Pete and I have been a part of many church plants over the years. We have known many ups and downs in the process. We have come alongside others as they have planted, we have church planted in the United States, and we are currently venturing out again to church plant abroad in Australia. I have hopefully gleaned some lessons over twenty-five years in the ministry that I may pass on to those just contemplating a new venture of faith in church planting.
FAITH IN GOD’S LEADING – BEING UNITED
First of all, it is so important that a husband and wife are in total agreement about the call of God. This is vital so that once the hard times and battles come, you can reflect on God’s call with great assurance. Abram went out by faith in God’s Word to him and was “assured of what he hoped for, and confident of what he could not see” (Hebrews 11:1). And Sarah followed his leading by faith (1 Peter 3:5).
Do you know that God has called you? Do you have His Word on that calling personally? Does your husband have a similar personal confirmation from God’s Word? If so, then together you can remember those words to you and strengthen each other in God’s call on your lives. If division is there at the onset, I suggest you wait and pray, because a house divided against itself will not stand (Mark 3:25).
As Pete and I look back over our journeys, we have the blessing that in each of our moves, we can say with confidence that God spoke to us both personally and individually confirming the next step. We moved out with unity and confidence in God’s purpose. This did not save us from the many battles and struggles ahead, but it kept our faith firm in many dark hours.
PRAYER & GOD’S WORD
It almost goes without saying, but still needs to be said, that personal time in prayer and God’s Word daily are essentials to life, and to a church planting team! As a pastor’s wife, I find that the spiritual battle is too great to make it without the daily help and presence of Jesus! I need my own consistent devotional life with Jesus, as He is my supply. I recommend that every pastor’s wife find that devotional place and time every day, to make Jesus your all-sufficient resource. He will guide you and comfort you and strengthen you for the road ahead.
And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5)
The point of these verses is the battle is too great and the race too long to run it on our own. It’s impossible to keep up with horses while on foot! God is essentially saying, “What I am calling you to is impossible without Me.” Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Warfare. Expect it. Know it will happen. Be prepared with prayer and God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). For some reason I seem always to be surprised at the fierceness of the battle and in the arenas of my life it takes place! I shouldn’t be. The Bible is full of warnings about the spiritual battle we are up against.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)
Jesus has given us everything that we need to overcome the world, the flesh and the Devil. We will be victorious as we abide in Him.
God has given each of us unique gifts. Be who you are. Don’t worry about the expectations of others. People have all kinds of ideas about what a pastor’s wife should be and should do. These expectations have never held much sway for me. I love teaching and I love working in children’s ministry. I do it because I love it. I feel gifted and equipped by God to teach and to help. I would never do it just because someone else thought I should. Pray and seek God for clarity in your gifts and callings. Christ is the Head of His body, the church, and He will show you your unique role in His body.
As a helpmate, women have such an important role as a supporter. Women are uniquely gifted as helpers. Your role in supporting your husband through the difficulties of pastoring and church planting cannot be overstated. Even though wives are many times serving behind the scenes in comparison to the public ministry of their husbands, their role is no less vital. In so many ways, he could not do what he does without your support! We need to be there in that role for our husbands. At the same time, we cannot minister to our husbands without the daily fellowship and strength we receive from Jesus! Again, God’s strength and His Spirit are the supply from which we draw.
GRACE AND FLEXIBILTY
Finally, expect the unexpected! We have learned that things usually do not turn out as we had imagined. The first time we went to Sydney in 2012, we did not think we would be coming back to America. Pete and I both had a clear word from God about leaving our country. It did not make any sense to us when after one year, there turned out to be no way to renew our visas. Now, almost four years later, we absolutely marvel at the plan of God. He had to bring us home in order to prepare us and to send us out more permanently. We could not have qualified for the visa we now obtained without the work experience He gave us after leaving Australia in 2013.
God has a sovereign plan that is much greater than you can understand. Hold on to Him and trust Him for each step. Have grace for each other and lots of flexibility. You never know what God has in mind or how He would work His plans out, but He will. May God’s grace and power be upon you.
And may the Lord add to the church daily those who are being saved (Acts 2:47).