(This post was originally published on the LifeWay Pastors’ blog on July 18, 2018. You can find it here.)
The days leading up to our church planting journey are a golden haze in my memory. As soon as we experienced the first missional pull six years ago, my husband and I consumed absurd quantities of Dr. Pepper and scrambled for every pertinent book, article, and podcast in Christendom. Despite the caffeine-induced fog, one sentiment jumped out from the masses of content and wrapped itself tightly around my heart. It hasn’t budged since. In a session on marriage and missions, the trainer asked a group of hopeful church planters, “Men, who’s your pastor?” He waited. Crickets. His answer knocked the wind out of me.
Wait, what? I must have skipped over that in my job description.
“Your wife is the one who will be praying for you, loving you, encouraging you, holding you accountable, and serving as your sounding board. She’s essentially your pastor.” Well, huh. The more I thought about it, the truer it rang, and it’s still there, ringing, shaping the way I do life in ministry and the way I work with other church planting wives in New England.
Owning my call to pastor the pastor carries both liberty and gravity to my daily rhythms. I’m now free to invest internally without guilt and to see myself as a valuable asset without pride. Being spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically healthy directly impacts how well I’m able to minister to my husband, so cooperating with the Spirit in cultivating my inner world is a matter not of vanity but of responsible stewardship. As I grow in knowledge and application of the gospel, I’m becoming a better source of provision for the man in the pulpit.
I find myself free to say no to other church ministries that I’m not gifted for or called to because I have a very valid ministry that I am gifted for and called to, and he lives in my house. No one can pray for, love on, and encourage my husband to the extent that I can. No one is meant to.* There’s also freedom in how varied this pastoring endeavor can look—it’s a unique task for each of us, as many ways to love a husband in ministry as there are husbands in ministry, and we can cheer one another on as we live out the beauty of the gospel in a thousand different ways.
So, yes, this newfound assignment is liberating, but at the same time, it conveys a significant amount of weight. Suddenly everything I do either contributes to or hinders my ability to minister. The world is transformed into a seminary classroom, each moment a chance to expand my pastoral skill set. All dimensions of life brim with purpose. Reading a good book is no longer simply a leisure activity; it’s now a holy work of professional development. Every drawer I clean or dollar I bring home is a priestly offering. Those spots in my rug worn out with knee marks might be the most vital ministry in my church, and most people will never even notice.
Pastoring the pastor is a precious, intense, crucial undertaking. If we don’t listen to our husbands well and offer sound feedback, if we don’t love them deeply, if we don’t gird up our loins and do mighty battle for them through prayer, if we don’t pour ourselves like nobody’s business into them, we’ve neglected our main ministry. Grace waits even here, sisters, but what a tragedy to have missed out on God’s good work for us!
There is such glory in this invitation. Hear me, brave girls. We weren’t called to a church; we were called to our husbands, and that’s a sacred task only we can hold. Let’s sink deep into it and fulfill it with the fiercest joy imaginable.
NOTE: After six years in Connecticut, I wouldn’t go so far as to say a woman should be her husband’s only pastor. Men need other men encouraging them and holding them accountable, shepherding their hearts as only brothers can. But we ministry wives are an essential aspect of our husbands’ overall pastoral team, the ones with the closest bond, the clearest vantage point, and the most vested interest.
*I’m speaking purely of people here. Of course the Lord is our Chief Shepherd and fulfills these needs perfectly for all of His sheep, pastors included. But on a human level, God has wired me specifically to be a means of grace to my husband as only I can be.