An Interview with Steve and Rhonda Stoppe

Steve and Rhonda sat down to talk about their new book, Marriage Mentor. 

Q: Do you ever quit growing and learning in marriage?

Allow me to answer this with a quote from Steve in The Marriage Mentor:

“Rhonda and I have discovered that the key to a happy marriage is found in spiritual growth. And I know the same will be true for you and your marriage.

“When I use the phrase spiritual growth, please understand I am not encouraging you to be more religious. Jesus urged His followers to love the Lord with all of their being (Mark 12:30). When your love for God becomes the single most important goal of your life, then prayer, Bible reading, walking in obedience to His Word, and loving your spouse will all become natural outpourings of your love for Christ.

“As you devote yourself to spiritual growth, you’ll find lasting joy because you will learn to think biblically about your marriage relationship and life’s circumstances… The result will be for your blessing and God’s glory, and your marriage will shine as a bright light of hope to a generation who desperately needs to know that following Christ is the only answer to all of life’s problems—and the source of a happy marriage.”

Q: This is your husband, Steve’s first official book with a byline. How did he contribute to The Marriage Mentor?

From Steve’s experience as a pastor and biblical counselor, he contributed amazing wisdom and insights to guide couples toward building the type of marriage they long for. In the over three decades that Steve has met with husbands and wives, he has heard their deepest longings and disappointments in their marriages. So, he does a great job addressing these issues in the book.

Steve has watched what God can accomplish in any couple willing to let Him transform their marriage, so he believes in the principles laid out in The Marriage Mentor. From Steve’s contribution readers will find hope that they too can have the marriage they’ve always dreamed of.

Although Steve prefers to mentor face to face, he rolled up his sleeves and did an amazing job co-authoring The Marriage Mentor. Because Steve is a “guy’s-guy,” men relate well to his easy-to-read and honest writing style. At one point in the book he tells the men, “I get it, you’re not a reader. Well, I’m not a writer, but I’m doing this for you. I care about your marriage and I think you care about it too. So, let’s go through this together.”

Steve also wrote, “After a game, a good coach will have his players watch replays of the game—instructing them to evaluate their performance. This process is effective in coaching and is also an important practice for any man who wants to better himself as a husband, father and man of God.”

Q: How is the book divided for male and female readers? Is it ok for both husband and wife to read the entire book?

The book is divided up into sections for the wives to read and another for the husbands to read. Steve cleverly put in gray boxes the short sections for husbands, so the men will clearly see the portions of the book written specifically for them. And I got to jump in and write my own short insight to the husbands. Steve also wrote a section for wives, to help them see from their husband’s perspective.

The idea of the book is to make the readers feel like they’re just hanging out with an older couple who is devoted to helping them become the couple they long to be. We hear from lots of couples who are reading the whole book together and are really enjoying it.

Q: As parents, what should you make sure your children understand about marriage as they grow up?

Talk about a mentoring moment. Parenting is made up of so many opportunities to mentor our own children. Ask God daily to give you His wisdom to guide their little hearts toward Christ and His purpose for their lives. Our culture tends to influence our kids to believe that our happiness and worth lies in how well we are loved by Prince (or Princess) Charming. Every happily-ever-after fairytale drives home this point. Watch cartoons with your kids to teach them to think about how the story measures against a biblical worldview.

True happiness does not lie in how special your spouse makes you feel, rather it lies in finding your worth in the love of Almighty God who created you for His pleasure. Help your kids see that God demonstrated His deep love for them by sending His precious Son to rescue them from their sin, to capture their hearts for Himself and His Kingdom purpose for their lives.

Jesus said the student will become “like his teacher” (see Luke 6:40). So, if you learn to find your own worth in God’s great love for you, and you let your spouse off the hook when they’re not making you feel valued, by your example, your kids can learn the secret to happiness in marriage.

Q: What are some of the most common issues young couples that you mentor face?

For couples, young and old, unmet expectations are one of the main issues that undermine the fiber of a relationship. When mentoring a young couple, you have the privilege of helping them learn, before it becomes a bad habit, not to go down the road of dwelling on ways their spouse disappointments them.

Falling in love is all in your mind and staying in love is too. When your relationship was new, you likely dwelt on all the wonderful attributes of your love. The trouble comes when a couple stops intentionally thinking good thoughts about their spouse.

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Steve advises, “Think about what you think about.” In Philippians 4, you’ll find the secret to peace lies in the practice of thinking on whatever is good, right, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, praiseworthy and excellent. Notice the Apostle Paul said to “practice” these things? That’s because, for most of us, dwelling on someone’s good qualities isn’t our default. But with God’s help you can take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and ask Him to help you replace “stinkin’ thinkin’” with loving thoughts toward your spouse. And your thoughts will instruct your heart how to feel.

Decide daily to enjoy your spouse. Some of the best marriages are enjoyed by couples who make the time and effort to playfully delight one another.

Q: What do you and Steve hope readers will learn from reading The Marriage Mentor?

Steve closes the book with this charge: Life goes through seasons, some happy, some sad, and some just really hard. But realize that this is life for all of us. Determine, with God’s help, to draw near to Christ and one another amidst life’s triumphs and trials. Even when you’re in a season of status quo, don’t forget to live with your sights on Christ and eternity. This focus will not only get you through, but it will help you live above life’s circumstances to find true joy and peace in your marriage and in all aspects of life.

Steve and I recently had the honor of meeting Dr. James Dobson. For 40 years his ministry has mentored countless marriages. When Dr. Dobson asked Steve, “After three decades in ministry what’s the one thing that weighs most on your heart?”

Steve’s eyes welled with tears as he replied, “I want to finish well.”

Dr. Dobson reached over and grasped Steve’s arm and tearfully responded, “Me too… me too.”

No matter what season of life you’re in or what you’ve accomplished in the past, realize the importance of living with the unwavering resolve to finish well. This generation needs the hope of the gospel and godly mentors to guide them toward lives well lived. If you’ve been married for a number of years, it’s time to strengthen your marriage so you are ready to mentor other couples toward marriages that honor Christ.

I’m so thankful for the older couples God brought to mentor me and Steve. Seeing them live out their love gave us hope that we too could grow more in love with each passing year. Through mentorship, they passed the baton to us, and now we are passing it on to the next generation. Soli deo gloria!

Q: What online resources are available to go along with the book?

This book is an interactive resource for couples. It can also be used as a small group study. On my website, readers can find audio links of me teaching the wives. There are also videos of Steve and I sharing the high points of each chapter.

We’ve written a bonus chapter on finances that we are offering free for a limited time to anyone who signs up for our newsletter and lets us know they read the article.

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