Friday, August 5, 2016

We Set the Standard

When I was in college, I took a night course for girls who were engaged to men going into the ministry. In it, we were given a drawing of the “Ideal Pastor’s Wife.” She had all the expected qualities: she had to dress in style but not too in style. She had to have eyes in the back of her head as well as in the front. She had to be an excellent housekeeper and hostess. She had to be in perfect health. She had to be able to teach, play the piano, sing, etc., etc. It was all in fun, but the truth is that women in leadership are scrutinized, and there are many expectations.

Any woman in ministry is a woman that people naturally look up to. I thought I’d do a little Bible study to see what God’s expectations are and then add some practical advice.

Here’s what God expects of pastors’ and deacons’ wives. (Single missionary women would have many of these same standards.)
  • A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 1 Timothy 3:2-5. (Compare with Titus 1:6). Implied rather than stated, the pastor’s wife will help her husband be hospitable, and she’ll help him by being submissive and guiding the children to obey their father.
  • Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things (1 Timothy 3:11). Here’s another list for the pastor’s wife: serious, not a gossip, wise, and faithful.
  • Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well (1 Timothy 3:12). Notice, a deacon’s wife is exactly the same as a pastor’s wife. Women in Christian leadership have the same standards.
  • That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:2-5). This passage begins with men, but it says the women are to have the same qualities as they do. It’s quite a list! This goes for single women in leadership as well as married women. “Aged” indicates spiritual maturity. (A godly Christian woman in her twenties or thirties could easily qualify as a mature Christian, and she is able to teach other women.) Notice the ending of this passage: that the word of God be not blasphemed. Wow! That’s strong language! Our behavior either validates the Word of God or it doesn’t. 
You set the standard in your place of service. Whether you realize it or not, all of the women in your church (or school, or whatever ministry) are watching your example. All of them! 

Years ago, in the first church where we ministered in here in Spain, the native pastor’s wife copied the founding missionary pastor’s wife in everything. It was especially evident in clothing. They looked like clones! The missionary pastor’s wife had set the standard, and this lady was more than eager to follow!

Every woman in ministry should examine herself to see if she is setting the right standard. Let’s look at two areas—in addition to those mentioned above:

1. Priorities
  • Our personal walk with God is the most important thing in our lives. It shows when a woman has an intimate relationship with the Lord. 
  • If you are married, your husband comes second on your list. This means you yield to his wishes. You are supportive. You don’t talk negatively about him anywhere or any time. You love him! People are always watching, and your marriage is important in your ministry. It’s the model everyone else looks to. Is it happy? If not, change the areas that need tweaking.
  • If you have children, the Bible says clearly that those children still at home must be in subjection and must respect their father. It’s one of the qualifications of Christian leadership. (If they are adults and don’t live under your roof, they are responsible to God for their actions.)
  • Ministry is important, but it comes after your walk with God and your family life. Make sure ministry is in its biblical place on your priority list.
  • I might add mentoring as one of your priorities. You shouldn’t have to do everything yourself. Teach younger women to help you in ministry. 
2. Dress
  • It is so important how you dress! I’m shocked by some of the clothing choices I see on social media. Some of the women are in ministry, and some are not, but they’re all professing Christians. I will be explicit here, since this blog is for women. We all know the Bible says that women are to be modest (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Yet, I see low tops and tight jeans, jeggings, and leggings. I see short skirts. I see immodest work-out clothes. I see women who give the perception that they never wear skirts (on social media). Some show photos of themselves in the swimming pool—in revealing suits. They don’t seem to be making an effort to be modest. This is frankly disappointing, because some of these women are in church leadership. Some of them are missionaries, and some are pastors’ wives and deacons’ wives. People look up to women in ministry. This includes everyone in the church.
  • What example of modesty do you set?

I think we underestimate the influence of a godly woman. Think about one woman you know who exemplifies godliness. What is she like? Where does she set her standards? Why did you pick her? What qualities in her life “speak” to you that she loves the Lord?

The Bible says our role models in every area are supposed to be godly women. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10). (Isn't it interesting that God links good works with modesty?) 

People naturally expect more of their leadership than they do of themselves. They look to us for guidance. I believe we need to examine our lives and lifestyles, so that we can provide the best example for those around us.

Let’s set a truly godly standard!

   Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 11:1)


Mimi Bonikowsky said...

Very good, Lou Ann.

Cheryl Isham said...


Brenda Fricke said...

Thank you Lou Ann for this much needed message! I so much appreciate your straight forward, Bible centered posts. Praying for you!

Joyful said...

I enjoyed this teaching. I too have observed the declining standards of women in leadership and Christian women in general (at least in North America on television and on line). It is good to remind ourselves about modesty, standards and leadership or teaching from one generation to the next.