International Women's Day 2019

I posted the shorter version of this before. Here is my full statement. Thinking a lot about this today.

iStock-1072437676.jpg

My vision is to see women invited to and placed within the local church in roles of spiritual leadership, that they would serve equally and mutually with their brothers and sisters, prayerfully shepherding and leading the local body of Christ in every corner of the world.

I pray that the rule, rather than the exception, would be local church leadership shared among men and women, each offering their gifts and living out their callings, leading well, together, to see the Great Commandment lived out and the Great Commission accomplished.

I believe the Church will be strengthened when the most gifted, the most talented, and the most influential women are invited and encouraged to serve within the local church setting, rather than be nudged or pushed outside the local church due to lack of opportunity. I pray we would educate and promote the best and brightest, that they might have leadership positions and teaching spaces to live out their anointing.

Setting aside gender expectations and cultural norms, it is my heart to see women of every generation significantly contributing to the local church in real and impactful ways at every level. That their voice would be welcomed and their presence included.  I ask for the local church to lay a foundation of God-given worth and unrelenting purpose in little girls, to give ministry opportunities to young women that they may serve and shine, and to make space at the leadership table for the wisest and most experienced women among us, side by side with the wisest of men.

This can be done and it must be done.  The change that is needed won’t happen all in one day, but it won’t happen at all if we do not take intentional steps to make things right, to make things how they need to be.  Some would say that this vision is detrimental to the Church and a compromise of biblical principles. They would say it bows down to progressive thinking and caves in to the current popular culture. I beg to differ. The truth is this: by moving forward and including women in spiritual leadership, we will actually be getting back to what God intended all along. More often than not, conservative churches are focused on Scriptural passages that prohibit women from leadership and teaching. All the while, Scripture also talks about women who were spiritual leaders and teachers. People like to say that these women were “exceptions.”  But, they are wrong; it is their preferred passages that are the exceptions. 

How can we accomplish this vision?

Let women grace the platform on a Sunday morning, at big church events, and wherever most people are gathered. Don’t hide her. Don’t keep her in the background. Don’t exclude her. If you have women who function as leaders and shepherds and lead teachers, let them be part of church-wide gatherings so that the congregation can actually see them and know them. Publicly demonstrate unity among the leadership; be an example of how men and women can work and serve together.

Let her be a spiritual voice. If she is a church leader with a passionate and excellent teaching gift, let her speak. Let her voice be heard. Not as the greeting or an announcement, or even a throw-away prayer that you don’t care who says it. Consider what is most important and most valued in your church service and let her do it. Give her a real role. Let her breathe life into the people of God via the Holy Spirit that is in her.  Better yet, go beyond giving a woman a role when a substitute is needed; let her serve and speak from the platform while other leaders are present.

Let her have a seat at the leadership table. Don’t just ask her to fill out an email survey to give her opinion. Don’t simply solicit her thoughts in the hallway. Give her a chair next to yours to speak her thoughts directly, eye to eye. Let her be part of haggling things out. Don’t act like she doesn’t understand or know what to do with pressure or tension.  She can handle it and thrive in it. Let her be a visionary, a problem solver and strategic thinker. If the meeting is in her area of expertise, let her lead it. 

I am challenging us to a mindful and prayerful pursuit of the life-giving community God intended for all people to belong to and experience. We don’t need female tokens. We don’t need to fill quotas.  Faking this vision will not work. We must push against patriarchal norms and obsession with hierarchy so that the Oneness that is the true passion of our God will prevail in our relationships and in His Church.

As we do this, we cannot ignore the past. We must recognize those who have been wronged and hurt by our misinformed views. With true humility we must reach out to women who have been dismissed and extend a hand to those who have been alienated. Women who have been wounded must be acknowledged and honored with whatever is needed to initiate healing. With a gentleness and a fierceness we must do whatever we can to love each one back, offering them a place to belong and flourish. We will no longer as men and women perpetuate the desire for power and control that put women in this predicament in the first place.  We are not looking to create new power structures or new boxes. We are pursuing the all-embracing, all-inclusive, immeasurable freedom that Christ has given his followers. I pray we would experience this freedom at the deepest level within ourselves and that our shared freedom would be evidence of the living, body of Christ we are to be, here on earth and always.