Church Planter’s Wives in the Age of Outrage – Jen Oshman

I’ll be candid: my stomach has been in knots for months. I feel like a kid trying to navigate divorced parents again. I stare into my coffee cup and wonder if it’s possible in 2020 to love well all the political and social factions in our church body.

Like all church planters, we began this year with a vision for creating community, reaching the lost, and going deep with new attendees at small group. Instead, like everyone else, we’re reeling from the coronavirus and myriad strong opinions about how to handle it. On the heels of that has been the explosion over racial injustice, centuries in the making. Add a presidential election and a looming recession to the fury, and every pastor I know is calling this his hardest year yet.

As pastor’s wives, we know full well the anguish church leaders face. While many are only aware of one or two shots fired, we see the steady stream of shrapnel wounding the whole body. It goes without saying that we’re called to buoy our husbands in these hard days, but how do we interact with a whole church body, community, and nation that’s fuming?

In 2020, being shaped by the Bible must be our top priority. Everything else can give way, but we can’t miss this.

Like all populations, church-planting wives are not a monolith. We range from blunt and outspoken to cautious and reserved. But no matter our personalities, contexts, and individual callings, at some point each of us will have to speak up. It may be in conversation with a church member or during women’s Bible study, or in a Facebook comment or blog post, but our church communities will look to us for guidance in these divided days.

Amid these pressurized conversations, what’s a church planter’s wife to do? Here are five things.

1. Stay in the Word (Matt. 4:4; Heb. 4:12).

While the Bible may not state specifically what to do in the midst of pandemics and protests, it is sufficient to inform everything from our heart postures to our political views (2 Tim. 3:16). For example, James reminds me that these trials are a blessing because they bring about steadfastness and maturity (James 1:2); God will give me wisdom when I ask him (v. 5); and I must be quick to listen and slow to speak, since my anger will not bring about righteousness (v. 19).

In 2020, being shaped by the Bible must be our top priority. Everything else can give way, but we can’t miss this.

2. Keep a couple friends close (Ps. 1:1; Prov. 13:10).

We need close friends, who are mature in Christ, to be a sounding board for us. We need women who point us to God, his track record, and his character. They can help us sift through our emotions, see a bigger picture, and point out our blind spots. They can call us out when we’re arrogant or wrong. Let’s navigate this year with them close by.

3. Have love (1 Cor. 13; John 15:12).

No matter how tight our theology is or how informed our views are, if we have not love, we’re nothing (1 Cor. 13:1–3). Two friends and I have had 1 Corinthians 13 on repeat—texting it to each other, writing it on our forearms, rehearsing it out loud. We have to remind one another that Jesus commands us to love even our enemies with a self-sacrificial, self-denying, cross-carrying kind of love.

4. Be doers of the Word (James 1:22; 1 John 3:18).

Love is not passive; it leads to action. We may have to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to someone who dishonors the Lord. Or we may have to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves (Prov. 31:8–9), as we seek to make “the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). Right now, we have numerous opportunities to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause” (Isa. 1:17). Let’s not shy away from loving with our actions and inviting others to do the same.

5. Know that you will fail (Rom. 3:23–24; Eccles. 7:20).

As hard as we try, as much as we read, as diligently as we seek the Lord, we will still fail. We’re finite and fallible creatures. Our hope cannot be in our own perfection or others’ approval (Gal. 1:10). We must fear God and rest in him alone. We can measure our words carefully, but let’s not put our hope or identity in them—but only in Christ. And when we and others fail, let’s be quick to repent and forgive (Matt. 5:23–24).

We have a role in our communities that God calls us to steward well, in a way that reflects him and leads others to him.

In 2020 we’re all swinging wildly from wanting to bury our heads in the sand to flying off the handle with rage. I often feel both within the same hour. As church planter’s wives, though, we must “look carefully then how [we] walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). We have a role in our communities that God calls us to steward well, in a way that reflects him and leads others to him.

Sooner or later, we’ll have to wade into stormy waters. There’s really no sitting on the sidelines this year. But take courage, our God is greater and he lives inside you and me. Equipped by his Word and empowered by his Spirit, we can love well every person on every side of every issue.

Dear sister, it’s God’s good design that you’re right where you are, right now. Be used of him.

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