NASHVILLE, Tenn.?In what will become an annual Monday morning conference for minister’s wives, well over 1,000 women gathered in the Ryman Auditorium, challenged by the faith and experience of speakers who have walked in their shoes and modeled the qualities found in the Colossians 1:9-10 theme to “walk worthily.”
Anita Renfroe of suburban Atlanta ensured the audience was awake for the back-to-back messages from three women, opening the session with spirited music, followed by her comedy routine. The author of “The Purse-Driven Life” entertained the women, connecting with their experiences as ministers’ wives.
“I know why Christian women are gaining weight at a faster rate than the rest of the population,” Renfroe offered. “It’s because of that little bitty book we all read and then asked, ‘Lord, enlarge my territory.'” Then she recalled a t-shirt she’d seen that read, “If our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, then I’m not fat, I’m just a megachurch.”
No subject was off limits for Renfroe, whose husband tells his buddies that the couple is in “estrogen evangelism.” She told of her gratitude for “23 years of hot, righteous monogamy!” Describing her husband’s ministry for 20 years as an associate pastor, she explained, “That means he actually did all the work,” drawing laughter from wives of associate church staff members.
Renfroe said knowing that none of her children had been on Jerry Springer gave her hope that they had turned out well. “I learned a couple of things as a mom?if you need to hide a present, put it in the dishwasher. And no matter what a brochure says, absolutely nothing is fun for the whole family.”
Standing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, Renfroe said she composed the song “I Can Smell Your Breath” from a hit by country music star Faith Hill, who was in the youth group of the first church Renfroe’s husband served while in seminary. Sporting a long blonde wig and eventually a gas mask, Renfroe changed the words to describe waking up to a husband with bad breath.
As Bible study teacher Susie Hawkins of Dallas attempted to follow Renfroe’s act, she told the audience, “Anita’s job was to warm you up. Instead, she’s got you hanging off the rafters.”
Hawkins drew her own share of laughs by describing the reception she was given at the first church her husband served after seminary. One woman asked if she could sing solos, another wondered if she could play the piano and a third asked if she’d think about being the director of the upcoming Vacation Bible School. “I told O.S., ‘I don’t care when we move there but it has to be after Vacation Bible School.”
Having been a pastor’s wife in Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, Hawkins commiserated with the women who are expected to be like Shirley Dobson as a wife and mother, Martha Stewart in the home, Beth Moore as a Bible teacher, Karen Hughes as an administrator, Elisabeth Elliot as a missionary, Lottie Moon as an evangelist and minister to the sick like Mother Teresa.
Instead, Hawkins said the wives of ministers should “take a deeper look at what God has called us to be and what God has called us to do.” She offered an overview of the role of a pastor’s wife, drawing from historical and biblical evidence. “Because of the Reformation, marriage and children and wives regained a certain amount of respect and women came to be considered an important part of the husband’s ministry.”
Her Ephesians 4 text instructing Christians to walk worthy of their calling paralleled the session’s Colossians 1 theme as Hawkins told the women they are called as a partner, to a people and for a purpose. “If you are married to a man who is called to ministry, then you are called as his partner in ministry,” she stated.
“I’ve heard too many times, ‘That’s his job, but I’m not called. I don’t have to do that stuff.'” Hawkins urged women with that attitude to “think and pray on this because the Bible is very clear that we are called as well.” The primary role of a minister’s wife is to be a helper to her husband, praying and encouraging him, she noted.
By exercising the godly characteristics of humility, gentleness, patience and acceptance of one another in love, the wives of ministers will encourage unity in the church as they serve people. By maturing in the fullness of Christ, Hawkins said the wives will achieve the purpose of glorifying God. While the setting for ministry may change, she said the purpose remains the same.
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