Ray Ortlund and Sam Storms on Endurance in Ministry
Many of you are already aware of a 30-minute podcast featuring Ray, me, and Tony Merida that is currently available at the Gospel Coalition website. It was recorded live at the Acts 29 Global Gathering in Orlando, back on July 24th.
The focus of the questions Tony asked us was endurance in pastoral ministry. How have we done it? What are the greatest challenges to endurance and perseverance? What words of counsel do you have for young pastors today? Questions like that.
As I’ve reflected on the answers Ray and I gave, it dawned on me that we both left out one that may well be the most important explanation of all: our wives.
I seriously doubt that I would have remained a pastor for this length of time had it not been for my wife of 47 years, Ann. And I can guarantee that Ray would say the same about his wife, Jani. No, neither Ann nor Jani are perfect. But they come pretty darn close!
Whenever I needed encouragement to endure through difficult seasons, Ann was always there to speak just the right word of truth and reassurance to me. Whenever I need correction, and I have needed it a lot (!), she would gently and lovingly, but no less firmly, speak to my heart and challenge me to reconsider what I had done or failed to do. And through it all her love and devotion never wavered.
I can’t count the number of times that when I was blind to certain needs in certain individuals in the church, Ann would point them out to me. “We need to get in touch with ______. I have a strong sense that she is struggling.” Or, “I haven’t seen the ______ family in several weeks. Should we call them to make sure everything is ok?” Or, “I sense from the Lord that we need to pray for _____. He came across on Sunday as isolated and depressed.” And the list of such insights could go on seemingly without end.
I don’t want this to sound like the only thing a pastor’s wife does is to remind her pastor husband of the many ways he has overlooked people or failed to fulfill some important task. Far from it! Both Ann Storms and Jani Ortlund have ministries in our respective churches that in many ways exceed that of both Ray and myself. The way they serve others, love them, pray for them, model Christ for them, teach them, walk with them through heartache and loss, is simply too marvelous for words.
You may think this an overstatement, but it isn’t. I can well imagine that when the time comes for me to step down from pastoral ministry at Bridgeway, people will say: “Well, o.k., if you must go, we understand. But you have to leave Ann here. This church can’t survive without her.”
So, this brief word today is primarily for the wives of pastors. Don’t ever underestimate the impact you have on your husband and his endurance in ministry. They may not see it now, but trust me, they will one day. They will come to realize that your presence, love, encouragement, rebuke, prayers, and the countless things you do to serve the body of Christ is a massively significant reason you have been able to persevere in pastoral work.
And men, while we’re at it, stop today and bless your wife for the way she makes it possible for you to persevere. Acknowledge her role in the church in front of the church. Let them all hear what she means to you, and most important of all, what she means to Christ.
In the final analysis, I think back to that interview on July 24th and wonder if perhaps Ray and I could have shortened the entire event. When asked by Tony Merida, “How have you guys lasted this long,” we could have simply pointed to our wives, dropped the mic, and gone home.