By Shannon Baker
PHOENIX (BP) — Be “brave” in sharing God’s truth to those outside and inside the church, especially in the face of today’s increasing intolerance toward Christianity, said several speakers during the 2017 Pastors’ Wives Conference.
Based on Proverbs 31:25, “Brave” was the theme of this year’s conference. It was held June 12 in the North Ballroom of the Phoenix Convention Center prior to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Kelly Minter, a Christian recording artist and Bible study author, acknowledged, “We are past the time when God’s Word is standard,” pointing to how Jesus shared truth with the Samaritan woman in John 4, drawing much needed parallels for ways Christians can engage unbelievers in today’s post-Christian environment.
First, Jesus did not affirm or accommodate the Samaritan woman’s “truth.” Jesus plainly said she had five husbands (4:18), not “five husbands is the new one husband” or “living with your boyfriend is the new marriage,” Minter said. In fact, Jesus doesn’t make her feel better about her situation at all. Instead, He draws her to His truth.
Secondly, Jesus did not avoid her in her “truth.” Minter explained that Jesus could have gone around Samaria to avoid the Samaritans, with whom the Jews at that time had “utter disdain” and “unbelievable division.” But Jesus “does not avoid people in uncomfortable, detrimental truths,” she said. “We can’t avoid the mess. We have got to cut right through it, pursue it.”
Finally, Jesus pursued the Samaritan woman in her “truth” so He could save her from it.
“We’re not going to compromise God’s truth but we’re also not going to use it as an excuse to fight the world or avoid the world,” Minter said, noting how “staggering” it was that the Samaritan woman ran into her town telling about how Jesus exposed all her sins (4:28-29). “Somehow she knew in the all-I-ever-did, there was forgiveness, hope, unbelievable love.”
Minter concluded, “What could happen if we confronted people with this kind of love? What would happen if people could come to us and confess their sin and their struggles, and we can … have open, honest conversations — not because we are affirmers … but because we could introduce Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Savior of the world?”
Marshelle Wilburn, volunteer services manager for the Bay Area Rescue Mission in the San Francisco Bay area, shared how to bravely raise kids in a sexually-charged culture. Wilburn is the wife of Port Wilburn, church planter and pastor of Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship in San Pablo, Calif., and mother of five children, whom the Wilburns are training up in righteousness to “strengthen the culture around them.”
In her message, Wilburn used the acronym, BRAVE, to encourage Christian parents to consider how to equip their children to engage today’s culture.
First, Christian parents must be “bold believers,” willing to share the Good News of what Jesus offers in a culture of “do’s” instead of “do not’s.” She and her husband constantly teach their children what they can do, “Pursue the Lord with your gifts, be a light, share the love of God with your friends.”
Second, Christian parents must be “radically relevant,” understanding what is going on in the culture to address it. “We can’t put hierarchies on things if we are going to be truly relevant in and being able to be able to share truth,” she said.
Third, Christian parents must be “audaciously adept,” so brave and so bold that they are not afraid to step out into culture. “We may be nervous about it, but not afraid,” she said, sharing her experience of attending a “queer” Christian support group for those questioning their sexuality to better understand how homosexuals reconciled their lifestyle with their spirituality. She did not approach them with condemnation but with love.
Fourth, Christian parents must be “vitally voracious” and willing to give life-giving truth without holding back.
And finally, Christian parents must be “equipped to be empathically engaging.” They should put themselves in the shoes of Christ to address these issues with the ones He enables to be in their spheres of influence “so that their futures might be changed in the presence of Jesus Christ.”
Keeping our children in “protected environments falls short of fulfilling the call of being His presence in this world,” she said.
Kay Warren, who is married to Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., spoke practically to the pastors’ wives about taking care of themselves spiritually, emotionally and physically.
“You and I must learn to control the controllables, and leave the uncontrollables to God” so that “we can be stronger in the broken places,” said Warren, author of the recently released “Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife.”
“To be spiritually mature women, you are going to have to take responsibility for your own growth,” she said, pointing to daily being in God’s Word, praying and surrendering oneself. “I could only live in surrender to Jesus Christ on April 5, 2013 [the date of her son Matthew’s suicide], because I spent the 50 previous years saying yes to God,” she said.
Warren also urged the women to do the work necessary for emotional healing and to focus on physical health.
“What a travesty it would be to mistreat the one body we’ve been given,” she said. “Being a pastor’s wife is already hard. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.”
Pastors’ wives also heard two interviews from the stage.
Jeana Floyd, wife of Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Ark., interviewed Charlotte Akin, who is married to Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Akin shared her testimony of growing up with alcoholic parents, who later divorced and placed her and her siblings in the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home.
“I’ve always been able to not blame my parents,” said Akin, who became a Christian at the children’s home. “They just didn’t know Christ and didn’t know any better.”
Akin credited other women in her life for helping her grow in Christ. Those women included “Aunt Linda” who introduced her to Danny, and Danny’s sister Joy and mother Emma Lou, who helped her “feel confident in Christ.” Akin urged her listeners to “find those incredible women” and “to be one for others.”
Donna Gaines, wife of SBC President Steve Gaines, interviewed Mary Margaret Gibson, ministry director for EvanTell‘s Save the Mother, Save her Child evangelism training and equipping ministry. Presently, her organization, which serves over 700 faith-based pregnancy centers in the U.S. and 40 overseas partners, is piloting a partnership with WMU‘s Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) and Christian Men’s Job Corps (CMJC) to provide job readiness for clients.
Gibson said she doesn’t view crisis pregnancies as “unplanned” pregnancies, but as “unexpected” ones.
“God knows every baby. Every family is precious to God,” she said, adding, “Sharing the Gospel comes very naturally when we realize how much the Lord loves them.”
Explaining EvanTell, Gibson said the training program teaches volunteers how to move from secular conversations, such as baby development, into spiritual discussions and ultimately a Gospel presentation. This conversational and contextual evangelism approach is used well beyond pregnancy crisis centers.
Closing, Gibson stood and thanked the pastors’ wives for being brave “even when they were afraid.” She urged them to remember that they are “after people” because God has already gone before them and prepared the way.
She also noted that negative emotions come from God and are cues for when one is not staying close enough to Him. Stay close, she urged.
Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in Columbia, Md.