Ministry and relationships can be a good thing. Like chocoflan, seems like a great idea! Chocolate with anything usually equals A+ in my book. In both, you're either left with a perfect blend of both flavors or a hot gooey mess. Execution is key.
So the question then becomes, how does a couple live out their happily ever after while leading a healthy ministry? Here’s a Jesus-juke for you; is the answer always... do them Biblically? Yes and no. Let’s dig in.
The Bible. The inerrant word of God. It’s been called life’s manual book, cliffs notes and Wikipedia all wrapped into one. Yet in His infinite wisdom, God chose flawed humans to extol his perfect divinity.
Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Moses & Zipporah; the who’s who of marriages in the Bible. Men and women of character, valor, faith and destiny. Their marriages and ministries impacted the world and left a lasting legacy…however they didn’t always get it right as husbands and wives, while being spiritual leaders.
As humans, we learn equally from observing correct behavior as we do from the opposite. We do see prime examples of what may not be the wisest things to do in the marriage of Abraham and Sarah. 1Laughing in the face of God, 2lying that they weren’t married. In Genesis 20, Abraham crafted a lie so King Abimelech wouldn’t hit on his beautiful bride. It happened anyways and now he’s caught in a deceitful situation with a foreign King.
Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. Gen 20:2
God ultimately uses a Pagan Ruler to bring a lesson from ministerial ethics 101 to the man of God. What’s interesting is Isaac, Abe’s son, does the exact same thing later in Genesis 26.
Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I said, ‘Lest I die on account of her.’” Gen 26:9
Moral of the story, beauty will always attract, deception always detracts... don’t get caught in a pretty lie. Parents, your children are always watching. They will do what you do more often than what you say. The way you preach as well as the way you correct a church member. The way you teach and seeing how you live out your teachings. Heavenly and physical eyes are always watching.
Isaac was the first natural son to Abraham and Sarah, but not to Abraham. 3Ishmael, born of Sarah‘s handmaiden Hagar, was Abraham’s true first born. We still see the enmity between those two lineages to this day. What Isaac saw his parents model, it ended up being a pattern for his life as well. Yes he was a man of great faith, but in the process he and his wife Rebekah made similar mistakes. Where Abraham lied about his spouse, so did Isaac. Where as Abraham preferred Isaac, Rebekah preferred Jacob.
And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28
Moral of the story, Parent’s it is never wise to have a preferred child. We must never value one more because he helps in ministry than others who do not. God is the one that calls us into ministry, not us as parents or pastors. Love them for who they are. Invest in their gifting for their sake, not your ministerial goals.
Also the issues that we fail to address in our lives, many times end up as a responsibility for the next generation. We see it with Isaac, we also see it in David’s narrative. 4David faced the Philistine Goliath, because Samson didn’t finish the job. 5David also couldn’t build the Temple, but his son Solomon did.
Another example is Moses and Zipporah. Scholars debate exactly why, but when Moses was out doing God’s work in Egypt, Zipporah was at home with the kids. We last read of her in Exodus 4:24-26 and then again in chapter 18:2-3 after the plagues, parting of the Red Sea, essentially most of God’s miraculous work through Moses' ministry.
He could have been upset she intervened in the circumcision of his son6. We can postulate that he was sheltering her and the kids from the weightiness of ministry. However in the process he robbed them of the opportunity of a lifetime to witness God’s hand moving in the most powerful ways. Possibly in an effort to protect them, he hindered the growth in them.
Moral of the story, God’s calling over your life equates to God’s calling over your family’s life. One is not separate from the other, and to separate them shows a lack of trust on your behalf. That does not mean they are called to ministry as pastors or leaders, but they are called to be pastors kids. The dynamic is different in a pastors home, speaking from experience. Bring them up with the fear of the Lord in their lives as if you were an insurance salesmen or a minister.
Also never sacrifice your marriage on the altar of ministry. Your first ministry is to your spouse and children, not the church. The church belongs to Jesus, not to you. Do not be an absent spouse or parent and expect them to readily understand because your doing God’s work.
Putting the pieces together.
Now after reading this article, you may think hey you’re not putting our forefathers of the faith in the best light. Let us not forget that God included these stories in the Scriptures for a reason. Yes they accomplished many miraculous deeds for God. Yes we can never replicate what they accomplished despite their shortcomings. But the fact that they are included is for us to draw lessons from and learn what not to do, as much as what to do in our marriages and ministries.
It seems all three have a common denominator, issues of trust. We need to trust God with our children and our future. We do not need to act like mini-gods with our families. We need to learn to trust God wholly. Trust that He will work things for our good. That He will build his church, so we can administer it.
The only perfect marriage exists between Jesus and the Church. Our job is to love our spouses like Jesus loves the church. Out of the abundance of love we have towards God, our relationships will flourish. We will lead our marriages and ministries to great heights trusting an unknown future to a known God.
1. Gen. 17:16-17; 18:13, 2. Gen 20:2-18 3. Gen 16:15 4. 1 Sam. 17 5. 1 Kings 6:12 6. Exodus 4:24-26