He's Called, Am I
By Jill Briscoe
Christ’s Commission Fellowship - or CCF as it is generally known - is an unusual name for a church. But it’s an unusual church. Situated in downtown Manila in the Philippines without any property to call its own, this 10,000 member church was born 20 years ago. Peter Tan-Chi, a successful businessman, called together 11 friends and together they studied, prayed, nurtured, and cared for each other until the time was ripe for all 12 to find 12 men each and repeat the process. The result 20 years later - is CCF!
Actually there’s more. The wives of the 12 men did the same thing as their husbands did until they, too, were each meeting with 12 other women who eventually reached 12 others. And so on ad infinitum.
I was particularly interested in hearing that the wives were full partners with their husbands in the life and ministry of the church. Why? Because not all ministry couples see themselves as ministry partners. Some say they are “coupled” in marriage, united in family and joined in parenting but not partners in ministry. I have been told more than once, “I married a dentist who became a pastor. I didn’t involve myself in pulling teeth, so why should I be involved in counseling, evangelizing and other pastoral activities?” Why indeed?
Perhaps more significantly, other women tell me that the church their husbands’ pastor has expectations of them for no other reason than that they are married to the pastor. They feel there’s something fundamentally unfair about the position in which they find themselves. After all, if they were married to a garbage collector they couldn’t be expected to rise up early in all weathers to join him in the noble task of collecting trash with a song in their hearts and a smile on their lips. Not only that, they complain that often these expectations don’t relate in any way to their interests, gifts or sense of calling. So they find themselves doing what they don’t want to do without the time or energy to do what they believe they are called to do.
But this brings up a critical question. Does a pastor’s wife have a calling? The answer to that question is crucial. Let’s see if we can get any help finding an answer from Scripture.
It must be admitted that biblical references to the pastor’s wife are hard to find. But Paul made a comment in the First Epistle to the Corinthians that at least acknowledges that pastors have wives and that their relationship is relevant to their ministry. I refer, of course, to this statement, “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us….” (1 Cor. 9:5)? Actually he asked, literally, whether he did not have the right to “lead about” or “take along as companion a sister, a wife.” And he added that this was precisely what Peter was doing. His point was that he had certain rights, which he enumerated for the benefit of the Corinthians, but he was not insisting on any of them. But for our purposes we should note that Peter - who described himself as an elder if not a pastor - not only had a wife, but that she was a traveling companion with him on his missionary journeys. Tradition also tells us that she also died with him - a martyr’s death, crucified upside down. So there can be no doubt that she was involved in some way with him in his ministry. Not for her to say, “I married a fisherman, but I didn’t spend my time in a smelly boat being sea sick.”
But in what way was she involved? We are not told, but there is one small clue. She traveled with him in a dual capacity. As “wife” and as “sister”! It is interesting to remember that the early Christians were often profoundly misunderstood and were, among other things, accused of atheism, cannibalism and incest! Atheism because they refused to worship the “gods.” Cannibalism because they met regularly “to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ.” And incest because, after all, they openly married their “sisters”! Not genetic sisters, of course, but women who were created by the Father, redeemed by the Son and born again by the Spirit, and accordingly they possessed the life their husbands possessed and were called to serve the One their husbands served.
Mrs. Peter - actually I think her name was really Mrs. Simon Johnson - was first and foremost a sister in the Lord, a member of the family of God and as such she had a calling - a calling to discipleship to be exercised in the context of a traveling missionary alongside her equally-called husband.
We are not told how she fulfilled her calling, but it is reasonable to assume first of all that she was aware of her gifts. Could she be married to Peter who wrote, “ Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4: 10), and not be exercising her gifts as she traveled with him? Having written that, is it possible that forceful old Peter had failed to talk to his wife about her gifts? Would he not have helped her discover them and encourage her to use them faithfully? For the same reason, is it not reasonable to conclude that she was sensitive to needs and alert to opportunities, and eagerly addressing them by “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms?” Peter and his wife must have been quite a team!
So does a pastor’s wife have a calling? If she is a sister, she certainly does! And what precisely is that calling? It is in her capacity as an “heir of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7) to exercise her unique gifting by addressing needs and opportunities presented to her as she is a companion to her husband in his calling. She is called as he is. She is his companion as he is hers. Called companions they serve together. Does that mean she should do everything the church say she should do? No! Does it mean she should do nothing in the church because other wives don’t have to go to work with their husbands? No. Because her involvement in the fellowship of faith is not predicated on her being a wife. It is based on her being a responsible, loving, and caring sister in a large family.