Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Taxonomy of the Pastor's Wife

There is no such thing as the office of a pastor's wife.

I want to be clear about that at the outset.

The Bible speaks of the servanthood of the church - elders (of which the pastor is the primus inter pares, the "senior elder"), charged with the spiritual care, protection, and leadership of the flock, and deacons, charged with attending to the material/physical needs of the flock. In both lists of qualifications, the wives of these men are listed, but not in the capacity of the offices themselves.

(Incidentally, in light of much of the ECM's love affair with egalitarianism, the language of the texts in question paints an unassailably complementarian  picture. Fascinating...)

This is important, because all too often when a man is called to vocational ministry, there are often heavy, implicit, contrabiblical expectations placed on his wife.

The pastor's wife is not the assistant pastor.  She is not a "shadow elder." She is not the be-all-do-all of the church. She is, simply and profoundly...the pastor's wife.

Too often, she's made to labor and suffer stoically under the burden of duties and roles that should never have been forced on her to begin with.

The pastor's wife is not automagically the Children's Ministry Director, head of the Women's Ministry, back-up counselor, she-whose-ear-is-to-be-bent by any and all who have a beef or a comment or feedback.  She is not the church de facto cleaning lady, interior decorator, or event planner.

She already has a truly daunting task - being a wife and (if she is so blessed) a mommy.

In our culture, this is often a difficult concept to get across; most people assume that, to get a hearing with the pastor, you first go through his wife. Or - and we've had this happen on more than one occasion since we came here to the Lakeshore - someone has a comment/suggestion/disagreement/complaint, and instead of manning up and coming directly to me, they waylay my lovely and gracious wife. Don't do that - come directly to me. My wife can seem like an easier target than me - but when someone backs her into a corner and starts unloading on her, I become distinctly displeased.

Too often, the pastor's wife is expected to be and to do what God has not Himself called her to be or to do.  And she's judged harshly for it.

If a pastor's wife also feels called to lead Women's Ministry (as mine does), then wonderful - but that's not an automatic calling.  I know of pastors' wives who didn't feel called to that particular ministry, and wisely handed it over to other ladies in the fellowship who did - and I know of others who didn't hand it over, and became very burnt out.

By the way - while I believe firmly in targeted ministries (Women's, Men's, Children's, etc.) it also needs to be pointed out that these are all relatively recent innovations in the church; the Bible itself knows nothing of these things, so they too are not automatic, necessary, sine qua non functions of the local body.  Churches which have these ministries are no more valid than churches which don't.

All that being said...

"Prodigal Jon" has posted a rip-roariously hilarious taxonomy of the Pastor's Wife here that's so good, I'm printing it out and keeping it.

Tee hee hee. Makes me chuckle.

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