Gary Chapman Interview: teaching a class on marriage is a way to minister to people on a very deep level

BIG: Can you share with us something about you, your family and the background you come from, which shaped you?

Gary Chapman: I grew up in a Christian home. My father was not a Christian when he married my mother but he became a Christian before I was born. They were Baptist and they were very active in their church, they attended Sunday morning, they attended Sunday night, they attended Wednesday night. My father was a deacon, very very active; I went to church my whole life. I became a Christian when I was 10 years old. Obviously I didn’t understand everything but I did understand that Christ died for my sins, I knew I had done things wrong and I asked Him to forgive me and come into my life. So that was the beginning point. During high school I was in a very active group at church. We had prayer meetings, we had Bible studies, we went out on the streets and shared the Gospel with people, I mean it was very active. When I was 17 years old, senior in high school, I really sensed that God wanted me to do some kind of ministry. The only thing I knew you could do would be a pastor of a church or a missionary. I didn’t like snakes so I said I should be a pastor. (laughing) So I heard of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and I asked my pastor about it. He said ‘I don’t know allot about it but I know it was started by a man named D. L. Moody who was an evangelist in England and in America and I understand it’s a very good school. So I went at the Moody Bible Institute at the age of seventeen, studied for three years. Moody didn’t offer a degree at that time; it was just a three years institution with a diploma. I transferred to Wheaton College 30 miles outside Chicago and finished my degree in two more years. And later of course I went to Seminary. Every time I finish a school my father would say ‘You’re goona get a job now, right?’ and I’d say ‘One more school.’ So I finished my Ph.D. from Seminary when I was 27 years old. I finished college, I finished another Master degree in anthropology and I finished Seminary at the age of 27.

BIG: Please share with us the story behind this conference… how did you end up coming to Romania to speak on The Five Love Languages?

G.C.: Well several years ago, Joe Stowell, who was the president of Moody Bible Institute at the time, was asked by Cristi if he could talk with me and see if I would come to Romania. He talked with me but my schedule was so packed that I told him I don’t see any way I could do it. So we dropped it. Two years ago I was speaking at a conference for proactively coaches and Don Christensen who was there speaking also. So he approached me and said ‘I’ve been going to Romania for several years and they love your books, and I really think you should go there and speak on marriage. And this pastors conference I think it’s the best setting because what you share with the pastors they can share with the churches.’ So I thought about it and it seemed like a strategic thing to do. And I looked in my calendar at the dates that I was free. So I said to Don ‘Okay, I put it in my calendar.’ So it’s been on my calendar for two years and eventually I got here. (laughing)

BIG: How do you assess the response Romanians had to the teaching you delivered?

G.C.: Well my sense was that the people listened, they had laughed at the appropriated places and I felt like they were very appreciative of what I was doing. Though the impressions are not always true that’s my impression.

BIG: What is your recommendation for the participants? What should they do to maximize the effects of their attendance?

G.C.: I think two things. One is I hope the pastors will follow up in their own marriages. I hope the ideas that they heard, that they thought to be helpful, they will begin to implement in their own marriage. Because I believe unless a pastor has a growing marriage, he probably is not going to do anything else to help his people in marriage. But if his marriage is growing and he finds new things that help him and his wife, he is more likely to do number two. And that is and my hope would be that at least some of the pastors would see teaching a class on marriage is a way to minister to people on a very deep level. So if a pastor for example will choose two or three families, two or three couples in his church and will say to them ‘I’m going to teach a class on marriage. I want you to be in that class because I think you have a potential of teaching a class like this in the future. You seem to have a rather good marriage. So if we can study together what makes marriages good, I think you could impact a lot of couples in the future.’ So those couples respond, they come to the class, and he teaches a class, whatever he wants to teach, biblical principles. I think at least one coupe will say ‘I’d like to try this thing.’ Or if not, he teaches it again and he says ‘I want you to be my helper this time.’ So he lets them help him. In the third time they teach the class. I believe it’s the beginning of having a marriage ministry in the church and I think any pastor can do that and over the next 20 years I believe such classes are going to attract non Christians to the church when they find out that the classes are helping people with their marriage. I think they will begin to come to church for those classes. That’s my hope!

BIG: I realised, while listening to you, that it is never too late to learn the love languages. Still, what is the best time in life when someone should be tought about the five love languages?

G.C.: When they’re children. (laughing) If parents can teach the children that we have different love languages ‘So your sister Mary needs a hug and your brother Johnny needs to hear you say I love you and so we’re going to learn how to love each other and our family. Mommy and daddy is going to learn, we’re all gonna learn how to speak each other’s love language.’ If the child grows up with that concept, when they grow older in life and become adults, they already know that people speak different love languages and they’re far more likely in marriage to speak the language of the other person.

BIG: Can you tell us if there are more books that will be translated and published in Romanian?

G.C.: Well I got the impression from the publisher of the Five Love Languages that he was very interested in my newest book that would be released in August. Which is essentially taking the love languages to the work place but we’re not calling them the love languages. It’s the five languages of appreciation at the work place, empowering organizations by encouraging. So I have the feeling that he will try to publish it in Romanian.

BIG: Finally, I would like us to focus, for a moment, on Gary Chapman the man. Besides pastoral work and writing books, what else do you enjoy doing?

G.C.: I enjoy walking, I walk regularly, I don’t play golf, I don’t have any sports that I’m involved in. In the spring and summer there is a wooded area behind my house and there’s a vine that crawls all over trees and kills the trees. So I go there early in the morning for an hour and I cut the vine and save the trees. So it’s a way of getting exercise, it’s a way of being outdoors and it’s a way of doing something productive. So to me it’s meaningful where as going to a gym and working out, I just have a hard time doing that. In the winter I just basically walk and I walk every day. I walk outside if it’s not freezing cold. If it is I walk inside. I enjoy walking, I think it’s a good exercise and that’s what I do. I don’t have any hobbies, I’m not collecting anything, I’m not into photography , I’m not highly into technology, I’m not certainly doing emails. (laughing) I have a lot of variety in my life. Presently I do marriage seminars on Saturday, about 30 Saturdays a year. So I fly out on Friday from my home, do a seminar on Saturday and fly home Saturday night. Sunday I help in the services at church and I do prayers, I make announcements, sometimes I preach. But I’m helping in the services on Sunday, morning and night. And on Monday and Tuesday I’m in the office, I’m doing some counseling; I have leadership meetings in the church. Wednesday and Thursday are my study days and my writing days. I don’t go to the office unless there’s a funeral or some other crisis. So I have a variety in my life and it’s like everything I do I enjoy doing, it’s different, it’s not the same thing all the time. And when I’m traveling on Friday, most people don’t have my cell phone number, I get very few cell phone calls so I’ll do my reading. In the airports and in the airplane I read all the books that I read. So it works for me.

BIG: Gary, thank you so much for everything you have delivered during the conference, and, of course, for this interview!

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