My husband and I are preparing for a trip to South Africa in a few weeks. We will be visiting missionary friends and hopefully determining if that is where God wants us to go next. We are feeling “all the things” that go along with a big life decision!
Because of the situation with my father in law’s cancer, our trip has gotten pushed to the back burner in our minds. Just this week we’ve finally been able to begin to mentally prepare for it. And as the suitcase has been filling, so has my mind been filling with a question that I know the answer to, but I’ve needed to evaluate my heart in, all over again.
“Are we doing this for the Gospel?” I asked my husband as we processed our thoughts out loud, “I mean, of course we are. But really. Why are we spending thousands of dollars on plane tickets to cross the ocean for 20+ hours in a metal tube? Are we as passionate about the Gospel as we should be? Or do we just love ministry? And what about the days when we don’t love ministry? Are we still Gospel-centered?” My husband and I had a really good discussion about this, self checking our hearts as we talked.
It felt good to say some of those things out loud, but it also made me cringe a little. Because I know I’m not alone in this. And it can be a very hard thing for a ministry leader to admit that they really aren’t Gospel-centered. But the truth is….many times we slip away from this focus and we don’t even realize it.
Last week’s bog article evoked many honest replies from pastors’ wives. Some said “I’m a ‘Care Too Much.’ I need God’s help.” Others said, “I’m a ‘Don’t Care.’ I need God’s help.”
Wow. It struck me with awe how identical their conclusions were. Coming from two opposite ends, yet they arrived at the same point. I need God’s help. The one who loves ministry too much? She needs God’s help to remain Gospel-centered so that ministry does not become an all consuming idol, her sole identity, or a whirlwind of people pleasing. The one who doesn’t really want to be in ministry? She needs God’s help to remain Gospel- centered so that she can submit to His will and does not resent her husband’s calling.
So why are you a pastor’s wife, anyway? Just because you married a man who became a pastor? Or because you are passionate about the Gospel? Of course we would all say we are for the Gospel. But how do we know if we are actually living it out, letting it define our motives, change our thinking, dictate our words and actions, drive our parenting? I’ve been asking God to make the Gospel more precious and more real to me, to make me more passionate about Gospel living, to line up my thinking with the Gospel. Here we are, on the brink of full time ministry again.
And loving ministry is just not enough.
When ministry becomes a rote attendance of weekly gatherings, when the drama is profuse and constant and church feels more like a babysitting service for adults, when the meetings are long and loud and carnal and ugly, when ourselves and our husbands are cruelly criticized or falsely accused, when our children see and know more than they should, when we are betrayed by the ones we poured our lives into, when division threatens to dissolve what was once thriving, when all that you worked for disappears, when your sacrifice goes unnoticed, when the enemy’s oppression won’t let up…..yes, ministry becomes very heavy at times, and sometimes it stays that way for months and years.
Where is the Gospel in this? How do we remain motivated by the Gospel when things are bleak? When things go wrong, why are you still a pastor’s wife?
When people are being saved frequently, when church members reach out to us, when your husband’s sermon is praised, when our children are allowed to be normal kids, when special days are remembered and celebrated, when the church is thriving and growing, when people love and appreciate us, when there is good staff unity, when there are more births than deaths, when people we are counseling are improving, when business meetings run smoothly and everyone is in agreement, when there are plenty of nursery workers and helpers for VBS, when the parsonage is being fixed up, when we’re feeling all the love…yes, ministry brings a lot of joy at times.
Where is the Gospel in this? How do we remain Gospel centered when things are going well? When things are running smoothly, why are you a pastor’s wife?
Here’s a little heart check that we should all do once in awhile…to determine if we are living and ministering in a Gospel-centered way. Please don’t skim the Scripture passages. Read them and let them sink in:
1. Gospel-centered ministry prioritizes the glory of God.
Who through Him believe in God, Who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:21
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. John 17:1, 5
Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3
Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
2. Gospel-centered ministry is characterized by hopeful expectation and reconciliation.
For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight:
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister. Colossians 1:19-23
3. Gospel-centered ministry always involves sacrifice and suffering.
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God;
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. Colossians 1:24-29
4. Gospel-centered ministry is characterized by humble servanthood.
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:1-8
In reading and studying these passages, I was overwhelmed again with how the Gospel is like a circle, a chain reaction of sorts. His servanthood led to suffering and sacrifice so that we could have the hope of reconciliation through the resurrection, which brings glory to God. Not only does our reconciliation and salvation bring glory to God, but we are given the opportunity to individually bring Him glory on a daily basis! Nothing accomplishes this more than Gospel-centered living. Nothing is at the heart of God’s heart more than Gospel-centered living.
The Gospel is not a dead end at salvation. It is the powerful springing of new life that continually unfolds the hope of Jesus Christ within and around us.
It is precious. It is the only reason why you are a pastor’s wife. So the next time you ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” and the next time your husband looks at you and says, “Why are we doing this?”….answer back the words, the conviction that will change everything:
“The Gospel. I am doing this for the Gospel. We are doing this for the Gospel.”
A Kindred Spirit