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First Thoughts

Caring for Broken Marriages at First Baptist

When a medical emergency occurs, there are many types of systems and levels of care that have been developed to help. You can call 911, and an ambulance can come, and there is a trained EMT onboard. Another option would be to drive to the emergency room and trained ER docs and nurses are there to help. The Urgent Care facility in your area of town is also available to care for your needs. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, imaging technicians, and pharmacists have varying areas of expertise to help when there is a need. We are grateful for all of these options.

Here at First Baptist Church, we have also developed various types of care systems, both for immediate and preventative care for those experiencing brokenness in life in general and in marriage in particular. We have done this so we can strategically care for the flock that we love.

Immediate Care

Many of our leaders have already been through or are in the process of completing what we call the Genuine Care course. Because we have a “real love for Jesus” and a “total commitment to the Bible,” there is “genuine care for people” as we desire to “Reach all of Jacksonville, with all of Jesus, for all of life.” All of these are evident as we endeavor to show the love of the Lord, using the word of God to those who are experiencing brokenness in marriage.

Our volunteer leaders are being equipped to have conversations using the Scriptures. They are also being made aware of the best resources to put into the hands of those who are hurting with various issues in life and how to have loving conversations based on these key resources. You might call this the “triage” level of care.

In addition, our ministry staff, and some lay leaders, are certified or in the process of being certified biblical counselors through The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors ( I thank the Lord for this small army of biblical counselors who meet with the hurting and use the word of God to address the problems of life!

What this means is that all of our pastors and ministry staff have been through a rigorous process of training or are completing that training. Not only do they complete their basic training, but we also provide continuing education. Continuing education has covered marriage counseling methodology and numerous sessions on how to deal with domestic abuse and issues related to trauma. In addition to our in-house training, ACBC provides specialization training in three areas—addictions, conciliation and marriage. Many of our certified counselors have gone on to complete one or more of these specializations.

Another level of care that is provided for brokenness in relationships is mediation. Our “School of Mediation” has provided training for many around the country and even the world who desire to be Christlike mediators and learn the skills to help see shattered relationships reconciled. As far as I know, we may be one of the only biblical counseling ministries that provides mediation ministry in addition to traditional counseling. We have been blessed to see numerous crisis marriages stabilized through successful mediation.

Through the years, we have received numerous testimonies from those who have been helped. For example, “Biblical counseling saved our marriage of thirty-plus years. We had grown apart to the point we were living separate lives and divorce was on the horizon. We barely talked, much less express love for one another. Biblical counseling brought us back together and, more importantly, back to Christ.”

If you sense that your marriage needs help, you can go to and request counseling.

Preventative Care

We provide not only remedial care for when a marriage is unhealthy but also preventative care. Medicine is very concerned about preventative measures, and often an insurance company will give a discount if you are trying to take care of your health. Diet, weight loss, and regular exercise are all steps you can take to prevent illnesses.

Likewise, as a church, we provide numerous ways to build a healthy marriage so you can stay in front of issues. We provide resources at the coffee shops and regular classes. We encourage small group participation so that it’s easier to share concerns in relationships that help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-3). We have also hosted marriage conferences and marriage retreats.

On our website, we provide a number of free resources to help. You can see these at Right at the top of the list is a link to a whole page of resources for strengthening your marriage.

Why do we care?

Why are we exerting all this effort? The answer is profound. The Bible says that marriage is a picture of our Lord’s relationship with His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33)! Therefore marriage must be a chief concern. In addition, it is to be the atmosphere of a church to care for one another because of our common relationship to our Savior.  Romans 12:5 says, “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” One of the areas where our lives can be most vulnerable is marriage, so out of love for one another (John 13: 34-35), we need to care.

Lastly, it is the nature of pastoral ministry to shepherd those under our care (I Peter 5: 1-4), and this certainly includes marriages. Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church and the one anothering nature of the Church.

What can you do?

Reach out for help—If your marriage is in trouble, please know that there are many who are trained to help.

Get involved in a small group—If you get involved in more personal relationships, then it is much more natural to have conversations to help one another’s marriages.

Pray for our team of counselors—Our counselors at both campuses are meeting with couples almost daily to provide help with complex situations. They need your prayer.

You could also join our team of helpers by going through the Genuine Care course or, even more in-depth, start the ACBC certification process.

We love marriage at First Baptist, and in the midst of all pressure on marriage in our culture, we desire to provide many ways to care.

On Sunday nights at the Downtown Campus, we are in a Bible Study series entitled Reclaiming Love: People of Compassion in a World Full of Hate. You can listen to my sermon in the series from Romans 12 concerning How to Care for Broken Marriages here.

Dr. Ernie Baker serves First Baptist Church as Pastor of Counseling and Discipleship. He has been in ministry for 41 years as a pastor in Virginia and as a professor at The Master’s University (Santa Clarita, CA) where he continues to serve as the chair of the online biblical counseling program. He is the author of Marry Wisely, Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation

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