It’s First Lady Friday Featuring…Dr. Elaine Gattis, First Lady of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Stockbridge, Georgia!

Hello World,

Since it’s Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to launch a new feature I’ve been thinking about for a while now…In thinking about my mother who was the First Lady of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia for 38 years before my father retired in 2017 and after reading Kimberla Lawson Roby’s final Rev. Curtis Black book “Better Late Than Never” which explored Charlotte’s desire to not be a typical First Lady, it dawned on me that I should feature First Ladies. Everyone is always talking about what the pastor of this church and that church is doing, but First Ladies are equally as important as the pastors to whom they are married! So once per month, on a Friday of course, I will be featuring a First Lady. So if you know of a First Lady who should be featured, please e-mail me at jacqueline@afterthealtarcall.com because I’m looking for notable First Ladies to feature!

Now that my introduction is complete, let me present to some and introduce to others the First Lady of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Stockbridge, Georgia, Dr. Elaine Gattis…

Below is her biography followed by my interview with her. Read, enjoy and share!

Dr. Gattis, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, is an educator, author, speaker and ordained minister of the Gospel who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the California State University, East Bay, a master of divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, and a doctor of ministry degree from the Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. She is affiliate faculty of ministry at Ohio Christian University’s Morrow, Georgia campus. She also serves as the executive pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Stockbridge, Georgia, where her husband, Reverend Dr. Terrance Gattis serves as the senior pastor. The couple, who married in July 2009, are parents to a blended family of four grown children.

1. How do you feel about the term “First Lady” and is Mt. Olive Baptist Church the first church where you have served as First Lady?

I don’t have any strong feelings about the term “First Lady.” I recognize that it is nothing more than a term for a pastor’s wife that is culturally used in African-American churches more often than others.

Mt. Olive is actually the second church where I have served as First Lady.  My husband founded a church and had been a pastor for a few years when we met.  However, he was called to serve as senior pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church about five months after we were married.  Nevertheless, Mt. Olive is the first traditional church where I have served as First Lady.

2. What is the “job description” of a First Lady?

Depending on the context of the church, the job of a First Lady may vary. Traditionally, she is perceived as a woman of authority and respect as she is sometimes considered a spiritual leader or spiritual mother (depending on age and tenure) of the church. She may lead the women’s ministry, host women’s events, teach Sunday School and more.  But sometimes First Ladies are viewed superficially as the pastor’s wife who sits on the third row, dressed to the nines with the biggest and best hat in the church.  To some, the role of a First Lady is seemingly a position of glamour and prestige.

Today, the role of the pastor’s wife is more varied.  Many of us are co-pastors, associate pastors, or have prosperous ministries of our own.  We are not simply symbols of the position and status of our husbands.  Rather, we are building our own ministries, we are business women, ministerial entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, theology professors, thinkers and problem solvers, and we are gifted and called to do great things for God’s kingdom.

Ultimately, there is no biblical mandate for a pastor’s wife that is any different than that of any other wife.  There is, however, a mandate for those of us who are called according to the purposes of God, and that is to make our calling and election sure, as instructed in 1 Peter 1:10.  Before marrying a pastor, I was clear that I had purpose in God and a calling from God.  My goal is, and has always been, to stay true to that purpose and calling regardless of who I am married to.  Therefore, rather than allow the term or position to define me or box me into superficial roles, at the end of the day I have sought to shape perspectives of what it means to be a current-day woman in ministry, irrespective of whether or not your husband happens to be clergy.

3. What is the best part and what is the worst part about being a First Lady?

The best part about being a First Lady is the opportunity to serve in ministry with my husband.  Ministry is challenging and difficult enough when you are in it alone but to share the same passion for God and ministry with my husband is a true blessing.

On the other hand, while the First Lady is often the most popular woman in the church, it is ironically a very lonely position.  It is difficult to maintain a social life in addition to juggling family, work, and ministry.  Furthermore, a pastor’s job never ends, which makes quality time together, outside of ministry very challenging.  While I am not employed by the church as my husband is, we are both bi-vocational, in the sense that we have full-time jobs in addition to the work of the ministry, and it is often a challenge to find quality time for each other.

4. What are some misconceptions that people have about being a First Lady?

Some misconceptions about First Ladies is that we are simply figure heads who are not strategically involved in the advancement of the church. Because of these misconceptions, her contributions to the ministry are sometimes underappreciated and un-affirmed which can lead to burn-out and resentment toward the church.

5. You are also executive pastor at Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Do you feel that a First Lady should be a co-pastor at her husband’s church? Please explain your answer.

I don’t feel that a First Lady has to be a co-pastor at her husband’s church.  I think that she needs to be who God has called her to be whether that is an usher, a praise team leader, an associate pastor or a mission’s coordinator.  Some wives will have no interest in serving in the pulpit and that is quite fine. However, a problem that I recognize with traditional churches is that they don’t provide a platform for wives called to ordained ministry to be fully and effectively employed in ministry alongside their husbands.

In churches founded by a husband and wife (also known as planted churches) there is freedom to determine your roles and to both be fully compensated accordingly.  However, traditional churches are not typically structured in a manner that accommodates husband and wife ministry teams.  They simply hire one senior pastor to fill the position and all other clergy are volunteers unless the church has the resources to employ a ministerial staff.  Still, there is no guarantee that there would be an available staff position for the pastor’s wife.

6. You are from California. What is it like to live across the country from where you were born and raised? What do you miss about California and what do you enjoy about Georgia?

I moved to Georgia in 2006 because I received a word from God to “go to a place that I will show you.”  When I moved here, I had no concept of how long I would be here.  Thirteen years later, I am still here, and living apart from my family has been the most challenging aspect of living in Georgia.  Needless to say, my family is what I miss most about California.

Georgia has been good to me. It has served as my Promised Land.  It is where I met my husband, the love of my life, and where much of my growth and success in ministry has been realized.  Living here has been like an adventure that never ends.

7. You are a contributing author in the best-selling anthology “Women Who Soar.” What did you write about in your submission? 

In “Women Who Soar,” I wrote about my faith-filled journey of packing up everything I owned and moving over 2,000 miles away from home and all that I knew and loved to a place where I faced many obstacles and challenges.  However, by standing on the Word that God planted in my spirit, I found the strength and courage that I needed to realize my God-given purpose and to grab hold of the promises of God.  Ultimately, by taking a leap of faith, I was able to soar into my destiny!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

My prayer for women in ministry and for wives of clergy, is that you discern the ministry that God has for you and follow hard after your God given purpose.  Know and be confident in who you are in Christ. Know that there is purpose for your life and remember that the “joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10c)!

Amen…Again, if you know of a First Lady who should be featured, please e-mail me at jacqueline@afterthealtarcall.com because I’m looking for notable First Ladies to feature!

Any thoughts?

Our Daily Bread’s Discovery House Releases ‘Our Help: Devotions on Struggle, Victory, Legacy’ (Including 45 African-American Authors)!

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Hello World,

While black history is relevant every day of every year, it is during Black History Month that black people can truly reflect on the fact that we’ve come a mighty long way! My favorite time to reflect on that fact is when I spend my time alone with the Lord each morning! It is during those times with the Lord that I journal about what is going on with me and others as it relates to my personal relationship with God, read Christian materials and ponder what message God is trying to communicate to me through them and pray and thank God for what is behind and what is ahead. There have been many, many books that I have read during my quiet time and I’m always looking for more! And it is especially helpful and meaningful when I can get my hands on materials that speak to my heritage.

If that is true for you too, I’m sure you will be glad to know that Our Daily Bread Ministries, the bedrock company for devotional materials in the country if not the world, through its Discovery House has released Our Help: Devotions on Struggle, Victory, Legacy from Editors Joyce Dinkins and Diane Proctor-Reeder! 

Below is a description of Our Help featuring a cover illustrated by Coretta Scott King Book Awards medalist Jan Spivey Gilchrist and including entries from  45 black authors:

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.” –Psalm 46:10 NLT

God has given us an open invitation to spend time in His presence, reflecting on His power and majesty and our faith in Jesus Christ. And every time we accept this opportunity to go before His throne, we grow stronger in our relationship with the One who knows us better than we know ourselves.

Our Help presents a variety of short devotions and feature articles, sprinkled with creative poetry and inspiring thoughts that offer hope and encouragement as we endeavor to do God’s will.
Speaking to the hearts of those in ministry, this engaging devotional includes:

> A mosaic of stories from multiple generations
> Reflection questions and suggested Bible readings
> A Scripture index and resources for personal or small-group use

Our Help invites us to reflect on God’s wisdom that’s available for every adversity; to remember the victories He has already provided; and to realize the hopeful future He gives to all generations that rely on Him.

Click on THIS LINK to read a sample!

Also, below is a video of a few of the authors speaking about their entries:

AND if you are interested in receiving a FREE HARDCOVER copy of Our Help: Devotions on Struggle, Victory, Legacy, leave a comment including a little known black history fact. The person who has the most interesting black history fact (in my opinion) will receive a free book from me. That means that you have to come back to the blog after you’ve commented so that I can tell you to e-mail your mailing address to me 🙂 .

Any thoughts?

Why Pastor John Gray & His Wife May Not Be Wrong to Host A Relationship Conference in February After Cheating Rumors & Divorce Discussions…

UPDATE: The relationship conference has been moved to September 12-14, 2019....

Hello World,

It was a exactly a year ago that Pastor John Gray got caught up in a controversy regarding relationships. R&B star Ciara faced backlash from single ladies simply because of a snippet of a Pastor John Gray sermon that she tweeted. Remember this tweet below?

Ciara tweeted a snippet of Gray’s sermon from the 2016 I Am Woman Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. I felt it was kind of unfair to blame Gray for something he said in 2016 that Ciara tweeted in 2018, and I also didn’t think Ciara’s message of #LevelUp was wrong considering all that she went through to get where she is today. And if you want to read that entire post, click on “Why Ciara & Pastor John Gray Are Right To Advise Single Ladies to Level Up…”

But now, a year after that January 2018 tweet, Pastor John Gray is caught up in another controversy regarding relationships. Relentless Church recently posted on Facebook that Gray along with his wife First Lady Aventer Gray will be hosting a relationship conference entitled “Align 19” which will be held at their church Relentless Church in Greenville, SC on Feb. 7-9. UPDATE: The date has been changed to Sept. 12-14.

This announcement has folk talking again because The Christian Post and other news outlets reported that Gray and his wife admitted that they had considered divorce for two years, which he said on a YouTube video from the summer of 2018. From The Christian Post:

“What they didn’t see is that for the last two years we weren’t sure if we would even make it. This is what the people saw,” he said while fake smiling, “but they didn’t see the tears at night. They didn’t see the times when one of us was sleeping on the couch because the argument. We had to keep smiling because even though we were struggling and even though I was failing as a husband, I was already in front of the people and the people can’t receive my brokenness because where do leaders go when they bleed? Because sheep don’t do well with blood so I had to bleed alone,” Gray said.

In that same video, his wife spoke about a “strange woman”  whom affected their marriage. From The Christian Post:

“I prayed for them and him and then the devil loses,” she said to applause. “’Cause what’s not gonna happen is you tell me that I’m gonna lose my purpose because somebody whispered to a 16-year-old John? The devil is a liar. I’m staying with my husband and you can go back to the pits of Hell where you came from.

She added, “So you want me to leave my husband because you spoke to the 16-year-old that couldn’t get a date? And he listened. So I’m supposed to leave my husband because you spoke to a place of brokenness that had not yet been submitted back to the Father? But because I know the tricks of the enemy and I’m learning them every day, I can stand here in boldness for everybody that tried to sneak in, thank you, because I got closer to God because of it. I got in that word … come on devil, you don’t want it with me.”

As a result of these revelations regarding their near divorce and this “strange woman,” some think Grays do not need to be hosting a relationship conference. And given the fact that Pastor Gray could have been contemplating divorce and allegedly cavorting with a “strange woman” while giving relationship advice to women at the 2016 I Am Woman Conference, he could very well be a hypocrite. I must say those were my initial conclusions as well.

But then, I started thinking about the fact that the Grays will be the hosts of the conferences but are not billed as speakers (as least according to the flyer anyway). I don’t know about you but when I need help in a particular area, I gather as many experts in that area that I can find and try to learn from them. That expertise may be found within the pages of a book. I may attend a conference or two. I may get counseling. I try to align myself with people who have what I want so that I can get what they have.

As far as the speakers at the Align relationship conference are concerned, Kirk and Tammy Franklin have been married for 23 years and although they have faced some challenges (I remember when Kirk Franklin admitted to having a porn addiction), they are still together. That is an inspirational story for couples who have faced similar challenges. Although DeVon Franklin is happily married now, but prior to getting married to Meagan Good, he was celibate for over 10 years as a single man. He obviously has a word for single people. I’m not as familiar with the rest of the slate of speakers, but based on their bios, they have testimonies that could encourage conference attendees. And as far as the Grays are concerned, maybe their decision to name the conference “Align” which means “to to be in or come into precise adjustment or correct relative position” is indicative of their intention to adjust or correct  their  marriage after what they revealed about their personal lives last year.

But what about the fact that he was giving relationship advice in 2016 while likely not having a good relationship with his own wife at the time, some of y’all are probably saying? LOL. I say I hope he uses better judgment in 2019 regarding his speaking engagements and overall speech because I can see why he was more than ready for 2018 to be over and hit the reset button for 2019.

Y’all it seemed like Pastor Gray was being talked about and not in a good way for much of 2018. See for yourself below.

Am I missing any controversies?

Pastor Gray said in his New Year’s Eve sermon “The Reset” that he was dressed in all black in his “funeral outfit” because “2018 tried to kill me so I thought I would dress for the occasion.”  He said that, “Some of the stuff that tried to kill me, I helped…Some stuff wasn’t the devil. Some stuff was you. It would be great if we shouted for that too because what we’re saying is, ‘I take personal responsibility.'” He then goes on to talk about how he even thought about suicide behind all of what transpired in 2018. I agree with Pastor John Gray that much of what happened to him at least regarding his public persona and statements could be traced back to his decisions. For example, I’m pretty sure he is not the only megapastor who gifted his wife with a lavish gift in 2018 especially on the heels of Christmas but many of them did not post what they gifted.

I remember Pastor Gray before he was a pastor. He was a comedian I believe. I saw him at a church event here in Atlanta, and I thought he was funny at the time. But I didn’t think much else about him because he was another Christian comedian doing this thing. But now his circumstances have changed. He is a pastor with worldwide platform. Somebody say, “More platform, More problems…” As it says in the Word, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1)  His inclination is still to be funny although his words, which may come from an innocent place, are now judged more seriously.

I hope he remembers this verse as we proceed in 2019.

What say you?

Any thoughts?