One of the first times I spoke with Sherry, she invited me to come stay at her house. And have biscuits. That’s Sherry Lanier: kind, welcoming, generous, and most of all—fun.
Sherry has served the PCA in many capacities over the decades. She is a fixture in women’s ministry and works with MNA. She is also passionate about racial reconciliation.
I asked Sherry to tell us more about her years of ministry:
Christina: What roles have you served in women’s ministry? In your local church and at the national level?
Sherry: I have been involved in women’s ministry from day one. In high school we had a ‘lunch-bunch’ of believers and our goal was to pray for our campus. I served on staff of Youth For Christ beginning in college and was heavily involved in the discipleship of young women from those days on. I served as a Bible moderator in the early days of the PCA, taught many Bible studies, and served in a number of positions on the WIC Council, including President. In the area of outreach, I served as the Teaching Leader for Explorer’s Bible study, which was started by Jean Patterson of FPC-Jackson as an outreach Bible study in our city. Over 200 women from a wide variety of churches and backgrounds participated in this class. The Lord used it as an opportunity to break down racial barriers in our city, bringing together women based on their commonality in Christ.
In the late 90’s the Lord put the ladies of inner city Jackson, MS on my heart. Through a providential means, I was privileged to meet Vera Mae Perkins, wife of Dr. John Perkins. We quickly became great friends; I learned she loved to cook and I love to teach so we partnered to reach the women of the inner city of Jackson. We started a Bible Study in her home where she would prepare a fabulous lunch for all the participants and I would teach. We started with Romans and reformed theology took root! Several years into the study, a number of us helped plant Redeemer Church, a PCA-multicultural church. Many of these women are still members today!
In 2006 Jane Patete contacted me and asked if I would serve as a WASC for the PCA. I had to do some research to find out exactly what that was! After much prayer and with the encouragement of my husband, Steve, and our pastor, Mike Campbell, I agreed to serve. The privilege to serve our denomination in that capacity was absolutely amazing. To be able to meet so many gifted women with an uncompromised commitment to the Word and the beautiful creation design and role of women was an invaluable gift!! I served in that capacity until 2015.
During that time there was much growth in women’s ministries in our denomination. Building on the groundwork laid by many incredible, godly women, we shifted from a ‘circle-based’ ministry model to a broader model of ‘women’s ministry’. There are no longer WASCs; instead we have Regional Advisors. The team of Regional Advisors was broadened to include ‘At Large Advisors’ who represent additional groups of women among our denomination including minority women and Chaplain’s Wives. That broadened and diversified our leadership group to more rightly reflect not only our denomination but the Kingdom overall!
In 2013, the CDM committee decided to have Advisors to the Committee; they asked three women, Kathy Stair, Janice Mutchler, and myself to serve in that capacity. In this role we are able to serve as ‘ezers’ to our denomination. We attend all meetings and serve on sub-committees; I serve on the Development sub-committee. What an honor and a delight to be able to serve the PCA on this level!!
Christina: What is your role with MNA?
Sherry: My role with MNA is Facilitator of MNA Disaster Response and ShortTerm Missions. This is a position that came about after Hurricane Katrina. At that time the denomination was just beginning to develop a disaster response ministry. I jumped in as a volunteer and LOVED the opportunities for the Gospel that disasters afford. This was something I had never considered before but clearly saw how this was an unprecedented opportunity. A director was hired and he asked if I would consider coming on staff in an official capacity. So the two of us started in 2005 and the ministry has grown to 16 staff members located around the country and we have mobilized over 135,000 volunteers to date. I oversee all volunteer mobilization, communications, and administration, and assist with training and development of the ministry.
One of my joys in this work is seeing how many women enjoy serving as volunteers. We have had thousands of women from every age and stage of life who have served, helping meet the needs presented by disasters. These women have found a place to serve in our denomination to the Glory of God!
Christina: You have spoken on the topic of diversity in the church. What is your hope for the PCA in terms of diversity? How do you see that hope coming to fruition? What specific steps can local church members take toward that end?
Sherry: My hope for the PCA in terms of diversity is that we would grow in our reflection of what the Kingdom of God should look like. The unity in our diversity is based on our commonality in Christ and is a direct answer to the prayer of Jesus in John 17 with the ultimate purpose of making Christ known to the world for the Glory of God alone!!
I see that coming to fruition in the diversity we are beginning to see in our leadership as it more rightly reflects our denominational makeup. There are also opportunities given to people of various ethnic and racial backgrounds and stages of life to participate in every area of our denomination. This is an answer to the prayers of many.
The steps a local church can take begins with the basics— prayer and fasting. As the Lord opens the hearts of those in the local church to rightly see their current state and the opportunities that are all around for the expansion of not just the PCA, but more rightly the Kingdom of God, should prompt a movement to pray. Seek the Lord and His direction for the development of the church in the area of diversity. As you pray, seek out others who are like-minded and ask them to join you in prayer. Talk with your pastor and members of your Session about the overall vision of the church and consider where diversity fits within that vision. Pray over that vision and seek ways to fulfill that vision. That REALLY speaks to the overarching purpose (meta purpose) for women’s ministry in the local church—coming alongside the pastor and elders and deacons helping (ezer-ing) them in accomplishing the vision of the church.
Christina: What do you see as obstacles in women’s ministry?
Sherry: The first would be a misunderstanding of the creation design of women. Our design is honorable, wonderful, and complementary to that of men. This is essential to be understood by BOTH men and women in the local church and is essential to serve as a foundation for healthy women’s ministry to be built on. If you begin with a faulty foundation it will surely crumble over time.
The second would be a misunderstanding of the role of women’s ministry in the church. The role most simply stated is to serve, following the example of Jesus. Our commonality in Christ brings us together and our common vision sets the course for women’s ministry. This misunderstanding can cloud our vision and lead to misdirection of good intentions. It can also lead to women’s ministry being on the periphery of the church rather than directly engaged in the life of the church.
The third would be distractions; those things that capture and redirect our attention. The motivation and reason for ministry gets ‘lost in the shuffle’ of life.
Christina: Often young moms or women who are juggling work and motherhood find it difficult to serve in the church. How has God used you in ministry during the different seasons of your life? Do you have any words of encouragement for women in a busy season of life?
Sherry: Involvement in ministry varies throughout life. There are times when we engage fully and there are times when the Lord helps move us to slow down and be refreshed. That is part of the ebb and flow of life, abiding in Christ.
One of my great joys is to encourage moms. So many moms say that they want to be involved in ministry but they just can’t seem to work it in with the schedule of their babies and/or children. Your role as a mom is ministry!!! Your first mission field is to your husband and second to your children. Please don’t discount the importance of that ministry! It is essential!!! As a spouse you must pray for your husband and encourage him in life, being there for him on good days and those not so good. As a mom YOU are the MOST IMPORTANT INFLUENCE on your child’s life!!! Please don’t discount that honor and privilege. Your family must be your first priority. Then get involved in other ministries as the Lord leads you and time allows.
Each one of us is busy. But even in our busyness we must not loose sight of our purpose and reason for living. We exist for the Glory of God— in whatever season or situation of life.
Christina: What do you like to do for fun? Hobbies?
Sherry: My husband and I love music—jazz to be specific. We enjoy going to live performances in various places. My grandson was riding in the car with me a few weeks ago and he said, “Momsie, you and Popsie like music without words. Why is that?” I responded that jazz is ‘thinking music’; there are no words to distract our thinking.
And we LOVE to travel! We have been to many places around the world and have had the privilege to be able to meet brothers and sisters in Christ in many places.
Then there are the grand boys. We have two and they live about 1 1/2 hours away. We are there for most all of their activities!!
Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including True Woman, Desiring God, and The Gospel Coalition. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament. Christina also serves on the advisory board at Covenant College. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.