As a church planting wife, in the context in which you live, with the marriage, family, church, and ministry you have, what does success look like for you? How will you know that you’ve succeeded?
I didn’t purposefully think about my answer to these questions until we were knee-deep into our church plant, but I’d answered them in my heart long before we started. Unfortunately, I’d answered according to my own expectations of what a church plant, church planter, and church planter’s wife should be--with such things as numbers, events, activities, with an obstacle- and difficulty-free experience, and with receiving the positive response of others. Without even realizing it, I’d defined achievement in church planting according to the model of success laid out by other churches and planters and by proving myself to others as a “good” church planting wife. Rather than a formula for success, I’ve discovered that this is a formula for massive disappointment and struggle, and I’ve had to reorient myself around a definition of true success.
That’s why I’m asking you now: What is success for you?
It is such an important question because, whether you’ve ever consciously determined an answer to it or not, you are serving and living with a working definition every day. Our definition of success leads us to certain decisions, actions, and thoughts. We’re all working toward a certain end, thinking toward a certain end, and giving our energy toward a certain end in everything we do in ministry. If we don’t have the right definition of success, we’re in danger of feeling like a constant disappointment, trying to reach an unattainable standard, and trying to please other people rather than the One who called us into ministry.
So maybe a better question is really this: Who defines your success? Who is the loudest voice? Who do you look to for a validation or affirmation of your success? Is it your husband? Is it a vocal or influential woman in your church? Is it yourself and your own standards? Or is it God? And what does He consider to be success for a church planting wife anyway?
Because we are one part of a larger Body and placed in it just as God wants us, we know that we aren’t measured by other women or by other churches. We are a part of a beautifully woven tapestry of spiritual gifts, personalities, and God-appointed places, so we can’t define biblical success on whether we’re an extrovert or introvert, whether we serve with one gift rather than another, or based upon what our cities and churches look like.
Because of what we know about the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation and sanctification and that we are unable to change hearts ourselves, we know that we aren’t measured by the spiritual responses of others. It is God who gives the increase, not we ourselves.
So then what are responsible for in church planting? What is it that pleases God? Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” We, then, are responsible for our faith and the obedience that comes from that faith. Faith is our success!
This definition of success puts everything we do as church planting wives into proper perspective. It takes us far beyond imitating a list of behaviors we see other ministry wives doing and far beyond hoping church members like us. It requires us to unrelentingly go to God and ask, “What is it you want me to do in church planting?”, doing those things with boldness and faith, and then returning again and again to Him to ask, “Am I doing what You’ve asked me to be faithful to do?”
When the unbelieving neighbor continues to avoid spiritual conversations and we feel like we’re failing: “Am I doing what You’ve asked me to be faithful to do?”
When someone leaves the church to go to one vastly different from ours: “Am I doing what You’ve asked me to be faithful to do?”
When we feel like a disappointment because we are not like the church planting wife down the street: “Am I doing what You’ve asked me to be faithful to do?”
That question has reoriented me so many times in so many different situations--away from self-focus and feelings of failure and on to what God has asked of me (and what He’s ultimately taken responsibility for). It’s reminded me over and over that faith and obedience is my success and that I am not called to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Perhaps you’re wondering today if you’re a success as a church planting wife. Perhaps there are real and imagined voices speaking to you of your failure. I simply put these questions to you:
How are you going to define success?
Who is currently defining your success?
And are you doing what God has asked you to be faithful to do?