It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. An older ministry wife had actually admonished me during our first year of marriage and ministry about this same thing that I was hearing now. What was framed as “encouragement” was actually a firm warning that I would contemplate for years to come. I would hear it preached at pastor’s training conferences, written about in blogs and talked about as a generally accepted survival strategy for pastoral families. It’s called “building a wall”.
The argument is that building a wall around your family is essential because “ministry will consume you” and “people will take all that you have, leaving nothing left for your family” and “people are mean and will hurt those you love (your children), causing them to not only walk away from the Church but away from Jesus as well.” Building a wall is the only loving, responsible, and wise way to navigate the life of ministry.
In the last 23 years of life as a pastor’s wife, I’ve come to radically and fundamentally disagree. Not only that, I’ve determined to walk a totally different path. Interesting enough, a few months ago, Craig and I were out on separate lunch appointments that provided amazingly different perspectives on this – leading us to again define who we are and where we stand. The well-meaning men that Craig was meeting with definitely said, “You have GOT to create a wall around your family.” I say they were well-meaning because I know that they were trying to offer advice to Craig about navigating this larger church setting we’ve found ourselves in (we recently moved from pastoring a church of 400 to a church of 4000+). At the other end of the spectrum, I was meeting with a woman who said over and over, “It’s so refreshing to see you live with us. You are authentic and you approach people with your arms open. You want to know us and for us to know you.” This happened on the same day – at exactly the same time! And I’m so glad, because it caused me to reaffirm my commitment to loving people the way Jesus did, authentically and fearlessly. Is that scary? Sometimes. But here’s why it’s what God is calling us all to be and to do.
Surely God is my salvation;I will trust and not be afraid.The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense[a];he has become my salvation.” (Is 12:2).and our Protector.“You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from troubleand surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (Ps 32:6-8)
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of Godbut our lives as well” (1 Thess 2:8)