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The unsung hero of the church


I was preaching in a revival at Old Union Baptist Church in Harlem at the invitation of pastor Keith Boggs. Fifteen miles away The Masters, the nation’s most prestigious golf tournament, was getting underway with practice rounds and the annual par-three tournament. Because of The Masters, hotel prices were exorbitant and “no vacancy” signs were commonplace.

The Boggs family would have welcomed me into their home, but had already committed to host a friend, Scott Jacobs, who had been invited to lead the music for the revival. Then, too, the family is comprised of father, Keith, and mother, Nichole, Madison, age 6; Morgan, age 5; Mallory, age 4; Megan, age 2; and Joshua, age 4 months. Nichole Boggs, the pastor’s wife, had the perfect solution to the accommodations problem. Her parents had parked a fifth wheel trailer behind the parsonage that was temporarily empty and available. She concluded that the trailer would provide a quiet place for me to rest, study and write.

The Old Union pastor at 33 years of age is one of the most spiritually mature young men I know. He has saturated his soul with the Word of God and his prayers are beautifully and uniquely laced with Scripture. His challenges at Old Union have been significant, but he has demonstrated great grace, humility and an uncompromising allegiance to the Word of God.

Nichole has experienced the same challenges her husband has experienced and felt the same heartaches, but at 29 years of age she has demonstrated extreme resilience and Christian poise.

On the Sunday morning of the revival she sang, “I’m Not Ashamed of the Gospel” as beautifully as I have ever heard it sung; and I have heard Janet Paschal sing it in person. I sat at Nichole’s table for lunch on Sunday and for a meal after the service on Sunday evening and every morsel of food was a delectable delight. She included Scott and me in each family meal for the rest of the week and the food was scrumptious.

Nichole is a pretty, perky blond who loves being a wife and mother and who tenaciously guards her own private devotional time, homeschools her two older children, bakes her own nutritional, multigrain bread, cooks health-oriented meals, has her own physical work-out schedule, sings in the church choir, disciples other women, prays for her husband and gives him her full support and encouragement. In fact, I think that is why Keith has been able to endure some of the challenges he has faced as a pastor.

Through the years of my pastorates, my wife, Martha Jean, a Proverbs 31 woman, has provided the same kind of support and encouragement to me. She has done all the things a devoted wife and mother typically do, but she has also sung in the church choir, taught Sunday School, interpreted for the hearing impaired, worked in Vacation Bible School, served on mission trips, hosted guest speakers, served as director of the women’s ministry and been the hostess for numerous church groups in our home.

The November issue of Christian Week featured an article entitled “The amazing, frustrating, fantastic, fulfilling, not-so-private, lonely lives of pastors’ wives.” The article states, “Most churches don’t advertise for a pastor’s wife. But many churches expect, when they ‘hire’ a pastor, to get a package that includes a wife who will work diligently alongside her husband, without pay.”

Years ago Frances Nordland provided a “blueprint for the ideal preacher’s wife” by way of a ludicrous “drawing of a composite creature” including every skewed idea one may have heard. In her dissertation she included a quote from a layman who has written one of the most stereotypical, old fashioned, tongue-in-cheek bits I have ever read about the requirements for pastors’ wives:

“Applicant’s wife must be both stunning and plain, smartly attired, but conservative in appearance, gracious and able to get along with everyone, even women. Must be willing to work in the church kitchen, teach Sunday School, baby-sit, run multilith machine, wait tables, never listen to gossip, never become discouraged, yet be fully aware of all church problems so she might pray more intelligently.”

While most churches may take a more realistic approach to what is expected of pastors’ wives, others are more demanding, but the fact remains that the great majority of the helpmates of pastors are women of sterling character and have an incredible commitment to the cause of Christ. That being said, the unsung heroes in most churches are the pastors’ wives. They attend meetings, pray faithfully, sing joyfully, give generously, help willingly, endure patiently and are mostly unrecognized for their steadfast and unfaltering efforts.