If Peter and Paul Got Married

The fight was a doozy. Probably the biggest fight we had in our first year overseas.

We were about five months into our life in the developing world. Southeast Asia was taking a toll on us, but in very different ways.

Can we talk, honey? I asked politely. I was feeling bored with language learning. Things were moving slow. I’d left a culture where I could connect with women and dig my heels deep in ministry. I felt like a complete failure on the foreign field.

We’re not doing enough, I said. Look at our house! We have nice couches, everything is clean, and we have all this time when we’re not in language school. 

I didn’t move overseas to set up a little sanctuary for myself! I don’t want us to spend the rest of our lives raising kids who don’t know how to interact with people different than them. I want our home to be a place we SHARE with others.

Look at how selfish we’re being! There are prostitutes and drug addicts all outside our gates, and WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? Nothing. I’m basically doing nothing on a daily basis.

My husband’s eyes glazed over. He didn’t respond. He just walked into the kitchen for a glass of water.

I was not amused. And I hadn’t spilled my guts just to let out hot air. We were in SE Asia for crying out loud.

So, lest I be ignored and my urgent feelings be invalidated, I followed my husband to the kitchen and pressed a bit further.

Would you LIKE to respond to everything I just said? I mean, don’t you agree??

Gavin looked up at me with disbelief in his eyes. I saw immediately that I had pushed too far. But I felt that strongly about needing druggies on my couches. I prepared for the fight.

He started.

Oh, I don’t know, Lauren. Last time I checked, I was living in freaking ASIA in 100+ degree heat! And I’m learning a tonal language! And I’ve given up a six-figure salary as a doctor in the U.S.!

We have ants. Lots of ants. And our roof has been leaking for months. And I wouldn’t be dealing with ANY of this if I had just stayed home. I don’t need to sacrifice any more. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of that already.

I was appalled. How could such un-Christian things come from his mouth? Did he even care about other people at all?

Gah, Gavin! You know, sometimes I just want to light a fire under your butt so you’ll DO something.

And then he said, Gah, Lauren! Sometimes I just want to put out one of the 1,000 fires you have burning at the same time and tell you to SIT DOWN.


It was an eye-opening ­conversation heated discussion we shared that night. For the first time in five years of marriage, I finally realized that Gavin doesn’t see the world the same way I do.

Actually, we view ministry quite differently. Our pre-field training told us this, but it didn’t really sink in until that night.

When I was frustrated from a lack of outreach opportunities, Gavin was missing deep relationships with one or two people he could walk alongside.

When I was feeling bored with language learning, Gavin was seeing it as the greatest ministry opportunity he could be investing his time in during our first year abroad.

When I was ready to jump feet first into fighting all the poverty and sadness around me, Gavin was wondering why he left a thriving ministry back home to come to a land where he couldn’t have a significant conversation.

As I said, Southeast Asia was taking a toll on us, but in very different ways.

We’ve come to learn that this is because our apostolic genetics are not the same.

Let’s dive in just a bit deeper here, because what I’m about to share with you has revolutionized our marriage on the field.

In the New Testament, we see the Gospel extended to the Jews and also to the Greeks (Romans 1:16, Acts 20:21, 1 Corinthians 1:23). But the mission strategy was very different for engaging the descendants of Israel versus people who had never even heard of a Creator God.

Perhaps the same person could have reached both populations. But God called two different men to do the job: Peter and Paul.

Paul writes in Galatians 2:8, “For he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles…”

So, it could be said that there is an apostolic ministry to the reached (Petrine) and to the unreached (Pauline).

Some of us are more drawn to disciplining believers into a deeper, more meaningful walk with the Lord (Petrine apostles). Others of us want to blaze the trail towards people who have never heard the first word of Good News (Pauline Apostles).

I like how Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim map this out in their book The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church:
Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 8.21.37 AM

Misunderstanding the core differences in Petrine and Pauline apostles had caused my husband and I to hit road blocks in our marriage before. I am more Pauline in nature, while he is more Petrine.

But the differences in our ministry styles became glaringly obvious once we moved overseas. These terms and definitions have given us so much good ground for conversation since that blowup last year.

We are learning to embrace our differences, and use them to our advantage. I seek out people we can welcome into our home, but Gavin goes the long distance in relationship with them. And honestly, this is a combination that makes for a powerful marriage in cross-cultural work.

I praise God for that fight!

We’re still learning how to unleash one another as high functioning apostles of Christ, but we’ve come a long way in a short time. I hope this post can be used as a conversation starter for you and your spouse, too! Plan a coffee date and use these questions as a launching pad:

Would you identify yourself as a Pauline or a Petrine apostle?

How would you identify your spouse?

If you have different apostleship styles…

How has this caused friction in your marriage in the past?

How could you see this as a benefit in your combined ministry?

If you have the same apostleship styles…

            How could this be a hindrance to your effectiveness abroad?

How can you engage someone of the opposite apostleship style to provide balance in your work overseas?


  1. Melissa August 9, 2015

    “Actually, we view ministry quite differently. Our pre-field training told us this, but it didn’t really sink in until that night.”

    Yes, how well I remember that ‘ah ha’ moment for me. Then I wondered why it took me four years of marriage to figure  it out?! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Elizabeth August 10, 2015

      Hi Melissa — just wanted to drop a note and encourage you not to feel bad that something took you 4 years of marriage to figure out! We are all still figuring things out in our marriages, 15 and even 20 years on. Yes, we figure lots of things out as we go. There are also lots more things to figure out over the years. 🙂 And 4 years isn’t too long to take, in the whole scheme of things (well, in my opinion anyway) 🙂

      1. Melissa August 10, 2015

        Thanks for the encouragement! I realize that four years isn’t that far in (we’re working on six now) but it did feel like a “Well, duh!” kind of thing. We  get married knowing we’re different, but letting it sink in and realizing how that plays out in everyday life is another story…:-)

        1. Elizabeth August 11, 2015

          I know the “duh!” moments all too well, and I can really beat myself up about them 🙁 I also know I really need to be more gracious with myself about them, and so I just wanted to extend that same grace to you. 🙂 I agree with you, too — knowing something in your head, and applying it to real life, are two VERY different things!

          And congrats on your 6 years! I remember feeling like 5 was such an accomplishment 🙂

    2. Lauren Pinkston August 19, 2015

      Gals!!! Please forgive me for not responding sooner! We’ve been on vacation with t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e internet. Finally back home and catching up…so excited to see the conversation here!

      Melissa, doesn’t it seem so basic? Gosh, I love Aha! moments. I always wish they had come earlier 😉


      Elizabeth, thanks for your feedback here! Always an encourager!

  2. M'Lynn August 10, 2015

    Lauren, besides making me laugh out loud (Gah, Lauren…SIT DOWN! hahahaha!) it started me thinking about my current role/ team/city /assignment  (teaching at an International School) and how different it is from our previous gig (teaching at a Chinese University). For our first four years here, our focus was very Pauline. Our next four have been very Petrine. The first fit my giftings better and I struggled less with “what am I here for???” The second fits my husband’s giftings better and when I get on board with the Petrine nature of it all, I feel way less anxious about the overall purpose of it. Great and helpful post!

    1. Elizabeth August 11, 2015

      M’Lynn, I think this is a really important point you bring up — that some seasons will feel like they really fit you, and you’ll be more satisfied, while other seasons will fit your husband better, and he’ll be more satisfied, leaving you less so. What to do about it is probably an individual discussion. 🙂 But just even acknowledging those times is probably going to be important, I’m thinking. I’m so thankful Lauren’s post really helped you figure that out! And also thankful that you brought it to the forefront of our minds 🙂

    2. Lauren Pinkston August 19, 2015

      M’Lynn, great connections! I can relate to changes in work environments and needing to adjust my perspective of the ministry. This information finally gave me words and definitions for those adjustments. So glad it was helpful!

      And I really do need to sit down more. 😉

  3. Lindsey August 10, 2015

    Oh girl….I am Gavin and Brian is you! There are so many times I feel like my husband wants/needs more from me in ministry than I can emotionally give. Sometimes I selfishly want to say “Look, I’m trying to wrangle a 2 year old every day in a third world country with no friends or family. WHAT else do you WANT from me??” 🙂  I want to form a few deep relationships and I would be happy with that. This is a great post-thanks for being so honest about how you guys have handled this!

    1. Rachel August 12, 2015

      What you said is almost me and my husband exactly!

      1. Rachel August 12, 2015

        Yikes!  I did not mean to post a large picture of myself.  I thought I was setting a profile pic.  Sorry gals.

        1. Lauren Pinkston August 19, 2015

          It’s awesome, Rachel! I love seeing faces! I also love it when I’m not the only woman with a husband putting out her fires. 😉

    2. Lauren Pinkston August 19, 2015

      Girl, now that you’ve met us in real life, I’m sure this story was quite colorful for you! Haha. And I am ALWAYS like my friends’ husbands and Gavin is like my friends. What is that about?? I’ve joked that my spiritual gifts walk around in pants and neckties.

      BTW, Eliza is currently sitting beside me watching every egg surprise video on YouTube. She found these all by herself, and now I know your misery.

  4. Elizabeth August 10, 2015

    I agree with M’Lynn above, I laughed at that part of the story, both when I read it this morning, and when you told it to me in person! I’m just fascinated how these conversations happen — and both people are right according to their own perspectives!

    Jonathan and I actually talked about Peter and Paul’s styles, and neither of us really identifies with those two guys. I would say I feel more like a Barnabas (with a focus on encouragement), and Jonathan self-identifies with the Apostle John (the Love One Another guy). If we had to pick between Peter and Paul only, I think we might both choose Peter. However, I would say neither of us has a medium-to-low dissonance response to the status quo! Both of us can be pretty dissatisfied with the status quo. Which is what propels us forward, of course 🙂

    In years past my husband would have identified with Paul, and that’s what originally sent us into the field. The intervening years, however, have changed him, and he no longer primarily identifies that way. This is a very important discussion, though, even apart from marriage, because I think many agencies focus on ONE type of apostleship: Pauline. There’s not always much room for deviation from the Pauline norm. :/ I think we as a Christian culture need to start recognizing everyone’s gifts, abilities, and, as you say, apostolic genetics. Ministry is not just for the select few who fit a certain mold. It’s for everybody. Oh, I really need to stop now, I can really get going on this subject. To quote you, “Gah!” I need to sit down now!

    1. Anna August 10, 2015

      I would class myself more as a Barnabas, too.  🙂

    2. Lauren Pinkston August 19, 2015

      This is so good, as always, Elizabeth. I’m so glad you brought up the fact that Peter and Paul weren’t the only apostles. And every single ministry style/spiritual giftedness is crucial to kingdom growth.

      I also want to holler “Amen!” to your statement that the church and M orgs need to recognize and value apostles beyond Pauls. A million praise hands to this statement. I’m a Paul, and I willingly admit that every foreign field would blow up if only Pauls served abroad. So, thank you to everyone else for balancing us out and bringing us back to the real world.

      GREAT thoughts here!

  5. Jenilee August 10, 2015

    that conversation could have been ours. we are learning so much about working together in an overseas capacity, which really is very different from how we worked together in ministry in the states. Much to learn! I loved the Peter/Paul discussion and comparison. Thanks!

  6. Anna August 10, 2015

    My husband and I are a little different in our responses to things.  I haven’t really thought a about it from this aspect, so I’ll have to take some time to really consider.  I would say that we both have some of the Petrine characteristics, but my husband has a little bit more of a slant towards the Pauline.  A little over a year ago, I thought we were 95% on the same page about a situation, but as we talked through it with others at a conference, I realized that wasn’t the case.  We made a commitment to keep talking about the situation and understand each other’s perspective, and not let it become divisive.

    1. Lauren Pinkston August 19, 2015

      The commitment to keep talking it through is so important, Anna. I hope the questions here helped to start that conversation back up! Goodness knows my husband and I have trudged through this for a long time!

  7. Monica F August 10, 2015

    Wow- thanks for such an honest post and going deep about the differences in ministry characteristics.  My husband and I had a VERY similar conversation/argument early on during our first term in Africa. I was totally bewildered at why we just weren’t on the same page when it came to building relationships, outreach, language learning, etc.  I was honestly baffled about our differences even though we had gone through tons of training and had even done global/cross-cultural work as singles.   I didn’t get why he needed ‘alone time’ when there were so many needs around us, and he didn’t get why I had to be spinning 10 plates at a time!   Fifteen years into overseas living and work we still are learning to embrace our differences and respect and honor one another in those areas.  It’s not been easy.  This last year we took a one-year sabbatical and had the opportunity to go through some wonderful counseling which caused us to once again reflect on who we are as people and how we can validate those characteristics and gifts in one another.  As we approach twenty years of marriage I can honestly say that I am SO thankful for those hard conversations, the tears, and new understandings gained while in Africa and Asia.  AND I also think, that we can even change in our ministry approach/characteristics as we enter new stages of life- I would say that I have always been Pauline, but lately the Lord has put things in front of me that are causing me to identify more with a Petrine type.  So, who knows?  I guess we just have to be open to growth in those areas!

    1. Lauren Pinkston August 19, 2015

      What an incredible narrative, here, Monica. Thank you so much for sharing your story and experiences here. So rich…I still have so much to learn! Sometimes I wonder where we’ll be at 20 years of  marriage…I can’t wait to see how much we will understand each other at that point, if we’re blessed to see those days!

  8. laura r August 16, 2015

    Can I just say that the little chart has been a huge gift to me this week?  Wow!

    So, turns out, I fit so well into the Pauline category.  When I first read this the words ‘pioneer, foundation, dissenter, high dissonance’ and especially the phrase ‘short term’ popped out at me as though it was written in font size 67.

    You see, I have wanted/felt called to overseas work since I was 10 and, other than the odd short term project here and there, didn’t make it to another country until I was 30.  Then we were doing groundbreaking work in new areas (pioneer, foundational) – and it only lasted for 5 years, something that I’ve struggled with this year.  But this list, in it’s neat and tidy columns, helped me see a whole lot more clearly.  Amazing.


  9. Lauren Pinkston August 19, 2015

    I’m so glad it was helpful to you, Laura. It was equally helpful to me. I felt like the word “dissenter” was jumping off the page at me, though! Duh-no wonder I’ve always been seen as the trouble maker disturbing the peace…I just want to go places and do things and make things better! I felt like this chart helped to normalize these traits I have and tell me that there are others like me. Hearing from women like you helps even more than this chart, so thanks for connecting here!

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