In Austin, 230 renew vows at Baptist church

AUSTIN?While Texas lawmakers wrangle over the appropriate direction for family law reform in the legislature, one church is already hard at work building a foundation to strengthen marriages in the heart of the state’s capital.

At Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, the covenant nature of marital and family relationships was the subject of a fall emphasis. Pastor Michael Lewis led the congregation through a sermon series focusing on the subject, a 40-day love dare in which church members lived out the covenant love of Christ with friends and family, and a vow renewal service.

After previewing a screening of the “Fireproof” movie starring Kirk Cameron and produced by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., Lewis said he felt convicted to provide his church with practical and biblical teaching on the covenant nature of God and its implications in the lives of believers.

“We’ve seen marriage and family disintegrate in today’s culture with no values and no stability,” Lewis said. “We sensed a great desire to convey to believers and to our church today the stability found in a covenant relationship?found with God first of all and then found in covenant marriage relationships and even in covenant relationships with family.”

Although Lewis believes covenant marriage legislation can only strengthen families, he said it is the church’s responsibility to provide real remedies for the spiritual problem of failing marriages.

As a kick-off to the marriage emphasis GHBC rented five theaters on “Fireproof’s” opening weekend, and over 1,000 church members viewed the movie with family and friends. Additionally, 1,200 members of GHBC participated in a 40-day love dare intended to strengthen all forms of relationships. As seen in the “Fireproof” movie, the “40-Day Love Dare” is a devotional guide produced by Sherwood pastors and “Fireproof” creators Alex and Stephen Kendrick. The book provides daily challenges or “dares” to demonstrate love to a spouse.

“It was a challenge each day to exhibit Christ-like love in those covenant relationships,” Lewis said. “We had our members demonstrate practical ways of being patient and kind with each other on a daily basis. Each love dare gave them a biblical teaching and then gave them a life application of how to experience that love.

Lewis said the church saw families and marriages greatly influenced by the love of Christ.

“We saw growing marriages strengthened. We have experienced several marriages that had no hope experience new hope in Christ,” Lewis said, adding that one couple was reconciled after being divorced for two years. “The husband had recently accepted Christ in our congregation and the wife wasn’t going to church anywhere, but she began to see life change in his heart and life. She began to watch us on TV while I was teaching about covenant marriage, and she came to church and now they are remarried and going through biblical counseling.”

Other examples that highlight the eternal impact of the 40-day love dare included increased communication between spouses.

“Couples that have never prayed together now pray together,” Lewis added. “Some couples that had faint hearts about their marriage?one considering divorce?when they understood their marriage was a covenant and not just a contract to be broken, they re-affirmed their vows to each other.”

The marriage emphasis culminated in a vow renewal service for 230 couples on Oct. 26. The candlelight service gave members an opportunity to remind themselves of the covenant nature of marriage. After the ceremony, a church-wide celebration included a reception and wedding pictures.

But it was Lewis’ introductory sermon on covenant marriage that provided a springboard for the Great Hills marriage emphasis. The Sept. 7 sermon identified three key principles regarding covenants and their modern-day implications for daily life.

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