Must a pastor make a potential wife prove herself worthy of the ministry if she wants to marry him? Is it legitimate to put her under tests and trials to see if she can take the brutality that congregational members can give? Was it legitimate of him to put me through spiritual boot camp? (Additional information was given but I have condensed the question.)
- GK of Coudersport, PA.
Qualifications for ministry (Part 1)
The place to start regarding this question is to offer my congratulations to you on seeing the light BEFORE you actually married this man. The fact that you broke off the relationship is evidence that you already know the answer to your own question. Still, it makes you so angry that you were put through this ordeal and you want some validation that he was dead wrong in how he treated you. Well, he was wrong.
No, you do not have to undergo ministry tests to "toughen" you up for eventual congregational abuse. There is no proper spiritual boot camp for pastor's wives. You do not need to prove your ministry worthiness to a potential husband.
Instead, let's look at Jesus' view of ministry. What did Jesus say about qualifications? Well, he more than said it; he actually demonstrated the heart of ministry at the Last Supper. He washed the disciple's feet on his hands and knees after they had eaten with him for the last time. And then he said to them; "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you." (John 13:12-15)
All of us serve with flaws! None of us measure up. In whatever capacity any of us minister, we will do so imperfectly. The question to ask is; do we have a heart of service in the same way Jesus did when he washed the feet of his friends? Jesus is not looking for people who have made it successfully through boot camp but those who have a genuine servant's heart.
When we are too busy watching other people's foot washing technique, we certainly neglect our own. It sounds like your former fiancée had such a problem. It was not his business to critique your credentials; he should have been busy trying to find ways to serve you encourage you and love you.
Next: Trying to help out the Holy Spirit?
Does the Holy Spirit need help doing his job? (Part 2)
What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer and follower of Jesus Christ? "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." (John 16:8) "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13) These are two of the scriptures that give us an idea of the Holy Spirit's job description.
He is the one who convicts people of sin. He is the one who guides us into the truth. And you know what? He doesn't need our help because he is fully God and quite capable of doing those things much better than any of us ever could. None of us should presume to set up "spiritual boot camps" for other people.
It is true that we are each going to have to go through some trials and overall hard times in life. It is also regrettable but often true that church folks can dish out some very painful experiences. These will come on their own; no one needs to orchestrate them for us or play "Holy Spirit" in our lives.
The root of this kind of activity on the part of your ex-fiancée and his church is control and manipulation. That mindset is unhealthy and constitutes spiritual abuse. Please see my previous Straight Talk article regarding this issue for more information about recognizing spiritual abuse.
Our Lord himself gave us some very good advice in a parable found in Luke 6. He is talking about judging others instead of ourselves. He ends the story this way; "First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye." (Verse 42)
Let me translate that into the situation in your question. This man and the pastor he serves under need to face up to their own control issues before they can ever see clearly enough to help you with any life issues you may have.
Next: What would a healthy partnership look like?
Marriage and ministry partners (Part 3)
It always takes time to recover from the trauma of any kind of abuse. There are so many issues to work through and so much time needed with God to get your head back on straight again. I would imagine this time in your life has been both painful and confusing and you may wonder how to go on from here.
One thing for you to think about is: if this was unhealthy, what would a healthy ministry partnership look like? First of all, when you date someone you might be interested in, you should not feel like you are applying for a job. Whether the potential suitor is a pastor, garage mechanic or junior executive: is the person interested in YOU more than in how you will fit in with his career?
Serving the Lord together in whatever capacity he calls you will grow out of your basic compatibility. It will also flow from the gifts God has placed inside each of you. Wonderfully, if the relationship honors God, he will blend those gifts to be a beautiful fragrance for the church and you will not need to manipulate anything.
The healthy husband and wife love and honor AND serve each other. There are beautiful examples throughout the church and scripture of godly marriages which are both sound and emotionally healthy.
As you work through the aftermath of your broken engagement, do not become bitter and don't let unforgiveness trap you. Forgive your ex-fiancée and the pastor who directs him. We each have our own sins and those are enough to worry about. Pray a blessing over their lives and then go on. Don't continue rehearsing this hurt past the time it takes you to sort it all out in your own mind.
Guard your heart from becoming hard or bitter. Let the Holy Spirit minister peace and truth to you. You know he will; he has already saved you from a great mistake you could have made. Now find a good healthy church and plug in. You will blossom once again.