I love working with my wife, Chantal. Over the past two decades we have been able to share as a couple in teaching, preaching, evangelism, Bible studies, writing, and many other ministries.
When we wrote the recent Adult Bible Study Guide together (as well as the companion volume, Illuminating Shadow Figures in Scripture), we had great fun (and, at times, major discussions) doing it together. Our thought patterns are different. While I am more the methodical, foot-?noting type, Chantal is highly creative and intuitive—together a great combination that ?promises solid content and engaging text.
Over the past several years I have been thinking about the joys and challenges of couple teamwork. As a theology professor working at Adventist universities and seminaries, I watched young ministers enter their new adventure of ministry. However, I frequently noted their wives struggling to discover their niche. Often their call was a shared call. Together with their husbands they had accepted an invitation to serve God and proclaim the eternal gospel to a world that is racing toward its end. Some of them had been religion or theology majors themselves, or had finished seminary. But as these couples tried their first steps in ministry they soon discovered this fact: there is little space in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for more than token teamwork for couples.
Most denominational entities actually have policies that keep couples from working in the same department—and for good reasons. We don’t want nepotism or favoritism in our ranks. Some spouses have volunteered their time, expertise, and creativity, but after a while the pressures of raising a family or paying the bills, or just the plain lack of recognition, have driven them to pursue other work opportunities. Yes, there are some ministries (such as the Family Ministries Department or, at times, the Ministerial Association) in which couples are actually employed together and are able to be a tremendous blessing to the church. However, these are exceptions. Does this mean that as couples they can work for God only in these areas? What about preaching, teaching, writing, editing, healing, or counseling for Jesus together?
In case you are feeling uncomfortable as to the direction of this editorial: No, I am not writing about women’s ordination (which touches many theological issues outside of teamwork) or trying to get ministerial spouses on the already-stretched payrolls. However, I am wondering how much talent and passion the Seventh-day Adventist Church is losing by overlooking the great blessings and opportunities of couple ministry. Twos are actually a very biblical principle. Jesus sent out His disciples in twos. Paul’s incredible mission journeys often involved one close travel companion (and at times more co-missionaries). Aquila always appears with Priscilla (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19)—a successful self-supporting, first-century A.D. ministry couple. Matter of fact, families were often integrally involved in ministry. Remember Isaiah taking his young son Shear-Jashub to the highway near the fuller’s field in order to present a key prophetic message of repentance to wavering King Ahaz (Isa. 7:1-14). Or James and Ellen White, a young couple from New England, who served as a team. Or John N. Andrews working closely with his children to preach the three angels’ messages in unentered Europe.
Bottom line: In a changed world with many new challenges, we may need to relook at policies and practices in the light of the biblical data, and harness the energy and synergies of mission-minded Adventist couples whose creative contributions are sorely needed to get the job done. After all, we want to go home.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is associate editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published February 17, 2011.