I heard him before I saw him. The sound of his voice made my heart flutter uncontrollably. This was the one I was waiting, waiting and still waiting for him to ask me out. I liked him a lot. I knew he liked me. We had become very good friends while working together on the youth leadership team.
‘God, I can’t wait any longer. I am not willing to put my life on hold, as I have seen other young women do, waiting for a man. I have a stirring passion and desire within to serve You. I put John back on the altar. I give Him to You and I turn to seek first the kingdom of God’.
I applied to go to Faith Bible College in New Zealand. Would you believe that the day after I received my acceptance letter John met me at work for lunch and asked me to be his girlfriend. I replied, ‘Yes, but I am going to New Zealand first’.
It was during my time at Bible College that God clarified His call upon my life for ministry. I returned home with the inner knowing that one day in my future I would become the wife of a pastor.
I put a question to the women in my Conversations with a Pastor’s Wife Facebook group – When did you first know you had a call of God on your life for ministry? The common response was that the sense of call, or knowing, came like myself, while they were single.
I do acknowledge there are some pastors’ wives whose husband went into the ministry after they were married and ministry just somehow happened to them. She didn’t feel called to it or even want it.
I have often heard it said that God calls a couple into ministry, and I totally believe this. What that calling looks like and how it is outworked is different for each individual couple.
When God created woman, He placed within her aspects of His character and nature which are unique to a woman, as He did the same with man. God told man He would make him a helper. Helper does not mean home help. Helper is the exact same Old Testament word as God uses to describe Himself as our helper.
Kris Vallotton in her book Fashioned to Reign writes, ‘The Hebrew word ezer, is translated ‘helper’. Ezer is used nineteen times in the Old Testament, twice to describe a wife and seventeen times to describe God Himself. Two examples: Psalm 124: 8 and Psalm 146: 5. This is a real blow to those who want to use the word helper to reduce women to a subservient role.’
From different Bible versions, we gain an understanding of the word helper as a counterpart, one who balances him, companion, adaptable to, suitable and complementary, just right for him, comparable.
Add to this list her gifting, talents and abilities and you have a power pack wife ready and willing to do all within her ability and influence to help her husband become the absolute best God purposed for him to become.
I gave out a survey paper at a couple of pastor and wife conference electives, in different church streams. The top question I asked was, ‘What is your definition of a pastor’s wife?’
I was anticipating a response like, ‘She is the woman who is married to the pastor.’ However, the overwhelming majority of husbands wrote, ‘She is the one who supports me in my ministry’. And most wives wrote, ‘To support my husband in the call of God upon his life’.
I confess I was a little gob smacked that so many pastor husbands placed their wife in a ‘support my ministry box’ and the wives placed themselves in a ‘support my husband’s ministry box’.
Where is the God calls a couple into ministry in this response? I would be thinking they should both be in a ‘our ministry box’. He is fulfilling the call of God upon his life and she is fulfilling the call of God upon her life. They are one, so they are achieving this together.
It seems to be consistently about what the wife should be to the husband and not what the husband should be to the wife? When does a husband sacrifice and lay down his life for his wife as per Eph 5, following Christ’s example? When does he release her into the fullness of who God has called her to become?
That fullness may be a support wife to assist the call her husband has on his life, only why can’t it be acknowledged as such? She gives herself as support because this is the call of God upon her life and not because she is the wife of the pastor.
A woman is responsible before God, firstly as His daughter then as a wife, for what He has placed in her hands. When she stands before God and He asks, ‘What have you done with what I gave you?’ Will she reply, ‘My husband contained and kept me limited to the role of a pastor’s wife, so I was unable to flourish and be fruitful in that which You gave me.’
When a pastor husband stands before God to give account of his care for his wife, as head of his wife, He might ask, ‘Tell Me how you sacrificed for your wife to enable her to become the woman I purposed for her to become?’
On such a day when Lappidoth stood before God, how would he have answered if he had not released his wife Deborah from the accepted, expected and traditional role of a wife to be the prophet and judge in Israel God had called her to be? Judges 4.
When I read material in relation to a pastor’s wife I find repeatedly that she is placed into a restricted box of support and submission to her pastor husband.
One such example of this is the answer given in gotquestions.org to the question, ‘What is the duty or role of the pastor’s wife?’ Their answer, ‘The Bible does not address the involvement of the pastor’s wife in any ministry. In other words, it depends upon the denomination, the individual church within a denomination, the church board, and the pastor and his wife to determine how active the pastor’s wife should be’.
I ask, ‘Why is the wife listed last? Why is she last in this list of who gets to decide what she does or doesn’t do?’
The call of God on a wife’s life to ministry takes on an extensive range of expressions and is outworked differently for each individual couple. A wife may be called of God to stand behind her husband in a position of support, or to be at stay at home mum, or to stand along-side him as co-lead pastor, or to express her gifting and abilities in areas of church life that are her passion rather than her expectation, or be employed outside the church to provide financial income.
Please let’s change our terminology and acknowledge the equality of the call of God upon a wife, as is upon a husband. Both are equally called only the call has differing expressions.
I returned from Bible College and married the man I had placed on the altar and three years later became a pastor’s wife.
My husband honoured the call of God upon my life for ministry in his recent blog. He acknowledged my calling from God has been at times the holding factor for him remaining in the ministry.
He wrote in 7 Genuine Reasons I Have Never Quit Ministry. Reason 1. My wife. Dianne has been the steady as a rock person in my life for over 40 years. She’s unflappable and approaches all crises with a calm spirit, resolutely persevering in Christ to see us through to the other side. When I’ve been ready to chuck it in she’s quietly told me she has a call of God and isn’t going anywhere. Dianne has prayed me thorough many storms, pounding on the gates of heaven until the light has broken through the deep darkness. I wouldn’t be in ministry today without Dianne’s perseverance.
May I encourage pastor couples to take some time out and talk through how the joint call of God is being outworked in your lives. Are there any adjustments needing to take place which will be beneficial for you both?