Occasionally, I get a comment on my blog that is so important, it’s worth creating a guest post so others read it. The story that Larry tells of how he came to change his mind about women in ministry is outstanding.
Larry Bennett is an experienced mission’s trainer to developing world pastors and leaders. He has conducted and directed training in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the USA. Larry is director of New Dimensions International in Ellijay, GA. He has a passion for church planting and believes that aggressive and rapid multiplication of churches will be the end-time method of fulfilling the great commission in our lifetime.
Coming from a conservative Baptist background my view of women in major leadership roles, such as pastor or evangelist was not something acceptable. We clearly clung to the “women keep silent” passage. I saw no light theologically to change my mind. Besides it has been that way for hundreds of years. My mind was closed to the subject and anyone offering any scriptural proof was ignored by me.
However, a funny thing happened when I left the pastorate and started training church planters in third and developing world countries. I began to observe that some of the most successful church planters in NE India and throughout all of Asia were women. Now this really messed with my theological model. How could this be if women were suppose to keep silent in the church?
When I related this to my peers in the States, they said, “God had to use a woman because there were not any men available.” That just didn’t make sense, even to a prejudiced preacher like me. There were plenty of men available to be used by God.
Had I been wrong about the role of women?
So then I began to search the scripture and read as much as I could regarding the subject. I didn’t find much published information, but I did find in Scripture that God has always used women in major leadership roles. As a church planter I observed one of the most obvious roles was that of Priscilla in the New Testament..
Whats my point? I learned the value of women in leadership in a practical way, in the field. My real world experience broke down my prejudicial barriers when theological arguments couldn’t budge my ignorance. And I must say, it has been a freeing revelation. To see and to know that God is just as active in using committed women as He is to using committed men is an exciting thing. Besides, I believe “more hands on the rope, steadier the pull”.
One other story that convinced me that God indeed has chosen to use women involved a training session in India. It was our first attempt to introduce Chronological Storying. I had a daunting task of training four language groups in the same room at the same time. One of people groups represented were from the unreached Maithili tribe. Among the group of church planters was a tall, rough looking woman who had recently been released from prison for drug running. While in prison she had come to know Christ and had experienced the touch of God.
We explained to the church planters that we were going to learn the Bible stories chronologically, beginning with Genesis and eventually ending at the stories surrounding the Cross. I told them not to get discouraged and not to expect much in the way of evangelism because they were setting the stage for presenting the gospel. The plan was to teach 10 Bible stories each quarter. The church planter would go out and tell the stories and then come back for 10 more stories next quarter. They would continue this process until they completed the full set of stories.
When a new story was presented, the church planter was asked to learn to tell the story, compose a song for the story and then, with a small group, develop a drama related to the story. I was enamored by the tall Maithili lady and watched how she was intently focusing on learning the stories. As I watched her practice her story, I thought, “How will the Lord use this woman, especially since she will be so rejected because of her background and because she is a woman? She is such a baby believer, who will believe her when she goes into the villages?”
Three months later the group came back to learn the second set of stories. We surveyed the group just to see how the stories were received in the villages. The tall Maithili lady stood and reported that she had led 200 people to the Lord and planted 10 new house churches, all from telling 10 stories in Genesis. Even though other church planters had good results, no one came close to her numbers. In the following year she continued to be greatly used of the Lord.
The Lord taught me two things from that experience. Women will be a key player in the next great harvest of souls. Secondly, the Word of God is the cultural key that unlocks the heart, not just good missiology. Because Jesus, in typology, is presented throughout Genesis, the bridge to the cross was made possible.
Felicity, your book is important to publish, especially since it is coming from those of different backgrounds. The church needs this book, I will be praying for the Lord to greatly use the book for His glory.