First Ladies: The Unsung Pulpit Partners (Conclusion)

Lost? This post is part 4 of a series. (Start here to catch up.)
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Women Are Called to Ministry, Too

The controversy about women in the pulpit continues to pervade Christian society in America. The September 2008 issue of the Fayetteville, GA-based Gospel Today magazine featured five female pastors for its cover story, but Lifeway, a Christian bookstore affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled this issue from their magazine displays. Their decision to do so is based on the scripture passage 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

“I have given my testimony to other churches and small groups,” Tammy says. “I have not taught a bible study in Virginia, but I taught with the Arkansas board of education for teachers before school. My thought process goes array at times now, but I really enjoy doing teaching and hope I can do more of it in the future as my health improves.” But as for women not preaching in the pulpit, Tammy says she has always belonged to Southern Baptist churches. “There are thousands of churches, so if someone wants to preach, they can find a church where they could do that,” she says.

“There are doctrinal differences, but I think we have to respect people where they are and not engage in internal battles,“ Sharon comments.  “There are too many souls that need to be saved for us to fight each other concerning doctrines.”

But it’s not that simple, according to other first ladies who challenge that doctrine. “When it comes to Scripture, you have to look at the context of who scripture was written to, the time, the environment, etc. What did the Word mean in the original Hebrew?,” Iris advises. “Dorcas was a preacher.  Priscilla and Aquila were a husband and wife team that were preachers. Our [humans] problem is, we get so caught up with the little things. Are you going to disappoint God if you’re a woman who preaches? In Him, there is no male or female, no Jew or Greek…it’s man that gets bogged down with these details,” she says.

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In the summer of 2009, District Elder Hurst taught a bible study series about women teaching and preaching, and Denise delivered her first sermon in September 2009. She shares her views about women in the pulpit:

“The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few—so let us labor! Don’t take stuff out of context. Men [in Bible times] were predominantly providers and priests back then. Should we go back to the Bible days and not allow women to work outside the home? I know so many churches that were founded by women in their homes with bible studies and small groups, including Greater Emmanuel.”

She continues, “God can use women to relay His message. The principles [of the referenced scripture] are pulled out of a different culture. With all that goes on in this world, we need as much help as we can get to get the Word out.”

Denise said that she will preach again in the future, but wants to take the time to be trained up and developed as a minister first, and her husband will provide direction for the time is right for her to preach again.

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When it comes to women ministers, Mona’ differentiates between the messenger and the message. “I’ve been ministered to by male and female ministers. The power of the anointing is given by God—he uses the blind, deaf, disabled, male and female to teach and be encouraged.” She continues, “In Titus 2:3-5, it says for the older women to teach the younger women—and it speaks to the power of women ministering to others. I was immersed into ministry just by becoming First Lady. I preached in Uganda, and it wasn’t planned, but because of Pastor’s influence, I was able to minister to the women and God got the glory. It all goes back to your purpose.”

Being an Effective, Successful First Lady Starts At Home

How do you handle being a successful first lady, wife, mother, and woman? Denise says that you have to have a strong foundation at home first. “Charity begins at home and spreads,” she says. “My husband and I have counseled couples. We have to pour into each other before we pour into others.”

If the Hursts are getting on each other’s nerves, Denise says she will step back so that the negativity doesn’t distract him from what he’s doing in church. She knows that people are looking for the slightest hint of a rift between them.

Final Thoughts

Mona’ refers to the story in the Bible where David and Saul had an exchange before David went out to battle Goliath. Saul tried to give David what the armor that he needed, and David told Saul he could not wear that armor. God provided what David needed for his battle (see 1 Samuel 17:31-40). Her final advice is based on this story: “Wear the armor of God, not the armor of your peril.”

Here are some final words of wisdom for women in ministry:

  • Mona’ says: “When you are encountering the transition from being single to becoming married—especially in ministry,” she adds, “seek Christian counseling, mentors, and people who you trust that will support you and provide wisdom and good counsel.”
  • Iris says, “Set and keep a date night with your spouse. Let people work around your schedule. Barring a critical issue or emergency, set a particular night of the week as off-limits, and don’t schedule any church activities, meetings, or appointments for that evening of each week.”
  • Denise advises, “Have an outlet for yourself. Have your own personal goals. Be yourself.”
  • Iris says, “Be friends with other women in the church. Let them see you. People learn better when they see you.”
  • Iris says, “Establish boundaries you can agree on with your spouse. Keep your office near your spouse’s. Guard yourself against improprieties. News headlines will mention ministers falling into sexual sin and compromising situations. If you do counseling, don’t counsel the opposite sex without the door open and your spouse or other accountable person close by.”
  • Iris says, “Teach modesty for women. Iris teaches about modesty for women working the altar. “I tell ladies to show respect. I’ll say, ‘Pulling up your neckline so nothing can be seen if you bend forward. Pull your hemlines down. You better come correct. If you wouldn’t think that your attire is acceptable for me to wear, you shouldn’t wear it either.’ ”
  • Tammy says, “Keep your eyes on Jesus and spend time with him, and seeking to please Him. That’s the key to whatever you do. The glue that holds me together is having quiet time alone in the morning with Him, ever since I was in high school. I would unravel if I didn’t have that.”

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Special thanks to Denise, Iris, Mona, Sharon, and Tammy, and their church staff, for sharing their stories with me, and allowing me to share them with my readers. As their words enlightened me, I’m sure their experiences and wisdom will also help other women everywhere.

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2 thoughts on “First Ladies: The Unsung Pulpit Partners (Conclusion)

  1. Thanks for that different insight into the life of first ladies in the different churches. It was helpful to me.

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