I’m trying to get back to my “normal routine.” A month of a literal blur of a schedule has left me clutching my coffee and pondering the thoughts that have been jotted down from services and meetings. One in particular hasn’t let go of my mind.
Pastor Wilfredo De Jesús, better known as Pastor Choco, is the head pastor of New Life Covenant Church and the author of Amazing Faith. He spoke at our Michigan Assemblies of God meetings last week. I sat with Anne listening to his challenging message to our amazing council of Michigan pastors about being spiritually dehydrated. Then it came out.
“The Bride of Christ (the church) is HIS bride and NOT yours. Pastors, you have your own.” (paraphrased from my notes)
What an amazing challenge to hundreds of pastors all of which are susceptible to the temptation of prioritizing of their time, focus, and resources off of their bride and placed upon the wrong bride. Out of a genuine passion for reaching the world and a heart to care for people, we (pastors) can make the mistake of divert our attention to the neglect of the most important human relationship we will ever have.
Please note: I’m NOT advocating ignoring your congregation. But the priorities of our relationships are there for a reason: they flow one into the other. My priorities are Jesus, my wife, my family, my church. It’s from this foundation of priorities I can be the pastor I need to be.
5 Questions I have for pastors:
1. Are we more worried about touching His Bride than ours? I’m a driven pastor who wants to be all things to all men. If there’s a need, I will go to great lengths to meet it. The question is: Am I that driven to meet my wife’s needs? Touching my wife is more than a sexual connotation (even though pastors need a frequent, healthy sex life with their spouse…but that’s for another blog). Just as a pastoral touch to a congregation can vary based upon the need, touching my spouse is no different. Your spouse needs to be touched. There are needs that HAVE to be noticed and prioritized. There are good touches and bad touches. The difference? Bad touches are laced in selfishness. Good touches are humility based and saturated in servanthood. What type of “touch” does your spouse need? A touch of time? A conversational touch? A physical touch? Find the need…meet the need.
2. Are we more careful speaking to His Bride than our own? Do we save our words for His Bride? We have all been there where there is yelling while the phone is ringing, but when the phone is answered, you go into a nice mode as to not let anyone know what transpired. It seems we have enough strength to muster tones, words, and mannerisms for His Bride but we starve our Bride of conversational intimacy (words of encouragement, genuine care, affirmation, and outright communication). As pastors, we spend a lot of currency upon the people we pastor (yes that’s a good thing), but we cannot splurge so much of it that all we have to offer our bride is spare change. Our words are part of the building blocks for healthy marriage and your ability to prioritize them will lead you to a healthy marriage. Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
3. Are we more apt to move appointments for His Bride than our own? I love talking with pastors older and more experiences than myself. Their perspective is priceless. The more I talk to them, the more I hear things like, “Someone else could’ve done the visit…Another person could have responded…It’s okay to shut off the phone….Guard your time with your bride.” I hear over and over the regret of pastors who set their bride aside for the sake of His Bride. It sound admirable to some, but it’s a short-term fix that has two detrimental affects: (1) It helps us feel more important because we are “needed” as pastors and (2) creates more of a dependency from the congregation upon us instead of first, upon Christ, and upon each other (community). It’s from this false sense of dependency, we tend to mindlessly move or cancel appointments with our spouse. I’m not saying that can never happens. Of course cancellations and reshuffled calendars are gonna happen…life happens. You know as well as I do that I’m not talking about emergencies and situations that come up. I’m talking about those of us who, in a whim, will lay down quality moments with our bride for quantity moments with His Bride that could/should be managed in balance. If his has become the hallmark of your marriage/ministry, something is off.
4. Does His Bride get the best of our time and does yours get the leftovers? I take my days off on Fridays for a reason: I want my bride to get my best. If I did it on Monday, after a weekend of pouring out (focus, preparation, preaching, etc), I’d have nothing left for my bride. Jesus gave His bride his best…shouldn’t we do the same? Be purposeful about how you plan out your week. Remember: QUANTITY doesn’t necessarily equate to QUALITY. Make the most of every opportunity with your bride. Ecclesiastes 9:9, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love…”
5. When you are with your bride, is your mind on someone else’s (His Bride)? More hurt has been done in ministry marriages by unfocused attention. Just because you are there physically in the same vicinity, doesn’t mean you are present mentally or emotionally. In this world of technology, it’s quite easy to multi-task thinking we’re being productive. We think we can adequately pay attention to our spouse whilst getting ministry done. Your presence demands more than physical location. The only way to “be there” for your spouse is the “be there” in every way possible (emotional, spiritual, mental, physical). Don’t share the moment with another.
Pastor Choco got this ball rolling. It was (and still is) the inventory check I needed in the moment to help me step back to make sure that my priority, above my church, is the bride Jesus has given me. The only way I can be an affective pastor is to be an affective husband. It can’t be the other way around.
Love Jesus with all your heart. Take the love and lavishly pour it into your spouse . I promise, the better you care for your bride, the better pastor you’ll become for His bride.
Thanks for letting me ramble…