If you’re planning to get married have you asked yourself, “What are the top five things I have to know before we get married or engaged?” For those of you who ARE married…what top five things do you wish you had pursued knowing?  What would you share as advice to couples considering marriage? 

After three decades of working with couples and over 36 years of marriage, we are passing along some things we think are important to know–as best as possible–before getting married. Ideally a couple should work on knowing these things before engagement. We’re going to break these essentials down to a five-part series of articles. 

You should know if your potential spouse is a Christian.

This matters to the unity you two will share in years to come. It will impact the kind of support you receive during hardships in life and marriage. Your spiritual oneness will guide the two of you in the spiritual influence you have on your children and their salvation. Being unified spiritually sets the stage for you to have a mutual testimony for Jesus as you serve and worship together.

The Bible speaks clearly to how important it is to be spiritually matched as followers of Jesus. In his second letter to the church in Corinth the apostle Paul wrote: 

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

People may think it is spiritual discrimination, but the reality is that it is spiritual wisdom for your protection. A yoke is the harness that was placed over oxen when they plowed a field. Being unequally yoked is a picture of two people pulling against each other instead of with each other. The two of you should be spiritually compatible. Your first and deepest love should be Jesus and that love needs to be shared together in the intimacy of the marriage covenant.

Here are five questions to use in discerning your spiritual compatibility:

What’s the story of their spiritual journey?

How did they become a Christian? Ask them to tell you their story. They may not know a specific date or hour, but is there a clear description of coming to a realization that they were a sinner separated from God? Can they articulate their need for what Jesus did by paying for their sins on the cross, dying, and rising from the dead? One’s spiritual story may be very personal, but it was never meant to be private–and certainly not from our spouse (to-be!). 

What is their history of pursuing Jesus?

Look for a track record spiritually. The two of you may be catalyzed in spiritual growth when together, but are you the reason they are on fire or open spiritually? We’ve seen some people get spiritually eager in an effort to win over the love of their life…only to have that spiritual interest quickly die off once they were married. 

What do they share about what God is actively doing in their life now?

We grow together spiritually as we share together spiritually. Are they sharing things they are learning from God? From the Bible? From church? Through prayer?

How do they encourage and build you up spiritually? 

Often when asked if a person’s fiance is a Christian we’ll hear something like, “No, not really, but they are supportive of my beliefs.” You don’t want “supportive.” You want someone who is growing with you and building into you as a follower of Jesus. 

Specifically, how have they have been making you stronger in your walk with Christ?

What spiritual practices are a regular part of their life?

Are they actively doing things that reflect their spiritual commitment and desire to grow in Christ? Do they actually go to church in a committed way? Do they tithe in their giving? (You can read more about that here.) Are they reading their Bible faithfully? Do they pray out loud with you? Do they serve in any capacity in the community or at church? 

This process isn’t designed to be judgmental. It’s designed to help you be discerning about spiritual compatibility. Being intentional in the early stages of your relationship will not only protect your heart, but it will lay the foundation for the two of you as you build your marriage.