Men opening doors

What can men do to open the door for women to step out into everything God has for them?

For years, my husband, Tony, opened the door for me in every conceivable way . He included me in any speaking engagement he had. He promoted my writing. He encouraged me to voice my opinions. He knew that if he “hogged the platform,” I would never have an opportunity. He laid down his giftings that I might enter mine.

Then came the day when I began being included in my own right–not just because I’m Tony’s wife. I was asked to join a national team. I had invitations to write in my own name. I was offered speaking engagements.

It’s not about becoming a “leader” or being recognized. It’s about  women having the freedom to follow the Lord in every way he leads and calls. Most women are not going to seize their rights, so it may take a man opening the door for them. Are there men who will lay down their lives in this way?

Thank you, Tony!

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Hierarchy and discipleship

Some of our deepest theological conversations occur in our hot tub.

This past weekend was no exception. Some close missionary friends of ours who work in Asia came to stay. We always have fun  debates with them, Here’s the gist of one of our conversations that took place late at night in our jacuzzi:

Missionary: In Asia, our culture is very hierarchical. This hierarchy spills over into the church and it’s an asset to discipleship because the new believer is looking to learn from someone more experienced.

Me: God loves us enough that in his mercy he uses whatever culture we give him. But Jesus spoke against hierarchy. He said, “You know how the rulers of this world function (hierarchy). But it must not be so amongst you.”

Missionary: In the West, we are so individualistic and egalitarian. But that is not Scriptural either. In Asia, we are more communally and society minded. Because in English, it’s impossible to tell the difference between you singular and you plural, we miss the fact that much of the New Testament is addressed to groups.

Me: Neither hierarchy nor egalitarianism are Scriptural. Jesus spoke about and modeled something different–closer to an upside down hierarchy, Servanthood. We lay down our lives for others that they might grow.

What is your opinion on this? How do we best disciple others–using a teacher/pupil (hierarchical) model, as peers (egalitarian), or as servants? Does it depend on the culture we live in?

A fashionable fad

Several years ago, in our book The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church, I wrote a chapter on some of the potential pitfalls the house church movement might face as it became “fashionable.” Here’s what I said:

Another hazard is that of becoming fashionable, the latest phenomenon in church statistics, the trendy alternative to traditional church. There will always be people who hop onto the bandwagon because they want to be part of the latest thing, not because the Holy Spirit is leading them. But those who join the simple church movement without truly understanding and living out its DNA will soon find that what they have is only a pale substitute for the real thing.

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I believe we have seen this come to pass over the past few years. Many people started groups outside the four walls of the sacred building in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit, often working with those who didn’t know the Lord. But as “house church” became a buzz word, others became involved because they wanted to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing. Churches changed their home groups to house churches without changing anything more than the name. For some it seemed a good idea and a way to escape the tedium of the status quo. So they did what they’ve always known in terms of meetings, but exchanged the pew for a sofa.

Some of the incredible growth we have seen (The Pew Forum reckons that 9% of Protestants “attend religious services” in homes) is due to this phenomenon. That phase is coming to an end. Those groups that only changed their name will either die,  join the next fad, or, hopefully, seek the Lord to change them. House/simple/organic church is now mainstream and I don’t think that will change, but what emerges over the next few years may be a truer reflection of what God is doing through this movement.

Just my two cents worth as I look back on the incredible things God has done. What do you think?

Learning from Florence Nightingale

“I would have given her [the Church] my head, my hand, my heart. She would not have them. She did not know what to do with them. She told me to go back and do crochet in my mother’s drawing-room; or if I were tired of that, to marry and look well at the head of my
husband’s table. ‘You may go to the Sunday School if you like it,’ she said. But she gave me no training even for that. She gave me neither work to do for her, nor education for it.”  Florence Nightingale in a letter to Dean Stanley, 1852.

Florence Nightingale, “the Lady with the Lamp,” was the founder of modern nursing.

The world was the richer for her decision to devote her life to serving others through the nursing profession, but the church was undoubtedly the poorer.

The church misses out when women are not allowed to use their God-given gifts.

 

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How I want to cross the finish line

Many people, as they get older, settle back into a life of quiet retirement, enjoying the fruits of their years of labor. They are content to relax, to sit back and savor life.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I want.

I don’t want to drag myself across the finish line of this life. When that line comes in view in the distance, I want to break into a sprint, flinging myself wholeheartedly into everything God has for me right up until my last breath, even if the only thing I’m physically able to do is intercede for others. I want to finish well.

And as I cross the finish line, I’ll hear the angelic cheers…

(Remind me of that as I get older!)

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Two ways past culture affects women today

In my last post I shared a very funny video–but with an underlying message that affects women in the church today.

For the past few centuries, women have been perceived as having one of two roles (and yes, I know that this isn’t true for those brought up in poverty). But here is what secular culture generally dictated:

  1. Like the video suggests, women are to be mere reflections of their husbands, uninterested in “important” things such as finance, politics or religion. They enhance their husband’s reputations by looking pretty and acting according to convention. They spend their time in fripperies and trivia (I like little kittens). Their opinions are considered uninformed and unimportant.
  2. A woman’s place is in the home. She runs a good household, brings up her children well, engages (if there is time) in wholesome social/church activities. Her concerns are entirely wrapped up in the running of her household. Her opinion on “important” issues outside the home is irrelevant.

These secular views still impact the role of women in the church today. I remember well one of the first women’s conferences I attended in this country. One evening, we painted each other’s nails! Yuk! I hope I’m not treading on anyone’s toes here (pun intended) but to me it seemed a parody, a caricature of women’s ministry, a waste of God-given talent and time.

Many still believe that a woman has no role of relevance outside the home. A woman working outside the home is a necessary evil. A woman should not hold a position of strategic authority in the church (for a treatment of the Scriptures that seem to imply this, check out a series of posts beginning here.)

The Proverbs 31 woman not only ran her household well–she ran a thriving business. Deborah led a nation. Esther saved a nation.

Society today has thankfully changed. But some of these old cultural conventions still linger on.

Let’s get rid of our cultural handicaps.

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An unspoken rule

There’s a (mostly) unspoken rule in Christianity. It goes something like this: God only uses a woman when a man is not available.

It’s a convenient rule because it allows women on the mission field to do things that women are not allowed to do here at home.

Does this seem strange to anyone else?

 

Women and the harvest

According to Jesus, if there’s a lack of harvest, it’s not because the harvest is especially difficult, it’s due to lack of workers.

The harvest is great but the laborers are few. (Luke 10:2)

Jesus’ solution? We pray for workers for the harvest. These workers are not only existing Christians, but also those who don’t yet know the Lord. However, in the church, we often sideline half the workers for the harvest—the female half. Their engagement in the harvest is limited to inviting their friends to attend church with them. (I recognize this is often true for the men too.)

If we truly want to see great harvest, then women need to take on roles usually assigned to men. They need to make disciples and baptize them, to teach and train, to start churches, to give Communion, to strategize and plan for the harvest.