Q Los Angeles 2013
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Empowering Women in a Missional Movement
Women made a significant contribution in the New Testament church. They were leaders like Junia, commended by Paul as “outstanding among the apostles.” Or like Priscilla who, with her husband Aquila, had extensive influence in the church, traveling with Paul, training the apostle Apollos and leading a church in their home. There were deacons like Phoebe of Cenchrea. They were businesswomen like Lydia, whose home is Paul’s missionary base and gateway to Europe. There are mothers and grandmothers like Eunice and Lois, who shaped the faith of Timothy, a major New Testament figure. They were leaders like Chloe and Nympha, leading churches that met in their homes. Like the men in the early church, women, were persecuted, imprisoned, killed. In a range of roles, women were integral to a movement that changed the world.
This diverse group of Christian women paints an inspiring picture that may even seem a little radical in some parts of the Western church today. The great commission has not changed. We know God sends both men and women as active participants in God’s mission to transform a broken world. We know we’re all called to incarnate the Good News, be salt and light wherever we are. Simply put, we’re called to be missional. In recent years we’ve recognized that many men have left the church, and we’ve sought to turn the tide. Now it appears that a significant number of women within the church need our unique attention It appears in that contrast to our aforementioned ancestors, some women are not only
, not only
, they’re also leaving .
State of the Church 2011
study, Barna noted that in the US the past 20 years have seen
• 20% decrease in women attending church
• 29% decrease in women attending Sunday school classes
• 31% drop in female volunteers
It’s heartbreaking, because these statistics aren’t merely numbers; they’re our sisters. They reflect the conversations we’ve had with women who felt the church had no place for them or their gifts. With women passionate to reach a broken world broken because they feel ill equipped to engage. Or sisters who began in the workplace as missionaries but were eventually consumed by the culture they once sought to influence for good. Others remain on the edges of church communities: disengaged, disillusioned, and perhaps a little bored.
So how can we equip and empower women for missional living? Here are 3 ideas to get us started (Feel free to add your own. Let’s learn from one another):
We don’t live beyond what we think about ourselves; if the voices of insecurity, inadequacy or fear of failure are loud enough, they will paralyze us. If we don’t expect God to have plans for our lives, we won’t take risks or engage with a vision for our community. There are many conflicting voices within our culture seeking to instruct women on their worth and purpose, so a strong understanding of God given identity is essential. We’ve sometimes defined womanhood in the light of Eve, dwelling on her failure rather than her original design. Eve was designed to know God in close relationship and take responsibility in the world He created. (Gen 1:28- 31). It’s absolutely essential that women grasp God’s value of their worth and vision for their potential in Him.
Consider the sheer breadth of those New Testament missional leaders. Moms, grandmas (surely the home is a cultural sphere that shapes the world?), professionals, church leaders. We empower women by publicly sharing their stories as well as talking about influential Christian women throughout history and around the world. It’s challenging for a women to step out in leadership when she believes she the only one. When you recover her heritage, she discovers that she’s in good company.
Discipleship Jesus style:
When Jesus made disciples, he taught them, but also gave them considerable access to his life. They saw how he handled money, how he prayed, how he treated the opposite sex, how to forgive, how he handed pain – all in the context of normal life. He also gave them opportunities to engage with the culture alongside him, healing the sick, casting out demons, proclaiming Good News, transforming society. Are we discipling the women in our communities in the same way that Jesus made disciples? Do we stop at good teaching, or do our accessible lives illustrate how to navigate personal struggles and our complex world? Have we equipped women to hear God’s voice? Have we given them opportunities alongside us to pray for the sick and the oppressed, love the broken , make disciple-making disciples, share the gospel? Have we empowered them to take all they’ve learned to their extended family, their workplace, their church?
We live in a time of great challenges but also great opportunities. May we all be equipped to engage with His call.
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