Dialogue: A Conversation with Lynn Jones
Since 1996, Lynn and her husband, Jerry, have presented more than 300 of their “Marriage Matters” programs in 43 states.
Lynn Jones, 58, grew up in Oklahoma, the daughter of a Christian college president. When her marriage of 23 years ended in divorce in 1993 due to spousal infidelity, she focused on her two sons, Trevor and Jeremy.
During the difficult years, Lynn entered graduate school and earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology. She then taught at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Okla., and maintained a counseling practice.
In 1995 she met and married former Harding University Bible professor Jerry Jones, who had lost his wife to cancer in 1994.
Lynn Jones is known for her articulate and warm presentations of encouragement toward stronger marriages.
Her own marriage had at least one major adjustment when Lynn decided to join Jerry’s world of hunting. She still accompanies her husband on hunting trips, but today she shoots with a camera instead of a gun.
Her oldest son, Trevor, his wife Alana and son Atticus live in Chicago where Trevor is completing a doctorate in New Testament at the University of Chicago. Her younger son, Jeremy, his wife Lauren and son Asher live in St. Louis where Jeremy is chief resident in psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine.
The Jones’ blended family of five adult sons and daughters and several grandchildren now occupy a central place in her life.
What makes a strong marriage?
Spouses are kind to each other. Research validates that. These marriages are not immune to problems. The spouses have basically the same number of disagreements as those in other marriages. However, throughout all of life’s experiences kindness is the underlying theme.
Spouses in strong marriages are not as prone to see marriage as a place to get all of one’s needs met or to change a spouse if they are not. Rather, it is viewed as an opportunity to identify issues that need to be addressed in oneself. Issues that are sexually immoral, illegal, unethical or really hurtful must be addressed in others but personal preferences can be modified.
As you take the pulse of marriages in the church today, what do you see?
All marriages need maintaining and will experience rough waters occasionally. Most are functioning under a great deal of stress. Sometimes this stress is imposed by choices and priorities and sometimes just by the rhythm of life.
However, marriages with long-standing problems usually involve dysfunction in one or both spouses, often from family of origin issues and/or mood or personality disorders in one or both.
Jerry and I teach skills that can help couples navigate the occasional marital turbulence. But individual issues spawned before the marriage often require professional intervention.
While the stigma of divorce is fading, the hurtful effects of it have been witnessed by most people. Consequently, we find a hunger for information and insight that will help prevent it.
To what degree is pornography a problem for marriages today?
We define pornography as “sex used or depicted in any way that distorts God’s intent. It is based on selfishness, not selflessness, lust and not love, and uses others whether real or imagined.” Laying that definition as a transparency upon our culture pretty well answers the question.
Because pornography is affordable, easily accessible, private and often socially acceptable we find it in epidemic proportions in conservative religious groups. Its use wreaks havoc in marriages because it flies in the face of the servant heart of Jesus Christ.
It is not unusual for at least half of our counseling load during a live conference to be porn related. Dealing with other issues in a marriage is virtually impossible until this issue is addressed.
How can churches help marriages and families today?
We find many churches doing more continual preventive work. Providing a church structure where older, seasoned couples can develop mentoring relationships with younger couples, offering “date your mate” nights, and offering marriage and relationship programs and classes are just a few examples.
A church leadership that openly acknowledges that relationships can sometimes be very difficult — and that their church members are not immune to mental illness, addictions, adultery and abuse — creates a community of faith that is more prone to help than condemn.
Providing good Christian counseling resources and financial assistance for those resources, if necessary, encourages those who need help to seek it.
How did your ministry to marriages develop? What is its purpose?
It was totally Jerry’s vision and, quite frankly, I laughed at the idea — a divorcee and a widower telling others how to have a good marriage! It made no sense but I guess it made sense to God.
Jerry wanted us to combine our life experiences and educational backgrounds in theology and clinical psychology with our passion for ministry. “Marriage Matters” was the result.
The original format emphasized recovery from death and divorce, the second marriage and step parenting.
As the seminar has evolved, the content has changed to emphasize the core issues in individuals and the servant heart of Jesus in all relationships. That is our purpose — establishing the servant heart in each individual.
How do you and Jerry handle the stress of doing so many Marriage Matters seminars each year? How do you keep your marriage healthy?
Good question — and great timing — because we have been “on the road” for seven out of the last nine weeks, living in motels! Our lifestyle gives us a lot of opportunity to try to practice what we preach. We don’t want to be perceived as a super couple because we are not. We are constantly trying to find the balance with work, private time and couple time.
Above all, we really are best friends. We enjoy each other’s company and have a shared passion for God and ministry. Always agree? Absolutely not. But we have a deep love and respect for each other.
The format that you and Jerry use seems to have worked well. To what do you attribute that?
I think more than anything else it is the grace of God working in the lives of two broken people. We are transparent about who we are and our life experiences.
Pain can strip you of pride. I think that makes us authentic and perhaps easy to relate to. By using male and female dialogue and perspectives, we joke with each other but also address the difficult issues in relationships. We view our ministry very passionately. Hopefully that and our genuine concern for people come through in our presentations.
Every week the material is just as energizing to us as it was the week before because we feel that we are working with the greatest commodity on earth — people.