Posted by: rcottrill | November 20, 2010

Doesn’t Ministry Begin at Home?

There are at least three versions of the story behind No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus–differing in some details from one another. The interesting thing is that two of them come directly from the author, Charles Weigle himself. Available on YouTube, one (here) is an hour long reminiscence that includes the story behind the hymn. The other (here) is a short account, more specifically about the song. Both clearly were given when Mr. Weigle was elderly, and it is understandable that some of the details had become hazy. However, the more I listened to these recordings, the more uncomfortable I felt.

The story as I originally tracked it down, was that Weigle’s wife was a wayward and worldly woman who, in the end, couldn’t continue to stomach his Christian stand, and so she left him. But from the man himself we get a hint something a little different.

Charles Frederick Weigle was a traveling evangelist, constantly on the go, often away from home. Reading between the lines of his own description, his wife comes across as a lonely, and possibly weak woman. It seems they had at least one child (a daughter). And there Mrs. Weigle was left alone, to raise her daughter almost as a single mother, and to face her personal temptations and spiritual struggles on her own.

Mrs. Weigle, again by her husband’s own account, plead with him again and again to please stay home and help her. But he adamantly refused, saying he was called of God to be an evangelist, and called to do the work of the Lord. He virtually says that his wife’s pleadings were the devil’s attempt to hinder his work for God.

Exactly at this point, I have a problem. And I must tread carefully here. I do not presume to sit in judgment over this man, who left us more than four decades ago. His evangelistic ministry seems to have borne fruit, and his many songs are heartwarming. Further, I don’t think there is one inflexible rule in this matter. The Lord does lead different people different ways. But without condemning Charles Weigle in particular, I do think there are issues that need a closer look.

Though it’s possible to see a traveling evangelistic ministry as a noble service, requiring great sacrifice, there is another point of view. There is something inflating to the ego about moving masses of people by emotional appeals, and hearing words of praise for “your wonderful ministry,” over and over. And it is much easier to put on a pious Christian face with strangers, those who do not get a chance to see us in our worst moments. It is often harder to stay at home and deal with the colds and flu, and shopping, and broken water lines, and bills, and the inevitable conflicts. But that and more is all a part of family life.

I do not know what vows were repeated at the Weigles’ wedding. But given the time in which they lived, they likely followed the traditional form. That would mean the groom was called upon to respond in the affirmative to a question something like this, regarding his bride:

“Wilt thou love and comfort her, honour and keep her, and in joy and sorrow, preserve with her this bond, holy and unbroken, until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, or God by death shall separate you?”

Now, some questions:

  • Even if the Lord were to call a husband to some kind of public ministry–pastor, evangelist, missionary, or something else–does not the care of his wife and family remain a significant part of his Christian service?
  • Is the latter service for the Lord to be relegated to second place, and the former always to take the bulk of the man’s time, and energy, and financial resources?
  • Can he fulfil God’s command to love his wife just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25), by rarely being home to give practical support to those committed to his charge?
  • What if such a husband were called to a time-consuming ministry that pressured him to be more and more an absentee from the home? But what if he determined to curtail those absences significantly,  and put more focus on his family? Would the Lord not honour that?
  • And if he was open to it, could the Lord not have revealed some new kind of ministry that husband and wife could be involved in together? Or one that enabled him to be the involved husband and father he should be?

Again I say, the Lord leads different people in different ways. I’m not presuming to judge in any individual situation. But I do think this issue deserves a very careful and prayerful examination. I’ve met MK’s and PK’s (missionaries’ kids, and pastor’s kids) who grew up bitter and resentful toward the church and the things of God, because they were always relegated to second place after “the Lord’s work.” I’m not for a moment excusing a bitter spirit in such a case, but I do wonder if the fault is all on one side. The Lord’s work, like charity, surely begins at home.


Responses

  1. […] Without trying to judge Mr. Weigle in particular, I do wonder about what’s behind this troubled time in his life. Is there another way of looking at it? Is there perhaps more to the story? I have put down some thoughts about this in a topical article called Doesn’t Ministry Begin at Home? […]

  2. Hello Robert,
    Yes I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments you express here. Of course, like you I am not aware of the full situation in the Weigle household,
    “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) comes to mind.
    Also, if it was a situation where his wife was unsaved… “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1Cor. 7v16) comes to mind. Whatever our partner’s spiritual standing – we can’t be much of a witness to them when we are constantly away.
    Thanks for the post – food for thought!

    • Appreciate it. It was a difficult post to write. I wanted to be fair to a man I did not know personally. But as a retired pastor with 40 years experience in ministry, I know the pressures that can be put on the family, and the tricky business of keeping priorities straight.

  3. This is excellent. You don’t have to judge a man to say, “Wait a minute, how does what we’re being told here hold up to Scripture?” The qualifications for Biblical leadership require that a man’s leadership of his home be exemplary.

    We should be very slow to put on a pedestal one who had this kind of home disaster. It may be judging to say that he was wrong, when we don’t know all the facts. It is also judging, and potentially even more damaging, to put him on a pedestal and blame his wife.

    • Thanks for your comments. Strangely, I never thought specifically of First Timothy 3:4-5 when writing the article. Perhaps because Weigle’s evangelistic work didn’t involve leadership in a local church. But I do agree that the principle applies. I tried not to condemn the man personally. God is his judge. But the questions are valid for us all.

      • Yes, It doesn’t specifically speak of evangelists. But even if someone disagreed with us and said the qualifications don’t apply to evangelists, at the very least they tell us something of how our Lord views the importance of family responsibilities.

        I also thought of I Timothy 5:8 and the importance of a man caring for his own family. That passage obviously refers to financial provision, but surely applies to other needs as well. When you take a wife, you promise before the Lord to love her as Christ loved the church, and physical or even emotional abandonment is not part of that picture.

  4. […] For further thought on this issue, see my article on the subject called, Doesn’t Ministry Begin at Home? […]

  5. Very interesting. I am just now looking for information on why Dr. Weigle’s first wife left. More specifically, did the church’s involvement/non-involvement with her impact this decision? In other words, where was the church in all of this?

    • Excellent point. A supporting community of God’s people might have made a radical difference. There are unanswered questions here. If you find out more, I’d appreciate you letting my readers know.

  6. […] by their home and family life (I Tim. 3:4-5). For further thoughts on this issue, check my article Doesn’t Ministry Begin at Home, about another evangelist whose wife left […]


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