Marriage and the Mission of God
In this episode, Kym Cook, Marcus Lloyd, and Mark and Priscilla Young discuss marriage and the mission of God.
- The Youngs’ background in missions
- Lloyd’s background in ministry
- What is the mission of God?
- Key Scriptures on the mission of God
- What the church needs to know about the mission of God
- How do many American churches currently view marriage?
- The image, people, and mystery of God
- The importance of family and children
- The role of singles in the church
- How to live on mission as a family
Kymberli Cook: Welcome to the table podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture. My name is Kymberli Cook, and I'm the Senior Administrator at the Hendricks Center. And today we're gonna be talking about marriage, and the mission of God. We are joined here today by Markus Lloyd, …
Markus Lloyd: Hello.
Kymberli Cook: … the Director of External Focus …
Markus Lloyd: That's right.
Kymberli Cook: … at Woodcreek Church: Richardson, TX.
Markus Lloyd: Very good. Yeah.
Kymberli Cook: And we're also joined via Skype by Mark and Priscilla Young. Mark serves as the President of Denver Seminary, and Priscilla has been serving alongside him for 37 years. Correct? Or is that …
Priscilla Young: Yes.
Dr. Mark Young: That's it. You got it.
Kymberli Cook: Well, we are so thankful to have you all here. And I think just the way that I'd like to go ahead and get started is to just have you all have an opportunity to introduces yourselves, and how you came to be thinking about the mission of God, and involved in this area. So Markus, let's … or, I'm sorry, Mark and Priscilla, let's go ahead and start with you.
Dr. Mark Young: Okay.
Priscilla Young: All right.
Dr. Mark Young: That's fine.
Priscilla Young: Go ahead.
Dr. Mark Young: Yeah, I would say from our earliest years, both in Priscilla's case, her childhood, and for me, in my early life as a Christian, we've always thought that being a Christian meant and gave purpose to being engaged in the lives of people who don't know Jesus. So, for my earliest years as a believer through a campus ministry, being Christian meant telling people about Christ. So we've … I've always been externally focused and oriented in the way I think about what it means to be a Christian. Priscilla's story's a little different, but still, nonetheless, focused in mission.
Priscilla Young: Yeah. I grew up as a missionary kid in Ethiopia. And actually, when I was older and out of college, I just determined that I wasn't gonna marry anybody that wasn't already headed in the direction of mission. So when Mark and I met, that was one of our first conversations. Anyway, that ties in the whole marriage and the mission of God thing. But then for you, the mission of God as a paradigm, really became more real during your time teaching at Dallas Seminary.
Dr. Mark Young: That's correct, yeah. So we became much more engaged in thinking about the mission of God as a theological and hermeneutical paradigm in the mid '90s, early '90s.
Priscilla Young: After we had been missionaries, actually.
Dr. Mark Young: Right. Yeah, we'd been missionaries for 13, 14 years in Europe, eastern Europe. And so, I began to pour myself into this new, emerging field of biblical studies and theological reflection around this concept of the mission of God that was formulated in Latin by most folks, even beginning back in the '50s, the Missio Dei, right? And then that has become, really, the way I read Scripture, the way I think about my life, the way I think about our lives together. And that forms the framework, then, for the chapter that we put in the book.
Kymberli Cook: Okay. And Markus, how about you? How did you get involved in this conversation, the mission of God, external focus?
Markus Lloyd: Sure. Yeah. It's funny, 'cause I don't even know if I can fully pinpoint it as much as, very much similar to them. It's just been in my psyche, just where I've been my entire life. I don't know if it's maybe one of those things when you get downloaded your spiritual gifts that God is saying, "I need you to be about this." And maybe even personality-wise, it's this idea that I like to be able to have a target. I like to know what I'm heading for. And so, what's the purpose? Why am I doing all of these things? And then just, when I found that purpose and understanding of how to live my life as much as I can for making God's name famous, I just desired and experienced that. I think I desired that for everyone around me. And so, when I run into anybody, I'm going … I feel like everybody's always looking for a purpose. They're looking for this like, "What mission should I be on?" And so, I love being able to express where I am. I'm looking for people who are running in that direction. So it's just a passion of mine. I love it. And so, over the past couple years I've had the opportunity to have it as a vocational part of my ministry, where I am trying to engage in the mission of God and lead other people toward it, as well. And that's been just a great blessing. Yeah.
Kymberli Cook: Fantastic. So, Mark, you all already introduced the concept of the mission of God as a theological, biblical framework, really, meta narrative that people tend to look at … or, are starting to look at Scripture through. And so, a lot of of people is well known in our circles, I feel like, but maybe some of our listeners might not be as familiar with the term, or they may have heard it and not fully know what all is carried in the term. So, I'd like to have us walk through, before we get to mission, … I'm sorry, marriage, and the place in the mission of God, I would like us to just talk a little bit on the mission of God itself, and what we should be thinking of when we hear that term. So, Markus, I'm gonna go ahead and start with you. How do you think about the mission of God? What comes to mind when you think through that?
Markus Lloyd: Yeah. What I always think about the mission of God is I constantly am asking myself, "Why am I still here?" I'm constantly thinking, if it was about just coming to know Christ and being saved, like I would be zapped up to heaven immediately. If it was about just knowing more about God, I would be zapped up to heaven immediately because that's the best place to know about God. If it was about just creating a community of believers that are loving and caring and growing together, I'd be zapped up to heaven, because that's the best place to do that. It's the most advantageous place to do that. So I constantly am thinking, why am I still here? I must be here for a reason. And to be able to look at my life, my skill set, my position where I am, where I'm placed, I just constantly see people in the Bible taking advantage of where they're placed to be about God's mission, to be about moving people toward God. And so, from a mission of God standpoint, I think that's my first place that I … and when I preach I'm always asking, "Why are you still here?" You've gotta be about something. And the person who's left you here is Jesus, so what did he want you to do? Let's do that.
Kymberli Cook: And Mark and Priscilla, what would you all add to that? What do you think we should have in mind when we hear that term?
Dr. Mark Young: I think everybody starts with some set of assumptions about God when they pick up the Scripture. So I say it this way, everybody starts somewhere when they read the Bible. I personally believe that being willing to critique and ask questions about where you start when you read the Bible is far more important, hermeneutically, than the individual details of passages and the exegetical skills that we learn to break Scripture down. So, basically what we're saying, when we start thinking about God, or we stat thinking about the Bible and what it is, we see it as the story of God's redemptive engagement with humanity. That is, that the whole story of Scripture is the story of how God engages humans, and with a desire to be known and worshiped by all. So, when you set that as a paradigm for how you read Scripture, you begin to frame every verse in the Bible, every chapter in the Bible, every story in the Bible with that basic understanding that God's engagement with humanity is for the purpose of accomplishing His redemptive mission. So that's why we start by saying, mission is what the Bible is all about.
And so, from that starting point, you create a cohesive picture of your own life, as Markus was talking about, and ultimately, as we'll talk about later, a picture for your marriage, the way you relate to your neighbors, the way you raise your kids, it's all framed by that same, basic assumption of what God's about in the world, and our place in it.
Kymberli Cook: And it can be almost like a lens through which you …
Dr. Mark Young: It is the lens. Absolutely. And I use different metaphors for that. You could imagine, say, a welding mask. So you put a welding mask in front of your face. I know that's a metaphor from maybe not everyone's background. But …
Kymberli Cook: I think there's still welding. You're alright.
Dr. Mark Young: Yeah. So …
Markus Lloyd: I'm not familiar with any of that.
Dr. Mark Young: … your face. It limits your field of vision, but it also has a colored lens. So we're admitting that everyone reads Scripture and thinks about God through a lens. The question is, have we critiqued it? Have we actually asked questions of it and tested it through the whole narrative of Scripture? And we believe that once we have done that, we come back to this very powerful concept of God's redemptive mission in the world.
Markus Lloyd: Now Mark, are you talking about you testing the lens? Is that what you're talking about?
Dr. Mark Young: Yeah, absolutely.
Kymberli Cook: Okay. So, looking through that lens, where in Scripture, what are … our … a lot of people who are associated with DTS are very biblically centered, and want to know where in the Bible we find things. So where, specifically in Scripture, though we definitely see it in the overarching narrative of Scripture, what are the passages that you all look to and say, "Hey, we really see it showing up here, strongly?"
Markus, go ahead and start.
Markus Lloyd: You got the theological people on the line. _____ _____ [0:09:33] like, "Let's start with you, the guy who is not."
Kymberli Cook: They're gonna bat cleanup, Markus.
Markus Lloyd: They're gonna clean up all my stuff. Yeah, absolutely. I think … and I'm gonna, in some ways, potentially just grab onto some stuff I'm sure that they talked about, 'cause I read their chapter on this in their book. And I think, man, you can just start from the very beginning.
Dr. Mark Young: That's correct.
Markus Lloyd: In Genesis, it's amazing, 'cause you think, whatever God was doing in the beginning was, obviously, intentional. And everything that He was trying to set up and let us know about, He was doing from the beginning. So, He's not gonna create us and have us go through stuff, and then midway through our existence He's gonna, "Now I'm gonna give you the mission of what I need you to do." So from the very beginning, because He's a good guy, He's a good leader, He's, [Inaudible comment] _____ [0:10:14] gonna give you that mission. So I think, and then I know you, Mark and Priscilla, you've talked about this, just the creation of what that looks like, but then creating male and female and being able to say, "Okay. Here's what you need to be doing. You need to be filling the earth and subduing it." So this is your mission. So where it comes now is, okay, from a lens standpoint, so what does that mean in my lens?
And so that would be the first biblical space. And then I think you have to keep repeating that through the Abrahamic covenant, when He's dealing with Abraham, and He's saying, "Okay. Here's what I need you to be doing. I need you to go and bless all the nations." And then it's Jesus coming in and saying, "I need you to go and make disciples of all nations. And then even He reiterates, I think, the mission of … the endgame of what His mission and vision was by just giving us a picture of the church in Revelation and saying, "Here's what it's supposed to look like at the end. So let's go back to the beginning and see what you gotta do to get to that point." That's my thought.
Dr. Mark Young: I think when you look at the story arc of Scripture, we always start with creation. God is never known apart from being creator. Then you move toward, through the fall, and then that sets up God, the need for God to intervene, to begin that process of redeeming humanity and bringing humanity back to Himself. He does that through the creation of a people. And that's what Markus was talking about, the establishment of the people of God, for the sake of all peoples. That's the Abrahamic covenant. And then you see that then God enters into a process of shaping His people for the accomplishment of His great mission that all people know Him. So everything God does to His people, for His people, with His people, even against His people, is for the sake of His mission to all peoples. Then that culminates in the coming of Messiah, in the incarnation of Christ, the mission of Christ in the world, and flows further into the great culmination of the new heavens and the new earth, when the reign of God is perfectly revealed.
So, we would latch onto passages like the creation mandate, like the establishment of the people of God in Genesis 12, some marvelous passages in both the law, as well as in historical books, as well as in the Psalms that talk about God's purpose for all people. Focus all of it, all of Scripture, focusing on the crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ, and then through that, again, the reshaping of a people for mission, until the culmination. That's the way we put it together.
Priscilla Young: Yeah. And I think, even one of the things that we didn't go back to in the creation narrative is that when, what Markus said about that God tells the humans to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. And really it's about being God's representatives on earth. It's about ruling and … what was the other? … reigning and representing God. And the presence of God. Reigning as God's co-regents, and representing God throughout the earth. And so, it's not just about having kids, it's about having kids who spread throughout the earth to represent the creator, God, and to take His presence throughout the earth. So, I think it starts there. And then everything … You asked, "What passages would you point to?" I think, when you read the Bible through the lens of the mission of God, every passage … [0:13:51]
Markus Lloyd: Yeah, I get it.
Priscilla Young: … to it. And you start seeing these things leap out of the Scripture that go along with this whole idea.
Dr. Mark Young: That's the perfect language. It leaps out of Scripture. So, fundamentally, my early training in reading the Bible had the Bible divided into different books. So the Old Testament was about God and Israel. And the, now we're saying that God's eternal purpose is always for all peoples, and the creation of the people of Israel is framed within that great, eternal purpose. So I did begin to see God's concern for gentiles throughout the Old Testament that I had never seen before, once I began reading with this lens.
Markus Lloyd: Man, I love that. I love, again, that lens. It makes me think of the old movie, National Treasure. I know I'm dating myself in that sense. But there's this point where Nicholas Cage is reading the Declaration of Independence, and he's got these crazy glasses on and he keeps adjusting the lens, and he realizes that when he puts the lens in a certain way, all these things pop up, the secret code, if you will. And like Priscilla was talking about, I think when you are on mission, and trying to go after the mission of God, you're right. So much of that stuff just becomes alive and new. And it, for me, gives me this sense of being connected to something so much bigger than myself, which is a sense of excitement about the Gospel, about living life as a Christian. And I think there's a lack of excitement, I think, in some areas of the Christendom. And I think part of it is this lack of really understanding of the mission of God. And even a fear of like, "Am I even know how to do the mission of God?" and Mark, you pointed out really well that God, of course he's not just gonna give you the mission and then not give you the tools to do it. But there's this period of time He's shaping the people of God to do it, and He's giving tools along the way. Jesus, not to delineate or … what is it? … make it less but …
Kymberli Cook: Minimize.
Markus Lloyd: yeah, minimize, thank you, not to minimize what Jesus was doing, but Jesus, and the entrance of Jesus is a tool in even shaping us to be better at the mission of God. The Holy Spirit is a tool to help us, even shape us more about being able to go after the mission of God. God has not left us alone in this. And I think that's a big piece that people have to be reminded of.
Kymberli Cook: So how do you all think this concept, so this lens that we both can look at Scripture and, really, as we've already mentioned, look at our own lives and our own purpose, like you were just talking about … how do you think that differs from the current lens in the church? What does that bring up that we're currently missing? Where are we currently that we would need this different lens, and really this shift that would put us more on track?
Priscilla Young: I'm gonna speak to that real quickly. I think what you … you said, "when we look at our own purpose." I think we've been schooled to look at our own purpose instead of looking at the purpose of God. We hear … it's like, "Find your gifts, develop your gifts, use your gifts," instead of, "How do I fit into this overarching mission of God?" So I think part or it is just the whole thing about individuality in our culture, and how we're told to develop ourselves, instead of first being told, "Okay. Let's look at the mission of God, and then see how I fit into God's mission." And certainly there's individual ways that we all fit, because God has designed us so beautifully and individually, and gifted us, and trained us, and talented us, and the whole bit. But I think we need to shift our focus to understanding the mission of God, and where we fit in that bigger picture, rather than looking at ourselves first.
Dr. Mark Young: Yeah. And I would voice the same thing by saying, as evangelicals, we flow out of the history of revivalism, and that revivalism is all about a gospel of personal benefit. Believe in Jesus, and you'll go to heaven. That gospel of personal benefit becomes, then, the lens through which we read everything. So imagine reading the creation narrative, God's [Inaudible comment] _____ [0:18:01] to make, so I'll be happier.
Kymberli Cook: Yeah. Or even holier.
Dr. Mark Young: Or even holier, exactly. I think if we are willing to step back from our own very individualistic, and very self-focused world view, and see that we read Scripture and think about God from the paradigm of a gospel of a personal benefit, then the mission of God actually calls us to something else. It call us to a life of sacrifice and selflessness, for a mission bigger than our own, personal benefit. That's a radical departure from the way I hear most of the Gospel framed, in teaching of the Bible, in many, many places in the US.
Kymberli Cook: So, shifting the conversation, just because you had a wonderful segue into the conversation on marriage's role in this discussion, but let's keep looking at it from our highly individualized, personalized, self-focused society, how is the church, and how are we currently looking at marriage through that lens? How do we currently deal with it? And what does that look like in our current treatment of marriage? Markus, why don't you go ahead and …
Markus Lloyd: Yeah. Well, my wife, she disciples young ladies. And many of those young ladies are not married yet. And what she's finding is when you talk about marriage, they're thinking about it from themselves. Like, "I need this for me. This is going to … in some ways, this is what I need," and those kind of things. And she's constantly going, "Marriage is not about you. It's not about you. It's not even about you and your husband. It's about God." It's got to … it cannot terminate on your self satisfaction. It cannot terminate on your couple and your family satisfaction and what you're trying to accomplish. It's got to terminate on what's God asking me to do.
And so, I think the church, because, again, because in some ways we constantly breed this in ourselves. It just happens from time to time in culture, but I think we have taken marriage and … even beyond … I think we've done a good job, in some way of saying it's not about you, but there is a aspect in where we say, "Hey. We're gonna make sure it's … at least you and your spouse and you and your family, that your marriage is happy, and we're gonna give classes on that kind of stuff," but without the, what's the next step? It can't stop there. So, I think we've gotta keep going on beyond that, and I know that's what you guys talk a lot about over there, too.
Dr. Mark Young: Yes.
Priscilla Young: Um-hmm.
Kymberli Cook: And so, what do you all, Mark and Priscilla, what do you all see as the relationship between marriage and the mission of God?
Priscilla Young: Well, I think following up on what Markus said, I think when we're thinking about marriage, we need to ask ourselves, how is my … how would I better be able to fulfill the mission of God married to this person than I would single. And I was just having a conversation recently with a woman who's dating a guy, and she's asking herself that question. And someone else, a friend of hers said, "How do you see your ministry," and she's already in ministry, in vocational ministry, "how would you see your ministry enhanced and made even more effective for the mission of God by marrying him?" And she couldn't answer the question. Show she's really thinking very seriously like, "Do I need to break this off? Is this what God has for me?" And I don't think we even … I … a lot of us don't even think to tell people to ask that question. And, as I read marriage books, and Mark doesn't read marriage books, I give him Cliff Notes of marriage books.
Kymberli Cook: [Inaudible comment] _____ [0:21:38]
Markus Lloyd: I love the Cliff Notes version. I need to install this into my marriage.
Priscilla Young: I think he's read two in our married life. But when I read marriage books, I'm always looking to see if they take that final step about the mission of marriage, and I very rarely find it. Some really good marriage books have come out recently in the last ten years, a couple that I've read, and the marriage books tend to go from, it's not about your happiness, it's about God using you in each other's lives to make you more holy, and conform to the image of Christ. And that's absolutely true. But then there's that, for what? And that's what I'm not generally seeing. It's that outward focus of, that our marriage is for something bigger than our personal holiness, so forth. So.
Markus Lloyd: Why do we stop there, do you think? Why do we stop at that place with marriage?
Priscilla Young: Well, we tend to stop at it in our personal discipleship, too. We have all this … we don't even use the word discipleship too much anymore. We use spiritual _____ [0:22:48] but we have all this literature and all this teaching and you guys have classes and we have classes on spiritual formation, and it's very internally focused. But why? Why are we to be spiritually formed? Why are we to be disciples? So that we can disciple, so that we can pour out ourselves for the sake of the kingdom of God, for the sake of Christ in the lives of others, so that the Gospel can be made known. So, that's the ultimate so what. But sometimes we stop before we get to that.
Kymberli Cook: And sometimes I think we stop, even personally, because we feel like we have to be at a certain level of perfection or sanctification, holiness, before we really can turn outward and say, "Hey, we have something to offer." I know that's a positive way of looking at it. But I think part of it is people think that they need to be at a certain level, either in their marriage, or in their own, personal … on their own, personal walk to be able to offer anything. And really, I feel like the whole point is for people to see the brokenness, for the world to see the brokenness, for the nations to see that, and to see how Christ is changing you from the very beginning. We don't start from a perfect place and say, "Hey. Come join me in my perfection." It's starting from the place of just authenticity and saying, "Hey. This is where we are, and the Lord is working in our lives, and come along for the ride."
Dr. Mark Young: Yeah, I think if we're willing to say that the way God reveals Himself to humanity is as redeemer. We see all through Scripture how God uses the brokenness of humanity to make Himself known as redeemer in ways that wouldn't have been possible unless there'd been that brokenness. So He makes Himself known through his people, Israel, as he judges them and sends them into exile, and he brings them back, He's their redeemer, as He brings them to of Egypt, as broken people. And, of course, the ultimate example is the brokenness of Christ on the cross, where redemption is accomplished. So, yeah, that idea that we have to be perfect, we have to get our lives together before we can ever talk with someone else about our walk with God, or reveal God in a powerful way, is really a deception, I would argue, from a culture that thinks we have to do everything perfectly before we can be effective. But in brokenness, God is made known.
Markus Lloyd: Well, and I think I almost turn the light back on myself and other people in my position who get to preach on a regular basis in front of lots of people, and constantly reminding myself, it's so easy to go … look at how awesome my marriage is doing, whenever I get up on stage. I kinda go, "Hey. This is what you're looking for." And so I think there's part of it that we create, even as we preach, where we show, "Hey. We don't have problems in our marriage, as pastors, so you can't have them either." And so we create these places where it's talked about, "Only perfect people are allowed." And so I think there's a sense of, even in the style of preaching that I and others have to communicate is, we gotta lead with a limp. We gotta come in and be like Paul is, like, "I will boast in my weaknesses," because it's only in those weaknesses that God's power is made perfect. And then it becomes about the mission of God because the reason why I'm not telling you about the issues in my marriage is because I think everything terminates on my marriage and the success of my marriage.
And so what I need to recognizes is that my weaknesses and my faults in my marriage are things that point to something greater that even in those things, there is this God that has loved me and redeemed me. So it's just a … and is using me despite those things, and in lieu of those things or even through those things. So, it's just a good testament for me, as a pastor and minister of the Gospel on Sunday morning.
Dr. Mark Young: You keep preaching like that, we're gonna start talking back to you while you preach.
Markus Lloyd: Oh, come on, now. Please come and do that. Please come and do that. I will respond well to that. It's only gonna make it worse. [Laughter] It's only gonna make it worse.
Kymberli Cook: Mark and Priscilla, in your chapter in this forthcoming book from Moody Publishers on the theology of marriage and in your chapter specifically is speaking on marriage and the mission of God, you unpack several biblical themes that help us understand this. Can you just discuss those? I believe it was image of God, it was the first one. We've already touched on that a little bit, but maybe you could start there.
Markus Lloyd: Yeah. I think the … well, the three main points in Scripture where we talk about this as … we could talk about it throughout, but we talk about the image of God, and then we talk about the people of God, and then we talk about the mystery of God. So, the image of God goes back to this idea of what is that language of image, and what did it mean in the ancient Near East? And the foundation is that image was a physical representation of a ruling monarch. That's what that word was … that's how that word was used in the ancient Near East. So when God says, "We are," as humans, we are the image of God. We're, by … in essence we are to represent and reveal the ruler, the creator throughout all the earth. And when He says, "Fill the earth," He means there needs to be lots of you. And all of creation needs to be filled.
And so then you get to the second chapter of Genesis and we see how God's gonna design humanity to be able to fill the earth with the representation of who God is, so that all can worship Him. And that's the creation of male and female and marriage. So that's where we start. It's a foundational concept of what it means to be human, and how being human is, in fact, the foundation of how God reveals himself in creation. So, we think marriage is … it's clear that humanity couldn't … that Adam couldn't have filled the earth with image bearers, so God creates a couple so that they can fulfill that mission.
So we start there. And then we look at the nation, the creation of the people of God through Abraham, once again with that very strong statement that God creates a people for the sake of all peoples, from Genesis 12:3. And we simply look at the fact that marriage and family become the foundation of how the people of God are to live as a nation, and reveal God to the nations. If the family breaks down, the nation falls apart. And so marriage, and the nurturance of children within the family unit become very much a part of how God chooses to build his nation so that His nation makes Him known to the nations.
And then we go to the mystery of God from Ephesians 5, which really focuses on the relationship between Christ and the church, and we simply say that that relationship is one of an initiative, God taking the initiative, and the church responding. And in that give and take of God taking the initiative, and the church responding, the husband loving and the wife responding, there's a beautiful picture of how God relates to humanity. Those are the three main points we make.
Kymberli Cook: Yeah, yeah. And I really appreciated the … your discussion on having children, and the focus on the family. [Inaudible comment] _____ [0:30:07] say that. Sorry.
Markus Lloyd: They will come. They're gonna get their money now.
Kymberli Cook: Having … and maybe it's just because I'm on the younger, less mature end of the spectrum, and having grown up in such an individualized society and culture in church, quite frankly, and where discussion on the importance of the family and of maybe even of having children seems to be definitely not … I don't know … not the popular thing to say, it seems, and not considered very important. And so, it was just very interesting when I read that part of your chapter, thinking through, man, that really is a part of God's mission. And that's something I feel like maybe we've lost. I don't know. What do you all think? Markus, what do you think about that?
Markus Lloyd: Are you saying that you feel like the church is not as …
Kymberli Cook: Vocal, I guess.
Markus Lloyd: … vocal about having children and those things?
Kymberli Cook: Yes. I don't know. What are your thoughts?
Markus Lloyd: Yeah, it's interesting. I hadn't … I don't know if I've really pondered that from an idea of if we talk much about it. I remember, I was a children's minister for about eight years, and talking about discipleship with children was a faux pas at times, because the idea was, hey, I'm bring them to you. You're supposed to do this work. And so we would always be pushing back Deuteronomy 6, so it's like, "No. This is … We are a partner with you along this." But one of our very in-house versions of discipleship is with your children. And again, the conversation is a great conversation. We should be encouraging people to have children. In fact, my wife used to … she had a friend who was starting to have children. And this couple wanted girls, and she was getting nothing but boys. And my wife would quote this thing like, "Hey. In the Bible it talks about if you have boys they're like quivers and arrows." And, of course, they could be just children, period. But we have two boys, so we think of them as arrows that we like to shoot away lots of times. [Laughter]
But this idea that, again, fulfilling the mission of God is filling the earth. So, procreation is a key proponent of that, from the very beginning. The discussion becomes more difficult, obviously, with those who are trying to do it and cannot. And so, because possibly because we've seen so much of that, people having such problems having children, that I think sometimes the church backs off when there's something like, "Hey. People are gonna feel bad if we talk about having children, and what that means to their discipleship and moving forward if they can't have them." So maybe that's part of why the church doesn't talk about it. But I do think it's … biblically, again, I think about Deuteronomy 6 where it's like, impress these things on your children. Write them on the wall. It's got to be a part of the discipleship process, and it works with it's part of the mission of God. He wants you to make more people who will make more of Him.
Dr. Mark Young: And I would add, Markus … excuse me … I would add that when you get to the passages related to the people of God, the nation of Israel, clearly there had to be stability within those family units, and there had to be children in order to have that stability generation after generation. That stability of the nation, and the plenty of the nation, the flourishing of the nation was never just for the nation's sake. So for the nation to be strong and flourish, and thereby testify to the God of the people of Israel, they had to have generational perpetuity. And that's why you have such emphasis on the land, the land being passed from generation to generation, why you have such an emphasis on families remaining loyal to one another within those … all that language of the law, and the narrative stories.
So what leads, ultimately, to Israel's exile? The breakdown of David's family, and the breakdown of Solomon's family. And so, what a perfect example of how the family, once the family begins to dissolve, the people of God begin to be dispersed and judged throughout. Now you see that breakdown all through the narrative, and God's constantly stepping back in. But because he was king, because David and Solomon were kings of Israel, the breakdown of their family is magnified in its damage to, not only the people, but to the testimony of God among the nations.
Priscilla Young: Yeah. And I think going back just a little bit, it's about the family being … participating in the mission of God. It's not about having kids, or whatever. We're all about … we have three kids and we're really glad that our kids are having grandchildren. That's great. But, I don't think we can make this prescriptive to saying we should be encouraging people to have kids. I think we need to step back from that a little, because they you are saying, well, singles and people who choose not to have kids or who can't have kids, you're putting them in a little bit of a different position. I think we need to step back and say family and children are a part of the mission of God. And that's how we should see ourselves. Not take it as a prescriptive about having kids. I just want to put that qualification in there, because that's not really our point.
Our point is that when we have our kids and our families, we shouldn't be family centric, or children centric. We should be mission of God centric, as a family. And in our culture we're very children centric. When we moved to Dallas from living overseas as a missionary family, we were really shocked about how families were so … parents were orbiting around their children. And the children's activities and the children's needs and wants were the central part of the family. I remember saying to our kids, "Kids, we're sorry to tell you this, but you are not the center of our world. Jesus is our center. And as a family we're going to make our family work so that Jesus is our center." So I think that's really what we're saying about the … even the family in Israel, and families today. We need to make the mission of God our center, not our family unit our center, to the inward instead of the outward.
Kymberli Cook: And thank you for adding that qualification. It actually … you got me, 'cause I was about to ask a question about singles, and how to handle people like that with this conversation. And what you were saying about encouraging everybody to do it together, and actually even my husband and I, my husband is the minister to singles at a church here in Dallas. And with the young adults, oftentimes they're wanting to get married, and we're trying to have discussions, particularly when those opportunities just don't seem to be presenting themselves. And we say, "It's not just through children that you can fill the earth. Go make disciples, and you can duplicate yourself through discipleship, and … not and just … children who are already in the church, but also your co-workers and everything. The command is greater than just children.
Markus Lloyd: There are a couple of people in the Bible who were single who did really good work for the mission of God, I think. Jesus, Paul. Actually I think there's a couple of cats that worked it out.
Kymberli Cook: Taking that a little bit further, how have you … have you thought through, and how have you thought through the role of singles, widows, divorced individuals, the not perfect picture of how God maybe originally intended it? I don't know [Inaudible comment] _____ [0:37:48] singles, I don't even know that I would say that. But how would you think through this issue with … And honestly, most of the people in our society at this point are single, are classified as single, the majority. So how do they think through their part in this mission?
Dr. Mark Young: So I think that … Again, we're back to that question of do we think first as individuals, or think of ourselves as individuals? Or do we think of ourselves as part of a larger body, or a community? So, as individuals, all humans are the image of God, bear the image of God. And as the redeemed, that as individuals, we bear that image more clearly. So, all of us have the opportunity to reveal the redeemer as we live out lives as individuals, whether it's singles, widows in whatever place we find ourselves.
I think, however, the way Scripture is written, and what God does, he creates a people, he creates a nation. They're called Israel. He creates a people called the church. And so singles and others, all people who are confessing the one true God are made a part of that community. So it's the community testimony that ultimately becomes the focus, rather than the individual testimony. So when we think about ourselves in our salvation as being brought into a community that is, as a community, to represent and reveal God throughout all the earth, then it doesn't mater what our marital status is. It doesn't matter whether you have children. You're a part of a community with a much bigger mission. Should God, then, bring you into a marriage relationship, you frame that marriage within that sense, that bigger purpose and mission. Should you not have children, you frame your life as a married couple without children through that sense of that bigger picture and participation in a community. That's where our kind of individualism works against us so dramatically.
Markus Lloyd: Yeah, I think about my wife always talks about, when she's talking about marriage, she's … I don't know where she got it from. I don't know … if it's great you can tell me what you think about it. But it's this idea of your running towards God, and you just look right and left. And if you see somebody running alongside that you're attracted to and that wants to, "You think we can run together? Let's do it." So, and we just go.
Kymberli Cook: I love that picture.
Markus Lloyd: 'Cause it's to the point … I think you said it, Priscilla, earlier … is that so many people are going … the question I've asked my sister-in-law. She's 16 years younger than we are. And so many times, when she's had boyfriends, I go, "Is this person helping you strengthen your walk with God? Or is it, in some ways, pulling you back?" to your point of the same question. And so sometimes I think we, because we have this focus on, I gotta get married, that we just settle for any knuckle head, or chicken headed person that comes along. But if they're not running along the same direction, then it's only going to make your pursuit of the mission of God that much more difficult. This is why I think Paul goes, "Sometimes it's just good for people to be single," 'cause you can just get a lot more done, in some ways. And look, as a father of two and married, sometimes it's like, "Man. Some days I can get a lot more done if I was single." But I love being married, and I love my wife and my kids, when they listen to this, they need to hear that. [Laughter]
Dr. Mark Young: I think that's the people … You see your single-hood, you see being single as where God has you at this point in your life, to pursue God's mission.
Priscilla Young: Absolutely.
Dr. Mark Young: And there may be a change in that. There may not. I think that we could say the concept of the mission of God and participation in the mission of God is not dependent upon one's marital or family status. On the other hand, we say without any hesitation, the way we live our marriages, and the way we live our families is a critical part of the mission of God.
Priscilla Young: Right.
Markus Lloyd: Yes, that's good.
Priscilla Young: And I think the breakup of families is a critical hindrance to the mission of God. I feel like there have been marriages that we've looked at and seen them break up for whatever reason, and then so saddened by the way the testimony of Christ has been hindered because of the breakup of that Christian marriage. And you just look at it and say, "I wonder, if they had been focused on the mission of God, instead of on his happiness, her happiness, my way, your way, whatever it was, if they had really taken that sharper focus on mission of God, if they could have figured out a way to run side by side, even if there were issues that they needed to deal with." And I see people doing that and saving, even salvaging a marriage that was on the rocks, and saving it, and finding purpose, and moving forward. So I think, when we're not asking couples to consider the mission of God as the driving paradigm of their marriage, we're really doing them a disservice.
Dr. Mark Young: That's very true.
Priscilla Young: I think … you hear sermons at weddings, and they talk about love, and they talk about the role of the husband, and the role of the wife, and they never get to Paul's, I would say, pinnacle verse in that passage, and that is, it's a profound mystery. I'm talking about Christ in the church. We're so focused on these bitty things that we don't get to the pinnacle.
Dr. Mark Young: We don't ask the why question.
Priscilla Young: And we don't ask the why question, and so we set people up for not the best, let's say, not the highest that they can strive for in their marriage.
Markus Lloyd: And thinking of another practical manifestation of that, because there are, obviously, the church and marriage, we're seeing a lot of people break up. But even those who stay in marriage and don't pursue the mission of God are still being … it still is a misrepresentation of the purpose of marriage. So even if you have couples that are doing great, they're having a good time … I'm thinking about just people I know that look at … that I talk to, and they go, "Well, you know, I'm not giving to anything that's for the mission of God. I'm not spending my time doing that." And I'm thinking about giving particularly 'cause I'm thinking about a couple I know. And then the next thing I know, they're buying a house in which they're putting themselves in more of a situation in which they [Crosstalk] [Inaudible comment] _____ [0:44:06] And so that's a point … you go, "Well, that's not the way this works." Or, "I don't have enough diverse relationships, but what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna move out this neighborhood that more diversity is moving into, into a place where it's people who are more like me." And so those things, they're moving away from people who are coming, maybe from international places that need to know God. They're moving away from those into more comfortable Christian communities.
And so I think we have to hold accountable to those who have great marriage's, quote/unquote, to you still gotta live out this mission of God, which is to make more people who make more of God. And we say it in our house, "How do we live in such a way as we can make God's name famous at all times?"
Kymberli Cook: We're quickly winding down our time, so maybe just one final question would be, you were getting into, I think those are great practical examples of what looking at your marriage through this lens could look like, practical steps that would come out of seeing your marriage through this light. Just real quick, how would you do that for your whole family? What would be some practical ways to involve your children, or extended family, that kind of thing? How can you pull others into looking at your family unit, your community? What does that practically look like? Mark and Priscilla, let's start with you.
Dr. Mark Young: I would say … I'm a teacher, so I'm always gonna start with setting that framework in place. And so, the tendency toward satisfying ourselves at the expense of being meaningfully engaged in lives of others is constantly a struggle, in our lives individually, and in our lives as a family. So having the willingness to step back and say, before we decide where we're gonna live, before we decide how we're gonna structure our finances, or any other part of our life, being willing to ask that question, how does this contribute, as Markus said, to our ability to make Christ compelling in the lives who have contact with us. We start there. Then the decisions about how we relate to each other, where we live, how we spend our money, how we spend our time, what pursuits we have fall into a bigger picture than, "Eh, I don't know if I like this or not." Or, "That doesn't satisfy me."
Priscilla Young: Yeah. And I think, for me, I think my gifts tend toward the areas of hospitality and encouragement. And for us, as a couple, having people in our home, and opening our home even when we're tired … and in this job, we're tired all the time. [Laughter] We travel a lot, we're home less. But having an opportunity to just have people in our home and sit down with them, and be hospitable and talk about what God is doing in our lives, or what's up, whatever, just having people with us has always been our greatest expression. Him in the classroom, us in our home, has been our expression of how we want to make Christ more compelling.
Markus Lloyd: Yeah. And I think there's that sense of really talking about practically as a couple going, "How do we want to do this?" and being intentional about it. You can't just … it's not gonna just happen. In this culture, it's not gonna happen. So you gotta be intentional. And particularly with your kids … like Priscilla was saying, it's a very family focused sort of place, kid centric … if you don't talk about what you're going to do to engage your children in the mission of God, you won't do it. So there are things that we go, "Okay. Begin with the end in mind. What do we want our kids to be like when they leave our house? How do we want them to understand the mission of God?"
So we gotta start doing things practically along the way, whether it's, "Hey. We are selfish people, and we like to hold on to our own money." It's like, "No, when you get paid, we need to start looking at what percentage of this is going to go towards missions." "Hey, when we go and do stuff on Saturdays, it's not always gonna be just play. Sometimes we're gonna go serve some friends at our food pantry that we work with. When new neighbors move in, we're not just gonna sit back and do stuff. We're gonna walk over there and we're gonna help them unpack their stuff."
Just little things like that, the type of relationships we're creating, which parents and which kids we're inviting to our house. Do we want to diversify their network? So it's a matter of going, "What do we want to accomplish?" And then reverse engineering and going, "Here are the things we're gonna need to put in place to get to that point." But for us, if we don't start that, we're not gonna do it. So we gotta be intentional about it.
Dr. Mark Young: Yeah.
Priscilla Young: And our kids are grown now, and they each have their own homes in Dallas area. And it's really with great joy that we see our kids opening their front door, and having a lot of people in. Because that's how we raised them. And it's great to see them encouraging others, and drawing other people, neighbors, small group, whatever, into their home. So, we're seeing a little bit of it going on.
Kymberli Cook: I hate to cut off the conversation, but we are out of time, and I think it has just been a fantastic time of really looking at our marriage and our lives through the lens of the mission of God. So thank you so much, Mark and Priscilla, and Markus for joining us.
Markus Lloyd: Absolutely.
Priscilla Young: We could go on and on.
Dr. Mark Young: I know. You guys are great. You guys are great.
Kymberli Cook: And thank you to those who have listened to us and this conversation. We hope that it has been beneficial, and we just invite you to join us next week when we discuss issues of God and culture.
About the Contributors
Kymberli Cook is the Assistant Director of the Hendricks Center, overseeing the workflow of the department, online content creation, Center events, and serving as Giftedness Coach and Table Podcast Host. She is also a doctoral student in Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, pursuing research connected to unique individuality, the image of God, and providence. When she is not reading for work or school, she enjoys coffee, cooking, and spending time outdoors with her husband and daughters.