Enriching Relationships for a Lifetime   with Dr. Gary Oliver

Church Initiatives

The vision of CHR is to help people be conformed to the image of the Lord. In other words, the end in mind is Christ-centered relationships. Romans 8:29 states, “ For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”

If our vision is Christ-centered relationships, CHR's mission then is to educate, enrich, and equip “equippers” to live this out and to influence the relationships of others. This is based on the instruction given in 2 Timothy 2:2, "the things which you have heard from me…entrust to faithful men and women who will be able to teach others also." We call this rippling effect “multiplication.” It is the essence of the great commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 18-20). The ultimate goal is to create a rippling effect through positive influence. The best description of the ripple effect is found in a quote by John Heider:

Do you want to be a positive influence in the world? First, get your own life in order. Ground yourself in the single principle so that your behavior is wholesome and effective. If you do that, you will earn respect and be a powerful influence. Your behavior influences others through a ripple effect. A ripple effect works because everyone influences everyone else. Powerful people are powerful influences. If your life works, you influence your family. If your family works, your family influences the community. If your community works, your community influences the nation. If your nation works, your nation influences the world. Remember that your influence begins with you and ripples outward. So be sure that your influence is both potent and wholesome. How do I know that this works? All growth spreads outward from a fertile and potent nucleus. You are a nucleus.

What is the Church Relationship Initiative (CRI)? 

The Church Relationship Initiative (CRI) is based on the question: “How do we know if people are being conformed to his image?” John 17:23 states, “ May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me .” One of the most powerful apologetics for the truth claims of Jesus is the degree to which Christians are able to have strong, healthy and loving relationships. As we become Christ-like, the evidence is our ability to love others as Christ loves us. We don't want to emphasize the acquisition of truth and minimize the critical role of the application of truth. What does truth look like when you put it into shoe leather? Information without application leads to frustration. The good news is that information with application can lead to transformation. C.S. Lewis says it well:

This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objectives -- education, building, missions, holding services. The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christ's. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.

The CRI helps churches develop a theology of marriage and family that informs who they are and what they do and then equips teams of individuals and couples to lead relationship (including marriage and family) initiatives in their own churches.

Is There a Need for the CRI?

  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years. Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches.
  • Four thousand new churches begin each year, but over seven thousand churches close.
  • Eighty-five percent of pastors said their greatest problem is they are sick and tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors. Ninety percent said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
  • The divorce rate is as high for those in the church as outside the church (27% vs. 24%).
    • Headlines after Barna's study:
      • Jesus never fails, unless you're married; Christians who pray together don't stay together!
  • There are over 300,000 churches in North America with average size 110-130. As a result of limited membership and attendance, many of these churches do not have the financial resources to establish and maintain effective on-going marriage, family, and relationships ministries.
  • There are around 700 churches in North America with over 2000 attendees. Despite their large numbers, many of these churches may not have staff that are trained and qualified to effectively implement and manage marriage, family, and relationships ministries and/or the vision to establish such a ministry. Often larger churches, due to more abundant financial and staff resources, can have a significant impact on their communities and perhaps even on other churches in their area.
  • Many pastors have had little training and most have had no significant training developing a theology of marriage and family that translates into practical ministry.

What are the CRI Goals?

Quite simply, our goal is to facilitate a transformation of local churches from places that talk about the importance of healthy relationships to places that not only model but help produce boys and girls, men and women, marriages and families that reflect the difference that Jesus Christ can make in a heart and in a home . Churches that don't just talk about but churches that are doing it.

In light of what we were learning we began to ask ourselves: Are there more specific and practical ways your church can increase its effectiveness in educating the whole person? Are there ways to come along side of, encourage, enrich and enhance existing strengths and best practices? Is it possible that an intentional and comprehensive program might have a more significant impact? Are there ways to measure/assess growth in some of these areas? In other words, how might your church know you're making a difference? Some of the specifics might include:

  • Partnering with church leaders to assess the state of their relationships and their existing relationship ministries through the Church Relationships Assessment (CRA).
  • Work with church leaders to develop a 3-5 year plan to select, educate, enrich, and equip the church staff, beginning with a strategic team of lay individuals and couples to lead marriage and family initiatives in their own churches and to train additional lay leaders.
  • Develop a national network of key churches committed to meaningful marriage and family ministries that could serve as a “Best Practice” model for other churches.
  • Provide to churches relationships programs that can be offered to virtually all ages, addressing key topics including God's plan for healthy sexuality, dating, selecting a mate, pre-marital counseling, reconciliation, parenting, and strengthening good marriages. These would include proven resources from existing ministries.

Within three years of a church's active involvement in the program, we anticipate seeing a both a qualitative and a quantitative difference among the individuals, marriages and families who participate in the program.

"The sad truth is that too little difference exists, in terms of emotional and relational maturity, between God's people inside the church and those outside who claim no relationship to Jesus Christ. Even more alarming … you often find a valley littered by broken and failed relationships."

Peter Scazzero
The Emotionally Healthy Church.

2006 Pastor's Marriage Survey Results


©2014 The Center for Healthy Relationships on the campus of John Brown University
2000 West University Street, Siloam Springs, AR 72761 (479) 524-7105 CHR@jbu.edu