Women and revivals

The temperature was -13 degrees. The church hostel where we were staying was unheated because there were so few visitors in January, and despite wearing several layers of clothing, we couldn’t get warm. It was 1983. Tony, my husband, and I were in Seoul, South Korea to visit the Yoido Full Gospel Church led by Dr. Paul (David) Yonggi Cho— the largest church in the world.

One day, in an effort to get warm, we headed over to the church’s administration building. As we wandered along the hallways between the various offices, someone approached us.

“Would you like an interview with Dr. Cho?”

Much to our surprise, we were ushered into Dr. Cho’s office and had a twenty-minute conversation with him. He said many things to us about the nature of revival and the crucial importance of prayer, but the one thing that has most stood out over the years is this.

“You in the West will never see a move of God until you use your women.”

Prayer is key to the extraordinary growth they have seen in Korea. But women have also played a vital role. Yoido Full Gospel Church began in the home of Choi Ja-shil (who later became Cho’s mother-in-law) in 1958. As the church grew, Cho took on more and more responsibilities until he became exhausted and ill. At this point God challenged him to release women. The church now numbers more than 700,000. Two thirds of the associate pastors are women and 47,000 of the 50,000 cell group leaders are women too.

But three decades later, what Dr. Cho predicted for us has sadly proven true. We in the West have not used our women, nor, with one or two possible exceptions, have we seen any major, long-lasting and wide-sweeping revivals with multitudes being swept into the Kingdom of God. Whereas Korea has gone from around 2 percent of the population being Christian in 1945 to about 30 percent today, we in the West have gone backwards. In the UK where I am from, Christianity is irrelevant to the vast majority of the population. Here in the United States we may be only a generation away from being a post-Christian nation.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?


 

Heroines of the faith: Saints Perpetua and Felicity

I never knew there was a saint with the same name as mine until I started researching Perpetua.

Perpetua was a Christian noblewoman, aged around 22, who was martyred in 202 or 203 AD. She lived with her husband, young son and her slave, Felicitas in Carthage (modern day Tunis). When Emperor  Septimus Severus decided to persecute Christianity, he focused on North Africa. A group of five new converts who were preparing for baptism, including Perpetua, was among the first to be arrested.

Perpetua’s father came to visit her in prison and begged her to renounce Christianity. Despite the fact that she was nursing a young child, she refused to recant. She was allowed to keep the child in prison with her, but conditions in the prison were so terrible, she feared for his safety. She was baptized in prison.

At the trial, the other four in the group were questioned first. Each, in turn was asked if they were Christians. All of them replied, “yes” and each refused to worship the emperor. Then came Perpetua’s turn. At that point,  her father burst into the courtroom carrying her young baby. The judge again asked her, for the sake of her father and her child, to deny her faith. She, too, refused to deny Christ. They were all sentenced to die in the arena.

Felicitas, who was subsequently arrested, was eight months pregnant at the time, and anxious that she, too, be allowed to suffer martyrdom, but the law prevented the execution of pregnant women. She gave birth to her daughter in time to join the others in the arena.

When the day of their martyrdom arrived, Perpetua and Felicitas entered the arena clad in simple belted tunics. Wild beasts and gladiators roamed the arena as the crowd roared for blood. A wild heifer stormed the group and Perpetua was tossed into the air. Blood-stained, she rose to her feet to help her slave.  She called out to the other Christians, encouraging them to keep their faith and to love each other. Finally, a swordsman was appointed to execute her. He missed her neck, hitting her collarbone instead, so she guided the sword to her neck so that he might finish the job.

I sometimes ask myself, would I be willing to face martyrdom rather than deny my faith in Jesus Christ. I hope so.

Photo credit: http://www.rpmministries.org/2012/03/

A moving, and mostly first person account of their last days can be found here.

Other information for this post was found here and here.

 

Update on the book on women

Most people who read this blog know that, although its main emphasis is usually on simple/organic church, for several months I’ve been writing consistently about women. The reason? For the past two years, I’ve been compiling a book on women in the Kingdom. That process is very now very nearly finished. Just the final details on the last chapter to go before the manuscript is ready to send to the publisher (YAY!)

Here’s a little history behind the book.

Five years ago, recognizing my own need for peer fellowship, I reached out to a few women who play a significant role in the body of Christ. We connected via conference call. As our fellowship grew deeper, a natural discussion topic was the role of women in the church. Between us, we were aware of many women who desire everything God has for them, but yet who hang back, waiting for a man to take the lead. What could we do to give them permission to follow the Holy Spirit with all their hearts no matter where he led, even if it meant them taking the initiative? How could we encourage men to stand with them?

We knew from experience that in the church in the West, with notable exceptions, women have been sidelined and marginalized. Because they’ve been taught that they’re stepping out of line if they initiate or lead, they have settled back into passivity. Men lead; women follow. That’s the godly pattern. The result? The mission of Jesus suffers as a large portion of the workforce for the harvest waits for men to take the initiative.

On a couple of occasions, our team of women went away together for several days of prayer and fellowship. Always we came back to the idea that God longs to free women into their destiny, that if they were released, the workforce for the Kingdom of God would potentially double. The obvious follow-up question: is there anything we can do to inspire and empower other women?

Then came a weekend when God spoke to a larger group of 12 of us about Deborah and Barak. As a result of studying that story, we decided to approach some men who we knew stand with us in our beliefs about the role of women. We recognized that if a group of women tackled this subject, we would be perceived as feminists with an agenda, but if both men and women were involved, it had the potential of contributing to a Kingdom movement.

Many men actively advocate on behalf of women. Some take every opportunity to speak about the injustice that exists in the church and do everything they can to promote women. Others have made the study of the Scriptures concerning women a priority.  Still others take practical steps to hold open the doors allowing women in ministry. Several pledged to stand with us and together we would seek to release women.

The group of half a dozen women finally concluded that we would write a book together, and that we would ask men to contribute.

We approached several men who agreed to share from their particular area of interest and expertise. We are so grateful to them for their willingness to identify with us and to actively champion the cause of women.

The final list of contributors to the book apart from myself:

Peggy Batcheller-Hijar, Neil Cole, “Jan Diss,”  Katie Driver, Dave Ferguson, Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, Suzette Lambert, Floyd McClung, Julie Ross, Frank Viola, and  Jon Zens

 


 

 

A quiet healing

Sometimes healing happens without fanfare, and it’s only later you realize the enormity of what has happened.

A new person came to the church that meets in our home a month ago. We had a time of listening to the Lord, and someone shared a picture about a little fish being gobbled by a shark. It seemed spiritually relevant, so we asked if anyone felt that life was overwhelming them, that they were being “eaten up” by circumstances. Several responded, including the new lady.

She mentioned that she had abdominal pain, and so, as well as her surrendering her life to Christ (the bigger miracle), we prayed she would be set free.

Last Friday, we heard the significance of what went on. The story went like this:

For 10 years, this beautiful girl had had crippling abdominal pain resulting in many visits to the ER–sometimes several times a month. During that time she had not had a single day without pain. She was unable to work or finish school because of it.

Since the day the church prayed, she has not had a single episode of pain.

We serve an awesome God!

Amy Carmichael–Plowed Under

A few weeks ago I posted about one of my heroines, a missionary in India by the name of Amy Carmichael. The post received a comment from someone at Christian Literature Crusade who publish some of Amy’s books, saying that they were about to produce another one and asking if I would  be willing to review it. I am delighted to do so. I love these old missionary writings, and this was a story I hadn’t seen before.

Plowed Under tells the tale of “Star,” a girl from a Hindu background who becomes a believer and is discipled by Amy. Told with the charm and innocence of a bygone era, this book nonetheless packs a punch. Through it, Amy reveals her passion, not just for the Lord but also for the lost. We catch a glimpse of life in a missionary community and of life in India including an extraordinary and isolated Hindu citadel. We see the impact of disease, of Hindu tradition. We feel with her the challenges of working cross-culturally and facing the persecution experienced by new believers in nations hostile to the Gospel. We share her wonder at God working sovereignly in a young life.

We have much to learn from her about a life sold out to Christ.

India is seeing an incredible harvest. I believe what is going on there currently is rooted in the soil of the lives of those who, like Amy Carmichael, laid down their lives for that nation. Let’s learn from her example.

Four reasons women don’t embrace their apostolic call by J. Lee Grady

I was just recommended this outstanding post written by J. Lee Grady posted on the SpiritLed Woman site of Charisma Magazine. I highly recommend you take the time to read it. It is so good, I scrapped my original ideas for today’s posts in order to encourage you to enjoy it.

Here is the link: Four reasons women don’t embrace their apostolic call

Tell me what you think. Do any of these examples fit your own life or that of others you know?

But I digress… a Jewish betrothal

Several years ago I was captivated by John 14 to John 16.  I found myself meditating on these verses, attempting to memorize them. I would go to sleep at night thinking about them and wake up in the morning doing the same. (Please don’t assume I was being spiritual–it was a God thing!) But I always puzzled over John 14:2-3:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (NIV).

The verses were inspiring, but I always wondered about them–is this talking about heaven? Is it referring to the Holy Spirit?

The first inkling I had of what lies behind the verses came a few weeks ago in an e-letter from John Fenn of Church Without Walls International. I’ve since done some research on it. Here’s what I now understand:

In Jesus’ day, if a man wanted to marry a girl, he would go to her home with a “bottle” of wine. (This would be an arranged marriage.) The girl’s father and brothers would negotiate the terms of the betrothal contract with him. The girl was then called in. If the girl agreed to marry him, they would seal the contract by drinking a glass of wine together. This was now a binding covenant. The man would then tell her, “In my father’s house are many rooms. I’m going to prepare a place for you, and then I’ll come back for you.” He would return to his father’s home and prepare the bridal chamber, which would only be ready when his father told said so. One day the groom would return for his bride, taking her back to his father’s house with him where there was a wedding feast and the marriage was complete.

So what Jesus said at the beginning of John 14 is a foreshadowing. Jesus has returned to his Father’s house to prepare a room for us. One day, we’ll see him face to face as his bride and there will be a wedding feast.

What  an amazingly beautiful portrayal John 14 presents of Christ and his bride.

 

 Photo Credit: dlisbona via Compfight cc