A long, long time ago, I can still remember … how that “ministry” used to make me smile??
Recognize the lyrics I altered just a tad?
Now, that you’ve got the lovely ear-worm, American Pie, running through your mind, allow me to tell you what I really felt in those early ministry days.
My hope is that it might open your eyes a bit, especially if you are a young couple entering the ministry. Especially if you’re church planters who are currently discouraged by the daunting nature of your calling and task.
But even if you’re not either of those things, I hope this post will give you a peek behind the curtain. Not to be nosy, but so you will have compassion on young pastors, wives, and their families.
Ministry takes a lot out of a couple personally, relationally, and sometimes even spiritually!
Let’s hold them up in prayer!
As I’ve looked back on the early days of my marriage and ministry with my husband, I’ve often wondered which came first? Is it a …
Messy marriage, therefore, a messy ministry?
Messy ministry, therefore, a messy marriage?
In my household, it’s been both/and. Sometimes the messiness of my marriage made our ministry messier. And sometimes the messiness of our ministry made our marriage messier.
So, first, let me consider how our marriage made the ministry messier …
When my husband and I were young, church planters, there were quite a few times when we got into an argument in the middle of our small group Bible studies hosted in our home. Talk about making everyone feel awkward, wishing they could slink out our door!
Then there were the times when a fight had just occurred before our church members came to our door. You guessed it! Often fighting because they were coming to the door. Still, we felt the need to plaster smiles on our faces while seething underneath as we ministered to them in various ways.
Might have been one reason why we got into those arguments in the “middle” of a Bible study. Ding! Ding! Ding!
As shoestring-budget church planters, my husband’s office was in our basement beneath our kitchen. This made it especially hard for him to conduct any ministry business down there, whether on the phone or in person. That’s because it just so happened to be where our toddlers (at the time) loved to shout, run, and ride their scooters happily (obliviously) above.
You guessed it—more angles for us to argue over! UGH!
Now to how the ministry made the marriage messier …
As young church planters, we felt the stress of barely scraping by on my husband’s meager salary. Naturally, that gave us plenty of exciting, new topics to argue discuss when it was time to pay the bills.
Add to that, our fledgling church often required long, on-call hours, keeping our doors open to just about every need. Boundaries, shm-oundries!
Sometimes a church plant starts off with disgruntled people from other churches. That was our situation, allowing us to be surrounded by many who wanted to pick apart what we were doing … many who saw our youth and newness to ministry as a golden opportunity for
criticizing guiding us.
Ironically, those same church members (you know, the “wise ones”) often expected us to know how to do something God-sized with our little bit of seminary knowledge youthful hopefulness.
Sadly, I also remember a time when my husband and I were the targets of back-biting and gossip. At such a young, tender stage of life and ministry, their words stung like a dagger in our hearts. I’m almost certain it drew us toward unhealthy and messy ministry situations years later since those situations and people felt familiar. Different faces but the same dispositions and dysfunctions.
I also know why these unhealthy dynamics continued to repeat in different churches and it wasn’t just because of those who felt familiar. These dynamics revealed the toxic baggage we inadvertently were dragging from ministry to ministry.
Of course, I was recently reminded of those hard times (that, thankfully, are much better now in the ministry we enjoy today) when the anonymous writer spoke of her own messy marriage and ministry difficulties last week.
Ministry requires a lot from a couple—especially a young couple that’s just trying to figure out marriage much less ministry.
And let’s not forget how Satan wants to destroy anything of any power in the kingdom of God.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
I say all this for those of you who are on the front lines and in the trenches of ministry. Please, know that you are not crazy, or weird, or failures! And most importantly, you are … not alone. 😉
Would all of you join me today in thanking your ministers and their wives for all that they put up with and do? Please make a point to pray for them, especially the young ones, as they battle the unceasing demands of being in a messy ministry and/or a messy marriage (not to mention being young, inexperienced parents).
“The elders [pastors] who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV emphasis mine)
Our first day of planting a church was Easter 1992. We met at a nearby school for services and then our hosted our small group in our home.
How can you relate?
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