Originally published May 27, 2016
A while back, my husband and I were driving down the road on the way to the store discussing various aspects of ministry. At some point the conversation turned to a pastor with whom we were both vaguely familiar. Neither of us knew much about him, so we decided to look him up on Facebook to see if we could get a better handle on where he was coming from, theologically. Aside from a couple of mildly iffy posts that it wasn’t a stretch to extend the benefit of the doubt about, it didn’t seem as though there were any major doctrinal red flags. He just seemed like your average, Bible believing pastor who needed to brush up a little on his discernment. (Hey, who doesn’t, right?)
I was actually more interested in the pastor’s wife and what kind of ministries she was involved in that I might also like, so I clicked over to her page. I was pretty disappointed by what I saw. She had posted materials from several major false teachers- the female equivalents of people from Joel Osteen all the way down to Benny Hinn.
I remarked to my husband that I thought there might be some concerns about this pastor’s theology if he was OK with his wife following and sharing materials from high profile false teachers. And my husband gently reminded me that wasn’t necessarily the case:
“He probably doesn’t even know those women are false teachers.”
My husband went on to say that he wouldn’t have known that people like Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer are false teachers if I hadn’t done the research and filled him in. Not because he doesn’t care whether or not I read sound doctrine, but because pastors and Christian men in general don’t often pick up and read books written for Christian women to examine the theology we’re feeding on.
Until the last few decades, they haven’t always needed to. If your wife went shopping and came home with a book from LifeWay, it never crossed your mind to question whether or not it was biblical. It was LifeWay for heaven’s sake. LifeWay is run by pastors and theologians with years of experience and doctoral degrees from seminary. Of course it was biblical.
Well not any more, it isn’t. The majority (and that’s not an exaggeration) of the “Bible” studies and other materials marketed to Christian women by Christian retailers are authored by false teachers.
Pastors, on behalf of Christian women everywhere, I plead with you: check out the theology of the authors and bloggers (including me) your wife is reading and the Christian personalities she follows and shares on social media. Please thoroughly vet the materials your Sunday School/small group/Bible study classes and women’s ministry are using. Find out about the speakers headlining the women’s conference or simulcast your ladies are attending. Make sure guest speakers appearing at your church’s women’s event teach sound doctrine.
It’s not my place to instruct you (and I’m sure you already know, anyway) in what the Scriptures say about being the spiritual leader of your family, responsible for its theological health or your obligations as a pastor to guard your church against false doctrine. I’ll leave that to godly men, fellow pastors, theologians, etc. What I’d like to do is to offer you some practical insights (in no particular order) from the pink side of the pew that you might find to be helpful tools as you think about and pray through how to handle vetting the teachers your wife or church ladies follow:
1. Your wife’s decision to follow false teachers could cost you a job. There are women out there like me who are familiar with the “twisted sisters” your wife is sharing on social media. If I could wrongly make assumptions about the theology of the aforementioned pastor based solely on his wife’s Facebook activity (because wives can be a reflection of their husbands’ spiritual leadership), others could do the same – maybe even those on a pulpit search committee – and that could impact your search for a pastoral position.
2. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot. A pastor’s wife can have a huge influence on her church. She is often the one teaching the women’s Bible study or heading up the women’s ministry, and even if she doesn’t, her input on curricula, guest speakers for women’s events, etc., is usually seen by the women of your church as carrying the weight of your approval or preferences. If you’re up in the pulpit preaching sound doctrine every week while your wife or women’s leader is importing false doctrine into the women’s ministry, it’s like bailing water out of a boat with a hole in the hull.
3. Your wife or (women’s ministry leader) may be chasing off spiritually healthy church members. (If you’ve stuck with me thus far, what follows is unlikely to describe your wife, but I’m going to go ahead and throw it out there for awareness’ sake.) I have heard the following prototypical scenario from dozens of Christian women (and experienced it myself):
“My pastor’s wife is in charge of our church’s women’s ministry, and is a big Beth Moore fan. We only do Beth Moore studies in our small groups, and last year our church hosted a Beth Moore simulcast. I participated in a couple of the studies, but they just seemed “off” biblically, so I started doing some research.
I discovered Beth Moore was teaching false doctrine, preaching to men, partnering with false teachers, and doing other unbiblical things. I went to the pastor’s wife and very kindly, humbly, and patiently showed her the scriptural evidence of Beth Moore’s false teaching. I couldn’t believe it when she flew into a rage, screamed at me, and accused me of trying to create disunity in the church! My husband and I tried to talk to the pastor about it, but he seemed completely unaware of what goes on in the women’s ministry or any problems with Beth Moore, and backed up his wife. We are now looking for a new church.”
This is not an exaggeration or isolated case. I don’t know what it is about Beth Moore’s disciples, but they (especially the ones who are pastors’ wives) seem to be some of the most vicious defenders of false teachers out there. And if your wife or women’s ministry leader acts like this it could cost you godly, spiritually mature church members.
4. Your children’s spiritual lives are at stake, both at home and at church. As with any dad who works long hours, your wife probably has more of an influence in the moment to moment aspects of your children’s lives than you do, even when it comes to training them in godliness. If her spiritual diet consists of false teaching, that’s what is being imparted to your children on a daily basis.
The same goes for the children at your church. The majority of children’s Sunday School teachers and children’s ministry workers are women. The false doctrine these women consume today will be taught to the children of your church on Sunday.
5. When women are spiritually healthy, the whole family benefits. Statistically, women make up about 60% of church attenders, and, of course, 50% of a marriage. That is an enormous influence on your own family and your church family. You want those women spiritually healthy. It’s not only biblical and good for them personally, but everyone they influence and interact with benefits.
When women are taught sound doctrine, they grow to Christlike maturity. They exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. They want to share the gospel. They walk in humility, patience, love, repentance, forgiveness, and biblical submission. They encourage their husbands toward godliness. And you know what else they do?
They teach other women to do the same. They train up children who are godly. They’re self-replicating.
Spiritually healthy, mature, godly women make your life easier, more peaceful, and more of a joy, both at home and at church, because they’re working with you, not against you.
But your wife and the women of your church are not going to get the pure milk of the Word they need to grow in Christlikeness from the pantheon of divangelistas lining the shelves of your local Christian bookstore. And most of those precious ladies you shepherd are completely unaware of that fact. So they need your help, Pastor. Your bride, and the Bride, desperately need you to mind what they’re reading.