A Mistress Named Ministry
About the Guest
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 Named 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 wanting 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, July 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today about the things that make for a strong partnership in any marriage. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I have to tell our listeners—you were jazzed 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. You had a chance to get with them and talk about how important their marriage relationship is in the middle of going through their 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 materialism, it can be TV, it can be media—or it can be a computer. 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 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 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. 1 Peter 3:7 reminds husbands, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives 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 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 wanting 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 with a date—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—and 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—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 in 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 be the woman that you need to be—then I want to invite 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: 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 was thinking about the coaching you provided for these students. I thought, “It’s too bad that when you spoke to them you did not have available copies of the book that you’ve just written called Choosing a Life That Matters: 7 Decisions That You’ll Never Regret,” because it’s a perfect gift to give to people who are where these young men and women are—
—who are starting to launch out into life and into ministry.
You catalogue—in the book—seven critical decisions that all of us need to make that are determinative decisions like the decision to seek God and not sin, or the decision to fear God and not men, the decision to love God and not the world, other decisions that you walk through in this book. It would have been great to have copies to give when you spoke. I’m thinking about our listeners. They may want to get a copy of your new book, Choosing a Life That Matters to pass on to somebody who is headed to college or maybe somebody who just graduated from college—somebody who is maybe just starting their spiritual journey, somebody who is a new Christian.
Or this is a great book for families to go through together. Take a chapter at a time and just talk about what you’ve shared in the book. Talk about it in your time together as a family or around the dinner table or at a family night sometime.
You can find out more about Dennis Rainey’s new book, Choosing a Life That Matters: 7 Decisions That You’ll Never Regret whenyou go to FamilyLifeToday.com—or if you’d like to order you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again order online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I was reading this weekend—online—a lot of articles about marriage and about family and the stuff from daily newspapers and stuff from different websites—and it occurred to me how little is being written about or talked about in our culture that is affirming and supporting a healthy view of marriage and family. So much of what you read these days is—well, it’s pushing people in the opposite direction.
If just reminded me of how vital it is for us to have a program like FamilyLife Today where we’re reminding one another regularly of what the Bible has to say about strong, healthy relationships and how important those are in God’s plan for his people. Our goal here at FamilyLife Today is to effectively develop Godly families. We want to see husbands and wives and moms and dads understanding what the Bible teaches about marriage and family and then living that out—day in and day out—in your home.
We’re grateful for those of you who lock arms with us in this ministry—those of you who support this work and make it possible for FamilyLife Today to expand in new areas and to have this content out reaching more people than ever before. Thank you for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today! If you are a regular listener and you’ve never made a donation, today would be a great day for you to join the team. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com—make an online donation.
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Now tomorrow we want to talk about some of the common temptations all of us face that are seeking to undermine our marriage and family relationships. We’ll hear more from Dennis Rainey about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in.
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.
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