Who is a First Lady!
I want to pose a challenge to all my readers. There is no such thing as a First Lady or First Gentleman when it comes to the Word of God. They are fabricated, idealistic titles that have invaded Black church culture for decades. As we continue to embrace such ideologies we are in serious danger of creating a hierarchical structure that is unbiblical.
But let me start with a brief history lesson. The African American pastor has, as long as I can remember, always held a distinguished position in the Black community. In my hometown, you can talk about Black teachers, Black politicians, and other Black public figures. But how dare you “put your mouth” on the man of God. The Black pastor has always enjoyed certain privilege in the Black community. He has a nice parking space at the church, drives a nice vehicle (used to be a Cadillac), and gets fed well.
Enter the first lady. Because of the royal treatment of the black pastor, many of their wives benefit from fact that they are married to the shepherd of the church. Over the years, in the Black church, she has come to be known as the First Lady. As with any title, there are certain privileges that accompany the role of First Lady. Reserved seating is a no brainer. In some instances, she sits in the pulpit with her husband, while in other instances she is front and center in the pews. She’s to be supportive, highly visible, dress elegant, a prayer warrior, and, where children are involved, a great mother. That list gives you an idea of how Black culture has carved out a clearly defined role for preacher’s wives.
So the main point I want to make here is that the Black church can’t keep hijacking cultural practices and slapping them in the church setting without seriously considering if we’re missing the mark. Can we eulogize the term First Lady already?
Part of the reason we have so many problems in the black church is because we covet titles. That’s the antithesis of the Gospel message. Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Christ himself took on the form of a servant. Paul, himself, hated titles (see Philippians 3). James, Jesus’ own brother (who could have plugged that fact in his letter), calls himself a term most Christians wore as a badge of honor in the first century—a servant. Does the New Testament address bishops, elders, deacons, and other leaders? Of course it does, but now is the time to drop the unbiblical titles.
Maybe, we should be less worried about titles and degrees and more concerned about worship on our knees. The harsh reality is that if we don’t seriously think about making changes and reach the generations our places of worship will become museums with artifacts rather than places of transformation and change. And that’s a scary thought.