Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

Gary Chapman Shares Ways Ministers' Wives can 'Love a Leader'

  • Shannon Baker Baptist Press
  • 2008 21 Jun
Gary Chapman Shares Ways Ministers' Wives can 'Love a Leader'

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, addressed a sell-out crowd of 1,500 at the 53rd annual Ministers' Wives' Luncheon June 10 during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Indianapolis.

Chapman is the senior associate pastor responsible for adult discipleship, marriage counseling and pastoral care at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Liz Traylor, president of this year's luncheon, said she chose the theme, "How to Love a Leader," because it was the call of her heart to learn how she could love her leader husband more efficiently, lovingly and like Jesus would. Traylor's husband Ted is pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.

Before the keynote address, Janet Hunt, wife of Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., honored the memory of minister's wife Tammy Litton, who was killed in a car accident Aug. 16, 2007. On behalf of the ministers' wives, she presented Litton's husband Ed, pastor of First Baptist Church of North Mobile, Saraland, Ala., and their family a framed copy of the day's program and printed tribute. Also, $500 was given in Litton's name to the Ministers' Wives' endowment fund.

Joy Cullen, a pastor's wife, Sunday School teacher, adjunct professor and former International Mission Board missionary in Asia, was honored with the 2008 Willie Turner Dawson Award, which recognizes ministers' wives who have made a distinct denominational contribution.

Chapman offered seven things ministers' wives must know to truly love their leader husbands:

Praise is always better than criticism.

Many pastors are praised within their churches and communities, but when they come home they are criticized by their wives, even if the criticism is well-intended, Chapman said.

He suggested a better approach, likening it to the praise given to a toddler learning to walk for the first time. When the child falls, the parent applauds his effort and encourages him back up again.

"When you give him praise, he will keep trying to do better," Chapman said.

Requests are more productive than demands.

"None of us like to be controlled," Chapman said, urging wives to make requests instead of demands. "Don't say, 'You don't spend enough time with the kids.'" Instead, ask him if he can do specific things with the kids. Likewise, he told wives to ask for what they want.

"That's what God asks us to do. Why wouldn't we do that with our husbands?" he said.

Unconditional love is the only true love.

"Any woman can love a husband who loves her, but as Christians we're called to love our enemies," Chapman said. "But what makes you feel loved isn't necessarily how your husband feels loved."

He explained the five love languages, the key ways people feel loved: words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time and physical touch.

Chapman also explained that while every person has a primary love language, rarely do a husband and wife have the same love language.

"In our nature, we do what our love language is. The problem is that we are not speaking our husband's language," he said.

Learn from his defensiveness.

Chapman noted there are certain things wives say and certain ways they say them that cause men to be defensive. When that happens, men's self-esteem is threatened, and they feel that wives are trying to control them, he said.

He urged the wives to write down their husband's reactions. Later, when things are calmer, ask them why their words stimulated the defensiveness. Talk about what to do when that situation happens again.

Understanding male sexuality is essential.

Noting that men have a physical need for sex, Chapman encouraged wives to be understanding when their husbands seek intimacy with them.

Learn to apologize.

"Ever wondered why you haven't been able to forgive your husband? It could be that he hasn't apologized to you in your apology language," he said, pointing to his new book, "The Five Languages of Apology," which explains the different ways people have been taught, and therefore expect, apologies.

Don't expect perfection.

Acknowledging that all humans fail, Chapman said couples should help each other in areas where they are weak.

Chapman encouraged wives to ask the same questions that turned around his once-struggling marriage: What can I do to help you? How can I make your life easier? How can I be a better [spouse] to you?

"I believe that God did not ordain marriage to be miserable," he said, adding that when Christian couples do marriage God's way, other couples will be drawn to learn from them.

Officers for the 2009 luncheon in Louisville, Ky., with the theme "Presentation Is Everything," are Diane Strack of Orlando, Fla., president; Mary Mohler of Louisville, vice president; Liliana Lewis of Austin, Texas, recording secretary-treasurer; and Karen Crowe of Colorado Springs, Colo., correspondence secretary.

Shannon Baker is the national correspondent for BaptistLIFE (, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

(c) 2008 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.