“Oh, you want to be a pastor? I want to be a pastor’s wife!”
This is the humorous pick up line of many young, single, “Proverbs 31” women. It is praise-worthy that a female follower of Christ would know the standards to which she holds a man of romantic interest, namely that she would desire to be in covenant relationship with a God-fearing servant of Jesus. It should be the aim of all women to marry a man spiritually matured enough to hold the title of “pastor.” So while this innocently suggestive ice-breaker used toward an attractive young man wonderfully reveals the longing for a Godly spouse, I’m afraid it also inadvertently limits a woman’s view of her role in ministry and damages her subconscious motivation for serving the church.
A Pastor Isn’t Always a Pastor
This is not a defense of egalitarianism, a dismantling of complementarianism, or even a statement of whether or not a woman should hold the ecclesiastical position of Pastor. Rather my intent is to show that Western Christianity has limited the term to simply represent a man that stands on stage in a suit and tie (or skinny jeans at my church), exegeting a passage of scripture for the personal application of his congregation. We forget, however, the reason why these men are called Pastors; they have the spiritual leadership gift and ability of pastoring. To be pastoral in heart is to be a shepherd and a counsellor, someone who cares deeply for the well-being of others. Sadley, there are many “pastors” today who are not very pastoral at all, but rather heavily gifted in their teaching abilities. In many ways, we have mistaken the definition of pastor to be “teacher.”
A great summary of the leadership tendencies (the Myers Briggs for Christ’s body, if you will) among believers is given in Ephesians, chapter 4: “…He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and the teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (v. 11-12). It is important to read these as adjectives, not necessarily as titles or offices. Yes, the office of Apostle (one who walked with Jesus in the flesh, directly witnessed His earthly miracles, and helped establish the early church through these testimonies) closed with the death of the Twelve. However, believers today still operate apostolically in that they move the church forward in new directions, missions, and ideas. People also operate prophetically (relaying God’s Truth in fresh and understandable ways), evangelically (that one guy who still uses tracts), pastorally (counselling and listening the heart of other believers), and through teaching (the church’s definition of pastor). So “pastor” is not merely a title, but more of a character trait.
My Wife Will Be a Pastor
Because of the damaged view of what a pastor truly is, women shy away from the idea of operating pastorally. Throughout church history, women have largely been disallowed from holding any sort of church office, the most debated of which, is pastoring. We have no problem deeming a woman “teacher” or “evangelist,” but even those that hold the occupation of counsellor or the full-time job of mother are rarely described as pastors, when in fact they are exercising the pastoral gifting arguably more than the man standing at the pulpit. A redefining of the term is necessary for the spiritual growth of both men and women, and the body of Christ as a whole. Women should not be limited in their view of how they can serve and exercise their gifts and leadership abilities, and men should not perpetuate the problem by discouraging the pastoral heart of their wives and sisters.
I pray that my wife will understand and embrace her ability to pastor and lead people. I pray that she will care deeply for others in brokenness, encourage them out of foolishness, and exhort them into truth. I pray that she will be the ultimate example of love and kindness, so our children may learn to selflessly serve others. I pray that she will challenge me to lead others better, and hold me to the highest standard in leading her. I pray that she will serve alongside me in ministry, leading house churches, corporately worshipping through music, and teaching God’s Word. Perhaps I will know I have found this woman by the way she introduces herself:
“Oh, you want to be a pastor? So do I.”