#Write31Days Challenge – Post 26 – In the End

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In the Beginning was the Word.  The Word was with God and the Word was God.

From Genesis to Revelation we read about the redeeming plan of God.  A world created, falls into sin, God delivers, and God restores.  It is a beautiful unfolding narrative not about a deserving people, but a loving and merciful God.

The scriptures also warn us that things are going to get tougher for Christians as the day of the Lord’s return grows closer.  We will see it in the physical world as natural disasters will increase in frequency and destructive force.  We will see it in the living world, as man will be prone to greater sin.  It will be evident in the church when people are no longer interested in sound doctrine, but instead seek teachers who will tell them what they want to hear.  All of these are signs that the age is coming to a close, the return of Christ is on the horizon.

At the same time, we are also warned that we will never know the day or the hour that it will happen, but instead we are to be ready at all times.

Some are looking to the signs and in fear they are beginning to stockpile supplies of all kinds.  They believe that Christians will face part (if not all) of the tribulation.  There are those who believe that God will call His children home before the tribulation, and they are making no preparations at all.  Instead, they are going on with life as usual… but perhaps have a little more fervor in their step when evangelizing to nonbelievers and praying for the world.

Then there are those who believe stockpiles will only last so long, all things will have a shelf life.  They are evangelizing a lot more, praying a lot harder too.  However they have made the decision that in preparing for the end times, their greatest investment will be knowledge.   For some it means having a skill set that will make you valuable in an apocalyptic age, because that knowledge will keep you safe.  Others think the value of knowledge will come from self sufficiency.  To be able to build and repair their own homes and furniture, grow their own food, tend to livestock of some manner, and to live off the land will be a necessity as Christians flee to the mountains to avoid persecution.

For myself, I believe a little bit of all of the above is going to be a great commodity for survival… assuming that we will face at least some of the tribulation.  I’m a prepare for the worst, hope for the best type of gal.  If the Lord takes us pre-tribulation … great.  If not, I won’t be completely lost.

However, something I think is being overlooked (and this is based off of reading and conversations I have) is the importance of knowing the scriptures FOR YOURSELF.  As the times grow more corrupt, as the world turns it’s collective back on the Lord, there may be a day when owning a Bible is illegal, or where they are confiscated.

— I am not trying to build up fear, and if this is freaking you out…. stop reading.  —

There may be a day, where we can no longer gather at the church down the street to worship as a collective body of believers.  We cannot be solely dependent on our Pastor’s message every Sunday, nor our weekly women’s bible study.  We cannot find be dependent on the devotion that pops into our email daily, or the local Christian radio station.  As the days grow more evil, these things may diminish or disappear completely.

What do we do?

We depend at that point on our knowledge of the scriptures to carry us through that time, to teach others after the scales fall of their eyes and they see the truth before them, and to evangelize to those who are still in the dark.  If you don’t know the scriptures FOR YOURSELF, how can you lead others?  You won’t be able to rely upon your Pastor or Bible Study leader to do it for you.  The job will be yours.

If Bible are banned and confiscated, what will you do then?

This is why I think it is imperative that every believer should have a sound understanding of the scriptures, cover to cover.  You don’t need to recite it word for word, but you must have basic knowledge of what you believe, why you believe it, and how to share it.

It begins by choosing to do more than own a bible and attend church weekly.  It is more than reading the bible a few times a week or month.  It’s taking the extra step and truly STUDYING the scripture.

They can not confiscate what is hidden in your mind and heart.

 

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For the Love of Women’s Ministry

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This has been a very interesting summer, as I have been developing a Women’s Ministry college course.  I’ve been entrenched in books on every topic from Women’s Ministry leader books, to deeper books on the biblical stance on women as leaders in the church.  I’ve been digging into the scriptures, looking at historical evidence, and frankly…. my head is going to explode.  There is a lot of information rolling around in my head, and much of it has challenged and even changed the way I viewed certain topics.

It has also increased my passion for women’s ministry, but a different women’s ministry from what I have ever known.  It has also opened my eyes to some of the glaring holes we have in resources, as well as lifted my spirit as I have uncovered things in the works across the country that are going to turn women’s ministry on it’s head.

Women play a huge part in the life of their church, most recent surveys estimate women make up 55-65% of most congregations, additionally they make up about 80% of the volunteer force of the church.  This volunteer force are the ones responsible for teaching and leading other women, teaching our children in Sunday School, leading Kids Clubs, volunteering for VBS, and this is in addition to service like preparing meals for new moms, taking care of hospitality for Sunday morning, rocking babies in the nursery, volunteering for secretarial duties in the church, cleaning up the church, etc.

Yet, it is becoming more apparent, that the majority of these women who are volunteering to teach and lead are not being discipled for those positions.  Are we ensuring that our women are qualified to teach or lead, or thankful for the warm body willing to volunteer?  Are we encouraging our volunteers by equipping them with mentors?

Women’s Ministry has lost focus in recent years, becoming unbalanced in what they offer to the women in the church.  There are more social events, fewer study groups.  Study groups are focused on content from books, versus content from the scriptures.  We are studying books about the bible, instead of the bible itself.  We have lost our ability to interpret scripture on our own.  We come together for social events to foster community, which is important, but at the cost of spiritual growth.

Why has this happened? 

In part, it is because Women’s Ministry has no real support at the moment.

Women’s Minsitries are often independent ministries within the church, that exist in their own sphere.  Pastors, sort of leave the women to fend for themselves.  They lack invested guidance, and many are not truly clear about the church’s vision.  The goal of a women’s ministry should be to use their calender of events and studies to support the vision of the church.  But in order to do so, the leader team really needs to understand what that is.  We need our Pastors to not only allow women’s ministry to exist in the church, but also to step in and help mold it.  We need a Shepherd.

When it comes to resource materials on Women’s Ministry, much of what is available is very outdated.  There are books and websites that lean more toward party planning, and less about making sure our ministry is gospel centered.   Additionally, many of these books are out of touch with the current obstacles and difficulties women face TODAY.    We are lacking books of substance, that train us on how to be effective leaders, run effective and gospel centered ministries, how to minister to the women in our church, and with changes in societal norms…. these subjects are just going to get more confusing.

Women’s Ministries are being led off the cuff, wading the waters and uncertain of what to do.  We begin to mimic other ministries, or do age old activities because “that is what women’s ministry does”.  We are afraid to break those molds, because women won’t come.  Or, we want to… but we can’t get the support of church leadership because of the stereotype of women’s ministry in the past.

I spent the last week speaking to women’s ministry leaders across the country.  I wanted to understand what the greatest obstacles women’s ministry leaders face.  I received the same answers, state to state…. east coast to west coast.

1)  We don’t know how to reach the 20 year old women in our church.

2)  We don’t have a budget to work with, to get the materials we need.

3)  We don’t have support from our Pastors.

I reached out to a woman who wrote her doctorate thesis on Women’s Ministry, and sadly… she didn’t have an answer to these questions.  She confirmed that these are indeed real problems, on a board scale, but there hasn’t been an answer in the church.  She surmised in her thesis paper, the best way to address it was to step outside of the church and start a parachurch organization.

I was saddened that this was her conclusion.

Then I looked at the statistics on the number of women leaving the church, and began to wonder.

I dug a bit deeper…. why are women leaving the church?  Why are women not committing to bible studies?  What are we missing???

Spiritual Gifts.

We are missing the fact that we have a church made up of mostly women, where God has bestowed gifts upon them to use for His purposes.  We are not identifying them in the church, we are not developing them in the church, and we really are not using them in the church.  Women feel as if they have more to offer than child care and making coffee.  They have gifts of teaching and mentoring, that are being unused.  So they leave, looking for a place where these gifts will be embraced.

Spiritual Growth.

Women want to grow spiritually, they want to dig deeper in to the word, and they don’t know how.  We have failed in bible literacy for women, underestimating what they can and cannot do (or understand).  We offer them cake, but eventually they get tired of cake and then they stop showing up for study groups.  It’s because their spirit wants something more substantial…. they may not even realize that is what they are missing.  They do know the group is not meeting a need.  We need to create programs that address this need.   Not just asking for volunteers to lead studies, but identifying and training study leaders.  Give those without confidence, confidence.

Spiritual Community.

Something that really breaks your heart, is when you hear a woman from your church tell you that she is lonely.  Recently a well known author posed a question on her facebook page, she asked what was the one thing women felt they were lacking in their church.  The answer, community.  Women want to not just have a church family on Sunday, or bible study nights.  They want to go back to the earlier church days where we were a community who “did life together”.  Older women responded that they missed having lunch with the church on Sundays after services.  Another commented that in 10 years of being in her church, she had only been invited to dinner with another family ONE TIME, and that her invitations were going unanswered.   She lamented that she had a closer relationship with her “non-Christian friends” than those she worships with.

A women’s ministry needs balance, and needs to be Christ focused.

Have social gatherings, like brunches and ladies night out events.  This is where we begin to form community.  It is the place where we start getting to know each other, establishing trust, and building relationships.  Use these social gatherings as an avenue to tap into the spiritual gifts of the women attending.  As you learn of their spiritual gifts, funnel them toward study groups that will help develop their spiritual growth and maturity, and build closer tight knit community. It is here that women will begin to have deeper bonds and are given the ability to serve each other with compassion and love, counsel and guide, mentor and disciple.  Then, as we wrap it all together, we have built up women to serve the church.  Women who are committed to serving in ways that support the over all vision of the church.

As our Pastors begin to recognize this shift in ministry, where we are intentional about every event & study pointing toward Christ and supporting the church’s vision… I believe we will see greater support for the ministry.

The change must start with us. 

The great news is that there is a widespread recognition amongst women’s ministry leaders that there is a shift coming in women’s ministry.  The are organizations that are developing to train women’s ministry leaders, and provide support and encouragement.  Several are focusing on the Pastors, and getting them on board with effective women’s ministry.  Three books are currently on the market that should be in your Women’s Ministry library.

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As these various organizations and ministries complete their programs for Women’s Ministry trainings, and more support resources come available, I will definitely be sharing them here.

It’s time to look at our women’s ministry with new eyes.  There are many men and women who see a revival on the horizon, within women’s ministry, or at least with women’s ministry a contributing factor.  Churches can’t afford to lose their women because they feel unrecognized, under appreciated, and under valued.  And women, we can’t take a posture that we will just leave the church and do it on our own.  Let’s not divide our churches any further, but restore unity within the body.  Be a part of the solution.

If there is WILL, there will be PROVISION

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There is a belief that I have always held on to when making big financial decisions, it’s really quite simple:

If it is God’s will, then God will provide.

I truly believe that if God is calling you into a new place, new ministry, or new direction in your life… and that step requires some sort of financial need… God will provide the funds for that need.

I’m not suggesting that it means you can sit around and do nothing, and your bank account will suddenly grow by the amount you need.  However, I do not believe God will call you to action if it means you will acquire debt to do so.

It may be that God is preparing your heart, head and family for the transition or change, but you are not getting the finances because the timing is not NOW.   When the time comes to take those steps, the details will be addressed.

Too often, we try to force these things because we feel the call… and then we assume that it must happen right now.

But when we rush God’s calling, we are shorting the blessing.

God put a calling on my heart quite some time ago, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to unfold.  I knew God was calling me back to school, I needed to be equipped for something.  I wasn’t sure what.  Through a series of affirming events, I found myself enrolled in a certificate program. This worked for my family in so many ways.  I could work at my own pace, they had a payment system that was within our budget, and the certificates were the equivalent of a seminary degree.

I didn’t know at the time what God wanted me to do with this education, but I did know that going back to school was part of the steps to get me there.  As a mom, with young children at home, I had plenty of time to work my way through.  I was not in a rush to get a job.  So, I was just going to do what I could… as I could.

Then just a few classes in, the news broke that the school was in the process of accreditation!  They were going to start a degree program.  I was so excited. However, this was also going to be a bit more expensive.  As I stated before, I wasn’t really in a hurry.  So, I just kept plugging away at my classes.  Each payday I make a payment into my student account, because we agreed that there would be no student loan or credit card debt.  I believed if God was calling me, the money would be provided.

My first dose of reality hit when I had my transcript reviewed.  There were some classes from my old college that they were not going to count toward this degree.  I didn’t quite understand why, and I made a request to have the transcript looked over again.  I provided a bit more information on the classes, explaining why I thought they fit the degree requirements.

After a few days, I got a wonderful email that they agreed!  They credited me for the classes I questioned, and I was just thrilled.  I sat down with my course schedule to see the impact that would make on my degree plan.  Sure enough, I would be finished in ONE YEAR.  Super exciting, but I wondered…. how are we going to get the rest of the money in this short of a time?  When I didn’t have those classes credited… the end was far enough out, I wasn’t worried.  This changed everything.

But, I still held true to the belief that if this was indeed God’s calling, then the money would come.

And it did.

Within just two weeks, I was given a job opportunity that would take a few weeks of my time….but would pay for my school balance in full.  This was nothing I had done myself, but God doing exactly what He does best….

Being faithful to those He calls.

Equipping those He calls.

Providing for those He calls.