The hemiplegic body of Christ

When I worked as a doctor, there was a diagnosis I never liked to make. “Hemiplegic” is the medical term used to describe paralysis down one side of the body that occurs, for example, after a stroke. If the condition was severe, it was potentially a devastating diagnosis for the person involved, who had to come to terms with the fact that they would be weak and unable to fully function and might have to depend on the help of others for the rest of their lives.

The body of Christ in the West is hemiplegic. Half of it–the female half–is significantly weakened, if not totally paralyzed. The whole body of Christ is suffering as a result.

Where are the women apostles? Where are the women who are prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers? Where are the female role models who dare to do great exploits for the Kingdom of God?  I’m grateful to count several like these as my friends, but in general, women in any form of strategic church leadership in the West are conspicuous by their absence.

It’s not that way in other parts of the world.

  • In China, around 80% of house churches are planted by ordinary women
  • In India there is a significant harvest being reaped by women of all castes. Two years ago, I met two women–ordinary, middle aged housewives–one of whom was responsible for starting 2,000 churches and the other, 6,000 churches.
  • In Dr. Cho’s church of more than 800,000 in Korea, two-thirds of the associate pastors are women, and 47,000 of the 50,000 cell group leaders are women too.
  • In many nations where there is restricted access for the gospel, women are planting churches–they have easy access to homes and naturally share their testimony with others, pray for the sick and demonized and find persons of peace.

If women can do it in other nations, why not here in the West?

Are there women in this country who are willing to break out of the stereotypical role assigned to them by tradition? Who will follow the Great Shepherd into the harvest? Who will dare to break out of their boxes of convention, who will color outside the lines of expectation.

If God is using women in extraordinary ways elsewhere, (and he is) then why not here too? We do not have to remain hemiplegic!

Do you have examples of what God is doing through women either here or in other nations?

Photo credit: Vici-Jane


The top three reasons it’s important to include women

Women are often undervalued and sidelined in the church, especially when it somes to strategic thinking and planning. Leadership equals servanthood (Matthew 20:25-28), and  we, the church, are supposed to be listening to our head, Jesus, and following what he says. Since women are used to serving, and they often hear him more clearly, it therefore seems very short-sighted not to include them. (If you have questions about the theology of this, check out a series of posts starting here.)

But there are more important reasons to include women. Here are the top three:


Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher via Compfight cc

 1.  The Harvest: When women co-labor alongside men, the workforce for the harvest potentially doubles.

2.  The Harvest: Psalm 68:11 (NASB) says this–The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host.

3.  The Harvest: Wherever we see a massive harvest going on around the world, women are often in the forefront. For example, in China, especially during the revival in the 1980’s and 90’s, female pastors and evangelists outnumbered males 3:1. In India, women apostles are responsible for thousands of churches. Women can often get into the places where men cannot go with the good news of the Kingdom. As Dr. Yonggi Cho once told us, “If you want to see a move of God, use your women.”

The hemiplegic bride

The body of Christ in the West is hemiplegic. Hemiplegia is a medical term used to describe paralysis down one side of the body, for example, after a stroke. The body of Christ is present in our churches, but half of it–the female half–is significantly weakened.

Where are the women apostles? Where are the women who are prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers? Where are the female role models who dare to do great exploits for the Kingdom of God?  I’m grateful to count several like these as my friends, but in general, women in any form of strategic church leadership in the West are conspicuous by their absence.

It’s not that way in other parts of the world.

  • In China, around 80% of house churches are planted by ordinary women
  • In India there is a significant harvest being reaped by women of all castes. Two years ago, I met two women–ordinary, middle aged housewives–one of whom was responsible for starting 2,000 churches and the other, 6,000 churches.
  • In many nations where there is restricted access for the gospel, women are planting churches–they have easy access to homes and naturally share their testimony with others, pray for the sick and demonized and find persons of peace.

If women can do it in other nations, why not here in the West?

Are there women in this country who are willing to break out of the stereotypical role assigned to them by tradition? Who will follow the Great Shepherd into the harvest? Who will dare to break out of their boxes of convention, who will color outside the lines of expectation.

If God is using women in extraordinary ways elsewhere, (and he is) then why not here too.

Photo credit: Vici-Jane

Repost: Another “Sophie Muller” Story

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Ricardo with veteran missionary to Venezuela, Buck Smith

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Puerto Ayacucho

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Prayer at dawn overlooking Pto. Ayacucho

 

Here is another story about Sophie Muller. (For more information about her from people who knew her, check out the comments on the post, “The Amazing Story of Sophie Muller.“)   Again, this is in Ricardo’s own words.

“I was born in the jungle and I knew Sophie Muller. She was my neighbor. She lived just like us in a house with clay walls and a palm roof. She ate the same food as we did. She hated the comfortable life. In the last twenty to thirty years she ate very little—maybe an egg a day and some chocolate drink. She was a woman totally given over to walking with God. Sometimes we would get up at 3am and we could hear her singing to the Lord in the next house.

“My mother would go with Sophie on trips sometimes. She saw many supernatural things happen.

“When I was around ten years old one of the most important of these supernatural incidents occurred. It became known by all the tribespeople throughout the jungle. Incited by the Catholic Church, the Columbian army persecuted Sophie Muller. She was put in a jail with double doors and double locks. As she lay there, she could hear the soldiers fighting amongst themselves as to who would be the first to rape her. They decided to play a game, and the winner would be the one to go first. But while they were playing, Sophie fell into a very deep sleep. When she woke up, she was in the middle of the jungle.

“In the meantime, my father had pulled together a group armed with bows and arrows to go and rescue her. As they were paddling up river in their dugout canoes they saw a beach with a big turtle sitting on it. Of course, their immediate thought was food—in fact, banquet! So they pulled up onto the beach to jump the turtle. As they did so they heard a whistle. My father recognized the whistle and went looking. It was Sophie, hiding behind a rock. She had had days of just eating roots and was too weak to even call out. She was covered with cuts and scratches with even maggots on her wounds. So they put her in the bottom of the boat wrapped in plastic and paddled up river past various army groups who were no doubt looking for her. When they came to Sophie’s house there was a team there from the mission. They came out to greet her.

“Don’t be sad or worried,” she told them. “Nothing happened. I’m going north for a few days to recover.”

“Fifteen days later she was back in the jungle.”

Repost: The Amazing Story of Sophie Muller

I’m currently in Taiwan speaking at a conference so the next few posts will be reposts.

 

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Looking over the Orinoco River to Columbia

Earlier this month I had the incredible privilege of visiting the Amazon jungle in Venezuela. Many of those living there were tribespeople recently out of the jungle where they still live very primitive lives. While there, I met a man named Ricardo who told me a remarkable story about an extraordinary woman missionary named Sophie Muller. Here is a part of her story in (more or less) Ricardo’s own words.

“In the early 1940’s a young woman in her early twenties came to Columbia from North America. Her name was Sophie Muller. At that time this area consisted of virgin jungle. There were settlements of a few tribal houses scattered throughout the jungle often many days’ journey by canoe apart. The nearest town of any size (Puerto Ayacucho) was not built until 1947.

“Sophie, a reporter for the New York Times, had become a Christian following an outreach in a New York street. She had seen a group of people singing and preaching on the sidewalk and, out of curiosity, had responded to their invitation to join a Bible study. Over time she opened her heart to Christ. She became interested in working with unreached peoples and so went to the New Tribes Mission. She wanted to go somewhere no one had ever been before, and looking at a map, chose the Amazon jungle.

“In 1944 she went to Columbia and, via Bogota, to the jungle. She came to the Guainia region where the Curipaco tribe lived. At that time, witches and sorcerers were in charge of the jungle. There were many strange rituals that included drinking and drugs and wild partying. But there was a legend that had been passed down through the years. Someone had had a dream that a strange-looking person would come with a power greater than that of the witch doctors.

“With her white skin and blue eyes, Sophie certainly fit the bill of looking strange to the tribespeople. So the chief witch doctor   prepared a spiritual ritual in the jungle as a test. He made a chicken stew and added to it Caribbean stick poison—the strongest poison known in the jungle. It will normally kill a person within five minutes. As she ate the stew, everyone watched her intently, waiting for her to die. She did not die, but did throw up a little. Some of the village dogs lapped at her vomit and a chicken pecked at it.  They fell over and died immediately. But Sophie herself was unharmed.

“The witch doctor who had prepared the stew converted on the spot. She became known as a daughter of God and was allowed to go wherever she wanted in the jungle safely.

“My grandfather was the head witchdoctor of the region. Around that time he saw in a vision that there was a more powerful spirit than the one over the jungle. The story of Sophie passing the poison test had spread far and wide throughout the jungle. So my grandfather sent my father to find Sophie and investigate her. My father paddled his dugout canoe for one month to find her.

“When my father arrived, he made friends with Sophie. She was particularly interested in him because he came from a different (Puinave) tribe and spoke a different language. The two tribes have different languages and the majority of the Puinave could understand the language of the first tribe. Sophie evangelized my father in the Curipaco language. He soon received Christ and they started working together. They would paddle for months at a time to different communities in the jungle to evangelize.

“Sophie and my father worked together for fifty years. When Sophie finally left the jungle, she was an old woman.  She had started several hundred churches.

Ten positive signs of God at work in the church

God is at work across the nations, and I see many positive signs that he is at work here in the West too. Here's a little of what I see going on currently (in no particular order of priority):
  1. People understand the importance of listening to God and doing what he says.  The prayer movement and 24/7 prayer has an impact.
  2. Many churches are becoming more missional rather than attractional. Luke 10 principles are being applied by many across the church spectrum. Legacy churches are starting missional communities. Simple/organic churches are using these principles to produce daughter and grand-daughter churches.
  3. Churches are engaging in their communities with a resultant impact for the Kingdom.
  4. We've rediscovered some of the principles that result in multiplication rather than addition at every level. Simplicity and reproducibility are key.
  5. Discipleship that reproduces more disciples (rather than conversion) is of increasing value. 
  6. There's a blurring of distinctives between groups of people–charismatic/non-charismatic, organic/legacy, clergy/laity.
  7. Women have an increasingly equal and valued role.
  8. Legacy churches and simple/organic churches are working together with a focus on the Kingdom of God. Who knows what might happen if nobody minds who gets the credit.
  9. The separation of sacred and secular is waning. Ordinary work and its potential to be of impact for the Kingdom is valued. Church is happening in the workplace.
  10. God is working in supernatural ways; we are seeing miracles, healings and deliverances.
  11. God is raising up apostolic and prophetic leaders who serve from the foundations rather than rule from the rooftops. He is giving them his strategies and plans for their areas.
  12. We recognize that God is working in other parts of the world  and we're willing to learn from other nations.

What am I missing?

The fate of the original 12 apostles?

Thomasslain

Photo credit: maudandoscar

In India a few years ago, we were taken to visit a church building that had twelve paintings, each portraying  the death of one of the 12 apostles. (I think it was St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, but I've been unable to verify that via the Internet.) Those images have never left me, in part because of their graphic representation, but more because they spoke of a faith worth dying for.

Would I willingly lay down my life in order to tell others about Jesus.

There are various different traditions as to what happened to the original twelve apostles. Here's a compilation of several versions: 

  • Andrew: Preached in modern day Georgia (Eastern Europe) and Bulgaria and was crucified in Patrae in Greece. 
  • Bartholomew: Spent time in India. Crucified in Georgia. 
  • James, Son of Alphaeus: was stoned and clubbed to death in Jerusalem.
  • James, Son of Zebedee: was beheaded by Herod.
  • John, Son of Zebedee: Was exiled to the Island of Patmos and died a natural death in Ephesus.
  • Matthew/Levi: Preached and was killed (with an axe) in Ethiopia. 
  • Simon/Peter: Was put to death (crucified) under Nero in Rome. 
  • Philip: preached and was executed in eastern Turkey. 
  • Simon the Zealot: Became Bishop of Jerusalem. Crucified. 
  • Thaddaeus/Judas son of James: Preached in Edessa and Mesopotamia. Was crucified.
  • Thomas: Was a missionary in India where he was killed with a spear. 
  • Matthias: Judas' replacement. Spread the Gospel into Syria and was stoned and beheaded.

(Sources: here, here, and here).

If these traditions are true, after the book of Acts, nearly all traveled widely in order to spread the Gospel. They also, with the exception of John, died violent deaths.

What does this say to us today? Do we have a message so compelling we would risk our lives to give it to others?