Whenever two type-A personalities combine in a marriage, as well as in a ministry, the results can often be catastrophic. Most ministry couples will tell you it’s far too easy for a couple serving together in ministry to allow their passion and drive to blur the lines between building a church and raising a family.
As pastors of Celebration Church, a church we planted together nearly 13 years ago in Austin, Texas, there’s one thing my wife, Lori, and I know for sure: You cannot fake a great marriage!
Marriage requires consistent investment, cultivation, intentionality, selflessness and, of course, God’s intervention! This truth rang loud and clear in the early stages of planting our church. Because we couldn’t afford office space, we made the decision to office out of the only place we could: our master bedroom.
Big mistake, right? At first, it had its advantages. We never had to deal with Austin traffic! But as we soon discovered, the most intimate space in our home always reminded of us of our work instead of each other.
I’ll never forget one evening when, after putting our three boys to bed, I was, shall we say, “in the mood.” Thinking that Lori would be too, I simply said, “Come to bed, honey.”
Her response to me clearly indicated we needed to make some adjustments in our marriage and approach to ministry. “I’ve got to finish what I’m working on! We have a printing deadline, you know!” she answered back.
It wasn’t the first time one or both of us had allowed our marriage to be set aside, but this evening was the last straw for both of us. We had to acknowledge that our marriage demanded and deserved our best energy, passion and protection, both individually and as a couple.
The following are three simple truths that have helped our marriage thrive over the years, despite all the opposing forces that serving together can bring:
1) We have to commit to keep our connection. While serving in ministry together, we must make a commitment to always keep our romantic feelings for each other alive. You know, the ones we had before all of the church budgets and board meetings! Regular dates, whether day or night, must remain a necessity. Do not confuse eating, sleeping and working together as actually spending time together. Keep your connection as unified as possible.
2) We are co-laborers, not competitors. Learn to celebrate the complementary gifts God has given one. When our church first began, it was Lori who would knock on doors and invite neighbors (and strangers) to our house to share the vision God had given us. Not me. I never wanted to do it, but she kept pushing me. And through the years, as Lori became more of a behind-the-scenes organizer, it was then me who was pushing her to use her gifts as a communicator and worship leader. And although she never wanted to do it, she loves it now! We have become each other’s biggest cheerleaders, simply because we empower each other.
3) We are indivisible! As couples in ministry, we can have strong individual opinions about a variety of things. But it’s imperative that we have an even stronger resolve to always be quick to forgive. There’s no place for low blows. Fighting fair is when you can learn to love and respect each other, as God has demonstrated to us all.
Today, I challenge you and your spouse to pause and ask each other the following questions:
Are our priorities in order?
Are we spending too much time with church matters?
Is there still romance in our marriage?
How are we encouraging and supporting each other in our individual roles?
Joe Champion is the senior pastor and co-founder of Celebration Church in Texas—a multisite church in Austin. He constantly seeks ways to combine efforts to make a positive impact in the local church, in Austin and in the world. Visit his blog at joechampion.com to learn more.