The Church Planting Wife by Christine Hoover
I began reading The Church Planting Wife during our first month in Portland. Christine Hoover gives inspirational and encouraging insight from her first-hand experience in church planting. For any church planting wife, this book is a must read! After finishing, I was surprised to learn that Christine and her husband had planted their church in 2008. This was only more evidence that Christine was truly inspired and led by the Holy Spirit as she wrote this book.
The chapters are all based on the heart: the heart of the church planting wife, the dependent heart, the helping heart, the faithful heart, etc. She initially discusses the heart of the church planting wife. She talks about how important the heart is and the importance of guarding the heart. She says, “God allowed the difficulty of church planting to sift me, to bring the issues of my heart to the surface.” If there is anything that will sift and test our hearts, it’s church planting. Instead of focusing the following chapters on actions- being faithful, dependent, peaceful, encouraged- she focuses on the state of the heart. I love that she does this because it is a simple reminder that it is not our actions that we are trying to change- it is our heart. Because from the heart stems all our actions and choices. If our hearts are in tune with the Lord, our actions are sure to follow.
I will have to admit, I opened the book expecting direction and lists on how to be a good church planting wife. I am a do-er. I love to make lists and check things off. Just give me direction and I will get it done. Christine did quite the opposite. She applied basic Christian principles to church planting. While it was not what I wanted, it was certainly what I needed.
In the chapter the Dependent Heart, Christine talks about the importance to depend on the Lord, especially when it comes to the growth and success of the church. Often we equate hard work with success. We come up with a formula for church planting and think, “if we do enough outreach and have the best worship combined with solid Bible teaching, our church will grow.” When that equation fails, our dreams are shattered. Christine reminds us that there is no guarantee that our work will reap harvest because it is only the work of the Holy Spirit that can save people. While we are to be dependent on God, we must remember he doesn’t depend on us or need us to get the job done. Our mindset should simply be to work for the Lord and trust Him to reap at the proper time-whether that be through us or through someone else.
One of my favorite chapters was the Helping Heart. Christine talks about the ministry of the church planting wife to her husband. It can be tempting when beginning a church plant to take on every role that needs to be filled. If they need a children’s ministry, just do it. If they need refreshments, just do it. If they need a worship leader, just do it. Often wives can get so caught up in “doing” for the church that they neglect their spouse and the role they play in their lives. Christine says, “my husband has many people who care about him, respect him, and help him lead the church. But he only has one helpmate.” In other words, I am the only person who can encourage and love my husband the way he needs his spouse to do so. No one else in the church can fill that role. And that should be my priority in the church. I love how Christine explains the role of husband and wife in church planting. She lists the burdens and cares that the lead pastor carries that no one else can carry. She explains how his role is different than anyone else’s. She compares church planting to a marathon and says “the church planter sets the pace and the route for the race as he follows Christ. Ideally, he monitors his racing partner…and the wife responds to his leading, matches his stride…” What a beautiful picture- one I had never thought of. This is the most important role a wife will play in a church plant.
Another chapter that spoke to me was the Sacrificial Heart. Christine talks about the importance of being a servant. Sometimes, we can see the big picture of church planting as such a large sacrifice that we forget that it entails making sacrifices every single day. Christine says, “ministry is not so much the big, dramatic acts of sacrifice but the little, unseen ones.” It is easy to make church planting about us- our comfort and our needs. Because we have made such a BIG sacrifice to plant, we get comfortable and forget the constant need to be a servant and give of ourselves. 2 Cor. says it best, “for the love of Christ compels us…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” We must be compelled by the love of Christ- that is the only thing that can keep us going and keep us loving people even when we feel spent. Christine points out the simple, daily acts of obedience such as having neighbors over for dinner or setting up for church as the daily sacrifices we are to make. We are to be willing to obey in the daily opportunities to serve.
The Undivided Heart talks about people pleasing, which is a huge struggle for anyone in ministry. Christine talks about our tendency to drive ministry toward pleasing the people who are coming. This leads to an undivided heart: a heart that is trying to please God and people. It is easy to take things personally in the beginning of a church plant, mainly because the church may be small. If a person leaves, it can be taken so personally and cause us to think it was somehow our fault. Then the tendency becomes to shape ministry around keeping people from leaving. The ironic thing is that usually the opposite happens. The more we “give the people what they want,” the more problems arise. When we seek to do ministry God’s way and listen to Him when it comes to decisions within the church, lives are changed and people are saved. People pleasing ultimate paralyzes us and keeps us from doing what God wants us to do. We must trust the best thing to do is always seek the Lord for direction and do things His way.
Christine seems to hit on every aspect of church planting in a short 200 pages and it is powerful. I feel equipped and know God has already done a work in my heart now just through reading this book. In the first few chapters, I didn’t feel like much applied to me. My husband and I had just planted. I was not even close to facing a lot of the challenges and trials she was talking about. As I continued, I began to identity with her and see the importance of understanding everything that was to come and being prepared. This book will save frustrations and trials if taken to heart and truly received well. I highly recommend it.