When God called my husband and I to plant a church, I said yes. My yes to church planting echoed the vow I made on my wedding day, that I would support my husband in any ministry God might give him. As He does with us all, God has not stopped asking for my yes and He has not stopped showering His faithfulness on any willingness I offer Him.
Sisters, I believe this—a willing heart—is the key to our fruitfulness and joy. And yet our hearts are the very things that will be tempted and tried throughout the church planting process. Feelings of loneliness, resentment, discouragement, or exhaustion lure us to wander from Him. The temptations are subtle but real: to turn to others, to turn away from the calling because it’s difficult and demanding, to distance ourselves from our husbands out of resentment, to feed our children a faint distaste for the church and for God, to believe that our successes in church planting belong to us, to live off of our previous sacrifices and refuse to sacrifice more of ourselves to God. The temptation is to self: seeking our own agenda, clamoring to have our needs met, self-promotion, and selfish ambition. As we seek these things, we become a statistic: burned out, isolated, depressed, and—sometimes—resigned.
I speak from experience. My heart has been tested countless times throughout our church planting journey, starting from the moment I unpacked the last moving box in our new home in our new city.
Over the course of the first year and well into the second, nothing came easy, despite our hard work. I struggled to conjure up the faith and excitement I had come to our city with. I longed for God to make things easier and more comfortable for us. I wondered why we weren’t the church planters who experienced explosive growth in a short period of time. How I envied those people.
I began putting undue pressure on my husband Kyle because I was emotionally fragile, uncertain of my role, and lonely. Church planting was proving harder than I had originally expected. “Why did you bring me here?” I’d say to Kyle, my words dripping with resentment. He’d gently remind me that God called me here too, that we were a team, and that I’d felt so certain when we were preparing to plant the church.
I mourned the change and what it required of me: more sacrifice, less of my husband, more uncertainty, less of the familiar routines we had once enjoyed. I grew disillusioned—with ministry, with church planting, and with marriage. I dwelled there, feeding my sinful thoughts. What if we had never moved here? What if Kyle hadn’t gone into ministry? What if we had ignored God’s call to church plant? What if I hadn’t married someone in the ministry? What would it hurt just to give up?
I also aimed my bitter arrows at God. Why can’t You make this easier? I have been obedient and faithful in coming here, and this is what I get?
I had entered church planting with a firm faith, but because I didn’t closely guard my heart, because I listened to those little poisonous whispers, I forgot that God loved me and I doubted His provision. Resentful, my heart hardened toward Kyle and toward God. My unwillingness to submit to the Lord and accept His good purposes for me made it all the more difficult to hear His voice or receive His comfort.
I found myself at a crossroads.
God was allowing the difficulty of church planting to sift me, to bring the issues of my heart to the surface. I realized that if I didn’t address these things, my marriage, my family, and my own heart were in danger. God was refining me, cleaning me out, and teaching me dependence rather than self-reliance. I could continue my attempts at controlling and relying on myself, or I could submit myself in dependence on Him.
I chose to submit. I found myself agreeing with Peter when he spoke to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). I chose to trust Him with my heart and let Him do—through church planting—the work He needed to do in me.
As my posture changed from clenched fists to open hands, my heart softened toward God, toward Kyle, toward those we were trying to reach, and toward the unique calling of church planting. Instead of a stubborn hindrance, I was finally becoming a vessel God could use.
This does not mean I remain perfectly submitted to God. It means that I learned to earnestly guard my heart and trust His gentle pruning. It means that I recognize how the gospel must daily grip my heart so that I will not go careening off into people-pleasing or discouragement.
My fellow church planting wives, God is for you, and my prayers are with you as you fulfill the calling He has placed on your life. I pray that you would allow God to keep your heart tender toward Him and toward those He has called you to. Let us continue to labor together for the gospel alongside our husbands with great faith, joyful sacrifice, and service. “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14-15).
We are thrilled to have Christine Hoover, author of The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart join us today at Flourish. We have been anxiously anticipating the release of her book for months. It will be an epic resource for not only church planters wives but ministry wives in all genres. Christine will mentor countless women with powerful writing, honesty, practical support and a rare depth. She’s included interviews with other church planting wives, including our own Shauna Pilgreen. You can click here The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart to buy your copy today. We give this book HIGH marks!
Published January 1, 2012