Ministering to the Blended Family
About the Guest
Blended families take up a fair share of the pew space in our local churches today. The church, however, doesn't often know what to do with them. Dennis Rainey shares a message about Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well to illustrate how all of us, as Christians, are a part of God's blended family.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Blended families take up a fair share of the pew space in our local churches today. Dennis Rainey shares a message to illustrate how all of us, as Christians, are a part of God’s blended family.
Ministering to the Blended Family
Bob: Are there people coming to your church each week who show up feeling like they are outcasts? Dennis Rainey says there are.
Dennis: One of the things that I learned about people in blended family ministry and people who are members of the body of Christ—many of them feel like the church doesn’t know exactly what to do with people who are coming from, perhaps, losing a spouse to death, perhaps, to divorce; but you’ve got these blended people who don’t know where to go when they—some of them really feel like outcasts.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 12th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. What can we do to more effectively minister to people who are coming to church who are part of a blended family? We’ll explore that subject today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You have had those moments in your life—
Dennis: Yes, I have. [Laughter]
Bob: You have no idea—
Dennis: Haven’t you had those moments too?
Bob: You have no idea what I’m about to say?
Dennis: I don’t. I don’t. I thought I’d get my blows in when I could. [Laughter]
Bob: You have had those moments when you have been in the middle of something and you thought, “I think something may be happening here that is bigger than I realize.”
Dennis: I have had a number of those. And I’ll tell you—what we are going to talk about on the broadcast today is one of them. There have been things that have come together, here at FamilyLife—I just want you, as a listener, to know that unmistakably—and I’m not talking about visible fingerprints—but unmistakably, you can see the fingerprints that Almighty God wants to do something on behalf of a group of people that just may be being overlooked, maybe passed by, maybe not ministered to effectively as we should.
It’s kind of: “Shame on us.” It’s kind of like:
“Man, why did it take 36 years to finally dawn on us that there are a lot of folks getting remarried today because of death of a spouse, maybe having a child out of wedlock and getting married and forming a blended family, maybe divorce—any number of ways that a blended family gets formed.”
Bob, those folks have needs, and the church—we, in the Christian community, must address them with compassion and help them—bring some equipping, some training, some help and some hope alongside them.
Bob: I think, in the past, we often looked at couples, who were in a blended family, and we said: “Now, if there was some sin problem in the background that led to this blended family, you’re on your own. We’re not going to help you.”
Dennis: Well, frankly, Bob, I think we’ve looked at most blended families that way, and we’ve kind of looked down our noses.
What we have to keep in mind, as we go to church today, 20/30 percent / 40 percent of the people we are going to church with—who are sitting in the pews with us, who came to faith in Christ—and who knows the circumstances of what brought them to church—but they are coming from broken backgrounds. We’ve just got to somehow—and I’m not exactly sure how to go about this—but we have to be filled with grace, with love, and at the same time, truth, and not lower our standards—
Dennis: —about the issue of divorce—but at the same time, realize that people are going to be coming who need forgiveness, who need to process where they are, and they are struggling to raise kids and make their current marriage go the distance.
Bob: A few years back, Ron Deal joined our team. Ron is probably the leading voice on the subject of blended families in the evangelical church today. He speaks more on this subject / has written more on this subject than any other single person.
Ron said to us, “My goal is to work with blended couples so that the marriage they’re in is the marriage that now goes a lifetime.”
Dennis: Yes, he says, “This is the last marriage they’ll ever have.”
Bob: And he says, “I want their kids to grow up in a home where they can see what a covenant looks like, even if they’ve already seen what the abandonment of a covenant looks like. I don’t want them to have that as their lasting impression. I want them to see a blended relationship—where they can see: ‘My mom…’ or ‘My dad was able to partner with somebody and make this thing work.’”
Dennis: Well, we did invite Ron Deal to join our staff. We’ve come alongside him and given him the microphone, the platform, the resources, the tools to go after this—we want to help big-time. One of the ways we decided to help was through an annual summit. Well, we’re hoping that those who minister in the area of stepfamilies/blended families will come together at an annual summit.
That’s what they did, back last fall, in Washington, DC. It was an electric time, Bob. These people are thrilled that we are addressing this issue and providing resources alongside them to make them effective in their ministries in the local church.
Bob: Our third annual blended family summit is going to be taking place in Southern California this fall. Details about that summit are online at FamilyLife.com/Blended if you’d like to look for more information there. But we want our listeners, today, to hear what you shared with the group that assembled in Washington, DC, last fall, as we got together for the blended family summit.
Dennis: I was praying about what to share with you. If you’ve got a Bible, I’d like you to open it to the Gospel of John, Chapter 4. Someone once said, “You have less need to be taught than you need to be reminded.”
So, this is less of a teaching time and more of a reminder of just some fundamental things, as you think about your ministry to blended families in the local church, so that you leave here, maybe, thinking about your mission and what you’re up to with a little more significance.
I was asking the Lord, “Lord, what story in the New Testament or Old best illustrates what these folks are all about—what a blended family is all about?” I mean, my mind just went like a laser to John, Chapter 4—the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. I’m not going to read you the whole story, but I just want you to look at how it starts in verse 7. It said: “There came a woman of Samaria to drink water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’” And they have a little bit of dialogue there in the Scriptures about how Samaritans were outcasts.
One of the things that I learned about people in blended family ministry and people who are members of the body of Christ—that many of them feel like there is no place for them in the church. The church doesn’t know exactly what to do with people who are coming from, perhaps, losing a spouse to death, perhaps, to divorce—maybe, both divorced—but you’ve got these blended people who don’t know where to go when they—some of them really feel like outcasts.
And the Samaritan woman knew that a Jew shouldn’t be talking to her. So, she says to Him, “What are You doing talking to me as a Samaritan woman?” And Jesus says to her in verse 10, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and He would have given you living water.”
The first thing I want to remind you about is—I want to remind you of who Jesus is. I love to ask people questions. So, the question might be, “Do you know who Jesus Christ really is?” because, when people come into a face-and-face encounter with Jesus Christ, and He invades their souls, and they experience redemption, they are transformed. Jesus knew what He could do for this woman; and He said to her, “Do you know who I am?”
About two weeks ago, I was speaking in Hume Lake, California—and never been there. It’s a beautiful spot up in the sequoias and the redwoods—spectacular place. I decided to just pray a simple prayer. I said, “Lord, would you order my steps / Barbara and our steps as we go about this conference?—and just connect us with who you want us to be connected to.”
First night, we walk in—there is a round table. There are two couples seated there, and two empty chairs. We walk up and sit down. I turned to the guy, who is to my right, and I said, “Tell me about yourself,”—true story. He said: “Well, I spent 17 years in San Quinton of a life sentence before God got me out without an attorney. Less than 1 percent of people who are convicted to spend a life sentence in San Quinton ever get out, but God took care of me. While I was in prison, I met this woman. We got married/had conjugal visits. We had two children. By the time I was done with prison, we had two children that were growing up; and we began our marriage.”
I said, “Would you mind telling me in three words what San Quinton is all about?”
He said, “Blessed, dark, and a silent army.” I said, “Unpack that a little bit.” He said, “While I was in San Quinton, I met Jesus Christ. Who would have told me that by meeting the Savior, He would transform my life?”
And I’ll tell you the rest of what he said in just a minute, but I want to keep on with the story of the Samaritan woman because there’s a second piece in here. Jesus not only said to her, “If you knew who was asking you for a drink of water, you would have asked Him, and He’d given you the living water.” Jesus Christ transformed Pat’s life—that guy who’d been San Quinton—and Jesus was about to transform her life.
The second question is: “Do you know who you are?”—
—because Jesus does; and He knew who the woman at the well was. Look at verse 16: “Jesus said to her, ‘Go call your husband and come here.’ The woman said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You’re right in saying that you have no husband. For you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’” He knew who she was—a Samaritan. He knew her broken life; and yet, He was speaking to her with compassion and wanting to give her the living water.
In my conversation with Pat—the man from San Quinton—near the end of the conversation, I looked at him. I said, “Do you know who you are?” He said: “I am forgiven. I am redeemed—a new creature in Christ.”
In your ministries to blended families, are you talking to any broken people? Are you talking to any people who feel worthless, who are in need of someone who believes in them and sees through the exterior wrappings and into the core need of the soul?—the inner need to know Jesus Christ, and be redeemed by Him, and to realize their spiritual address. Yes. And that’s what Jesus did with the woman. And that’s what Jesus did with Pat.
He said: “My second word was ‘dark.’ I have never been in a place in all my life like San Quinton—six to eight thousand men all in for heavy offenses—most for murder.” Jesus looks past our exterior to our hearts.
He broke through Pat’s life. He broke through the Samaritan woman’s life. But He didn’t stop there—the story goes on because Jesus ends up giving the woman a mission.
She was so transformed by coming to know Jesus Christ that she went back to the city. Verse 27—“Just then, as the disciples came back, they marveled that Jesus was talking to the woman. But no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ And they went out of the town, and they were coming to Him.”
You see—a person who truly meets Jesus Christ and experiences redemption is going to have a story to tell and is going to begin to proclaim that to other people. That’s why you are here. I don’t want you to forget that it started by you meeting the Savior, coming to grips with your own brokenness but, then, being about a mission—which you are. I’ve got to tell you—this ministry you are about, in my opinion, is one of the choice ministries of our day because you are going to an unreached people group. We don’t know what to do with the blendeds!—but you do. You know how to identify with them, and let them share their stories and, then, begin to introduce them to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Look at verse 39—it says, “And many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’
“So, when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them. He stayed with them, then, two days, and many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you have said that we believe. For we have heard for ourselves and we know that this is, indeed, the Savior of the world.’”
First question: Do you know who Jesus is? Secondly, do you know who you are?—a broken, depraved, wretched sinner who got redeemed—just like Pat out of San Quinton. Thirdly, do you know what your mission is?
Three words Pat said that described San Quinton—the first one was “blessed.” The second one was “dark,” and the third was most interesting because he said, “Silent army.” He said:
“Dennis, in San Quinton, there are men who have been forgiven of incredible things by God; and they are on fire for Jesus Christ. They’re living out their lives—though they have lost their freedom, they are freer today in prison than they were when they were out of prison. They’re on a mission. It is, Dennis, all across the country in prison after prison—it is a silent army.”
I don’t think you have to go to prison to find a silent army. I think you go to churches, today, and find a group of hurting people who need someone to wrap their arms around them and tell them: “You know what? Jesus Christ is relevant to your life. Come and let’s see what He can do in your life, in your marriage, and in your family.”
Listen to me—if God can reach down and redeem Pat out of prison—he’s now a plumber!
He put all the toilets in the San Francisco 49er’s new stadium. [Laughter] Classic! He said, “When you sit there, think about me,”—he said. [Laughter] This guy will never forget Jesus or where he came from and the mission that he’s on.
You have the privilege of changing the eternal destiny of human beings’ lives and their experience of God here on the planet. This is not a conference about happy marriages. It’s about the ultimate takeover by Jesus Christ of human beings’ lives. Hopefully, you’ve experienced that; and hopefully, you will be, not only a recipient, but you, personally, will be on a mission, as never before, to be a part of what God is up to.
FamilyLife Blended™ wants to help you identify ministries all over the country on a map, equip churches, train people, partner with churches, connect you with churches, connect other ministry people with other ministry people, and unleash you to make a greater impact than you could ever make by yourself and be a part of a silent army—an army that begins to make an impact.
A.W. Tozer said this—I’ll leave this with you—he said: “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.” Expect God for great things. He can use you way beyond what you ever imagined or dreamed. If you only knew where I came from, you’d go, “That’s amazing that he is standing up there!”
God can use broken people to accomplish His purposes.
Father—thank You for this weekend. May You use these individuals in this room, I pray, for Your purposes and for Your glory. May each of them believe You for too much rather than too little. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
Bob: Well, what we’ve been listening to today is how we kicked off the blended family summit that we hosted last fall in Washington, DC, with some pretty fired-up folks; right?
Dennis: Oh, man, they were. I had a conversation with a donor in the midst of this event—there is a family that really believes in FamilyLife and what we are doing; and they said: “You go back in there. You tell them that anyone of them that decides to do The Art of Marriage®—if they’ll do an Art of Marriage video event in their church / in their community—
—it can be for blended families / it can be for all marriages—I’ll pay for the event kit.”
Bob: The video kit?
Dennis: Yes, the video kit. So, I went in there and stopped the meeting at the end. I said: “Ron, I’ve just got an announcement. I’m going to make an offer here.” They applauded, and we shipped them out.
Just got a message back that one of the couples went back to their church, on the east coast, and they went back to start a blended family ministry. Their pastor said, “Now, why don’t you help start a marriage ministry and begin it with The Art of Marriage?” So, they are going to, ultimately, get to blended families, but they started it and hosted The Art of Marriage video conference, and had a great ministry, and are now creating a larger ministry within that local church.
Bob: Well, and we’re hoping that there will be, this fall, hundreds of folks coming together in Southern California for our third annual blended family summit—The Blended and Blessed™ Conference that we put together—
—where we’re calling folks—who are either already engaged in ministering to blended couples or families in churches or those who recognize this as a need that needs to be addressed. We’re asking you to come join us as we gather in Southern California to talk about how we can be more effective in this kind of ministry. Specifically, this fall, we’re going to be talking about how we can care for the needs of kids in children’s ministry and in the youth group, who are adjusting in a blended family or who are experiencing conflict or tension in a blended family.
If you’d like to find out more about the upcoming Blended and Blessed Summit—again, it’s going to be this fall in Southern California—details are available, online, on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Go there and click the button at the top of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” That’ll take you right to an area where there is a link for the Blended and Blessed Summit. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
If you have any questions, we’ll try to take care of those over the phone.
Keep in mind, we have a number of resources, here at FamilyLife, designed to help couples who are dealing with blended family challenges. There’s Ron Deal’s video series, The Smart Stepfamily. There are the books, The Smart Stepdad and The Smart Stepmom—a lot of resources for couples and families, who are dealing with the challenges of being a blended family—again, you’ll find it all, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, this is the time of year where, every year, parents have a great opportunity to connect with their children around the message that is at the heart of our Christian faith and the message of God’s grace/God’s forgiveness, demonstrated to us at Easter. One of the tools that a lot of families have used over the years to do that is a tool that FamilyLife created, years ago, called Resurrection Eggs®—
—a dozen plastic eggs, each one with an icon or a symbol that represents His triumphal entry, the events of passion week, the cross and, of course, the empty tomb.
I mention the Resurrection Eggs because, today, when you make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today, we’d like to say, “Thank you for your support,” by sending you a set of these eggs so that you can use them with your children/your grandchildren—maybe, kids at church or kids in your neighborhood.
This is just our way of saying, “Thank you for being a part of the ministry and the mission of FamilyLife Today,”—for helping us effectively develop godly families, who change the world, one home at a time. We’re grateful for your support. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button on our homepage that says, “I CARE,” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. That’ll take you right to where you can make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. You can also mail a donation to us at FamilyLife Today, PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Of course, remember to ask for the Resurrection Eggs when you make a donation so that we’ll know that you’d like to have them sent to you.
And we hope you can back with us tomorrow when you’ll get a chance to meet a pastor who stood up one Sunday morning and apologized to all of the blended families in his local church for having ignored them for years. You’ll hear Dave Wilson’s story tomorrow. Hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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