I do appreciate your good question, my friend, and I agree with you whole heartedly that the Scriptures never speak of a pastor’s wife as a “first lady.” Such a title would, in my opinion, imply that a “pastor” is the principal leader of the local church, elevating both him and his wife to being above others in the body of Christ. If we look at Ephesians 4:11-12 we read: “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ….” Thus, we see in this passage from Ephesians that the term pastor refers to a gift, given to some in a local church by the Holy Spirit, and this gift is used for the edification of the church. Now, everyone in the church, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, has a gift or gifts, given to us by the Holy Spirit, and we are called upon to exercise those gifts for the general health and edification of the body. I do not see that any of the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit are more important or more laudable than any other (see 1 Corinthians 12, and especially verses 14-18). Thus the term for pastor, should not be seen as a title for a type of supreme ruler of a local church as we so often see in many local gatherings today, but rather it designates a kind of “under shepherd of the Lord Jesus for the feeding of the local flock.

The work of elders (which I’m going to say is the individual given the gift of pastoring, is often used in the plural in the N.T, so it doesn’t follow that a local church should always have just one brother expressing the gift of pastoring (see Acts 20:17, 28). As I see it, there could be many in the local church with this particular gift. Again, I believe that this gift of pastoring reflects the work of an elder in the New Testament and is not intended to put someone in an elite class, or a lofty position of lordship. For these thoughts, I’ll quote 1 Peter 5:1-3: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” In the MacDonald Bible Commentary on 1 Peter 5:3 we read: “The third phase of Peter’s exhortation is this: nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. Elders should be examples, not dictators. They should be walking out in front of the flock, not driving them from behind. They should not treat the flock as if it belonged to them. This strikes at the very heart of authoritarianism!”

And thus, if the term pastor is not intended to designate an elite class of Christians, nor a ruler in the assembly of Christians, then neither should their wives be given an artificial title such as “First Lady,”  similar to the title given to the wives of Presidents of the United States.

What I have shared above is not an attempt to minimize the importance of this particular gift, nor to minimize the role of “pastors” or “shepherds” (elders or overseers). This gift is desperately needed in our local churches today, and we should respect and listen to those in the assembly who fill this very important role. But again, I see no Scriptural evidence that such brothers would be given an exalted title, nor their wives, as they are using one of the gifts, and often more than one gift, in teaching and edifying the gathering of local believers. To be sure, the Lord has gifted each of His children with a gift or gifts (Ephesians 4:7-8), and all are needed in the church, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, how important it is that all true believers be active with their gifts in the local assembly, and if a gifted one does not fulfill their role in the church, what calamity would result to the testimony of a local gathering! Christ Jesus Himself is the head of the church, and the One unto whom we are called (Matthew 18:20).  (SF)  (547.4)