Having recently celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary with his high school sweetheart, Pastor Mark Gungor knows a thing or two about marriage. In 2003 he founded Laugh your Way America, to share his unique perspective with struggling couples, through Biblical teaching and humour. Vision radio spoke with him to ask what marriage is really about.
Mark Gungor started leading couples’ seminars at his local church because nobody else wanted to. He was immediately popular, and has been ever since, selling out events and in high demand all over the world. “Truth is, to this day I’m still totally shocked that so many people come to this thing,” he said. “Certainly the approach that God has given me works for people.”
His “Laugh your way to a better marriage” seminars have now spawned a radio and TV show, books and DVDs. But what is it that is so unusual about his approach? Pastor Gungor contends that many of the ideas we have about how marriage should work are wrong. “The problem is we tend to over-spiritualise it, and the secular world over-romanticises it, when the truth is, relationships are very down to Earth. It’s not that complicated. It’s not easy, but it’s not complicated.”
Pastor Gungor says that the idea that everyone has a perfect soulmate destined for them is ridiculous, since only one person would have to pick the wrong partner to break the whole system. He believes, instead, that marriage can work between any two people if they are willing to base it on faith. As the Laugh your Way website puts it, “marriage is not about finding the right person, but about doing the right things.”
“The Bible says ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick’. A lot of people are heartsick because they have hopes that are based, quite frankly, in nonsense. And it’s not based in reality. And we’re trying to get people to readjust their expectations, and understand what marriage is really about. And it’s about building a life together.”
The other remarkable thing about Gungor’s approach is the way in which he uses humour as a tool. Many men are less comfortable in marriage seminars than women, because of the heaviness of content, and the awkwardness of group activities. But Gungor uses laughter to help break the ice, and avoids the kinds of interaction which men tend to find difficult. “I call this a perfect seminar for men, because they don’t have to do anything. Just laugh, listen, and learn.”
In the first part of his seminar, “a tale of two brains”, Mark Gungor talks about the differences between men and women. He says that men tent to compartmentalise their thoughts, making their brains into a series of boxes, where as women tend to connect their thoughts, resulting in a ball of tangled wires. Most seminars, he says, try to explain women’s thought processes to men, but he believes this is “an exercise in futility”.
“What I try to do is get most women to understand men. I explain the world of men to women. It validates men, it empowers men, and women love it, because now they figure out how they can win, and how they can succeed.”
Pastor Gungor admits that these days it may seem harder than ever to maintain a successful marriage. But he says that if we can set aside false ideals, and live by sound Biblical principles, life together will become much easier. “The sad thing is, a lot of people, honestly, despite their intentions, they don’t know what to do today. Our Western culture is very damaged. People don’t know how to do life. Even our Christian western culture is greatly damaged. And it’s time that we start showing people how to do life, and how to work this out.”