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Stop Leading from a Scarcity Mindset

With God, there’s more than enough (gifts, opportunities, ministries, work) to go around.

There were 60 of us in the room that day, and only 8 were women. We’d been chosen, called, or assigned (however you want to say it) to speak at summer camps across the United States. I wish I could say that as I sat in two days of intensive training, every part of me was marked by Paul’s words in Romans 10:15, “Blessed are the feet of those who bring good news!” Instead, a fierce spirit of competition seeded its way inside of me, burrowing into my soul, and into every sinewy part of my body. I wanted to be the best. I suppose that’s where I went wrong.

Since it was my first speaking assignment, I knew that I wouldn’t be the best camp speaker in the room. I could swallow my pride and admit that I had space to grow. But if nothing else, I could at least be the best of the women in the room. Was that so hard? Was that asking too much of God? I began to see my sisters in Christ (who’d been entrusted with the same task) not as fellow travelers on the road, but as fierce competitors in the game. I began to believe there wasn’t room for all of us at the table. Only one of us could make it to the top. Only one of us could claim the top prize at the end of the day. I saw my sisters in Christ as my enemies.

But that’s not all. Not only did I want to be the best of the eight women there, I wanted to keep all the glory and honor to myself. I didn’t want to let anyone else in, especially not any other women—not because I thought my peers were less qualified, but because I wanted to hoard the achievement for myself. I wanted to become the star of my own Jesus-centered reality television show. I thought there was only room for my talents and gifts. I’d push any other woman aside who dared proclaim Jesus’ name.

Where in the muck and mire of ugly competition is Christ? Where in this belief is the God of abundance and the Spirit of more-than-lavish generosity?

Leading from Scarcity

It’s easy to buy into a scarcity gospel. It’s easy to forget there’s more than enough to go around. It’s easy to think, If I’m the only woman on staff at my church, there’s no room for anyone else. I’ve fought my way to get here. I’ve put up with sexist comments from well-meaning male leaders. I’ve proven that a woman is just as capable as a man to lead the flock. But if that’s our train of thought, we’re leading from a scarcity mindset—and that’s not healthy.

During an interview, writer and blogger Abby Norman and I spoke about scarcity and abundance. Both of us have a heart for the same things. Scarcity would say there’s not room for both of us to talk about the same subject. Abundance would say there’s more than enough room at the table for both of us—there’s grace enough to go around. Abby explained that if she falls into the scarcity mindset, she finds herself thinking, “I’ll stop talking, because I believe that you’ve taken what is rightfully mine.” On the other hand, if she approaches the same situation with an abundance mindset, she’ll assume there’s plenty of space for her, too.

When another woman takes the stage to preach, teach, lead, or use her gifts to influence, we ought to refrain our criticisms of her. This is neither the time nor the place to discover and point out what she’s doing wrong. It’s also not the time to make judgment calls about how you think you’d do so much better if you were in her shoes. Rather, this is the time to be her biggest fan.

What might this mean for us as leaders of the church? For starters, it means we should stop fighting. We should stop believing there’s only room for one woman on any given team. And we should stop competing against other people, especially other women. Instead, we should believe that our sisters in Christ are not our competition but our fellow contributors to the greater story. Being a woman in ministry is hard enough. There’s no need to make it harder by adopting a scarcity mindset.

Embrace the Gospel of Abundance

Norman speculates that because women have historically been given such little space in the church, it’s easy to want to fight over the scraps. We have to rewrite the narrative. First, we have to believe that we’re not being fed scraps. Second, we have to put into practice what it might look like to encourage our sisters as if our lives depended on it—because they do, I might add. We have to begin cheering each other on, believing that there’s room for every woman in the kingdom of God.

Instead of fighting, this should become what we say to one another:

Woman (as Jesus called his mother), you have been called to this very position of leadership in the church. Woman, you are right where God wants to you be—this is most evident. Woman, this (tell her what you see in her) is how I see Christ in you.

Speaking this to one another, we put Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus into practice. In this way, we embrace a gospel of abundance, filling our sentences with exclamation points like Eugene Peterson in The Message: “Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19). When we experience the breadth, test the length, plumb the depths, and rise to the heights of Christ’s love, we realize there’s an abundance of resources available to every single one of his children. We free ourselves—and each other—to live the fullest of lives, as God intended for us all along.

So friend, believe that there’s room not only for you, but for every woman you serve alongside. Believe that you are enough, that you have enough, and that God will continue to supply you with enough; simply because he is enough. Embrace a gospel of abundance, trusting that the One who calls you his own will provide.

Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and co-host of Shalom in the City's monthly book club podcast. She holds a Masters of Theology (Fuller Seminary), and can be found on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

August02, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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