Earlier this month, Concord Church in Dallas held a mass wedding for 24 couples who participated in Pastor Bryan Carter’s “Cohabitation Challenge.” The recent challenge also saw seven couples come forward in faith.
The 90-day program helps couples realize why marriage instead of cohabitation is better in living a godly life. It offers participants 11 weeks of intensive marriage counseling and a married couple to mentor them for the following year. Couples who decide to marry at the end of the journey get an all-expense-paid wedding ceremony courtesy of financial benefactors who are members of the congregation. The program also gives a month’s worth of rent coverage for those who decide to live apart instead of getting married.
“The co-habitation challenge is an opportunity for couples to take a step back and assess their relationship with each other, as it relates to their relationship with God. When couples move out, learn about the Biblical Covenant that marriage is, and engage in the marital relationship the way that it was initially intended, they honor God and each other,” Pastor Carter said.
He said his program helps cohabiting couples “to model the gospel because the gospel is redemptive.” Pastor Carter told Christianity Today that “it’s not just about us calling out a struggle that people may have.” The challenge also helps couples move forward in their relationship with God as their guide.
The program tackles cohabitation because of its negative effects on families. Carter said that domestic abuse is higher and “children do more poorly academically and emotionally in cohabitation relationships.”
Moreover, premarital sex is higher with cohabiting couples. Thus, in the challenge, the participants sign a purity covenant to try to abstain until they are married.
Pastor Carter acknowledged that some couples decide to cohabitate for various reasons including financial and the fear of commitment. Others see it as a way to test their relationship before getting married.
The Cohabitation Challenge has seen its success over the years having married 80 couples and counting. It has also spread positive influence not just on the participants but on those who have heard about it. Pastor Carter said he received testimonies from those who did not join the challenge but applied the concept in their own relationships.
Thus, Pastor Carter encourages cohabiting couples to make their relationship official in the eyes of the Lord. He said that marriage works because it has the “covenant commitment.”