Wow. The stats from a study by Dr. John F. Helliwell reveals that married people are happier than single people (link here and source here). To be politically-sensitive, our first reaction might be that we should be quiet about this because it might irk a negative reaction from single people who are set on staying single and who will want to justify their singlehood. On the otherhand, this news (or old news) should be shouted from the housetops: that married life is to be celebrated.
People who are divorced may disagree with this though. Their experience of living together with a spouse in an unhappy marriage is subjective and very personal to them, and can be true because it’s based on their own personal experience.
This can pose another question for us to think about. What makes a happy marriage? Maybe we can go back to the bible on this one.
I have blogged about this matter in the past but only very briefly in passing. After many months of self-reflection and getting resettled, I now have more time to reflect upon my journey and share with readers here (and anyone else who may be interested).
Since November of 2011, I have made a journey that has brought my family and I to a new denomination, and to another province. As some of my old readers may know, I began serving as an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. My family and I decided to leave the Lutheran church for various reasons–partly for family and ecclesiological reasons. The ELCIC denomination (Canadian equivalent to the ELCA) in which I was a part of had made big changes in the summer of 2011 in the way it treated marriage between two people of the same gender. I believe its interpretation of Scripture had gone awry and I know that this goes against the popular beliefs in society today. The atmosphere in this denomination made it very difficult for pastors to speak their mind (despite what they may say). After some time praying and reflecting upon this, as a family we decided that it was better just to leave rather than remain within the system. The theological currents within the ELCIC was too powerful, especially in its leadership level, so I was under no deception about this.
Despite these huge changes, many of my former fellow colleagues in ministry chose to remain in the same denomination (since they are mostly life-long Lutherans). I know how hard it is to leave a denomination they have known all their lives. It takes a lot of courage, perhaps too pressure to stand alone for most. [but to my Lutheran colleagues and brothers and sisters who choose to remain, I pray for them God’s richest blessings. ]
For me, it was a much easier decision to leave because I was already very familiar with the evangelical church. I had grown up a classical pentecostal assembly (PAOC) in Vancouver, and was baptized by immersion in a Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) Church in Ottawa in my early 20s, and had fellowshiped in evangelical churches most of my life. (…yes, I’ve been on a theological-ecclesiological journey.) So to return to the evangelical fold was no problem at all. Our family packed up our belongings and moved from the prairie towns to the Greater Toronto Area in eastern Canada. We finally feel more settled now. We’re recently in the middle of a transition, but overall, this move has been a spiritual pilgrimage back to our evangelical roots. In looking back I think this pilgrimage has also stretched me in ways to become a better pastor. I have recently served as a pastor in a Baptist Church (CBOQ).
Do you support your pastor’s family? To many people’s surprise, the pastor’s family might be one of the most mistreated families in the church. The expectations of the pastor is that he/she ought to give, give, and give, and if there’s more to give, then squeeze him dry. The only thing pastor is expected to receive is a salary-paycheck, afterall, that’s what he’s paid to do, right? On top of that, the pastor’s spouse and kids are also expected to serve their hearts out too as a good example to the rest of the church, and also be under the microscope of the people full-time.
These are unrealistic expectations. A website article (read more: Ministry Matters) suggest some things you can do to show support to your pastor and his family. Here’s several:
1. Temper unrealistic expectations of the pastor’s family.
2. Make a pastoral support group a priority.
3. Support a sabbatical.
4. Protect your pastor’s sabbath day.
Do these look like something you or your church does to support your pastor?
Before the House Committee in the U.S. Congress, Rev. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, defends the right of the unborn–he’s calm, cool, and collected but firm in his convictions. There are not many people these days, including pastors, who openly defend the rights of the unborn. Thank and praise the Lord for men of God like him. As Christians, we must pray for leaders like him who are standing up for righteousness and justice in our world. [Video quality isn’t great but it’s current and relevant: “Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Conscience?” ]
These days, divorce is high, especially in the western world, and conservative evangelicals and charismatics are not immune to it. Pastors are not immune to divorce either. Televangelist Pastor Benny Hinn is being divorced by his wife Suzanne Hinn. This is truly sad. Here is the letter (PDF) he sent to supporters concerning his divorce situation. Is there anyone to blame? Perhaps there is no one is to blame? If you take a look at Benny Hinn’s ministry schedule (which is public) you’ll see that it is pretty tight. It leads me to wonder if he spent enough time with his wife? It seems that Pastor Benny is married to his work-ministry. Suzanne Hinn is not a nun. She is a regular woman, wife and mother who needs her husband’s attention and love.
If I may be facetious for a minute, the only clergy immune to divorce are Roman Catholic priests. Perhaps this explains why the Roman Catholic Church chose to prohibit priests from getting married.
For clergy families, finding quality family time together is a big challenge. It should not surprise anyone who is, or who has been, in ministry that it is not easy for us to separate our work life from family life. It is too easy to be married to ministry. It will be wise to understand that the work of ministry is a never-ending drain of family time so we must divide our two worlds. Family is family. Church ministry is work. We ministers will have to learn to say “no” to some demands of ministry. If the two worlds are melded together without any clear boundaries of separation, the minister’s family will inevitably be hurt due to our neglect of spouse and children. I have personally faced this problem before.
I am learning and still learning how to practice what I preach. I’m trying to learn to balance family and work and separate my ministry from my family life. You may have noticed that I have been blogging less than before. It’s been a real time drainer in the past. Therefore, I have decided to spend more time with our daughter in the evenings while my wife works in the evenings. Yes, she also works to help pay the bills.
To my fellow bibliobloggers and ministers… and there are many out there… I hope and pray that God may give you wisdom and inner strength to do what is right for your family by putting them first.
I spent Saturday with my wife at a live simulcast of Focus on Marriage (hosted by Focus on the Family). The speakers were great. The encouragement, wisdom and education we received was amazing. I learned that as a Christian couple and family, our focus on Christ will help us have a good marriage. Also, that forgiveness is key. It helps save marriages.
I would encourage all married couples to check this out for next year. It will benefit your marriage whether you already have a good marriage or want to improve it. Better to keep a good thing going well than to wait until you have to fight a forest fire.
Focus on the Family also has a live simulcast for Focus on Parenting. I know I could always use help in this area.