On June 19, 1982, God united two people. They didn’t know it then but their path would help many others to not only come to Christ but to save their marriage.
Reverends Gordon and Marilyn Oliver have been happily married for over 35 years. For 23 of those years, they have been helping others with their marriage.
Reverend Gordon Oliver was a member of the United States Air Force. He met his lovely bride while stationed at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. It all started in a parking lot outside a club near the base. That meeting lead to a first date, then three years later they were united in marriage.
They traveled the world together. Their last assignment landed them at Andrews AFB in Maryland. It was there the groundwork began.
Andrews AFB One Flesh Couples Ministry
Being members of the Andrews AFB Gospel Service, they were asked to help with the Marriage Ministry. There were two couples who presided over the ministry when the Olivers became involved as lay leaders. God moved both men who were overseeing the ministry to go on deployments. This cleared the way for the chaplain of the service to ask the Olivers to oversee the ministry temporarily. Temporarily turned into eight years!
Under their watch, Rev. Gordon and Rev. Marilyn took the “Dessert Ministry” to another level. They began teaching monthly Bible Study, started having annual retreats, created lunch cruises and Valentine’s Day dinners for couples.
It Takes Three Marriage Ministries
In 2006, The Lord tugged at the hearts of the Olivers where they no longer wanted their ministry to be limited to one church. They felt led to break down the walls of a church and be able to minister to anyone, anywhere in the world. It was that moment that created, It Takes Three Marriage Ministries.
In reflection, Rev. Gordon said, “We always wanted to do a ministry together. We didn’t realize that helping marriages would be our ministry. We felt the call to share God’s word with those seeking His help in their marriage.” Rev. Marilyn added, “It Takes Three gave us the opportunity to do this without being limited to a church or denomination. We would be Holy Spirit Led and Holy Bible Fed.”
Rev. Gordon said, “Marriages are under attack, not just in a single church but all across this nation and the world.” He also went on to say God led them to go and teach and be an example of what He can do. “After much prayer, God gave us the name of the ministry along with a vision and mission statement. We met our graphic designer, who also created our website, and everything took off!”
It Takes Three Marriage Ministries kicked off a Gala event at Martin Crosswinds in August 2007. Since then the Olivers have helped hundreds of couples stay on course with their marriage.
It Takes Three’s foundational scripture is: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 New International Version (NIV)
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
As Rev. Marilyn strongly says, “It Takes Three; God, a husband, and a wife. When the three stand firmly in place and serving God, they can’t go wrong.”
Christian Divorce Rates
At this point I asked the Olivers about the success rate of Christian marriages. I read this passage to them: “Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced.” (Taken from Focus on Family)
Rev. Gordon agreed, “You have to do something on a consistent basis. If you don’t go to church, you’re less likely to succeed. Those that are consistent and persistent in doing the things that we teach them, (i.e., going to church, Sunday school, Bible study and other church-related events) will be successful. Some treat church like a hospital or doctor, they only come when there’s a serious problem. It’s easier to put a bandage on a minor problem rather than perform open heart surgery when things are really bad.”
Rev. Marilyn added, “You can’t be in the presence of God and not be changed. Praying together as a couple is one of the most important things in a marriage. Marriage is about commitment, compromise, and sacrifice. You can’t go into a marriage with a single mentality. You have to go into it with a mindset of being one; one with God and one with each other.”
It Takes Three Monthly Bible Study
It Takes Three has a Bible study each month. The Olivers had changed the Bible study from the traditional format to a new version. Their goal is to make it a date night and have fun but most of all, learn how to improve their marriage. One couple, Cliff and Rose Mason, said, “It Takes Three Marriage Ministries saved our marriage. The Bible studies are a MUST!” Another young couple, Eric and Petrea Simpson, married three years, often thank It Takes Three for saving their marriage. The biggest lesson the two of them received was knowing they were not alone. Petrea says “Watching men love their wives and wives respecting their husbands garnered a new level of understanding for us.”
Rev. Gordon says they talk about everything, sex, romance, finance, communication, conflict resolution, children, blended families; any subject that a married couple can go through. They leave nothing to chance. Rev. Gordon firmly added, “If we don’t cover it then we’re leaving it in the darkness where the enemy, the Devil, can use it against them. If we bring it into the light and Jesus is the light of the world, we leave nothing for the Devil to use against you. We believe in keeping it real. We make ourselves transparent. People don’t understand, we’re under attack as well. We are not afraid to share some of the issues we go through, then we teach the couples how we got out of it. We apply our own principles and teachings to our marriage. We stress to couples that we haven’t just been married for 35 years, we’ve been happily married for 35 years.”
Switching gears, Rev. Gordon stated, “One of the most important relationships in your marital relationship is your individual relationship with Jesus Christ.” He went on to add this scripture from Matthew 6:33. It says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Rev. Gordon said, “Seek God first and your marriage will be given to you as well. In all things seek God first.”
Challenges Facing Couples Today
When asked about challenges facing married couples today, Rev. Gordon quickly pointed to communication. Although he added that finances are still a big problem, communication is right up there at the top. Married couples today have to contend with the age of social media, texting, email, etc. This breaks down communication. Problems are aired online rather than to each other.
Rev. Marilyn added, “A lot of couples have communication issues because they have forgotten how to date each other. When they were dating they were creative in spending time together and making sure it was just about the two of them.”
Rev. Gordon said, “This is one of the main reasons we started the special Valentine’s Day and Night to Remember event. This gives couples a chance to go out on a date alone, away from distraction. During this event they can learn about marriage and enjoy dinner and dancing with like-minded couples.”
Rev. Gordon is concerned with the world redefining marriage. Today’s couples are choosing to live together, to test drive the relationship without the commitment
of marriage. It’s then that they are faced with the problems of marriage without the commitment of marriage.
However, It Takes Three doesn’t shy away from these couples. If they want to come to Bible study or an It Takes Three event, they will allow them to attend. However, the Olivers will not compromise being who they are and that is vibrant servants of the Lord or what It Takes Three stands for.
“Seek God first and your marriage will be given to you…”