Ministry and Marriage

Several weeks ago, the professors of my "Leading the Church in Effective Ministry" class brought in a panel of pastors to discuss leadership development and staff relationships with our class. In my four years at DTS this is the first class to focus solely on practical issues in ministry. I've been saturated with theology, history, Bible, and languages. I could diagram the Gospel of John in Greek, but couldn't perform a wedding, would drown the first person I tried to baptize, and would probably wear a baseball cap to the first funeral I performed. Okay, maybe that's a stretch.

Suffice it to say that this class has been a fresh air - the light at the end of the tunnel for me. We hear from pastors and ministry leaders on a regular basis who attempt to tie the theoretical with the practical so the pastors we send out on the field aren't simply educated fools.

One of the pastors on the panel on leadership development in this particular class was Gary Brandenburg, the new Senior Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church Dallas. I was so impressed with the things he had to say I offered to buy him lunch.

I bribe pastors and professors like this from time to time. They get a free lunch, and I get to pepper them with questions. It's a win-win situation.

Gary is a tremendous conversationalist, and one of those people who has tremendous insight on almost any topic you bring up. But the best came when I asked him about ministry transitions. My exact question went like this: "Gary, you've just made a transition into a church where the former Senior Pastor still attends, who built this church around his philosophy and vision for ministry. As the new senior pastor trying to build your own philosophy and vision into the ministry, how do you find the right balance between moving too slow and not moving at all."

He didn't miss a beat. "Chris, learn how to love your wife."


I guess I must have betrayed my ignorance, because he went on to explain something that I thought was pretty profound. You see, there isn't an exhaustive checklist for how to love your wife. If someone tells you they can give you ten steps for how to love your wife, they're lying. They could give you ten steps toward better communication, but you can communicate until you're blue in the face and still not love your wife. It takes communication, but it also takes intuition, wisdom, foresight, experience, and a host of other things.

As a young husband learning to love my wife, I'm using a majority of the skills I'll need to learn to love a church. There aren't ten steps to being an effective young pastor (or an effective old pastor for that matter). You can't run down a checklist, or check a gauge, or read a book. Those things may be helpful in an area, but they're certainly not exhaustive.

I thought about his words a lot last night. They make a lot of sense. And I think the parallel goes even further. The skills I'm learning in marriage won't just help me in the first years of ministry - they'll help me throughout ministry. Maybe that's why Paul made it essential for Christian leaders to be those who "manage their households well" (1 Tim. 3:4).

Sometimes I've felt like I'm spinning my wheels in ministry, like my hands are tied. I can't be leading a staff right now. I can't preach on Sunday mornings. So many of the things I need to know to be effective are learned by experience, but I haven't felt like I'm in a place where I can get that.

But I am.

Learn how to love your wife. I can do that.