by Gloria Furman: No two church planting wives are the same. Our unique church contexts, seasons, personalities, challenges, gifts, perspectives, and preferences could fill volumes.
If you sat down for chai with Ananya in Ahmedabad and asked her to discuss the blessings and burdens of being a church planter’s wife, she may have different things to say than Bonnie in Burnaby, Miriam in Niddrie, or Ana Clara in Sao Paulo. While I’m typing this in Dubai, certain blessings come right to mind—the extraordinary gift of worshiping Jesus with brothers and sisters from more than sixty nationalities and the overwhelming gratitude that members share even in difficult circumstances. Some burdens may include the daily pressure of navigating cultures in such a diverse context and the radiating desert sun that can zap your willpower and the battery in your car.
The loneliness and isolation that one church planting wife feels may seem like a welcome respite to a wife who compares herself to a goldfish swimming in a fishbowl surrounded by malicious cats. Concerning the spectrum of feelings about support-raising, one month may be like sharing an adventure and the next may introduce a suffocating strain on your marriage.
A wife’s confidence in “the plan” to plant a church may waver—even by the hour (and years later). One woman’s burden of acute stress in a new context or season may be a blessing in disguise as she learns to depend on the Lord for strength. For others, acute stress may be a red flag to change course.
The unofficial welcome committee may or may not roll out the red carpet for the minister’s family. I once heard a story about someone who called the school registrar and impersonated the pastor’s wife and took her kids’ names off the waitlist for next term. Another church planting wife says she has a closet full of the gifts that people keep bringing them.
One church planting wife may already be packing the house when her church planting husband looks to the horizon and wants to keep planting, and another may feel disappointed.
Persecution may be woven in with spiritual victory over demonic forces; anxiety may stand out on the backdrop of comfort and ease. These and many more contexts, seasons, personalities, challenges, perspectives, and preferences contribute to our uniqueness as church planting wives.
WHAT’S THE SAME
But some things are the same no matter who you are, what time period you live in, and where God has called your family to plant a church. For one, the conclusion is the same. By faith we all see how our various blessings and burdens are braided together in God’s hand as he only gives us everything needful for our good and his glory.
As she surveys the landscape of her blessings and burdens, the conclusion of every church planting wife is this:Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. All of the unique factors mentioned above—every single one of them—can and do change. But God and his Word do not change, and the light of this truth illuminates our perspective on all those changeable things.
Church planting wives need to have the light of God’s Word shine on their various blessings and burdens. We need this like we need the sun to rise. We need the light in order to go about doing what we need to do. Two things happen when you turn on the lights in the kitchen. One, you can clearly see what you’re doing (and where the coffee pot is). And two, if there happen to be any cockroaches having a slumber party, they’ll scatter. When God’s Word turns the lights on for us, so-to-speak, we see reality and the contaminating lies disappear. Blessings and burdens need to be held up to the light of the Word.
Here are a few floodlights of unchanging truth that every church planting wife can apply:
1. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, has been given all authority in heaven and on earth and gives his disciples his mission with his blessing and presence (Matt. 28:18–20). Issues surrounding calling, priority, and fear are all resolved when church planting wives look to Christ and recall Jesus’ utterly comprehensive authority to tell us what we’re to be about doing, his contagious zeal to spread the glory of God among all nations, and his unassailable power to provide for us and never leave us as we go about that work.
2. By the grace of Jesus alone can a church planting wife walk in love together with the under-shepherd whom she married (Eph. 5). As they walk with Christ together, they’ll find themselves outside the camp where Christ is, and only with the help of Jesus will they bear the reproach Christ endured. However much they love (or don’t love) their city, the husband and wife know their home isn’t dependent on his job because they’re seeking the city that is to come. When push comes to shove, as they say, and like Paul the church planting husband undergoes “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches,” the church planting wife takes her cue to boast with her husband of the things that show their weakness and Christ’s strength.
3. Jesus loves his Bride, the church, and not even the gates of hell will prevail against her (Matt. 16:18, Eph. 5:25–27). Identity, gifting, and commitment issues are resolved when church planting wives look to Christ and see how he has made them to be a brick in the building, a sheep in the flock, a priest in the priesthood, and a member of the family. All of these metaphors light up the sparks in her Scripture-soaked imagination as she dreams up ways to build up the body of Christ with the gifts given to her by the ascended Lord Jesus.
Blessings and burdens mingle together as we live in this world that groans for the Day of redemption—now several minutes closer than it was at the start of this article. There’s no way a finite heart can hold all the things a church planting wife will face in life and ministry. But Christ can, he does, and he will.