couple met on the World Race — an intensive, 11-country, 11-month missions trip put on by Adventures in Missions. “We had a similar vision,” Kevin says. “I realized this woman was going in a similar direction as me. She wanted to live abroad and live missionally.” After the World Race concluded, the couple began dating and moved to Seattle, where Kevin, a welder by trade, committed to a five-year apprenticeship. A year later they wed, and everything seemed to be falling into place. But Kevin began experiencing debilitating pain in both wrists. Despite aggressive medical treatments, the pain worsened, impairing his ability to work. Kevin and Anna decided God was leading them to leave the apprenticeship and return to missions.

The couple enrolled in the G42 Leadership Academy in Mijas, Spain, a nine-month training program that equips leaders for full-time ministry. When G42 concluded, Kevin and Anna accepted a position in Costa Rica as base leaders for a gap-year missions program for 18- to 21-year-olds. They continue this work today.

Serving with another couple, Kevin and Anna host a group of 50 students for three months at a time. They send them out into communities affected by poverty, drugs and crime to serve, build relationships and share Jesus Christ. Now married for five years, the couple has discovered that the mission God has given them is better than they could have ever imagined because they’re pursuing it together. “I am continuously reminding myself that Kevin and I are on a big adventure together,” Anna says. “We are on the same team.”

Marriage mission: raising children

Monica always wanted to be a mom. When she met Bill through a Christian dating site, she was thrilled to discover he took the idea of godly parenting as seriously as she did. After dating long-distance for a year, the couple married in 2009. Two years later, they had their first child, followed by three more during the next five years. Bill and Monica viewed raising their children as the primary mission of their marriage. “I saw my role as a father to help my future children create a strong faith foundation,” Bill says. Monica felt a similar calling to raise her kids in “the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Through the years, that shared mission has helped the couple make some tough decisions. Several years ago, Monica left her job as a public relations strategist and writer to stay home full time. Giving up a second income was a sacrifice, but through prayer, the couple agreed they could live on less. They felt God giving them a specific calling for Monica to spend more time at home with her young children. Bill and Monica believe their marriage is influencing their children in ways seen and unseen. “They see that our marriage isn’t a place for competition, but a place where we both find love and support,” Monica says. “And it’s my hope that God will use it to fulfill my greatest desire for our marriage: that our four children will know and love and serve Jesus all the days of their lives.”

Staying the course

As these stories demonstrate, every marriage between Christians can become a missional marriage. Kevin and I continue to submit our marriage to God, although imperfectly. We’ve found that as a husband and wife draw together in unity and submit themselves to Jesus, He uniquely equips them and gives them kingdom purpose. Ephesians 5:25 says that marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for His people. Christian marriages reflect God’s purposes in a unique and wonderful way. Anna puts that truth this way: “When you partner with God in your marriage, wrongs are made right, the sick are healed, the hungry are fed. God will use your marriage.”
—Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Put Your Marriage on Mission

God can work through your marriage and use you in ways that will affect lives, not just for today or tomorrow — but for eternity. Here are some specific ways you can put your marriage on mission:

  • Pray together consistently for your unbelieving friends and neighbors — by name — asking God to use you to draw them to Himself.
  • Show up together at neighborhood parties, looking for ways to make the most of every opportunity to share the love and truth of God with others.
  • Open your home to a wide variety of family members and friends, sharing meals, desserts and, of course, good coffee.
  • Reach out to people who think and believe differently than you do. Initiate risky conversations about faith, listening with genuine interest to the perspectives of others.
  • As your friends begin to open up, share your stories of how God reached each of you and how He works in and through your marriage.
  • Stay active in your local church. Look for natural opportunities to invite others to attend services, special events or small-group gatherings with you.
    —Mark Mittelberg

© 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved. Used with permission. “Put Your Marriage on Mission” © 2020 Mark Mittelberg. All rights reserved. Used with permission. These articles originally appeared in the February/March 2020 issue of Focus on the Family magazine with the title “Marriage on Mission” and “Put Your Marriage on Mission.”

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