“Is She A Doubler?”

ceramic-crab-wedding-cake-toppersGuest Post from Glen

When Emma and I got together, 12 years ago, we were given the following piece of advice: “Make sure you marry a doubler”.

This was repeated on our wedding day. “You’re marrying well there Glen,” said one Very Sound Evangelical. “Emma’s a doubler.”

He was referring to a calculation that there are (apparently) ministry doublers and ministry halvers. This means that the question to be asked about every prospective bride is, “Is she a doubler?”

Romantic, eh? You can certainly imagine asking this question of a prospective PA or “ministry assistant”. But if that’s why you want to marry then, seriously, that’s the proof right there: it’s not meant to be.  And it’s because you’re the problem! When God holds out the opportunity of “being fruitful and multiplying”, He doesn’t have a ten year business plan in mind. What God has in mind is a multiplication in which you die to yourself (and your own plans) and commit to each other for their sakes. But – funnily enough – if you’re in it for what you can get out of it, not a lot of multiplication is going to happen!

I’m not just trying to make a cheap gag here.  The Lord has designed marriage to be a multiplying union. But in His economy it turns out to be fruitful as and when you are brought to commit to each other in deep oneness. You’re meant to pursue the other person for their sake. Out of that commitment, fruitfulness comes. I mean this physically but also in every other way. The way to ministry multiplication can only be through marriage multiplication and that can only happen when you actually die to the individual goals you once held.

Adam and Eve were “suitable” for each other (Gen 2:20). That’s one way of translating it. Perhaps a closer translation would be “opposite to each other”. Adam and Eve are “opposite numbers” – they are complementary because they are very different. These differences are good and God-given, but they don’t make for a smooth sense of “compatibility”. For Adam and Eve to become one, it will take a whole lot of compromise and self-sacrifice. This is why the “ministry doubler” myth is so dangerous. Going into marriage, single Glen did not need to double, he needed to die. Yet time and again I hear about keen young gospel soldiers getting married and before long they are pressing on in service “for the Lord” while growing ever more distant from each other.

It all sounds so reminiscent of John Wesley’s disastrous marriage. Just after John married Molly he wrote to her from the road to inform her of his views on marriage and ministry: “I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state.” He refused to be diminished in any way. His wife had to serve his single agenda or else be cast aside. Their tragic marriage should be a cautionary tale for every young gospel soldier (Read more here).

If you’re considering marriage, you should certainly seek the Lord’s wisdom about who to marry. Wesley should not have married Molly. If two people have massively different expectations of what Christian service will entail then that’s a real warning sign. But even before those questions, we need to consider the nature of marriage itself. It is not a ministry multiplication venture. It is a covenant union, joined by God, defined by sacrifice, reflecting Christ to the world. And out of this union comes a multiplication of spiritual and, hopefully, physical children. Under God it will be fruitful but this fruitfulness will come in unexpected ways. 

When Emma and I married, everyone (including us) imagined we would carry on as before – ministry dynamos (on the outside at least). And we did, to begin with. Then came the crash – a death if you like. Five years in a real wilderness of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. No doubling here. Not even halving. Productivity: zero. But –

Out of this wilderness has come a new way of relating – not propping up the old strategies, dying to them. Serving the other for their sake. And through it all, God has birthed ministries for us we could never have predicted; and probably wouldn’t have chosen.

Marriage is not for the multiplication of your individual goals. It is the death of such goals. But out of the death comes new life in an other-centred union. And, yes, fruitfulness is the result. But it will be His fruitfulness in His way.


14 thoughts on ““Is She A Doubler?”

  1. Brilliant, amazing truth. And I bet if you had not gone through any of though’s trails you may not have been where you are today and and have learnt all the things you have and are continually as individuals and as a married couple (Both such a blessing to others). All building for our characters:- in maturity, wisdom, empathy and supporting others who are going through trails in any area to have faith and trust in God. God knows every journey we face before we even enter it.
    We so often have to remind ourselves as a couple of this verse too “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” ( Hebrews 11:1-2 ).
    Well done guys its so exciting to stand with you and cheer you on, lots of people are rooting and praying for you both.
    Much Love
    Esther xx

  2. I heard the Holy Spirit speaking through your whole article, Glen. Thank you!

    Actually, the John-Molly-Wesley-marriage-link was really “Ouch!” but I think most evangelists fall into Satan’s trap and think God couldn’t finish His work – for a certain time at least – without them. One might also say, a too busy life is not necessarily a godly life.


  3. i have always been interested in how many readers to this blog have an ED. Then, i wonder what this stuff has to do with me and i feel awkward as i dont have an ED. Then I wonder why E has a separate platform for ED affected psyche ‘stuff’ as opposed to ‘plain’ ministry ‘stuff’. Then, i think i must stop reading these posts. Then, i realise that ED apes emotional problems, ie. has much in common, outwardly at least, with emotional problems generally, so that is of interest to me. Then, i wonder how an ED and non ED partnership (marriage) can work. Now we have it. Or do we? I thought the English thing to do was to be strong and admit no weaknesses or at least for our weaknesses to go away because they are relativized by the prescence of Christ. So i find so much that needs to be unsaid and that we should soldier on like people making do with one leg…..as people with one leg try to do. Why dont we just use fortitude? Something all along does not feel right and it is deeply distrubing….almost distastful. Either the miscomprehension is on my part or i am a nasty person, Or might there be something distastful about the analysis in the posting above? There are ways of interpreting it, and it makes me feel cross and sick as well, especially as others are so full of praise! I think what it is is this. WHy let our weaknesses or vulnerablities define us? Is this really of real interest to anyone else. For example, emotionally, i am not a confident person…i am timid..etc. but none of these states of mind make any difference. One can still feel a marvellous specimen of humanity and still get on with the precious job of being human . And what more excuse do we need to not listen to our own problems, than that JC has dealt with all this stuff…..? Every time i hear or read that E is nervous, i want to say, put E at the lectern everytime and soon you will surely be acclimated or habituated to the task in hand. I would love to hear that past ED is not a concious limiter of most efforts…and then just ‘get on with it’. If some of the ED related stuff is whingeing, then what appears in the above posting sadly appears as rationalisation and it makes me very sad as i have said.

  4. Hi Tim,

    Whingeing isn’t the point – the way of the cross is, which involves an admission of our weakness but of His strength. Sorry if I pass over into whingeing. Every blessing.


  5. Thanks Glen, really struggling with this at the moment. Just started to read Larry Crabb, “the marriage Builder” -expands beautifully on what you wrote here. I get really upset when I read selfishness clothed in Christianity (e.g.the marriage bed site I referred to earlier) thanks for adding weight to the opposing argument!!

  6. Tim – I think the thing is for us, knowing Jesus doesn’t sort it all out. It’s still hard, and it’s still painful. SO we talk about it, and we pray, but it’s not intended as whinging. It’s because when the world is murkey and horrible, we just can’t see Christ, and there’s comfort from the reassurance of others that He really is there…

  7. I’m in the painful throes of giving up what I considered a match made in heaven. I’m still asking God why, and daily laying at His feet, surrendering ALL : my lofty ideas of our compatibility, my visions of how we would conquer the world, each of us doubled by having each other. Now I see I have not truly considered-this- aspect of things… I perhaps might have fought to hold on to strings of my perceived mission in life, while he sought to follow Jesus in all things. Giving each of our dreams up, right now, may not be God’s will. Perhaps one day, we will again find each other, and would have been released from the intensity of our current callings enough to make a new life together; or perhaps he will meet someone different than I, well suited to him, but free enough of her own mission to follow him endlessly whereGod will lead him. In the interim I bleed in pain, fore ordained and welcome, understanding that all things bring us closer into oneness with HIM with whom we have to do. It hurts so, so, so, so bad, but thank you for helping me see, this too, is providence, perhaps. May Christ have mercy and strengthen my heart. Truly my flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.

  8. xxxxxx! Thank you Emma… this post came as such a blessing to me, especially to answer the “but why, Lord?” questions :) Really am grateful for you :) Remind me to give you a great big hug when we get to heaven ;) : D

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