My wife Tammy and I first met while she and her family were missionaries in Germany. I later proposed to her in a little café just outside of Hamburg. Now 27 years later, we’ve been in full-time ministry together the entire time and have five kids. We’ve lived life—and ministry—together.
Just like any other married couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. But I can honestly say that other than my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with my wife continues to be the best part of my life. When others ask for our “secret sauce,” I give the credit to God, to Tammy and to the principles our parents taught and modeled in front of us. Amidst the many demands of ministry and family life, over the years five principles have become especially important in sustaining our relationship. On the next few pages, I share them, prayerfully hoping that these insights can help you make your marriage ministry-proof.
Many years ago I prayed a prayer that has changed me more than any other. It changed my vocation, location, orientation and just about every other “ation” in my life. What was the prayer?
“God, I don’t ask you for much today. I just ask that You give me Your heart for lost people.”
Twenty words. Twenty-one syllables. Seventy letters. One request.
One of the reasons churches get stuck is that they’re unwilling to change. They don’t want to rock the boat. Leaders are afraid. People may leave. People may stop giving.
Over time, the culture becomes reticent to change. The status quo becomes the driving value.
When churches stop changing, people get comfortable. It’s impossible for Christ-followers to get comfortable and be sold-out to Jesus at the same time. Comfort is not the goal.
This is probably obvious, but let me offer this advice: If you want to be in a church that embraces change, you have to begin to make some changes.
Being the wife of a pastor for 40 years has had its share of challenges that thankfully we learned to navigate, especially early in our marriage.
We were 28 years young with two small children when Jimmy accepted the call to lead Trinity, which made for several very difficult years for our marriage and family. I know our struggles are not unique to ministry couples—far from it. So when Jimmy asked me to write for the July-August issue of Ministry Today, I knew I wanted to share some of my own experiences and story in an honest letter to pastors’ wives. (If you’re a pastor reading this, you’ll likely gain some real insight into your wife’s journey.)
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. — Isaiah 11:6
This is a captivating image--a wolf and a lamb, a leopard and goat, a calf and lion. All of them together, sharing one location. But, the most amazing part of all is that a little child will lead them. Not the strong adult. Not the eloquent speaker or elegant host--a little child. Sit and think about that for a while. A little child will lead them.
Why a little child? Wouldn't it be better to have someone with more experience and strength? After all, there are a lot of animals to deal with and guard. How would a little child be able to handle everything? Why a little child?
Children provide something that adults lost long ago: innocence. They aren't tarnished by the criticisms of the world. They delight in the simple things and possess a peace that we can only dream about. They also trust wholeheartedly that they are cared for and loved. There is no doubt. Children are important to God. In Matthew 18:3 we read: "[Jesus] said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.'" In order to enter the kingdom, a person needs to be like a child--pure, innocent, humble, and trusting. Only a little child has the trust and innocence to lead them all.
Take a look at your life. Are you like a little child? Do you humbly trust God for your every need? Are you in a leadership role? How do you lead? Do you lead trusting that people are able to handle tasks? Are you humble enough to admit when you are wrong? Humility is one of the toughest aspects of good leadership. It's hard to admit when we don't know something--we don't want people to think less of us. God tells us to put those fears behind and trust him. Only a true leader will emerge, if she becomes like a child and allows God to use her.
Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t want to be led? The same children that were labeled “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults. Perhaps you know one … perhaps you are one. (I know one personally… me!)
I believe leadership should be individualized for the needs of the follower. Read a similar post here. With that in mind, here are five tips for leading strong-willed people: