The Sacrifice of a Pastor's Wife – Neppie Scarborough

In April, 1940, Dr. L.R. Scarborough, then President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, asked his wife, Neppie, to speak briefly to the men in chapel explaining why the training and preparation of their wives was so very important. Almost 75 years later, Neppie Scarborough’s words still echo in the halls at Southwestern as we continue to provide opportunities for the student wife to stand confidently alongside her husband as a trained, prayerful, and passionate partner in ministry. 

Below is the talk Mrs. Scarborough gave that day in chapel. If you are the wife of a minister, may her words from seven decades ago, be an encouragement to you today. 

 

The preacher is honored with the highest calling among men. He is called by the Supreme Being to render the supreme service to humanity’s supreme need. A proper appreciation of this fact should have a place deep in the hearts of his helpers. As such, we’d like  to help you fill this high calling the very best — both in being your best and in doing your best. We’d like to be the kind of wives you need, feeling that is our calling. One of you may need a wife especially efficient in one line and another in some other line. We’d like to “boost you up” or “bring you down a buttonhole or two,” as the case may demand; to be something of a leveling influence in your life; to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in your glorious life. To do this it is not only necessary that we properly appreciate your calling, but also that we have the right attitude to our part in the service of our Master, remembering always that we are the Helpers — you are the Head, also keeping in mind the importance of our service.

We are not objects of pity nor of charity and should avoid any attitude that might give occasion for others to so regard us. The proper appreciation of our portion is not only of importance to us but goes far in influencing others in their attitudes toward us. Let no man despise your position.

Some of the characteristics we all need:

  • A deep devotion to God and a purpose and determination to put first things first. “Let the love of Christ constrain you.”
  • An unfaltering faith in God, for “without faith it is impossible to please Him.”
  • A submissive will — “not my will but Thine be done.”
  • An humble, willing mind in service — “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

And then considering the more human attributes:

  • A good supply of common sense. There is no substitute for it.
  • Cordial hospitality is an important essential.
  • The ability to adjust ourselves to circumstances comes in well in many, many cases.
  • Last, but not least, is the help of that fine discernment we call “tact” — a happy but far too rare attribute that serves in many purposes and often takes the sharp edges from trying and embarrassing situations.

The club is demonstrating day by day that determination to make preparation for this work — as your Helpmeets. This group realizes that the nature of the work demands the best in equipment – mentally, morally, physically, and spiritually. They are striving for an ever increasing knowledge of God’s Word, for the training and development that shall enable them not only to render acceptable services themselves in the various department of our church work, but also to be able to select and train other leaders.

Recently, I rejoiced to hear a pastor say: “My wife teaches a large class of young married women and she is the best Sunday school teacher I know. The  effect of her teaching and her life shows in her pupils.” In our Women’s work, and in our B.T.U. as well, the religious worker’s wife has glorious opportunities for service in many lines and with a deep sense of duty to all members, with no show of favoritism, her service and leadership may be of untold value.

Not only should we be prepared for our part in the church work, but also in our homes. Here, probably, the wife has her highest and best opportunity for service. Every preacher and religious worker needs a well ordered, restful, peaceful home. Someone else may render her service in the church. No one else can take her place in her home. A kind, patient, wise, sympathetic companion makes a necessary contribution to the religious worker’s best life and service for the Lord.

A large part of her duty lies in the rearing of the children, in bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, teaching them to love, honor and obey their father, always.

The life of this one, who may prove the most helpful or the greatest hindrance to the religious worker, is a long drawn-out problem — but it is a worthy problem, one any woman could well afford to give her time and ability to its solution. It is an individual problem—or a battle in which each soldier must wear his own armor. She could first be her best and then be herself. It is a problem in which preparation counts much but character counts more. What you are is of more importance even than what you know and what you can do. It is a sacrificial life in many respects but God forbid that anyone in this club should be a whimpering, whining wife. Any and all of our sacrifices dwindle into insignificance “when we survey the wondrous cross.”

The demands are many and varied as she seeks to serve in the highest way in comforting the sorrowing with tender sympathy, in strengthening the faltering, in restraining the erring, in visiting and ministering to the sick and the poor, welcoming strangers, and in rejoicing with them that do rejoice. In all these ways, and many more as she seeks to represent Christ to needy humanity, she fills her place and helps her husband.

While the demands are many the rewards are not few. The appreciation and gratitude of the people, their love expressed in manifold ways and, best of all, the consciousness of duty performed in service in His name and for His sake is sufficient reward for our labor. Humbly, gladly we would give of our best to the Master in loving, loyal, trustful hearts, surrendered wills, wiling hands and consecrated lives, helping you to be and to do your best in your glorious calling. To this end we covet your sympathetic interest and earnest prayers.

(Chapel Talk given by Mrs. L.R. Scarborough,

“Metochai Club” program, April 12, 1940,

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

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