Have you ever made a professor so mad they cried? I have. At the time I thought he was weak and incapable of defending the very things he was teaching. At the time I found this utterly preposterous. But even more preposterous than a man not knowing how to defend his teaching was his teaching that a woman could teach at all in the Church. At the time I was a flaming fundamentalist and arrogant ass.
When my professor set out to teach his New Testament class that day by presenting his case for women in roles of leadership and teaching within the Church, I quickly brought him to the well known verses that refute such ideas. The two of us had argued for the better part of the class when suddenly he burst into tears, “revealing his inability to articulate or defend his position.” The conversation awkwardly ended.
Fast forward to this day and there is a high probability, if you were to join us at Hill City Church, you would hear a message from one of the most dynamic young woman teachers and leaders the Church has to offer. Hai-In is an elder of the church “I” planted, has been on the teaching team since our public launch, and leads our discipleship journey. She taught/preached the second Sunday of our launch. And I have told her and others many times that if I were to leave today she would take the reigns.
Hai-In is not alone though. Hill City is blessed to have several other women in the leadership pipeline who are or will soon begin teaching, preaching and leading within their passions and skill sets. One of our missional communities is led by two women. They actively lead, teach, and disciple their whole community.
So what happened?
During my senior year of college and later in seminary, I came across several women who helped transform my thinking. Hannah, Kara, Christine, Laura, Rebecca, and others unknowingly sparked a passion within me to create spaces and on ramps for women to do what they were created to do, especially in the realm of ministry. But before this took place their friendship began changing my perspectives.
Recent blogs by Tara Beth over at Missio Alliance (Women, Keep On Preaching On and Dear Bill Hybels and Other Men...) have brought these experiences back to the surface as I've reflected on her wonderful words. I want to be clear that it is my personal belief that women do not need to prove anything. My story and the experiences they entail are simply my own, but these are some of the relational experiences that converted me from a flaming fundamentalist and arrogant ass into an empowering male co-leader. I hope these words encourage women to “keep on keepin’ on” (to use similar words to Tara). I believe these are things you are already doing.
If you have men like my unredeemed self in your way, here are a few ways you may be able to help changes their views:
1. Share Your Passion When someone is excited about something they cannot help but talk about it. What do your conversations suggest you are excited about? When I met Christine, she was a 17-year-old girl who wanted to spend her life in missions. She loved Jesus and wanted to devote herself to him by serving his underprivileged people in foreign worlds. Her passion and desire impressed me. Very few of the guys I was studying to be pastors with had the enthusiasm my friend had towards missions. Instead of suggesting that she needed to be in a subservient role in missions, I unconsciously began praying she would receive the opportunities to live out her vision. Her zeal was contagious. I wanted her to succeed!
Articulating your passions inspires me to pray for you to succeed!
2. Start Now The one thing I would not deny, even in my arrogant years, was fruit. Christine and Hannah both assisted me in youth ministry, but this was not their long term goal or desire. Even so, they each came in with a willingness and expectation to participate leading youth to the heart of Jesus. Seeing them in action was inspiring and watching them exercise their gifts made me a believer. I couldn’t deny their passion and now I couldn’t deny their ability. Fruit was coming. Christine is currently heading to the mission field while Hannah is co-pastoring a church!
Begin exercising your skills now. Start small. I’m not suggesting youth ministry is a “small start,” but it was not their long-term goal. Take the opportunities the Lord puts before you and allow others to see you come alive. Allow them to see the fruit of the gifting God has given you. Jesus is always talking about fruit. Good fruit cannot come from a bad tree. Girl, do your thing! Cultivate the soil, plant the seed, water the seed, prune the tree, and let the fruit grow wherever you get the chance.
3. Devote Yourself to Study Those with a passion want to know that which they are passionate about. I'm not suggesting here that you need to study harder than the boys to prove yourself. Study Scripture because you want to know God. Study theology because you want to know God. Study the history of the Church because you love the Church. Study culture and listen to the Spirit's activity in our world because you have not just been called but are also being sent.
Hannah and Kara were two of the smartest women I knew in college. I would often ask them what they had been reading or what Kara's research topic was for OT Theology because I knew they poured their passion for Jesus into their studies. There was always a hint of excitement and confidence in their voice as they spoke about their studies. Excitement and confidence is contagious. What I later realized is that I was subconsciously asking them to teach me. These women knew their stuff! Why not ask them what they know?
While in seminary I went to an academic conference at Duke with a group of students. On the car ride to the conference I was able to listen to the research interests of Laura and Rebecca. During school I always felt a sense of responsibility towards my future congregations, so my studies included a sense of strong passion and high responsibility. I remember leaving that Duke trip thinking I've never met anyone as passionate as these two women in regards to their studies. These women did not just have a responsibility to learn--I really sensed they now had a responsibility to teach what they were learning. It was no longer whether or not they could teach. Why should all that passion and knowledge go to waste?
4. Tell Stories of Those Who Have Gone Before You During seminary my views really began changing. I became content with a woman teaching as long as they did so under the "covering" of a male leader. I was explaining this to Laura one day at lunch when she gave me a short history lesson on all the women who led ministries without male covering and the success they had. This challenged me to fact check her sources. My research led me to write a paper on the enormous influence women had on the history of the Pentecostal movement, which is now the fastest growing global movement in the Church.
Many churches and ministries and lives have been established by pioneering women. Women have played a vital role in missions around the world. And they also served in every capacity in the New Testament! They served as apostles, prophets, evangelists, leaders of house churches, business owners, deacons, and teachers. There ARE many, many, many unsung heroes and untold stories of women's places in the history of the Church. Find those who motivate and challenge you. Learn their story and tell it to the world. Here's a quick list to get you started:
- Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922)
- Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944)
- Jo Saxton (Church Planter in Minneapolis, speaker, author)
5. Clarify Your Vision People are inspired by passion, but they respond to vision. What has God called you to do? Where has he called you to do it? What gifts, tools, insight, experience, and/or wisdom has he given you for this particular calling? How do you plan to effectively carry this out? How will this benefit the Kingdom? The Church? The local community? Have other people done anything similar as a model for others to check out?
I talk with many people who just want to be pastors. The problem is that this word or title means different things to different people. For dumb I mean some people, when they hear a woman wants to be a pastor, they simply hear, "This woman wants to be in charge." Unfortunately, this is what A LOT of men are really saying when they say they want to be the pastor, but they don't receive the same flack. For that I'm sorry. You have every right to lead and be in charge.
By clarifying your vision and expressing your passion, this hurdle can more easily be overcome (for some). Very few people can listen to Hai-In’s vision for the Church and discipleship without getting inspired. I’ve seen her put many men (and women) in awe. Once she took the dry erase marker from a man who was attempting to explain the journey of discipleship. She asked him if she could help clarify what he was saying. That’s pretty bold! But the guy and the rest of the room were quite grateful. In fact, the guy came up to me afterwards and told me that this girl needs to preach. I happily told him that she does :). She was capable of doing this because she is confident in her vision for discipleship.
Something to Consider: Pioneer Your Vision Many of the pastors who still enjoy their ministry have planted churches. I realize that not every leader in the Church is called to plant a church, but I am amazed by how few women have ever even imagined this possibility. God has given you both passion and a vision. Why not gather a team of like minded persons and move out to live out the vision together? There are many great resources and networks available to equip and walk with you. The V3 Movement would love to hear from you, I'm sure.
A female friend of mine was a little intimidated by this suggestion while reviewing this post. She said that when she read this, it was kind of like asking, “Why not consider building a rocket and travelling to Mars and planting a church there?" The remark made me laugh, and I know it's a daunting idea, but maybe the turmoil you have gone through to this point has in fact made you uniquely prepared for such a task. Feel free to contact me if the idea interests you. Also, check out Linda Bergquist. She’s been planting churches for 30 years!
A Word of Advice: Create a Supportive Environment I know you are beyond frustrated and hurt by men and women who seek to deny your calling. Your wounds are deep and painful because often times those closest to you, those you have considered mentors, and persons you have great respect for are the first or fiercest persons standing in your way. You have every right to kick, scream, and cry. And I am not suggesting you don't. I am simply suggesting that you do so in a supportive environment and in a constructive way. There are many good people in this world but there a few more mean people who would rather see your burst of rage as proof that you are not fit to lead. This is a double standard that needs to be broken. I’m praying we can break it together!
Creating a supportive environment will give you strength and wisdom to overcome your obstacles. Find a friend, mentor, fellow pastor, or counselor/therapist to walk through your past and present pains. Seek out some of the amazing blogging women who share a similar history. My friend Jory Micah is amazing and is a great example of how to handle your frustrations constructively. I know she would welcome your emails. Also, consider joining Biblical Christian Egalitarians facebook group. They are a passionate and compassionate group of women and men seeking biblical equality.
Conclusion: Understanding the Tears This is my story as a former complementarian. I now understand the tears of my professor were not tears of frustration for not being able to defend himself. The tears and pain he was expressing were for the women that are continuously harmed by views I shared that day in class. For that I am sorry. I ask each of you for forgiveness.
These experiences have made me a full-fledged convert, and this is my journey. There have been many more women and stories that have helped renew my perspectives on women in ministry. I share these because these women unknowingly redeemed my view of all women in regards to the Church. So keep on keepin’ on! Be courageous, live and speak your vision boldly to anyone and everyone who will listen. You can and will change minds and lives.
Girl, go do your thing!