Pastors learn to overcome their greatest challengeby C. Walter Overman
Pastors spend much time helping couples navigate the ups and downs of marriage, but when it comes to their own marriages, they sometimes find it difficult to help themselves.
Eddie Thompson, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina senior consultant for marriage and family ministry, said problems that go unaddressed in a pastor’s marriage will become the greatest challenge to the success of his ministry.
“It’s more soothing to help other people than to try to deal with the issues yourselves,” he said.
When marital troubles arise, pastors are prone to compound the problem by hiding it from family and friends.
“Instead of dealing with their issues they pack up their bags and move to another church, where their issues just come out again,” Thompson said.
He noted several reasons why pastors sometimes do not address their marital struggles, such as unrealistic expectations to be the perfect pastor and husband, and assuming that the source of the problem is a personal issue.
Thompson said those fears are generally unfounded, and many times pastors can help themselves by recognizing that every marriage will experience its share of trouble.
“All marriages have issues,” he said. “Couples who really do love each other have enormous problems.”
Thompson shared how pastors and their spouses can overcome challenges to their marriages during the annual North Carolina Bivocational Ministries Conference. During the two-day conference at Caraway Conference Center, pastors and their wives learned how to build and sustain a God-centered marriage.
The couples learned that the first goal of marriage is to please God – not each other.
“The culture teaches us to look for the perfect person to meet our every need in marriage,” Thompson said. “It’s simply too much for another human to meet all your needs.”
Marriage, when properly understood, is a tool God uses to equip couples for Kingdom service. “Happiness is often not the trail God puts us on to get us places that He has designed us to be,” Thompson said. “God takes the tough times to accomplish more for His Kingdom.”
Thompson said too many people think of happiness as the intense feelings commonly experienced in the early stages of courtship. When those feelings fade early in marriage, couples often seek happiness elsewhere.
“If the goal of marriage is really to make somebody happy, then we are going to have to get a new marriage every two or three years,” Thompson said.
Thompson said couples will discover true happiness when they view marriage as a “giant sanctification machine” where husbands and wives love each other as Christ loves the church and keep each other moving in a relationship toward God.
He added that healthy marriages encounter problems such as sexual temptation, communication issues and unrealized expectations. However, couples can overcome these challenges when they maintain an unwavering commitment to God and to each other.
“A good marriage is not something you find,” Thompson said. “A good marriage is something you work for.”