With a title like Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, especially with the further subtitle of “Exploring God’s Radical Notion That Women Are People Too,” I expected a book that was strident and argumentative. But I was instantly won over by the welcoming and gracious, generous and vulnerable writing of Sarah Bessey.
It’s hard to know how to describe this book. Perhaps the thing that comes across most strongly is Sarah’s love for Jesus that permeates every page. Written with poetry and beauty, the book is a clarion call for women (and men) who long for freedom to step out into the fullness of their giftings and potential.
While she doesn’t gloss over the problems, Sarah encourages women to forgive and leave behind the limitations and hurts they may have experienced in a patriarchal system, and to move on into a work of healing and loving, of justice and community. Over and over again, she affirms the worth of women, commissioning them to go and heal others, to disciple and minister, to set others free. While the arguments she uses are Biblically sound and thought provoking, they are seasoned with such grace that they are somehow less confrontational and more winsome.
One of the signs that God is on the move concerning women in our generation is the number of books that are coming out on the topic. Jesus Feminist is one of those books. It’s written from a different perspective to many of the books on this topic–more personal, less combative. Well worth reading.
I’ve had the incredible privilege of being part of various moves of the Holy Spirit–most recently, the simple/organic/house church movement. Right now, I’m putting considerable thought into the topic of movements. The reason: Others have encouraged me not to just sit back after publishing The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church but to consider whether God might want to do more.
I’ve begun wondering if what is going on with women may turn out to be a move of God. I recently met with Alan and Deb Hirsch, both of whom feature in the book, and they, too, encouraged me to explore it further. My longing is certainly that men and women partner together as co-equals for the Kingdom.
My thoughts on this so far are very non-technical and only just beginning to take shape:
A movement occurs when the thoughts and actions of a group of individuals begin to impact the prevailing culture.
There are various different ways a spiritual movement begins:
- God begins to speak to different people in various places about the same thing. They find each other, and begin co-operating together. Examples would include the house church movements of both the UK and the US, both of which had a profound influence on the church culture.
- Austrian philosopher, Ivan Illich was once asked whether the best way to transform society was by revolution or reformation. His reply was, “Neither. You tell an alternative and compelling story.” Example? Luke 10:2b prayer went viral across the nations through the power of story.
- People actively engage in principles that are known to create transformation. Many church planting movements overseas are this way. There are well recognized principles to multiplying disciples and churches.
Obviously, we cannot manufacture movement. It takes a sovereign work of God. But we can co-operate with him. Many Spirit-led movements are a combination of all three of these principles.
[Other secular movements may rely on resistance. For example, Gandhi or Mandela and peaceful collective action. The civil rights movement and the LGBT movements would also be examples. The people initially involved deliberately developed strategies that changed nations.]
I have no idea if God will create a significant movement of men and women working together as co-equals, but I long that he does so. The indications are there. To me, it feels very similar to the beginning of other movements I’ve been part of.
What do you think?
If any of you are interested in hearing further developments as they arise (for example, there’s a round table happening later this month to discuss these issues further), you can sign up for email updates here. (If you’re already on the list of those praying for The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church, you’ll automatically be included.)
Floyd McClung is another contributor to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. He wrote an amazing chapter in the book about the nation-impacting women God has used throughout the world and down through history. Here’s an excerpt from his chapter:
I have had the privilege of traveling in 192 countries and have met amazing women in all walks of life. The world knows about Mother Teresa and accepts her radical impact. But what of the tens of thousand of unknown women who are silent heroes of the Kingdom? Take away their service and the the Kingdom of God become half or less of what it is today.
I estimate more than 65 percent of the mission force and leadership corps of the church worldwide is female. Serving as Bible translators and church planters, women have opened up unreached groups to the Gospel, taught men to lead and read, made disciples, trained leaders, and ignited church planting movements.Some of these same female leaders have subsequently stepped back as second-generation male leaders took charge, watching silently as men went on to take the credit for what women had actually done.
I am so grateful for the guys who have contributed to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. The fact that they are willing to stand with us means that book won’t be perceived as written by militant feminists. It’s a prophetic statement of God’s desire for women and men to partner together for the sake of the Kingdom.
Here’s a quote from Dave Ferguson.
My feelings about the issue of women in leadership began to change when my oldest daughter, Amy, started looking for colleges. Like many 18-year-olds, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to declare as a major, but student ministry was toward the top of her list of interests. So with ministry as a strong consideration, we began looking for a Christian college that would be a good fit.
I had two criteria in mind as we began our search: first, I wanted her to find a school with a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, and second, I wanted her to attend a school that would encourage her as a female leader to fulfill her God-given potential.
With each college visit, there was a growing realization that finding a school where my daughter could get solid theological education along with positive encouragement to use all of her gifts was going to be very hard. That’s when it got personal and something began to change in me. The issue of women in leadership went form being something that was theologically right, but not mission critical, to both theolotgically correct and critical for accomplishing the mission of Jesus!
It was like my eyes were opened–for the first time, I realized that 50 percent of the leaders God had gifted for this mission were not mobilized or utilized. I don’t know how I missed it before. It was like the church was trying to show off by doing everything with one hand tied behind her back! The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed. I began to look at the world through the eyes of my daughter (and other women) and saw very limited possibilities for her to use her gifts. It was suddenly personal and emotional.
As part of some correspondence, a pastor’s wife, Kathy, wrote the following. I LOVE what she says here!
My prayer is that one day, women will “champion” the men who are brave enough to come out of the “male only” leadership box.
I believe that women who are free are the ones who will be used by God to open the doors for men (and other women) — so that they walk in freedom. The slaves cannot free themselves. I am no longer enslaved by the lies of the enemy about my position in Christ.
I have permission from God– God’s Female Image is free and equal to His Male Image.
Complete freedom and peace came for me to live and minister as God’s Female Image — when the Spirit clearly revealed to me that God had opened the door and I realized satan was keeping me in bondage because I thought that my husband or “the Elders” had to give me permission to be free.
I stand on Galatians 5:1 —
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
This Easter weekend commemorates the most important event in history–the death and resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate the victory Jesus accomplished for us over sin and death and the forces of darkness.
The Easter story is also one where the role of women comes to the fore:
- A woman anointed Jesus for burial
- Women watched as Jesus died
- Women followed Joseph of Arimathea to see where Jesus was buried
- Women bought and prepared spices for his body
- Women were first to the tomb after the Sabbath
- A woman was the first person to whom Jesus revealed himself after his resurrection
- Women were entrusted with the message that Jesus had risen
Have a blessed Easter!
Photo Credit: arbyreed via Compfight cc
Sometimes my blog posts about the impact of women and men to co-laboring side by side in the Kingdom are picked up by other sites. They can attract a wealth of comments–usually favorable, sometimes disapproving of my position, and on occasion, downright antagonistic.
I’ve observed a whole continuum on gender bias. It goes something like this:
- Unashamedly misogynist: these people tell me I’m rebellious and unsubmissive and should get back in line. If God uses me, as a woman, it’s an aberration, rather like God using Balaam’s donkey (and yes, I’ve had someone tell me that!)
- Men lead; women follow: these people are sympathetic to the plight of women but believe that the role of women is always to be subservient to that of men. The overall effect is that women are marginalized.
- Certain roles are forbidden to women: women can be apostles, prophets and deacons, but the roles of elder and senior pastor are reserved for men only.
- Women can do anything. God has gifted women in many ways and their gifts can be used in any way and in any role that God directs. We see this through Biblical examples and throughout history.
- There’s no difference between men and women. Any cultural differences should be wiped out.
- Women are actually superior to men, and the opinions of men can be disregarded.
- Women have been downtrodden through the centuries and it’s payback time.
As you can see, the continuum on gender bias goes from the downright misogynist to the militant feminist. I’ve received comments that reflect all of the above.
I know which one I favor. What about you?
Photo Credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via Compfight cc
The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church is now available.