I grew up in a church that publicly honored mothers on Mother’s Day. At the entrance to the sanctuary, they placed a box of little carnations to be pinned on the blouses of women with children as a sort of badge of honor. During the welcome, the pastor would ask all of the mothers to stand. It is right to honor mothers. So much of their sacrificial work is performed in middle of the night moments or behind closed doors, and it is good to affirm their efforts, stirring them up to love and good deeds when they may be tempted to feel as if no one sees or their work doesn’t matter.This ritual to honor mothers was certainly a help to me growing up. My selfish childish heart needed to consider all the ways that my own mother laid down her life for our family and to thank her for it. I remember feeling proud of my mom as she stood during the public acknowledgement of mothers. I also wondered why she always cried, and I remember seeing that most of the women cried during this part, seated and standing alike. Despite all of the beautiful opportunity that this holiday offers to affirm the role of mothers, it can also be a trigger, exacerbating deep seeded pain in those with children and those without. For this reason, Mother’s Day provides the church not only with an opportunity to “see” the unseen work of mothers, but to acknowledge the unseen pain of all women, caring for them by reminding them that our God is El Roi, the God who sees.
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?”
In 1995 God used an unassuming, unflashy woman as an instrument to spark a revival of humility and surrender in the hearts of thousands of Christian leaders. Nancy Leigh DeMoss (now Wolgemuth) had been asked to speak to the staff of CRU and taught about the kind of heart that God revives for his glory, and the necessity of a lifestyle of surrender and humility. Christian leaders serving with CRU were deeply impacted and their leadership radically transformed as God’s Spirit convicted them about sin and selfishness.
Hundreds of women will gather in Atlanta in two weeks to learn and growth together as women who offer life-giving leadership, rather than life-taking or selfish leadership. Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt share, “Our leadership is life-giving when it reflects Jesus’ person and purpose which is only possible because of his prayer and provision.”
Here are three specific characteristics of life-giving leaders: