June 16, 2011

Ginger Vassar on Resentment in Church Planting

When I need encouragement about my role as a church planter's wife, there is no better place to go than other church planting wives. They've been where I've been and they understand my concerns, joys, and struggles.

Today, I'm privileged to introduce you to a fellow church planter's wife, Ginger Vassar, whose husband JR is pastor of Apostles Church in New York City. I know you'll be encouraged by her wise words. Here is my interview with her:

Give us some background on you, your husband, and your church.
JR and I were married in 1995. JR entered seminary and ministry right away. I grew up sensing a call to ministry myself, but God gave me clarity in that call as I married a minister and joined him in a life of serving together. After serving on staff at a couple of churches, we felt a call to plant a church. JR and I knew we wanted to plant in an area where the Gospel was weak or not present. Months of prayer with a small group of friends led us to consider several areas, one of which was NYC. In June 2004, we committed to moving to the Big Apple.  Our home in our suburb was on the market by September and sold in December that same year.  JR and I and our 2 children  moved from Texas in January 2005 to plant in NYC.  Our kids were 5 years & 17 months at the time.  In 2008, our third child was born--our little “New Yorker.” Our church began meeting as a small group in our living room with 13 people shortly after moving to NYC and has experienced steady growth.  Apostles Church now meets in two areas of Manhattan and we hope to form more congregations throughout NYC in the years ahead.   We deeply want to see the city moved by the Gospel...to see lives committed to Christ, to see renewal in the city and to see the church prevail here.  

There is so much required of church planting wives because of their husband's job. Have you ever struggled with resentment about that and how have you battled against it?
We all deal with resentment, let’s be honest--our hearts are prone to wander in that direction whether its over church, kids, house work, a pet peeve, really anything. I think one of the number one ways to battle resentment is learning to be content.  Contentment is key.  Where is your heart?  Where is your “center?”  If it is wrapped up in people-approval or recognition over your tasks done well or even your faithfulness as a wife to leave comforts of “home” to move and plant somewhere then you will feel entitled to some pats on the back or at least a desire for some help with the load you bear.  We do bear a large load, especially if you are moving to an unfamiliar place with a family.  You will bear the brunt of finding grocery stores, post office, libraries, play grounds, schools, and even trying with your kids to make new friends.  It’s taxing. You are making a new life, sometimes in a distant place or one that has a different set of values than you have within your home.  It is easy to elevate the “sacrifice” you have made for the sake of the Gospel and seek reward in the “here and now” for the sake of self. Jesus exampled that sometimes we won’t get our reward until the Father says, “Well done”...this is why he says, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy.”  Sacrifice should not come as a surprise to believers; remember that Jesus walked that road fully and more deeply than we can know. 

Another way to battle resentment is with perseverance.  I love to read Hebrews..the message is to believers to press on. It is expected that persevering wouldn’t be persevering without a certain degree of difficulty. “Let us cling to Jesus and never stop trusting him”, Hebrews 4:14-16. He is our perfect high priest--one who has been there persevering to the end and able to relate to any and every struggle we face. Galatians 6:9 has been huge to me...”let us not grow weary in doing good for at the right time you will see a harvest”  (my paraphrase).   

One more thing that comes to mind is humility.  Philippians 2:3-4 has become a motto in our home in how we treat each other and those outside our home.  Our attitude should be like Jesus’, “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself...look out for the interests of others.” You can’t praise your own efforts, triumphs, or even your sacrifices and be humble.  Jesus sees, and in that I must rest.  He is for me so that I can be for others...whether I am recognized or not.

What has been your greatest personal struggle(s) in church planting and what have you learned that might benefit another church planting wife?
Personally, my struggle early on in our church plant was my desire to be praised for what I had started or done.  I ran our kids ministry for a couple of years to start us out.  My prideful desire for recognition over all of my “hard work” week in and week out led to me harboring bitterness toward volunteers when they did not use some element of a lesson that I made or shopped for, spent a lot of time on, etc. Now, they never knew the feelings I was dealing with inside, but I had to deal with that bitterness before the Lord! The problem was not in them, it was in me...my heart.  Church planting is so revealing...it opens the heavy curtains we shade those aspects of selfishness and pride with--flings them wide open. Sanctification on steroids!

My interview with Ginger continues in the next post, in which she'll share advice for church planting wives who are just starting out. To be sure you don't miss her wise words, you may want to subscribe. Thanks!