In Part 1, I talked about my own journey of entering the evangelical world as a female. Sure, there have been challenges, but moreso, I’ve learned a few lessons that I hope will encourage women to live into their calling and encourage male leaders to provide space for that to happen.
And here’s the thing: as long as women are exposed to a secondary status in our evangelical subcultures, it is impossible for all of us to experience the sense of authentic love we are all meant to have towards another. The prejudice I experienced in those early days in the evangelical world were disheartening. They impacted my leadership and my faith in real ways.
This may sound negative. But it’s not.
In fact, that secondary status that I have felt in countless ways over the years has made the face of Christ clearer to me. It’s made his mission in my life more focused and his leadership style more attainable. Because as I’ve drawn near to him with the hard questions like What is it about this evangelical bubble I entered? I’ve heard his answers—some of which have shocked me; others which have inspired me.
Let me share just a few key observations gleaned over the past 15 years.
First, a true leader in Christ’s church is marked by servanthood.
All four Gospels scream of the servant heart of Jesus. As cornerstone and head, his model and his alone is the only one to look towards. Any leadership style built on a foundation of ego and self-promotion and grandeur is antithetical to the call of the shepherds of the church.
Only a long and thoughtful assessment of the difficult questions such as “What do I get up for in the morning?” “What is my ultimate goal?” and “What do I want my legacy to be?” can get us to the realization if we have missed the mark of true Christian leadership.
Any air of ego and self-aggrandizement will lead Christian leaders to distort and reject a true understanding of what it means to be a true shepherd of Christ’s church.
The discussion on complementarianism vs. egalitarianism and any other guise of conversation meant to answer the questions to the bigger problem of the secondary status of women in many evangelical circles will go nowhere.
The answer begins with the hearts and priorities of our leaders—not in a theological molding on one side or the other that continues to be built on the broken and distorted hearts of too many in leadership today.
Second, Christ is in all.
“God is cleansing his church.” This is a statement I have heard countless times over the past few years since allegations and truth about sexual impropriety have emerged among top evangelical leaders.
Yes, he is. But this is not new.
God has always been in the business of cleansing his church—whether on a public or a private scale.
This statement has led many to despair; they focus on the cleansing part. Instead, we must focus on the “God” part. God hasn’t thrown his proverbial hands up in despair; rather, he is on his mission that we see in Hebrews 12:
…but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (vv. 10b-11)
Our hearts ache for the sin we see exposed in our churches today. And yet our hearts ought to rejoice that God loves us so that he sees fit to do a good Spring cleaning.
His eye is on the sparrow…those who are hurt, vulnerable, victimized, and silenced in the church. And he wants them to be cared for properly. He deeply desires that the shepherds in his church lead as Christ calls them to lead.
Third, guttural integrity is a really important characteristic for all those who follow Christ, especially those in leadership positions.
This may seem like an odd phrase. Why not, after all, just say “integrity.”
The simplest reason is because guttural integrity—the kind that is marked by not just actions—but also voiced aloud—is the kind that closely follows the heart of God. It’s a life summed up this way: I have committed to lead like Jesus in such a way that every part of my life reflects that.
Although Scripture speaks profoundly to the power of words, too often our lives don’t. Women in the church today need and ought to be validated for their unique set of gifts and talents. Many women make better leaders than men. Many women make better counselors than men. Many women make better confidants than men.
Not all, but many. And not because they are women. But just because of who they are as people.
Yet too many women aren’t validated for their gifts and talents. True integrity in church leadership is validation and honor spoken aloud in the presence of others. Perhaps this looks like acknowledgement of a strong endurance during a time of trial or an efficient work style during a time when everything seems urgent.
Perhaps this is an identification of a latent gift that is going unused or a word of apology when the leader overlooked a women’s leadership abilities. Guttural integrity is finally seeing each person in the church as worthy of equal admiration and praise.
Finally, women, don’t despair, for your work in the gospel is not overlooked.
The remarkable thing about God (among other things) is that even when it seems no one else notices you and the work you are doing, God’s eye is on you.
Hebrews 6:10 reads, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” Even when we perceive ourselves to be in a secondary status here on earth, we can be certain that is never the case from God’s perspective.
Although I may no longer be “young” anymore, I still carry with me my three other traits. I’ll never be male, or tall, and likely will stay blond for a while. But what I’ve discovered is that humble service and leadership isn’t necessarily bad. It’s a leadership style that models our Savior, who sacrificially gave everything for us.
As we work heartily as unto the Lord, regardless of if others acknowledge it or not, God will never forget the love we show to others. He knows that he made each and every one of us perfectly unique, with gifts and talents that are matchless in this world.
We need never rely on the praise of others to continue faithfully to minister on his behalf to a world in need.
But indeed, we are past time when a renewed theology of servant leadership, integrity, and the equality of all is a bedrock of our faith. We are past time when we are to recapture a belief that in the dark moments of the church, as leader after leader falls, God is still cleansing and renewing in order to restore.
As a woman who has felt disappointment more than once in the church, my hope nevertheless remains strong. God is in our midst and working to mold his church into one that indeed serves as a light into the world.
That’s a place worth staying. And it’s a place where both women and men must sit side by side at the table.