Church planting can be a lonely business
It can be a lonely business, church planting. Loneliness in ministry is one of the most often overlooked aspects of being a pastor’s wife. We’ve all felt it, some more than others. Many of us have experienced rejection, often by those whom we thought were closest to us. We put up walls, especially after having been through it more than once. However, our view of church planting and marriage to a pastor should be shaped, not primarily through our experiences, but rather through Scripture.
Jesus repeatedly experienced this loneliness and rejection from his own people, much as we do on occasion. Reading through Mark 14:26–42, we see a picture of the aloneness He went through, and the poignant rejection He experienced. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus illustrated three ways that we can at once strengthen ourselves, stand firm throughout persecutions, and yet love those who reject us despite their shortcomings.
He was prepared. In v.27, Jesus said: “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'" Are we glib in our approach to church planting? Do we as wives tend to open up mindlessly in front of others? Are we careful to protect our husbands and our ministries? We will experience this loneliness. Sometimes the people who come on the strongest in the beginning will become the first casualties. Other times, it’s the ones who have been in the very trenches with us as we plant. Prepare yourself by placing your first trust and confidence in our Lord.
Jesus was upset by the lack of understanding of his closest friends. Verse 33 says: “And he took with him Peter and James and John, and he began to be greatly distressed and troubled.” As Jesus thought of the difficulties that lay ahead for Him, He realized that He had no one but the Father to share them with. We will realize at certain points, that the church will never be as important to others as it is to us. It’s OK to allow yourself time to grieve those friendships, and to mourn the fact that we are truly an island at times. Being angry is not sinful. It only becomes that way when it becomes unrighteous and leads to bitterness.
Jesus knew that the flesh is weak, and issued a strong warning. Verse 38 says: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Friends, let us not be defined by that which happens to relationships in our church plants. There is much work to be done, and, while loneliness can be painful, we must rely on God’s sovereignty, and trust that He knows what is best for us. Use these moments to focus on Him, and on being the encourager for our husbands that He intends for us to be. Do not allow yourself to become bitter toward those who have insulted, disrespected, and rejected you or your husband. Quickly take it to the Cross and leave it there.
I understand the weight of ministry, as we planted a church back in 2004 — and have continued to plant other ministries of varying kinds as well. I have been in church settings where we as a family have experienced such rejection that bitterness was almost sure to take hold — and did for a while. The pain is especially great because it is inflicted by those who are supposed to know better — believers! I cannot deny the anger, hurt and pain that these environments have inflicted on my heart, and left to my own devices, would never have been able to move on. But thank God for His constant mercy and for the power of Christ in me. Through Him, I have everything I need to persevere along His sometimes difficult yet rewarding path.