FIRST-PERSON: Loving the local church
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- I have a love relationship with the local church. The church has been my life -- I was born a pastor's child and eventually became a pastor's wife. My father pastored Southern Baptist churches for over 50 years. And although I said I'd never marry a preacher, that's exactly what I did. Almost 39 years later, I still love my "preacher man" and the local church.
I believe the benefits of being a minister's wife in the local church far outweigh the negatives.
The local church supported Ronnie and me way back when we were newlyweds. Our very first church loved and supported us wholeheartedly and gave us our start in ministry life. They followed Ronnie's leadership even though we were young. I have many sweet memories from that wonderful church. I vividly remember that in that small town with one grocery store and one gas station, there was a passion for ministry. From the First Baptist Church of Cherokee to Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas, the work ethic and passion for ministry in our churches has remained unchanged all these years.
As ministry life progressed, so came the birth of our two sons. Precious women poured into my life and mentored me in my new role as a mother. Our churches have also provided substitute parents and grandparents, a special blessing when living away from family.
To write with complete integrity, I must share that I was truly saved while serving as a pastor's wife. I had made a decision as a child out of obedience to my parents; they did not force me in any way, but my desire to please them led me to make a decision that I would doubt for many years. I did not mean to live in a deceitful way. I loved God and I loved His church and would always rationalize, "How could I not be saved?" But great conviction led me to an understanding that my love for the church and God had not led me to a true salvation experience. I truly gave my heart to Jesus as a pastor's wife in 1985 and have not doubted since that time. I am grateful to have settled that most important decision of my life not only for eternity's sake but also for the many challenges I have faced since then. Now I know for sure that regardless of what I go through as an individual or pastor's wife, He is with me.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, the church became our family in a deeper way, and instead of being the ministers, we were ministered to. Both of our families lived in another state, which made it difficult for them to be with us during this challenging time. The church became our daily support system in that hard season and I gained another appreciation for what the local church can mean to all of us.
As our children grew, committed Sunday School and small group leaders came alongside us as parents. In their teen years, their youth pastors became a huge influence in their lives. These influencers helped to guide our sons into becoming godly young men, who in turn have become godly husbands and fathers. Without a doubt, the church had a huge impact on where our sons are today in their spiritual walks. I have no regrets raising our children in ministry life. In fact, I consider it to have been a blessing and great benefit for our entire family.
Today I have a new concern and investment of the church for my grandchildren. Again, coming alongside their parents, the church provides a huge opportunity for their spiritual growth. I am thankful for this provision, again, through the local church.
Each place we have served has a special place in my heart. Each one of those places taught us distinct lessons through our time served there. Some have been more difficult than others. There have been hard times as well as great times. God has used specific people to grow us, mold us, and refine us in His calling to serve Him in the local church.
My greatest joys in life are being a wife, mother, grandmother and pastor's wife. You might say that I love my job. I have no regrets at the life investment Ronnie and I have made in the local church. I have definitely experienced firsthand the faithfulness of God, serving Him in the local church in the good times and the challenging times. The Church of Jesus Christ has withstood many trials and challenges, but God's Word tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). What a privilege to serve Him in ministry and to reap the benefits as an individual and a family, knowing that His Church will stand the test of time, now and forever.