Archive for August, 2013

There have been times in my life – and ministry – when I hit a wall and did not know what to do next.

I stared at the wall.  It was high.  It was deep.  It was solid.  It was thick.

And it looked impenetrable.

There was no way to go over the wall … or under it … or around it … or even through it.

But I tried.  I really tried.

I slammed the wall with my shoulder … and ended up howling in pain.

I backed up and ran hard at the wall … and the wall won.

I looked for something to carry me over the wall … but nothing surfaced.

I tried to dig my way under the wall … but the wall seemed to descend forever.

For all intents and purposes, I was trapped … and I hate feeling trapped because I prize options.

During many of those feeling trapped times, the Lord came and ministered to me through a single verse of Scripture.

Let me briefly share five of those incidents as a way of encouraging you:

*My first pastorate was very difficult.  I was 27 and the average age of the congregation was 60.  We met in a school cafeteria.  The church was filled with quirky Christians.  On a good Sunday, 50 people showed up.  After the board and I unanimously agreed to a tough decision one night, they quickly reversed themselves, and I was left standing all by myself.

I was afraid that I was going to be fired.

And then our church received notice that our city would be bulldozing down the school where we met so a developer could construct condominiums … and our congregation had nowhere to go.

I stood and stared at the wall.

One day, I read 1 Peter 5 … a chapter that has always encouraged me.  Peter writes in verse 10:

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 

I was suffering all right … more than I ever had in nearly ten years of church ministry.  And yet God promised that the suffering would be temporary and that He would make me “strong, firm and steadfast” through it all.

And He did.

*My second pastorate was even worse.  A sister church five miles away invited our group to merge with their congregation.  Our group said they would come on one condition: that I became the pastor.

I did not want to be a bargaining chip.

After doing some research, I learned that Merger Math usually goes like this: 1+1=1.

Truth be told, I didn’t want to pastor the merged church.  I wanted out.  I went to my district minister and asked him, “Please help me find somewhere else to go.”

He tried, but there wasn’t much of a market for a 29-year-old pastor who served a church of 50 people.

I stood and stared at the wall … again.

Then I read and preached on 2 Chronicles 20.  Three invading armies attacked Jerusalem unprovoked.  King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a time of public fasting and prayer.  The people ended their prayer with these words: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

Then Jahaziel addressed his king and his people in verse 15:

“This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”

If you know the story, the people marched toward a hill overlooking the place where all their enemies convened.  The people began to sing and praise God, not knowing what to expect ahead.

But the Lord was working behind the scenes … and when the people of Judah reached the lookout point … their enemies were all dead, having killed each other.

When the deadline came for me to make a decision, I signed the contract to become the new church’s new pastor, remembering that “the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

*That ministry did well at first.  We even had 140 people one Sunday.  But the two groups that came together were incompatible both philosophically and personally.

A church of 80 plus a church of 50 should have resulted in a church of 130+.

Instead, Merger Math prevailed, and after 18 months, we were rapidly plunging toward 80.

And as the attendance and giving went south, I blamed myself for the merger’s failure.  I became depressed and withdrawn, not knowing what to do.

I had hit a wall once more.

Galatians 6:9 pulled me through:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I wanted to give up.  But God had clearly called me to that church, so I tried to re-channel my energies.  Even though I couldn’t see the way ahead, I chose to believe that my ministry would “reap a harvest” … not at a time of my choosing, but “at the proper time” … a season of God’s choosing.

*Over the next few years, I gave the church my best leadership.  We revised the church constitution and bylaws … remodeled the worship center … reviewed the entire ministry … revitalized our worship service … and renewed our walks with Christ.

We were happier, but we didn’t grow.  I tried everything I knew, and nothing worked.

It felt like the wall was winning.

Feeling frustrated and desperate, I began to use the Lord’s prayer as a guide to prayer every morning.  I paid particular attention to Matthew 6:10:

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I told the Lord, “I see five options for my future.”  And every day, I’d pray through the options.  I told the Lord the option I preferred, but left the final call up to Him … and He chose the option I least expected!

In fact, it’s an option that most pastors and churches rarely entertain.

*Our leaders decided to sell our church property and start a new church with a new name in a new location.

We were an unlikely bunch to pull this off … and some people told us that.

Although God led us through the entire project, it was slow going at times.  And when the planning commission turned down our request for an occupancy permit, a prominent Christian leader predicted that our goose was cooked.

Once again, I had hit a wall … and it was the tallest, thickest, and widest wall of them all.

Somebody didn’t want our church to exist … somebody in the spirit realm.  During that time, I leaned heavily upon Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:13:

Therefore, pull on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Up to this time in my ministry, I had only experienced opposition from inside churches … but now our opposition came from outside the church in the form of that nitpicking planning commission.

But our church called a day of prayer and fasting … appealed to the city council … and won a 7-0 vote!

It took us 30 months to hire staff … sell the property … find a light industrial building … obtain an occupancy permit … and construct a worship center.  And due to the slowness of construction, we had 7 different dates for our grand opening … continually revising dates because things weren’t yet finished.

But on November 8, 1992 – one of the great days of my life – 311 people showed up for our first public service.

Over the next 5 years, we led many people to Christ and baptized 100 new Christians, becoming the second largest Protestant church in our city.

In fact, years later, Dr. Gary McIntosh asked me to write a chapter about our adventure in his book Make Room for the Boom … or Bust!

By God’s grace, I didn’t give up, and at the proper time, He finally supplied a harvest.

Now I’m in a different season of life.  Although I’ve learned a lot about the Lord’s ways over the years, I still hit walls now and then.

In fact, it feels like my wife and I have just hit another wall in our lives.

Rather than panic, we have to remember what the Lord has done for us in the past.  As Joshua told Israel in Joshua 23:14:

“You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed.  Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”

I may fail the Lord at times, but He never fails.  Throughout my life and ministry, He has come through … not when I wanted Him to, or how I wanted Him to … but when and how He saw fit.

You may be standing in front of a giant wall right now.  You feel like you’re trapped.

What should you do?

I’ve found it helpful to ask God to give me a verse from His Word, and to live out that verse, trusting that He will eventually break down any barrier.

As Psalm 18:29 says:

With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

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“Broken before God … bold before men.”  That’s how former pastor and author Warren Wiersbe once described the ideal demeanor of a pastor.

But when pastors have time to reflect upon their emotional condition, they may admit … if only to themselves … that they have some all-too-human fears.

Paul the apostle certainly did:

For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within.  2 Corinthians 7:5

In a moment of candor, Paul admits that he and his travelling party had some fears.  Paul was waiting to hear from Titus how the church in Corinth was doing, and especially how the Corinthian believers viewed Paul.

If the greatest of all the apostles admitted to having occasional internal fears, then certainly his successors can admit they have some as well.

What are some fears that a pastor might have?

First, pastors fear church stats heading south.  Several years ago, I had lunch with a former megachurch pastor and author.  For more than two decades, everything this man did inside his church turned to gold.

But one day, he realized that people weren’t listening to him like they used to do.  In fact, attendance began taking a dive.  Nothing he tried worked anymore.  It was painful for him to admit that his ministry wasn’t the success it once was.  And he realized inside his spirit that it was time for him to resign.

He was treated well by the church’s governing leaders.  They were grateful for his successful work over the years and gave him a separation package that reflected their appreciation.

But here’s the scary part: the pastor never saw the drop in attendance coming.  He assumed that since attendance had always gone up in the past, it would continue to rise in the future.

A drop in attendance isn’t always the fault of the pastor.  Sometimes it’s due to a resistant community … or a less-than-competent staff … or governing leaders who are risk averse … or dozens of other factors.

But pastors can easily personalize those empty seats and blame themselves for them … even while they are preaching the Word of God.

When I was a pastor, I sat in the front row of the worship center with my back to the congregation before I preached.  I usually wasn’t aware of the attendance until I stood on the stage.  Sometimes, I’d expect a sparse crowd, and the place would be packed.  Other times, I’d hope for a packed house and the place would be sparse.

Most pastors know that if there are too many Sundays with sparse attendance, someone is going to suggest that the church needs a new pastor … and that prospect frightens most pastors … because pastors cannot control attendance by themselves.

Second, pastors fear people leaving the church.  If a family visited our church for a couple of Sundays, and they didn’t return, I didn’t lose any sleep.  And if I heard that a family on the fringe was visiting another church, that was okay with me.

But I didn’t want to lose anyone who attended our church on a regular basis.

In my second pastorate, a single woman and her son attended our small church.  Since she liked to sing, we provided opportunities for her to use her gift.

But one day, I noticed that she and her son had been missing for several weeks.  The right thing to do was to call her and see how she was doing … but I didn’t want to make that call.

Why not?  Because I had a feeling that I already knew what she was going to say … and I was right: “We’re visiting other churches.”

The only time I’ve ever seen Rick Warren cry is when he told several thousand pastors how much pain he feels when people leave Saddleback Church.

My guess is that whenever people leave a church, the pastor views their departure as a personal failure.

Jesus lost Judas.  Paul lost Demas.  God the Father has watched millions of His sons and daughters walk away from their faith.  The best leaders lose adherents.

But when that happens, pastors often kick themselves and say, “If I was only a better preacher … a better leader … a better listener … a better counselor … we could have kept that family.”

And there are usually others around who want to kick the pastor because the ones who left are their friends.

But pastors have an even greater fear when a family leaves: they’re afraid that one family might entice others to leave … resulting in a mass exodus that could cripple attendance and giving.

Third, pastors fear false accusations.  Paul sounds a bit defensive in 2 Corinthians 7:2 when he writes, “Make room for us in your hearts.  We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.”

There were people in and around the Corinthian Church who were claiming that Paul was not a true apostle.  They were hurling half-truths and exaggerations in Paul’s direction to discredit his ministry.

And when you read 2 Corinthians … as I often do … you can feel Paul’s pain as he writes.  In fact, unfounded accusations have wounded me more than anything else I’ve experienced in 36 years of church ministry.

I once completed a personal assessment on my fitness to be involved in a particular ministry.  I was taken aback by a statement that went like this: “I am willing to be a scapegoat for the local church.”

Did you catch that?  Even before being hired, the assumption was made that any given pastor might end up being accused by churchgoers of things he didn’t do.

When I worked for McDonald’s 40+ years ago, various crew members were called into meetings to take polygraphs.  They were usually asked if they had stolen money or if they knew anyone who had stolen money.  During my two years there, I was never asked to take a polygraph even once.  Even then, I had a reputation for honesty.

I had that same reputation among my peers … and in my neighborhood … and at the church I attended.  When I became a youth pastor, that reputation remained intact.

But when I became a pastor, I was accused of various kinds of wrongdoing on occasion, even though nobody had ever accused me of those kinds of things before.

And after I left my last ministry, I was accused of all kinds of wrongdoing even though my accusers had not spoken with me face-to-face … and still haven’t.  (Why bother?  They accomplished their goal.)

I’m not alone among spiritual leaders in being falsely accused of sins never committed.  Here’s what I read in my quiet time today from Luke 23:1-2 (from The Message):

Then they all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him.  They said, ‘We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King.”

If they lied about the perfect Savior, then they’ll lie about His imperfect servants.

Finally, pastors fear forced termination.  The latest statistics – gleaned from my colleague Dr. Charles Chandler – are that 28% of all pastors have experienced a forced termination, and 46% of those pastors never return to church ministry.  Charles claims that 1,600 pastors leave church ministry every month … most through forced termination.

When a pastor is told, “Either resign or you’ll be fired,” how often is the dismissal process underground, and how often is it above ground?

While I don’t have any definite statistics to share with you, I think I’m safe in assuming that at least 90% of the time, the dismissal process is underground.

For the pastor, this means that you’re constantly walking on eggshells.  Every sermon you preach … every conversation you have … every board meeting you attend … every denominational event you don’t attend … can provide ammunition for those who may want to get rid of you someday.

You try to live for Jesus … and be filled with His Spirit … and be kind to everyone … but if you slip up just once, you’ll see a Pharisee writing down your offense in a little black book.

And if the Pharisees ever find each other … which they inevitably do … they’ll pool your offenses and recommend your dismissal to the powers-that-be.

And in our day, most pastors who are forcibly terminated aren’t just removed from their church … they’re removed from church ministry altogether.

Most pastors will not admit their fears to their congregations.  They will not admit their fears to their boards or staffs.  They may not even admit their fears to their pastor friends … or their wives.

But when they’re alone … and when they’re pouring out their hearts before God … pastors do have fears … just like Paul admitted in a candid moment.

What is one thing you can do this week to alleviate your pastor from fear?

Do it.

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Have you ever attended a “secret meeting” at your church?

I have … on at least three occasions.  On each occasion, I as senior pastor met with the church board to discuss disturbing allegations that had come to light about staff members.

So what I’m about to write about does not primarily apply to officially called meetings of a church’s governing board … unless the board violates Scripture, church bylaws, and the gospel.

But have you ever had a group call a secret meeting about you?

Yes.  I know of one definite secret meeting where I as pastor was the topic of conversation, although there have probably been others that I’ve never found out about.

During my second pastorate, a former board member (I’ll call him Bert) resisted changes that the church board and I had implemented in our worship service.  Bert and his wife left the church and began attending elsewhere, but a year later – invited back by a few disgruntled individuals – he returned.

And right after Bert’s return, someone called a secret meeting.  I was the unwilling focus of discussion.

The first attempt at meeting secretly didn’t work.  A board member – who supported me 100% – showed up at the meeting unannounced.  The meeting was quickly cancelled.  (Secret meetings are no longer fun when they’re no longer secret.)

But the second meeting came off successfully.  I was later told that 17 people attended the meeting.  (That was better attendance than we sometimes had for midweek Bible study.)

Guess who became group spokesman?  That’s right … my good friend Bert.

The group sat in a room and listed every sin … every offense … and every thing they didn’t like about me … my wife … my 9-year-old son … and my 6-year-old daughter.

They came up with quite a list.  If they had only shown the list to me, maybe I could have repented of those sins and experienced instant sanctification.

But they didn’t show me the list … they wanted to show the list to the church board.

Fortunately, those 17 people couldn’t keep their mouths shut, and someone tipped me off to their tactics.  The Secret Meeting Coalition wanted to meet with the church board to confess all my personal and professional sins.

So the following Saturday morning, I called a meeting with the church board in my office.  First, I needed an answer to a crucial question:

“How do you feel about what the SMC is doing?  Do you agree with them?”

The board assured me – to a man – that they stood behind me 100%.  In fact, they said that if I resigned, they would all quit as well … which would place the church squarely in the hands of the SMC.  Not good.

I then offered two suggestions:

“How about if two of you meet with two of their representatives?”

That evened the playing field … opened up the chance for dialogue … removed a lot of emotion from the meeting … and provided the best chance for me to be treated fairly.  The board made this suggestion to the SMC, and they agreed to it.

“Rather than letting them read their whole list of charges against me, why don’t you answer each charge as it’s being made?”

The board thought that was an excellent idea, and that’s what they did.

After the two groups met, I was informed of the charges against me and my family.  Mercifully, I can only remember a handful of them.

For example, I was accused of not reprimanding a woman in the church who wore her dresses too short … and the SMC was right about that.  (Besides the fact that this woman’s marriage was falling apart, I never thought it was my place as a pastor to ever tell specific women how to dress.)

The SMC also brought up that my wife’s slip was showing one Sunday.  (But if it bothered somebody so much, why didn’t they love my wife enough to speak with her directly instead of telling 16 other people about it?)

Every single criticism was precisely that petty.  (If I had been guilty of just one major offense, they wouldn’t have had to manufacture miniscule offenses.)

After the two board members answered every single criticism, the SMC probably held several more secret meetings.  They eventually left the church en masse, formed a new church in a school one mile away, and used our church as their sole mission field.

Let me make five observations about secret meetings in churches:

First, secret meetings are not found anywhere in the NT.

Secret meetings are spiritually dysfunctional … relationally damaging … highly political … and psychologically unhealthy.  The secrecy itself says far more about group members than it does about anyone the group is focused on.

Peter Steinke, in his brilliant book Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach, states: “When we are anxious … we are imprecise, vague, covert, less transparent.  We operate in darkness.  Secrecy is a deadly virus.  Undetected, it can do untold damage, lasting for years.  How can a congregation be a healthy community if it lives in darkness, keeps skeletons in the closet, and allows destructive disease processes to continue?”

Second, secret meetings are an unbiblical way to handle people’s grievances. 

If someone was upset with me or my wife personally – according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15they should have spoken with us directly, not about us to others.  If they didn’t like the answer they received from us, they could have proceeded to bring in witnesses as Jesus specifies in Matthew 18:16.  And if they were still unhappy about our personal conduct, they could have used the process Paul specified for correcting pastors in 1 Timothy 5:19-21.

But how was listing my faults and sharing them with board members going to help me to become a better person and pastor?

If someone was upset about a church policy – like changes in the worship service – they could have spoken with any board member because we had all agreed on the changes together.  If they didn’t like the answer they received from a board member, they had two options: stay and submit to church leadership, or leave the church peacefully.  A secret meeting was not going to resolve any of their concerns.

But when people pool their grievances, they automatically become divisive.  Joe is upset with the pastor for Offense A … and now Madge is upset with the pastor for Offense A as well.  She takes Joe’s side … carries his offense … adds a few of her own … and the whole group falls right into the trap that one author calls The Bait of Satan.

Division in a church begins when people begin to pool their grievances.

Third, secret meetings tend to overfocus on one personusually the pastor.

These meetings are specifically arranged to find a scapegoat for the unresolved anxiety experienced by some group members.  “We’re feeling uncomfortable right now, so let’s blame how we feel on the pastor – and if we can make a case against him, we’ll all feel ecstatic very soon.”

But the church would have been in far better shape spiritually if those who had met to hypercriticize their pastor met instead to confess their sins … read Scripture together … pray for church leaders … and engage in a service project for somebody else.  But for some reason, they never found the time to do that.

Fourth, secret meetings reveal the immaturity of participants.

Let me quote Peter Steinke once again: “Secret meetings are not arranged for the welfare of the whole community, nor are they dialogical in nature…. Secrets support immaturity.  Underground murmurers in a community are usually insecure, dependent, and childish people.”

Why is this?  Because participants in secret meetings do not feel strong enough to share how they feel with their pastor or leaders.  They only feel strong when they meet with fellow malcontents.  But when they do, nobody will challenge them … nobody will disagree with them … and nobody will love them into health.  And when they finally leave the room clinging to a list of somebody else’s faults, they are silently confessing that they don’t know anything about grace or redemption.

Rather than becoming angry with people who resort to secret meetings, we should genuinely feel sorry for them … and if they don’t repent, pray them right out of the church.

Finally, secret meetings consist of ecclesiastical vigilantes.

These people ignore the teachings of Scripture on reconciliation … bypass due process as outlined in church bylaws … and decide to take matters into their own hands.  Their group alone knows what’s best for the church!

That particular group of vigilantes couldn’t make a go of their new church.  They found attracting newcomers was hard going, although I have a feeling that they never figured out why.  Their church eventually disbanded.

And you know what was ironic?  When two of the people in that group died, I was asked to conduct their funerals.

I assumed that everyone in that group hated me, but they didn’t.  Only a couple of people in that group really hated me.

It’s been 25 years since that secret meeting took place.  I’ve learned a lot since then about healthy and unhealthy behavior among Christians.

And one of the things I’ve learned is that many of the secrets that arise out of secret meetings eventually become known.  Nothing stays hidden forever.

And yet tonight … all over this land … Christians will be holding secret meetings … most of them aimed at their pastor.

To quote from an old folk song, “When will they ever learn?”


Check out my website at www.restoringkingdombuilders.org  You’ll find my story and recommended resources on conflict.  I will also be leading 3 seminars addressing church conflict on Saturday, August 17 in Temecula, California.  The details are on the website.  I’d love to have you join us!

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Have you ever wanted to peak inside the marriage of a well-known Christian pastor, evangelist, or missionary?

That’s the goal of William Petersen’s delightful book, 25 Surprising Marriages: How Great Christians Struggled to Make Their Marriages Work, published by Timothy Press.

In the early 1980s, Petersen published a little paperback called Martin Luther Had a Wife.  The book contained 5 stories of great Christian leaders and their marriages.  Over time, Petersen published 4 similar books (I bought all 5), now compiled into one volume.

I read a few pages of each biography during my quiet time with the Lord, and I have found Petersen’s marital portraits to be encouraging, inspiring, and occasionally disturbing.

Let me share some of the more interesting/disturbing aspects of the first five couples portrayed in the book:

*John Newton was heavily involved in the slave trade from Africa to England before he became a believer.  He was guilty of deserting a ship, having indiscriminate sex with slaves (even raping one woman), and mocking Christ and the gospel.  After he finally came to Christ, he was refused ordination by the Church of England.

Yet he was so head over heels in love with Polly that his life eventually changed.  I can’t imagine anybody in our day waiting as long as John waited for Polly.  As I was reading about their romance, I thought to myself, “This is a far better story than most Chick Flicks in our day.”  He went on to become a small-town pastor, a prominent Christian leader, and the co-author of “Amazing Grace” as well as writing an autobiography, Out of the Depths.

*Dwight Moody was turned down for church membership the first time he applied.  Once an ambitious shoe salesman, he was outspoken, dominant, and impulsive, while his wife Emma was more reserved and yet far better educated.  Some people called him “Crazy Moody.”

Moody became an evangelist, traveled a million miles, preached to 100 million people, and saw 750,000 come to Christ.  He also founded the YMCA and the Moody Bible Institute.  And yet when people were disloyal to her husband, Emma acted like they had committed an unpardonable sin.

*Charles Spurgeon – one of my few Christian heroes – loved to smoke cigars … got gout when he was only 35 years old … and died at a relatively young age.  Saved at 16, he became the pastor of Park Street Chapel in London at 19.  His wife Susie was 3 years older than her husband and frequently corrected his mistakes in language or history.  When Spurgeon went on a preaching tour, they hated to be separated.

Although he lacked polish and refinement (qualities especially important in London at the time), Spurgeon went on to found a college and an orphanage, edit a magazine, write 140 books, and become one of the greatest preachers in history.  His book Lectures to My Students is one of my prized possessions, especially his chapters on depression and handling criticism.

In Spurgeon’s day, the sermons of prominent pastors were reviewed in the newspaper, and Spurgeon’s messages were often dissected in a negative fashion, which greatly wounded him.  He suffered from depression throughout his life, yet maintained a joyful sense of humor.  During one hot spell in London, when Spurgeon’s deacons refused to do anything about cooling down the worship center, Spurgeon took his cane and knocked out every window in the place.  While I wish we had audio or video of Spurgeon’s preaching (that will have to wait for heaven), thank God that his sermons are still in print.  If you’ve never read Spurgeon, you can download some of his books for free for the Kindle.  A master of the English language, there has never been anybody quite like him.

*William Booth was moody and prone to depression.  When he asked that his membership with the Methodist Church be renewed, Booth was turned down.  Unable to find a denomination where they felt at home, Booth and his wife Catherine eventually founded The Salvation Army, probably becoming the greatest husband-wife team in Christian history.

Throughout his lifetime, it was generally conceded that Booth’s wife Catherine was a better preacher than he was.  She also wrote many of her husband’s messages.  (He would request a topic, and she would do the research and writing.)  But sadly, after Catherine died, 6 of their 8 children defected from The Salvation Army.

*Billy Sunday – a famous baseball player in his day (Ty Cobb eventually broke his record for stolen bases) – was a leading evangelist in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  He and his wife Nell served the Lord faithfully for decades.  He consulted with his wife on everything he did.  When the Sundays would enter a town, their goal … get this … was to convert 20% of the people to Christ!  Crowds would line up for 8-10 hours to hear him preach.  It is estimated that 100 million people came to Christ during his ministry.  Sadly, 4 of their children died horrible deaths … their oldest son by suicide.

What have I learned by reading about these marriages?

*It’s much easier to get married in our day.  John Newton had to convince Polly’s parents that he’d be an acceptable partner for their daughter … and the process took years.  Newton asked Polly to marry him 3 times … and she only accepted his third request.  Because they could only write each other letters (no texting or emails back then!), couples sometimes lost contact with each other for months.

*These men depended upon their wives and believed that their counsel was the voice of God to them.  After Polly’s death, John Newton wrote, “She was my pleasing companion, my most affectionate friend, my judicious counselor.  I seldom, if ever, repented of acting according to her advice.  And I seldom acted against it without being convinced by the event that I was wrong.”

*Christian leaders are human beings before they’re anything else.  They are not promised exemptions from mood swings … physical ailments … wayward children … and financial difficulties.  We sometimes think, “If only I was as spiritual as __________, then God would bless my life.”  But even those who appear spiritual in public struggle with their emotions and relationships behind the scenes.

On occasion, I’ll write more about the marriages of famous Christian figures, like C.S and Joy Lewis … Martin and Katie Luther … and Hudson and Maria Taylor.  They both fascinate and encourage me!


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