When The Church Is The Other Woman
By Ken Gurley
Pastor Smith raced from his car into the office. It was late at night, but someone in the church wished to see him regarding a matter of extreme importance.
A few minutes prior the phone call had disturbed dinner at the Smith household, his wife’s gaze had dropped to her plate and the children, normally boisterous and exuberant at the table, became strangely still. Once they heard the loud voice on the other end of the line, they knew that the head of the family would soon be out the door. Another lengthy meeting in the church office would follow where Pastor Smith would once again try to solve the unsolvable, cure the incur-able, and placate the implacable.
This was not an unusual occurrence. Pastor Smith labored under the mistaken illusion that it was he who was solely responsible for the spiritual welfare of the church. No phone calls went unanswered. No requests to meet went unheeded. No saint’s trial was too small or trivial to garner his undivided attention. Because of this, Pastor Smith felt he was a consummate pastor. He was mistaken.
Pastor Smith is guilty of having an affair. It is not with a woman down the street or in the grocery store. Nor is it with a woman in the congregation he pastors. Pastor Smith is having an affair with the congregation itself.
Paul commanded husbands to “love your own wives, as also the Christ did love the assembly” (Ephesians 5:25, YLT). The church belongs to Christ, not the pastor. A pastor should love his own wife and permit Christ to love the Church.
A House Divided
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ and the Global Pastors Network, compiled statistics from a variety of sources in his November 2002 newsletter. In this compilation, there is a series of five statistics that involved the pastor’s wife and family:
* Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
* Eighty percent of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression.
* Eighty percent of pastors’ wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.
* Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
* Eighty percent of pastors’ wives feel pressured to do things and be something in the church that they really are not. The majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
I recognize that these statistics cross denominational lines and could vary widely from those of apostolic homes, yet there is a cry for help here. The pastor’s home is in distress. Jesus said that no city or house divided against itself will last or continue to stand (Matthew 12:25). Capably serving a local church puts an enormous strain on the pastor’s wife and family. Without vigilance, the strain can begin to divide the foundation of the home bringing it down.
No pastor can boast of putting in 80-100 hours regularly and be the husband and father he needs to be. It just is not possible. Love takes time. Nurturing takes a presence in the home. Jesus gave Himself for His bride; a pastor needs to do the same for his.
How To Escape The Church’s Clutches
It is not easy to back away. Face it. A pastor’s ego and sense of self-worth is easily fed by giving himself constantly to the church. It becomes as addictive and intoxicating as a dizzying affair. Yet, like affairs of a more sordid variety, it always ends with pain, distrust, and shattered emotions.
How does one back away? Here are a few suggestions:
Take a day off each week.
Sunday is not a day of rest for most pastors and neither is Saturday. Monday or Tuesday is a good day to back away. Let the church know you are doing this. Let them know why. Spend the time with your wife and family. Make it a habit.
Ignore phone calls during meals and after certain hours.
Just because the phone rings does not mean a pastor has to answer it. This is difficult for those pastors who almost have Pavlovian conditioning to being “Pastor Johnny-on-the-spot.”
Stay within your gifts.
A pastor might have the title, but not the gift (Ephesians 4:11). In fact, if a church grows fairly large, there is a high likelihood that the man called pastor probably possesses other gifts. In such a case, a pastor must be careful to stay within his gifts. He cannot be everything to everybody. He must confine himself to his calling.
Welcome others into the ministry.
Train others. One of the most exciting things that has recently re-entered the apostolic ranks is the concept of team ministry. A healthy church stays that way when everyone finds their gifts and labors there.
Take vacations regularly.
The pastor who cannot do this admits his own failure to train others to do the work of ministry. The pastor needs to let go and enjoy time away with his family. This is true for the vocational and bi-vocational pastor.
The Pastor’s Contributing
Pastor Smith in the above scenario is typical of many pastors. But, the day he awakens to the fact that he holds no title to the church and that she belongs to the Lord, a freedom results. He is free to realize what is within his reach his wife and family.
It was Clara Booth Luce who formulated the expression of the “life sentence.” She noted that historians and people in general reduced famous characters to a single sentence—the person who did this or that. Her point was that each person has a chance to influence that sentence.
When a pastor passes from the scene, his contribution to the church will be reduced to a single sentence. “That was the pastor who….” But, in the hearts and minds of his wife and children, that sentence goes on and on.
Article “When The Church Is The Other Woman” by Ken Gurley is taken from Forward Magazine the 2006 September/October edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”