Chronicling 40: Day 59 of 365

CLARITY.png

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.

Advertisements

Chronicling 40: Day 58 of 365

bythebooks

Leadership for women is a very weird space.  The majority of our training as leaders come from men, our teachers have mostly been men, and most of the leadership books are written by men.  How many leadership books (secular or ministry related) are written by women for leading women?  Not many.  Much of what is out there is outdated, and the newer books are not exactly being promoted to us.  In fact, of the ones I personally know of… most I learned about at a national women’s conference and one was from an article on Huffington post.  How many women do you know going to leadership conferences each year?  Few.

This means that majority of our women who are leading in the world learned their skills from men who have led before them.  Which is not a bad thing, please not that I’m not seeing this as a negative thing.  I’ve learned many great things from men who were willing to invest in me as a leader. But, I want to share something that happened recently.

I was interviewing for a job in a ministry position that would oversee women, and I was asked by one of the Pastors to share what I saw as one of my weaknesses.  I was very honest, and shared that my leadership style is more akin to men due to the influences I have had in my life.   I tend to be more direct and don’t always meander around subjects like women are accustomed to.  The Pastor asked me how I would respond to someone who questioned my aggressive leadership style.

I thought that was interesting, when I shared as a woman that I led more like a man… this was seen as aggressive.  Whereas if a man shared the same attributes, would he be called aggressive?  Or, as my friend Faith suggested would they have seen it as assertive.

This is the battle the women face in leadership, if we are too strong or direct, we are considered bossy or even called a Jezebel.  They forget that Deborah was a strong leader.  She wasn’t just a judge, but a military leader.  We lift up the Proverbs 31 woman as a great wife and mother, and we often forget that she was also a business woman and investor… a woman of leadership and wisdom.  Her hospitality and demeanor were of humility, and yet she laughed in the face of the days to come because she did not fear what ever would come.  She feared only the Lord.

Yesterday, I watched a broadcast of an interview with two women who are leaders in their church.  The interview was conducted by a gentleman who was part of the staff of a seminary, and at the end of the interview he invited members of the audience to ask questions.  One of the audience members asked the panel about how men in church leadership could better encourage and support women in the church who felt called into leadership.

The first thing I noticed was the body language that changed.  The majority of the audience was men who were or planned to be in church leadership.  Until this point the women were very relaxed speaking about the roles, giving advice to women looking to a future in leadership, discussing their struggles and successes.  Now, they were a bit more tense and their body language no longer implied ease but instead much more guarded.

The second thing I noticed was how they were suddenly more cautious about how they spoke, and what words they chose.  They tip toed around the topic carefully.  Their responses were far more crafted and nuanced, careful to filter every word and thought.   You could tell that they were struggling between what they wanted to say and how to say it in a manner that would be better received.

Why must this be so?

What I appreciated, however, was that one of the women brought attention to it for the audience to notice.  Essentially, she said that if the audience didn’t realize it… the women were being very cautious about what they said, and how they said it.  She pointed out that they were filtering their responses and this was something women have been cultivated to do.  And that being aware of this, was the first key.  Create an environment where the women don’t need to do so.  That would be a huge first step in building a good support system.

In the past, I think women were grateful to get leadership positions and thus were very careful to not rock the boat and lose what took so long to achieve.  Now, I think women are looking for permission to lead to their fullest ability.  No need to filter, no need to carefully craft words, and meander around subjects.  Instead, to be treated with the same respect a male colleague would receive.  Allow women to lead in the manner in which God gifted them.  Some will have a gentler approach, as they guide others.  Some will carry much more of an authoritative stance, as they build and lead organizations and ministries.

I believe that the Lord placed me in the pathway of the men who influenced my leadership skills because I needed to learn from them.  The skills they have taught me have been invaluable to the ministry work that I am in now.  I see their fingerprints in so much of what I do, and I know that the Lord orchestrated every step of my path for this calling.

We need not discount the gifts of women, but embrace them.  The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.  Do we cut the workers in half?  Do we cut our army in half?  Or, do we come together and serve the Kingdom united in our cause?

Chronicling 40: Day 56 of 365

friedchickenRecently, I was speaking with a group of women about discipleship in the church.  More specifically, we were speaking about how intentional discipleship has become the exception to the norm.  This led to a deep conversation about exactly what discipleship is, and what has caused the decline.

We ultimately defined discipleship as:

  • intentional relationship between two or more people with the purpose (directly or indirectly) of spiritual growth.
  • spiritual growth includes studying the Bible together, praying together, and giving wise Biblical based counsel to every day circumstances.
  • it happens because these people are not just teaching one another, but living life with one another; a solid long term relationship.
  • threaded through the relationship is a sharing of the Gospel, spurring one another on to make godly choices, iron sharpening iron relationships, etc.

We determined the reason why discipleship relationships are waning because:

  • we have relied too much on “press play on the DVD” style small groups, where it has become about completing a study and moving on vs. purposeful spiritual growth; these groups don’t have a plan or path way.
  • small groups have pushed out larger fellowship events that help connect people and get to know each other; thus people are constantly moving from small group to small group looking for their fit.
  • due to a lack of a true community environment in the church, people have begun filling that void with relationships outside the church.

Without a church community people are having a harder time making friendships, and without friendships they are not connecting to people in the church on a deeper level.  This lack of connection has affected discipleship relationships within the church; making them a rare occurrence versus a common expectation.

How can we change this:

  • recognize the small group model and trend is not to replace the larger community of the church; that there is a good reason to still hold church wide events and foster small group relationships concurrently.
  • be more thoughtful and intentional about our small groups, from the materials to the leaders; have a plan or pathway for discipleship.
  • look to spiritually mature leaders in your church to start the discipleship process, with the purpose of setting the standard of discipleship in the church and get the ball rolling.
  • meet with local Churches that do have a solid discipleship plan and learn from them so that you can start up a pathway in your church.

And remember… while we would love to see friendships, community, and discipleship relationships happen in our church buildings…

We are the Church.  We can begin fostering these relationships right outside our own front doors.

Chronicling 40: Day 11 of 365

coffee

What is better than a strong cup of coffee?  A strong, faithful friend.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an

abundance of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 11:14

40 has already put a strong focus in my heart toward community, but not just any community.  Intentional community.  Those who lift up and encourage, respect boundaries, have beneficial conversations full of love, and safe boundaries.

Grateful for conversations, like the one I had this morning.  Where you walk away feeling up lifted and encouraged, enjoying time with one another.  I don’t have the energy to be weighed down with negativity, frustration, et’al.

Building a community of strong, faithful, honest, and positive women is paramount to living a good life.  We are not meant to walk alone, but the live in community.  Bearing one anothers burdens, standing in the gap for each other.

Doors and Pathways

notmydoor

A friend recently posted on her Facebook page that when God is making your path straight, He may cut off access to the other paths we are not meant to be taking.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot, since I read it this morning.

We’ve all heard that cliche quote “When God closes a door, He opens a window”.  This almost implies a certainty that the Lord isn’t going to shut the door to an opportunity without giving you an better one… and that it’s going to be obvious.  Closed door, open window.

When I think of that illustration, I don’t think of opportunity.  I think of escape.  We escape out of windows, we don’t just willy nilly walk through them.  They are not intended as an entrance and exit to a building.  No one would approve a building made up of entirely windows.  You can’t even get approval on a building or home with just one door and only windows.  There is a requirement for second door.  If you tell me to climb through the window, you are telling me that I am escaping… or in the terms of a teenager sneaking away.

You could argue that I am stuck on semantics, and that it implies the same meaning as saying “Where God closes one door, He’ll open another.”  Even there, there is an implication that God will not close one door without giving you an obvious exit.  I have another friend who insists that God will not call you from something until He is ready to call you to something else.

As I ponder these opinions, I realize my issue wasn’t with the details of the illustration itself.  Semantics or not.  Rather, my issue is that these cliche quotes and ideas of always having an open door neglects the times that the Lord calls us into a season of the wandering in the wilderness.  In the OT story of the Israelites wandering the desert, we know that their destination was not immediately revealed to them.  Yes, they knew that they were aiming for something; but they had no idea of when or where that would unfold.  They just kept walking.  Trusting.  And complaining a bit too.

I think that is why my friend’s words this morning were rooted into my thoughts, because this illustration seems so much more realistic.  That the Lord may close a door, may close off pathways we were not meant tread upon… because He is carving a path before us.  The other doorway may not be open yet, it may not even be visible yet. By faith, I keep walking. One step at a time.  The old door fading in the distance.

Perhaps there are times where God closes the door, and puts us on a journey that separates us from the old because He is preparing us for the new.  There may be times in our lives that we need to be severed, where our roots are pruned.  A new home is waiting for us, but in this moment we must wait.

I purchased some cuttings from a beautiful tree to plant at my home.  When they arrived, there was not a root to be seen.  You see, when you sell cuttings off of this tree… first you cut or break off the parts that you intend to grow into new trees.  Then you let them sit, not in any soil… nor are they watered.  You let them dry for a period of time, before you replant or ship them.  My instructions were then to take these dried up sticks and put them in small pots of regular dirt.  No fertilizer, no water, no direct sun.  I was to basically ignore them until I began to see leaves opening up from the top.  Only then could I put them into a larger pot and begin to care for them.

I was not neglecting these plants, but actually giving them the space to they needed to form new roots.  NEW ROOTS.

I believe there are times where the Lord will pull you from one thing without giving you a new place to go… at least not right away.  Why?  Because, He is giving you new roots… roots that are formed IN HIM only.  Not the place you serve, the ministry you lead, etc.  Instead, you are pulled out of everything that is familiar and put into His hands.  He is going to ready you in this time for whatever it is He has in store for your future.

Some roots need to be severed.

Sometimes we need new roots.

Sometimes there are no open doors.

We know that we can’t go back from where we came, but until the Lord is ready to reveal the path He is foraging… we may need to spend sometime in the waiting room.  Instead of running around trying to find out which door is unlocked, which window to escape from… we need to sit and wait.  Then in His timing, a door will open, and you will hear a voice that says “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isa 30:21)