by Greg Asimakoupoulos
Three committed couples celebrate years of love and ministry
Bill and Gloria Gaither
“Something beautiful, something good . . . “ When Bill and Gloria Gaither collaborated on these lyrics to one of their most recognizable gospel songs in 1971, they had been married eight years. Although that song was written to describe a life touched by the God’s redeeming love, those four words could just as easily apply to the marriage these acclaimed composers and recording artists have had for 44 years. Their vital relationship came from learning to harmonize two different approaches to life.
Gloria says, “I’m an introvert by nature. Give me a stack of books, my Bible, my journal and time alone, and I can get in touch with my soul.” Bill, on the other hand, energizes his faith through music and interaction with other believers.
The Gaithers, who have lived in Alexandria, Ind., since they married, also admit to having different parenting styles. As they raised their two daughters and one son, Bill tended to be more demanding of his boy and easier on his girls. Meanwhile Gloria did just the opposite. What was consistent, however, was the time they made for their family.
“Since we were doing concerts on the road almost every weekend, we guarded Monday through Thursday as family time,” Bill says. “Not even an invitation to meet with the President would have caused Gloria or me to abandon our plans for each other or our kids.”
Protected personal time also provided a context in which their relationship with the Lord was nurtured. But Gloria contends that the inevitable disagreements over ministry priorities and approaches to childrearing were also minimized because of their boundaries.
She is quick to acknowledge the importance of maintaining sexual intimacy in their marriage. “There is just something about drawing as close as you can to that one to whom you have committed your life,” Gloria says. “Sexual intimacy is a living parable. It reminds you of the common mission and purpose you have serving the Lord, although you sometimes disagree about the best way of getting there.”
Steve and Annie Chapman
Steve and Annie Chapman know all about the necessity of being on the same page when it comes to life and ministry. For the past three decades, these native West Virginians have crisscrossed the country performing original songs that celebrate the virtues of committed love and Christian family values. One of the values they’ve embraced as a couple has dictated the way they have carried on their ministry.
“We began our full-time music ministry shortly after getting married in 1975,” Steve remembers. “About that same time we set in motion a rule that has pushed us toward lives of integrity. We determined that we would never perform in public as a couple if we were at odds with each other.”
While such a policy has meant one of them has performed alone a time or two, it has also pushed them to see the need for compromise and forgiveness in light of the message about which they sing.
“Our decision not to pretend to be something we aren’t has really paid off,” Annie says. “When we are quick to admit our weaknesses and address them, we are more able to be transparent to those in our audience who long for authenticity.”
Steve and Annie travel the country giving marriage seminars in addition to their concerts. They do not promote a view of marriage that assumes couples start off with clean slates. Recognizing the baggage they brought into their own relationship, the Chapmans articulate what they have experienced and embrace the fragility of imperfect pasts with the knowledge of God’s grace.
Tommy and Teresa Nelson
It is the same grace that Tommy and Teresa Nelson credit with the health of their 33-year marriage. Tommy, who is the senior pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas, discovered grace was more than a theological concept he mastered while a student at Dallas Theological Seminary.
“Going into marriage, I was used to being the guy who called the shots,” Tommy says. “I’d been the quarterback of my college football team, and I’d been a bachelor pastor. But after promising a lifetime of love to Teresa, I soon discovered a new understanding of grace. God had graced me with a companion who taught me how to listen and admit that I didn’t know it all.”
When the Nelsons helped plant Denton Bible Church in 1977, the demands on their marriage were manageable. But with Tommy’s popularity as a Bible teacher and mentor of young ministry interns, the congregation began to grow.
“The growth of the church caused me to redefine my role as pastor’s wife,” Teresa recalls. “I was forced to give up responsibilities I’d had for years. It was an opportunity for us as a couple to dialogue and pray. Tommy helped me hear God’s direction to begin a ministry with young moms and international students. I can’t overestimate the importance of our nightly prayer time before we turn out the lights.”
In the past year Tommy and Teresa’s marriage has reached a new level of intimacy. But it came at a painful cost. After several months of nonstop ministry, Tommy tumbled into clinical depression.
“If you’ve been in that black hole, you know how lonely it is,” Tommy says. “I’ve never felt so helpless in all my life. But my incredible wife was there to stand beside me and pray with me while I took three months away from the church. She helped lift me out of the darkness by simply loving me. My return to health and to the church was largely due to her.”
These three ministry couples willingly admit the inevitable struggles of marriage. Their investment in the growth of their husband-wife relationship allows them to be fruitful in ministry as well. For each one, that is something beautiful and something good.
Greg Asimakoupoulos is a minister. He and his family live in Naperville, Ill.
Gaithers: “Not even an invitation to meet with the President would have caused Gloria or me to abandon our plans for each other or our kids.”
Chapmans: The Chapmans articulate what they have experienced and embrace the fragility of imperfect pasts with a knowledge of God’s grace.
Nelsons: “I’ve never felt so helpless in all my life. But my incredible wife was there to stand beside me and pray with me.”
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