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Is she a doubler?

Today I heard one more story of a keen young gospel soldier recently married.  From what I can tell the wife is feeling abandoned, isolated and increasingly desperate.  And the husband is pressing on in his ministry service for the Lord!

If I had a minute with the young gun I'd ask him to read about John Wesley's disastrous marriage. Just after John married Molly he wrote to her from the road to inform her of his views on marriage and ministry: "I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state."  (Read more here).  It should be a cautionary tale for every young gospel soldier.

But the Wesley model is not dead.  I still remember the ringing endorsement our own marriage union gained from a leading UK evangelical while we were still engaged.  "You're marrying well there Glen," he said, "She's a doubler."  He was referring to a calculation that there are (apparently) ministry doublers and ministry halvers.  Thus the question to be asked about every prospective bride is, "Is she a doubler?"

Now that might be a question you ask a prospective PA or church worker.  But if that's the first question you want to ask your bride-to-be then, seriously, that's the proof right there.  It's not meant to be.  And you're the problem!  If the prospect of being fruitful and multiplying with this woman inspires a ten year business plan, call it off now.  The kind of multiplication God has in mind is multiplication in which you commit to each other for their sakes.  And, fellas, the more you want to use her for other ends, the less multiplication's gonna happen!

And I'm not just trying to make a cheap gag here.  The Lord has designed marriage to be a multiplying union.  But in His economy it turns out to be fruitful as and when you are brought to commit to each other in deep oneness.  I mean this physically but I mean it in every other way.  The way to ministry multiplication can only be through marriage multiplication which can only happen in and through the union and communion of husband and wife. That's got to be the beating heart of it all.

Single people should definitely seek the Lord's wisdom about who to marry.  Wesley should definitely not have married Molly.  If two people have massively different expectations of what Christian service will entail then that's a real warning sign.  But what first needs to be sorted out in our thinking is the very nature of marriage itself.  It is not a ministry multiplication venture.  It is a covenant union, joined by God, reflecting Christ to the world.  And out of this union comes a multiplication of spiritual and physical children.  Under God it cannot help but be fruitful and multiply.  But under God He will bring fruitfulness in very unexpected ways.  It will not be a multiplication one spouse's prior ministry plans.  The old individual plans must die.  This will be a new union with a totally new kind of fruitfulness - much of which simply cannot be predicted.

But an understanding of marriage that is anything like a contractual business partnership will strike at the very heart of the covenant union.

I pray for this young couple, that there would be a death to the old individualist/contractual understanding.  And that out of that death would come new life in their union and communion.  And, yes, that out of that there may even come a wonderful fruitfulness.  But it will be His fruitfulness His way.

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0 thoughts on “Is she a doubler?

  1. Heather

    Glen,

    It would be beautiful if more pastors had this vision.

    Craig and I were recently talking about how it is so tempting for ministry-minded men to neglect their own families because they are busy serving everyone else.

    Not being of an Anglican or Lutheran background, the concept of "sacraments" translates to "ordinances" in my mind...but the pictures of Christ that believers have been entrusted to preserve are no less of a "gospel sermon" to me. Right along with baptism and communion is marriage--and all should speak to us of Who Christ is, what He has done and is continuing to do with His people.

    It is an awesome and humbling privilege for married believers to be able to partake in showing the world Who Jesus is by the way we live with and care for our spouses and children. I believe the preservation of God's own marriage/family picture is one reason Paul cautions that any man who desires the office of "elder" needs to have his own house in order before he tries to oversee the affairs of others.

  2. Gav

    Heather said:

    "It would be beautiful if more pastors had this vision."

    Spot on Heather but why stop at Pastors......and why stop at vision? I reckon most people would be guilty in one degree or another. I'm not admitting to anything though!

    ;-)

  3. Will

    Hi Glen,

    What was the name of the book you mentioned to me once about John Wesley and his marriage. There was also a section on Jonathan Edwards (as an example of a healthy marriage).

    thanks!

    Will

  4. Glen

    Heather - yes with that view of marriage in place a wife cannot help but be "a doubler". Suddenly the minister has two congregations! And his 'little congregation' at home *cannot* be a distraction from ministry. It is his first responsibility.

    Hey Gav - I've often thought of renaming my comments section "confessions" ;-)

    Hi Will - it was just a little christian paperback called "Good Christians, Good Husbands?"

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Good-Christians-Husbands-Marriage-Ministry/dp/1857924509

    It goes through the Wesley's, the Whitefield's and the Edwards' looking at different ways the husbands approached their marriages. The Edwards' example being the good one.

    It also makes the interesting point that Charles Wesley stayed at home much more than he would have ordinarily due to an ongoing illness of his wife's. But think of how the Lord turned that to good through his hymn writing. How many lines of John Wesley preaching can you recite? And how many lines of Charles Wesley hymns? That's the kind of thing I was thinking about when I said that the Lord will make our marriages fruitful but not in ways we can predict or plan. Charles might have thought he was getting 'left behind' by staying at home. The Lord honoured his commitment to his wife and 'all these things were added unto him as well'.

  5. Heather

    Gav,

    I'm with you. Only limited my comment to pastors because that's where the OP focused.

    Mostly, the online marriage discussions I've encountered center on "Biblical Womanhood" and argument either for or against the "patriarchal" economy of family in which woman was created to be man's helpmeet and what are the various perceptions of that role. Lots of ideas and Bible verses get thrown around but almost always the primary focus remains fixed on the human aspect of the relationship.

    It's frustrating to note that so many people just don't see "the picture"

    Glen,

    That is an interesting contrast between the Wesleys. I think Paul made a good point in 1 Corinthians 7 when he discussed the relative freedom (concerning service) of the unmarried believer as compared to that of the one who has a family.

  6. John B

    Another good example of the Lord honoring the marriage commitment in unexpected ways is in the case of Benjamin and Annie Warfield.

    In his dissertation on Warfield, Kim Riddlebarger writes: "Warfield's remarkable literary output is, no doubt, in large measure due to the frail condition of his wife and his amazing devotion to her."

    Some extracts on the Warfield marriage from Riddlebarger's dissertation are at:

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2008/07/10/warfield-one-productive-life-and-one/

  7. Matthew Weston

    Glen,

    Given what you've said, how would you give advice to a couple considering marriage whose ideas of future ministry don't match up? (For example, the man thinks they should go overseas, the woman wants to stay at home, or vice versa.) If marriage is an others-centred union, then how should they think about their future ministry together in weighing up whether to get married?

  8. Glen

    Hi John,
    Yes BB Warfield was another example I had in mind.

    Hi Matthew,

    Love to hear what others say on this, but here's my two cents.

    As I've said, John and Molly were a terrible pairing. They were sorely lacking a pre-marriage sit-down chat on these issues. And if they did speak frankly about this one would hope they would have wished each other a fond farewell.

    In such chats I think at least three factors need to be thought about:

    https://christthetruth.net/2010/04/20/generous-joyful-and-joint/

    Sacrifices should be generous, joyful and joint - it's important that they're all *three*.

    If the couple aren't married yet this adds another dimension. I think the inflexibility of *both* partners needs to be challenged. The "mission-minded" partner needs to see home soil as a mission field and the "stay-at-home" partner needs to see stepping out of the comfort zone as part and parcel of discipleship. If *either* of them seem unwilling to budge on those issues I think you've discovered an inflexibility that doesn't bode well for marriage.

    Maybe the missionary calling is a real divine claim on the person (and who could doubt this was the case for Wesley). In this case the Lord Himself is the source of the inflexibility. Now it would take great maturity and the wisdom of others to be able to distinguish this from your bog-standard pride and stubbornness, but it's certainly a possibility. In which case, if the other partner is unwilling to follow suit, you bid them a fond farewell.

    In other words - everyone should have been splitting John and Molly apart right up until they wed at which point they should have reversed tactics, stolen Wesley's horse, cancelled his preaching engagements and booked them on a five star honeymoon to the Maldives.

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