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An Honorable Position

I'm so glad you've chosen to come back for more from this series, Hello, I'm the Preacher's Wife. Oh, wait, is this your first visit? Welcome! If you'd like to read the series in order published, you can start with Entry One by clicking here.


Facebook memories. Some days you love them. Some days you hate them. I confess, as a young mom, I posted a lot more frequently than I do these days. My husband was often on the road and I was left behind to wipe the noses, clean up the messes, fix the uneaten meals for two little girls while my husband was out saving the world. It may not have been quite as dramatic as I'm making it sound today, but it certainly felt that way 10+ years ago. I posted so that I could interact with adults. But now I'm finding those posts--albeit their cry for help, therapy, laughter, or all the above--are now popping back up each day, reminding me of some moments I now cherish and others I would rather forget.

Recently, a Facebook post popped up in my Memories from a rare opportunity I took to offer commentary on a Super Bowl half-time show. Even today, if you peruse my Facebook feed you'll find only a handful of posts sprinkled throughout the week, mostly consisting of tagged posts by others and promotion of ministry provided by Sanctuary. But that day, ten or more years ago, I had this urge to share my opinion--not of the show itself, but of the saints of God who applauded it. And, well, it blew up. Many agreed with my opinion and said so. But a few others did not agree, and definitely said so. These weren't nameless faces. They were people I had considered to be friends. But their claws came out and my heart began to race as I read what had been grossly misunderstood about my original statement.

Have you ever had something like this happen? You say something, write something, agree with something, and all of a sudden, everything you thought had been understood by people who supposedly knew you well was crumbling right in front of you?

I may be bold, I may be strong, but I am not a fan of conflict.

I may be bold, I may be strong, but I am not a fan of conflict. Perhaps like you, I like to be liked. I enjoy feeling understood. And I love it when, even if we don't agree, a friend or acquaintance can listen to my thoughts and still be kind.

But is that even possible in our society? I'm not sure.

I bring this before you as I move forward in this series because it's not likely you're going to agree with every statement I make in the next few entries. Part of me wants to just gloss over it and leave out the touchy subjects. But if we all gloss over the touchy subjects, will we ever grow? Will we be able to hear others we are reaching and still love them if they don't align with our interpretation of Scripture? Would we have liked the apostle Paul's letters when they were read at our weekly worship gathering back in the first century?

I'm not, in any way, equating the words I will write over these next few weeks with the prolific epistles of the Early Church. But what I am going to write are my personal takeaways from those writings, especially the ones Paul wrote to those considering spiritual leadership. Back in Entry Two of this series, I listed the twelve overarching directives that Paul sent to his budding disciple-turned-pastor Timothy in his first letter, chapter three for our purposes. Let's unpack a few of those directives today, and the remaining over the next few weeks. And please, hear my heart, trust my motives, and remember: these are human interpretations of Scripture that are being issued to help us grow as women of God. Nothing more, nothing less.

Take a moment and read through 1 Timothy 3:1-11. I'll wait here for you. The apostle Paul opens this segment of his letter to Timothy by quoting a familiar phrase commonly known among that region, apparently: "This is a trustworthy saying: 'If someone aspires to be a church leader (bishop, overseer, spiritual leader), he desires an honorable position.'" Right out the gate, Paul was establishing his purpose for the next series of verses, and that purpose was to qualify what the defining characteristics should be of someone who holds the position of a spiritual leader. Not someone who would be vocationally a preacher or minister, but anyone who leads others spiritually. And what were those? Let's talk about this for a moment.

1. She must be above reproach. When I went to locate a more succinct definition of "above reproach", I was disheartened when I discovered that Paul genuinely meant "no one can find anything to criticize about her". If you're anything like me, you may have taken a second just now to text your husband that he might should resign from the pastorate, or at least take a leave of absence long enough for you to figure out how to get your stuff together! How is it possible to be above reproach in a 21st century culture that is sitting on the edge of its seat to criticize everything? Beyond that, despite my best efforts, some days I just don't get everything said right, done right, thought right, felt right. Even now that I work alone from home, Cookie Sue, our beloved Maltese-Pom doggie might have a criticism or two about Hotel Tomlin. Was Paul telling Timothy he would be disqualified if he ever drew criticism from his community or church folk? I don't believe so. But I do believe he was reminding Timothy that his life choices no longer were just going to impact his own life. Remember the statement I shared last week? "What a leader does in moderation, her followers will do in excess. Choose wisely." Whether you're standing in front of thousands each weekend, or teaching a small group of first-grade girls behind closed doors, your moral ethics, your standards of living in the fear of God Himself weigh far more for those you are privileged to lead. Living above reproach means you're upholding what you're teaching.

  1. You're considering how your statement will sound when it's repeated, in excess.

  2. You have thought twice before you posted in the heat of your frustration.

  3. You count to 10 (or even 100) before you click Send on the text message or email.

  4. You know that how you speak about your husband to others, or how you treat him in their presence, impacts how they handle their own marriages.

Above reproach means not giving others a reason to criticize, when you know better.

2. She must be faithful to her spouse. I think we can all agree on this one. But sometimes we may underestimate what faithfulness looks like. Paul discouraged his followers from marriage because he knew it could distract them from their sole mission of sharing the Good News and making disciples. Marriage is challenging, isn't it? Roll in the component of full-time ministry into the mix and you quickly discover you need a dose of the Holy Ghost with each morning's sunrise to meet the daily demands. But being faithful to your spouse may not just be remaining true to him sexually or not seeking the attention of an outsider in a flirtatious manner. Being faithful may look like backing him when others aren't. It may mean that you don't join the Complaining Camp of onlookers when the church's business meeting is heating up. It looks like honoring him when he keeps falling short. Or biting your tongue in the church foyer and saving the spat for the ride home. (oh, we've all had those, friend.) Faithfulness by its very definition is simply being steadfast in affection or allegiance. I don't know about you, but there are plenty of days where it has felt like nobody was in my corner, but knowing my husband was all-in made all the difference in the world. On the days I've felt like he was disappointed in me, or that I had fallen short of his expectations, it hurt deeply. And in similar fashion, remaining steadfast in my affection and allegiance for my husband is crucial to his ability to fulfill all God has called him to be. Our marriage will never be perfect because it is made up of two imperfect people. But our marriage is a living picture of God's plan of salvation to a world that is desperate for the saving Hope of Jesus Christ. So I have a responsibility to be faithful to my man, in all things.

Are you still with me? I sure hope so, because I need you to rise up to meet these Scriptural expectations of leadership in the same way that you need me to. You are a reflection of what I'm living my whole life for, and I'm endeavoring to make you proud to be called a ministry wife, as well. Let's continue this journey next week and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything in our hearts and lives that is falling short of His ideals for us as spiritual leaders. After all, aspiring to spiritual leadership is an excellent task, an honorable position.

If anybody can do this, through the help of God's Word, I believe you can.


Bridgette Tomlin, founder of Sanctuary, and her husband, Chresten, have been married and in full-time ministry for 25 years. 24 of the 25 years have been spent in evangelistic work, both stateside and overseas. The couple has two beautiful blonde babies--ages 18 and 13--and base out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like many ministry wives Bridgette often feels like a red flag on the tug-of-war rope with the children on one end and her husband and the ministry on the other end! When she finds time for personal hobbies, Bridgette enjoys entertaining, blogging, singing, browsing the local antique shops, and sipping on a cup of hot tea for a few precious quiet moments. Her heart is to lead others to the authentic presence of God--through worship, through Word, and through one-on-one connection.


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