Why the term “First Lady” has no place in the church

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I am going to talk about one of the “elephants in the room” that no one wants to talk about. Like many other issues, the term “First Lady” has found its way in churches across America. In the last five to ten years many churches have adopted the title for pastors’ wives as part of its attempt to make a distinction between the pastors’ wives and other women in the church. The purpose of this article is to forcefully dismantle and deconstruct the purpose of its use, and to declare that it is absolutely unscriptural; and therefore has no place in the church; period. Everyone who knows me knows that I am an Apologetic Preacher, meaning that I will defend the Gospel whenever there is a need to. I will not relent, be silent, or passive when it comes to Kingdom business. I have been around long enough, and I know the word of God enough, to know error and folly when I see it. Over the past few years I have grown quite uncomfortable and increasingly disgusted with the term “First Lady” being used loosely in our churches, which is now quickly becoming the norm. In fact my disgust has now turned into righteous indignation. For this reason I have decided to be a part of the solution by addressing it head on.

It is amazing to me how easy it is for the church to copycat this world’s systems and ideas without examining its validity in the word of God. We seem to live by the rule, “if it feels good, do it.” Everything we do in the church must find relevance in the word of God and must be measured against such. The reason the church have allowed counterfeit to creep in among us is because we have turned away from the truth. Take for instance FBI anti-fraud agents. Whenever they are trained to detect counterfeit money, they are not trained by looking at false money all day. Instead they are trained by examining hundreds and hundreds of authentic currency. They meticulously examine everything from secret water marks, to color, to texture, and even odor. After countless hours of intense study of the original, they are tested with the fake. In order to know the counterfeit, one must study the real thing and he will never be tricked or fooled with the fake. He knows the real from the counterfeit from a distance. However that is not the case in the church today. Maybe we have spent too much time looking at what’s false. Or maybe we have spent so much time playing with the counterfeit that we have become desensitized to fake.

As always, I like to state the facts before I proceed to state my position. According to Wikipedia.Com,“A First Lady is an unofficial title used for the wife of the President. Collectively, the president and spouse are known as the First Couple. If they have a family, they are usually referred to as the First Family. The term is sometimes used, particularly in the U.S., to refer to the spouse of other heads of state, even if they do not have that style in their own country. Some other countries have a title, formal or informal, that is or can be translated as first lady. The title is not normally used for the wife of a head of state.”Wikipedia goes on to say, “The designation First Lady seems to have originated in the United States, where one of the earliest references was applied to Martha Washington. In an 1843 newspaper article that appeared in the Boston Courier, the author, “Mrs. Sigourney”, discussing how Martha Washington had not changed, even after her husband George became president, wrote that “The first lady of the nation still preserved the habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she left the pillow at dawn, and after breakfast, retired to her chamber for an hour for the study of the scriptures and devotion”.

In addition, “First Lady” is also used to refer to the wives of Governors across the United States. In other words the term “First Lady” is tied exclusively to politics and nothing else. It is used as a title for those who exercise executive power over others, which is not the case in the church. It is reserved for women who live in White Houses, Governors’ Mansions, and Kings’ Palaces. So in case you didn’t realize, the last time I checked, the real “First lady” resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. However somehow she happened to find her way in the church and has made herself at home in the church. It is interesting how many pastors like to say they keep away from politics but yet they are comfortable to have their wives be referred to as “First Lady” which is in and of itself, highly political. The truth is that church has gone crazy over titles and positions of authority, which is the root cause of serious disagreements and many church splits. Hundreds of churches have split over titles; and yes among them are fights over who is and isn’t the “First lady”.

Having said all of that let me clearly state that the term “First Lady” has no theological foundation, and is in fact against what the word of God teaches. I challenge anyone reading this article to find the term “First Lady” or anything remotely similar written or even alluded to in biblical text. Let me support my argument with the example Jesus has given us as the ultimate model for Pastoral Leadership. In an argument about who was the greatest among them, Jesus deflated His disciples’ oversized egos with His response. Three times He had to address them concerning the issue of greatness. The first account is found in Matthew 20 when James and John’s mother asked Him to allow her sons to sit on his right and left in His Kingdom. Jesus responded saying, “You do not know what you are asking for” (vs.22) …..“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”(vv. 25-28).According to Jesus, true greatness is serving, and not being served. For Jesus, His life was all about serving others and not the titles and thrones that is greedily sought after in church leadership today. Many times before His death, they attempted to crown Him with titles but He rejected it. Instead He chose the low road, and modeled a life of humility and servant leadership.

Again he addressed the very issue; only this time it was because a heated argument broke out among all the disciples about who is greatest among them. Here is what the text says; “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. ‘” And He said to them, the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:24-27).In fact, Jesus instructed his disciples to stay away from the titles; “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:11, 12). He was saying to his disciples, that in the world’s system, those in authority rule with a top down leadership style. However in the Kingdom of God, He introduced an inverted system. In the Kingdom of God, those invested with leadership responsibility are servants and not lords or mini gods.

With regards to the First Lady” title given pastors’ wives, here are some major problems it presents. Not only it does not find support in scripture, but it is also creating system of hierarchy in the church. Every time someone is addressed as “First Lady”, it implies superiority to every other person, or dare I say every other woman in the church. The questions then arise, if there is a first lady, is there a second, a third, or a last lady; and if so, who are they? Furthermore, if the words “First Lady” are valid in the church, then should the husband of a female pastor be referred to as “First Gentleman”? Should the pastor’s family be called the “First family”? Is that the road the church really wants to travel? Is this the type of reverence we want to give servants of God? At what point or at who does the hierarchal structure and the madness ends? There is no such thing as a “First Lady”, “First Gentleman”, or First Family”, when it comes to the Word of God. It is nothing but worldly, fabricated idealistic titles that are plaguing the church today.

Secondly, the words “First Lady”, does nothing other than to feed the egos of many women who already struggle with ego issues. It can puff you up to the point where you begin to really believe and act like you are in fact better and superior to others. It places one on a pedestal that is way higher than scripture allows. It is nothing but a snare of the enemy that will set you up for a terrible fall. Most of you reading this article can identify with what I’m talking about. It is a cancerous problem that is spreading like wildfire in the church. No one is superior in the body of Christ, not one; not even the pastor himself; and to imply otherwise is treading on dangerous and sacred territory. Regardless of the position of influence one may hold in the church, the apostle Paul emphatically stated, “We are laborers together with God” (1 Cor. 3:9).

In addition, for those of you who would like to hide behind the verse, Give honor to whom honor is due” (Rom. 13:7), let me say this. Respect and honor has nothing to do with handing out titles and exalting God’s servants above what God intended. First of all giving honor and respect has its fair share in the discussion, but it must be placed in the right perspective. Nonetheless Romans 13:7 has nothing to do with honoring spiritual leaders, but rather it was addressing the issue of submission, respect, and honor to the state authority and Government. Even when Peter says, Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good (1Pet. 2:13); he was referring exclusively to the same thing as Paul did in Romans 13:7. Respect and honor also has nothing to do with the culture of Pastor Worship that is now at work in the church. Christ is no longer the center of attraction in the church today. No wonder why Jesus said he stands at the door and is knocking for someone to let Him in His church. Our churches have become centered on pastors and their personal agenda. All of this is done behind the facade of spiritual authority. Spiritual authority is an overly abused topic in the church that I will address at another time. However I will say this for now. Spiritual authority is a two-way street on which both leaders and followers must walk. The scripture says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). In other words submission is not only for followers but for leaders as well. It is not meant to be used to manipulate and be lord over God’s people. It is Christ who died for the church and not pastors and their so-called “First Ladies”.

Furthermore the scripture also says, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). There is nothing lowly or humble about being a “First Lady”. In fact, in light of Jesus’ words, being a “First lady” is a scary position to hold. Jesus declared, “So the first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Matt. 20:16). Paul went on to write in Philippians 2, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-7). This is what Pastoral Leadership should look like in the church, rather than titles, thrones, prestige, glory, and pomp.

A real first lady is not one who desires and seeks after titles, but the one who is willing to serve God and serve others. She does not walk around like a peacock to show-off her colors to anyone that would give her an audience. She is certainly not interested in fame, expensive gifts, armor bearers, and personal makeup artists. Her emphasis is not in what she wears and how good she looks whenever she shows up to church. Peter says it like this, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”(1 Pet. 3:3-4). In other words he was not condemning the wearing of jewelry or looking good and neither am I. However he was saying that the emphasis must be placed on godliness and inner beauty. After all the Proverbs 31 woman said, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Prov. 31:30). A real woman of God is humble, caring, respectful, prayerful, faithful, and full of faith. She knows how to teach younger women, and how to model a life of godliness and good character to those entrusted to her care.

In closing, the church simply cannot continue to adopt flawed cultural systems that have no biblical basis for its use. I strongly reject the use of “First Lady” title in our churches and I make a strong call for its use to cease and desist. If you are reading this article please pass it on to someone you know and please ensure that your pastor and his/her spouse get a copy of this. My goal is for this article to go viral across the church in America, in the hope of effecting change among us. If you happen to disagree with my position and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to visit my blog page @ http://www.jayongeorge.com, and use the “questions”, to submit it to me. I assure you that I will certainly get back to you with delight.

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