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A Lady First: Being a Pastor’s Wife
by: Laurel J. Davis
Reality TV makes a mockery of Christianity and I as a pastor’s wife am fed up, especially with what a lot of pastors’ wives are doing in real “real life” to perpetuate the problem.
And why are most of them Black? As an African-American pastor’s wife myself, that just adds insult to injury. Overall, the professing Christians on The Sisterhood, (cancelled, yay!), Preachers’ Daughters, Preachers of L.A., Preachers of Detroit, and Preachers of Atlanta are embarrassing. Not all pastors are about the bling. And not all pastors’ wives are arrogant, entitled, self-centered, elitist, patronizing, untouchable, I-can-do-what-I-want-I’m-the-first-lady, got-to-be-the-best-dressed, biblically illiterate, gossiping busybodies.
But a lot of us are. A lot of pastors’ wives abuse the title of “first lady in the church” (a long-held tradition in so-called African American churches). And it falls right in line with what 2 Timothy 3:6-7 warns about gullible women being taken captive.
Special attention and favor do inevitably come with being married to the most respected person in the local church. The problem is when pastors’ wives get caught up in the hype instead of gently resisting people’s natural tendency to put them on a pedestal. Allowing yourself to be called “First Lady” in the first place is the beginning of that problem.
I’m thinking about two examples. First is “Lady” Myesha Chaney, married to Pastor Wayne Chaney of Antioch Church of Long Beach, California, featured on Preachers of L.A. In one episode he needed a second in command and she wanted the job. When he hesitated, partly because the church board was against the nepotism and partly because of his own concerns about whether she could balance it with her existing responsibilities at home and church, she started crying. Her husband then, um, submitted.
Not to belittle Mrs. Chaney’s real feelings, but I’m concerned for a church where: 1) the second in command cries when she doesn’t get her way; 2) the senior pastor is easily moved by it because it’s his wife; 3) she shows such lack of trust in his God-ordained leadership; and 4) he submits to his wife and not vice-versa when it comes to a major church decision – which makes me wonder how much she was running things behind the scenes already.
The second example is “Lady” Bridget Hilliard, wife of Pastor I.V. Hilliard of New Light Christian Center in Houston, Texas. The church’s website dedicated a whole micro-site to her 50th birthday bash for $100 per person admission price, and even included gift ideas of “monetary gifts, designer handbags (Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vitton) and gift certificates (Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Escade).” (Houston Press) Mrs. Hilliard was already driving a Bentley with the license plate, “Mrs. Attitude.” (Guess what was on her husband’s.) Enough said.
Am I being arrogant or elitist? Anything I think I know is not because I think I have any superior insight or privileged wisdom. I am no more capable than anybody else to just, simply, measure up everything against the test of the final authority of God’s Word.
Am I gossiping? No, because I’m not addressing anything that isn’t already public knowledge.
Am I being unloving? No. My hope is that those women and their admirers will be helped out of this unbiblical way of thinking in the church. And that’s very loving, indeed.
Am I jealous? Hardly. I don’t want the title “First Lady.” Being called “Mrs. Davis” is plenty satisfying enough, thank you very much. Furthermore, I’m trying to live by Luke 12:15; Matthew 6:19 and 1 Timothy 6:6-8.
Too many “first ladies” fail to see that being a pastor’s wife is a privilege, not an entitlement. It’s a calling, not a status level. It’s a position of support and service, not of being served. It’s an opportunity to bless, not control. It’s about modeling a pricelessly adorned spirit, not the latest Gucci bag. It’s a responsibility to give God all the glory, not share it with Him.
I’ve been a pastor’s wife for almost 23 years. With all of its perks come a lot of pitfalls. Don’t seek the role unless you know you’re called by God, because a pastor is supposed to be a servant, and so are you as his biggest supporter and closest disciple. Plus, you’ll have to endure a lot of sacrifice, scrutiny, trials, tests, second-guessing, attacks, betrayal, and loneliness. The fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) will have to be in operation on double-time.
Being a pastor’s wife also means seeing the blessing of the fruit of your labor in serving, guiding your precious sisters and young women (Titus 2:3-5), and first and foremost being a fitting helpmate to your husband both at home and at church.
In short, be a “lady first.” Be a woman – pastor’s wife or not – after God’s own heart, first. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, a “lady first” is content with her husband and children honoring her even if no one else ever does (cf. verses 28-29). Then, it’s her good deeds — not her title, position, possessions or fashion style — that garner admiration from outside the home (verses 30-31). And like the Titus 2 woman (verses 3-5), she knows her responsibility to younger women, lives holy, avoids idolatry, shuns gossip, teaches biblically, is level-headed, loves and yields to her husband, nurtures her children, and makes her home a refuge – all so that she will not open up the Word of God to be maligned, cheapened or discredited.
It’s a constant striving already to be the Proverbs 31/Ephesians 5/Titus 2/1 Peter 3 woman even without the added responsibility of supporting a husband’s ministry. But being a lady first, more than being a first lady, is what is most beautiful in the eyes of your husband, your children, your church and, most importantly of all, your Heavenly Father.
-Originally published at The Reluctant First Lady
Laurel Davis is a pastor’s wife in Los Angeles. A freelance magazine writer, she also writes for Got Questions? and Blogos, and has her own blog, The Reluctant First Lady. Laurel and her husband Charlton, who produces and co-hosts What Does the Bible Say?, have been married for almost 29 years, have four grown children, one grandchild and another one on the way. Follow Lauren on Facebook or email her at email@example.com