She Needs Community
“Lonely and isolated” are words that many ministry leaders, male and female, use to describe their lives. Smack in the middle of an organization that calls itself a family (the church), is often its leaders finding themselves without spiritual community. Leadership comes with a price and one of those ironic costs is lack of community. If you are a planter, or a planters wife, you can just ramp this entire conversation up a notch. Rick Warren once said, “Planting a church is possibly the loneliest, hardest thing on the planet.” I’m going to skip over the part where I explain that spiritual community is hard to come by for planters and their wives. No one needs to convince this readership.
I lead NAMB’s ministry to pastors and planters wives called Flourish. Our name identifies our goal for women advancing the gospel with their husbands—we want her to be healthy and thriving. We want her roots going down deep and strong in the Word and in her Savior. We want spiritual fruit to be borne in and through her life.
We also need to clarify this. Your core team may or may not (especially in early stages) provide spiritual community for you and/or your wife. Ruth Haley Barton points out how a team may lack the ultimate focus of life-giving spiritual community:
“One of the fundamental differences between a team and a spiritual community is that a team gathers around a task, and when the task is over the team disbands. Spiritual community gathers around a Person—the person of Christ who is present to us through the Holy Spirit. We gather for the purpose of being transformed by the presence of Christ so that we can discern and do the will of God both personally and together.”
Without this type community she won’t be vibrantly healthy. She needs spiritual community on two levels:
1. Biblical, relational discipleship
2. Relationships with women who are also planter’s wives
Just reading that in print reminds me of how impossible those two scenarios feel to most planting couples. Not to mention that merely talking about it in a ministry marriage is complicated, if not even risky. She doesn’t want to put one more demand on her husband or seem needy. He would rather not be reminded, again, of the huge cost required of her that comes with church planting. Plus both of them are spent—pushed to the edge physically, emotionally and spiritually with little reserve. Avoiding it can easily become a strategy.
Do not be shortsighted
Community is not a mere luxury. Nor is it optional for genuine spiritual maturity. Right here I could insert examples of lives I have witnessed in forty years of ministry who crashed upon the rocks of loneliness and isolation without any personal spiritual community. Lives, ministries and marriages ended up in places they never intended.
All believers need relationships around the Word of God where authentic conversations and heart-felt prayers occur. Relationships where accountability, confession and repentance can happen with people sharing each other’s progress and standing with each other’s failures. We need to speak and live the gospel with each other.
I see two common perspectives from wives that keep them from seeking community:
1. In the tsunami of relentless demands, she doesn’t have the energy or it seems to be complete impossibility.
2. She has no real driving hunger for community often because she has yet to see it’s true value in her life.
Community is worth fighting for
Husbands you need to own this. Wives you must believe it. How do you find the community she needs? Planter and wife, it’s a team effort. Men, she’s needs your pursuit of this on her behalf.
1. Pray – Ask God to provide it.
2. Move it up the priority list: If it is #7 on your list, move it up to #3.
3. Get on the offense: Go looking for it. Passivity is not optional.
4. Be creative: Think past the traditional model or delivery system. Look for fresh sources, new solutions and new faces.
5. Men, be sacrificial: Give up your time, or space, to help create opportunities for her. You shepherd others, so shepherd her.
6. Men, lead her lovingly: Nothing is stronger than a gentle, loving leader.
7. Push past your own discomfort: If this isn’t your “thing” please understand it is for your soul’s good even if some awkwardness is involved.
8. Don’t be shortsighted: Going it alone and being a “brave little soldier” won’t end well if you become empty, isolated, depleted and lonely.
Don’t let “lonely and isolated” describe your journey as church planters.
Published May 23, 2016