A Thought Revisited…

ContemplatingHopefulness

A piece from about a year ago, The Apology I Didn’t Know That I Needed, has come to mind today.  It began when I read Beth Moore’s open letter.   It brought back a lot of thoughts and emotions I’ve had in recent years.  Moore’s letter has been a reverberating conversation among women on and offline.  Some are still afraid to speak up because they fear the repercussions.  The fact that women are even hesitant to speak openly about their feelings should be an indicator of how much work we have to do in this area.

Then, when I read a response from Thabiti Anyabwile that took me right back to that moment last year when two men who had never personally slighted me apologized…

… and how that apology did and still brings me to sobbing tears.

I’m going to step out in a level of open transparency here, that I’ve never done.  Let the consequences be what they may.  If my “official days” in ministry end here, so be it.  The Lord has not fired me yet, and I cling to His promises that whatever may come my way is just another storm that I will have to lean into Him.

Before I entered into ministry, I had a secular job.  In my company, some of my greatest assets and supporters were men.  They recognized my natural gifting for leadership, my gifts of administration, and they appreciated how my mind worked.  They took me through the ranks, taught me what they had learned over years of experience, and set me loose in our corporate world.  To this day, I still think back fondly of these men who fashioned me into a better leader than I could have ever imagined.

These guys, they didn’t need me to get a certain number of years of experience under my belt.  They recognized my potential and developed it, intentionally.  To this day, I remain the youngest person to ever be promoted to level in which I achieved (before leaving work to raise my daughters) and the fastest to promote through these levels.  My last promotion came when one of our Vice Presidents came into our location and decided to hold his conference call in my managers office.  He called in everyone of us who had promoted into middle management to sit in on the call.  When it was over, he asked for feedback on what we heard in the call.  He welcomed our ideas and criticisms.  I was one two women in the office among about 10 men.

When I spoke, he listened.  Not that he agreed with everything I had to say, but I could tell that this was more than just obligatory hearing of words.  He truly listened to what I had to say.  The meeting was concluded and we all went back to our departments. Thirty minutes later, I was called into the office.  I was offered an immediate promotion, significant salary increase, benefits, annual bonus, and so on.  I was only twenty years old.

In two weeks time, I moved to a new location for training.  By the end of my training, they asked me to stay on at that location and be responsible for training new managers coming into the position.  I was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, daily sales, and a team of over 150 people under my management.  I’ve hired people, fired people, and developed future leaders in the company.  I’ve written training manuals for positions I have held with them.  In a field dominated by men, I could have never reached the level I did without their support, encouragement, and their investment in me.  I learned and gained more from my time there than I probably ever could repay.

The Lord took me on a new journey.  After having our children, I began to invest my time and gifts into ministry.  Over the years my involvement with ministry grew deeper and resulted in my returning to school for a Divinity degree.  I’m thankful that the Lord has always pressed me forward in ministry, made a path for me to take, and walked alongside me when the road was rough.

And ministry has been rough.

In twenty years of ministry service, I have never been paid a dime.  I’ve never been “on staff”, nor even invited to a ministry staff meeting despite leading a ministry in the church.  I’ve never led in a ministry that has significant financial support, and quite often had zero financial support.  If you have attended an event that I have planned, more than likely the money came out of my own pocket to cover the costs.  I counted it as an offering to the church, and gave gladly.  I’m not complaining, I’m just stating the facts.

What ministries have I led in, you might wonder?

The majority of the last twenty years has been serving in Women’s Ministry.  A ministry that aims to serve at least half (if not more) of the church.  If you know me, you’ll know that despite being a “volunteer” leader… I’m giving full time hours to the cause.  I’m reading articles, researching trends.  I attend conferences, buy books, invest in resources… all of which is at my own expense.

And despite my devotion and dedication to serving women, it has been nothing but a struggle.  A struggle for funding.  A struggle for using space.  A struggle to have the Women’s Ministry seen as equally valuable as Youth Ministry, College Ministry, Children’s Ministry, etc.   A struggle to lead without being micromanaged and mistrusted.  A struggle against worries of being accused of usurping or being a Jezebel.

I came from a place in the secular world, where as a leader I was trusted with so much… to a world of ministry where I felt like I would never be trusted with anything.  A secular world, where I could find a new job or move into new positions with ease… to a world of ministry where finding a job that would hire me as a woman was like finding a unicorn.  A secular world where those who were higher up were interested in my education, background, and experience… to a world of ministry where no one even cared to ask.

It is hard to move from a place where you are implicitly trusted to one where you feel for every one step forward you make you get pulled two steps behind.

The truth is, I’ve been hurt in ministry.  I just hadn’t realized how much so until that day last year when Hunter from Serge apologized to me, when Pastor Sandy Willson apologized to us as a group.  It is incredibly hard to be an educated, equipped, woman gifted for leadership in the world of ministry.  When you are constantly told from the pulpit how much value you have to the Lord and His kingdom work… so long as your calling is Children’s Ministry, Coffee/Bagel Ministry, VBS, and working in the nursery.

I had thought these experiences were unique to myself.  However in the last umpteen months I’ve learned that this is not the case.  I’ve listened to women share how they were dismissed from their volunteer position because the church could finally afford to pay someone to do that job and hired a man.  Do you have any idea how that feels to be told that you are only valued for the free work you do, but not enough to get paid to do the same job?  It doesn’t feel good.

You can’t imagine how I felt when a Pastor, at my suggestion of using women in the church to share the load of responsibilities that were overwhelming him, said to me:

“The greatest gift the women in my church can give me is to serve their husbands and children.”

What about the women who don’t have children or are not married?  What about the women who are capable of managing their homes and serving in ministry?  How dismissive.  What an assumption that women can’t lead in ministry and serve the Kingdom at the same time?  This may have been the first time I was speechless in my life.

I’ve known to many women accused of having a Jezebel spirit or being divisive for standing up for themselves (their calling) and their ministry.  I’ve known too many women who have had their gifts and callings dismissed.  I’ve known too many women who have sat quietly despite their experience and education, simply because they knew better than to speak up.  I’ve watched churches hire men from other states when there were women in the body who could not only do the work, but even needed the income the job would provide.

To come from a world where I was trusted to oversee so much and into a world where I seemingly can be trusted with anything (for no other reason than my gender), it is incredibly saddening… and frustrating.  Women with strong leadership skills are seen as difficult and controlling, yet men with those same leadership qualities would be considered assertive and driven.

And, I think what hit me so hard about Beth Moore’s open letter was this…

If Beth Moore feels silenced, what hope is there for me?  If Beth Moore is still fighting against all of these things, what hope is there for me?  If Beth Moore has been afraid to speak up, what hope is there for me?

If the few women in the world of ministry that actually do have any real significant influence are speaking this way… what can ever change for me?  For my churches?  For my community?  For the Women’s Ministry leaders whom I serve?

If they are not even willing to listen to Beth Moore, what hope will I ever have of getting Pastors to hear my heart for Women’s Ministry?  My deep desire to disciple women, intentionally?  My calling to do Women’s Ministry differently than the preconceived notions they have in the mind of days past?  Can they even hear that?  Do they even want to?  Is it possible?

I realized the number of times over the years I have had to defend myself to people because I support Women’s Ministry.  The number of times I have had to caveat a point I was making on leadership with a disclaimer that I don’t desire nor feel called to the pulpit.  Why should I have to give a disclaimer about myself in order to speak about ministry leadership?

Why?  For the very reasons Moore states in her open letter.  For the very things that Anyabwile apologizes for in his response.  Because this is the every day battle of a woman in ministry leadership.  Moore’s letter reminded me that the wounds of ministry leadership for women are still pretty raw (even if there is healing happening).  Anyabwile’s response was another apology from someone who never slighted me… but yet I needed to hear.

And, that is the hope for me.  The hope that as more people speak up, that more change can happen.  Hope that our 30% of seminary graduates that are women will have jobs in ministry.  Hope that when jobs open at local churches that they would not only welcome but seek applications from women.  Hope that Women’s Ministry would be seen as equally valuable as other ministries in the church.  Hope that our leaders and staff would recognize the gifts of women and intentionally develop and implement those gifts into their church.

For me to have such hope, it means that I too much be willing to speak on the subject.  I can’t let Beth Moore be the only chicken willing to be fried.  We can’t let a few voices speak up and take all the heat, but instead be willing to speak up as well.  In doing so we illustrate the real scope of the problem we need to address, the hurdles we must overcome.

The more I look into the broad picture of leadership in the Scriptures, the less exclusive it appears to be.   The deeper I dig, the more I learn about the women that God trusted … that Jesus taught… the disciples co-labored with.  We can’t toss aside the gifting and anointing of half the body, or try to force those gifts into a small segment of volunteer positions in the church that we have decided are “ok” for women.

There is so much work to be done, so many people to reach, so many to serve, why are we handicapping ourselves?

So, I write this fully expecting to be added to the list of heretics and false teachers by the critics.  If you would have asked me twenty years ago if I expected this moment, I would tell you there was no way.  Yet, here I am.  Sharing the truth of my experiences (really a fraction of it), and a willingness to be part of change and growth.  For years I was in the camp of stay and pray.  I’ve prayed for change, I served outside of my calling in order to be supportive, and truly thought that this was the right pathway.

But today, after conversations and reflections… it’s a time to speak up.

We, the women who have been hurt, still love the church… local and global.  We still love our church leaders and church family.  We have been praying a long time.  We are still praying.  We will not stop praying.  Our hearts have not been bent from our mission and calling, we await the opportunity to use it in it’s fullness.

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Chronicling 40: Day 73 of 365

DebVsJez

 

Deborah vs. Jezebel

Women, Women of Influence

Both Deborah and Jezebel were women.  Both, were women of influence.  Deborah was a woman who worshiped God.  Jezebel was a woman who worshipped Baal.  Deborah’s influence, was godly.  She was considered wise, she judged over disputes, and brought peace among her people.  Jezebel was harsh and manipulative, she was divisive, and sewed discord and chaos among her people.

Wives and Mothers

We know with certainty that Jezebel was both married and a mother.  Deborah, we can assume was at least married (as she is called wife of Lapidoth) and possibly a mother as well (culturally, that would make sense but she is called “mother of the sons of Israel).  Either way, both women had a responsibility to their household that would outweigh any of their own calling (Deborah) or ambitions (Jezebel).

Scripture wise, we already discussed the requirements to be a godly leader.  Which means that we know for Deborah to have been risen up as a leader over Israel, she too had to fulfill those requirements.  Deborah would have been a woman above reproach, who took care of her home (husband, children) well.  She would have been submissive to God, led by His will over her own. 

Jezebel, however, didn’t meet these leadership requirements.  Jezebel was disrespectful of her husband, she was audacious and outspoken.  She had ambitions that outweighed morals.  (Please note that one can be a godly women with ambitions, being ambitious in and of itself is not wrong… it’s the heart behind the ambition that is key).  She was vain and more concerned about herself than others. 

Prophetess and Prophet Killer

Deborah was a Prophetess, meaning that the Lord had gifted her with prophecy and she used her gift to deliver God’s word to His people who would listen.  Jezebel, she was a Prophet killer.  She didn’t deliver God’s word but instead attempted to silence it by killing off those who did.  Deborah had awe and reverence for God, where Jezebel had contempt.

Leader, Anointed & Usurped

Deborah was a leader of the sons of Israel, those who were still listening to the Word of God.  Deborah was placed into this position by God, and moved in accordance to his directions.  Jezebel, was a woman who married into Israel via Ahab… a man who was doing evil in God’s sight (and in fact considered the most evil).  A corrupted husband, married a corrupting wife.  Deborah was anointed by God, Jezebel was chosen by Ahab.  Deborah was called to lead, Jezebel controlled and manipulated into leadership.  Deborah led from a position that was given to her, Jezebel led from a position that she took.

Deborah lived a life of honor, among her people.  Jezebel instilled an environment of fear.  Deborah lived a long life of peace.  Jezebel did not, and ultimately fell to her death pushed by her own servants.  Deborah was honored.  Jezebel was consumed by the dogs to the point she was unrecognizable.  Deborah is spoke of today in high regard, Jezebel as a warning and in dishonor.

Chronicling 40: Day 69 of 365

DebVsJez

Deborah was a Judge, and the word judge and leader are interchangeable in the original Hebrew.  We are goin

g to explore the qualifications of being a leader, according to the Scriptures.

First and foremost, God is going to raise up a woman into leadership who is a godly woman.  What defines a godly woman?

Watermark Community Church published an article on the five characteristics of a godly woman.  Each characteristic was supported by scripture in the Old Testament.

5 Characteristics of a Godly Woman:

  1. She will seek God first.  1 Chronicles 16:8-12, Psalm 9:10, Psalm 27:1-5, Psalm 34:10-14, Psalm 40:16
  2. She will speak, faithfully.  Genesis 2:18, Proverbs 27:5-6, Proverbs 31:8-9, Proverbs 31:26, Psalm 19:14, Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 13:3, Proverbs 16:13, Proverbs 20:15, Proverbs 24:26
  3. She will show true beauty.  Proverbs 31:30, 1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 11:22
  4. She will stay humble.  Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 141:5, Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 12:1, Micah 6:8.
  5. She will serve the Lord.  Psalm 16:11, Psalm 84:10-12

A Godly Woman’s Ministry Calling:

Proverbs 31 gives us a great example of the connection of the woman’s gifts and talents and how she will use them to serve the Lord.

  • Her Ministry to Her Husband:  Proverbs 31: 11,12, 23
  • Her Ministry to Her Children:  Proverbs 31: 14, 15, 21, 27, 28
  • Her Ministry to Her Community: Proverbs 31: 20, 24, 31
  • Her Ministry with Her Gifts:  Proverbs 31: 13, 16, 17, 22, 26

In the Old Testament we consistently see women leading and serving in the above four categories.  In the New Testament, we also see that women were Financial Benefactors, Students, Leaders, and Missionaries. 

  • Financial Benefactors, such as Joanna.  Luke 8:2-3
  • Students, such as Mary.  Luke 10:38-42
  • Leaders, such as Phoebe.  Romans 16:1
  • Missionaries, such as Priscilla.  Romans 16:3

Women of Influence:

Women have an innate ability to influence one another and those around them.  Therefore, we need to look at the traits common to women who are influencers and how that relates to the church.  The book Women of Influence lists 10 traits of women who want to make a difference and influence Kingdom work.

  1. They are passionate about influencing and mentoring.
  2. They are gifted with leadership or teaching.
  3. They have a personal relationship with Jesus.
  4. They are dreamers, who see the big picture with optimism.
  5. They are good with people.
  6. They are willing to initiate, or take the first steps.
  7. They are women of integrity.
  8. They have an intensity that pushes them to endure the long haul.
  9. They are inquiring, they ask questions and want to understand.
  10. They are infectious, people are drawn to them and want to learn from them.

We are going to refer back to this list when we get to the point of how to determine the difference between a Deborah and a Jezebel.

Qualifications for Leadership:

In addition to these traits, qualities, and characteristics of leaders the New Testament very clearly lays out the qualifications to be considered for leadership. In 1 Timothy 3:1-12, the qualifications for Overseers and Deacons reads:

v1:  It’s a noble task.

v2: be above reproach, faithful in marriage, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.

v3: not given to drunkenness, not violent, not quarrelsome, not greedy

v4:  must manage the family/household well, have obedient children, and this is done in a respectful manner.

v5: “If anyone cannot manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”  Remember, this is the verse that supports our ministry to our family/home is priority.

v6:  not a recent convert (ie: spiritually mature).

v7:  good reputation with outsiders (ie: not just within the body of believers).

v8:  worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, not pursuing dishonest gain.

v9:  “They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience”.  (Remember were at the top of this piece we referenced women who are good leaders are students.)

v10:  they must be tested before service.  (In other words, they are not just appointed, but approved into the position.  If you wonder why we have hiring/search committees … this is why).

v11:  “IN THE SAME WAY, THE WOMEN ARE TO BE WORTHY OF RESPECT, NOT MALICIOUS TALKERS BUT TEMPERATE AND TRUSTWORTHY IN EVERYTHING.”

We are going to jump to the Greek translation for a moment:  Likewise wives being without reproach let them minister deacons in all things faithful temperate not slanderers ruling well.” 

It is due to the Greek text, that I believe women are included as leaders within the church… not excluded.  In addition, based on the wording, women are held to the same standards as men in those positions.

v12:  Husbands faithful to one wife, managing his children and household well.

v13:  Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

The Standard Is High:

Leaders are held to a higher standard, and will be held to greater accountability because their words and actions influence others.  If your doctrine or theology is wrong, you will lead others astray.  If you set a bad example in your speech or behavior, you give the impression to others that these words/behaviors are acceptable.  As Christians we are to be noticeably different from the rest of the world, those in leadership even more so.

When Paul continues his letters to Timothy warning about women in leadership, it is because the women in Ephesus at the time didn’t meet these qualifications.  If Deborah was a woman who met all of these qualifications, thus she was able to judge/lead Israel.  Jezebel, however may have been a woman of influence, or a leader… but she wasn’t a godly leader.  She didn’t meet these qualifications.  She is a perfect example of the women Paul warns against.

We are going to start talking about Jezebel for the next several days.  Who was Jezebel, what type of leader was she, and how does her story related to Paul’s warning to Timothy about women in leadership?  I’d also like to explore the gray areas between.  Not every woman who heads toward leadership in the church/ministry is a Jezebel.  But, she may also not be a Deborah.  We’ll wrap this up around that topic.

 

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 67 of 365

numbers

From Yesterday’s Post:

The order of Deborah’s description in her introduction poses the following questions:

  • If the order is significant, then that means her role as a Prophetess would trump her role as a wife. Can we find any place in scripture that states that our role to tend our home/family trumps our calling?
  • If the order is not significant here, then it could impact how we view “order” in other Scriptures.  How can we determine when/which verses where order is something to note and when it isn’t?

We’ve got some big thoughts to unpack here, so let’s dig right into the first point to consider:

The Order of Things:

I have heard many speakers and teachers, and read many books/articles, that state that the order of things matter.  In the introductions of people in the Bible, we learn a lot about who they are in society.  Is this a family member, friend, co-laborer, official, or leader?  Is this a formal letter to deal with an issue, or an informal conversation?  What is the significance of this person or group of people.

When we are introduced to Deborah, she is first listed as a woman, then a Prophetess, then a wife, and then judge/leader of Israel.  As stated yesterday, I believe that it was very intention that Deborah was first identified as a woman.  The rest of the judges were men, and that makes Deborah unique in this role.  Based on my research, I do not believe Deborah was raised up because there were no men available but that Deborah was exactly who God intended for this time and place.  I also believe Deborah’s gender is mentioned first because of imago dei, the image of God.  In Genesis the first thing we learn about God’s creation order of humanity is that man and woman were made in the image of God.  Deborah was woman, imago dei, created in the image of God.

The next ordered description is that Deborah was a Prophetess.  In the Old and New Testament, we see many examples of where the Lord anointed a person with a gift/talent and called that gift/talent into service.  I contended yesterday that prophecy was Deborah’s gift and it was called into service as a judge.  If order is important, then we recognize that her role as a Prophet (chosen to deliver the Word of God and guide Israel) is the key to how she leads Israel.  This is not just a position where Deborah was acting as a legal judge settling disputes, or creating societal rules or laws.  Deborah was leading in accordance to God’s direction, God’s will. While she would rule on disputes and smaller issues, they would have been secondary to guiding Israel and sharing God’s Word.

Third in the order of her introduction is “wife of Lapidoth”.  Yesterday we discussed that the Hebrew word used her can translate to wife or woman.  And, since in the original Hebrew text the first description of Deborah is “woman”, it made sense to assume the word used with Lapidoth would have meant wife.  There would be no reason to list “woman” twice.    There is a lot of educated guessing here because we just don’t know who Lapidoth was.  If it was a man, then clearly she would be his wife.  If it was a city, then she would be a resident of that city.  Again, the wording seemed to be to indicate she was a wife of a person.  However, a third option was revealed in my research.  Easton’s Bible Dictionary suggests that Lapidoth was actually not a formal name but an informal word; lapidoth which means “torch”.  A “woman of lapidoth” in that informal context would mean a “woman of light” or a “woman of fiery spirit”. 

There is literally no confirmation that Deborah was married, or had children.  If we could confirm she was a literal mother, then by default we could safely conclude that Lapidoth was an actual person.  She is only referred to in Judges as a mother of “Israel”, no genealogy is associated with her.  Historically, women (especially those of status) would be 1. unmarried virgin, 2. married woman, and 3. widow.  With the lack of information we must lean into what makes the most sense but also not get hung up in the details that we miss the bigger picture.

If she was unmarried, it could explain her freedom and ability to lead without any distraction.  If she was married, her role as prophetess being listed before her role as wife could be an indication that her calling superseded her marriage.  This is point I want to focus on.  When speaking of women in leadership, we are often cautioned that our marriage/family is our first ministry and greatest calling.  Thus, limits may be put on women in leadership in order to preserve that primary ministry.  If our calling (how God uses us and our gifts for Kingdom purposes) is our primary ministry that changes a lot of how we view women in leadership. 

Can we find any place in Scripture that states that our role to tend our home/family trumps our calling?

The first piece of Scripture that comes to mind is The Great Commission: 

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the   age.”   ~Matthew 28:19,20

The Great Commission directs us that our “job description” is to 1. make disciples, 2. baptize them, and 3. teach them.  If The Great Commission applies to everyone, then this is the job description of both men and women.  In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul suggests that it is better to remain unmarried in order to not be distracted from our ministry work.  Marriage is suggested as a solution for those who can’t “control themselves”.  Single & celibate was better than married, and married was better than single & promiscuous. 

From the very beginning we know that the Divine Order is God first.  No one disputes this, but the next rung on this top down ladder starts to get fuzzy.  Some will place spouse second, children third, moving outward to the community at large.  Some will place self in there, arguing that in order to serve others we must also take care of our selves.  Some will even put children above spouse.  Among all of this, we have to figure out where our calling lands.  Does our gifting/calling come before our spouse?  Our kids?  Our church?  Our community?  Is it last on the list after we have served people generally speaking?

I believe one of the best responses to this topic comes from this piece: Should a Husband Place Ministry or Family First .  I want to focus on these two points:

  • In the New Testament one of the requirements of leadership is that they have been leading their own home well.  One can not lead in the community at the sacrifice of their own family.
  • In the Old Testament when marriage is defined as two coming together as one, leaving their old families behind.  In other words, a husband and wife would be united in their calling to make disciples.

This makes it appear that the family is the priority.  Does that contradict Paul’s words on staying single in order to focus on ministry?  Not at all.  Whether you are single or married, you have a responsibility as a leader to tend to your home.  The requirements in the New Testament for leaders indicates that before they can even be considered for leadership they must be faithful leaders at home.   Within my research I was unable to find any Scripture that supported the notion that calling/ministry trumps our responsibility to our family.

Order Does Matter, but not always.

What does this mean for Deborah?  Most simply it means that either Deborah was single/childless, or that if Deborah was married that her husband was united in her calling.  Regardless of her marital status, I believe Scriptures support that her calling as Prophetess would not have trumped her responsibility to her home life.  So, in this instance I do not believe the order in which Deborah was described is an indicator of which roles were of more importance than others.  In a few days, we are going to look a little deeper into what that means for a leader to be a faithful keeper of the home & helpmeet (particularly in relation to women in leadership).

While I do not see any indication that order mattered here in identifying Deborah, or the importance of her various roles, that doesn’t mean that we disregard the importance of order in any other Scriptures.  Henry DuBose explains this very well in his piece God Works His Will Through Divine Order, when he states:

Divine order is very important, and we find it all the way through the Scriptures. There is a very simple reason for God using divine order like He does. It is because God’s plans are carried out by men. He works through His people. Thus, divine order becomes most important and necessary.

~Henry DuBose

In this piece, DuBose indicates that since God has to employ imperfect men to do the work of His Plan; having instructions in place is an absolute need.  Instructions are the order in which we complete a task or assignment.  The evidence that the Lord uses divine order is seen in too many places to disregard it. 

The complexities and order of creation stand as an evidence of God, so He uses order to reveal Himself to the world.  Between the laws we see listed out in the Old Testament, through the writing of the Commandments, and even into the New Testament … we are shown a God of order.  There is a way to do, and not to do.  A way to behave, and not to behave.  Even a way to make amends, to love, etc.  The Old Testament also gives us prime examples of the consequences of that happens when man steps out of God’s order. 

How Do We Know When Order Matters?

While there are a lot of articles you can read about this subject, I think the simplest way to determine if order matters is to test it against other Scripture. 

Similar Patterns:

In this instance, related to Deborah, the first thing we can do is look at how the other judges were introduced.  There was no consistent pattern to the introduction of other judges.  If order was being established, there would have been a similar pattern among the introduction of each judge.   You can also look at other women in the Scriptures to see if there is a similar pattern in how women are introduced as a whole.

Create Categories:

The second thing we can do is categorize the piece of Scripture being studied.  If you are not sure how to categorize the Scripture, start by asking questions.  What is this about?  What questions does this bring up?    In the case of Deborah, my examination of the order brought up questions about whether calling trumps marriage.  Even if I couldn’t categorize Deborah in a neat and tidy file folder, I knew I could look to Scripture that talked about marriage and family priories. 

Google It:

Even when you want to rely on Scripture to prove Scripture, a Google Search is still helpful.  You can enter the verses into the search bar with words such as:  commentary, support of, criticism of, cross references, opinions, etc.  Within these various articles and publications you will find Scripture references that you can then look up.  You may find the article beneficial or enlightening, or chose to disregard the whole article and just focus directly on the verses it references.

Tuesday:

To learn more about Deborah, we are going to explore her roles are Prophetess, Judge, Leader.  We’ll define the positions, put them in context to one another, see if there are any differences between how Deborah fulfilled these positions and the other Judges. 

Wednesday:

We are going to explore the qualifications for being a leader (Old Testament and New Testament) and discover where women fit into leadership in the general sense.  I’d love to tackle the topic of specific positions, but I think that is better saved for a post after we finish with Deborah and Jezebel topic.

Thursday:

I will wrap up with any final thoughts on Deborah.

Friday:

We meet Jezebel, and begin the break down of who she was… why her story is significant.

Next Week:

I expect that we will walk through Jezebel for about six days, giving her equal time as Deborah.  I’ll wrap up my final thoughts on Jezebel on Wednesday.  Most likely Thursday/Friday, I’ll dive into the the what started this whole exploration:  Don’t Confuse a Deborah for a Jezebel.

Chronicling 40: Day 60 of 365

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In almost every church I have attended, the same invitation comes my way… Children’s Ministry volunteer.  If you are a woman, with children, there is some sort of natural assumption that you will serve in this area.  I’ve always been surprised by how quickly the invitation comes.  In some cases it comes too quickly.  

I remember once being asked if I was interested in volunteering as a Sunday School teacher on my very first visit.  We had just moved to a new city, we knew absolutely no one, and this was just one of several churches we were visiting as we tried to find a new church home.  No one knew me, my history, my experience.  I was a woman, who had children, and that was enough.

I recall when a member of church leadership found out that I had a theatre background, the natural invitation was for me to direct the Children’s Christmas Program.  There was a day that some church leaders, their wives, and volunteers were having a casual lunch and talking church business.  As I passed by, I heard one of the wives chime in that “anyone who has children in the Children’s Ministry should have to volunteer a set number of days per year.” 

Does Being a Woman Mean I am Gifted For Children’s Ministry?

Somewhere we have gotten the notion that just because a person is a woman, that she must have a natural inclination toward children in general.  Even more so, if she has children herself.  That being a woman and a mother, in and of itself, defines her ministry gifting toward childcare, the church nursery, and volunteering in the Children’s Ministry.  As women and families join our church, we automatically funnel the women right through those doors.   We make this decision before we even learn anything about them, what their gifts are, and how they feel called to serve.

Where Do I Belong?  How Do I Serve Here?

If you are not serving in Children’s Ministry, usually the next stop is Worship Ministry.  Can you sing? Play an instrument?  I see this assumption more often among women who have grown up in the church.  If this is not your calling either, then you are usually left with just a few options… making the coffee & bagels on Sunday morning, greeting people at the door, bringing meals to the sick, and secretarial duties.  Perhaps there is an opportunity to lead a Bible Study or participate in the Women’s Ministry.

When you attend a larger church, and statistics suggest that half or more of the church is made up of women, there are only so many people who can fill these roles.  This leaves quite a few women with no place to serve.  And, with these roles being routine (greeting at the door, handing out the bulletins, putting out bagels), there are some women who don’t feel that their gifts and talents are best used here.

What Happens When I Don’t Serve With My Gifts

In a book I recently read, Church Refugees, this was a common problem among those who had been long term, dedicated, serving leaders that ultimately led to leaving their church.  Even though they had been serving for decades, they never felt as if they were serving in their actual gifted areas.  Instead, they just felt like warm bodies plugged in to an empty spot because they were dependable.  Many felt that their offers to start a ministry, or attempts to build up an existing ministry, were hindered.  There was no place for them grow, nor trust to allow them to lead, despite their years of dedication.

What Does This All Mean?

  1. We shouldn’t assume that just because a person has a particular gender, that automatically means they are good at a stereotypical area of ministry.  Some men can be stellar in Children’s Ministry, and some women may not be.
  2. We should take time to learn about the gifts and talents of the women who join our churches.  We shouldn’t look at new members as warm bodies to fill empty spots.  Instead, we should learn about their education, skills, job, gifts, talents, and callings.  Then, find areas in the church that allow them to serve and use these gifts and talents.
  3.  Don’t discount a person’s ministry calling because you don’t see how it fits into the church vision or the immediate need.  Spend time talking with her about what this ministry calling looks like, pray over whether or not this ministry is something that can be supported by the church.  Just because you don’t personally see the need, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  4. If there is not a place in the church specifically that can use this person’s gift, consider if your church is connected to a local ministry that could.  If this is a woman with leadership skills, consider organizations that may be hiring or looking for volunteers.
  5. Have a very clear view on where women can serve in the church, help disciple women in those leadership positions, and trust the women to lead well.  If she can run a fortune 500 company, I am certain she is capable of leading a Women’s Ministry too. 

I saw this tweet the other day, in regard to women in the church.  I think it is a great place to leave off today’s post:

“Without you, the church is missing half of it’s voice, half of it’s gifting, half of it’s mission and ministry.”  Scott Lencke

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 59 of 365

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I just want to take a moment to be perfectly clear about my intentions, as we travel this road together.  I am not a woman who is afraid of conversation, nor do I expect everyone to agree with me.  My intentions as I give examples, share experiences, and even my opinion is NOT to do anything more than to challenge thought.

There are some areas where I am still learning and developing my opinions, which you may watch me flesh out on these pages.  I welcome respectful conversation, however challenging it may be.  Not everyone will agree with me, or see things from my perspective.  I am okay with that, after all who am I?  I am no final authority.  I’m willing to admit I am wrong, or see another well expressed perspective.

I only ask that if you are going to present that argument, do so with your evidence.  Give me the scripture, quote the author/speaker/etc that you heard it from.  Any talking down, accusations, etc are unwelcome because they are not helpful.  Real discussion and learning comes from sharing information, and opinions coupled with the explanation of how we came to that opinion.

One thing that I see happen often when anyone talks about women in leadership, is this weird posse that shows up accusing her of being a pulpit stealing Jezebel.  So let me set this fact in stone:  I do not seek a pulpit.  I do not feel called to be a Pastor, never have.  Nothing about what the Lord has laid before me indicates that there is any chance of me heading in that direction either.  Therefore, should I choose to delve into that specific topic it will be done from a neutral stance not a self serving one.

I’m going to explore a lot about leadership, past to present.  I will probably dream a little about what leadership for women will look like in the future.  This topic will cover leadership in the professional (secular) world and in the realm of ministry.  I’ll discuss it in theory, as well as share the practical side of it too.

My purpose will not be to tear down anyone (or any gender), but instead to tear apart to topic and dissect to it’s core… in order to better understand it.  How do we know how to keep a healthy body?  Because we learn how the body works, what does it need to survive at an optimal way, what causes it harm, etc.  Same goes for leadership, we need to understand it at the core in order to understand what works and what doesn’t.  This includes really understand what the Bible says about leadership in general, as well as in regard to specific genders.

I hope you are not willing to just come along for this ride, but be a part of the conversation… genuinely.   Reading to understand, not reading to build an argument.  Sharing facts, scripture, quotes, etc to support your stand.  Having conversations with those around you, outside of this blog to see it in real practical life experiences.

My hypothesis:  things are not as black and white, one way or another, as they appear.

Chronicling 40: Day 57 of 365

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Earlier this year, I attended a branding workshop.  I went because I co-lead a growing ministry and with that growth we really needed to hone in our branding.  What always amazes me about my journey with Faith James (yes, Faith… it’s a journey, you’re stuck with me for a bit) is that I learn just us much about myself and my own journey as I do for my ministry work.

About halfway through the workshop, Faith asked a question:

“What is your vision for the world and for your life?”

Faith James, Branding of Brunch Workshop

The answer I wrote in my workbook for the world was: “equipping women to lead and change the world we are in for the better”, and for my life:  “be apart of the change”.  I scrawled a few little notes about diversity and equality.  Faith shared Proverbs 29:18… Where there is no vision, people perish.  She challenged us to set our vision for the world, for our lives.   At the time, I thought this was applicable to my ministry work.  And so, the vision was set.

Then a few months later, I wrote a piece on here about a girl named Milange that I met many years ago (over 20 now) and how, even then, I had a heart for helping and equipping women.  I recall how my heart hurt for her because she simply didn’t know that she could, because so many had told her she couldn’t.  I think my heart for women goes back even further than that… to when I was a child.  That is another story, for another day.

Just this past week my friend Laura Gabriele-Enriquez, who is a missionary in Guatamala, posed a question on her Facebook page:

When you were a kid, what injustice in the world upset you most?

I ask because I believe God sees the injustice and sends each of us to the world with a mission.

My answer:  “As far back as I can remember it has been about empowering girls/women in general. As I got older, I became more keenly aware of the differences between the opportunities that white women had versus women of color. And so, it became even more important to me to be incredibly intentional about using my privilege to help lift those women up.”

If you know me, you know that I am not looking to hog the microphone or own the platform.  I look for ways to give other women an opportunity to share their gifts with the world.  I pass the mic as much as I can, because I am learning from the wisdom of others too.  I want to hear voices outside of my own.  I want to see women succeed in the endeavors whether it is business or ministry work.

As I reflected on these last 9 months, I realized that in the moment I attended Faith’s workshop… the vision was being set for ME (personally).  This was just about my ministry work through the Women’s Ministry Council but about much more than that, my everyday since I can remember calling.  The fire the Lord set in my heart.  Equipping women brings me joy.  So, the vision is set.

While I am going to continue with my #Chronicling40 series… you are going to notice a new bend which will be more about my views on leadership, equipping women, etc.  Why is this important to me, what can we be doing, where are we making mistakes, etc.  I hope you don’t mind that I am leaving the easy paved road of journaling my day to day thoughts and instead take the detour on to a bit of uneven pavement.

I pray, that the the rocky path with lead to fertile soil.