By Sasha Playter
As many of you know, Converge will be holding its next Pastors and Wives Retreat this upcoming October 22-24. This year’s speaker will be Pastor James Ford Jr., known as the “Love Doctor.” A graduate of Moody Bible Institute and the author of When a Man Loves a Woman, When a Woman Loves a Man, and 7 Reasons Why God Created Marriage, Pastor Ford is passionate about strengthening marriages and families. As a Moody student, he worked at the Chicago Tribune, where he often faced hostility because of his outspoken faith. He remembers praying, “Lord, I really would like to serve you.” He only knew one pastor in Chicago at the time, the pastor of South Shore Baptist Church. He was asked to speak to the church’s youth and soon after, was offered a position as the interim pastor. Pastor Ford has been pastoring South Shore Baptist Church—now known as Christ Bible Church—for nearly 37 years.
Pastor Ford and his wife Leslie recently celebrated their 47th anniversary. They met when they were in grade school and have been together ever since (a total of 55 years). Pastor Ford affectionately recalls that when they first met, he told her he was going to marry her, and she couldn’t even spell the word “marry.”
Pastor Ford has written at length on marriage and states that the motivation behind his work is his own marriage—both its successes and its failures. Through the challenges of his own marriage, God began to speak into him and to teach him how to have a better marriage. The result of this transformation was his first book, When a Man Loves a Woman, which deals with five aspects of a woman’s being that all men should know before marriage. His second book, When a Woman Loves a Man, gives the five aspects of a man’s being that women should be aware of before marriage. His book, 7 Reasons Why God Created Marriage, is an intensely personal book detailing Pastor Ford’s personal testimony within his own marriage. He says that ultimately, there are only two kinds of marriage: growing up and giving up. Pastor Ford’s hope is that in the same way God impacted and transformed his marriage, others would be impacted and transformed by these principles God has given him. He says, “We put those things in those books so that others will be able to read those, glean information that’s going to assist them, and just make their marriage better.”
Pastor Ford is passionate about building healthy marriages, and he is especially passionate about pastors and their spouses. “Whether they will admit it or not,” says Ford, “the ministry has an adverse effect on our family.” Ford cites the high numbers of pastors’ children who reportedly want nothing to do with the church as a result of how their parents were treated. He also notes the high numbers of pastors’ spouses who report that they would prefer their spouses to do something other than ministry. As a pastor himself, Ford says that he was aware of the strain that his ministry placed on his own family. He says, “I had made the church my mistress and was neglecting my wife.” Because of this, Pastor Ford hopes to offer insight into strengthening pastors’ marriages. When asked what advice he would offer to the pastors of Converge, Pastor Ford states that pastors must build a hedge around their families. In other words, a pastor’s family should be the priority within his or her ministry. In Pastor Ford’s own life, this means protecting the family from the congregation and protecting the family’s time. He has set aside time in his week that is dedicated completely to his family, and that time is non-negotiable. In addition, he protects his family’s privacy by not publicly disclosing family business from the pulpit without his family’s permission. Ford states, “My ministry is only as effective as my marriage.” Pastor Ford hopes to share these principles and more with those who attend the Pastors and Wives Retreat. We hope that those of you who can will attend the retreat this October. You and your family, as well as your ministry, will be blessed as a result.
To find out more information and register, click here! We hope you will join us!