May 20, 2013

Church Planting Wife: What to Expect

As we prepared to parachute plant, my husband read countless church planting books and talked to a few experienced planters to get their perspectives and wisdom. I picked up one or two of his books and even read over his shoulder a few times, but the strategies and how-to's that filled the books didn't seem pertain to me at all. What exactly does the wife of a church planter do? I shrugged my shoulders and plunged into church planting with approximately zero idea of what to expect and a few vague predictions of what this endeavor might mean for me and for our family life.

Wow. I probably should have talked to someone or done something to prepare other than jumping in blindly. Because what happened in the first few years was nothing like what I had imagined or expected. And because it looked so different, I thought I could possibly be the worst church planting wife ever.

To save you perhaps a year or two of confusion and questioning your sanity, I'll do what the church planting books filled with ideas and strategies didn't do for me. I'll tell you what you, the church planting wife, can expect in the first few years. Here goes:

It's going to be hard. Hard work. And discouraging, want-to-give-up hard.
You already know it's going to be hard, but you're thinking it's going to be hard for a little bit and then miracles are going to happen that erase any discomfort or difficulty. This miracle probably won't happen. Instead, it's going to take ongoing, intense hard work for multiple years to get this thing off the ground. This hard work is not reserved for your husband. Your work and responsibility level will be different than your husband's, but church planting will require almost an equal amount of hard work out of you.

There will be times that you will want to give up or get out from under the burden that you're carrying because of how weary or discouraged you are. You may question yourself, your husband, and God. You may wonder if you will ever see fruit from your efforts.

And these are all good things, part of the process of sifting you and crafting you into the minister that God wants you to be. If God has called you to this work, He is calling you into a process of refinement that is both difficult and sweet. Expect it and embrace it.
You're going to have a paradigm shift.
The end result of God's sifting through the difficulty of church planting is a paradigm shift. You can expect that God will give you new eyes for people, toward your own heart, and, especially toward Him. You will learn that, just as John 15 says, you truly cannot do anything apart from Christ in you. You will learn to depend on the Lord in a way that you have never been challenged to before. You may realize that your faith has never been truly tested until this point. 

At some point, you will recognize that Christ and His gospel are the only things keeping you in the process, working hard, striking up one more conversation, and having one more family over. And you will recognize the infinite worth of Who you've given your life to and Who you're working for. 

This is both difficult and sweet. Expect it and embrace it.

You're going to face spiritual warfare.
Spiritual warfare is real and you will face it in church planting, although you may not recognize it when it comes. It probably won't be a community leader or an unbelieving neighbor shouting at you in the street or picketing your church, although I guess you can't rule anything out. The spiritual warfare you'll face will primarily be with your own flesh and it will primarily affect your marriage. You'll face deep discouragement together and the enemy will try turning you against one another through resentment, anger, blame, blurred boundaries between ministry and marriage, or just plain exhaustion.

Be on guard for spiritual warfare; look for where it comes. The sooner you learn to recognize how the enemy attempts to drive a wedge between you and God and you and your husband, the sooner you can call a spade a spade and flee from the lies into the truth.

This is not something to fear, just something to recognize and see it as something that drives you into the powerful arms of your Savior. This is both difficult and sweet. Expect it and embrace it.

You're going to be called upon to do a variety of things, things that you may or may not want to do or be gifted for.
You are starting a church. There isn't a secretary, a children's minister, a janitor, or, if you're like us, there isn't even a building. There are lots of needs and jobs to go around, but few hands to fill them. Expect to be asked to fill a few roles that you don't love and don't necessarily want to do. Prepare yourself for this because you want to do these joyfully until you can hand them off or delegate them to someone else, which you should do as soon as possible.

This is both difficult and sweet. Expect it and embrace it.

You will know God in a new way.
There is so much you will learn by stepping out in faith, but the best thing you will learn is that God is faithful and capable of doing supernatural work that you yourself cannot do.

This is sweet. Expect it and enjoy it.

Experienced church planting wives, what else can a new church planting wife expect?