News Articles

Sessions for ministers’ wives ponder ‘God’s Plan … My Part’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–In the same way that individual pieces of fabric come together to make a quilt, God makes each person unique for his purposes, Rhonda Kelley told ministers’ wives attending the 22nd annual Annie Elias Leavell Lectures at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Oct. 4-5.

With a theme of “God’s Plan … My Part,” this year’s sessions focused on the ministers’ wives’ relationship with God, responsibility to the family and role in ministry.

Drawing from 1 Timothy 4:12-16 and other Scriptures that outline a Christian’s responsibility to be an example in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith and purity, Kelley, wife of NOBTS President Chuck Kelley, noted how ministers’ wives’ lives can stimulate others’ faith.

By being a godly example in every word that comes out of their mouths, rather than complaining or putting others down, ministers’ wives can build up other people, Kelley said. Recognizing that God expects his people to be holy or set apart, she said everything that Christians do and say must be holy.

“If we are people who love other people — especially unlovely people — we will draw others to him,” she said, reminding the women that love covers a multitude of sin. “We are not to waver but have the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We must believe that he is God, even when bad things are happening around us.”

A former director of speech pathology for 18 years at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, Kelley recounted how her colleagues couldn’t get over how happy she was all the time. One doctor in particular, who participated in a church youth group car wash, noticed they also had “a joyful spirit” about them. This served to enhance Kelley’s personal witness to God’s love in the lives of Christians.

To be an effective witness, Kelley said Christians must give attention to the special things that really matter in their relationships with the Lord — reading the Bible; exhortation or encouragement to others; and doctrine, or beliefs and conviction. “As we do that, we are not only examples, but we are growing in the Lord,” she said.

“We know that,” she confirmed. “But our lives just get so busy that it becomes harder. Without the discipline, you won’t be able to enjoy a meaningful ministry. All of us need to be lifelong learners and be committed to growing.”

Kelley also advised the women to not neglect their giftings. “How wonderful it is to know that God did give each one of us spiritual gifts! We just have to discover them, use them and develop them.”

Moreover, women should meditate on the things of God. “Instead of thinking of our own thoughts, dreams and fantasies, we are to be constantly thinking about the things of the Lord,” she said. She urged the participants to take heed of and continue in God’s leadership in their lives.

Kelley acknowledged that “it takes divine discipline” to develop and maintain a relationship with the Lord and to minister in his name.

In another session, Debi Sharkey, wife of Rick Sharkey, community pastor at Celebration Church in Metairie, La., noted that many ministers’ wives equate doing things for the Lord with being a pastor’s wife.

Sharkey, an NOBTS doctor of educational ministry student also serving on staff at Celebration Church, shared that she has learned that none of the things she has done makes her who she is.

“It’s who we are in Christ, not what we do, that matters,” she said. “We get the cart before the horse.”

She used the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 to illustrate. “We’ve all heard sermons that explain this passage by pointing out what we do for the Lord,” she said, referring to Jesus’ reward to the sheep who fed the hungry, clothed the poor and cared for the sick, among other things.

“I began to realize, however, that it wasn’t what these Christians were doing, because they questioned when they had done these things,” she continued. “Jesus didn’t separate them for what they did. He separated them by who they were.

“Sheep just do what they do,” she noted.

Reading from 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, Sharkey showed how believers are “new creations in Christ” whose giftedness and purpose come from God.

“It’s very important to understand your spiritual gifts when trying to do certain things to be a good pastor’s wife,” she said. Though she longed for gifts in hospitality, service and mercy, gifts that she believed any good pastor’s wife should have, she found these gifts were among the lowest when she inventoried her strengths.

She tried “growing things and sewing things” and imitating others’ gifts in those areas, she said, explaining her frustration. As she kept scoring higher on prophesy, teaching and leadership on spiritual gift inventories, she learned that God had a particular plan for her life that matched her unique giftedness and personality.

“God will use your particular shape and will use you like he won’t use anyone else. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” she reminded the attendees.

“It is being and not doing,” she emphasized. “I can’t live up to being that pastor’s wife. I just need to be me.”

She concluded, “It’s not what you would do for Jesus, but what Jesus is doing through you.”

“God doesn’t want you to be overwhelmed,” agreed Teresa Brady, wife of Paul Brady, pastor of Oak Park Baptist Church in New Orleans. Yet, she said many ministers’ wives ask, “How can I play all the roles in ministry and still be a good wife and mother?”

“Learn to laugh with your family,” she suggested. “Sometimes we get so consumed with ministry that we forget that our children — and our husbands — would like to play.” Noting that life is too serious, she continued, “We need to be spontaneous. Don’t view your family as interruptions.”

In what she jokingly called “His Plan … My Party,” she encouraged wives to make their home the party home for their children’s friends. In addition to being able to witness of God’s love to other children, Brady said parents will feel more secure knowing where their children are and with whom they are spending their time.

Ministers’ wives also need to accept help from others. In her 22-plus years of marriage, she has learned that everything does not need to be done exactly the way she would do things.

“I don’t have time to do everything on my own,” she said. “I had to have help from my children. If I didn’t ask them to help me, eventually they would quit helping.”

It is all a part of God’s plan — each person has a particular part to play, she said. There is great joy in uncovering and fulfilling that personal role in ministry.

She acknowledged that women should choose their battles by asking the question, “Am I willing to lose my relationship — my life — over this issue?”

She added, “I can’t be unrealistic any longer. I finally realized that I wasn’t raising perfect children. I was raising God’s children. I can’t make my husband the perfect pastor and preacher. That’s God’s job!”

To her good pleasure, she said God has been extremely faithful in her family’s life. Her children are interested in the things of God. Her husband has a satisfying and successful ministry. Even if that were not true, she reminded, “We can love our husbands because they love God. Isn’t that enough?”

Held each fall on the New Orleans Seminary campus, the Annie Elias Leavell Lectures were established by Landrum P. Leavell II, NOBTS president emeritus, and Margaret Leavell Mann in honor of their mother, who was a minister’s wife, to bring outstanding Christian women to speak to student wives.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CONSIDER YOUR PART; BE, DON’T DO; and LAUGH & PLAY.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

    Read All by Shannon Baker ›