NASHVILLE (BP) – Gathered at tables with hearts prepared for fellowship, women received teaching and encouragement in their battles against discouragement at the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention’s Ministers’ Wives Luncheon Tuesday (June 15).
Keynote speaker Jen Wilkin, an author and Bible teacher from Dallas, led the women in a discussion on guarding their hearts against discouragement. The luncheon’s theme, “Above All Else,” focused on Proverbs 4:23, which reads “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.”
Wilkin stressed that contrary to the world, believers in Christ are receivers of delayed gratification. The process of growing in patience toward steadfastness and spiritual maturity is the path women take to guarding against the weight of discouragement.
The luncheon provides room for encouragement, refreshment and inspiration for women who bear similar burdens and battles.
Kicking off the event, Kandi Gallaty, 2021 SBC Ministers’ Wives president, welcomed the women into the convention hall and invited them to enjoy their meals and the gifts distributed at each table. Introductions were made through fun prizes given for reasons such as living closest to Nashville, the newest marriage and the closest birthday.
During the meal, Susie Hawkins, Endowment Representative, rose to give the history of the luncheon and a tribute in memory of Nancy Sullivan, 1992 luncheon president. The Ministers’ Wives Luncheon began in 1956 and has become a vital part of the SBC meeting every year.
Over the years, however, costs rose. When Sullivan became president of the luncheon in 1992, she took action so that every minister’s wife could afford to attend. She created an endowment fund, now known as the Nancy Sullivan Endowment Trust Fund, that administers donations received throughout the year to support the women attending the event.
Following Sullivan’s tribute, Anne Wright, Willie Turner Dawson Award chairwoman, presented the 2021 Willie Turner Dawson Award to Lynette Ezell, a devoted advocate for adoption and children in foster care. Ezell, wife of North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, hosts the Adopting & Fostering Home Podcast and created Restoring Dignity, a ministry which provides foster children recently removed from their home with new clothes and encouragement. The award is presented each year to one minister’s wife who has demonstrated outstanding service to her community and her church.
In a quick vote to approve the revised Minsters’ Wives Luncheon bylaws, all women said “amen” in agreement, and the group then moved to a time of worship and teaching.
In this year filled with illness, loneliness and loss, Gallaty and Wilkin felt the most important thing to guard hearts against is discouragement. Wilkin focused her message on spiritual maturity in the battle against discouragement. James 1:2-3 demonstrates that the pathway to maturity is trials, like those of the last year, and that the product of trials is steadfastness. She related this to the idea of patience.
“Patience will serve you for a moment or a day. Steadfastness will serve you for a decade and a lifetime. Not just that, because patience is the moment that builds and cumulatively begins to turn into steadfastness,” Wilkin said.
While the culture that surrounds Christians desires immediate gratification, Wilkin stressed that the Gospel is a message of delayed gratification. Children of God await a future kingdom and now live in such a way to point others towards that kingdom. In that, knowing how to wait becomes a key piece to Christianity.
She prompted the women to think of moments when they may have come to say, “This is harder than I thought. This is taking longer than I expected.”
Wilkin said that Christians are called to steadfastness and trust in the Lord who is willing to take time in the process so that the fruit of maturity will be seen in His children. Unlike His children, God knows exactly how long is required to produce spiritual maturity and steadfastness.
Because the women are loved by a patient God, Wilkin said they should want to look like their patient God and trust Him as He works in His timing.
“We believe that steadfastness is anchored in looking forward with certainty,” Wilkin said. “Just as an inability to wait is anti-Christian, so also is a desire to have clear vision of the future.”
She then discussed John 20:29, which says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed,” adding that if someone knows what is coming, then they walk by sight not by faith. The spiritually mature Christian faithfully walks not by looking ahead but by looking over their shoulder at the faithful witness of God to all generations. Through remembering what He has done, believers can be patient and trust in what He is doing.
Wilkin’s time closed in prayer and confession to the Lord, and worship followed. To end the luncheon, Gallaty presented the new officers of the 2022 Ministers’ Wives Luncheon. She passed the presidency on to Ann Iorg, wife of Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg.
Next year’s Ministers’ Wives Luncheon will take place in Anaheim, Calif., and the theme will be “Take Courage,” based on Psalm 31:24. Jennifer Rothschild will address the luncheon.