October 22, 2012

Secret Thoughts Every Ministry Wife Should Read

What do non-Christians think when they visit our church?

I’ve had the experience of being a visitor myself, of course, but when a church-literate person like me visits another congregation, I’m poised to feel comfortable: same Body, same Bible, same Lord. But what about someone from outside the Christian community, someone totally new to the church experience, someone who doesn’t already love Christ?

How can I welcome these souls?

I discovered part of the answer while reading Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s spiritual autobiography The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In her own words: “My Christian memoir. . .seeks to uncover the hidden landscape of the Christian life in its whole context, warts and all. . .I share what happened in my private life through what Christians politely call conversion. This word—conversion—is simply too tame and too refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced in coming face-to-face with the Living God.”

The book’s chief value is Butterfield’s blunt examination of how the church, and its culture, first appeared to her. In this book, she addresses many of the stereotypes that abundantly churched people (often unintentionally) foster about non-Christians. And she explains how the Body of Christ both failed and reached her as the Spirit began His work in her soul.

Hers is the story of coming to Christ, from the perspective of an intellectually accomplished woman who, with great sincerity, believed the tenets of secular feminism. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield is now a pastor’s wife.

As I told my husband, Butterfield has street cred. She can criticize (always with honesty, always with grace) mistakes of church leadership—because she is now serving the church. She can question the assumptions of many homeschooling families—because she is now homeschooling mom of four. She speaks as one with authority when she proposes counter-arguments to Christian myths about infertility, academia, and homosexual sin because she has Been. There. Done. That.

The thesis of her book, and one that was powerfully convicting to me, is Butterfield’s assertion that Christianity is not primarily a culture or lifestyle. We know Christianity is all about belonging to Christ. Of course. But, on this side of redemption, we often act and speak like Christianity is entirely about the way we raise our kids or vote in the election or relate to our husbands.

And this is noted by outsiders—with distrust.

Butterfield says of her life prior to conversion:

“Here is one of the deepest ways Christianity scared me: the lesbian community was home and home felt safe and secure; the people that I knew the best and cared about were in that community; and, finally, the lesbian community was accepting and welcoming while the Christian community appeared (and too often is) exclusive, judgmental, scornful, and afraid of diversity. What also scared me is that while Christianity seemed like just another worldview. . .Christians claimed that their worldview and all of the attending features that I saw—Republican politics, homeschooling biases, refusal to inoculate children against childhood illnesses, etc.—had God on its side.

Christians still scare me when they reduce Christianity to a lifestyle and claim that God is on the side of those who attend to the rules of the lifestyle they have invented or claim to find in the Bible.”

This is not the angry ranting of someone who has been wronged by the church. This is the loving instruction of a mother whose greatest desire is the spiritual maturity of her family.

Time fails me to tell what she says about the benefits of serving vegetarian meals, the off-putting language of Christian campuses, and what sins homosexuality and heterosexuality have in common (hint: almost everything.)

You’ll just have to read it.

A friend recently emailed me after reading this book: “I can’t even put into words right now how spiritually beneficial it is!”

Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an English professor’s journey into Christian faith. 2012: Crown & Covenant. ISBN 978-1-884527-38-8.


  1. In addition, I think we have stereotypes about other Christians who don't belong to x political party, who don't school their children by y, etc. I am saddened when I see online tirades from both ends of the spectrum against ordinary people who are trying to be biblical in their choices.

  2. I am getting ready to order this book now! Also, I appreciate the comment about the stereotypes within our Christian circles. We need to keep our focus on Christ and honor Him in our choices regarding politics, children, and other areas in our lives where God has given us leeway to make choices. And, then keep our opinions to ourselves regarding others that may not choose the same. Thanks for this great reading recommendation!

  3. Love It, Thanks for the book recommendation will try and read it. I too struggle with the extreme christian view on both sides of the spectrum. Where does the 'weaker brother' fit into this picture? In my humble opinion those people are missing the point, isn't a change of heart what we are/God is after (in ALL of us including the visitor to our church)?? instead of small details like 'length of hair, hair coverings, homeschooling, skirts, psalm singing. I'm not saying those things are wrong nor need to be addressed, I'm saying that making your faith/love conditional on those things is!

  4. sounds like I need to order it!

  5. You referred to the "tenants" of secular feminism. You should have said "tenets", not "tenants". Please look up these two entirely different words in a dictionary. Thank you.

    1. Anonymous, I did, and you are right. I am glad this is not an oral blog because I would have difficulty with the pronounciation of it, too. Thank you.


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