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You know the drill for wedding ceremonies—a march-in, a ceremony and a big catered reception. At my own wedding a month ago, I didn’t want it to be just another ceremony, or just one of the dozens of weddings that my guests attend that year. I wanted them to leave with something more than just full bellies.
Then I realized that Holy Matrimony is a time when our guests share our joy, and when they will be especially receptive to the gospel message—is it not the core of our new life together? Are we not counselled to preach in and out of season?
In this post, I’ll share five opportunities during the ceremony where the gospel can be proclaimed—in a powerful yet socially acceptable way.
The Intro Video
Many couples choose to begin with a photo montage that chronicles their life journey. Instead, I did an interview video where my wife and I shared how God was central to our love story.
We chose not to focus on ourselves, but on what God did and what He taught us about living with each other. This was to make clear to the audience, right from the start, that this is a story written not by two human beings but by God Himself.
This is when the guests give us the most attention, and done well, a gospel proclamation at the beginning sets the context for the rest of the ceremony.
Worship is directed to God, and a key part of the Christian wedding. We chose songs that proclaimed our thanks to God—but also those that declared the Good News under which we live. We wanted our singing to reflect the themes of our wedding and marriage, but also minister to everyone without too much theological jargons.
Our worship leader sang about God’s grace in Mandarin, and we sang a song (“Jesus it Is You”) to point the crowd back to Jesus. We wanted to implicitly let them know that was He who brought me and my wife through good times and bad.
Some weddings have a sermon (known as the ‘message’ or the ‘exhortation’) and the solemnization done together by the same person, while others do not. Either way, the Word of God will be preached to the newlyweds (and the audience) to encourage them for their marriage.
Is the message just to the couple? I don’t see why it can’t impact the audience as well; to me, it’s another opportunity to preach to the guests using the Scripture passage that the couple has chosen. Because God’s love is so indispensable in our lives, we chose 1 John 4:7-12 as the verses for exhortation:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
We also told the preacher, who was our mentor throughout this relationship, that we wanted the love of God to be preached to our guests as well through these verses.
Depending on our program, this part may be short or long. But I am convicted that the exhortation must be an intentional sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ, as this is the point where it can be most explicitly proclaimed and preached to the crowd.
The solemnization process may seem to be the time when the groom and bride exchange vows and rings and when the groom finally gets his moment to kiss the bride. However, I know that most solemnizing ministers will have a script where they will reiterate the importance of marriage in God’s economy. Why not work with the minister to see how the Good News can be woven into the script?
How about the exchange of vows? Depending on your church, couples generally have the freedom to modify and contextualize their vows to their own unique stories. Why not take a moment to write and say vows that draw the audience to God, not ourselves?
My wife and I sat down and discussed the wording and message of our vows. I made an effort to expressly bring in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There was to be no mistake; the God who witnessed our vows and brought us together was purely the God of the Bible, and no other.
Likewise, I worked with my solemnizing minister on his script. While there was no major change, I proposed some slight modifications so that the script would speak directly to the guests as well.
So even for the most private portion of the Holy Matrimony, I do believe there is yet an opportunity. It works the same way as it does in daily life—even when we aren’t proclaiming the Good News with our lips, we are intentionally proclaiming it with our deeds and actions, even in private.
The Couple’s Appreciation Speech
The last part is normally a tricky one. Some couples may choose to give thanks to the important people in their lives, but I remember my Senior Pastor also encouraging us to use the moment to share our testimony in Christ. I agree with him.
Others may tell you that by the time you get to speak, it is more or less lunchtime and people will be hungry.
But this doesn’t mean that we don’t make use of the little time left. My wife started off her speech in anchoring our relationship in the community that we were rooted in, and thanking God for the people that He has provided us. She went on to thank her parents and other people who had made the wedding possible.
When I took over, I thanked everyone who mattered—and finished by declaring that God’s love is only possible through the cross of Jesus Christ, and that is available not only to me but to everyone as well. (You may notice a chiastic structure, and that was intentional too.)
At the end of the day, you would have realized that the wedding, seen as a whole, does not need to be too different from your normal Sunday service. Just because the focus seems to be on the groom and bride, this does not mean that it has to be that way. I do recognize that there may be limitations depending on the venue and the officiating churches, but why not work within the limitations to see how we can be intentional in preaching the Good News? After all, for some of your guests, this may be the only time that they will ever get to step into a church!
So, my friends, whether you are getting married, or serving as the exhortation minister or the worship leader—take a moment to consider the possibility of sharing the Good News intentionally and making it the center of your wedding ceremony, not a by-the-way thing. We don’t know if people will receive Christ, but we do know that we can simply plant a seed in their hearts. God is the one who eventually makes it grow.
(Originally sent out as an email article of Simply Proclaim)
Recently I did a study on 1 Corinthians. As usual, studying any Scripture will bring forth some reflections which I would like to share here.
1. Giving Up Our Rights
This study that I undertook with my school took place at a very busy and hectic season of my life. In work, I was picking up more corporate responsibilities. In my ministry, I was concurrently teaching a course on church history, which requires me to set assignments and grade them. In my personal life, I was preparing for my own wedding and it just so happened that my pre-wedding shoot overlapped with the study, adding on to the busyness and taking away some attention from this particular study.
In such a busy period, there was bound to be tension happening and it did happen between Angelina and her father. On the Saturday before the first day of the class, I had a lunch with my future in-laws and an incident happened which caused me to lose my composure with regard to the tension that was brewing underneath. The loss of …
Hi, I have officially moved to another domain: http://reflectingtheologian.com. I will continue to keep this blog as my archive but my latest posts will from now on be posted there. Thanks for your support and readership.
Recently I was taking another course on the book of James. Similar to Romans, this is also a book that I have co-taught in church and studied in Eagles Rendezvous. Revisiting this book again yielded three reflection points.
1. The disciple's identification
The epistle by James is an interesting book within the New Testament to study. In my own NT study, I have also been fascinated by how economical the NT authors when it comes to their words - that they do not waste words in their letters. This manifests itself right from the beginning when the NT authors introduce themselves.
Many of us will sometimes skip over the introduction, but we can learn a lot about the epistle itself as well as its application to our Christian life through the introduction. In James, for example, James introduced himself as a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1). The original Greek reveals much more, placing the the possession genitive (of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ) before the word &…