Can You Be a Good Pastor Without Being a Good Husband?

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Remember that pastors who preach the gospel should not undermine the gospel by refusing to love their wives as Christ loves the church.

That statement is a sobering one for me. It’s one that all pastors and church leaders need to hear. There’s a real temptation in ministry (at least for me), to spend my time ministering to those outside my home to the detriment of ministering to those inside my home. If we allow our congregations’ “needs” to dictate our schedules, neglecting our responsibilities at home can be sinfully justified. Remember, in order to be qualified to pastor Gods people, a pastor “must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church (1 Tim. 3:4-5)?”

Also remember that pastors who preach the gospel should not undermine the gospel by refusing to love their wives as Christ loves the church:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Eph. 5:25-33).

The more we understand the gospel, the more we should be willing to die for the wellbeing of our brides. Marriage for every Christian man is a call to die for the salvation and sanctification of our wives.

These truths are important to mention because there is a real danger for pastors to think that they can separate the integrity of their ministry from the integrity of their homes. Consider John Wesley, one of the greatest Christian preachers who ever lived, as an example. Nathan Busenitz at the Cripplegate Blog recently wrote an article titled “John Wesley’s Failed Marriage.” He quotes a couple biographies about Wesley, and some statements about Wesley’s marriage are startling:

(From Stephen Tomkins’ biography on Wesley)

— When Wesley left for a ministry tour in Ireland in 1758, Molly reported that her husband’s parting words to her were: “I hope I shall see your wicked face no more.” (p. 155)

— “Reunited in England, they clashed violently — Wesley refusing to change his writing habits [of sending affectionate letters to other women] and Molly accusing him of adultery and calling down on him, in her own words, ‘all the curses from Genesis to Revelation.’” (p. 155)

— “Almost the sole surviving record of this marriage from Molly’s side dates from December 1760, when she said Wesley left a meeting early with one Betty Disine and was seen still with her the following morning. She told him ‘in a loving manner to desist from running after strange women for your character is at stake.’” (p. 159)

— “In 1771, Molly announced that she was leaving John again. On 23 January, the Journal reports, ‘For what I cause I know not to this day, [my wife] set out for Newcastel, purposing “never to return.” I did not leave her: I did not send her away: I will not call her back.’” (p. 174)

You can find the full article here. It’s worthy of your time and attention.

How could the Father of Methodism have such a glaring blind spot? I don’t know. But, don’t assume that you and I are immune from such blind spots. May we constantly examine the integrity of both our public and private ministries. May we constantly repent and believe in Christ’s finished work alone to save and sanctify us. May we never be satisfied with our own holiness as we depend solely on the holiness of Christ to justify us.

How will you respond? Will you remember the covenant you made before God, and afresh and anew commit yourself to your bride, coming and dying for her physical and spiritual wellbeing? You too may have a wife that has an occasional “wicked face” (to use Wesley’s words), but never pretend that her wicked face somehow changes your responsibility to God and her. Just as Christ died to cleanse His wicked bride, you do the same. Point her to Christ through your own self-sacrificial death. May Christ be the source of your love for your bride. Come and die, friend … come and die.

What are your thoughts?  

Jared has served in pastoral ministry since 2000. He is the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY. He is the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. Jared is married to Amber and they have four children. He is a teaching assistant for Bruce Ware at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and a PhD Student in Systematic Theology at SBTS. You can take Jared's Udemy Course, "How to Enjoy God Through Movies, TV, Music, Books, etc." with this link for 43% off. Engage popular culture with Scripture. Enjoy God through popular culture.

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  • JayDee

    I’m so grateful to read this post at this appointed time. God is faithful to not leaving us ignorant. I must realign with the word of God concerning my Wife. Thanks for this article.

  • dathisfeet

    Wonderful article! Thank you.

  • WomenArePastorsToo

    Actually, it is impossible for me to be a “Good Pastor and a Good Husband” – but I can (and am) doing all that I can to follow the Lord’s lead in being a Good Pastor and a Good Wife.

    • Sheryce

      Thank you! I get so frustrated when reading an article and suddenly it refers to pastors as “he” or talks about their wives. Suddenly it’s like it’s not for me anymore, like I don’t belong.

      • Brandon

        The reasons the authors do that is simply a theological understanding of the requirments of the Pastorate (Eldership) in the Bible. The Bible never speaks of a woman occupying the position and therefore is understood as one of the responsibilities of the male gender. I hope that is helpful.

  • Reginald Taylor

    Awesome article! Hard hitting indeed. Thank you!

  • needareminder

    I am really happy for this article as it is a powerful reminder of the God given commitment made to each other. God is first, family is second, and others last. Help me Jesus.

  • Jerrysald

    Thank you for the article, it is a topic that all people and especially all ministers and pastors need to here and discuss. But, the answer is clear, NO!!!!!!!!! If a pastor is a bad husband, he has no business being a pastor and or preaching, or at least getting himself right with his wife. It has nothing to do with being a “good pastor”. Being a bad husband trumps all things in his life and calling. All pastors and minsters have to determine what is more important to them, the ministry or their wives. If they choose the ministry as being more important after being married, they just failed their most important ministry, “their home”. Just think, if a pastor cannot care for the souls who are in his own home, what makes you think he will be able to care for the souls in a church. If a pastor is a bad husband, he has determined that the ministry is more important than his wife. “Not a Wise Man”!!!!!!!!

  • prince

    What about the Jezebel’s and Athaliah’s of the Bible? There are very wicked women who set out just to ruin you and prevent you from fulfilling your calling. Sometimes pastors marry them even before they responded to the call. They were troublesome before ministry and even worse in the ministry. You assume every wife is pious from this article but you probably haven’t met some wicked women yet and worse of all to later realize you are married to them. A pastor’s affection for the sheep can easily be misunderstood for something else. Both the wife and the sheep deserve time, counsel, gift, prayers, spiritual feeding etc. but if you have a wife who wants all your attention and insinuates you are going out with every woman because you give them time as a pastor is highly insecure and till God intervenes there’s no way anyone can change her. Leave your ministry for her, no way, then the devil has won. Instead of seeing John Wesley as a bad husband, why is it difficult to see the wife also as a wicked wife? Afterall, no one wrote a biography of the wife. If she was humble, she could easily have accompanied his husband on missionary travels than insinuate lustful relationships with women he pastors. It is a good thing to be a good pastor and a good husband but in heaven you will be judged on what God called you to do first before all these other things. There will be no marriage in heaven. I am saying you shouldn’t ditch the ministry for a wicked wife.

    • Chad Eddy

      A call to ministry is such a subjective feeling, but a marriage is a completely objective call. Anybody who would choose their call to pastoral or f/t ministry over their marriage is a blind guide! There are far too many mediocre pastors; best not to become another one by choosing to pastor other people’s wives/husbands/children while you’re already failing the one God gave you.
      I am advocating choosing wife over the glory of ministry. Leave the pulpit if and when necessary. If you are still called to minister to people other than your wife, you will. God will still use you, even if you put your wife first.
      This has nothing to do with how wicked your wife is. It has everything to do with your own character. BTW I’ve heard the Molly Wesley story before, and all along I’ve always assumed it was her problem, not his, but he responded badly.

  • Tums

    Well i have been a Pastor for many years now, i just got married in 2008 ,i have 3 kids and my wife is not matured in the Lord , she is working at the moment .. I am really encourage by this article .. I believe that we can be a good husband and a good Pastor .. Since we have our kids ,i have told my wife that i will look after our kids ,eventhough some women in our church wanted to look after our kids for us because they knew that i have responsibility .. Since than i have been with my kids for nearly 4 years now ..i do baby sitter for my kids ,i cleaned the house even cooked the food , when my wife came back from work ,everything is ready and clean here at home. I just want to expirience those words,”Husband love your wife” I mean love is not just wrtting a note of love towards her ,or wating for the valentine day , it is an everyday committement , sacrifice , that must be seen in your action to impact her ,because Paul said Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.. This text really explained that the wife of Christ is not a perfect wife ,she had blemish ,spot and and winkles ,but he loved her ,washed her ,cleanse her …Most of us looks for perfect wife , while Christ didn’t do that ,He found a wicked one but transformed her to a beautiful and glorious one ..If he (Christ) can do that ,we must follow his footsteps..

  • Tatabo

    Thanks really help in my situation, am just kind of leaving my wife alone since I tried to convince her to consider my words but always refused. Today she left me with a word that really discouraged me from loving her but reading this article reaffirms my feelings and responsibilities toward my wife. I will do my best to show that I love her regardless of her bad attitudes. Thanks keep the good work.

  • Jerrysald

    I understand clearly the response. But we have to keep things clear. The article deals with men as husbands and pastors. It had nothing to say about wives and their behavior. That is another subject. If a man was a pastor before he married his wife and new she was an immature christian and or person. Why would he even consider the fact of marrying such a woman. The pastor in this case needs discernment knowing that his choices will affect his home and church. Responses about bad wives most likely come from pastors who are having problems with thier wives. “Marriage counseling does wonders”! A bad husband but good pastor has clearly lost his identity, He builds more to fortify his role as pastor than role as husband. He’s misguided himself in thinking that a congregation is more important than his wife. Ministry, really, do you not think that ministry can’t go on without you. The most important thing in life is the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross “GRACE AND FORGIVENESS”. Thereafter if you are not married, you do not have responsibility to a spouse and children. Hallelujah! have all the ministry you want. But if you are married, your first responsibly is to your wife. Regardless of her actions. If a pastor is a bad husband he needs to take a sabbatical and reconsider what is most important to him. I do not believe that a bad husband honors God. Sorry i did not mention that i to am a pastor and have in ministry over 25 years.

  • Leonard

    Just as the bible says: love covers the multitude of sin! I will encourage the couples to continue asking God to strengthen them to love!

  • Biru kefenie

    Yes,leaders with their husband or wife have to pray together for passing the way of Christ’s cross them selves and others.

  • dalmacio

    great message for every believers…

  • Caleb Suresh

    You have conveniently swallowed eph5:23, which precedes what you have quoted. Also consider our Lord’s Words, which trump Paul’s: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).

  • Nars

    The article does not do justice to men who struggle to maintain their calling when it is being derailed by a wife whose caustic remarks at the pew undo whatever her husband saysat the pulpit. Praise God if He has given you a good wife but pray for your fellow minister who is not as blessed as you are rather than judging him for not loving his wife enough. The pathos of “How can I give you up Ephraim?” did not come to us if Hosea’s wife Gomer was easy to love.

  • Mwashigadi Mwang’ombe

    sad but true….

  • Julie Anne

    If a wife feels she is being cared for as Christ loves the church, she will most likely be her husband’s biggest advocate and supporter and he will be more effective as pastor because he feels the love and respect of his wife. The key is if the wife “feels” she is being cared for. Some men think they are caring for her in the way she needs to be loved, but are missing it. If there is discord in the marriage, she may not feel cared for, so the husband might need to adjust his method of caring to get things back on track. Doing so will yield great rewards for him. And . . . kids like happy parents.

    • Sam O’Donnell

      Julie, you nailed it. Thank you for your insight.

  • Pastor Clayton

    I confess to being a little surprised by some of the responses. I am blessed with a happy marriage to an amazing woman of God. She supports me and she supports my ministry. However, her health has not always been well. There have been times when my wife needed attention that would normally have gone to my ministry…and (nearly) every time, my wife has won. As she should. Obviously, there should be a balance, but my wife receives my time before others do. Scripturally, I just don’t know how you argue with that.

    If my wife were to be unsupportive of my ministry, I would hope that she would come around. But if she didn’t, I think I would have to leave the ministry. If God has called me to marry her, then He has called me to love as as a Godly husband. A marriage covenant is a very serious thing, and takes priority in the life of a believer over occupational considerations. Could there be exceptions? Yes, possibly. But I think they would be rare.

    If a Pastor has a ‘wicked wife’, then he shouldn’t be in ministry. I’m sorry, but I cannot see how the Kingdom of God would be furthered by such a marriage being so prominent in a local church. If a man is called to preach and to marry, and she isn’t supportive, I think he needs to woo her to changing her mind.

    Someone said that ‘the devil wins’ if a person leaves ministry because of a wicked spouse. I’m sorry, but it seems to me that the win that the devil would want more than someone leaving the ministry, is someone who ought not to be in ministry stubbornly staying in ministry. If your life cannot match your message, your credibility is affected.

    This was a great article. Thank you!

  • Joshua Neisinger

    I’m inclined to answer “No” to the original question, clarifying that it asks whether a person CAN rather than SHOULD. The question also pertains specifically to pastoral ministry.

    That God will use the ill-equipped (Moses), the unworthy (Samson), and even the unsaved (Potiphar) to further His kingdom is obvious. That speaks of Divine power.

    Scripture advocates personal discipleship over spousal duties, but not ministry.
    Though God’s abilities are unlimited, choice of spouse can impact one’s availability for ministry–for increase or decrease.

    While I believe that God can use anyone–even a bad spouse, a pastor (as opposed to evangelist, or other minister) has to live among his sheep. A bad marriage would hurt credibility too much, I would think.

  • John Okemwa

    Very thankful for the article! As ministers of God we have a solemn duty to love our spouses as Christ loved the church that we are so committed to serve. Our success in the ministry to a large extent depends on the cordial support that our spouses accord us.


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