As I pray and talk to the Lord about His heart for women to lead strongly in His body, I go back to the handful of scriptures that have been misinterpreted and then used as institutional bars in the church to keep women safely imprisoned in the cage of the status quo. Sadly, many women have accepted these rules as a reflection of God's heart towards them. They assume that what they are allowed to do in the church is all that they were created for and that men were designed to carry the weight of real leadership. Some of the women I have talked to even seem relieved that they are limited because it is safer to hide behind man-made walls of limitation than to have to step out and lead where it might feel uncomfortable. This is understandable given the fact that it is all they have known their entire lives.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I remember years ago asking one woman, who I greatly respect as a leader in the church, her opinion of women in leadership and she gave to me the response I have heard so often from men in my 25 years in the church, "Women can teach and preach and lead in any way they choose except for church government. Pastoring and and leading in positions of eldership are for men only." I remember how stunned I felt when those words left her lips. I had never felt so alone as I did in that moment. I never expected her to have swallowed such a gross misrepresentation of God's plan for His daughters. But she did and so have many others.
On the flip side of that coin is a moment I recently experienced. I asked Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine and author of two books on women in leadership, to speak at our women's conference earlier this month at Christian Heritage Church. During one of his teaching sessions Lee had the women come forward who had been trapped by fear so he could pray for them to be free to lead and fulfill God's destiny for them. So many women come forward crying out to God to free them to rise up for such a time as this. My heart was ignited with such a passion to see women come to the place of understanding that God places no gender limitations on them. He longs to see the misuse of His word come to an end, just as He did when slavery was an issue in this country and people were misusing His word to validate their sin of holding back other races. I was reminded in that moment, as I stood and watched the women find freedom, that THIS is my holy discontent and the reason I have been given a voice at this time.
It is time and I am excited. I realize that this makes me much like (to borrow a phrase from Seth Godin) a unicorn in a balloon factory. And I'm okay with that. This is not about me. This is about the other half of the army of God. In the coming days and weeks I will be addressing some of these passages of Scripture with the hope of bringing light to a dark place in the church. To quote Loren Cunningham (Youth With A Mission), "If we don't seize this opportunity now, the church will fall behind for generations."