HOUSTON (BP) -- Encouragement for the medley of marriage and ministry was relayed during the Pastors' Wives Conference June 10, part of the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference prior to each year's SBC annual meeting.
The three-hour session included keynote addresses from Barbara O'Chester and Jennie Allen, a panel discussion and a time of prayer and worship.
"Marriage is not the joining of two worlds; it is the abandonment of two worlds and the forming of a brand-new world," O'Chester said, noting that the two sets of backgrounds, temperaments and spiritual gifts each spouse brings to a union can be one of life's greatest blessings.
"You throw into this mix the challenge of the ministry and it's only by God's grace and mercy that any of us make it in marriage," said O'Chester, a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary distinguished alumnus award recipient and wife of retired pastor Harold O'Chester.
By God's grace and wisdom, though not without troubles and trials, a ministry marriage can thrive and exude the testimony of the Gospel that God intended, O'Chester said, describing how a woman controlled by the Holy Spirit, willing to forgive, eager to support, and committed to engaging in spiritual warfare can foster a successful marriage and therefore a more successful ministry.
Jennie Allen, a Bible study author and wife of a former pastor, told the women to make themselves vulnerable enough to allow God to use them, even amid the certainty that hurts will come their way.
Allen carried multiple milk crates on stage to represent the burdens she found herself bearing years ago, explaining that she finally came to the point that when she could no longer bear the burdens, she built a wall out of them and hid behind them. When her plan to hide left her unsatisfied and unfulfilled, she said God showed her what to do instead and how to advise other women.
"He did not say, 'Just bust down the wall and tell them it's going to be OK,'" Allen said. "He said, 'Bust down the wall and tell them that I am better than any hiding, than any potential circumstance that could ever be given or worked out.' He said, 'Come out of hiding and I will be your Rock; I will be your Shield; I will protect you. I am better.'"
A panel moderated by author and speaker Susie Hawkins, wife of GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins, fielded both pre-arranged questions and questions tweeted from attendees regarding marriage and ministry. Also on the panel were Suzanne Grigsby of Memphis, Tenn., daughter, wife and mother of three respective pastors; Kelly Matte of Houston, wife of 2013 Pastors' Conference President Greg Matte; and Karolyn Chapman of Winston-Salem, N.C., wife of "The Five Love Languages" author Gary Chapman.
The four women discussed such topics as how to deal with criticism; how to maintain healthy boundaries; and how to respond to the tragically rising numbers of Christian men and women involved in pornography.
Keeping with the ministry-marriage theme of the conference, Kathy Litton, a consultant for the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) ministry to pastors' wives, led the women in a 20-minute concerted prayer time specifically for their husbands and their marriages. She directed their prayer in areas of wisdom, forgiveness and strongholds.
" God's glory would be made manifest in our marriages, not because we have perfect homes, not because we've got it all together, but so they can see the power of God working in our marriages."
Sharayah Colter is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
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