Encouraging your replanter husband

By Jena Marie O'Brien

The tortoise and the hare, the well-known and beloved fable, has been around for centuries. The concept is not new and our idiom of “slow and steady wins the race” can encourage most people. It makes sense in our minds, and we push through — continuing on. However, sometimes the slow and steady can become wearisome and discouraging.

When my husband felt the call into church planting, we were excited and passionate. We had support from churches and individuals who believed in the mission behind church planting. The hype and excitement put us on a steady pace to flourish. Then we came to know the beloved saints of a declining church in our city, and we chose to merge our church plant with this declining church. Then, things slowed waaayyy down.

We knew to expect it. We knew that to love and respect our friends well during this crazy time of change in their church, we would need to reign in the momentum. Yet it was still a challenge to slow things down without becoming discouraged. Because sometimes, you believe you are doing the right thing, but you hear the negative comments or complaints. Or maybe it has nothing to do with the fact that you’re slowing down. Maybe it’s the constant emails or phone calls of how things aren’t going well or that someone has been offended by something we’ve done or haven’t done. Or maybe it’s about something they believe we are failing at or not doing well in. Reality is, in ministry, and sometimes uniquely to replanting, our husbands hear more of the negative than anything positive.

I think it’s important to remember that God has chosen our husbands to do a big task. The task and the weight of his calling seems like too much to me when I sit back and think about it all. These men are just men, sinful men who are taking a big step of obedience to follow the Lord. The task of replanting has struggles and expectations that not everyone can relate to. It is not by accident that you are married to the man that God is using in a replant.

So what does that look like practically? These may seem obvious, so bear with me. But I think they’re important.

  • Pray for him … every day, throughout the day. There is so much working against him. Satan believed he was doing good work by having a church on the cusp of death or a church settling for constant decline. He is going to be working hard against your husband and your family. Do not be blinded by this. Satan is going to do whatever he can to steal, kill, and destroy. But you have to know wholeheartedly that God has already defeated the one who is against you. But pray! Pray for him. Pray for your own heart. Pray for your family. Pray for your church. We should be mindful and heed Paul’s instruction to Colossians that we should “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Col. 4:2)
  • Encourage him. He is going to be bombarded by all his shortcomings. He is going to hear over and over again all the negative things about the church, about his family, about his ministry, about his teaching, about his personality, about how he leads, about how he doesn’t measure up, etc. The list will go on and on. People may appreciate him, but won’t think to tell him. However, one rarely forgets to complain, grumble, or bring up something they aren’t happy with. You need to encourage him every chance you get. Write him letters. Remind him what a good job he is doing. Point out the good things in the church, in your family, in your marriage, in your city. Bring him back to how Jesus sees him. God designed you for this. Proverbs 31:11-12 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”
  • Date him. Play with him. Remind him of life outside of church. Ministry doesn’t stop. It is not a 9-5 job. It pulls on us all the time. Make your marriage of utmost importance. Be intentional with him. Make a plan to be the one to take initiative. Be his helpmate in making marriage fun and reminding him why he fell in love with you.
  • Don’t nag. There are way too many references in Scripture to a nagging wife.
    • Proverbs 21:9 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
    • Proverbs 21:19 It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
    • Proverbs 27:15 A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike.
    • Proverbs 25:24 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
    • Proverbs 19:13 A wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
    • Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is a crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness of bones.

We need to be aware of the harm and danger nagging can be in our marriage. He will have duties that are out of his control. There will be times where he has to be away. Boundaries are good to have — a must. But I also know that in a replant, normative-size church, my husband is “the guy.” I need to give him the space and freedom to do what he needs to do. I am not saying to never talk about boundaries or let him give everything to the church. But give him grace. Trust that he is going to make family and your marriage important, even when there will be times that sacrifices will be made. Be proactive to talk about boundaries, but be sensitive to the timing of the conversation. I would suggest not having this conversation before he preaches or as he is rushing out the door to put out a fire. (Learn from my mistakes!) But set a time to talk about the needs of the family and your marriage. Ministry boundaries are so important, but hold them loosely. Have a plan when his boundaries need shifting. For example, a plan could be that if dinner meetings need to happen, then a family breakfast takes place the next morning. You have to flexible and allow shifting in schedules to thrive in replanting, because it is often unpredictable.

Let’s be the wives God designed us to be. Let us pray big, bold prayers for our husbands, extend grace, and love well.

Published February 20, 2018

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Jena Marie O'Brien

Jena-Marie is the wife of Brad O'Brien, a replant Pastor in Baltimore City. She is a stay at home mom of 3 little girls, ages 6, 4, 2. Jena-Marie grew up in Richmond, VA before moving to Durham, NC where she met and married Brad. Brad has worked as a Pastor in a Megachurch, as a Church Planter and a Replant Pastor, therefore Jena-Marie has experienced the joys and the trials in each context. She recognizes that being a Replant Pastor's wife has its unique challenges and has a passion to share what God has taught her to encourage other wives.