We say this all the time…
Marriage is your first ministry!”
Some people are quick to say that God is calling them to do this or do that…but we firmly believe that God will not call you to sacrifice your marriage on the altar of ministry. Yet, we have seen it time and time again…marriages get neglected as people pursue God’s work. Marriage is a HUGE part of the work God is doing in the world and if we understood this, our marriages would be a light in this world drawing people closer to Him!
This is one of our favorite episodes of the Marriage After God Podcast because we want to remind and encourage couples that their marriage is significant, that it has purpose, that the way they treat each other is so important!
– Hi, we’re Aaron and Jennifer Smith with Marriage After God.
– Helping you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.
– And today, we’re gonna discuss how your marriage is your first ministry. Hey, thanks for joining us for this week’s episode. We just wanna invite you as usual to subscribe to our channel so that you get notified every time we upload a new episode.
– Also, we just wanted to encourage you to keep leaving those comments. We get so encouraged by just reading through your guys’ comments and the feedback that you’ve been giving us and the personal stories that you’ve shared with us. So just thank you so much for that and keep doing it. So one of the reasons we started the Marriage After God podcast is because we had this wild idea to write a book called Marriage After God. And we’ve been working really hard on the manuscript, and we’re just so excited about it. And so we just wanted to share that with you guys. But also every once in a while, there’s just this really strong topic that we need to share with you through the podcast based off the content of the book. And one of the chapters is about marriage being your first ministry, and so that’s why we chose this topic for today’s episode.
– So whether you realize it or not, you are in a ministry, and I’m not talking about your being a pastor or a worship leader or a missionary, which we were for a little bit. We’re saying that you currently as a husband and wife are in ministry in your marriage. That the first place that you practice the things that the Bible teaches us as we always say, your first neighbor, right? Who’s your closest neighbor? It’s your spouse. And so when the Bible tells us to love your neighbor as yourself, this is what we’re talking about. That if you don’t focus and treat your marriage as a ministry the way we should, and we let it fall apart, and we don’t give it the attention it deserves, then it doesn’t matter what other ministry we might wanna do outside the home. We see in the headlines.
– What do the headline say? They’re like, you know, pastor leaves his wife. You know, missionary couple break up. Like there’s just, these stories we hear them. And what happens is they forgot what their first ministry was.
– Not just that, but it actually affects the ministry that they’re trying to do.
– Yeah, and you know what? My heart for this is what good is it if we’re blessing and serving others outside of our home and then our wife, our husband, and our children get seconds, thirds, fourths of our ministry? You know, the outside world and people out there are getting all of the love, all of the attention, all of our strength and our service and our ministry. And at home, our spouse and our children are falling apart. And they’re not being loved, and they’re not being served, and they’re not being taken care of the way the Bible tells us to take care of them. That to me is called hypocrisy. And it doesn’t matter how good it is out there. If your first ministry is being neglected, you’re a hypocrite, and this was us.
– Yeah, when we realized this, I mean, it was a shock to us because we had been pursuing God and the extraordinary work that he had for us. We were missionaries. We were traveling in Africa, and you went to Brazil, and then we were in different states. And at the forefront, yeah, we were pursuing all of these things for God, but behind the scenes, our marriage, yeah, it was crumbling. And so I guess the question is like what gospel are you actually reflecting if that’s the case?
– Yeah, and so if you’re in a place in your marriage and you’re both believers. I’m gonna talk to mixed couples in a second that are believer, unbeliever. But if you’re in a marriage and you’re both believers, and your marriage is not in a good place, that is when right now you need to recognize like man, are we seeing our marriage as our first ministry? As a wife, do I see my role as a wife as a ministry to my husband?
– That’s good.
– As a husband, do I see my role as a husband as a ministry to my wife? And so it actually elevates your marriage to another level of realizing like, wait, I’m not just a husband. I don’t just go to work. I don’t just pay the bills. I don’t just do the things that have to be done for everyday normal life to exist. But actually recognize, actually my wife, she has a spirit that I’m supposed to be ministering to. She’s got a spirit that I’m supposed to be washing with the word.
– And what’s the point of that? When you say my wife is my ministry, what’s your goal?
– Well, my goal is to do what it tells me in Ephesians 5, is to wash you by the water with a word so that you become clean and new and refreshed and cherished, and you’re filled with the word of God. You actually become more useful for ministry outside the home because of it.
– Yeah, that’s true.
– Right? If you go to do ministry, and you don’t know where you are with me, does that make you feel more or less confident?
– Less confident.
– But if you just know like, oh my husband loves me, he is there for me, he cherishes me, he’s behind me, he serves me, I’m not concerned about where we’re at, you’re more confident and more prepared.
– Right? And vice versa, what happens when you see your role to me as a ministry?
– My perspective obviously has changed from a selfish one to a purpose-filled one, and I actually can see beyond even my purpose for ministry to you and the impact you then will have in other people’s lives.
– Yeah, because when we have a marriage after God, and we both see our marriage as a ministry, and we’re serving each other and loving each other as the Bible teaches us to, and we’re walking in obedience to the word, who’s gonna benefit from that? Our children.
– Yeah, our family members.
– Our family members.
– Our coworkers. Neighbors.
– Mm-hm the impact is huge.
– Yeah because let’s say we didn’t even say a word, but they saw our marriage. And they saw how cherished my wife was and how loved and honored the husband was.
– Especially in contrast to our culture today, right?
– Which doesn’t do that.
– Which doesn’t do that.
– Yeah. It actually teaches the opposite. It encourages the opposite, celebrates the opposite.
– And selfishness and adultery. And then they see a marriage that’s, the husband won’t talk bad about his wife in front of someone. Or a wife who protects her husband’s name in front of people.
– Or submits to him.
– Or submits to him, God forbid. But that’s what the Bible teaches. Those are the things that we do. If I loved my wife as Christ loves the church, laying myself down for her, I lay my hobbies down for her. A friend invites me to go do something, no, actually, I already told my wife I’m gonna spend time with her today and the kids.
– Keep your word, yeah.
– And I keep my word, and they’re like, okay. But that’s ministry that’s happening now outside the home simply because I’ve seen my marriage as a ministry.
– And I think when people are confronted with that difference, that stark contrast compared to the world, they question it, right? And what’s the answer? What’s the only reason you can give them for why your marriage is that way?
– Yeah, we say, you know what? We submit to the word of God. We love God, and because he saved us, we’re gonna walk the way he’s asked us to walk.
– So therefore, you’re actually pointing other people’s hearts to the Lord based off what they see in your marriage.
– Yeah, and so we, as we grow in our marriage and as we focus on walking the way the Bible tells us to walk within our marriage, we bear fruit.
– Good fruit, and what’s the fruit for on the tree? Is it for the tree’s sake?
– It’s for everybody else’s sake that’s gonna eat of it.
– Yeah, they pluck from the tree, and they eat the fruit. And they’re like, man this fruit’s good.
– They’re nourished by it.
– Yeah, how do I get more of this?
– They enjoy it, yeah.
– And then the other good thing about the fruit is it plants seeds.
– And so, Paul mentions a couple of times in the Bible, he says follow my example. And so, a pastor told me a long time ago, he said, Aaron, can you honestly tell someone in your life to follow your example?
– It’s a hard question.
– It’s a really hard question. You have to ask yourself the questions too, you know. Can I ask someone to follow my example as a wife?
– It forces you to evaluate your life and say who am I, and what am I doing?
– And this doesn’t mean we’re perfect. This doesn’t say like hey, I’m perfect, therefore do exactly as I’ve done. This is saying like my life and the direction I’m going and the choices I make and the wisdom I walk in and the way I decide things, can you tell someone to follow that example? Or do you have to constantly tell someone like, actually, do what I say, not what I do? Do what the Bible says but not necessarily what I do because I don’t always do what the Bible says. No, we wanna be examples. So again, when you focus and you make your, you recognize the ministry that is your marriage, the ministry outside that marriage starts happening organically.
– Because you could tell someone like actually no, follow our example. We are growing and learning and changing, and we’re following what the Bible tells us, and therefore, you should do the same. And I can confidently say that. We just wanna challenge you with that question to ask yourselves. Can you tell another young couple, another new believer, a non-believer to follow your example? And be honest with it and say, no, honestly look at my life. Come peek in. Peer into our home and follow our example. And you know what? There are areas of our life that we know we can’t tell someone to follow in our example. And we have to be confronted with that. And we have to change then.
– When we see like, oh, you know, actually, we still bicker. We can’t tell someone to follow our example in the way we communicate because sometimes we communicate wrong. And this is something that we are often confronted with and have to change in. But do you know what I can tell someone? Hey, follow our example in the fact that we are humble, and we recognize when we’re wrong.
– And we change.
– Yeah, so you talk about this example and being an example to other people, and our example is found in the word in what, how God directs our hearts. And so I wanna read Ephesians 5:22-33. So it says, wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word 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. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church because we are members of his body. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
– Yeah so, that was a lot of scripture, but this is like the staple marriage scripture. But what’s happening here, there’s something so much deeper than what we might think. Paul is telling us that our marriages are a symbol that represent a ancient mystery, which is Christ and the church. My wife represents the church, all of us. Me as a husband, I represent Christ in the world, and our relationship together represents Christ’s relationship with the church. And so, we have to ask ourselves what message are we giving to the world with our marriage?
– Yeah, if we’re walking this way, if we’re being obedient to these scriptures, people will see the reflection of Christ and the church.
– Yeah, that’s exactly what our ministry is in our marriage. That our marriage is not just to make us happy. It’s not just to be a happily-ever-after story. But our marriage is actually, it’s a earthly symbol of a spiritual truth.
– That my wife represents a church that is become one with the body of Christ. And that’s what we’re telling the world. We’re like hey, this oneness that we have, the way we walk, we’re representing a heavenly spiritual truth. And here’s the downfall. If you’re not doing that, you’re showing the world a false gospel. You’re showing the world like hey, God only loves you as long as you serve me the way I wanna be served. God only is gonna love you if you do everything right. This is what you do. When you show the world your marriage that’s fractured and broken and maybe even divorcing, or adultery and cheating and all these things, those are pictures of how the people of Israel were towards God when they would go and chase after false Gods. That’s why they use the word adultery in the Bible. It was cheating on God. And so, when we walk in faithfulness with each other, and in oneness with each other, we’re showing the true message of what Christ came to do.
– And it produces fruitfulness in so many different aspects of your marriage, your family, your children, other people in your proximity of who’s around you. We love this idea and message that the Bible presents of our marriage as being a ministry because it really is a beautiful thing that represents a beautiful mystery.
– Yeah, and so if you’re currently in ministry outside the home, let’s say you’re a youth pastor, a senior pastor, worship leader, or the plethora of other ministries out there.
– There’s so many little things, like you greet people. Maybe you’re a hospitable. Maybe you, I don’t know, serve the prison ministry. There’s so many different types of ministry, so we don’t wanna just put certain labels out there. But we’re talking to everybody who spends time outside the home serving others and spending their time there.
– This is what we’d say to you. If your marriage is not this way, if it’s not in order, not perfect, but if you guys are not focusing on seeing your marriage as a ministry, take a break from the ministry you’re doing outside the church, outside your home.
– Yeah, don’t sacrifice your marriage for that ministry.
– Yeah, a quote a say in the book is don’t sacrifice your marriage on the alter of ministry.
– That’s good.
– Focus on your marriage. Go make sure you are an example so that you are not gonna be disqualified in this ministry when someone says like, wait a minute, you’re telling me to be this way, but why are you being that way over there? We wanna be good examples.
– It doesn’t mean throw the ministry out, but say hey, I wanna take a break from this.
– Which we’ve had to do before.
– We’ve done this. We recognized this when we were in Africa. Or actually when we were in Canada–
– There was several different spots over time.
– And we realized we need to go home and take care of some stuff.
– And you know what, God worked on us, and he was faithful to heal us and show us that this was our first ministry. And then nothing else mattered unless we could do this.
– Yeah, and I wanna go back to what you said about don’t sacrifice your marriage on the alter of ministry. That’s such a good quote. But it doesn’t happen in just one choice. It’s not one decision just to say I’m gonna choose this ministry over my marriage. It happens incrementally, and I just wanted them to hear that because I think it’s really important to know that every choice that you make has an impact on your marriage. I think that we need to just stop and think about that sometimes.
– And I just thought of something. One of our previous episodes, we talked about escapism.
– If you’re using a ministry to escape what’s going on in your marriage, like, oh, I can’t even deal with this, or I feel so lonely or this, and so therefore I’m gonna go over here and use this ministry–
– Get fulfilled.
– And my serving over here to get your mind off of it, again, take a break.
– And say, God, I wanna be a good minister over here in my marriage. I wanna serve you as a good soldier in my home. You know, as Timothy is told by Paul. I wanna go ministry in my home. So real quick, I wanna talk to marriages where one of the spouses isn’t a believer. You might be thinking like, well, how am I supposed to do this? I can’t do any ministry because my husband or my wife’s not a believer? No, I wanna say this. I wanna say don’t just throw your ministry away, but what I would say is make sure you are being the way you’ve been called to be as a ministry in your home even though your spouse is an unbeliever. Peter gives us some very specific directives in 1 Peter 3, telling husbands and wives how to be when your spouse is an unbeliever. So that doesn’t mean throw the other ministry you might be doing out, but make sure you are ministering the way God desires you to minister in your home now. And so, this is a little bit different. If you’re both believers, I think you should absolutely definitely take a break from ministry if your marriage is not in order. And you’re not ministering to each other the way the Bible calls us to. If you’re in a marriage where one’s an unbeliever, you can still be seeing your marriage as your first ministry. And you can actually sacrifice things and be like, you know, actually I can’t go do that because I know that I’m gonna spend time with my husband for this purpose.
– And consider the impact that’s gonna make in your husband’s life. I mean, that’s just incredible.
– Go read 1 Peter 3 and see the power that a believing spouse could have in an unbelieving spouse’s life when you walk the way the Bible tells you to. It tells you that you could potentially save them and bring them salvation through the way you are to them. And so again I don’t wanna just say throw it all out, but I would say consider if you’re ministering to your unbelieving spouse the way you’ve been called to minister to them first. And then do those other ministries, ’cause I’m sure, I could see that being a case where you’re around other believers and you wanna serve in those ways. And maybe your spouse wants nothing to do with that. Just weigh that, balance that, take it with a grain of salt on that side.
– Pray about it.
– Pray about it. But know that even in a situation where you have an unbelieving spouse, it is still your first ministry.
– Yep, so another scripture that we wanted to bring up for you guys is 1 Timothy 3:5. Did you wanna read that and just touch a little bit on what the scripture says?
– Yeah. Paul’s telling Timothy, he’s giving order on how an overseer or a deacon qualifies to be in those roles in the church. And so I’m not talking in the sense of those, but I wanna talk in the sense of how we all should be. And he says this in chapter three, verse one. It says, this saying is trustworthy. If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. So first of all, to all the men, he saying like, hey it’s a noble thing to desire that position whether you have it or not. And so we should desire it. But listen to the qualifications he gives. He says, therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. And then listen to this part. He says, he 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? So in regards to just doing ministry, this is saying like having this specific ministry in the church, this is the qualifications, but we should all desire this position and therefore, we should all try and desire to walk in these ways. And this is a pretty stark thing. He’s saying how can you wanna manage the household of God if you can’t manage your own home? And then he even says up here that a qualification is being a husband of one wife. And so he’s even saying like, marriage is a qualification for that position. And so there’s all these things that line up of saying like, is my home in order? Is my wife cherished? Is my husband loved and respected? Are my children submissive and honoring to us, meaning we’re taking the time and training our children. And so these are all things that happen in the home. These are all things that happen at home right here with this relationship. And so this was just an encouragement. Again, we’re not talking specifically about this office in the church. We’re just using these principles overall, and if we’re thinking about trying to do ministry outside the home, that we should have our home in order, have our hearts in order with our spouse, have our hearts in order with our children. Because you know what? At the end of my life, I don’t wanna go and stand before my Father in heaven and have all these great things that I’ve done and have lost my children to the world and have a wife that was bitter and angry to me because of the way I led. I would much rather have a wife that is cherished and loved and feels confident and powerful in a ministry that God has for her. And I’d rather have children who love me and love God. Right?
– Than any other ministry in the whole world.
– I’d rather those things to be true in my life. But you know what, when those things are true in our lives, ministry naturally happens outside the home.
– Because there’s freedom, there’s fruit, there’s authority, there’s power. We’re not hypocrites. We walk in authority because we’re not ashamed. We’re not hiding. And that’s what our hearts is for you. That’s our hearts for you as a you walk as a marriage after God. That you would see your marriage as your first ministry. Again, we’re not saying your only ministry. But it’s your first ministry. It’s the first person God’s given you to practice the things that God’s told us to be in this world. And we do it to each other first and foremost. And then we do it to our kids. And then everyone else after that. So, we just wanna encourage you today. Ask yourself that question, can you be an example? Can people follow your example? Ask yourself do you see your marriage as your first ministry? And then ask God just to reveal to you how he wants you to navigate that and turn towards each other in that way.
– Thank you guys so much for joining us this week. We hope that it blessed your marriage and that you just have an incredible week, and we’ll see you next time. Did you enjoy today’s show? Find many more encouraging stories and resources at marriageaftergod.com. And let us help you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.