Book Review: The Church Planting Wife, by Christine Hoover
Christine Hoover, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart. Moody Publishers, 2013. 208 pps. $15.99.
Ministry life. More particularly, life as a ministry wife. Over 16 years ago I married an institutional investment consultant, bound for the fast track of life, who also loved the Lord Jesus. In the course of the two short years after we said “I do,” our lives were turned upside down. He left corporate life and entered the daunting and mysterious halls of ministry. And I was now a ministry wife.
Every ministry wife has her tale of how God drew her to this calling, this life poured out in kingdom work. My story has its own twists and turns, but in the end I find myself in line with all the other wives whose husbands identify themselves as ones singled out by God for the purpose of preaching and teaching the precious Word of God.
We’ve been meandering through the twists and turns of God’s sovereign calling on our lives in some capacity for over 14 years now. Whether my husband has been a pastoral assistant, aiding in church revitalization, eldering, completing seminary studies, or more recently as an assistant pastor, it has all been for the purpose of kingdom work.
Twice monthly a group of ministry wives gather in our home to consider issues related to our work of supporting the men we love in the life of ministry to which God has called them. We are an eclectic bunch. We are wives of missionaries, Christian editors, senior pastors, associate pastors, church planters, church revitalizers, and others who are trying to find their specific calling in ministry.
When Christine Hoover’s book happened upon me I was reluctant as to its relevance for our group. We didn’t identify ourselves simply as “church planting” wives. But then I read it. I was pleasantly surprised. After reading a number of “how tos” for pastor’s wives, this Scripture-saturated book was refreshment for my soul. Although geared most specifically for the wives of church planting pastors, almost all of her words can be applied to wives of men in any kind of ministry. She strikes a pleasant balance of real transparency and joyful perseverance. It reads like our discipling of others should be, honest and yet encouraging, something like a virtual poke in the chest followed by a strong hug full of hope.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Christine Hoover, mother of three, is married to a church planting pastor where they serve together in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her book, The Church Planting Wife, is written in a God-honoring and autobiographical way. Reading it feels like you are sitting in the living room of a church planting wife listening to her tell you stories of how God brought them to where they are today and dishing out advice of things she wish she knew “way back when.”
She begins her story where all lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ should begin, with her heart. Regardless of your ministry status, the most important thing we can do is recognize our desperate dependence upon God. For all of us pursuing vocational ministry, in any form, God’s glory should be the motivating factor behind all that we do. It is clear from her writing that she believes the words she writes, that ministry is a “privilege, not a burden.”
Filled with tangible analogies and anecdotes, Hoover takes her readers through nine heart issues related to ministry wives. Focusing on the importance of keeping priorities straight, these nine things can be summarized in her statement: “Follow (God). Serve your family. Love people.” She gently reminds the reader that church planting is a marathon, not a sprint, exhorting them to pace themselves for the long road ahead.
Strongly complementarian, she highlights the vital importance of the ministry wife to support her husband spiritually, emotionally, and physically in order to free him up to do that very same thing for the church, noting that she can only do this as she herself cultivates her relationship with God. While tackling issues such as friendship, fear, being a helpmate, pride, people pleasing, discouragement, hurt, and stress (issues relevant to all Christians) she spins out the application and uses personal stories to focus on her target audience of church planting wives.
However, this book is not strictly autobiographical. Each chapter ends with a short interview of another church planting wife, giving the reader different perspectives on the topic at hand. Some interviews are more helpful and God-centered than others, but Hoover draws other women who have gone before her into the discussion in order to provide varying perspectives for the reader.
Hoover concludes her nine heart issues with a section titled, “A Word to those Preparing to Plant.” It is a scattershot of practical advice for setting the expectations of your heart as you begin the hard work of church planting and a helpful summary of the book itself.
POINTS TO CONSIDER AS YOU READ
Both practical and encouraging, The Churching Planting Wife is well worth the time of any wife married to a man pursuing or involved in ministry. She does at one point include some unhelpful statistics concerning depression and loneliness that should be overlooked. They do not seem necessary to support her point and only seemed to increase concern in the women of our group.
There is also a quick reference to the need to be open to having “lots of sex” while in the throes of the early years of church planting. This may be the case for some husbands, but I also know that the opposite is true. For those women, this section may further discourage them or solicit unnecessary concerns. A simple caveat in this section could broaden her scope and reach women with various kinds of husbands without causing them undue alarm.
Hoover does wrestle with the often confusing and complicated issue of a wife’s needs. With the numerous ministry wives that have marched their way through our lives, this is undoubtedly the number one struggle I have encountered. It would have been helpful to have her address this issue in a more developed manner and possibly earlier than halfway through her book. Personally, I wish she’d write another book addressing this is issue alone.
A life of full time ministry is one in which we hold fast to promises like those in Jude reminding us that we are called, loved, and kept by the Creator of the universe. Paul tells us that the God of peace will sanctify us, keeping us blameless until the return of Jesus. And he who promises these things is faithful; “he will surely do it.” Promises like these are the hopes upon which we hang our dreams, seek hard after the lost, and wait day after day for him to help us, strengthen us, and ultimately to return for us and bring us home. They fuel us for a life of ministry. Hoover has known this in her own life and shares her stories and wisdom with us. Again, you don’t have to be church planting wife to be encouraged by this book. Any woman who supports a man in ministry can grab nuggets of wisdom from this book.
So, to you ministry wives out there, laboring in the fields ripe for harvest, in Hoover’s words I want to tell you to “dream big. . . . Pace yourself. . . . Follow God. Serve your family. Love people.” For the King of Glory awaits.