It was your typical Tuesday, except for the atypical text message from a church acquaintance—the husband of a woman I deeply admire:“You will like this morning’s Spurgeon excerpt. Many references to gardening are in there. Blessings upon you and David this day.”Wow. So cool. I immediately felt considered, remembered, and spurred toward the Lord.Unfortunately, this type of interaction is not too typical in our PCA circles, is it? We aren’t sure how to do exactly what my acquaintance-friend did: communicate care, thoughtfulness, and honor in a respectful and appropriate way across gender or even generation. But he did it—he did exactly that. And my heart was moved toward the Lord because of the small but thoughtful act of my brother.How did he/we get to this place? To a place of safety in authentically extending the hand of friendship across genders in an appropriate, God-honoring way, encouraging the edification of all involved? Especially in this current socio-political climate of each gender elbowing the other out of the way to assert their self-importance? In our case, I’m chalking it up to church wide devotional.A couple years back, our church body began this practice, and it’s now become a significant thread in the life of our congregation—so much so, in fact, that we now refer to it as a means of grace. The brain trust of one of our associate pastors, Greg Poole, church wide devotional was born out of pastoral realization that significant numbers of Oak Mountain PCA’s flock were not spending daily time with the Lord on a consistent basis. (And sssssh, come closer: some of those numbers even represented church staff.)We needed a plan, and we needed one fast. A devotional was selected, full participation was encouraged, and before long the numbers told the story—the members of our congregation reporting time spent in daily devotion to God increased so significantly that Greg and staff were already on the hunt for which devotional to use the following year…
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?”