What Should a Pastor Think About Marrying Non-Believers?

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

How should a pastor think about doing weddings for unbelievers? Would your advice be different if the two getting married are pretty certainly non-Christians, even though they say they are?

It is right for an unbeliever to marry an unbeliever. God approves of that act.

It is sin, because all things are sin—"Whatever is not from faith is sin"—but it's a God-ordained pattern of life that he approves of.

Then the question becomes, "Alright, if it's right for marriage to happen among unbelievers, should a pastor be involved in it?" And the answer is, "He certainly may."

In our culture the governments have defined pastors as legally able to sign marriage certificates. I can marry anybody I want. If they have the legal documents, I get to sign them.

So I have a legal right and, I would say, a biblical permission to be involved in that. And many pastors consider this one of their best means of outreach.

An unbelieving couple comes and says, "Why don't you do our wedding?" And he says, "OK, here's the deal. I think you should both be Christians, and that's what I stand for. If you're not, I will do the wedding. But you have to sit and listen to me talk for four hours about the meaning of marriage and the beauty of Jesus Christ."

And if they say yes, gold! So, yes.

But now this part of the question: "Would your advice be different if the two getting married are pretty certainly non-Christians, even though they say they are?"

I doubt that it would be very different, because they would say, "We're believers," and you'd say, "OK, I'm willing to consider doing your wedding. I just need an hour with you and then maybe four hours of premarital counseling. And we're going to talk about spiritual things, and I'm going to say some things that might trouble you about what it means to be a believer. Are you OK with that?"

And if they are, then I think that's fine. And what he would be shooting at is, if he thinks they are hypocrites or that they don't understand the faith, he would try to draw that out with all of his heart.

Thumb author john piper

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.