This year my wife and I celebrated our 16-year anniversary. It’s been an incredible ride. The road has included five moves, two dogs, three academic degrees, two church plants, and two amazing children. When it comes to being a godly husband, I don't claim to be an expert, but my tires definitely have some wear. Over the years I’ve learned a lot and still have much more to learn. Recently, I was reflecting upon the apostle Peter’s instructions to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7, where he says,
"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."
Peter’s admonitions are brief, but powerful and convicting. These admonitions to all husbands are especially relevant for the husband who is also called “pastor.” The ability to shepherd one’s wife and family well will directly impact one’s leadership of the church family. This is why the qualifications for elders in the local church focus upon a man’s marriage and family life (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9). The tragic company of men who have shipwrecked their ministries includes many who have neglected their most important ministry, loving their wives well.
As I think about growing as a husband and pastor, I’ve been wrestling with five questions I believe every married man serving in Christian leadership should be asking himself.
1) Am I dwelling with my wife?
Marriage is the beginning of a new life together between a husband and wife. It’s much more significant than simply gaining a permanent roommate. Sure, you share the same space with your spouse, but you can share space without sharing lives. Marriage is a call to share life together, to dwell together. You dwell together physically, emotionally and spiritually. You share hopes, dreams, joys, struggles, disappointments and everything else the journey of life brings.
In order to dwell with your wife, you have to be present. This means being physically present. If your busyness or personal pursuits are preventing you from investing time in the most important human relationship you have, then something has to go. Dwelling with your wife also includes being mentally present when you’re together. Focus upon her. Listen to her. Turn your phone off, if that’s what it takes. Be available in both body and mind.
2) Am I a student of my wife?
I’ve always valued being a “lifelong learner.” I’m curious about all types of things and I love gaining new knowledge. I love envisioning what the future could look like, and then establishing goals and strategies to get there. As a pastor, visionary leadership is major part of my job. But, do I study my wife? Do I really know her deeply? Do you know what your bride is struggling with? What does she need most from you right now? Could you recount to someone how she has grown over the past year? Do you have a vision and strategy for how you want her to flourish as a woman of God? It doesn’t really matter if you like school or not, every husband needs to embrace his calling as a lifelong student of his wife.
3) Am I adoring my wife?
Peter tells husbands to “show honor” to the most important woman in their life. This involves granting your wife the respect she is rightly due. Honoring her is more than mere appreciation or honorable mention. Your wife doesn’t just want to be thanked. She hungers to be adored by you. Platform her. Lift her up. Take action and show her how much she is valued by you. Work at this with time, energy and creativity. As you create an environment of adoration you will allow your wife to flourish.
4) Am I affirming my wife as a fellow heir in the gospel?
Leadership as a pastor doesn’t mean the people you lead are of lesser worth. Good leaders seek to serve and elevate those around them. They want to do everything in their power to set others up for success. Leaders should never belittle those they lead. Husbands who are followers of Jesus need to lead like Jesus. Part of your sacrificial, servant leadership as a husband includes affirming your wife’s identity in Christ. Though you may have distinct roles as husband and wife, you are heirs together of the abundant riches found in the gospel. This world screams a thousand messages each day about what it means to be a woman. Remind your wife what it means to be a woman of God. Remind her who she is because of Jesus’ work on her behalf. Help her discern the truth from any lies she might believe about her identity. Affirm her in Jesus.
5) Am I praying for my wife?
The end of 1 Peter 3:7 includes a sober warning to husbands. The warning is to husbands who would neglect Peter's preceding instructions. They don’t strive to love their wives well, and maybe they don’t even care. Unrighteousness as a husband will actually cause your prayers before God to be hindered. That’s a terrifying thought. Neglecting my wife will create a barrier between God and I, built by my own hypocrisy. Notice, Peter’s warning assumes something basic. A godly husband is a praying husband. Let’s start there. Husbands need to come before God on behalf of their wives. One simple way I’ve learned to pray for my wife is to ask her, “What are a couple ways you’d like me to pray for you this week?” It’s a great encouragement to know someone is praying for you, especially your own husband.
The purpose of the five questions above is not to make husbands feel more defeated or inadequate. They’re intended to help us be more intentional as we take our God-given responsibility seriously. Without the acceptance and security available in the gospel, these questions will crush you. But through the grace and strength of God’s Spirit, we can grow as godly husbands. I encourage you to ask yourself these five questions on a regular basis, knowing that in Jesus you’ve been given the power to become the husband God intends you to be and the husband your wife longs for. Don’t lead the church, while failing to lead your wife.
This article was originally published on andyorourke.net. Used with permission.
A two-time church planter, Andy O’Rourke is passionate about raising up leaders and planting churches to reach the next generation. He currently serves as the founding and lead pastor of Antioch Community Church in Minneapolis, MN. You can find more of Andy’s writing on his blog: www.andyorourke.net