"We just can't do this anymore. We simply cannot afford to stay in this type of ministry any longer. Yes, I'm called to this but the offerings are low, the work is tedious, I never see my kids, and they need a father."
"I'm not saying you should quit. I'm saying we need you and we have to find a different way to do this. You are called. I am called. We aren't stepping out of His will. But we have to find another way."
Ever have a conversation, or rather heated discussion, like this with your ministry man? I have often said that there are precious few career paths a man can take where much of the success of his work is resting on the success of his family life. Sure, there may be some ministers who are effective communicators or can lead a ministry staff to grow a church or ministry. But the overall effectiveness of a man's ministry undoubtedly rests in his effectiveness at home.
No pressure, right? On him or YOU?
It's truly amazing how, when in a season of 'mountain-top ministry', you can vaguely recall the devastating experiences of 'valley-low ministry'. "How could ministry be any more fulfilling than it is right now!?" And then comes a transition. Or a church conflict. Or a health crisis. Or a disgruntled child. And it feels like the sun will never shine again.
Then comes the evaluation and re-evaluation of the reality.
For us it has often looked like a series of months where the offerings and income were low or the schedule was over-booked. Life for us on the evangelistic field for 18 years has required much flexibility and adaptation to the trends of ministry methods in the local church. For the first ten years, we--I mean, he--felt we had to say 'yes' to every single invitation to establish ourselves and pay all the bills. And then came our first child. Five years later came a second child and the first child started to school. Knowing I wasn't called to homeschooling, and seeing our shy firstborn's desperate need for structure and socialization with other children, we made the difficult decision for me to come off of the road and he continued to travel without me and the family.
I'll never forget that day when hubby had to leave once again for an extended ministry trip. 'That day' looked like Saturday's normal routine for our home. However, our six-year-old firstborn stood at the front glass door and cried for Daddy to not leave us again. As he squeezed her tight one final time and put on a cheerful front, reminding her that he'd be back after 'just four sleeps', I didn't know whom to comfort exactly: her, him,...or me.
I attempted to divert her attention as he pulled out of the driveway, with tears in his own eyes, and as I held her close I gave her the speech. "It's important that we remember why we are doing this. It's our job as a family to release Daddy to go do what he is called to do. It's very important that, as an evangelist, he must go to places and share the Good News about Jesus." Through her emotionally-charged tears she managed to get out, "I know where he is going. I have been to a church in that town. They already have a pastor. Why can't HE tell them about Jesus?" I chuckled inside as I considered how far to go in my dissertation of Ephesians chapter four about the various gifts God has given to the Church to equip the saints to be ministers. Blah, blah, blah. No, that wouldn't work. The truth is, at that moment I was just having to be a grown-up girl and push through even if I didn't understand either.
Of course, we as ministry wives know all the pat answers and in our heart of hearts we believe them. But when the flesh is tired and weak and needing "Mister, the Husband" and "Mister, the Co-Parent" instead of "Mister, the Minister", we inevitably head to the prayer closet to throw a little temper tantrum of our own. "Why? Why are we called to this?" "Why does this have to be so hard?" and "When will we see the mountain top again?"
I've often heard it said that our needs represent only a snapshot in time. If we hold that photo and base everything we do on what it looks like at that moment, we have sealed its truth for us. But God can work things together for our good in such a way that, over time, miracles can take place and situations can change and our feelings can fade. Feelings are simply our reactions to the current situation. However, we must plant our feet firmly on what we know. What does Truth say? Is God surprised by this situation? Did my learning about this situation create anything favorable or destructive, just based upon my knowing it existed? No. The situation was not changed because of my feelings about it. However, my faith is a choice to acknowledge that, yes, my feelings are deep, my hurt is real, and my stress is high, but what I know about God's Word and His plans for me outweighs it all!
What are you facing today? Take a moment and recall a situation you have encountered in years past. Like my account of that heartbreaking day, and the weeks to follow in altering the schedule and pace we maintained, I look back now and can smile a bit at the thought of how the Father favored us. While we haven't mastered the art of balancing it all, we have come so very far and have a tremendous vantage point to survey His goodness. Wisdom has guided us. Take stock in God's track record with you. It far outweighs the hurt, the drama, the mistakes of others, and the wrong turns we took on our own. He sees you, dear one. Be reminded of what His Word says about your destiny, both the near and distant future. Just as He extended hope to His people, bringing them out of years of desertion, He offers that to you today.
"10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and findMe, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord,..." (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
Bridgette Tomlin is a wife, mother of two girls, and 'minister of the et cetera' alongside her husband, Chresten from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She loves a great cup of steaming hot tea, the blessing of quiet spaces where she can think now and again, and the art of a handwritten note. While she's a vocalist, speaker, writer, and admin, Bridgette's heart is fully engaged in connecting every woman to their God-given call and gifts with authentic candor. You can follow her blog from their ministry site at www.ctministries.com/news-events.