Replanter Wives: Developing practical and healthy expectations

By Jena Marie O'Brien

Expectations are everywhere. We have expectations of ourselves, our husbands, our kids, our neighbors and many others. And they have expectations of us. Some expectations are voiced, and some are not. We expect our husbands to honor us. We expect our kids to eat what’s on their plates or older children to call every now and then. We expect our neighbor to say hello when they see us. We can be bombarded with all the expectations, and trying to maintain sanity in the midst of it can sometimes feel like too much. After going through a season of disappointment and realizing I was not meeting the expectations I had for myself as well as not meeting expectations others had of me, I had to figure out what healthy expectations were and what that meant practically.

I had to step back and start at the very beginning. It may seem basic or elementary, but the reality is, we cannot meet all the expectations we have on our ourselves or others have of us. So, what is expected?

1. Love God.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” It’s a verse that is so well known that we sometimes can look over it or disregard the weight that it carries. I confessed my own lack of doing this and how easy it is to get distracted in the first post (link). We must come back to this. If we are not loving God with everything, everything else is done in vain.

2. Abide in Christ.

Why does abiding seem so difficult? What does abiding mean? How do we abide? A bible study I recently completed stated it like this:

  • Abiding means resting: To still our feet and our hearts, to stop striving and sit in the knowledge that He is God and we are not.
  • Abiding means remaining: To stay intentionally close to the Savior, to remain close to Him in His word in each season and circumstance.
  • Abiding means renewing: To be made a new creation the first time and every time we come back to Him.”
  • Abiding means returning: To come back again and again, bringing our experiences home to Jesus in worshipful prayer.[1]

We know that we need to be people that abide. We may even have John 15:4 memorized. But these are the scriptures that we need to return to over and over again. Especially in ministry, we must remember that we are nothing without the Vine. He is our lifeline. He is everything.

3. Love your husband well.

This is a big one, and it’s one we often forget. These men that God has so graciously given to us as our husbands, they are the men that God has chosen to do a big task. Not a day goes by that I am not in awe in how broad God has designed my husband’s shoulders. The task and the weight of his calling seems like too much to me when I sit back and think about it. 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, but they’re important.

  • Pray for him. Everyday, 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. He 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. Pray! Pray for him. Pray for your own heart. Pray for your family. Pray for your church.
  • 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, how he doesn’t measure up, etc. The list will go on and on. People may appreciate him, but they 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.
  • Date him. Enjoy recreation and hobbies with him. Remind him of life outside of church. If you are in ministry, you know how hard it is. It pulls on us all the time. Make your marriage of utmost importance. Be intentional with him. Make a plan, and 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. 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 never talk about boundaries or let him give everything to the church, but give him grace. Trust that he is going to prioritize family and your marriage, but 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, it is often unpredictable.

4. Make disciples.

The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18 says “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Think for a moment what making disciples looks like for you. When you were first a believer, who led you in knowing Jesus better? Who discipled you? Now think for a moment, who in your life are you discipling?

There are people everywhere. This may seem daunting. We certainly need to be intentional, but you don’t need to do it all. In replanting, you may have generations that have experienced different ideas of discipleship. You will come to find out that some may feel like having a Sunday school class is the primary way to make disciples, or just inviting people to your Sunday gathering. Neither of those are wrong, both can have many benefits. There will even be some who don’t know what the Great Commission is or even the urgency. Often a church becomes a Replant because there was a shift away from disciple-making. So, what does this mean? We need to be the leaders in this. We need to be the generation that continues building the church the way Christ commanded us to. We need to be diligent in making disciples. This includes our children, but it’s not limited to them. This is also inviting people to be in real life community with us. Inviting people to be a part of our crazy lives. Community and discipleship are two words that may be foreign or even frightening to so many. This concept may be especially foreign in a dying or declining church that has lost the vision or momentum of disciple making. It will not happen overnight, it may feel like a long road, but we can be confident that this is what God has called us to to grow His kingdom.

[1] Open Your Bible by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams

Published July 13, 2017

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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.