Editor’s Note: A version of this content will appear in The Faithful Church Planter, a forthcoming book by Tony Merida.

You obviously don’t have to be married to be a church planter or be on a church-planting team. After all, the greatest church planter ever, the Apostle Paul, wasn’t married! However, many church planters are married, and this subject is significant for many reasons, like the fact that faithfulness in marriage is a qualification for a pastor (1 Tim. 3:2). If marriages are not healthy, then many problems will arise, some of which can be devastating.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned of some well-known church leaders who were removed from ministry due to marital unfaithfulness. Interestingly, these men were known for having morning devotionals and practicing various spiritual gifts. But the marriages weren’t healthy, and each one of these men was unfaithful to his wife.

I have since grown to see how one can envision personal holiness in a privatized way while neglecting relational holiness. Married men, the pursuit of your wife and the cultivation of a faithful and joyful marriage must be at the heart of your pursuit of holiness.

In a non-exhaustive way, allow me to lay out eight marks of a faithful and joyful marriage, using the acronym FAITHFUL.

F – Friendship

If you’re in a covenant marriage, then let me encourage you to have fun together! My bride goes to baseball games with me; I go to musicals with her. We have date nights. I love being married! Underneath this friendship is that which is foundational in any relationship: trust. In a good marriage, each spouse trusts the other, which is vital for remaining faithful and maintaining a joyous friendship. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the writer, having talked about how hard life is, bursts out with several things to enjoy in this life. He includes bread, wine, white garments, and oil (Eccl. 9:7–8). Before adding one’s toil to this, he says, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love” (9:9a).

A – Affection

Fondness and warmth come through nearness to each other and personal touch and interaction with each other. We must avoid harshness (Col. 3:19) and strive after deep affection for one another. Over time, it’s possible for love to grow cold if each spouse turns inward or selfish. The goal is not to co-exist but to practice empathy, kindness, and comfort for one another.

I – Intimacy

Interestingly in Hebrews 13, the author puts money and marriage side by side (Heb. 13:4–5). It’s a great reminder that many of our battles will come in the realm of sex and money. Consider ways to ensure not only financial integrity but also romantic intimacy. How many ministers have fallen in one of these two areas?

T – Teamwork

Church planters, find ways for your wife to flourish in ministry with you.

Church planters, find ways for your wife to flourish in ministry with you. Avoid compartmentalizing your life so much that there’s a great divide between ministry life and family life. While I realize you need special alone time with your bride, seek to do ministry with her.

H – Honor

Paul writes, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph. 5:33). Peter writes, “Likewise, husbands live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7a). Find ways to honor your spouse regularly. Avoid disrespecting each other in verbal or nonverbal ways. Seek to honor each other in front of others. While Paul is speaking to all Christians, his admonition is a good goal in marriage, “Outdo one another in showing honor” (12:10b).

F – Forgiveness

A faithful marriage doesn’t mean a perfect marriage. Spouses will fail each other and sin against one another. When that happens, we have the great opportunity to repent and seek forgiveness, and to extend forgiveness. Forgiven people forgive people, and therefore, each spouse should reflect deeply on God’s forgiveness to reflect his forgiveness to the other (Eph. 4:32). May we who have been forgiven, more than we even realize, seek to display God’s mercy to others, especially our spouses.

U – Understanding

While each spouse needs to seek to understand each other, Peter puts this point particularly on husbands, as he urges us to live with our wife in an “understanding way” (1 Pet. 3:7). This implies trying to see things through her eyes. It means paying attention to her, listening when she talks, learning what she likes and what she doesn’t, knowing her fears and her cares. To do all this, you must communicate! A major obstacle to a healthy marriage is the lack of communication, which can lead to a lack of understanding and care.

Married men, the pursuit of your wife and the cultivation of a faithful and joyful marriage must be at the heart of your pursuit of holiness. Click To Tweet

L – Labor

To love someone is to sacrifice for them. This means sacrificing time, schedules, and sometimes, good ambitions. A healthy marriage takes work. But this service is not a burden when motivated by love! Recall how Jacob labored seven years for Rachel, but the writer says, “they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20). The same is true for our labor for Christ; the labor comes easy when motivated by love for the Savior. 

May the Lord give those of you who are married a marathon marriage. May your marriage bring you great joy, may it bring God glory, and may it point others to the ultimate union of Christ and his bride.

Tony Merida
Written by: Tony Merida on June 30, 2021

Tony Merida is the pastor for preaching and vision of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, vice president of planter development for the Send Network, dean of Grimké Seminary, and a Board member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of a number of books, including Love Your ChurchThe Christ-Centered ExpositorOrdinary, and Orphanology. He and his wife, Kimberly, have five adopted children.