In my last blog I began talking about ministry marriages and how to nurture them. A couple can have a much more effective ministry by working together as a team than by each going their separate ways. Building that harmony into a marriage isn’t always easy, but good harmony will bless everyone around them.
Scripture pictures marriage as being like two oxen yoked together. The man and wife should be moving in the same direction at the same pace for the same purpose. This need for unity is especially important in a ministry marriage. If a couple is not united in purpose and are going separate directions, their ministry will suffer.
Have you ever met a passionate, gifted pastor with a wife who wished she could be someplace else? Doesn’t work very well, does it? Or maybe you’ve met a woman who longed to be in ministry and was trying to drag her husband along with her. God doesn’t lead a couple together and then give them mutually exclusive ministries.
Wives can help their husbands by supporting their ministries and working alongside them to see those ministries thrive. Husbands can help their wives by recognizing their gifts and encouraging them to use them.
More than forty years ago Art Brammer felt the Lord calling him to a missions ministry in Taiwan. He was training for ministry at Faith Baptist Bible College. I was attending the same college, eager to be involved in ministry and searching for God’s will. Two weeks after we started dating, Art told me about his desire to be a missionary to Taiwan and wondered if I would be open to the possibility. I told him I felt God was leading me to write for Christian publication, but I was also open to missions. The Lord led us together in marriage, then to Taiwan for sixteen years, then on to New Zealand in 1998.
Unity of purpose has helped us to work well together in various times of ministry. We both cared about the same people and ministries, though we had different jobs within those ministries.
Here are some ways I support Art in his ministry:
- Support and encourage his teaching ministry and ideas, both privately and publicly.
- Give feedback in a positive way. At times Art says something from the pulpit that comes out sounding like he means something different than I know he does. At times like that I mention it to him in private and allow him to correct it as he sees fit. I also try to get a sense of how people are responding to various ideas or events in the church and communicate that to him privately. Are we having enough or too many fellowship nights? Are people ready to make various changes? Who might be ready to fill a certain church office? Is a church member struggling with something?
- Offer suggestions for programs or events in the church. Art is a great plodder. He never grows weary of studying and he prepares well for all of his teaching and preaching times throughout the week. It’s easier for me, however, to come up with ideas for outreaches, programs, and events in our church. When I think of a new idea I run it past him. Sometimes these ideas don’t fly, but often, in talking about the idea, we come up with something that works well. Art doesn’t resent my ideas. He welcomes them, though he doesn’t use all of them.
- Complement his ministry with my ministry. I teach, plan, play the piano, lead programs, and do what I can do to help our team ministry prosper.
But Art also supports me in my ministry.
- He recognizes my gifts and encourages me to use them.
Yes, he’s happy for me to use my gifts in our church-planting ministry, but throughout all these years he has also encouraged me to write for Christian publication. This takes time, energy, sometimes finances, which I have to carve out of my life in addition to church ministry. He encourages me to do this because he wants me to be happy and because he recognizes the Lord leading me to do these things.
- He gives me feedback about my church ministry and my writing ministry. He gives suggestions and help. He’s my first editor.
- He helps me in areas of need. He works through computer problems and handles my writing finances. He encourages me to go to writing conferences when I can, and order helpful books or resources. When I plan events at church he’s the first to help me set up or clean up. When I plan a book launch he’s the quiet helper who makes everything work.
When a husband and wife work together in accordance with God’s will, ministry becomes more effective and rewarding. The hard times become more bearable. Without that unity of purpose, however, the ministry suffers and the marriage does too. Even when a couple is serving in separate ministries, they can support each other in a way that makes them stronger in each individual ministry.
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6 (NKJV)
In Part Three I’ll talk about nurturing your relationship.