Pastor’s Pearls, Interview with Miriam Phillips – Part 2

Welcome back for Part 2 of the Pastor’s Pearls, Interview with Miriam Phillips

SHINE: What do you believe is one of your greatest accomplishments in your life?

MP: When we first went to Jacksonville, our church had maybe 100 people in a little storefront, and it’s so amazing to see what God has brought us from. Now we run about 1,200 on Sunday mornings, our “new” building is 10 years old, and we’re getting ready to build again. To see that is so satisfying. It’s like watching a baby go from one place to another, and I know that I’ve had a part in that.

Personally, one of the greatest joys in my life has been raising up our women’s ministry. I always grew up thinking that I would never work with women’s ministries. Everything I said I wouldn’t do, I’ve done! Women have their issues, and I just thought that you couldn’t trust them, and I didn’t want to be a part of that! But the Lord has so totally changed my heart and given me love and a passion for women. We’ve named our women’s ministry “Allure,” and it’s taken from the verse in Hosea 2:14, where the Lord says, “Therefore I will allure her into the wilderness, and I’ll speak tenderly to her.” And then it goes on to say what He’s going to do for her in the wilderness. He’s going to give her vineyards there and make her fruitful and then turn her Valley of Achor into a door of hope. In other words, in the place where she suffered the biggest failures and trauma, there’s going to be a door of hope. I just love that, and that’s what I want to see for women.

SHINE: What areas do you feel are the biggest issues facing women in this day and time in which we live?

MP: I believe that women are faced with incredible challenges regarding comparisons. We look at another woman and think, “I’m not that,” and then allow that to shape how we see ourselves. This is the passion of my heart – I want to see women being each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Not being competitive. When a woman excels, I want to see other women rejoice in that and encourage that, instead of criticizing and tearing each other down. I think God is doing that. I think He’s changing our hearts and calling us to come up higher in that area. I love Psalm 68:11 which says, “Great is the company of women that publish the good news.” It’s a great company of women that are going to preach and publish, and this great company needs to be in unity and not pulling against each other.

SHINE: To build off of that, what is your favorite message to preach to women?

MP: I’ve always just been so passionate about hearing the voice of the Lord. To me, it’s such a key to everything to be able to hear Him and be able to put yourself in that place. I love preaching about that. But ever since the Lord gave me that verse in Hosea 2:14, about alluring her into the wilderness, I’ve developed an entire message about that. I call it “Allure.” I guess that would be my favorite one right now.

SHINE: Miriam, you are such a strong role model for women, but you are also gifted to lead praise and worship. Please share a little about your music ministry with us.

MP: That’s one of my jobs, too. I’m the head of the music ministry. Our church is half white and half black – and being a military community, we have many other nationalities as well, so we try to reflect some different musical styles. My background is classical music, and I had no idea how to play gospel music! I saw quickly that I was out of my realm, so I took some master’s classes in jazz and blues. We do gospel, Latin, and a lot of Hillsong. I mostly play the piano and do all the oversight. My husband was always the voice major, and he used to lead worship, too, in the beginning.

SHINE: What is the most difficult thing about being in the ministry or being a pastor’s wife?  What do you confront?

MP: Most people bring expectations to church. We do have a lot of people in our church, especially military people, who are attending church for the first time, and they don’t bring any preconceived ideas. But then, you know, we have other people coming from all walks, and so some expect the pastor’s wife to be a certain way, and you also come up against preconceived ideas or beliefs that women should be silent in church. They’re just surprised that women are kind of pioneering, in some ways, and you have to be tough and get used to hearing things. And then there are, on the other hand, people that assume that the only reason a woman might be given opportunities is just because she’s the pastor’s wife. You come up against all kinds of preconceived notions. And I think that as a shy person who didn’t really want to speak but was doing it out of obedience to the Lord, it was hard for me to break through some of that. Our church now is very, very accepting, and they’ve grown used to that being part of our culture, but in the beginning it was very hard. For the past several years I’ve felt supported and encouraged more than I’ve felt criticized, and that’s an incredible testimony just to the teaching and the ways that our people have received the Word of the Lord into their lives.

SHINE: What is the best thing about the being the pastor’s wife?

MP: The Lord spoke to me one time because I had just said to Him, “I don’t want to be the pastor’s wife.”  I wanted to be who I am, and it just seemed that the pastor’s wife was such a hard thing to be asked to be. And the Lord, in an instant – just kind of a revelation – showed me that the pastor’s wife has an opportunity. Who is Jesus? He’s the great pastor, so we, in effect, can present a picture of how the Bride of Christ is supposed to be – how we’re supposed to relate. I can’t hang back and not work beside my husband.  I want to be a working bride – one that honors him. I want to present a picture to the world of Jesus and the Church and His bride, in a small way.

SHINE: Who has had the biggest impact on your life, and why?

MP: Well, I would have to say my mom. She passed away about two years ago. She was just such a support, and she was always someone that I knew loved me unconditionally. Even with her gone, in just about any given situation, I know what she would have said. So in some ways, it’s like she’s still giving us comfort and advice and support! As a child, I would wake up and she’d be writing in her journal and praying – I never saw her get up a single day of her life without spending that time with the Lord. We wanted her to pray for us because we knew that her prayers got answered…that she seemed to have his special hotline to hearing from the Lord.  And I always thought, “I want that. I want to be able to hear from the Lord.”

SHINE: How long was she a missionary?

MP: At least 25 years. She did everything. She singlehandedly ran the children’s ministries and Bible studies, and she played the piano. Some of the greatest musicians in Brazil today can trace back to what they learned from my mom. Her legacy is incredible. She was very much a strength to my dad and to the whole church.

SHINE: What has caused you to be who you are today?

MP: Allowing the Lord to stretch me in doing things that I never thought I would or could. Things will come into your life, and it matters how you respond to them – how you allow the Lord to bring you through them. I remember when my mom passed away, that many people thought that I would take a break from some things, and I just couldn’t do that. Not that there’s anything wrong with taking a step back, but I felt like more than ever that I needed to press into what God has and what He’s saying, and it was that response that really freed up a lot of grief in my life.

Also, I think it’s amazing that all the things that I ever thought I wanted to do in my life, as I accepted what the Lord called me to do, He has made a way for me to do all of them. I wanted to play the piano – well, here I am heading up our praise team and playing with the group every week. One of my goals was to teach, and I’ve been able to teach. I wanted to be a translator, and I’ve translated more times than I could count.

SHINE: You seem to have a strong character and excellent work ethics. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

MP: I love to travel, and from the age of 12, I’ve been traveling the world by myself. If the Lord speaks to me to go somewhere, I will do it, and I’ll get on a plane. In the early years, we had no money at all. I remember the very first time He spoke to me to go to Israel, I had absolutely nothing. I was at a meeting, and there was another lady that was going to Israel, and they were taking up an offering for her. I had $9.40 in my pocketbook, and that was all I had to eat dinner and chip in with gas. And I felt like the Lord said, “Give her everything in your purse.” And I said, “Okay, but that means I can’t eat dinner on the way home,” so I did. That was a Friday night. On Sunday morning, someone came up to me and handed me $1,000 for my trip to Israel. That’s a hundredfold return!  So I guess the greatest adventure to me has been just hearing God say something and then just being bold enough to step out there.

SHINE: What do you like to do for fun?

MP: Oh, I love to play ping-pong. I love to read. I love the beach. And I love to watch Kentucky basketball! When you’re from Kentucky like I am, basketball is kind of in your blood!

SHINE: That sounds like a lot of fun! You obviously think that you can be a pastor’s wife and have fun, too! What other advice would you give to other pastors’ wives?

MP: I would just say not to allow the devil to crush you down and tell you who you’re not. Let the Lord define who you are. Really cultivate an incredible relationship with your husband and your kids. There’s just such a balancing act with that. I can look back and say, “Oh, I wish I’d done that differently,” but God has so much grace, and His love is so wonderful. And now that the children are out of the nest, I’m facing a whole new season. I’m thinking back, asking God, “Did I do it the way You wanted me to?”

Also, ask the Lord what He saw when He made you. I really feel like there are areas of strength that each pastor’s wife will have and that she’ll bring to the ministry where God puts her. She has something that no one else is really going to have – areas of vision that He’s going to give her. That’s not to say that other women won’t rise up, too, but there are definite areas that the pastor’s wife has to take her place.

I am so encouraged by the ministry of Bobbie Houston of Hillsong in Australia. She decided to rise up and fulfill her purpose, and that translated into tremendous blessing for the church there. Her “Colour” conference draws thousands of women each year. Her example enables other women to move forward. That’s the type of woman that I want to be!

This article was originally published in the 3rd Edition of SHINE Magazine .

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