Friday Five- Brian Goins

Brian Goins is a pastor and author. He developed numerous study guides, workbooks, and Bible for ministries such as Insight for Living (Chuck Swindoll) and Walk Through the Bible. He’s also a speak for Family Life Today’s Marriage to Remember Conferences. He’s the lead pastor at Renaissance Bible Church in Concord, North Carolina.

Recently, Brian released a terrific new book on marriage for men entitled, Playing Hurt. He stopped by today to answer five questions with today’s Friday Five.

As an avid sports fan, I love how you tie in marriage and sports (two things created in Heaven, right?). How did this idea develop?

And on the eighth day God created the North Carolina Tar Heels…

I was teaching at a marriage conference where we split up the wives and husbands. When we were done one,  of the guys handed me a cartoon. It featured three panels. On the first panel was each spouse walking into their separate sessions. The second panel revealed the ladies walking out of the session laughing and talking. The final panel showed the guys walking out each covering a very sensitive area of their body.

Even though I was teaching the men from Scripture, the whole hour felt like a kick in the…well, you get the picture.

I realized I was heaping guilt more than grace; how to love their wives, but not why men are called to love their wives. We as a church yell at men, “Man up! Love your wife!” but we offer no compelling picture of being a husband outside of duty – it’s what you ought to do.

Most men are devoted to sports, in some way or form. You don’t have to tell them to love their team, sacrifice for their team, cheer for their team, spend money on their team, go out on dates with their team – they do it out of devotion. They do it because they innately feel a sense of glory attached to sports.

That’s why men will sit around the barber shop or at the bar reliving the old “glory days” of big games that get bigger as memories fade.

Men sacrifice, serve, and are devoted when they know glory is on the line – but it doesn’t take long for the glory day of our wedding to start feeling ordinary. She changes from the wedding dress into gray sweats. His hair migrates from his head to his back. It’s time to reclaim the glory God intended for marriage. In Paul’s playbook for husbands, Ephesians 5, Paul calls marriage a “profound (great, mega) mystery” that symbolizes the union of Christ and the church. In other words, every marriage reveals the glory of God to a watching world (for better or worse). When husbands catch that vision, I believe, with God’s help, they will step up and love like Christ.

You write this book specifically to guys, which is really needed. Do you think most marriage books are written with a more feminine slant? 

Publishers are savvy. They know most book buyers carry a purse. If they don’t cater in some way to the feminine demographic they won’t be publishing for very long. So I tried to write Playing Hurt with two assumptions: men love sports and if men read, they read short books. With the rise of tablets and e-readers, I think we will see more men pick up books. Most guys could read Playing Hurt in a 3-hour plane ride.

You encourage guys to “play hurt” in their marriages. Can you explain what you mean by this? 

Many husbands struggle to answer questions from their wives, “Did you know today was our anniversary?” “Why don’t you understand me?” or “So, what’s on your mind?”

But almost every man I know can answer the question, “Who is your favorite athlete who played hurt?” They may re-tell the story of Kirk Gibson, Michael Jordan fighting through the stomach flu in game 5 against the Utah Jazz, or though he’d never admit to watching women’s gymnastics, Kerri Strug landing that vault in the 96 Olympics.

Whether it’s on the ball field, or on the battlefield, or in the boardroom, we men will dig deep and play through pain to get the win, save their buddy, or secure the sale. But in the arena of marriage, when our egos get bruised, our expectations broken, or our libidos starved, men seek the bench. We pout. We pounce in retaliation. But we rarely play through our pain for the chance at victory in marriage. In those moments I believe God looks down the bench and says, “Goins, I need you in the game!”

You tour the country with Family Life Today speaking on marriage. What positive trends are you seeing in the church and culture when it comes to marriage and family?

As bleak as the statistics about men are, I’m noticing a new hunger. Men don’t want to be average. They don’t want an ordinary marriage. They want to step up to the plate and get in the game. We just need to fill that hunger with a gospel-centered message for husbands rather than a guilt-driven message for husbands. God wants to turn ordinary marriages into a picture of his glory here on earth.

How did your role as a pastor prepare you to write this book?

I heard a pastor friend of mine say the most damning preposition in all of Scripture is found in Genesis 3. The snake seduced Eve with a fruit plate. Then she offered a bite to Adam who was “with her.” In other words when the snake slithered up to his wife, Adam didn’t grab a hoe and cut off its head, he just stood there. When it twisted God’s words, Adam didn’t argue, he just nodded his head. When Eve grabbed the fruit, Adam didn’t slap it out of her hands, he just watched.

God made men in his image. God’s image in Genesis 1:1-2 portrays one who hovers over a chaotic world “without form and void.” Instead of ignoring or being irritated or being intimidated by the chaos, God moves into it and creates order. He turned on the sun and moon. He corralled raging waves. He made a starry map in the ink-black night. He created a food chain. Then he laid out when you punch in for work and when you take a day off. But in Genesis 3 when Adam sat back in his barca lounger to watch his favorite episode of “When Snakes Attack,” he let chaos disrupt the order. We don’t know if he was intimidated or irritated by the snake, but we do know he ignored it. As a husband I’ve discovered that most of my problems happen because I’m “just standing there.” I don’t move into the chaos of conflict. I don’t answer the call to spiritual leadership. I don’t diffuse awkward moments. Though God made me as a man to move into chaos and create order, I repeat the sins of Adam every time I “just stand there.”

In a perfect world, God allowed something to threaten the unity of Adam and Eve. Even in the happiest marriage, conflict and issues are unavoidable. The question is, “What will a husband do when issues slither into marriage?” Move into the chaos or slink into the background? As a pastor, conference speaker, and a husband, I’ve discovered marriages get stuck because we men abandon our role as “image-bearer.”