The Collective and the Partnership of Marriage
I ascended the platform steps as I had so many previous Sundays. The sermon written…the words rehearsed… APTAT prayers desperately offered….then I looked out on the congregation…
There’s the author of the email who critiqued last week’s sermon…there’s the family that I know has one foot out the door…there’s the staff member I had a tough conversation with…I don’t recognize THAT person – I wonder how much background they have with church and the gospel…should I adjust that explanation of the Greek term?...what am I even doing up here?
And, then, there SHE is! Bible open, notepad and pen in hand, smiling up at me in anticipation of feasting on God’s Word! My bride…my partner!
Really, the above has no specific Sunday or email or person in mind from the last 13 years. It could really be any Sunday! Yet, it highlights a partnership that has sustained me on so many of these Sundays. The partnership of marriage is the greatest treasure this side of eternity. How do we cultivate this partnership for the benefit of our wife, our ministry, and our own souls?
1. Understand the Typology (Ephesians 5:32) – At its best – marriage is a shadow of the ultimate relationship offered to humanity: that of Christ and His church! For me to enjoy marriage for how God designed it, I must be cultivating a thriving relationship with the Christ of the Church.
The partnership of marriage is the greatest treasure this side of eternity.
More than spiritual discipline activities on our calendar, this requires patterns of abiding. Just as a marriage requires intentional and quality time, so must the expansive gospel farmlands of our hearts.
2. Understand the Treasure (1 Peter 3:7) – “Live with your wives in an understanding way…” We are to live in a way that is informed by experience and study. An application of this reminder is something I have learned to do when my wife and I enjoy one of her favorite pastimes: shopping for clothes! Every fiber of my being would rather be on the couch watching an endless schedule of college football! Yet, what a miss that would be in understanding my wife. I learn about her as she touches the texture of the fabric…holds up a top to see how it would fit her…how she combines colors so creatively…and that she can find treasures in the “sale” section. (Free: snap a photo of her fave when she isn’t looking, and start a birthday list!)
3. Understand the Totality (Genesis 2:18) – Scope limits the effective development of this cultivation. That man was “alone” is the first time the Creator concludes that something was not good. It is so easy to become a lone wolf in ministry! We are supposed to be type “A” leaders. The buck stops with us! Yet, God gave our wives to us to “complete us” (please avoid the mental meme of Jerry Maguire!). There have been many times my wife has brought insight to a church topic, a leadership quandary, a rut caused by my own foolishness or personality, and even a blind spot of theology! (Yes…I am truly blessed with an incredible partnership! By the way, so are you!) Our wives make what otherwise is not good into something that is very good!
4. Understand the Threefold-Cord (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) – (Okay, homiletics was never my strength!) Remember a time in your life when you realized you were on your own? Yes, you had been trained or practiced…but now you are on the clock! I do not know how pastors and churches function without partnerships with other churches!
Understanding the totality of the partnership means avoiding the isolation trap in ministry.
The relationships and resources offered to ministry leaders’ wives through the partnership with Great Commission Collective highlights the unparalleled gift of being a partner church. From the annual Senior Pastors and Wives Retreat to ongoing relationships, training, support, care…the threefold-cord of the GCC recognizes the importance of the partnership we have with our wife. We need this…our churches need this…and our marriages need this!
Thirteen years have taught me the importance of cultivating the greatest partnership God has given me, this side of eternity. Certainly, there is an infinite amount of growth remaining, but the gifts of the typology, treasure, and totality of this partnership – combined with the threefold-cord of the GCC has served – all will continue to provide that invaluable partnership intended to sustain a thriving life of ministry!