When you are called by God to be a Pastor, you usually have a fairly good idea of what your calling will be. You know what will be the focus on your ministry. There will always be some surprises and “extra miles” that you will have to travel, to do what God has called you to do, but that is all part of your calling. You are a servant of God who ministers to those you are to shepherd. You are called to be an instrument of the Lord.
But have you considered that your marriage is also a ministry?
“We are all familiar with the idea that we are Christ’s body on earth —His hands, His feet. It is through us that He reaches out to the world. But it’s easy to forget that we are Christ’s hands and feet to our [spouse]. That’s why seeing your marriage as ministry may require an intentional shift of perspective.” (From the book, “Because I Said Forever”)
Pastor: Your Ministry of Marriage
Your marriage is not something that you can compartmentalize as having less priority in giving your attention to it, in light of your ministry to your church family.
“It is clear in Scripture that the Holy Spirit specifically appoints certain men as leaders by gifting them and putting it in their hearts to serve joyfully in the context of a local church (Acts 20:28; cf. 1 Timothy 3:1). It’s a noble desire. And it can be an all-consuming desire. But, with this desire comes the responsibility to humbly prioritize one’s life in such a way that prevents a subtle disregard for God’s written word. God has not commanded husbands to love seminary. He has commanded that we love our wives and strive to protect our marriages, even from something as noble as our ministry call.” (From the Crosswalk.com article, “Husbands, Love Your Wives More Than Seminary“)
In this context, your marriage is more important to tend to and keep healthy than even your pastoral ministry outside of your home. That is because you are representing Christ to your bride (just as Christ is the bridegroom to the church, His bride).
The Marriage of a Pastor
“Every Christian marriage holds that it is a ‘great mystery.’ (See: Ephesians 5:21-33.) Yet, a variety of Scripture passages throughout the Old Testament and New Testament deal specifically with clergy marriage in such a way as to suggest that clergy marriage has an enhanced kerygmatic significance.
“While the marriages of clergy may be qualitatively the same and no more ‘Christian’ than the marriages of other baptized believers in Christ, the pastor’s marriage speaks more profoundly and loudly about the union of Christ with his body and bride, the church. That is because the pastor is in the office of the Holy Ministry.
“Holiness of life is to characterize all Christians as priests according to the priesthood of all believers. Yet, according to the Scriptures the pastor’s life—and particularly his marriage —is to be one of exemplary holiness.” (from the article, “Ministry and Marriage in the Scriptures”)
When you married, you became covenant partners with your spouse and with God to help address each other’s aloneness. Your spouse, above other human beings, is to be your ministry focus. That is because of the vows you made when you married. God Himself acknowledged from the beginning that “it is not good for man to be alone.” He said this even though He was walking and fellowshipping with man.
The Importance of a Marriage Partner
God knew that there are certain emotional and temporal needs that a human being —a marriage partner, is created to meet. And there are certain emotional and temporal needs that you are created to meet for your marriage partner. “And the two shall be one.“
That is part of your role in the covenant of marriage. It is a cord of three strands with God being involved right from the start.
Problems can arise however, when a pastor forgets or overlooks the importance of the partnership of marriage, which he entered into with his/her spouse.
“The rite of ordination does not override the rite of marriage. Both are noble callings, and one is not the ‘higher calling.’ Both were instituted by God for the sanctification of his people. By some curious act of his grace, this sanctification includes the clergy.” (Gregory P. Elder)
You made the choice to go into the ministry. And with that choice came certain “duties and obligations.” You also made the choice to marry. And with that choice, certain “duties and obligations” came with it as well. Your options changed as far as how much time you can devote to the ministry apart from your spouse and keep your relationship healthy and strong. It’s one that strongly reflects the love relationship between the Bridegroom (Christ) and His Bride —which is what every Christian marriage is supposed to represent.
Warning Before Marriage
When you were unmarried, you had the freedom to be “undivided” in the attention you could dedicate to the Lord’s work. But in 1 Corinthians 7, the Apostle Paul warns you is to realize that things change once you marry. And as he said,
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs —how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world —how he can please his wife. His interests are divided.
“An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs. Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world —how she can please her husband.
“I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
When you marry, your ministry becomes divided between ministering within the home and outside of the home. BOTH become your concern and your focus at this point.
But keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that your ministry is lessened. It just means that it is redirected so that not only do you minister outside of your home, but also within it as well. You represent Christ to your bride, so don’t forget the calling of your ministry with your wife and family.
We’re Commanded in God’s Word:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. And after all, no one ever hated his own body. But he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church —for we are members of his body.
“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery —but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself…” (Ephesians 5:25-33)
It is important to love your wife “as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her,” because you have entered into covenant with her and with God. But it’s also important that you don’t bruise her emotionally. Your spouse should not be any less important than others that you minister to outside of the home. When you hurt her, or neglect her, how will you be able to “present her” to God “as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish?”
A Pastor’s Ministry to His Wife
“Remember that marriage is Gospel ministry. If you do not hold your marriage in high esteem (Hebrews 13:4), you do not truly hold Gospel ministry in high esteem. The size of your library is a poor indicator of how seriously you take the Gospel. Your marriage is where the audit needs to happen. I think this is what Paul is getting at when he asks, ‘For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church‘ (1 Timothy 3:5)?” (From the Crosswalk.com article, “Husbands, Love Your Wives More Than Seminary“)
Keep in mind that your marriage is a living example of Christ’s love for the church, both within your home and outside of it. As others observe how you treat your wife, the love of the Lord should be evident. It gives the Lord the opportunity to draw others to Himself as they observe your behavior. It’s another evangelistic vehicle that the Lord can use as you avail yourself.
Your Marriage is A Primary Tool for God’s Ministry
Your marriage is another vehicle that God wants to use to draw others to Himself. As Dr Charles Swindoll says,
“Marriage is the foundation of family life. And marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. Let me say that again … marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. Our goal isn’t to build stronger marriages. It’s to build stronger marriages for a purpose —ministry.” (From the Crosswalk.com article, “The Ministry of Marriage“)
The purpose is so that when others see how we interact with each other in ways that display the love of God, it could attract them to our lives, our homes, and ultimately to want to know our God better. And isn’t that the point of the ministry that God has called you to, as a Pastor?
Sacrificially Loving Spouse
“Pastors act out the Gospel as they sacrificially love their wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Likewise, wives of pastors too act out that Gospel as they, in Christian love and devotion, submit to their husbands even as the church submits to her Lord.
“The important practical application of all is that each of us needs to make it a high priority to love and cherish his wife. The best way to defend our church body from error is to proclaim the Scriptures boldly and to love our wives nobly. By strengthening our own marriages we set an example for the entire church. Plus we make it that much harder for the devil to break through our ranks.” (From the article, “Ministry and Marriage in the Scriptures”)
Make sure you strengthen your marriage behind closed doors. And strengthen it in front of open ones as well. How much of a “ministry” do you really have, when you aren’t ministering to the needs of your spouse as well?
“Always remember that God doesn’t need you. He doesn’t need your gifts or your ministry. If He did, why did He create you so late in history? Cultivate your marriage behind closed doors. Do this because ‘your Father who sees in secret will reward you.‘ (Matthew 6:4)” (From the article “Husbands, Love Your Wives More Than Seminary“)
We Pray For You
We pray you will prayerfully consider these points. Examine your marriage and ask the Lord to show you anything that you may or may not be doing that needs to be corrected in the present and future. You may want to pray what the psalmist prayed in Psalm 139:
“Search me O God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.“
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Pastors and Missionary Marriages
4 responses to “The Ministry of Marriage: For the Pastor”
(USA) I am the wife of a Pastor. He never did anything for me, lied to me about everything including the fact that he was a pastor, still married, was living with a woman who was not his wife and unemployed. I believed with all my heart that God sent me in his path. He has since stopped running from God, cleaned his life up and got back to his ministry and it’s growing. We are just married 1 year and now I feel that I have put my life, my hurts, my disappointments, my needs, my money and mostly me, aside and he has grown in confidence.
All I ask is do something, anything for me. He has never taken me out. I have to plan everything or nothing gets done. I really believe he is depressed (only at home) and can’t move, won’t help me at all at home. He’s the woman in the relationship. He is the only one that hurts. I work 60 hours a week. The rest of the time I am at the church, pay all our expenses and some of the church expenses and he gets a small stipend but won’t take $5 to even get me a card. I could go on and on but I’m ashamed. I can’t talk to anyone, and for sure, I can never talk to him or I’m letting the devil use me or he says I don’t have a right to rebuke a Pastor.
I’m not rebuking him, I’m telling him, I’m hurting and he is the one doing it. I have literally gotten on my knees and begged him to think of me just 1 time. I asked, does God ever show him anything about his wife? Does he ever say how much I’m hurting? I can’t even keep writing cause it hurts so bad. I cannot keep going through this. I want to leave now! He dismisses everything I ask him to do for me and says I’m letting the devil use me. I’m so tired and hurt and don’t understand how God can show him things about everyone else but not about me. How can you heal the world, when you are killing your wife? I feel worse now that I am closer to Christ, a 1st lady at a Church that actually runs everything behind the scenes and is mistreated. I’m dying inside…
Praise God. Our God is faithful and able to deliver us if we call unto him through Christ Jesus our Lord.To begin with this lady is talking about God bringing him to the Pastor’s life to straighten his life; secondly, she says that from the beginning of the relationship the Pastor did not mention to him that he was a man of God and thirdly he was still married to his wife and had an extra marital affair with another woman whom she describe that was not his wife.
My question to the lady herself: is she really born again and does she have a close relationship with God? It’s only God who can change a man and if you try to enter into a toxic relationship without using the bible as your standard guide it will be a total disappointment. The foundation of any marriage should be built in the solid word of God and not human standards because it will not work and if it does; it will be full of enduring rather than enjoying the beautiful Godly instituted idea of marriage.
My assistance to her is because the information is all about the Pastor and her information is missing to enable one to give an accurate solution as guided by the word of God about marriage and how both spouses should treat one another.
Sister, there is a loop hole you opened to the devil and that’s why he is attacking you. You could have first informed your Pastor and your inner circle to assist you in prayer to establish whether it was God’s will for your life or not. Also, do not blame the Pastor. Take responsibility and pray and fast because I believe you have the solution within you.
Forgive the Pastor and yourself and seek God for the directive and remember if the foundation is shaky why lie to yourself. The bible says in the book of Isaiah: “In repentance & rest is your salvation; in quietness & trust is your strength thus says the Lord of Host.”
In conclusion, the scriptures are very clear about marriage and how to go about it as born again Christians. Sister, our God is God of second chances – run to him for safety.
When all is said and done, remember you have a choice and choices have consequences, whether negative or positive in your present life and your future. Will you choose to obey God or Man!? Be wise my sister and obey God; do not be driven by your flesh. In Proverbs, the word of God says, “there’s a way that seem good in the sight of a man but it leads to destruction.” God bless you as you go back to the crossroad.
I understand where this woman comes from. In reality these pastors do not take care of their wives. My husband too is called but he never brings a cent home, never spends time with me, never spends time with kids. It’s like I must work hard to feed him, support his ministry, support his personal needs, support his family. Everything is broken in the family. I must fix it. All he does is read the Bible and stay useless for me all the time. I’m also tired of being a pastor’s wife.
I don’t see why God chose me to be a pastor wife. This is a life I hate with all my heart. I wish I was just a wife to a pure man, not this pastor’s wife thing. I understand the frustration of this woman being a pastor’s wife. You do everything behind the scenes and get little recognition or attention. Wish God could help me and I would just die sooner than anything and let him remarry another woman. That is my wish.
Dearest “Just Me.” I believe you. It’s been nearly ten years since you posted your cry for help! I hope you got the help you needed. I hesitate to say this, but the two responders seem to have done what a lot of Christians do: blame you. Even if they knew all of your own details and you weren’t perfect (gasp), it still is no cause for your husband to treat you so abysmally. Jesus wouldn’t treat you that way…
It is true that God can deliver, heal, lead, direct, and guide you out of the heartbreaking relationship you are/were in, but He can also comfort you. And sometimes the answer to women hurting such as you have been hurting is to leave.
I was married to a man who believed in God but was not a born-again follower of Jesus Christ until–after his final alcoholic rage against me wherein he insulted me every which way he could think of until, from within my spririt, I “heard” the Lord say calmly and clearly, “You need to leave now.” I did.
Several years later after I divorced him in a state of horrible, deep brokenness I cannot describe but that God healed me from, my ex husband came to Christ.
He and I are reconciled as caring friends (in our seperate lives) now, but he still wants his freedom and the ability to develop other close friendships with women. I am content in my life. Our reconciliation as caring friends has been a witness to many others. God can use anything.
Many might think I heard from “another spirit,” that night, but I assure you, after diligently praying, submitting, and seeking the Lord about my marriage for over forty years, I knew it was the Holy Spirit. Note: neither of us were following Christ when we met nor for the first three years of our marriage. When I became born again is when one aspect of his anger toward me (when drinking in particular) was aroused which was my new relationship with Christ, so I had to sort of hide it to stay away from the rage.
Back to why I believe the Holy Spirit directed me to leave that night, you see, there had been physical abuse early on, but when he was drinking or raging (whether I apparently prompted anything or not, it was sometimes hard to tell), the threat of that kind of abuse being repeated was always there.
May I say, that it’s easy to get help from other Christians if there is physical abuse (of course this can sometimes lead to death), but emotional abuse is like a slow death of a thousand cuts. And it’s really easy to dismiss the slow death of emotional abuse when perpetrated against a wife, it seems to me. But Jesus would never perpetrate that in any cicumstance.
I would encourage people who blame the wife to study carefully and closely certain narratives in God’s Word that decry abuse of any kind.
My heroine, for example, has and will always be Abigail, wife ot the fool, Nabal (that’s what his name actually means). Not only did she save her entire family and servants’ families from Nabal’s drunken foolishness, she saved the young and impetuous King David from also doing a foolish thing that would have been a future stain on his reign.
Pastors seem to be afraid to teach on this story. I’ve only ever heard two tentatively suggest that maybe she was right to defy the cultural restrictions on women and wives in her day in order to do God’s will for many.
But David knew God had sent her for his benefit as well as to save lives in her household.
For other interperters of your situation, Just Me: was I perfect in my marriage? Were the details of my life stellar and pure? Of course not. Neither were/are theirs. However, someone at some time has to blame abuse on the abuser.
Is my ex husband now all that I ever prayed and believed he would be when he was still subject to alcoholic rages? I would say pretty much yes.
He attends church now, goes to two men’s Bible studies, and people think he is God’s gift. Which, when he wasn’t drinking and raging and defending his right to have whatever lady friend he wanted to have, he was in our marriage, too.
However, I would still rather be his good friend than risk being married to him again because as even he puts it, he “flip-flopped” and that was what made him abusive.That said, I still do pray that if it is God’s perfect will, i.e., that we re-enter a marriage, God would turn my heart in that direction.
But it would have to be as clear a directive as what I “heard” that night that likely saved my life and, even he admits, finally prompted him to have a literal “come to Jesus” moment.
Just Me, I believe you. God has a plan to deliver you from the abuse you received, and He has a way forward for you–maybe apart from your abusive husband, pastor or not.
To the others: just please love this woman and pray for her. And maybe lift a hand now and then in the practical sense to help her with her what sounds like an exhaustive life, if that is possible for you to do.