This week marks 22 years since I came to faith in Christ and was baptized in a little country church outside of Lexington. Sitting about ten rows back was a little old lady in tears. She was a tiny little woman who wasn’t accustomed to showing emotion, but her eyes were filled with tears. Her name was Nellie. She was my great-grandmother, and more than anyone she was instrumental in me coming to faith in Christ.
Nellie was a quiet woman, but certainly not passive. She came to faith at an early age at a Nazarene Church, but her relationship with Jesus came alive when she read Romans and understood grace for the first time (and now 4 generations of her family have the ‘Paul’ in their name as a result). While her husband was away at war she was instrumental in a group that started a mission near the Kentucky River that became Durbin Memorial Baptist Church – the church I grew up in.
I’d stay with her during the summer and after school as a child, and she’d talk to me about Jesus and always press me about where I was in my faith. I saw her Bible out and open all the time. She loved missions, and had books and articles about missionaries out throughout the kitchen and dining room. I didn’t just hear about her faith, I was immersed in it.
22 years later, I am a pastor planting a new church with a heart that bleeds for mission. Where do you think that came from? And as I look out at our new Church, I wonder: who will be the women who lead like Nellie?
I get it – many never have the opportunity. Some traditions severely limit the role and ability of women to lead in the Church. Some have been told their gifts don’t have a place. The tradition I grew up in with Nellie had its limits in regards to women in leadership roles. For many years that’s all I knew. But over the years, through study and experience in the Church, I came to see the role of women entirely different than I did before.
Restoration will be a place that believes in equipping and empowering women to lead out in all areas of ministry. In fact, I think our Church’s witness in many ways hinges on this. If the Church operates as if only half of the people were filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it will be a stunted, limping example of God to the world.
But when God’s female image-bearers arise in their calling and purpose in the Spirit to lead, our world gets to see the power of God in the Church in it’s fullness. Right now in our Church, there are gifts, abilities, and callings in women that are waiting to be awakened and empowered for the kingdom of God. And I can’t wait to see them come alive!