So here I am today, many years later. I have learned to like my name and to like being a woman. My name is Dori, and I am a church planter. My husband, Rich, and I moved to Chicago in December of 2010 to start a church on the north side of the city in one of the most diverse zip codes in the United States. It has been, and continues to be, the most awe-inspiring, gut-wrenching, grievous, joyous thing we have ever been called by God to do. My new book, Anonymous: Naming the God of Esther and the Women Who Plant Churches, comes out of our experiences together as co-pastors of NewStory Church in Chicago.
Like many churches, every season we encourage our congregation to be a part of a small group. In the winter of 2016, I was given the opportunity to co-lead a women’s small group on the book of Esther. Throughout this small group season I began to notice parallels between the women in our group and the stories of Vashti, Esther, Mordecai, Haman, and Ahasuerus.
Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not have the name “God” in it. There is no mention of “elohim” or “yayweh” in the entire book. I guess you could say God is anonymous in Esther. But in other ways that isn’t true at all. God’s handprint is seen throughout the book in countless coincidences and nuances. My life is like that sometimes. God hasn’t spoken to me through a burning bush. I haven’t touched the scarred hands of Jesus. God seems anonymous. By faith, however, I believe God is real. God is living and active. God is moving and if I raise my sails at the right time, God moves me.
One day I shared these thoughts with a friend and mentor from Stadia, the church planting organization that helped start NewStory. Specifically, I was talking with Debbie Jones who leads Bloom, a ministry of Stadia that intentionally empowers women to maximize their role in starting churches. It was Debbie who first helped me see how the anonymity of God within the stories of Esther connected with the stories of church planting women.
As a female church planter in Chicago, I have not felt anonymous. I am incredibly blessed to have Rich as my husband. He sees me as an equal partner in ministry, values my opinions and loves leading with me. Upon moving into the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago we quickly realized how important it was for me to have the title “pastor.” We noticed an interesting thing happens when Rich meets someone new and says he is a pastor. At best people begin confessing the last time they went to church, and at worst the conversation ends. But when I introduce myself as a pastor, at best they visit our church, and at worst they ask for more information about the church. No, titles are not the end-all-be-all goal for women or men in ministry. In Chicago, however, my title helps lead people to Jesus. Ultimately it’s not about titles; it’s about calling. As long as I can be obedient to God’s calling on my life, I can give or take the title.