Marriage & Ministry

Marriage Hands[Editor’s Note: One very important aspect of ministry is actually marriage.  From time to time, my wife will offer her thoughts on marriage and ministry.  She is a thoughtful writer and a wonderful wife.  Welcome Jess.]

Often people in our church circles, or students in our ministry will introduce me to their friends by saying something like, “And this is Jess, our youth pastor’s wife.”

This always sounds funny to me- I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps because it sounds so formal, like a title. It makes me feel like I should be wearing a name tag or flashing my official youth pastor’s wife badge. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the role that it describes. I am my husband’s wife (which I LOVE!), and yes he is a youth pastor. I enjoy being involved in student ministry as much as I possibly can with two young children at home. Sometimes I even feel like his job is as much mine as it is his, only I don’t have to do all the work (wink). We choose to approach ministry, (as well as everything else in life) as a team. We even try to include our kids whenever possible. So if doing ministry alongside my husband is so much fun and is absolutely rewarding, why does the title “pastor’s wife” feel so awkward? I believe it is because it conjures up a particular kind of person in my head, and even worse, I worry if it conjures up a particular kind of person in someone else’s mind. I don’t want to be “a pastor’s wife” I just want to be me.

This leads me to my two contradicting points that I can share not by any means as a seasoned expert, but simply as me.

To be the wife of a pastor you must be yourself.
To be the wife of a pastor you must not be yourself.

Ok, I’ve probably lost you. But stick with me. What I mean is, you have to be yourself. Not what you think you should be. Not what others think you should be. Not what you think others think that you should be…see how messy that gets? You are designed by God to be you. No one else in the whole world can be you. Whether you are involved heavily in your husband’s pastoral ministry, or whether you are a behind-the-scenes kind of gal, or whether you are a welcoming embrace to him when he comes home. You are your husband’s wife, and no one else can be that for him. Note how I changed the title from “pastor’s wife” to “wife of a pastor.” You must have your priorities straight. You are not a pastor’s wife, you are God’s ordained lifetime helper to your husband who has been called into ministry. God has created you to fulfill this role in a way that is unique to your gifts, your calling, your season in life, your personality, your humor, your spiritual journey, your role as a mother, and the list goes on…
How refreshing that you don’t have to fit a mold. You don’t have to be someone else’s idea of a pastor’s wife; you can just be you. Oh but wait, sometimes being me is not that great. I’m a mess. More specifically I mess up, a lot. I am mean, prideful, lazy, forgetful, unloving…sigh. No, just being me is not enough. If it were just up to me mustering enough kindness, patience, and self-control together to be a good wife I can tell you that the end of that story is not going to be good. I am a sinner. I am nothing without Jesus. To make matters worse, I have opposition. There is someone out there who wants me to fail. He wants my marriage to fail, and he wants my husband’s ministry to fail. Satan is a real enemy. I must be on my guard, constantly fighting attack, not on my own strength, but God’s. I must rest in His embrace, hide in the shadow of His wings, yielding entirely to God’s spirit living in me. When I die to myself, only then can I be used for His glory. Only then can I glorify him with my life, with my marriage. Only then can I be effective in His ministry to the world. When I choose to be myself, as God has created me to be, and when I practice daily abandonment of myself, then I am…well…just me, as best as I can be.

I Will Make You

fishing boat
Photo Credit: bjhornemann

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  (Matthew 4:19)

Thank God.
Left to myself, it wouldn’t look good. There is not much in me that is naturally disposed to the work of God. I’m selfish.  I’m not real magnetic. I’m a bit moody. I have bad days. As for evangelism, I can be pretty introverted. But this verse gives me great hope. It gives me great joy. If I follow Jesus, he can make me into what I need to be. Fewww!

Thank you, God.

For so long, I’ve thought of successful ministry as some magical douse certain people receive, some special x-factor certain people possess. Or perhaps, ministry hinges on strategy and technique. But this verse starts me somewhere else.
This verse starts with bumbling fishermen in some hick town.  The fact that Jesus says he will make them fishers of men tells me everything I need to know. It tells me they are decidedly not fishers of men. They’re just fishermen. It tells me the key to ministry isn’t in where you start but where you go, and where you go is determined by who you follow. And now we’re back…

If I follow Jesus, he can make me into his worker, and that’s good news for a guy like me.  Amen.