A Word of Personal Testimony
How I thank God for godly men who surround me in the church I shepherd and are appropriately vigilant in their protection of my wife. This is nothing other than the grace of God. They concern themselves to protect her against unwarranted expectations and consistently encourage her in the use of her gifts—which only heightens her enthusiasm for ministry. I marvel at the energies she expends in the cause of Christ. But I also smile as I see her doing what she loves to do, and to see a church leadership that encourages her at every turn.
Beth was only twenty-five years old when I accepted the call to pastor the church we serve to this day. She was a godly woman, mature beyond her years. But Beth was the polar opposite of the previous pastor’s wife. Upon assuming leadership of the church, I had a difficult choice to make. I could encourage Beth to assume the various functions of the previous pastor’s wife, or I could loose Beth to use her unique abilities to the glory of God—most of which are behind-the-scenes type of gifts. Convinced the latter approach had the smile of God, I purposefully resisted asking anyone what the previous pastor’s wife did and steered Beth to “do her thing.” Not everyone appreciated my approach.
Read Part 1
Proposition #2: Her ministry responsibilities within the assembly are of the same nature as those of every other woman in the church.
I believe sufficient light shines from at least two passages of Scripture to confirm this proposition.
Older women … are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Tit. 2:3-5).
Paul’s admonition indicates that the task of the pastor’s wife, even when viewed from the context of the local church, is to grow in godly character and to cultivate a proper relationship with her husband and children. As regards teaching in the assembly, she is to be encouraged to instruct the younger women. But interestingly enough, this particular admonition from Paul indicates that the young pastor should perceive his wife as a student of the older women in the church before she qualifies as a teacher of adult women.
Yet, sadly, it is not unprecedented for a twenty-five-year-old woman to be immediately collared with the responsibility to serve as primary teacher of, and counselor to, the women of her church or even for her husband to resent the fact that a much older woman in the assembly does not willingly yield this position to the pastor’s wife. Although no one would even think to entrust such a responsibility to any other woman of similar age, this great expectation is placed upon her by mere virtue of the fact that she is married to the pastor. We should recognize, vis-a-vis the common practice, that it is not at all wrong for the younger pastor’s wife to enter the church as a learner. In fact, Paul’s instructions to Titus seem to assume this for the case of a young pastor’s wife. The women of the church should seek her counsel and encourage her instruction because they have come over time to discern that she is a wise woman, not merely because she is married to the pastor.
What Is a Pastor’s Wife Supposed to Do?
Shepherding the flock of God can prove one of the most exciting, enriching, and satisfying duties a man can undertake on this side of heaven. Yet shepherding the flock of God is not a particularly safe enterprise. It is a life-work that exposes the man of God to a multiplicity of trials, deep disappointments, searing heartaches, and haunting questions from within and without.
The pastor serves God’s people as leader, preacher, teacher, counselor, overseer and chief intercessor. He must perform spiritual surgery and apply healing balm to the souls of his people on a daily basis. And in all of this, the undershepherd bears the unrelenting burden of his accountability to the Lord of the universe for the spiritual watchcare of a flock for whom the Good Shepherd laid down His own life.
Brothers, we are not sufficient for these things, and we know it. A proud pastor is an oxymoron—or a moronic ox, if you will. None of us is either worthy or capable of such an undertaking. But God is rich in mercy. Jesus has sent the Comforter to aid us in our frailty—to counsel, encourage, strengthen and help us in the great cause to which we have been called. And for most pastors, God also graciously provides a human helper—a woman—to walk at her husband’s side as his covenant helper in this grand mission to exercise stewardship of God’s flock.
The pastor’s wife is certainly a rare species with a very peculiar calling. She is one flesh with the pastor. And if he is worthy of the title, this means she is one flesh with a difficult man. If she is worthy of her calling, it also means she has laid down the “normal life” on the altar and slit its throat in sacrifice to God.