In Genesis 2, God says “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” Were truer words ever spoken? Man desperately needs a helper, a woman who has the innate skills to create and manage their home, family and life.
This is especially true in ministry. I have a friend whose husband was in music ministry, serving with a pastor who was single. She told me once, rather wistfully, that while the pastor was a gifted communicator and leader, with a great heart, there was something missing – a wife! She noted how much a “helper” brought to a church family, how influential and enriching that role can be.
One of my interests is researching the stories of women in church history, especially pastors wives. While there isn’t a plethora of information on these women, there is enough to get a true sense of their marriages, ministry and personal journeys. Catherine Boothe was the wife of William Boothe, founders of the Salvation Army. The Boothes were contemporaries of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon, he being the famous pastor of the Metropolitan Tablernacle in London. Other colleagues during that time were Hudson Taylor, George Muller and David Livingstone – powerful voices reflecting the missions heart of English Christians in the 19th century.
There is quite a contrast between how Susannah and Catherine lived out their “helper” roles. Catherine and William were committed to social work and evangelism with the impoverished working class in London’s East End. Catherine’s powerful speaking and leadership skills energized hundreds of Christians to take the gospel to the poor, working to establish stable families and communities. The woman had unbelievable drive and stamina, and the Boothes left one of Christianity’s most enduring legacies.
On the other side of town was Susannah Spurgeon. Susannah was a quiet woman, with literary interests and skills. She was bedridden most of her adult life from problems resulting from the birth of twins. She established the Book Fund to purchase Spurgeon’s commentaries for rural pastors who could barely afford food for their families, much less study materials. Her compassion for these pastors led to this quiet but vital ministry. One ministry was very public, the other was “off the radar screen”, but both were of inestimable value.
Their stories illustrate the synergy of a couple, fully committed to God’s call, whose ministries were empowered by each one finding their unique path. Their voices still impact all of Christendom!
This leads me to the obvious question: as a “helper”, do I embrace my own strengths and even weaknesses, determined to see opportunities for service? Or do I excuse myself due to less than perfect circumstances? As a “helper” to our husbands, we not only strengthen our ministry, marriage and families, but our own voice to the generations of believers that come after us. In part 2 of this post we will look at the mystery and power of” synergy”!