On Wednesday, October 27th, I attended the funeral of Dr. Joe Wright’s mom in the Halls community of north Knoxville. Joe is the Director of Missions for the Dyer Association. Joe’s Dad was a pastor; therefore, his mom was for all those years “the preacher’s wife.” As I went through the receiving line, Joe was standing at the foot of his mama’s casket. She was a very beautiful lady. At the head of the casket were his dear dad and his sister. His dad was handsome for a man of advanced years and very gracious as I spoke to him for a few moments, yet I could tell there was a large hole in his heart and spirit. The “first lady” of his life preceded him to heaven.
About two years ago, I was preaching at one our seminaries and an elderly Old Testament professor was my host for lunch. A few months prior to my being on campus at this seminary, his wife had passed away. As we ate lunch and he shared with me his grief, he said, “Randy, I felt like somebody grabbed my arm and ripped my body in half when I lost my wife.” Dear friend, the Scripture says, “The two shall become one.” My lunch host that day was describing the way it probably ought to be when our spouse goes to heaven.
The unsung hero of any church is the wife of the pastor. Last spring, I completed a brief paper describing how I felt about the role of the pastor. The most intimate section of that paper comes as I describe what Jeanne means to me as the pastor’s wife: “Because God knows how lonely it can be in this role, He presents a very special gift: a wife. Not a wife so the church can get a ‘package deal.’ She is not there to be the unpaid associate pastor. She is the beautiful love of my life that I enjoy caressing, holding, and kissing. She serves the Lord with passion according to her own unique spiritual gifts, not according to some unrealistic expectation placed upon her by some of the flock. I cannot wait to rush to my glass house, pull the blinds down, and dance like crazy with the joy of my life. She is the one that comes to church like a single mom and takes our children alone to their Sunday School classes every week because that pastor husband of hers has had an early service most all of his ministry. She sits alone like a young widow in worship right down in her spot on the second row every Sunday. From that close proximity, the preacher boy has no trouble spotting that flirtatious wink and very special look. Never mind that half the choir saw it too, as she gently pulls an ear signifying the preaching is getting a little loud. She knows the pastor best and loves him most. She is far more than his anchor; she is the wind in his sails. When he comes home to rant and rave about everything from a broken DVR to a controversial GCR, and waxes eloquently about the tenants of Calvinism and Armenianism, and complains loudly about some of those hardheaded sheep, she brings him back down to earth with a gentle hand of encouragement, ‘Honey, you need to take the trash out. Tomorrow is garbage pick-up day.’ She is the most remarkable woman in the world. What a cheerleader! She is the pastor’s wife. Better yet, she is simply a great wife. And still better yet, she is my wife.”
I said a lot more about being the pastor in that paper. I hope in a few days to share the rest of it with you. But the point of this blog is to simply encourage my pastor friends to turn their hearts toward home. The most important member of your church is the lady that bears your last name. Your greatest ministry is first and foremost to your own family. Your home should be the place of joy and peace. Coach Bill McCartney once said, “You can tell a lot about what kind of husband you are by simply looking in the face of your wife.” Is there joy? Is there contentment? Is there peace?
I read a statistic last year that said more than 50% of minister’s wives have said that their husbands being in the ministry has been detrimental to the life of their family and marriage. That is tragic. Not only is it tragic, it is very damaging to the work of the Kingdom as well as sapping the joy of living out of the lives of those involved. Talk much in a positive way about your wife in front of the church. Model what a family should be. Model what a marriage should be before your own people.
When I came to the TBC back in July, I took the office closest to the Executive Director’s office and put a sign on the door that says, “Jeanne J. Davis TBC Ambassador.” She is an unpaid volunteer staff member. Her single passion is to be a source of encouragement for pastor’s wives. That’s why she has already met with dozens of these sweet ladies across our state, just seeking to hear their hearts and to know how she can be a source of encouragement. After all, for almost three and a half decades she has been one great preacher’s wife, and I have been one very blessed preacher.