Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Standing Fast: A Letter To My Flock

Dear Church Family, 

I know that many of you are looking forward to the July 4th weekend, and in anticipation you may be gearing up to launch some fireworks, eat some hot dogs and hamburgers, wave the flag, light up a sparkler, spend some time with family, and maybe even have some good ‘ol fashioned applied pie. Time with family is valuable and something to which I hold close to my heart.
Unfortunately, with me, there is not much about this weekend to get excited about any more, except to be with you all on Sunday and preach the gospel—for that reason, I live. I need to address something—there is a storm cloud above us—I saw this cloud rising over America years ago, I was forewarned, and yes, years before this current administration. As your pastor, I want to encourage you and give you some advice, which has helped me; clearly this is not exhaustive.
1. God Is Sovereign, Have No Fear.
            God has the last word, not man, not government. We must remember that God is the One who raises up kingdoms and tears them down, for His purpose, plan, and glory. We should not be surprised when unregenerate man finds God’s laws and ways unethical, immoral, or lacking any relativity. Should we be surprised? No, we shouldn’t. I learned years ago that God’s ways are not like humanity’s (Is. 55).  Call me a visionary or whatever you may, but I know what I saw and believe it with it all of my heart—it is comforting to know that God is in control. Times will surely get much, much worse for the church. The body of Christ should be prepared to live counter-cultural. To live [and to love] with conviction, peace, and contentment.
Assuredly, Daniel and his three friends must have thought the world was over when they were taken into captivity, to Babylon. But I bet their fears were subsided a little knowing that prophets had foretold of the doom to come. Daniel, even though he went through many trials and tribulation, endured and did some great things for God. Daniel was steadfast. And now, more than ever in your life, the tides have shifted in a land that you once called home (you are a citizen of heaven)—they will get much worse here, before they get better—I read the Book’s ending. Mark my words. But do not lose hope, do not lose heart, and do not lose love.
            Jesus declared, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:4-7 ESV).
2. Christ Is Eternal
I learned a long time ago that I am great sinner and in need of the masterful and merciful Savior, who is filled with all grace. Likewise, my objective in life, knowing that I fail, is the gospel. I know that I will have good days and bad days, but Christ is eternal, my hope is found in Him. I also know that there is a lost and hurting world out there—much like I was. One which has no idea of the amount of love that my Savior has for them, and yet, this will not sway me from trying to plant more churches, heal more wounds, encourage more people, and stay optimistic about the salvation of Christ.
The gospel is the key. God incarnate came down from heaven, not to condemn the world, but to save it. The gospel not only saves us, but sustains us—it is more than hope, it is eternal. Jesus overcame sin and death and has risen from the dead; this is good news! This means that the resurrected Jesus has not only declared life, but shown us life, with a visible and tangible body. You and I, and all who believe and proclaim the gospel as truth, have eternal life with Him, and will have a resurrected body, some day.
As the Apostle John wrote, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev 21:3-4, 6a ESV). Jesus Christ is eternal.
3. The Church Cannot Be Silenced
            Jesus is the head of the church. The church cannot be silenced because Christ cannot be silenced—for He is Lord and God. Christ, as the head of the church, rules and reigns the cosmos and this earth—He is still in charge. And yet, some Christians are worried about man-made laws, decisions, and opinions. Jesus told Peter and the disciples, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18 ESV).
But let us get one thing clear—culture is not the enemy. People are not the enemy and governing bodies are not the enemy. The enemy is Satan and the wicked forces of evil, which follow him (Eph. 6). However, God more powerful than he. And God is love. We should be reminded that the early church did not have a government that thought kindly of them, and they expanded exponentially. Evil is conquered by love. True love. Man cannot know love without God. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 ESV). We know love because God showed us love.
 One of the best passages concerning love is 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). At weddings, I recite this, not because it’s all warm and fuzzy, but because God is love, and without God there is no love; hence, there is no marriage or unity without God. But, if we love God, we will be diligent to show others that true love—that God did not come to condemn, but to save.
4. The Whole World Is Our Mission Field
            John Wesley, who was removed of his congregation from the Church of England, never allowed it to deter him. He declared, “I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to…” As believers in Christ, our bounden duty is also to talk about Jesus Christ, more specifically, to proclaim the good news to those who are hurting, lost, and desperate. Now more than ever, when the Western world is seeking its own style of love, when it seeks out a bottomless vacuum of void, there will be nothing to fill it, and yet, you and I possess the solution. I pray that we’re there. Now more than ever, God has allowed us to be alive and present on this world stage of events—to proclaim with love and compassion that God heals the broken hearted, saves the lost, and woos the rebelliously prideful back to him. It is by grace that we are saved.
            The early church was filled with drunkards, prostitutes, liars, thieves, homosexuals, fornicators, and idolaters. I see no difference today. There is nothing new under the sun, and “Jesus Christ, [is] the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). The entire first-century gentile church was filled with sinners and somehow, God prevailed—imagine that—the message of the gospel was “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
            So, let us not lose heart and let us not lose focus. Christ is our Shepherd, God is Almighty, and the Holy Spirit is active. Stand fast, church. Hold your ground. We are only sharing in the tribulations of the saints, as Paul proclaimed, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).

With much love…His servant & Yours, Pastor Matt

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Enculturation: Why The Evangelical Church Is Losing Its Soul


I remember being asked a question once, “How do you boil a live frog?” Though it sounded gruesome, I quickly realized that the question was given to me as a riddle. While it’s really difficult to place a lively frog into boiling water, if you place the frog into a pot of tepid water, he will swim around and enjoy it.  All the while you can turn up the heat, slowly cooking the poor unsuspecting amphibian—and he enjoys it.
Within any culture there is a chasm between societal norms and the gospel, but this canyon needs to be crossed. This is where the rubber meets the road concerning the Great Commission (Matt 28:19), the great sending of God. The church is sent out into the world to gather lost, broken, and sinful people. But somewhere along the way, the evangelical church has compromised. Jesus declared, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt 16:26a ESV). I fear, much like the frog, the church is forfeiting its soul, without even noticing it.
Striving For Acceptance
Enculturation; what is it? For some of you, this may be the first time you are hearing of such a term, and you may be thinking, “Please spare me the big ten-dollar words, save them for the theologians, and just spill it…” But while the word enculturation is indeed a big word, it is because of its all-encompassing meaning. Enculturation is defined as “the process whereby an existent, prevailing culture influences an individual or community (e.g., the church) to imbibe its accepted norms and values so the individual or community is pressured to find acceptance within society of that culture.”[1] In layman’s terms: enculturation is when you’re pressured to follow the crowd, the desire to be one of them—also known by teenagers as, extreme peer pressure. This is not to be confused with bullying, or even the emergent church movement, no—not at all. Enculturation is more similar to peer pressure because teenagers have a desire to be the cool kids, they don’t want to be left out of the in-crowd; especially if they’re ridiculed for not following. To validate, just in case you may be asking: what’s the difference between the church wanting to be relevant, or cool and hipster, compared to enculturation? Isn’t that the same thing? Actually, no, it’s not the same thing; enculturation is being pressured to accept society’s norms—the culture prevails by influence. This is not the same as the “when in Rome…” theory, which many emergent churches were attempting, for the sake of sharing the gospel.
Honestly, the church must be different, for so it is called. The cross has always been and always will be offensive (1 Cor 1:18). But so that we understand, a rudimentary analogy may work. Let’s take capitalism, which sometimes is the leadership model for the American evangelical church. In capitalism, a company provides a service, which is desired and does so intentionally to be different from any other. For the most part, this makes businesses successful, when they can maintain consistency, pricing and customer service, along with demand. A business provides a service, which the community needs. When the business does not follow through with providing a good product and service, it files for bankruptcy and dies.
Unfortunately, many evangelical churches believe in this model; that the church is deemed as a business organization and must provide something that society wants. Once again, they believe that the something is the gospel, and to help sell it to the culture, they fall prey of changing it to make it more palatable. And so, they fashion sexual immorality as not applicable, accountability to be non-existent, and the gospel to be either all grace (antinomianism), or Universalist (everyone gets in).
Unfortunately again, sometimes the cross doesn’t taste so good, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. For clarity, I’m not proposing that it’s the evangelical church’s music or liturgical styles that are its downfall; no, it’s specifically the enculturation of the church. The evangelical church is more than on a proverbial slippery slope—those days are behind us—it’s been pressured into acceptance, for when it does not then it’s labeled as intolerant. Anything which is deviant from the societal norm, and the church might as well file for chapter 11, right? Wrong. The church has lost its first love (Rev. 2:4)—its unyielding passion for Christ, its mission to be Christ and use the message of brokenness to reach broken people.
The Mission & Inculturation
Here we go again, another ten-dollar word—inculturation—not to be confused with enculturation. The word inculturation refers to the mission of the church with the gospel; to evangelize a culture by embracing how a society of people communicates, much like contextualizing. Inculturation could possibly be considered the “when in Rome” theory (possibly, depending upon how you view it). But because the church has its identity and mandate in Christ, the church is Rock-solid in its fundamental core; namely, the gospel. The church seeks the lost of all cultures and societies by telling them about Jesus in a way that doesn’t change the gospel, but helps them to understand it’s depth, richness, and truth. When the cross stops pointing out the sin of humanity then the cross is no longer about redemption.
Let’s briefly look at the Great Commission in Acts 1:8. Jesus proclaimed, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Why would Jesus give power to the church? Is it to conform to the world or to reach it? Is it possible that Jesus knew the cultural and societal divides in which the church was about to face? Assuredly it is. I believe Jesus knew the forces of evil, human sin and rebellion, coupled with the pressures of cultures and societies. For this reason He gave the church authority and power to stand strong and be authentic, in Him.
Authentic doesn’t necessarily mean different, but the Spirit of God must move it. There are times when the church needs to reach across its society by using application; to be able to communicate the gospel in such a way as to allow the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and minds of people—to be on mission with God. For example, the Apostle Paul utilized some of the writings of Greek poets in his contextualization of the gospel to those in Athens (Acts 17:22-31).
Inculturation is how the church fulfills the mission of God among different people groups. However, in none of these circumstances does the gospel change, or the identity of the church. This is now at the core of what I believe is causing the evangelical church to lose its soul.
The Loss of the Church’s Identity
It is no secret that Christians believe that God created Adam in the image of God (Gen 1:26). In so doing, God gave Adam dominion and rule of the Garden; he commanded him to subdue the earth and be fruitful (Gen 1:28), to begin and spread a kingdom on earth. To make a long story short, then came along the fall of humanity and sin, so the Word of God became flesh to redeem and reconcile humanity. Jesus, the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45), being crucified for the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14), rose from the dead, was given all authority, and then gave that authority to the church (Matt 28:18-19).
The church exists only in Christ and has its purpose of fulfilling the mission of God as the image of God. As His body on earth, the church’s identity is solely wrapped up in Him, but by enculturation, the church is trying to separate itself from being the image of God; perhaps unknowingly. Rather than possessing Christ’s DNA (2 Cor 5:17), some in Christianity are more worried of being liked, than to be like Christ (Eph 5:1). If in Adam all have sinned (1 Cor 15:22) and have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), then in Christ all of humanity can be reconciled and redeemed, but this is not possible when the church loses its soul and gains the world.
By enculturation the church is losing its soul, which has a catastrophic domino effect: the loss of identity causes the loss of the power of the cross, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the power from Christ. There is no longer any convicting influence from the Holy Spirit (John 16). The church becomes a mere extension of society, a feel-good gathering place of niceties. The church loses the power to confront personal sin. But more importantly, the church loses the power from Christ, which heals the brokenness, serves the poor, loves with compassion, and rescues the rebellious. While the enculturated church may be able to perform some of these duties—they’re not done in the love of Christ, but in self-pride.
Therefore, the gospel will not be good news because there’s never any bad news. A church without Christ’s identity is without Christ; therefore, it’s just an organization, a gathering of people void of the redemptive power and love of Christ. Love is not love is there is no discipline. Enculturation is killing the evangelical church, but unfortunately the church is swimming in tepid water, enjoying itself and oblivious to its demise. This is not about being judgmental, boisterous, or Bible thumping, but about holding on to the uniqueness of Christ—the beauty of the cross is its brokenness to a broken world. The church has only one identity, Jesus Christ—the very image of God. Let us not be like the world, but reach the world. Let us not love the things of the world, but the people within it.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt 16:26a ESV).  These words of Christ were not meant to be a suggestive warning or some type of symbolic format for how Christians view life, but a reality as to the impact of culture and society. Unfortunately, it seems the ears of the church have become desensitized. Even the pop-culture Christian rapper Toby Mac made this verse into a catchy tune; it’s become bumper sticker material, refrigerator Christianese, and anecdotal regurgitation—but it’s also becoming a realism of the church. Enculturation is how the church is losing its soul.




[1] Hastings, Ross. 2012. Missional God, Missional Church: Hope for Re-Evangelizing The West. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 38.

Matthew Fretwell is married, has three daughters, loves Jesus, being a dad, people, and coffee. Besides being an author (Denied Desires; Identity Theft, Sanctificagious, 30:1 Manhood), he’s pastor of a 112 year old revitalized church planting church (Oak Hall Baptist) in Sandston, Virginia, and is the founder of Job 31 Ministries. Matt’s an advocate board member of Living Bread Ministries, a global comprehensive Church Planting organization. He also writes for Church Planter Magazine. 
Twitter: @w84harpazo or Facebook

Thursday, October 16, 2014

3 Insightful Ways for Church Growth


It is my privilege and joy to be a servant of Christ. I have found such great love and witnessed a great fortitude among many within the church that I pastor. Recently, I shared with them the three vital keys to our growth. When I arrived at the church, almost three years ago, there was approximately twenty five active members; today, we are in the midst of an authentic move of God; a true conversion growth, with new members coming forward continually and baptisms. So, one might think this makes me more of an expert—hardly! So, what’s the formula? What’s the new program? Honestly, you’ll never hear or read that from me—as I believe that God innovatively works within each body of Christ to reach each community. However, I will provide the three keys areas that we focused on and continue to focus on, for growth.

Before, I divulge those; let me say that the vision that God gave to me three years ago is terrifyingly precise. I say terrifyingly because there is a love that Christ has for His church—make no mistake that this it is His—in that, He is unyielding with fervor, passion, protection, and strength. As the pastor, I passionately pray for the church universal and the one I serve, especially, as we engage our faith on either the frontlines of casual Christianity or brutal martyrdom. I pray for wisdom repeatedly—to lead with integrity and resolve and to lead by example. Everything we do is methodically and prayerfully conceived, thought out, and done with the aspiration of serving our King—everything that we do has purpose—from the way we worship, the style of worship, to the way our service is conducted and scheduled—these are all sought to honor God, exalt Christ, in the power of the Spirit, to edify the body. There is a vision and there is a mission. With that all being said, I’ll now address the three things, which propel us to move forward.

1. The Gospel:

This is my first love. When I was baptized years ago, the verse which I declared was Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation.” As well, I relate to the Apostle Paul’s words, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel…” (1 Cor 9:16). As the pastor, I am fully dedicated to the gospel—I will not waiver, I will not compromise, I will not sell out to worldly goods, satanic attacks, fleshly pride, prosperity, or coercion. One of my favorite pastors is now the president of the International Mission Board, David Platt; when he gave his last message before the church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, he said, “We don’t have time to waste on games in the church… resist comfortable, casual, cultural Christianity, because that’s not Christianity.” If our focus is on anything more than the gospel transformation through Christ—we’ve missed God’s will for our lives & our mission. Every week, the one constant that comes from the pulpit and is taught is the gospel.

2. Unity in Love:

When I arrived at the church, God gave me a mandate—that mandate was to love a people, but not just any love, a missional and Christ-centered love—to reach the hearts of the congregation and the hearts of the community. And so, I stress, WE MUST BE OF ONE ACCORD (Phil. 2:2)—inseparable—the time has come for the church to engage the faith in trith—we are THAT generation. Our forefathers faced hard times, and our fathers faced difficult times—it is now our time to face up to the challenge and do it in unison. Yet, one thing I know and have experienced, you may agree, churches never grow when there is division more than unity, tradition more than innovation, complacency more than passion, and love of self more than others. And so again, I as the leader, I have promised to defend them unabashedly, for the unity of love in the church, and if I ever see someone being divisive or attempting to cause division, by the power of Christ and the authority of the church, which was given to me, they can rest assured that their under-shepherd will protect the flock. I love them each very deeply and uniquely.

3. Worship in Heart: 

Worship is more than music; it is our walk, our talk…our thoughts. The word worship comes from worthiness or honor—God is rightfully due honor.  But we also honor God with our music. One of the saddest things I have witnessed in churches and assuredly the Lord has seen, is discord within His church due to worship styles—to me, it is an aberration of godliness…it is unacceptable. We have more important issues at hand—namely, the gospel.
When I arrived at the church, three summers ago, the music director and I sought the best possible way to incorporate the old hymns and the new music, for the sole purpose of the gospel, reaching across cultural, generational, and age lines—it was/is not an easy task. The current vision of the church stresses that we humble our hearts and raise our hands to God—for He has put a new song in our heart. We put aside our “comfort zone” with the understanding that church is not about me—it’s about the gospel—it’s about seeing true conversion growth. Our worship must come from the heart—whether from a screen, a hymn book, or something else—if it is not from the heart then it is all lip service—God will not reward lip service. Worship from the heart.

And so, I encourage you now, to love one another, serve one another, reach out to others, and allow the gospel of Christ to transform you. Seek how your church can find the pulse of its community is service, fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) and doing so with one accord. While these three things have proven results for the church I serve, it is not a cookie cutter blueprint. Unity and the gospel however, I would stress are non-negotiables, but they can be expressed in differing ways. Seek how with the wisdom of Christ. If you want to email me any responses or questions, feel free, matt@j31.org

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Communication & Marriage



Over the last several years I have had the privilege of uniting couples in the bond of holy matrimony. Along with that privilege, are the pre-marital counseling sessions, which are attached to the previous months before they tie the knot—these sessions are imperative, and I won’t perform a wedding without them.  There are numerous reasons as to why I demand pre-marital counseling, and you may name some of them; covenant, vows, unity of souls, respect, money, children, etc., etc. But there is one aspect of every marriage that must be addressed to help sustain a long-lasting and healthy bond—that is communication.
I’ve witnessed couples that are blissfully engaged. They’re beaming with joy to sit in the pastor’s office and discuss marriage, dates, and ceremony possibilities. OK, some are not so joyful—some are actually nervous. But my job is to not only make sure that the two are not unevenly yoked (2 Cor 6:14) and understand the noble and big step they are taking, but my desire is to make sure that they can understand one another. Let’s be honest, it seems that women speak a different language than men. This can be a fatal flaw for the marriage—and it’s not that men don’t understand women, it’s that neither party understands, knows how to listen, or how to communicate. I’m going to share a few pieces of advice and one of the best exercises that I invented for helping two individuals communicate as one.
Non-Verbals
Married couples must pick up on the non-verbals; otherwise known as body language. I had one couple in the office regarding their conflict—this was years after marriage (btw, I did not marry them). When I brought up to the husband how the wife was crying out for his affection and attention, the husband denied my claim and declared, “But that’s just it pastor, she doesn’t want to get intimate, she just rolls over in the bed with her back to me.” I said, “No, that IS it—she’s screaming out to you—don’t touch me—there is a huge problem—but you’re not picking up on her body language.”
Body language is so important, and anyone who uses texting or social media understands this all too well—there is no tone, inflection, or gesture to display the real message. I’m the type of guy (sort of typical), that when I get annoyed, I clam up and my wife has to “pry” my emotions open. But I have learned over the years that she knows me so well—she sees the warning flags and I the same with her. When I observe a couple coming into counseling and they sit in separate chairs; one leaning towards the left and the other leans towards the right, with both crossing their arms, I think, “Oh boy, I have my work cut out for me now—Holy Spirit I need your help.” Why? Because they have already told me they’re not going to listen, are butting heads, and have no intention of going forward in humility—all they want is a pastor’s approval for their behavior. Crossed arms usually mean the person is guarding their heart or putting up a defensive wall. Watch for body language—learn what the other is saying or not saying. Observation goes a long way in love.
The Game
OK, I hate to divulge this information, as it is my favorite part of the pre-marital counseling, and those who I counsel may be reading this article. But I invented this game for the sole purpose of helping couples better understand one another. Plus, marriage counseling can be boring, didactic, and cold—I’m a people person and I want the couple to love one another and also to have fun. What I came to realize is not that guys communicate one specific way and that women only speak in one manner, but that each person is very unique (although there are some generalities).
At the end of the first session, I assign homework. I ask each person to go shopping and find three specific items (or use items from home). The three items are as follows: find one item that you believe represents you, one item that you believe represent the other, and one item that you believe represents the way people perceive you. Each person must keep the items hidden until the second session, when they will be revealed (this means you shop alone).
Communication
This game is a great exercise in teaching each person how he or she communicates. For instance, I had one man bring in a teddy bear to represent himself—loveable, dependable, never too harsh, and always willing to give a hug and snuggle—one of the “Oh, how cute,” moments. His spouse-to-be laughed, because she went to his home days before the exercise and hunted for the same teddy bear that he used! This was a good thing—in that both saw the person in the same manner. She, on the other hand, when choosing an item for herself, chose a diamond ring. I turned and looked at the gentleman and said, “Oh boy, you know you’re in trouble, right?” I advised him that she was a complex person, many-faceted (which she gladly agreed), a person who has been crushed previously in her first marriage, but wants you to know that she’s beautiful and has any sides to her personality. All of this from a diamond ring? Yes.
This exercise helped the groom to see that his bride was not going to always want the hugs and snuggles, or to talk things out, or be left alone—this was a complex person and we discussed what communication would like between the two. While I was excited to see them choose the same things for him, I was more excited that we were able to “cut, the problems of guessing, off at the pass.” Each item will inevitably tell the other person how they communicate. A teddy bear shows, “I’m not going to argue and will be passive as much as I can.” I had one woman bring in a chocolate chip cookie to represent her husband-to-be; “He’s hard and crusty on the exterior, but sometimes there’s a morsel of sweetness to be found.” I also had one guy bring in a rubber chicken for the bride—this was not going to go over well, I thought, but she loved it—because she’s a jokester. He knows not to take her sarcasm literally—but then we addressed why sarcasm can hurt. You see, all of these things are just exercises, but married couples must learn to communicate, whether non-verbally, or verbally. Learn how each person says, “I love you.”
Remember the movie, The Princess Bride, as Farm-boy said, “As you wish,” and this meant that he loved her and she understood that. Likewise, your spouse has a language that is to be loved and listened to—take the time to invest in your spouse—in grey areas of your relationship, expose them, develop them, and engage them.