This fall I began teaching another Bible study at my church, something I have done for many years. As I addressed the women in the room, I rejoiced at how many had been faithful to study God’s Word over the years and how they had grown in their faith as they applied truth to the hardships of their lives. As I looked out at their faces, I also felt a huge responsibility: How would I invest in these women over the next year?
In writing to the Thessalonian believers, Paul states, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:7-8). As I studied these verses, as well as the surrounding context, I was struck by Paul’s affection for God’s people. Even amid conflict, Paul displayed godly conduct and gave thanks in all circumstances.
In our service to others, you and I are called to do the same.
Conflict in Serving
Paul served the Thessalonians in the midst of his own conflict, or suffering. Think about the last time you experienced conflict or suffering in ministry. Maybe the suffering came from chronic physical pain or maybe a fellow believer discouraged you in your role. Whatever the cause, doing ministry while in conflict is hard. We’re tempted to throw in the towel and call it quits until we feel better, or until the other person stops discouraging us. We might think of taking some time off to recoup and refresh before heading back into ministry work. But conflict, by God’s grace, often becomes the catalyst for declaring Christ. God uses our service in the midst of suffering to spread His gospel.
I have experienced this in my own life. In fact, the first day of teaching this fall I was in tremendous physical pain from a chronic GI complication I have had since 2006. But I have learned over the years the truth of the Lord’s words to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Ministering to others in our suffering is an opportunity to magnify the Lord’s strength.
Conduct in Serving
Paul also displayed godly conduct as he served. God entrusted us with a message and His Spirit empowers us to proclaim it. The Lord refines us as we serve, oftentimes uprooting sinful motives in our hearts, such as gaining man’s approval, and replacing them with gentleness, love, and a heart that seeks God’s glory…
Editor’s Note: From its inception, the women in the PCA have loved on and supported the denomination in practical ways. One way has been through the annual women’s ministry love gift. This year, the women’s ministry of the PCA is praying for and partnering with the different agencies and committees of the denomination regionally. Throughout the year, we will highlight the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them. I recently interviewed Rod Mays, coordinator of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), about their work with college students on university campuses.
Christina: What is your role at RUF and can you tell us a bit about how RUF started?
Rod: Currently I am the Interim National Coordinator. I served as the National Coordinator from 1999 until 2014 and returned to RUF in 2017. As I retire again, at the end of the year as the National Coordinator, I plan to stay on in some other capacity.
RUF was started in Mississippi in 1973 along with the PCA. RUF grew in the state of Mississippi and became a part of MNA in 1982 where numerous campuses were started in other southern states. In 2001 RUF became its own Permanent Committee in the PCA. At this time, we started to build our senior staff as our expansion started to grow quickly outside of the south. Our growth continues out west, the mid-west and north-east.
Christina: What is its mission?
Rod: “To reach students for Christ and to equip them to serve the church and the world” (“the gathering and perfecting of the saints”)…
I confess I do not remember the days of strong WIC Ministries in the PCA. I confess that I didn’t even know WIC Ministries existed until a year ago.
I am currently thirty-five and became a member of a PCA Church when I was twenty-three. During my first several years in the PCA, I was a new believer, a new mom to four children under the age of five, and new pastor’s wife—I barely had any extra margin for women’s ministry in my local context—but my heart always longed to see more connected women in our Presbytery. The men in our Presbytery meet monthly for prayer, and quarterly for Presbytery Meetings; I always desired to see women from different PCA churches gathering together for encouragement, connection, equipping, and prayer.
Part of a Greater Whole
Last year, at my first Women’s Leadership Training (LT), Karen Hodge asked if I would be willing serve on her National Women’s Team as Regional Advisor to Women’s Ministries in Mid-America. I was quite shocked that she would ask me; I had only been leading women’s ministry in my local context for four years at the time, and I was in every way a newbie when it came to connecting women outside of my local context.
As I have served awkwardly as a newbie Regional Advisor—learning as I go, one PCA acronym at a time—my heart has grown to see connected women on a Presbytery Level, Regional Level, and National Level. Being a small slice of the Women’s Ministry National Team has given me a diverse group of wise women who have prayed for me and walked alongside me during a difficult season in my life, and helped me troubleshoot the women’s ministry issues I have faced as a young leader in my local context.
The love and connectedness I have received when I reached out beyond my local context, has blessed me more than I could ever ask or think. To step out of my small suburban, Ohio women’s ministry and serve alongside life-giving leaders from South Carolina, Texas, Delaware, and Washington has helped me practically see what Paul writes about in Ephesians 2, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
My office shelves are lined with a colorful assortment of pictures and memories I have amassed over twenty-five years of ministry. There are pictures of mentors and friends who have profoundly shaped my life. A Japanese silk fan and a colorful teacup from the Dominican Republic remind me of connections with my international sisters in Christ. In the middle, sits a brass hinge in a small black frame. People often ask me to tell the stories behind these mementos. Without fail, everyone asks me about the hinge.I am a HingeI am a hinge. A utilitarian piece of hardware. Its job is to connect two pieces together so that they are made useful. When a hinge does its job, you rarely notice it unless it squeaks. My calling as a hinge gets me up every day. I connect people to people and churches to churches. My goal is to strengthen them both by connecting them to sound resources.I long to hinge in such a way that people don’t see me but see the Christ and the beautiful unity that occurs when things join for His glory. I am a fifty-one-year-old hinge. I have great delight when I get to stand in the gap and help women connect across differences: different generations, cultures, and contexts. But I have no greater joy than when I see them vitally connected to Christ and His Church.
Have you ever wondered what difference it would make if we believed we were better when hinged together to Christ and one another?
In their new book, Life-Giving Leadership, Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt explain that life-giving women’s ministry comes from confidence in Christ, not in ourselves. Without it, they warn, women’s ministry can become a life-taking, destructive activity.
There is a third kind of women’s ministry. It may run smoothly and involve lots of the Bible study and service of which Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt speak in their new book, but unlike what they describe, there is no life in it. That’s because it is life-faking. The authors hint at life-faking when they say in their book Transformed, “We feel guilty and hypocritical when we try to play the part of the perfect wife, mother or daughter, but we don’t have to pretend. Paul holds before us the exhilarating idea of transformation.”
A male example of fakery is found in the character of the older brother in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. The prodigal son, after rebelling, found reconciliation after he confessed candidly to his father, saying, “I am not worthy to be called your son.” The older son, who had stayed home, revealed his divided heart when he jealously complained to his father about all the attention the younger brother received. He said, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29). Apparently, the older son’s expectation of the relationship with his dad was not covenantal, but contractual. He demanded his due. The father’s response is poignant: “Son [note that he reminds him of that important relationship], you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (v. 30). The father points out the important part of the relationship, implying sadly, “You and I shared togetherness all this time, whereas the younger son missed out on the relationship. Isn’t closeness with me enough for you?” It wasn’t. The older son wanted to celebrate with “his friends,” apparently not with his dad.
And so Jesus asks us, “Are you following me to be with me, or to get something from me? Are you in a genuine relationship with your Father, or have you been faking?”