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Is your partner more married to the church than to you?

WORSHIPPING TOGETHER: Committment and communication are keys to strengthening a marriage

WHEN CONNIE met Kevin*, she admired the fact that he was a good Christian man who enjoyed going to church on a regular basis.

To her, it was the hallmark of a man who treasured the important things in life.

When they married, she said she was looking forward to a loving relationship with its foundation firmly rooted in God.

Connie said she and her husband started off their nine-year relationship in what looked like marital bliss, buying a new house and happily attending church together as active members of a local Baptist church along with their two young children.

But then things started to change.

She soon noticed that Kevin was spending more time at the church than with her – and every action he took and sentence he made revolved around the church.

Christian music, books and television programmes took over the household to a degree that left Connie feeling frustrated.

“Everything had to be about the church,” she lamented.

As months went by, Connie said she realised her husband’s need to serve the church went beyond traditional worship.

It became a nightmare that saw them spiral £10,000 into debt, she said. The situation became progressively worse.  

Connie, 42 started to notice dramatic changes in Kevin, 36. She said he started to put the church before his family and only listened to advice that he got from members of the church.

“He’d say I wasn’t knowledgeable enough."

He then told Connie he wanted to become "God's favourite" and as she watched in horror, he set out to try to become just that. 

“Kevin would say the more tithes [offerings] you give, the more blessings you receive,” Connie recalled. “He would give the most [money] even though we couldn't afford to. He would make this his priority, believing he'd be ‘spiritually punished’ if he didn't.”

Connie said: “He felt obligated to do these things (and we went) £10,000 in debt and I don't know where it’s all gone.”

His obsession pushed them apart, she said.

AT RISK: One partner’s obsession with church can tear a marriage apart

“Kevin’s way of thinking and how he absorbed messages from the church destroyed our marriage," said Connie.
Connie is not alone. In fact, some believe it is a hidden epidemic among many families, one of the secrets hardly discussed.

Among those fighting to highlight the issue is Mkhululi Mpofu, editor of UK-based Zimbabwean Diaspora news website, www.

Mpofu, who did extensive research into the issue in African communities in the UK, told The Voice he was shocked to discover how many black families are in crisis because one partner becomes too obsessed with the church.

He said the culture of some churches forced people to spend what they cannot afford and indirectly link giving to the church to salvation, which is not the way it is supposed to be.

He said many families are left hurting because of such practices. For example, in a recent article, Mpofu outlined the pain and rage of a Coventry man called Maxwell, whose devout church-going wife believed anything her pastor told her. She reportedly filed for divorce when a pastor allegedly told her he had seen her husband’s ‘spiritual wife’ in a vision.

“This is when the problems started. She began to accuse me of all sorts,” Maxwell told Mpofu. “My wife just flipped. If I met that pastor, I swear he would do a lot of explaining.”

It is a feeling to which Connie can relate. She recalled how she watched helplessly as the church stole her husband and her children became withdrawn. She said she asked him to come with her to marriage counselling but she was unable to reach Kevin, who had started to give away his possessions.

He would give away money to the pastor and other members at their church. He gave away electrical equipment including mobile phones and he once handed out £200 to a couple in the church who was planning a wedding.
Connie said she and Kevin would bitterly argue, especially as Kevin’s giving-spree soon put the family finances under strain.

Connie recalled that Kevin often could not find money for household necessities, but could always find money to give.

“We needed to buy a bed and he said we don't have the funds but the next day he gave £200 to the church. He had no trouble finding the money,” Connie told The Voice. “In our marriage, me and the kids were cut off. Whatever I earned I had to (use to) look after me and the children."

In the end, Kevin walked out, telling her that the “voice of God” told him to do so.

Christian marriage counsellor, Brian Charles said it is sad to see some families get the message wrong. He said while it is important to attend church, it necessary to strike a balance.

“It’s God first; family second and church is somewhere down the list,” said Charles, who is a member of The Association of Christian Counsellors. “It’s up to the couple to get things right. They must be prepared to talk to fix the relationship.”

He said someone becomes too involved in the church when they are “not involved in their family“ and any involvement in church “shouldn’t be at the expense of your family.”

Church leaders also agree with Charles that marriage should strike a healthy balance with attending church and that God is the only other being which should be put before a couple in marriage. Baptist church leader, Pastor Haydn, told The Voice: “There should be a level of commitment first. Marriage is one heart, one mind in the direction of the Lord.”

Pastor Haydn said true gospel would never preach that God’s love depends on money. Any preaching that links giving sizeable amounts to receiving blessings is not in line with Christian teachings. “More tithes are not going to twist God’s arm,” he said.

*Name changed to protect identity.

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