A Mistress Called Ministry
About the Guest
Did you know that there's a mistress flirting around your pastor's door? She's alluring, even seductive, and if he gives in, she can destroy his marriage and his family. The mistress's name? Ministry. Dennis Rainey speaks to pastors about how they can avoid this marriage-destroying trap.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Did you know that there’s a mistress flirting around your pastor’s door? The mistress’s name? Ministry. Dennis Rainey speaks to pastors about how they can avoid this marriage-destroying trap.
A Mistress Called Ministry
Bob: Do you think of your spouse as your partner / as your teammate? Dennis Rainey says, if that’s the case, there has to be some intentional communication happening.
Dennis: When she asks, “How was your day?” the answer is not, “Fine,” / “Good.” She doesn’t want a two-minute news report, gentlemen. She wants a Gone with the Wind—[Laughter]—she wants to know what happened! And if you want your wife to be your partner / or your husband to be your partner in ministry—you have to share it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear on today’s program about the things that make for a strong partnership in every marriage relationship. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I have to tell our listeners—you were jazzed, back a few months ago, when you had the opportunity to spend a few days with some young men and women—who are in the middle of preparing to be future pastors—going to seminary at your alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary.
Dennis: Future teachers/professors.
Bob: You had a chance to get with them and talk about how important their marriage relationship is in the middle of this preparation.
Dennis: That’s right. I started out by talking about a mistress. I guess what I would say to you, as a listener, is—what would you think if I told you that your pastor, maybe your youth pastor, is tempted by a mistress?
I mean, this is a mistress that tempts every person who breaks the spiritual bread and feeds the sheep. It’s a very tempting and alluring mistress. It’s a mistress called “ministry” —meeting people’s needs. It can be so addictive that, frankly, it can cost a pastor his marriage, his family, and his ministry.
Bob: We thought this was important for our listeners to hear, not only because we want them to have understanding and empathy for what their pastor may be experiencing, but the truth is—any of us can be lured away by a temptation to place something of lesser importance in the middle of our lives and neglect our marriage; right?
Dennis: You’re right, Bob. It can be children, it can be career, it can be a hobby, it can be materialism, it can be TV, it can be media, or it can be a computer.
I mean, our hearts, as it is said, are made to worship something. As one person said: “When we don’t worship God, we don’t go on to worship nothing—we go on to worship everything.” We can, frankly, make an idol out of just about anything.
So, what I was talking to these young seminarians—who, by the way, I think the seminary—Dallas Seminary—is represented by—I think it’s more than three dozen countries from around the world. These are young folks—twenties, thirties, forties, and even some a bit older—who have come to study the Scriptures and prepare to make a difference in other people’s lives. What they don’t realize is—they’re entering a very dangerous profession.
Bob: Well and again, these lectures were provided to the student body over a four-day period. The seminary really felt it was important to take time-out and call these young men and women to make marriage a priority. They asked you to come and speak to the students.
It was a powerful four days.
Dennis: It was called a Spiritual Life Week. I took it in the direction of the family because I know—when you go to seminary—that you can study a lot about God / you can study a lot about God’s Word. You can be missing the main point of how you’re doing in your most important relationships—as a single person, as a married person, as a mom, as a dad—because they were all in various roles, who were seated in the audience.
Bob: Alright. Well, let’s listen to what you shared with the students on the first day of the Spiritual Life Week at Dallas Seminary, recently, as you talked to them about being aware of the possible mistress in their marriage.
Dennis: When I was a young lad—starting out in ministry, here, in 1971—a man by the name of Ron Dunn, a Baptist preacher, marked my life.
He made a very simple statement that has haunted me and yet compelled me to come back to the Word and to my Savior on numerous occasions. He said this: “On my way to the Savior, I met a mistress called service.” The first principle I’ve come to share with you is where we must start—you must cultivate your first love for Jesus Christ.
I suppose, if Bill Bright spoke on this 50 times, he spoke on it a hundred times. We used to say to Bill, “Don’t you know any other messages?” But he would speak out of Revelation 2: “I know your toil. I know your work, but I have this against you, you have left”—what?—
Audience: —“your first love.”
Dennis: —“your first love.” It is so easy, folks. I’m telling you—
—it is so easy!
For me, I try to cultivate what the Scriptures command us to do, which is: “Do the deeds you did at first,” with some anchor points that I recall in those days—when I first found the exciting adventure of joining Christ in life—where I was aware of His presence. I was delighting in seeing Him work around me, work through me, work in other people. I would go to the Scripture and find Him there. I would apply the Scripture with a spongy and teachable heart. One of the things that concerns me most about my own heart is that I would lose my teachability / that I would not be able to admit I’m wrong. It usually shows up in life’s most intimate relationships.
If you’ve not read Paul David Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling, it should be required reading, here, at the seminary. Paul Tripp was an angry man, as he went into seminary, and even more angry, as he graduated. This comes from his book—and I quote—he said: “I was in the middle of destroying my marriage and my ministry, and I didn’t have a clue. I told my wife that 95 percent of the women in our church would love to be married to a man like me. [Sounds of surprise] To which his wife informed him she was in the 5 percent.” [Laughter]
Paul David Tripp has a chapter in his book, Dangerous Calling, that basically has this as its premise—listen carefully: “Seminary is a set-up for big theological brains and heart disease.”
Is it possible to come here for a year/four years or more, and miss God? Of course, it is! “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the wellsprings of life.”
Number two: Make your spouse your life partner. First Peter 3:7 reminds husbands: “Likewise husbands live with your lives in an understanding way, showing her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” So how do you make your spouse your partner? I asked Barbara about that—we talked about partnerships. Partnerships usually have to do with ownership—
—sharing profits and losses. There are partners that are sought for their perspective, their input, and their wisdom. There are also silent partners. Marriage in ministry will never be between one who runs the show and the other who is a silent partner.
So how do you do it? The word is share—share. One of those words we supposedly learned when we were two: “Share your toys. Share your things.” Share with your spouse what God’s doing in your life / share what’s going on in your ministry. When she asks, “How was your day?” the answer is not, “Fine,” / “Good.” She doesn’t want a two-minute news report, gentlemen. She wants a Gone with the Wind—[Laughter]—she wants to know what happened! And if you want your wife to be your partner / or your husband to be your partner in ministry—you have to share it.
When we were raising our six kids, we’d take walks around the garden. Sometimes, I was decompressing from a tough day; but I was very careful not to turn my wife into a toxic waste dump. There’re a lot of bad things that happen in ministry that my wife doesn’t need to know.
Share more deeply on dates—share some time together / get away on a regular basis. Sunday night was our date night. We’d occasionally miss a night. The waitress would come up, after a couple weeks, and say, when we arrived back: “Are you guys okay? Is your marriage okay? You haven’t been here in a couple of weeks.” [Laughter] Getaways—get away together.
Sit and soak in the Scriptures and teach. Get alone. Share your love and appreciation for her. Make your marriage and your family a priority.
Third: Pray together, as a couple, every day. I was in my first four months of marriage—I ran into a Presbyterian preacher—hope it’s okay to quote a Presbyterian, here, at Dallas—name was Carl Wilson. I went up to Carl, who had been married 25 years and had five kids. I said, “Carl, what’s the single best piece of advice you can give me, as a young man, starting out my marriage?” He said, “Oh, that’s easy, Denny.” He said, “Pray every day with Barbara.” I said: “That’s it?! That’s the best advice?!” He said: “I suppose, in our 25 years, we haven’t missed a handful of times. It has cemented our relationship around the Savior and connected us, spiritually, to Him and to each other.”
So, I went home—grabbed Barbara’s hand, that night, as we got into bed—and that’s when we chose to do it. I prayed and began to pray every night until, one night, I went to bed—I was facing that wall and she was facing that wall. It wasn’t what was most comfortable, physically, but emotionally and spiritually. There was a tap on the shoulder—my shoulder—and it wasn’t Barbara. It was God speaking to me through the Holy Spirit, telling me I’d made a rookie mistake. He said, “Aren’t you going to pray with her tonight?” I said, “Uh-uh. I don’t like her tonight, God.” [Laughter]
I want to tell you something—there is something that takes place when two very strong-willed people bend their wills before Almighty God and invite His presence in their marriage.
We have gone to bed, burdened beyond description—battling a child who wasn’t doing well—but when two people do that for 42 years—you know!—when God shows up, He changes things!—maybe not instantly or as soon as I wish He would change me—which reminds me of what’s written on Ruth Bell Graham’s tombstone: “Construction complete.”
We’re all under construction. We need that reminder of: “God, You are God and I am not.” To pray with your wife / to put your hands on her and pray for her—to cast your burdens on Him—it has changed the course of our marriage and family. I am convinced today that I would not be in ministry if we had not done that.
There are too many crafty ways of the enemy to get at us. Pray together every day.
Number four: Resolve conflict—resolve conflict: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” You know the passage—Ephesians 4:32. Forgiveness means we give up the right / we relinquish the right to punish the other person. It is very unnatural, from a human perspective.
Barbara and I have this thing—where she knows and I know that, if one of us is repenting and coming forth, that it then moves it to the other person’s camp: “Will you forgive me?” Sometimes, she has said to me: “No. I’m not sure you’re really repentant,” which creates some interesting discussion, at that point.
Resolve conflict. It’s important for your marriage / it’s important for your family. There’s an African proverb that says, “When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” There’s a lot at stake in your marriage. You’re training your children, the next generation, how to resolve conflict. Why?—because they’re going to have a lot of it. The family is the training-ground for great theology and great practice of theology.
So, when’s the last time you asked your spouse for forgiveness?—“I am sorry for when I…” “Will you forgive me for…” and naming it.
Romance can never grow in the toxic soil of a human heart filled with bitterness.
It was right after 9/11—I was in an arena filled with 14,000 people, at an event called I Still Do®, calling people to keep the most sacred pledge they ever make to another human being. My mind was wandering. My eyes drifted down to a vase, filled with two dozen roses. As I concluded my message, I reached down and got one of those roses out. I said: “If there’s anybody here, who came to this event, and you need to take a rose back to your spouse to ask her / ask him to forgive you and make things right—to ask God to help you be the man / to help you be the woman that you need to be—then I want to invited you to come up here and get a rose.”
I looked out of the corner of my eye. There was a guy, who was up on the top row. He was hitting about every third step, coming down. [Laughter] The entire audience was just quiet. We all watched, and I stopped. I didn’t know what would happen. He walked out, and he started tugging at the rose, and got one. He sprinted back up faster than when he had come down. They met each other at—seemed like in mid-air—[Laughter] —halfway down the row.
I looked down. There were people completely crowding around. Two dozen roses were gone in 30 seconds. So, the next event, we had 400 roses, and they lasted 90 seconds.
The next event, we had a thousand roses for 12,000 people. I made it clear—this was not a chance to get a free rose [Laughter]—they’re expensive!
Someone has said, “One thought driven home is better than three left on base.” I wonder if there’s anybody, here, who needs to get real and say: “You know what? I don’t care—I’m going to go back home, and I’m going to ask for forgiveness. I’m going to be God’s man/God’s woman and make it right.” These roses are going to be right here.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to a first lecture given, recently, at Dallas Theological Seminary, as Dennis Rainey was speaking at Spiritual Life Week. Every listener wants to know what happened.
Dennis: Well, you know what? None of the roses got taken for about five minutes. And then, a really sharp man, in his forties, came up. He goes: “This has been tough. Seminary has been really tough—five years.” He said, “I need a rose.” I said, “You better go get one, now.” And he did. You know—you couldn’t do something like that in a more threatening place—
Dennis: —but by the time the week was over, nearly all of those roses were gone. People had come up, at various times, and had slipped a rose out and taken it back to their spouse.
Bob, I don’t care where our listeners are, right now. There are a lot of flower shops where you live.
Perhaps you need to stop, on your way home—or run by the grocery store—and pick out a rose. Take it back to your spouse, and say, “Will you forgive me for…” and then name it. And then give them a chance to process and offer back forgiveness.
Marriage is a sacred relationship between two people, who will hurt one another multiple times, over their lifetimes together. Forgiveness has to be practiced repeatedly. Oh, how I wish it weren’t so! I wish I didn’t have to do that—and ask Barbara to forgive me—but I do, regularly.
Bob: Yes. I’m thinking about the scenes in The Art of Marriage® video series that talk about the need to seek forgiveness / the need to grant forgiveness to another person. This is a discipline in a marriage relationship.
It’s a practice that is a part of marriage, all the way through. That’s why it’s good for couples, whether they’re in the first year of marriage, or they’re in the 31st or 41st year of marriage, to get some regular marriage maintenance—to read a book together or to go through a series, like The Art of Marriage video series.
In fact, let me just remind our listeners that we’re down to the last couple of days on the special offer that we are making. If you’ll agree to take, at least, ten couples through the material, we will give you The Art of Marriage video series kit, free. That includes the DVDs and a couple of workbooks. So, you get workbooks for the couples you’ll take through it, and we’ll send you the video event kit free.
That offer is good through the end of April. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link on the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll see the link for The Art of Marriage and you can get more information about how you can host an Art of Marriage event in your church or in your living room—wherever you’d like to do it.
Find out more, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let me also mention that we only heard a portion today of the first lecture that you provided for students at Dallas Theological Seminary, back a few weeks ago. If our listeners would like to hear the entire message, or they’d like to see a video of you presenting this material in the chapel at Dallas Theological Seminary, the link for the videos is available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” to find information about the lectures from Dennis Rainey given, recently, at Dallas Seminary.
You know, it was interesting—you told me, after you had had the chance to speak to the students at Dallas Seminary, how many of these young people had grown up, with their moms and dads listening to FamilyLife Today, or a mom or a dad had taken them on a Passport2Purity® weekend.
You heard stories about people going to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway—that they had been sponsored to attend the getaway—and how God had used that in their lives. I think the point that was exciting for us is just to know that what’s happening, here at FamilyLife, is impacting tens of thousands of people, all around the world, every day.
If you’d like to help with a donation today, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you your choice of a couple of books—either Ron Deal’s book, The Smart Stepfamily, that’s been revised and updated, or Scott Stanley’s book on marriage—it’s called A Lasting Promise. You can select either book when you go, online, to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation. Or request either book when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone. And you can let us know which book you’d like when you mail your donation to us.
Our mailing address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. And again, we appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry.
And we hope you’ll be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to hear about the invaders/the terrorists that attack every marriage relationship. We’ll hear about that from Dennis Rainey tomorrow. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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