Is Marriage In Conflict With Your Ministry?

Ministry LetterpressMany spouses believe their marriage is in conflict with the ministry God has given them. Their attitude seems to be: “If I really give to my marriage what all these books and counselors say I should, my ministry will suffer. Marriage is important. But my ministry is for God. And He deserves 100 percent.”

This type of thinking translates into the resolve that “I will respond to anyone who calls at any time other than my spouse. Even if my spouse needs for me to be at home with him or her, if someone else calls for my attention, he or she will just have to understand that God’s work comes first.”

Perhaps the bluntness of this statement makes it seem like something that you would never say. However, this type of thinking can creep in subtly.

Marriage Vs Ministry?

The reason for this error is a misunderstanding of how marriage and ministry fit together. Many couples believe and live as if marriage and ministry do not fit together. They view these two areas as being an irresolvable conflict. They feel that one must be subordinate. Frequently, this translates into a severe neglect of the family. This is because “serving the Lord” is more important. Those having this attitude defines service to God as “spiritual things that take place outside the home.”

Other couples believe that marriage and ministry ought to fit together. So they run back and forth between the two. The fit is never comfortable or easy. But they enjoy some success from their juggling efforts.

Managing the Family Well

The first approach, a neglect of the home, is clear disobedience to God’s standards for those who oversee his church. Paul tells us that [an overseer] must manage his own family well (1 Timothy 3:4). Obviously, a pastor cannot manage his home if he is never present. The second approach will work when both areas make major demands at the same time. Those who try to take on both equally are prime candidates for burnout.

There is a better way. I have seen it work for people who made a commitment to it from the beginning. It also works well for those who first chose one of the above approaches. And then they struggled hard to change horses in midstream. This is a third option regarding marriage and ministry. We view our Bible studies, singing in the choir, our teaching, or our counseling as a part of our ministry. So we must see our marriage as a viable part of our service to God.

One of the most important assets in an effective ministry is a healthy and strong marriage. Many people in ministry are failing God because of problems in their homes. These problems have been generated by their neglect.

Traps Ministry Spouses Fall Into

One of the traps that many ministry couples have fallen into is that of separating spiritual things from earthly or mundane things. God makes no such distinction in our lives. We are to honor Him and give glory to Him in everything we do. Surely God would not have us neglect our families for the sake of his church. Rather we need to nurture our relationships at home. This way they, by example, can strengthen the body.

An example of this is found in a young pastor. He believed that the things he deemed “spiritual” must be treated as being more important than those he felt were of this world. Early in his ministry he worked six long days in the church.

On his “day off” he left his wife and three small children at home. He then spent twelve hours in the streets passing out Bibles. This pattern was repeated for ten years. As a result his marriage and family suffered greatly. He said to me, “How I wish I understood that loving my wife and nurturing my children were also ministries!”

How we must grieve God when we neglect the very relationship that is to illustrate Christ’s relationship to his bride. What a greater affront is that we do it “in his name.

Neglecting the Family

Several years ago I was counseling a ministry couple. Their marriage was on the verge of breaking up. This pastor’s neglect of his family was staggering. I suggested to him that his pattern of behavior was not of God. He replied: “You do not understand. Whatever crosses my path is from God. It requires my complete attention. I cannot say no. So He will care for my family.”

This minister had defined ministry as absence from home. How sad it is that he never saw that his family had also crossed his path and that his ministry to them was as important as any speaking engagement!

Everything we do is to glorify God. For that reason all that we strive for is to be in service to Him. This is as true of listening to and encouraging our spouse as it is of being at the bedside of a dying parishioner. God makes no distinctions. He says, And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17).

We are to be Godly Examples

The idea that every area of our lives is to be considered service to God is powerfully emphasized by Peter’s exhortation to elders. He says that overseers are to shepherd others. But they are also to serve as examples to their flocks. Paul reiterates this idea many times when he says, “Copy me.” “Be imitators of me.” We are to be godly examples to those we serve. This certainly includes all areas of home and family life as well as all aspects of our church ministry.

A perfect ministry and a perfect marriage are not necessary in order to glorify God. However, obedient hearts that strive to please God in every area of life are necessary if our example is to bring honor to the name of Christ.

Diane Langberg wrote this article. It comes from the book, Counsel for Pastors’ Wives, published by Zondervan. In this book Dr Langberg offers sympathetic and realistic answers to 14 questions submitted to her from pastors’ wives. They are ones that are often asked. All of the answers require acts of faith, renewed patience, and wisdom that must come from God. With these divine resources come healing and possible solutions.


To help you further on this matter, here’s what one couple learned about serving God and each other:

“What we learned in the counselor’s office was that by choosing to get married—something we did without a booming vocal direction from heaven—we were now called to live out our salvation within the context of our relationship. Marriage, too, was now our calling.

“If two people are not willing to compromise at all, then they probably shouldn’t get married. But for most couples, vocational callings can and should be merged until both parties feel they are living faithfully according to their gifts, desires and goals. After all, if calling is about living each breath for Christ then two people who commit their lives to each other have a divine calling to honor each other fully. They have a divine calling to respect and love each other. They are to work through conflict together. And they are to forgive and make sacrifices for each other.” (Jake and Melissa Kircher, from their article, “One Couple. Two Callings. What Now?”)

Some Closing Thoughts on Marriage Conflicting with Ministry:

Here are two questions that are asked that go hand-in-hand concerning this issue:

“God has called us together in marriage, but what callings does he have for each of us? How do we balance—and support—our distinct gifts and purposes?”

Here’s how writer, blogger, and editor, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun answers these questions:

“God does not ask us to choose between supporting our spouse and pursuing our own calling. He desires to give us both. And, in His infinite creativity, He can. There may be periods when couples prioritize one spouse’s vocation over the other’s. But in those seasons, we can trust that God is still gifting both husband and wife with purpose—if not at that moment, then in his perfect timing. Today we remember Elisabeth Elliot as a missionary, speaker, and author, callings that crystallized after the death of her husband in the mission field. His commitment to live out God’s purpose, despite ending in tragedy, ended up shaping her own life’s work. And as her husband pastors a church and pioneers charitable outreach in Austin, Jen Hatmaker has found a dynamic calling writing and teaching the Bible across the country.

“…Even when one spouse seems to have the ‘shinier’ vocation, the other is never sidelined. Each of us has a role in God’s story, and discovering that role can enrich our marriages as well. We can bring more vibrant versions of ourselves to the relationship—creating more chances to learn from our uniquely created spouses, and to praise the God in whose image they are wonderfully made.” (Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, from her article, “Can One Marriage Support Two Callings?)

Continually ask God to show you your calling and your spouse’s calling. They may or may not be the same; but when they come from God they will be supportive. He wants to work in and through each of you and your marriage to accomplish His Kingdom work.

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Filed under: Pastors and Missionary Marriages

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82 responses to “Is Marriage In Conflict With Your Ministry?

  1. My husband and I left a church that almost caused us to divorce. Years went by and we knew we needed to find a church for our family so we set out to do so. He wanted to visit this particular church to see if things had changed agreeing we would have nothing to do with it if they hadn’t; it took about 2 months to see it was the same way and I wanted nothing to do with it as I was stressed before even visiting, but when approaching my husband with it all he decided he was going to stay regardless.

    I begged and pleaded him not to as it was the most horrible experiance I had ever had in a church and has been again. They elevated my Husband as Deacon without any discusion with me; my own husband didnt even talk to me about it. Since then it has caused nothing but division in my home and our marriage. His church comes first in everything; he just waljs out on me and leaves. He doesnt do anything with his family and our relationship.

    Well, there isn’t one anymore; he is too busy going down his own path. I have begged him to leave. I have pulled scriptures regarding marriage is a ministry and is most important to God that we are supposed to be in the same church, building kingdome togethor. All I get is manipulation of the word being he is a teacher there and told I am out of line. Help before another marriage is broken up!!

    1. He should step aside first until two of you agree on a church to attend together as one body. What God has joined as one body, let no ‘man’ put asunder.. Read 1 Timothy 3. His ministry needs your support, also yours needs his blessing.

  2. I feel ss though my wife is neglecting our marriage to do ministry work and have told her that I feel her first ministry should be to our marriage and home. Am I wrong? She says we are too different and that she should have never married me. She has considered divorce because she says she is unable to deal with me. I have told her that I feel she is a contentious wife and that she needs to manage her time better, but she is so preoccupied with ministry and Facebook that we barely spend any time together and the time we do spend together is often in disagreement and arguing.

    I just want to spend time with the woman I love without arguing which seems to be all she wants to do when she’s with me. I recognize Satan’s attacks and she says she does but I have to always be the one begging and pleading with her to stop and give it to God because she is stubborn and will not give in, ever. I have been fighting to keep my marriage and even went to counseling but in the end she walked out of our 3rd session refusing to go back.

    I’m to the point I’m considering divorce but I wouldn’t want Christ to divorce me so I really dont want to divorce her. I need prayer and Godly counsel. I’ve been warned by her not to talk to the pastor at church or to even ask for prayer on my Facebook page. She has even blocked me on her Facebook at times because I told her she is fake and phony. Her ministry’s are many. She does two jail ministryies and peer support as well as chaplain and Sunday school. She also feeds the homeless and volunteers for just about everything she can. She does it in the name of the Lord and at the expense of our marriage. She is a good woman in so many ways but is failing us and our marriage. Any advice would be greatfuly appreciated.