Many of us cringed when we saw the recent video of Victoria Osteen saying, “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God! I mean that’s one way to look at it, we’re doing it for ourselves because God takes pleasure when we’re happy…Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really, you’re doing it for yourself because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?” Of course, this is heresy and irrational. It’s self-idolatry. It’s feel good religion and not the truth. I wondered, why is she up on that platform? Does she have the theological training, and spiritual maturity which would make her qualified to speak to that? Perhaps she should sit down and be quiet!
I realize Osteen’s church views her as a ‘co-pastor.’ In reality, most pastor’s wives have no official training. I have a whopping one hour of seminary credit from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for a wonderful course on The Minister’s Wife. My degree is in Business. As a young minister’s wife and new Christian I thoroughly enjoyed the class and soaked up everything that was taught. But all these years later, all I remember is the importance of sex and writing thank-you notes.
Many pastor’s wives struggle with feelings of inadequacy simply because they are placed in a position of leadership and authority without any training or preparation. I was a Christian for only 2 years when I married and found myself as a staff wife in a large New Orleans church. Back in the old days when we did not have cell phones yet, I would answer the many phone calls we received at home in the evenings when my husband was out. One of the first calls I received was from a young man threatening to take his life. My first thought? I’m not prepared for this! What am I to say? Can you hold off killing yourself until my husband gets home? No. I prayed for the right words and stumbled my way through the conversation; until my husband got home. The young man was fine in the end. The next call was a theological question. The caller assumed I would know the answer. As we spoke, I prayed and flipped feverishly through the commentary and references in my Bible. I found the answer!
I have made many pastoral wife mistakes over the years. I’ve spoken when I shouldn’t have, not spoken when I should have and given poor advice. My intentions were good, but lack of experience and immaturity got the best of me. Unfortunately, sometimes it still does. Of course we all, including Victoria, need to learn from our mistakes and admit when we say something ridiculous.
Ministers’ wives who do not have the opportunity to have formal ministerial training will get their training on-the-job. Maturity will come over time and with experience as we grow spiritually, seek resources, spend time with wise mentors and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us. I do believe that ministers’ spouses and families are called by God. But, we should be careful not to presume that just because we are married to a minister that automatically qualifies us to handle all situations prematurely. While I’m not making excuses for Victoria or her errant theology, I do hope we give all our ministers’ wives some grace and room to blow it from time to time.