Chronicling 40: Day 67 of 365

If you are just coming into the conversation, or returning after a break away, my Chronicling 40 series has taken a new direction.  40 has brought new clarity for me, in regard to my calling, and focused my attention for the time being on the difference between being a Deborah and a Jezebel.   So, this is what you just walked into…

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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.

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Chronicling 40: Day 66 of 365

DebTree

We left off yesterday with some questions to explore:

Why Deborah?  I’ve heard that the only reason Deborah was selected as a judge was because there were not suitable men.  This is not seen in this portion of scripture.  We need to find out where this idea was birthed.  Is it supported in the scripture?

Why the Various Roles?  Deborah is listed as a prophet, leader of Israel, and a judge.  What are the differences between each of these positions?  Where do they overlap, and if/why this matters?

Why the Order?  I noticed that Deborah’s role as a Prophet was listed first, even before her role as a wife.  When we, as women, are constantly told that our marriage/family is our first and most important calling… I think this order is very interesting.  Is this significant, that she was listed as a Prophet before wife?  I want to explore this question.

Who Was Deborah:

Through various translations and study Bibles, Deborah was noted as a:

  • Prophet
  • Wife
  • Judge
  • Leader of Israel

Deborah the Woman:

What is very interesting is when I looked into the Interlinear Bible (which includes original Hebrew) Deborah was specifically identified as a “woman” in this position.

“And Debora a woman, a prophetess Lapidoth’s wife, she (was) judging Israel at that time.  and she (was) living under the Palm Tree of Deborah, between Ramah and between Bethel in the hills of Ephraim; and went up to her the sons of Israel for judgment.”

~Interlinear Hebrew to English translation of Judges 4:4-5

In my research, I couldn’t find any specific reason for including the given fact that Deborah was a woman.  As you read the rest of her introduction, the gender of Deborah seems pretty obvious.  Yet, when we are introduced to the judges before/after… not a single one includes the description “a man”.  Therefore, I believe that this was intentional to make sure with 100% certainty that Deborah’s full identity was clear.  Most likely because it was not common for a woman to be seated in this position of authority, and that makes her gender an important fact in the story.

Where Were the Leading Men?

A chief argument about Deborah’s role in leadership is that there were no other men willing or able to lead.  But, where is this found in the scriptures?  Leading up to Deborah what we see is a repetition of behavior.  Israel did evil in the eyes of God, they were delivered into the hands of their enemy, Israel would cry out, God would raise up a judge to lead Israel, while the judge lived things were good, and once the judge died Israel would again do evil in the eyes of God.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  It was a habit.

Before and after Deborah, there were men who were leading.  So what happened during this time that would bring God to raise up a woman as a judge?

There is literally not one piece of scripture before or including Judges 4 that states there were no men available to lead.  Judges 5 gets a bit trickier.  Depending on the translation it can read that there were no willing men, the town where Deborah was had been deserted (in other words there were no men at all), and then that there were no men willing to fight.  This last translation is the kicker, because when Deborah was acting as a judge for the men in Israel that was not a military position.  She was handling disputes, providing wisdom, and sharing the direct Word of God as a Prophetess.  

If the first two translation suggestions (no willing men, no men at all) is accurate, you can argue that this is the basis of the belief that Deborah led because no man was willing to.  On the other hand, if the latter translation is accurate… no men willing to fight… then you could argue that this had nothing to do with Deborah’s call into leadership and instead was a reference to the lack of a willingness to fight their enemy before Deborah was called as a judge.  So, once again, let’s look at what the Interlinear Hebrew translation tells us about this verse in Chapter 5:

“The leaders in Israel they ceased until I arose, Deborah, I arose a mother in Israel they chose new gods then war was at the gates!  A shield if one was seen, or a spear among forty thousand in Israel.  My heart (went out) to the lawgivers of Israel (who) volunteered among the people. Bless Jehovah!

~Interlinear Hebrew to English translation of Judges 5:7-8

This scripture, seems to point to the repetition of Israel’s history… do evil, handed over to enemy, call out for help, God raises a judge, the judge restores order.  Until that time, that Deborah was called, no one was standing up against their enemy.  Israel cried out for God to deliver them, He raised up a judge (Deborah).  Once the correct leader was in place, the people fell into place to make the advancement against their foe. 

It’s also interesting that we don’t see any mention in Judges that anyone stood in opposition to Deborah as a judge.  If her being raised to this position was in contradiction to God, wouldn’t someone have stood against her?  Or, wouldn’t some reasoning be given to explain Deborah’s calling?  Instead, we see a people willing to come to Deborah as a judge, Barak’s insistence on her coming with him, and in Chapter 5 we see that others stood with Deborah as well.

Another argument against Deborah is that in the scriptures it states that God raised up each of the male judges.  In the introduction of Deborah in Chapter 4, it is not specifically said that God raised her up.  However, this opinion is made void in Chapter 5:7 when it is written that things changed for Israel when Deborah arose.

My final argument against the “there were no men” position is simply that God is a creator God, who has a history of taking the unwilling and least likely people and making them a leader.  Moses was unwilling at first, giving excuses as why he couldn’t lead Israel out of Egypt.   God can also raise anyone He chooses from the dead.  Therefore, if God wanted a male leader… a male judge… He could have done so by calling and equipping any of the men in the area or raising up a man from the grave to do so. 

This idea that there were simply no men, and that is why God broke from the rules, seems to put God in a box that makes sense to the human mind… when we try to justify something that doesn’t fit our belief/position.  I believe that in this instance it was not that Deborah was the only option, rather she was the right/best option because she was God’s chosen for this position.  Additionally, the willingness of the men to come to her for judgement and to advance under her direction against their enemy reveals a willingness to follow her lead.  Deborah wasn’t the last or only choice.  She wasn’t a usurper.  Deborah was raised as a judge by God for this time and purpose.

The Many Roles of Deborah:

Deborah was listed specifically as a woman, a prophetess, a wife, a judge, and a leader.  There are some who believe that some of these titles are intertwined.  That to be a judge means to be a leader, or that because of the time period wife and woman were expressed by the same word and it could go either way in the translation. 

  1.  In the interlinear Hebrew translation, Deborah is referred to as a woman, and then a wife of Lapidoth.  It would make no sense for the author of this introduction to describe Deborah as a wife, then a wife of Lapidoth (a person).  Nor would it make sense to describe her as a woman, then a woman of Lapidoth (a city, place).  If the word is used twice, especially in a single sentence, what makes the most sense?  That she is either a wife and a woman of Lapidoth, or she is a woman and the wife of Lapidoth.  Considering the time period, what makes the most logical sense is that she is in fact the wife of a person named Lapidoth.
  2. In the interlinear Hebrew translation, Deborah was not defined as a judge and as a leader.  This would support that in this case judge and leader could be exchanged for one another at any given time.  They were not seen as distinctly different jobs.  We will spend time exploring this role in more depth Tuesday.

I believe we can be confident in the assumption that Deborah was a woman, and she was a wife.  And, that her role as judge could also be the role of leader.  Translations that use either independently are accurate; and I think those that use both do so to clarify the role she had. 

A more accurate view of her roles would be:  woman, Prophetess, wife, and judge (leader) of Israel.

The Order of Things:

We continually point to God being of order not chaos.  We refer to the creation order, how the marriage was ordered, how the leadership of Israel was ordered, etc.  God loves order.  Therefore, I believe that the order in the introduction of Deborah is very intentional.  Her role as Prophetess trumped her role as judge.  When we learn about Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament, we are given the list of gifts and then later how those gifts can be used in the body.  Prophecy is listed as a Spiritual Gift in Romans 12:6-8, and I contend that in this instance Prophecy was her gift, and Judge was the position in which she would use the gift.

If I am correct in that contention, this would also make sense as to why Deborah was listed as a woman, then the wife of Lapodith.  To be a wife, one must first be a woman. Now that brings us to the crux of this thought process because Deborah was described as a Prophetess before she was listed as a wife. If the order is important, what does this say about our position as women when it comes to calling?

We are often told that as women our first calling is to our marriage and our children.  If in fact Deborah was married to a man named Lapodith, it is possible she had children.  Those who have wrestled with the scriptures where Deborah is referred to as a “mother” are not one hundred percent certain if she was an actual mother or if this was figurative to her being a woman leading Israel.

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?

Tomorrow, we will explore these two points.  How do we know when order is or isn’t significant?  What do we know culturally about how people were introduced in letters, stories?  What can we observe in the scriptures about how people were introduced (we’ll look at the other judges, as well as other key people in the Scriptures).   Then we will look at the implications of what we discover.

Texts Used Today: 

The Interlinear Bible (Hebrew, Greek, English) edited & translated by Jay P Green, Sr.

The Zondervan Study Bible (NIV) edited by D.A. Carson

the Study Bible for Women (HCSB) edited by Dorothy Kelley Patterson

NIV LifeConnect Study Bible edited by Wayne Cordeiro

Deborah: The Woman God Uses , article on Bible.org

Christian Standard Bible

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 65 of 365

How Do the Scriptures Speak of Deborah?

It is incredible how valuable Deborah is to the conversation about women in leadership, when such little is actually written about her in the Scriptures.  We are going to look at Judges 4 and 5.

As we look ahead of those 2 chapters, from the book of Judges, we see no previous mentioning of Deborah.  We do know that the judges handled disputes, and that when a judge would die the Lord would raise up a new judge.  Up until the 4th chapter, male judges were listed, then suddenly enters Deborah…

Judges4.png

Who Was Deborah:

  1.  Judges 4:4 lists Deborah as a prophet, a wife to Lappidoth, and leader of Israel.
  2.  Judges 4:5 explains that Deborah held court, and the Israelites came to her to settle disputes.
  3.  Judges 4:8 gives us a glimpse into how others viewed Deborah, she was so revered and seen as someone with God’s favor.  So much so, that once Deborah shared with Barak the Lord’s command… Barak agreed to go only if Deborah went with him.  In verse 9, Deborah makes sure that Barak understands that due to his lack of confidence in the Lord … the victory would be at the hands of a woman.
  4.  In verse 14, we see that Deborah gave the marching orders to Barak.

My Questions:

Why Deborah?  I’ve heard that the only reason Deborah was selected as a judge was because there were not suitable men.  This is not seen in this portion of scripture.  We need to find out where this idea was birthed.  Is it supported in the scripture.

Why the Order?  I noticed that Deborah’s role as a Prophet was listed first, even before her role as a wife.  When we, as women, are constantly told that our marriage/family is our first and most important calling… I think this order is very interesting.  Is this significant, that she was listed as a Prophet before wife?  I want to explore this question.

Why the Various Roles?  Deborah is listed as a prophet, leader of Israel, and a judge.  What are the differences between each of these positions?  Where do they overlap, and if/why this matters?

Judges Chapter 5:

Judges5

The Unwilling Men:

In Judges 5, we see the first mentioning of the unwilling me.  However, this piece of scripture doesn’t relate to there being no willing or capable men for leading Israel or sitting as a judge.  It specifically mentions an unwillingness to fight, which I see as a direct reflection on Judges 4:8,9 where Barak was unwilling to go into battle unless Deborah went with him.

As we begin to answer the questions I mentioned prior to the excerpt from Chapter 5, I think we are going to need to keep this piece of scripture in our pocket.  As we discern if there is (or is not) a difference between prophet, leader, and judge this (5:7) could be very important.

Tomorrow, we will set forward to answer these first questions.

 

Chronicling 40: Day 62 of 365

ambitiouswoman

A friend of mine posed the question “what is a godly, Christian, ambitious woman?”.  My answer:

“A woman, with Kingdom sized dreams even with mustard seed sized faith; who runs the race the Lord has laid.  She endures the journey, even with a thorn in her side, as she pursues His Will; all the while giving the Glory to God.”

~Gena McCown

Ambition is not always talked about kindly, especially when it comes to women… and even more so in the church.  However, there is a difference between “selfish ambition” and “godly ambition”.

What Does the Scripture Say:

In the Scriptures we learn of a business owner who makes goods and sells them to the merchants in the town.  With the earnings from this business, a vineyard is purchased.  As we read the description of this business owner, we learn that this is a person of very noble character, worthy of being praised, and valued more than rubies.  We are reading about the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Ambition is not always bad, in fact in and of it’s self … what really is ambition but to get from one place to another.  It is the heart that is really what determines the type of ambition.

Selfish Ambition in Rooted in Sin

Selfish ambition is all about me, what I can get, what I can achieve, and pretty much at any cost.  Selfish ambition is rooted in sin.  When my ambitions are motivated by pride, greed, jealousy, etc. then I know I am out of alignment with God’s will.  I am doing this for myself and my own gains.  Regardless of how successful I am in this pursuit, I will never get the full blessing and I will never find peace in what I have attained.  In fact, most who have selfish ambition continue to push for more.  Nothing is ever enough.

Selfish ambition is a usurping ambition, it takes what doesn’t belong to it (yet, or if ever).  It relies on self.  My achievements are done in my time, in my strength, in my way or the highway.  Selfish ambition doesn’t care who gets hurt along the way, and sometimes causes pain intentionally.  Selfish ambition puts my wants and desires above all else.

Godly Ambition is Rooted in My Father’s Business

Godly ambition is where our hearts are revealing the Fruit of the Spirit.  What drives my ambitions is my Father’s business.  The Proverbs 31 Woman wasn’t just selling her goods and buying a vineyard just so she could have more.  No, this was a woman of character.  She tended to her family and home, taking care of their needs.  She was a woman who employed others to work for her, providing them income and possibly shelter and hot meals each day under her care.  She was a good steward of the blessings the Lord gave her, and she opened her arms to the poor in spirit.  She spoke with wisdom and reverence of the Lord. 

Godly ambition is not usurping but life giving.  It is not taking away from others, but giving more to the world.  The Proverbs 31 Woman was a woman who was taking care of her Father’s business, she was a Kingdom worker.  Her ambitions were not motivated by sin, but instead by God’s will.

How Do I Know the Difference?

If you are wondering if your ambitions are driven by “selfishness” or “godliness”, ask the following questions of yourself:

  1. Is any part of my dream or goal in direct conflict with the Scriptures?
  2. Does pursuing my dream or goal cause me to compromise myself, or cause my sister to stumble, in order to achieve that next step?
  3. Do I have trusted counsel to hold me accountable, and speak the Truth into my actions… even if it is hard to hear.
  4. Am I bathing my ambition in prayer, and do I have others praying for/with me to keep in God’s will as I pursue my calling?
  5. Do my ambitions produce good, lost lasting, beneficial fruit or is my fruit temporary and tainted with pride, greed, jealousy, etc.?
  6.  Am I willing to walk away from this dream/goal should the Lord ask me to give it all up and follow Him on a new path?

How you answer these questions will reveal where your ambition has it’s foundation.  At the root of a sinful heart, or at the base of a righteous cross.

Chronicling 40: Day 60 of 365

onlyonedoor.png

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 58 of 365

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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?