Shepherding your wife

By Brad O'Brien

As a pastor of a replant it will be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the church is your top priority. When you step into a situation that has seen decline over the last couple of years you are surely stepping into a situation that needs attention. But we must be mindful that God’s call to serve a declining or dying church does not trump his calling for us to love our wives as Christ loves the church. The desire to see a dying church resurrected should not kill our marriages.

Over the past three years of replanting I have been reminded of several things that have served me well in caring for my wife. As the only paid elder at my church it would be easy to view myself as being irreplaceable but that just isn’t true. As my former pastor would say, “the church can get a different pastor but my wife should never get a different husband.” Brothers, if we are going to be faithful in our ministry as Replanters we must give ourselves to loving care and shepherding of our wives.

Here are a few principles that have helped me in my attempt to lovingly shepherd my wife over the 9 years of our marriage.

Keep your identity in order

Understanding our biblical identities and keeping them in proper order will serve us well as we seek to care for our wives. When we place our vocational calling ahead of our wives we create an environment where our wives get the leftovers after our workday or workweek. This may potentially reveal to us that we have an idol in the area of our vocation. But when we seek to care for our wives before we allow God to care for our own souls then we set up a system where we are tempted to give to our spouse before we receive from the Lord. If we are going to keep our identities in order we must first live out of the identity of being adopted sons of God and then seek to live our identity as husbands.

Know your wife

In my former church I served alongside of an elder that continually stressed the importance for us to fulfill Peter’s command to know our wives.

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way…”
1 Peter 3:7

Over the course of our nine-year marriage I have worked hard to know my wife so that I can live with her in an understanding way. I have worked to learn her love language so I can speak to her in a way that she hears and receives. For my wife that means words of affirmation and spending uninterrupted time together. As parents of three kids under the age of 7, I know that my wife needs to have time away for herself on a regular basis. Sometimes I’ll work to create space for her to leave the house and go to her favorite coffee shop. Other times I’ll work to empty the house of the kids so she can have some time alone in the house. Just a few months ago my wife and I had a conversation about our disappointments in ministry. Following that conversation I was even more committed to creating space for her to be set up to succeed at various ministry efforts that she finds joy in and feels burdened to lead. This also means that I try to pray for my wife in an understanding way as I seek to know her struggles and fears as well as the ways that the Enemy seeks to tear her down.

Create space to check-in

Just a few weeks ago our elders gave us a weekend off and they sent us to a marriage conference so we could have some intentional time together. This gave us space to check-in with each other and it was extremely helpful. One of the things that came from this time together was an idea of using a new Bible study resource so we could walk alongside of each other by studying the same texts each day. What we chose was and He Reads Truth. This is an amazing resource if you haven’t checked it out yet. Even though a marriage retreat is nice it isn’t something we do monthly or weekly. However, we have found that taking time on a regular basis to check-in can enable us to prepare for the difficult seasons that are sure to come. Life with one car and four or five calendars to manage means that there can be tensions avoided by just making space to check-in with each other.

Brothers, when I look back over my marriage I find myself identifying with the first Adam more often than I want to admit. I’m “out of position” because I’m tired or lazy. I’m quick to blame shift rather than owning my own sin and walking in repentance. But praise God for Jesus and his faithfulness where the first Adam failed. Now because of Christ I can, by God’s grace, identify with the Second Adam.

Men, as we seek to display the life and love of Christ I pray that we would be quick to acknowledge the strengths in our wives. I pray that we would not take our wives for granted but that we would seek to serve them and celebrate them as God’s good gift to us. I pray that we would willingly lay down ourselves for the sake of our wives and in doing so point them to the source of our love. I pray that we would seek to know our wives and understand their needs so that we might minister to their souls. I pray that we might minister out of an appropriate balance of priorities so that our doing as husbands would flow from our being children of God.

Published April 25, 2017

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per month full of articles from a variety of Replanting voices.

Brad O'Brien

Brad O'Brien and his family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, to plant a church in the heart of the city, after serving on staff at the Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, for 10 years. Ultimately God led them to merge their church plant with an existing church that had been established in 1855. Brad and his wife, Jena-Marie, have been married for 11 years and they are the proud parents of three little girls. They are expecting their fourth child in May 2019. The O'Briens love city life and the replanting journey they have been on for the past five years.