Regardless the pastor’s temperament and the type of church he serves, most of us would agree that every church will have a wide spectrum of affection for their pastor. Every church to some degree has church members who view their pastor with rose-colored glasses, while others barely tolerate their existence and stay at the church despite him. Naturally, pastors often seek affirmation and encouragement by surrounding themselves with those who think they are the greatest preacher, most compassionate counselor, and strongest leader, while avoiding those who have less enduring thoughts of them.
This has led to what I think is a good, helpful, and healthy role for our wives to play in our lives as pastors while facing such a wide variety of affection to sift through among our people. A pastor’s wife should always be . . .
Supportive, but unimpressed.
Supportive: A pastor’s greatest asset isn’t a loyal elder or faithful deacon. It is a wife who knows him better than anyone, knows his struggles, knows his faults, knows his inadequacies, and knows the sins that most easily entangle him, yet has this unshakable support, love, affirmation and care for him. It is a wife with an unwavering faith in God and support of her husband, that sustains them both through the most painful conflicts, the greatest betrayals, and allows the hardest church situations to be manageable.
But unimpressed: Though the unwavering support of a wife is of great value to a pastor and is essential in surviving the struggles of ministry, one of the worst roles for a pastor’s wife to play for her husband is to view him and his ministry with rose-colored glasses. The blind spots in a pastor’s life and ministry are most clearly and carefully observed by his intuitive ”supportive, but unimpressed” wife. A pastor’s wife that is impressed with her husband will not help him see the areas of pride and self-deceit in his heart that show up in conversations at home. A pastor’s wife impressed with her husband’s preaching will not objectively listen to him preach for the purpose to help him grow as a preacher. A pastor’s wife impressed with her husband’s gifts for ministry will be tempted to overlook those consistent criticisms that come from credible people in the church.
The reason I know what an invaluable gift it is to have a wife serve a pastor in this way is because I have a precious wife who is tremendously supportive and incredibly unimpressed with me. Because she has found this balance well, she knows when to comfort me when I am legitimately discouraged and push back when I sulk. She affirms my faithfulness to preach God’s Word, but doesn’t think I am the greatest preacher in the history of the world (probably not even top 10!). When my first book was published and people asked with a bubbly excitement, “You must be excited, but I can’t imagine how your wife feels. What does she say?” I found the most accurate response being, “She is very supportive, but unimpressed.”
Dear brothers and fellow pastors, pray your wife finds this balance. Open yourself up to her in such a way that allows her the freedom to play this role. It is for our good and growth that we cherish the gift of a clear, consistent, supportive, yet unimpressed evaluation of our ministry. There is no one better to play that role than the woman you have given your life to, lives with you in your darkest hour of discouragement, sleeps next to you every night, places herself under your care and authority, and sacrifices as much as you do for the sake of serving Christ in that local church.