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Thank God for My Wife

One of the greatest pieces of advice I received from my elders was that “your wife will make or break your ministry.”  When I was a single, young evangelist, I had no idea how important this advice was at that stage of my life; now, forty years later, it is worth its weight in gold (which is saying something at today’s prices!)  Having had this long to reflect on my wife’s value to me and to my ministry, I understand to a much greater degree what my elders meant. 

Wives of men in other lines of work are not nearly as prominent in their husband’s profession as is the minister’s wife.  She shares his vision, his burden, his heartaches, his achievements, and his entire public life perhaps more than any other, whether they be celebrities, politicians or performers.  Her choices of staying out of the limelight, pursuing her own career or asserting her independence are extremely limited.   How she handles all of this has been the subject of a number of books written by minister’s wives over the years.  I don’t propose to duplicate their thoughts here, but I would like to say some things from a pastor’s perspective. 

The minister’s wife has to accept the fact that she is part of the team.  She may not have been called to the ministry (although some wives are), but, because “these two shall become one flesh,” she shares the call of her husband as though it were her own.  If she just lives with it outwardly, but inwardly resents or rejects it, she makes it difficult for her husband.  It she accepts it enthusiastically, even if she feels inadequate, she can be a powerful contributor to his ministry.  I have known both types over the years.  My wife took her place as a team player from the very beginning and I have been immeasurably blessed.

The minister’s wife has to be pleasant and likable.  Her husband does not leave in the morning to go to work and come home eight hours later, maintaining a defined difference between the world of the office or factory and the home.  Whether it is a professional or a social interaction, she interacts with the same people that he does on a regular basis.  Unpleasant mannerisms, inappropriate talk, and offensive ways hurt his leadership in the church.  My wife loves people and it shows up in many ways in the church.

The minister’s wife does not choose the place or the people of her husband’s ministry.  If she is married to her husband’s call, she follows him wherever God wants him to go.  If that place happens to be in a difficult climate, or miles from her extended family, or among people with whom she shares little in common, she submits to those circumstances and embraces them.  In tough situations, she creates the happiness of home that her husband and children need.  My wife ended up in the church her father pastored, but that has had its own set of challenges.

The minister’s wife must realize the importance of her influence.  She may be unaware of it at first, but she has influence by virtue of her position.  People watch closely what she does and what she does not do.  In church, they watch her worship.  They watch how she responds to her husband’s preaching.  If she says “amen” to something, it indicates what she values.  In ministry, they watch her leadership and commitment level.  She cannot relax her guard and indulge in an “I don’t care” moment.  She is an advocate, a coach, a teacher and a counselor through her every expression.  I thank God for a wife who never thinks twice about exerting the right influence in the congregation.  She complements my ministry by the way she lives.

The minister’s wife must exemplify the teachings and convictions of her husband.  What a dilemma it would put me in to know that my wife did not believe the things I taught or deliberately and openly opposed me.  She would undermine any stands I took on holiness issues or any convictions I had about doctrinal positions.  Preachers’ wives have destroyed the ministry of their husbands because they did not want to live in accordance with his teachings.  Some ministers have had to choose between saving their marriage or maintaining their congregation.  I am thankful for a wife who shares the same convictions that I have.  I have never been ashamed or embarrassed by some incident in which she was involved.  She has always been a staunch advocate for the things I teach.

The minister’s wife must guard her husband’s reputation.  The reputation of a minister is more fragile than that of any other profession, yet, the nature of his work puts him at risk of losing the very name that he need the most to pastor his church.  Because a minister has to deal with so many individual’s lives up close and personal, the minister’s wife has to be acutely aware of appearances and potentially dangerous situations.  Nothing hurts a church or a community more than a scandal outbreak which involves a minister.  The minister’s wife must watch for any scheme to compromise her husband’s integrity.  She does this through a watchful eye and fervent prayer.  My wife knows who I counsel, the passwords to all my accounts and she has the privilege to open my mail.  I need to give her that openness so she can do her job of protecting me.

The minister’s wife must live her life in full view of the congregation.  Everyone in the congregation knows the business of the preacher’s family, especially of his wife.  They notice how she dresses, how she wears her hair, the words she uses in conversation, and the way she handles her children.  Word gets around about how she keeps house, who her friends are and how “high on the hog” she lives.  Whatever she does is taken as permission or even a recommendation to do the same.  Her position dictates the high level of interest that people take in her life.  Sometimes, this put intense, personal pressure on her.  I thank God for a wife who has never complained about this pressure.  She just accepts it as part of the ministry. 

The minister’s wife cannot allow her church duties to interfere with her family’s life.  While keeping up with all of her duties at church, the pastor’s wife must simultaneously maintain a safe zone at home, free from tension and pressure.  The home life must not be the rehash arena where all the church’s problems—and problem people—and discussed.  I thank God for my wife who protected our home from distractions and made it a place of pleasant memories and good times.  While our children were growing up, they never knew about the heartaches and difficulties of pastoring the church.

The minister’s wife must fulfill the role of the “mother” of the church.  Perhaps the one role that includes all the other roles she must play is when the minister’s wife is seen as the mother of the church.  Just as small children run to mom when they are hurt, scared or just needing comfort, so also the pastor’s wife is the one to whom the people run when they need love and encouragement.  She has to be willing to open her arms wide and gather in the hurting ones, fuss over them and make them feel good again.  Thank God for my wife who does this even better than the pastor.  Many times when I am ready to go, she is still somewhere between the pews listening to a heartbreaking story, talking to someone and lifting them up. 

Yes, I thank God for my wife.  She carries the load of the church along with me.  Her stability and strength of character have buoyed my efforts as pastor.  I could never calculate how valuable she has been to me and the church over the twenty-six years that we have pastored.  This little poem says exactly what I have in my heart. 

–J. Mark Jordan

The Pastor’s Wife

We often hear of Heroes on the news at night,
How someone went into a fire To save someone else’s life.

But, there’s another hero that we never hear about,
Though Her love and dedication are never in a doubt.

Often took for granted…Never glorified,
Still she keeps on going for the person by her side.

She stands beside him everyday no matter what is thrown their way,
For he was called from above To spread the message of “GOD’S LOVE”.

And just as he was called…She was hand picked too.
for it takes someone Special to do what she must do.

And though he may get the Glory and he may get the Fame,
She will stand beside him in Love and Help him just the same.

She’s the person he turns to when he needs a friend,
She will always be there till the “Glorious End”.

I would like to take this moment to introduce to you,
a LOVELY unsung Hero for whom GOD hand-picked to spend Her life
as The Pastor’s WIFE.

Donna Golden, Georgia, USA

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Reader Comments (2)

Amen to this. Sister Jordan is truly a lady of distinction and honor.

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

That's our Sister Dillingham! She is an awesome example. It was kind of humorous that as I was reading I was going, "Yep, yep, I do look at her while Pastor's preaching. I do watch her worship occasionally. I do take cues from her on how to look and act." She is the kind of woman I want to model myself after. Wow. If it's in God's plans for me to be in a similar position in the future, I hope that I will be as shining of an example as she.

February 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterK Davis

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