Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Returning to Senegal

In August a deacon and I made first contact with our Unengaged Unreached People Group in Senegal. Much to our surprise and delight, a few people there trusted Christ for salvation on our very first journey. Thursday morning I begin the journey to return there with the same deacon plus two others.

This entire experience has awakened in me emotions that I didn't know I could have. The strongest follower of Christ whom we left behind was a young man named Marcellin. How I've prayed for him! How I've feared for him! With so much against him, so little given to him, so much riding on him, and absolutely no contact with him, all I can think about is to wonder how I will find him on Saturday (it will take that long to get all of the way there).

Our experience with the Embrace project of the IMB has affected my understanding of the New Testament in ways that no survey class could ever accomplish. I knew that Paul tried to write back to the churches that he had planted and tried to return for visits whenever he could do so, but now I find myself wondering whether Paul felt the same emotions with regard to the converts he left behind that I've been feeling about those I've left behind. I can't help but imagine that he did. Was his letter-writing and step-retracing strategic or compulsive?

I can't help but feel that my personal experience as a cross-cultural evangelist and a planter of churches in untilled land have given me stronger insights into parts of the New Testament than I had before.

The whole experience makes me wonder: How understandable is the Bible to those who are not actually trying to live the life of a disciple? Every time I obey more carefully what God has commanded in scripture, I come to understand scripture better. Does God really even care to communicate with armchair quarterbacks, other than to challenge us to rise up and get to work when we're in that category? Are our primary vehicles of Bible study (Sunday School, small groups, discipleship classes, etc.) places where we ought to invest more in praxis not as an alternative to propositional study but as a facilitator for it?

These are unstrung thoughts, needing much more time in the pot before the soup is ready to serve. The point of this post is not really to feed anyone, anyway, but rather to give me the opportunity to express my gratitude for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and the life-changing experience that their Embrace project has been for me and for our church—and, I trust, will be.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Explaining My Wedding Ceremony Contract

I recently posted the text of a contract I now execute with couples who wish for me to perform their wedding ceremonies (here). I put up that post because it took me no time at all to put it up: Just copy and paste. As is, I guess, evident to the world, I don't give much time to blogging any more (not that you all aren't wonderful people, but just because life is short and there is much to do).

Anyway, from some of the comments received (one on the blog and a few through other media), it became clear to me that I needed to elaborate a bit more. In which case I might not have posted the thing to begin with, but that horse is already out of the barn. So, for clarity's sake, please allow me to spell out what I'm shooting for with the contract. I plead with you to understand that I'm leaving for Senegal this week and probably won't interact in the comments at all.

The Idea

A few years ago I heard Kelly Shackelford mentioning the horrible state of marriage law in Texas. In our state, the marriage contract is the only contract in which one party can break the contract and leave it without penalty or obligation to the other party. Every other contract is enforceable; a marriage contract is not.

That bothered me, but then a germ of an idea came to mind: What if one were to put into place a simple financial contract ALONGSIDE the marriage contract? You couldn't force people to stay married, but you could at least add some incentive perhaps to make them work a little harder at avoiding a divorce.

Also, I've seen marriages break up that made me feel that one of the spouses had been defrauded—and, frankly, that I myself had been defrauded and the church had been defrauded—all the way back to the time of the wedding. Somebody had said things about what he or she believed about marriage that he or she did not truly believe. They say those things because it is cheap to lie and expensive to tell the truth at the time of marriage.

If a couple came to me and said, "We want to get married. We love each other. But when this relationship cools off, we just plan to get a divorce and move on," then I probably wouldn't agree to perform the wedding. That's not the kind of marriage vows I will solemnize. But there's a constant stream of people who really think that going into marriage, but just won't be honest about it. When that happens, a fraud has been perpetrated upon me (not to speak of the defrauded spouse in those occasions when one spouse agrees with me but another does not!).

And so, I decided to put together a business contract to put at least some small teeth in place alongside the impotent marriage contract that our state provides and to make it absolutely clear to everyone that couples whom I marry are making contractual representations to me about the kind of marriage that they are asking me to witness and upon which they want me to ask the Lord's blessing.

The Details

Not all the details, of course, but a few things that might have caught your eye:

  1. The $10,000: Of course, as you read down further, you'll notice that I'm really talking about a $10 wedding. It's the DIVORCE that winds up costing $10,000. Why that much? I'm looking for an amount that will make people stop and think, but that won't necessarily drive most people into abject, life-long poverty. Also, I wanted an amount for which I could reasonably say, "You'd be better off financially to pay for a little marriage counseling."
  2. "Premarital Consultation" and "Christian Wedding": I wouldn't have drawn up a contract just for the purpose of these two items, but while I'm doing one, I wanted to put these things in there. If for no other reason, these things perhaps protect me a little bit from unintended consequences. I didn't want MYSELF to wind up in court for breach of contract if I executed one of these contracts for someone and then wound up refusing to perform the wedding for other reasons. Probably, I need to make sure that I include in this thing the reasons why I might wind up refusing to perform a wedding.
  3. Recipient: I don't want people coming back and saying, "Hey, we've been tithing for 10 years. We've long ago paid off that $10,000. We're getting divorced and we're not paying a penny."
  4. Financing: This is the heart of the contract. I'm setting up every one of these couples with a debt, but no payments are required and no interest will accrue. All they have to pay is the initial $10, and then the rest of it comes on their schedule (if at all). Why $10? I think that it makes it more clear that this is a real contract if at least some amount of money changes hands from the get-go. If it doesn't make it more real for the courts, at least perhaps it does so for the people involved.
  5. Joint and Several Liability: Legally, I believe this means that I can collect the accelerated debt, if necessary, from both spouses or from either spouse, at my sole discretion. And so, if one deadbeat husband commits adultery and walks away from his spouse for another woman, I don't have to go after her for $10,000. I can, if I wish, just go after him for the total amount.
  6. Forgiveness of Indebtedness: If the marriage survives "'til death do us part" then the debt goes away.
  7. Acceleration Clause: If the marriage ends in divorce or annulment, I have the right, if I should choose to do so, to demand immediate payment of any unpaid balance of the $10,000.
  8. What Would I Do With the Money? Legally, whatever I wanted. It's my money, paid to me for performing the wedding ceremony. That being said, I'd have a lot of options. If I wanted to give it to a wronged spouse, I guess I could do so, couldn't I? If I wanted to put it into trust for minor children caught up in a messy divorce, I guess I could do so, couldn't I?


Look, I'm of no delusional persuasion that taking this action will cause a dramatic drop in the divorce rate in Eastern Collin County. But I'm happy to think that I'm doing SOMETHING. If nothing else, I'm forcing engaged couples to think, in a business sort of way with real money on the line, about the commitment that they're making.

Friday, January 18, 2013

How I Do Weddings Now

UPDATE: I've authored another post explaining some of the details of this contract and what I'm trying to achieve. That post is here.

Following is a contract that I have started using for every wedding that I perform. I know that I have some legal geniuses who read this blog from time to time. I'm shamelessly trying to get your legal opinion pro bono. Of course, for those of you who aren't lawyers, I welcome your opinion as well.


I, the undersigned Christopher Bart Barber, an ordained Christian minister, agree to conduct the wedding ceremony of the undersigned bride and groom [“the couple”] in exchange for the sum of $10,000 and according to the following conditions:

  1. PREMARITAL CONSULTATION: The couple agrees to attend sessions of premarital consultation as required by Christopher Bart Barber.
  2. CHRISTIAN WEDDING: The couple agrees that the wedding ceremony will be in the form of a Christian worship service. The couple awards to Christopher Bart Barber the right to remove from the wedding ceremony at his sole discretion any content that is contrary to his personal convictions regarding the nature of Christian marriage. The couple hereby agrees that the nature of the wedding ceremony and the nature of the marriage covenant that they are seeking is in accord with the Principles of Christian Marriage that Christopher Bart Barber has presented to them during their premarital consultation with him.
  3. RECIPIENT: The sum is payable to Christopher Bart Barber personally and not in his capacity as an employee of First Baptist Church of Farmersville. First Baptist Church of Farmersville is not a party to this contract. Agreements between the couple and any venue that may host the wedding ceremony or any related ceremonies or events are separate from this contract and do not affect it. Monies paid to First Baptist Church of Farmersville do not satisfy this debt.
  4. FINANCING: The undersigned couple hereby enters into a financing agreement to pay the sum to Christopher Bart Barber according to the following terms: (a) Upon completion of the wedding ceremony the couple must make a down payment in the amount of at least $10 (TEN DOLLARS); (b) The remaining balance will accrue interest at the rate of 0% (ZERO PERCENT) PER ANNUM, which interest rate is fixed for the term of the loan and may not be changed; (c) The couple must make regular payments due on the first day of each month in the amount of $0 (ZERO DOLLARS); (d) Any additional payments shall be applied against the principal sum of the indebtedness.
  5. JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY: The obligations of the couple hereunder shall be joint and several.
  6. FORGIVENESS OF INDEBTEDNESS: In the event that either the bride or the groom should die before the acceleration clause has been invoked, Christopher Bart Barber shall forgive the aggregate amount of the indebtedness.
  7. ACCELERATION CLAUSE: In the event that the marriage of the couple should end in divorce or annulment, Christopher Bart Barber may, without notice or demand, declare the entire principal sum then unpaid immediately due and payable.