Some days we don’t need war stories. We don’t always need to be reminded of the ways people can wound us or the reasons a situation can go wrong. Some days we just need a friend to remind us why it’s worth it to stay in the battle.
That’s why I messaged Glenna Marshall on a Thursday night while sitting in my car outside of a house I hadn’t been to before. In the weeks since sharing the first part of my interview with Glenna, I had been attending a new Sunday school class and was looking for ways to press deeper into church community.
Showing up to the group’s weekly Bible study had seemed like a good idea when I first heard the details announced, but I began second-guessing that decision when I pulled into the dark neighborhood and saw people on the porch. I parked at the far end of the street, knowing it would take the entire trip down the sidewalk to talk myself into actually walking inside.
No one wants to be the new girl. No one wants to slip into a room full of strangers, hoping their entrance won’t be met with stares—or worse, disregard. No one wants to make a bad first impression, or face rejection if they try to make friends and fail.
So I messaged Glenna from my car. I felt awkward and anxious and alone, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what she had shared before:
I’ve never regretted going . . . because I need the spiritual rest that is offered in encouragement, singing, prayer, teaching and preaching of the Word, communion, and fellowship. Endurance comes from abiding with Christ, and one of the ways we abide in Him is through fellowship with His people.
What Could Be More Important?
Sixteen years ago, Glenna and her husband William moved to Missouri, so he could pastor their church. In the years since, as Glenna has served as a ministry wife, she’s had a relationship with her local church many others never experience.
When a pastor’s wife walks into a church event, what is normal for the rest of us is not possible for her. Glenna has found that in her role:
- Friendship is a complicated thing.
- Parenting, especially if you make different parenting choices from some of the families in your congregation, can become a source of contention because people feel judged by your different methods.
- Navigating financial strain is nearly impossible to talk about because the church is responsible for your salary.
- The way you live your life will make some people feel convicted or uncomfortable, and they will distance themselves from you for that reason alone.
- It is difficult to feel safe in your relationships.
“And yet,” she says, “Serving the Lord in church ministry is worth it. I really do believe that. What could be more important than walking alongside people as they follow Christ?”
The Beauty of the Local Body of Christ
For every question I have asked Glenna about the tough parts of life as a pastor’s wife, she’s given perspective depicting the beauty of the body of Christ:
Ministry life is both terrible and wonderful. You get to walk with people through their darkest sorrows, but you also get to watch people grow in the faith and be transformed over time by Christ. It’s a beautiful thing to witness the sanctification of a group of people over an extended period of time. The rewards in ministry are eternal.
In the second part of my interview with Glenna, I asked her how she responds to criticism from within her community, how we can be praying for her (and our own pastors’ families), and why she still loves the local church. Whether you’re a longtime church attendee, a pastor’s wife, or just a follower of Jesus trying to figure out community post-pandemic, Glenna’s words will lead you to love God and His people more.
K: Where do you turn when people make hurtful comments to you, or when slanderous rumors are spread about your husband?
G: I have learned over the years that the only place I can turn to with criticism or slander is to my Lord. I make a point to journal, pray, and read through the Psalms when experiencing the sting of slander. I make a point to exclude names in my journal so that my future self won’t hold on to an old grudge—keeping these things to myself is best.
Talking about slander or criticism with other church members can do a lot of damage to church relationships. I don’t want to encourage a church member to take up my offense against another church member. If I feel I need to process it with someone besides my husband, I will speak carefully (without details) to a trusted friend outside the church or with a counselor.
We are not superhuman. Criticism hurts and slander can be devastating. We need help to work through these things, but we need to be careful that we, in turn, do not slander our church members in processing the ways they’ve hurt us.
K: As a pastor's wife, how would you like your church to pray for you and your family?
G: Like many churches, we have struggled with our body making a strong return to church after the pandemic surges burned through our community. I’ve watched those on the fringes of church life become completely inactive and some formerly active families slip to the edges.
We long to see our body restored and reunited to continue growing in godliness and reaching our community with the hope of the gospel of Jesus. Pray that we would grow in our affection for Christ and one another, and that we would continue to be knit together in love.
K: After all these years in ministry, why do you still love the church?
G: I love her because Jesus loves her. He gave us the church to help us persevere until the end. Though we have walked through much suffering in ministry, because of ministry, and for ministry, the joy and growth God has cultivated in my life are also a result of the local church. God’s plans for us are good. Hard sometimes, but good.
I cannot press on in steadfast faith without my church family. I need them, and I know that they need me. We are a family, and we need every member. We are walking this path of sanctification together until we see Christ face-to-face.
Parked Car Pep Talk
When I messaged Glenna that Thursday night, I told her where I was and how awkward it felt. Then I asked again, “Church community is worth it. Right?” She responded immediately.
“You can do this!!! Just think—these people could turn out to be some of your dearest and sweetest church relationships for the next year of your life.
Will they? Only the Lord knows what’s to come. But Glenna was right: I didn’t regret going. I needed the spiritual encouragement that comes from being in a room with the body of Christ. Bibles opened. Hearts emboldened by the truth of the gospel and the testimonies of God at work in His people.
If you’re in the same boat (or parked car), wondering if you should take the next step in walking towards church community, consider this your pep talk. Push forward, friend. It’s uncomfortable, I know, but let’s press through the discomfort for the growth of our faith. Let’s fight through our fear for the beauty of the local church. Let’s persevere in our pursuit of Christ, side by side, until we see His face. He’s worth it.