I was happy to catch a few minutes to chat with upcoming Defined by God speaker Lisa Chan. Lisa has been married to pastor, speaker, and writer Francis Chan for 18 years. I asked Lisa about some of the struggles pastors’ wives face.
Was Francis a pastor when you first married him?
Yes, he was working with a church. The church had gone through a terrible time, and there was a split with the senior pastor. We left on our honeymoon thinking maybe he would take over temporarily at that church, but in two months’ time, Francis felt like, “You know what, I think God wants us to start our own church and for me to really head out and lead.” And so Cornerstone was founded after two months of marriage.
What’s the biggest challenge pastors’ wives face today?
That’s an interesting question. I think one of the biggest challenges is authenticity. It’s so easy to slide into a position or a title and find your identity in that instead of being an authentic, godly woman—one pursuing Christ, walking in step with the spirit, and focused on what he wants, rather than what people want or think. We all know that’s part of the territory, but if you can learn to keep your eyes forward and on Christ, you can learn how to deal with it in a better way.
What advice would you give to pastors’ wives who are struggling with authenticity and feeling like they have to fit into a mold that other people put them in?
I think the best way is to not spend too much time thinking about it—usually if we focus on the problem, it just gets bigger and bigger. But if we turn our focus and choose to say, “No, I’m going to go after Christ, I’m going to grow in my walk with God, I’m going to learn to listen to his voice and do the things he asks me to do”—that’s really the only answer. And I know it seems really oversimplified, but sometimes our biggest problems have very simple answers. That would be my biggest advice—just follow after God and that’s what it’s all about.
My husband gives this illustration that if you’re learning to be a mountain-bike rider, you have to look where you want to go. In other words, if you look where you don’t want to go, like the cliff or rut, your bike will automatically go where you don’t want to go. So to stay on the right path, you look at where you want to go. And so for us, as pastors’ wives, let’s not look at this big cesspool of “Oh people expect so much of me, and this is so terrible”—you’re going to go that way—but if you just say “I’m going to be a women of God, a child of God after him,” all the other stuff falls into place because you’re just following after God.
What will you be speaking on at the Defined by God conference, and how will it help pastors’ wives?
I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be speaking about having a steadfast love, and I’m going to be sharing a lot that I’m saying here; I want to refocus and resimplify because we tend to overcomplicate, and I know that’s my tendency, and the Lord is just showing me how much I need to step back and simplify and do the next step that’s right in front of me. What does God have for me right now, today? I don’t want to worry so much about the future and get ahead of myself.
What would you say to women who are thinking about coming but are on the fence?
I know that as pastors wives, we hear a lot of messages—maybe sometimes we get to attend some with our husbands, we’re listening, we’re reading, so sometimes it can feel like it’s just gonna be one more thing on our plates. But I think the uniqueness of this is that it will be just pastors’ wives instead of a women’s conference or couples’ retreat, and so to me, that’s the fun of this. Wow, we’re all very like-minded, we have the same struggles, the same desires, husbands who are in the same place in ministry, and so there’s camaraderie and the ability to feel united with so many women who are in the same place. And I’m just asking women to consider how much of a blessing it is to come together with other women to understand exactly where you’re at.