weak enough to lead?

This year at annual conference, as I was scanning the Cokesbury section, I came across a book titled, “Weak Enough To Lead” by James C. Howell. The title jumped out at me in such a way that I didn’t even need to read the summary on the cover before snatching it off the table and heading up to the register to purchase it. The book jumped out at me because its topic was one which I have wrestled with a lot in life, feeling as though weaknesses somehow deem me incapable of leading, especially, leading in ministry and as a pastor someday. At times, I have found myself plagued by this feeling of defeat, as though I was too weak or ‘not cut out’ for what God has called me to do. I have always been a perfectionist, always set high expectations for myself, and am hard on myself if I ‘fail’ or don’t reach my goals at the very time that I had planned. I don’t like to complain or dwell on bad things, and admitting struggle or weakness is something I am not great at. So, perhaps, after stating all of that, it’s not too hard to imagine this book being one that I just couldn’t pass by. As I have read it more and more, I have found that it addresses every single thing I have listed above, and more.

Many times, I have thought to ask myself, “am I too weak to lead?”

But never once have I thought to ask myself, “am I weak enough to lead?”

That is the very question this book examines:

Am I weak enough to lead?

My recovery is something that I am very open and honest about in my conversations with people and in my writing, which many of you know. I am almost 5 1/2 years in recovery from anorexia, and I’ll actually be on a mission trip in Cuba on the 5 1/2 year mark, but you better believe that I am still going to jump up and down a few times out of joy and celebrate the accomplishment it is to me. Something I am not so open about, however, is the fact that recovery is a journey more so than it is a one time decision, and like any journey, it has bumps, detours, obstacles, highs, lows, and everything in between, and for the sake of being honest and at the risk of being vulnerable, I do still struggle at times with my recovery, and it is for that very reason that, at times, it has made me feel as though I am somehow too weak or too incapable of leading. This isn’t because I see my recovery or the fact that I have struggled with an eating disorder as a weakness, rather, it is something about my life that is not perfect, and as a perfectionist, one can see how that could affect my confidence in my leadership abilities. It wasn’t until recently that I came to the realize and truly believe that being a pastor and being in recovery are not mutually exclusive. I thank God for helping me realize that, and I thank him for continuing to assist me in believing that.

My recovery and the ministry I am called to are two of the most important things in my life, and God knows that full well. He knows that I am in recovery – heck, he has been with me every single step that I have taken since day 1 of being diagnosed, to day 1 of beginning recovery, all the way up until now, and he’s still trekking along beside me, behind me, and before me.

God also has called me to be a pastor. He has called me to a life of ministry for him, in service to others. God knows I have weaknesses, and in fact, he knows those weaknesses inside and out, better than even I do. Even so, that doesn’t diminish his confidence in my ability, through him, to pursue his call upon my life to be a leader in the Church.

I don’t personally think for one second that God looks at us and thinks, “she is strong enough for this” or “he is strong enough for this.” God doesn’t call only people who have no weaknesses or no imperfections, because if we’re being honest, those people don’t exist. This book has made me think about the possibility that, rather than calling us based on our strengths or how equipped we are, God looks at us and says,

“She is weak enough – I will give her the strength she needs to lead and I will use her weaknesses for the benefit of my kingdom.”

“He is weak enough – I will give him the strength he needs to lead and I will use his weaknesses for the benefit of My Kingdom.”

Brothers and sisters, it is normal – innate, even – to have weaknesses. There are many differences between you and me and everyone else in this world, but something we all have in common is that we all have weaknesses. We all have brokenness. We all fall short. We all have pain. We all endure hardships. We all sin. We all mess up. We all fail. We are all imperfect. No leader is without any of those things.

I am thankful to have not only a hand full, but two hands full of mentors, pastors, and simply amazing leaders in my life, and one of the many things I respect most about those leaders is their willingness to acknowledge weakness, to be vulnerable, to show emotion, to admit when they don’t know something, to acknowledge their imperfections, to admit their faults, to talk about their fears and their challenges, and let people know that being a leader doesn’t negate the fact that you’re still human. I pray to embody that authenticity as an individual and as a pastor someday. I have more distrust than I do admiration for leaders who try to portray themselves as these perfect individuals who are never weak. Because that’s fake. We all have weaknesses so to portray yourself as though you have none is inauthentic and misleading for those who look up to you and those whom you are leading. Having weaknesses and being a leader are also not mutually exclusive. If anything, they make you a better leader.

I am preaching to myself just as much as I am preaching to you when I write this, but do not be ashamed of the things that you consider to be weaknesses in your life, especially when you have a God who is eager to use those weaknesses! Don’t cover them up, rather, embrace them. I know that is easier said than done, but God can actually use them and perfect his strength in those weaknesses. Our weaknesses do not deem us incapable of leading. We are weak, but God is strong. We have flaws, but God is flawless. We are imperfect, but Jesus was & is perfect. I encourage you to ask the question: Am I weak enough to lead? & What does that mean to and for you?

To close out this post, I wanted to leave you with a quote to contemplate from the book I just have mentioned above (I strongly recommend picking up a copy!!)

…Is it that God uses our strengths? Or is it even truer that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness? (Howell, 2017). 


 

Loving and gracious God,

Thank you for using our weaknesses, perhaps even more than you use our strengths. Thank you for being present in our lives as a stronghold and rock, so that we don’t ever have to rely on our own strength. We pray that when we feel incapable or weak that you would remind us that yes – we are incapable and we are weak but you are strong and you are capable. We pray that you would fill us with spirit and enable us to go out and lead, and serve, in your Son, Jesus’ name. We pray that we would be weak enough to lead. Take our pride, God, and take our desire to be perfect and replace it with humility and peace not only in who you’ve made us to be but in who you are. We pray all of this in your name –

Amen. 

 

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a response. for my sisters.

 

statuss

The above Facebook status was one that I wrote this past Sunday. It ended up receiving more reaction and attention than I anticipated, and because of this – because of the numerous comments and Facebook messages that I received following the posting of this status, and because personally, it has been weighing on my mind and on my heart this week, I wanted to elaborate further and write more, for you and for me.

This past Sunday, it was with a very heavy heart that I wrote this status following a church service that left me filled with utter disappointment. Those who read this status reacted to reading it exactly the way that I reacted to hearing the said sermon: shocked, angry, confused, disappointed. I knew that there needed to be light shed onto this because I have dealt with these issues before and therefore had the discernment to know that this is something that cannot be ignored. I cannot imagine that I was the only person in the congregation left feeling this way following this sermon, and I knew that if I ignored this, it would mean that I was tolerating it, and this is something that simply should not be tolerated.

I know that there are plenty of faiths and denominations that have these very same issues every single day regarding looking at men and women as polar opposites and treating them as unequal, and frankly, I am sure that will be a topic I’ll cover in another blog post on another day – But today I am addressing this issue that I was reminded of on Sunday which is still clearly going on within the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church prides itself on its inclusiveness and affirmation of women in all areas and roles of the church, and if we pride ourselves on that, we cannot be sitting back and allowing sexist preaching to occur within our churches. The fact that these issues are still going on within our denomination in the year 2017 does not come as much of a shock to myself and I am sure it doesn’t come as a shock to many of you either, but the fact that it is still present does not mean that we have to accept it and allow it to continue. We need to take our blinders off and know that if it is seen or heard, it should be confronted.

First and foremost, know that my reasoning behind writing and posting this status on Sunday was and still is not to drag anyone’s name through the mud, so with that, the person who preached this sermon will remain unnamed by me, as will the name of the church. I ask that if you do know it, that you please do not comment either of those names on this post. I should note that since my initial post and since talking with others about this, it is being addressed and it is in hands that are not mine, but rest assured and trust that it is being taken care of in the correct manner.

I want to start on a positive note, as I always strive to do, and say that I do not want to believe that the worship experience I had this past Sunday was an accurate representation of this church. This was my first time ever attending this church, and while first impressions are important, I do strive to refrain from judging any church based on one experience. The pastor was pleasant and welcoming, and even offered to have me preach there sometime. I had countless members of the church come up to me, welcome me, and say that they were glad I was there. But the sermon – the sermon was unnerving. It was preached not by the pastor, but by a guest who is someone that holds authority, and that was and is unsettling to me.

With all of that being said, the reasoning behind why I did choose to write this initial status and bring other people into it to hear their views on what I should do with this outdated sermon, was because I do not want any young women like myself sitting in the pews hearing those words from the pulpit and believing for one second that that is truth. I am not going into ministry to prove any points, but I most certainly do acknowledge and take very seriously the fact that God has called me and that I am pursuing a role that many people strive to prevent women from pursuing. I take seriously my responsibility as a woman to defend other women, and affirm them, rather than tear them down or let them be torn down. I take very seriously getting up behind a pulpit knowing there are young girls and women sitting in the pews. Our Virginia conference has a Bishop who just so happens to be a woman; a strong, bold, passionate, fierce woman, and I know that she takes seriously that responsibility, among all her other responsibilities. Seeing her preach and knowing that she is our Bishop encourages me to press on and gives me hope amid any scrutiny myself and others may receive. I can’t imagine what it means for girls even younger than I to see her and her boldness and leadership. Representation matters, as does affirming one another’s gifts and call. So that responsibility of mine was what was running through my head during this sermon, along with knowing blatant sexism when I hear it.

I will note, because many of you have asked – I did not confront this person. I wanted to confront them following this church service. I walked right by this guest preacher after the service was over and I very well could have gone up and had a conversation with them, however, I refrained from doing so and the reasoning for that was as simple as this: I didn’t want my anger to take control of my tongue. I didn’t want to be rude in any way, or say something that I didn’t mean. I was furious, and rightly so, but that is not the best state to go up to someone and speak with them.

This sermon was one that led my jaw to drop more times than I can count, and after having listened to it online for a second time (and third and fourth time) (really just to make sure I was hearing it right), I still can’t believe it. I’m not angry anymore, though, rather, I feel encouraged. I feel encouraged to stand up more and be more bold when it comes to these types of issues.

During the sermon, I wanted so badly to stand up and walk out. But then I remembered the countless times during freshman year of college that I sat in my Bible and church ministries classes at Liberty University where I heard all about how I couldn’t be a pastor because I was a woman. Every day I was told by someone I couldn’t pursue God’s call upon my life for that very reason. I remembered the anger, the doubt, and the hurt that I felt, but I also remembered how I pushed through every single one of those classes – all four New Testament class periods that my professor used to try and convince our class of 300 that women were forbidden from holding the pastoral role. I pushed through all those dreadful classes that left me in tears, and I have grown because of it.

Sitting through those classes didn’t teach me that I couldn’t be a pastor, but they sure as heck taught me how to stand up for what I believe in, even if I was standing alone (and believe me, majority of times at Liberty, I was standing alone). Sitting through that sermon on Sunday didn’t convince me that men and women have separate roles or that women’s gifts stifle men’s gifts in the church, but sitting there and hearing it all presented to me an opportunity to stand up for myself and for every other woman in the Church.

So as I sit here and reflect on this past Sunday,  I am glad that I sat through that whole sermon. I am glad that I sat there, because though I was utterly infuriated at the words I was hearing, I was reminded that when we become infuriated, we have the ability to take that fury and allow it to motivate us to do good or spark change in a positive way. We don’t have to let it drain us or cut us deeply.

As I walked home from church, I contemplated putting anything on Facebook about the service. I contemplated deleting it after I made the decision to post it. I wondered if I had simply overreacted. But then I got other people’s opinions on it (this is why the Bible says to seek wise counsel!!) When someone told me to send it to our Bishop, I started overthinking it more than I already had been.

I’m on my own ministry journey and I’d rather not cause any trouble or make anyone mad.

But then I read a timely devotion about being bold (God’s funny like that). It talked about how whether or not we choose to be bold lies in how confident we are in our God (and not ourselves!) I’m confident in God and know him and his word well enough to know that he would never encourage preaching that sets one gender up on a pedestal and the other left out to dry. One pastor reminded me that people like this guest speaker, who think and preach such things, in a way want us to be afraid and not speak up. They especially don’t expect women to speak up who are ‘supposed to be gentle and not have a loud enough voice to speak up with.’ This person even stated in their sermon that women are supposed to be gentle and men are to be leaders. But friends, need I remind you that gentleness and boldness are not gender specific.

When the person holds some type of authority as this person did, it can be even more intimidating, which could be why the pastor of this church did not stop the preaching as I know many of the pastors in my life would have. But it is in those tough moments, even if the person is higher up than them, when discernment of what is right and being bold both come into play.

Being bold sometimes means standing up even when you are a little (or a lot) afraid to do so. In fact, that shows boldness; we’ve all heard that famous quote, “feel the fear and do it anyways.” That was me speaking up about what I experienced in this church on Sunday. That was me sending this status to my Bishop and sending the link to select few people who I could trust to get their opinion. That is me sitting here right now realizing how big of an issue this was and that it’s being addressed because I, feeling the fear and doing it anyways, shed some light onto this issue that has likely occurred more than just once, happening right in our conference.

My main reason for writing a more elaborate response post about this was to remind the Church that we still have work to do. It was to remind myself and others who happen to read my writing about the importance of men and women empowering one another, not pinning us against each other or building up walls of differences between us. It was to remind myself and others that we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, need to be lifting each other up and affirming each other’s gifts and the call which God has placed on each of our lives – we are called! So may we do these things each and every day, Church!

Through this situation, I have felt and seen God actively working, as he has many, many times before when it has come to discerning when to speak up and when to remain silent. I have heard and sensed him through the people who I have brought into this conversation as well. It has made my heart happy to see my fellow brothers and sisters come together and affirm women in church leadership and condemn the oppression of it. I know that every time I witness such preaching that goes against what the UMC (not to mention the Bible) stands for, or I or another woman is told that we can’t do something because of our gender, it makes us stronger, and gives us thicker skin, which personally is something I have been praying for!

I know that I am not perfect, that I am never going to be, and that I am not called to be. I am still going to run around mountains barefoot, be as clumsy as can be, run into things, and get my ear mic tangled in my hair every time before I preach. I am still only 20, with a whole lot left to learn. When I am a pastor, I still won’t be perfect, I won’t know everything, and I won’t be perfect at letting such negative preaching or comments role off me like rain. I know that the women and men who I look up to aren’t perfect and also have a lot left to learn. Role models are not supposed to be perfect. No male or female on this planet will ever be perfect and God doesn’t expect us to be (thank goodness). But as Christians striving to please the Lord, we do our best and nothing less than that. We do good, we love people, we affirm one another in the things Gods called us to do, we walk humbly, we love mercy, we do justly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, encourage one another to be who God has called each of us individually to be, and nothing less. Brothers in Christ, you, too have a responsibility in this – a responsibility to affirm your sisters, stand up for them, and not discourage or allow others to discourage us from doing the things that God has called us to do. Churches, make certain that you are getting men and women into your pulpits. Sisters in Christ, may we continue to empower one another, as we continue to preach on.

 

my call story

While this story of mine is one that is constantly becoming longer, evolving, and becoming more meaningful as God continues to work in my life, this call to ministry is such a significant part of why I write the things that I do, I wanted to dedicate a post on my blog to sharing it with you all, if you so desire to read more about why my heart is where it is.
While my parents took my sister and I to church every Sunday that they could, and had us say our prayers every night before bed and before dinner, it wasn’t really until my freshman year of high school that I began to desire more of a relationship with God. I attended my very first youth retreat when I was a freshman and it was when all of the youth group’s were gathered together in one room singing along with the band to the song, “How He Loves,” that I first experienced the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, in that moment, I told myself and I told God that I wanted to live my life for Him and His Church more than I had been already. I started getting more involved at my church in various ways – youth group, Bible studies, youth praise band – then came junior year of high school, when I began to see, hear, and feel God revealing this call to ministry.
I preached my very first sermon on Youth Sunday that year, and oddly enough, before then, I had been terrified of public speaking, yet, for some crazy reason, I volunteered to give the sermon. That was four years ago, and while I just barely remember the message that I shared with the congregation, I do remember the way in which God stirred up within me this passion to preach. To be before my fellow brothers and sisters and deliver to them a message God placed on my heart, was and is so humbling, and each time I get up to preach before a congregation, that same sense of Him stirring up that passion never fails to be present. That same year, I became much more involved with the worship aspect of ministry – serving communion, lay reading, attending church council and spiritual growth meetings, as well as prayer meetings. I simply loved being in the church, because there is where God seemed to always use me the most. The Church is where my faith was nurtured, where I first heard my call, as well as the very place where my faith and my call have both been supported, challenged, and affirmed the most. My home church has been my ‘home’ for practically my whole life – while I was born and baptized in Maryland, my family has attended the same church since moving here, where we celebrated my first birthday. So, that church has been my home for 18 years and counting. It would take an entire other blog post to sum up my love for that church of mine and the impact it has had on my life, so I’ll save that for a later date. But the people there truly are my family. We have all been through hell and back, both together and separately, but we have always had one another to lean on for support, love, comfort, and for the great reminder of who Jesus is and what his love looks like. It really is the people that makes up The Church – it is made up of God’s broken and imperfect children, who are in such desperate need of Him. It is made up of people who are called to go and make disciples and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is what my home church exemplified to me all these years, and they played a bigger role in my call to ministry than I could ever explain with words. I know that not everyone is a part of such an affirming church, so that is something I’ll never take for granted. I also know not everyone has a good experience in the church, but one of my prayers as a pastor someday will be that I would assist in providing the same church environment that my home church provided me for so many years, and continues to provide me.
So, as I said, my junior year of high school was when I really got started discerning this call, as well as when I got more involved with worship services. I began serving communion quite frequently, which quickly became a form of serving (and receiving) in which I felt closest to God. The idea of helping my brothers and sisters remember what Jesus did for us all on the cross for our trespasses, is so powerful. It is still, personally, one of the most meaningful ways to serve in the church, and for so many significant reasons. In high school, I struggled greatly with anorexia nervosa and I remember during my sophomore year of high school, it was so bad that I didn’t even want to go up and receive communion because I was so fearful of the calories in the bread and juice. In that moment was when I found myself needing to step back and realize that something had to change – I needed recovery, and I was confident that God was going to help me do just that. My faith played such a significant role in my decision to begin recovery, and I’m so grateful for that, because if it were not for my recovery, I would not be able to do what God has called me to do – I wouldn’t be able to write sermons, preach, serve, or do anything, and I likely would not be sitting here writing about this call. Not too long ago, my pastor asked if I would help him with communion because he was sick and didn’t want to touch the elements, and what a moment of clarity and assurance from God, as I lifted the cup and broke the bread. This pull and sense of call towards administering the sacraments is one of the many reasons I feel called to the ministry of an elder. (I’ll touch more on that later).
My senior year of high school rolled around and I shared two more sermons, both on Youth Sunday – one in the fall and then one in the spring before I graduated. The spring of senior year I shared my testimony with the congregation for the first time. I remember looking out into the congregation and seeing people in tears and the impact that that had on me – that sure did make me want to cry too, not because I was sad, but because in that moment was when I realized that the words I was speaking, or, the words God was speaking through me, were touching people, and speaking to them in ways they needed. This sermon was also one where I told my church family that I would be attending Liberty University for college! I was so excited – I knew that Liberty was a big Christian university and I could not wait to go there and take classes that would help prepare me for ministry. At that point, I knew God was calling me into ministry, and though I was not yet sure what area of ministry that was, I was confident that he wanted me in the Church. I should note that all I knew about Liberty, going in, was that it was big, beautiful, and the largest Christian University in the world (I did not know it had any denominational ties).
The summer before moving into Liberty, I was trying to decide what I would want my major at Liberty to be. After doing my research and praying about it, I decided that I would major in pastoral leadership, so, I signed up for the intro to pastoral leadership class and I worked my schedule around it. This was, however, until I was one day talking on the phone with the head of the department, who informed me that this specific major at Liberty was only for men. Confused was an understatement. I talked to my parents and they were just as confused as I was, so I called LU’s admissions to double check, because I thought, “this couldn’t be right.” (or legal). Admissions even had to put me on hold to go check and see if it was true, because the girl on the other end of the phone told me, “as far as I know, there are no restrictions on who can do that major.” She got back on the line to tell me, “it turns out, this major is only for men because of the Southern Baptist beliefs the school has.” I was shocked and rather confused, but I did my research. I found the scriptures where this belief comes from, that women cannot be head pastors. I researched, in depth, these verses, the Southern Baptist Convention, Liberty’s ties with the denomination, and read countless articles. I changed my major to Christian leadership and church ministries, and I simply told myself this was one belief the school has, doesn’t mean it has to affect me, and I left it. I in no way accepted the belief, I simply told myself it didn’t have to bother me, because God was calling me. I had never been introduced to this belief and despite what some may say, that is not because I was sheltered, it was simply because I grew up in a church and in a home which supported all of Gods children in whatever it was that they were called to. I will never stop being grateful for that. So, all of that aside, I went about my summer, continuing to do ministry in my church, and also, attended annual conference for my first time.
Annual conference had such a huge impact on my call. It’s funny, because the first year I attended this conference, it was voting year, so there was a lot of sitting around, waiting, and listening intently. Despite the voting and great amount of confusion that came along with hundreds of people gathered in one convocation center trying to figure out how electronic voting worked, I loved every minute of that conference. I drew so much energy from talking with different pastors and laity about ministry, various opportunities, their churches, my church, and so much more. I met our Bishop, at the time, and I’ll never forget him giving me a high five when I told him I was feeling this call into ministry. He is a great man! One evening, there was an ordination service, and while that service in and of itself was powerful and emotional, after the service, our Bishop told everyone in the room who was hearing God calling them to ministry to walk forward, meet him, and pray with one of the newly ordained elders or deacons. I walked forward with full confidence. Confidence that I had never had before. I will never forget that experience of walking forward and feeling as though Jesus was right beside me, holding my hand (because he totally was!) That moment of standing with a woman who had just been ordained that night and having her pray over me and this call I was hearing was so incredibly powerful, as was hearing all of the prayers being prayed around me for people who were also hearing a call, by people who had just taken this huge step in their call to ministry by becoming ordained. Walking away from that, I took a sign of relief, because God has just given to me such an affirmation of this call…
After annual conference, a couple months passed, and before I knew, I was all moved into Liberty – I loved it. I met some of the greatest friends, who are still some of my best friends. The campus was so beautiful, I loved the town that the school was located in, I found a wonderful church home away from home (Heritage UMC ❤ ) I loved my classes and I loved that I was going to be in classes that would help prepare me for a life in ministry. However, it was not long before I started getting into my Church ministry, Christian leadership, and Bible classes, where I quickly realized just how blatant the professors and school was about this belief that women and men have separate roles in the Church and in the home. Most of my first semester at Liberty was spent laughing off comments that students and professors would make on the topic. I coped with the irritating and hurtful affects of those comments by telling myself that it didn’t matter, as long as I knew that I was called and that God had my back. It worked for the time being, especially because I had another friend who was facing the same opposition for being a female striving to become a youth pastor. We laughed together, we researched more and more, we prayed, and we persevered.
Amid all of this, my pastor at the time back at my home church asked me if I would deliver the sermon on Christmas Eve at our 11pm service. I eagerly said yes and remember being so excited that I started preparing that sermon at least a month in advance. I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words how significant this was in my call story – my pastor, since day one of my call, had always been so encouraging and was always giving me opportunities left and right to live out my call, to learn, and to grow. For him to ask me to preach at a service that would lead into something as significant as Jesus’s birthday, was so special. It was a blessing, really, that amid all of the people telling me I couldn’t preach because of my gender, I had my pastor reminding me that I could by giving to me the opportunity to preach for the first time on a day that was not Youth Sunday. It was such a joy to have that affirmation from him and from God, in the midst of being in classes where I was being reminded that I couldn’t preach if men were present. I prepared that sermon and wanted it to be perfect (not that that’s possible), I remember telling myself I couldn’t mess it up, for it was Jesus’ birthday! In preparing and delivering this sermon, God made my call clearer than ever. Again, I looked out into the congregation to see tears, people nodding their heads, and I remember feeling humility like never before, because as gratifying as it was and always is to live out my call in this way, you always remind yourself that it’s nothing you’re doing and everything that God is doing through you.
Being home for a whole month for winter break and in a setting where I wasn’t taught or told I couldn’t do certain things in the Church because of my gender was something I needed. I was refreshed, renewed, and told myself I was ready to take on any adversity that I would face back at Liberty. I trekked on back to Liberty for a second semester of college I did not anticipate being nearly as difficult as it was. There was no laughing off comments, during that semester. There was no making light of the situation. The first I told you about? Our laughing together quickly turned into crying together on a weekly basis, out of hurt, confusion, and anger. When I say every day, I mean every day, I would hear a comment, have to answer a workbook question, or read a textbook / ministry book about why I could not do certain things, such as pastor a church, because of my gender. My friend and I resorted to saying we were business majors when people would ask, because we were exhausted from the debates, the arguments, the people telling us we were sinning, and the attacks we would get from people who would try to convince us that we were wrong and that, “God would never call a woman to be a pastor.” I would say my breaking point was taking an multiple choice exam in which one of the questions read as followed, “Women can do all of the following except” a) pastor a church b) pray c) teach other women.” I’m sure it’s obvious, but the answer they were looking for was letter a.
(But thank goodness we’re allowed to pray!)
I was definitely brought down by people – by Christian’s – lower than I ever thought possible, but because of this, my reliance on God grew more and more every single second of simply walking that campus. I ended up adding a major half way through the year (psychology). I have always loved psychology – it is actually my current major at my new school as well, because I know it will help me greatly in ministry, and I’ll be going to seminary after undergrad to learn all of that good stuff anyways! However, even in the psychology classes I was taking at Liberty, I was learning about gender roles, and even had a professor state on more than one occasion that women can do everything in ministry except be a lead pastor, and a woman’s place is, in fact, in the home while the husband makes money. (Because, after all, it’s definitely not the year 2017).
Amid my second semester, I did a practicum at the church I attended while I was away at school, which was such a light. Under the leadership of the church’s pastor and associate pastor, I was able to shadow them around, go on hospital visits, preach a sermon one Sunday, serve communion, lay read, and more. I was able to sit in on funeral preparations and talk with them about how they go about preparing their sermons. I so dearly loved and love the church family I gained there, and the pastors I had the privilege of having as mentors. I know my year at Liberty would have been much more difficult if it had not been for their love and support, and their ability to laugh at the things I was learning in my classes. While being in an environment where my call was picked apart, I was to live out that call in a church setting that was constantly affirming me, making me better, and helping me grow.
About a week before classes ended, I made the decision to transfer from Liberty. I didn’t know where I would go, or when, but I knew I needed to be elsewhere in order to pursue God’s call upon my life. That place hurt me a lot, but it taught me a lot too, even if most of those lessons were outside of the classroom. I learned how to listen to God’s voice above mans and I experienced what its like for the devil to try everything in his power to keep you from God. At Liberty, I came to know compassion, patience, and grace on whole new level that I hadn’t known before my year there. It’s ridiculous (in a good way) the way I can hear or see things that I strongly disagree with and be okay with it, simply because I acknowledge everyone doesn’t have to agree in order for us to love one another. I learned, there, the importance of being able to disagree with someone and still love them, as well as the importance of learning when to speak and when not to. I will forever be grateful for my year at Liberty, and am convinced it will only make me a better pastor. Because of this, even if I could change the year I had there, I would not. I know God let me go through all of that for many reasons, but one being because he knew in the midst of it all, I would see and hear him tell me what he wanted me to do with my life louder and clearer than ever.
So, when I finally decided to transfer, it was too late to transfer to another four year university and feel confident that was where I was supposed to be, so, I settled on community college. It was not my first choice, but it was a realistic one. I decided I would take gen ed classes there until I could confidently decide where to complete my undergraduate education. This ended up being a blessing in disguise in so many ways. The first blessing, of course, was getting myself out of a very unhealthy environment where I would likely end up doubting not only my call but my God more than ever. I realize that my time at Liberty was not the only time I will have to defend my call, but also realize that now, I am not choosing to put myself in the position of having to defend it on a daily basis and be torn down for it. Another huge blessing that came with being home at community college, was that I would also be back at my home church. When summer came around, I was asked to assume the role of co-lay leader at my home church. After a good amount of discernment and prayer and my decision swaying left and right, I decided that I would take on the role. At the time, our church was in the midst of getting a new pastor, because our former pastor was off to be the new D.S in another city. I loved our former pastor very much, and still do! He has been a mentor of mine since day one of my call to ministry and has never once stopped supporting me, and while I was sad to see him go, nobody is more fit for the position of D.S than him. So, my position as co-lay leader began when our new pastor arrived. The ministry of a co-lay leader I believe is best described as a ministry of presence, so this position involved myself, along with our other lay leader, attending meetings and communicating with our church’s pastor. What a joy and a challenge this position was, all at once. It gave me insight into the life of the Church and what all it takes to keep a church functioning properly more anything ever had before. I never thought of myself as someone who would be a lay leader at a church at age 19, and I know my age was a bit weird to some people, but this position taught me so much. It showed me areas and aspects of ministry and of people I had never seen before, and I watched so intently how my pastor handled situations with grace – I have certainly been blessed with incredible and Godly mentors, and pray to be just half the pastor all of them are someday.
I started getting my name out there and being open to guest preaching at various churches on my district as pastors would need someone, and I’ll tell ya what – every time I am asked by a pastor if I’ll preach at their church, I get just as excited as I did the first time I was asked to preach on Christmas Eve. God works through me when I’m serving in the church or when I am preaching in a way that I could never begin to take credit for, simply because I, myself, could never speak to people the way God speaks to them. Who am I to represent God, I don’t know, but I am grateful every day for this call, and for the love and strength of God which enables me to do what I do.
Fall of 2016 I was able to take more steps in the process to becoming a certified candidate for ordination while I was home and at community college, which was another huge blessing that came from being at community college. I was able to work with my pastor through a discernment guide, interview before DCOM and then again before SPRC. I went before my home church to receive at least 2/3 votes of approval from the local church, which, thanks be to God, I was able to do. I am still in the process and have a few more steps to complete, and it has been a joy. Leaving a school I had every intention of being at for four years and deciding to transfer was the largest leap of faith I have taken in life thus far, in my almost 20 years of life, yet it is one process that God has proven to be faithful through, and I cannot contain the love I have for Him. God knows what he’s doing, all of the time.
I was at community college for one semester, and now, I am a sophomore at James Madison University, and folks, I am absolutely in love. I’ll be majoring in psychology, which is a subject I love, as well as something I know will come in handy many times through out my life in ministry – it already has! During undergrad, I will continue to be involved at my school through intervarsity, which is a Christian organization at JMU in which I have already met some of the greatest friends. I will also continue guest preaching whenever the opportunity presents itself (or whenever I make an opportunity for myself). My goal is to be a certified candidate for ordination before I graduate college, and then head to seminary after college, where I will work towards receiving my Masters of Divinity in my pursuit to becoming an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. If you’re reading this and you know me, I just want to thank you for the role you have played in getting me here. I am in love with the God who placed each of you in my life and will never be able to thank Him enough for giving you to my undeserving self. Whoever you are, thanks for reading this, and thanks for tagging along with me on this incredible journey. Here’s to what is and what will be!
Grace and peace,
Ashley 

4 things young people in the church want you to know

This article really speaks for young people in their 20 something’s and below, not just youth, not just young adults, and not just children, but all three of those age groups. There are a lot of assumptions and generalizations about young people in the church, and because of this, I wanted to take a moment to share four things that I believe as young people, we want everyone else to know. I write this only with the hope of informing and helping everyone to be more welcoming of young people, and less judgmental and closed off to young people and their voices. So, without further ado, # 1.

1.) Don’t assume that our young age makes us incapable.

Please please please, encourage young people to participate in your church’s worship services. This is key. Encourage young people to lead in your church. Especially when it comes to the youth – don’t think that because they are young, that they will cause commotion and start running up and down the aisles, jumping over pews, and knocking candles off of the alter. Underestimating young people and their ability to lead and be mature is not encouraging – that is just helping open the door for them to walk right out of church, and possibly never come back. Encourage people of all ages to participate in both, both in and out of the worships services, and both in and out of the church walls, because there are areas of ministry for people of all ages and interests.

How else are young people going to learn how to become better leaders in the Church and in the world, if they’re not being encouraged to do so within their own church home?

I would be one rich gal if I had a penny for every time someone has blatantly and condescendingly reminded me of how young I am. I know I’m young, and I also know that does not mean I’m incapable. I don’t need to be told that I am ‘only’ 19, as though my age limits me or limits how God can use me. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to never treat anyone – young or old – as though they are only anything when they are children of God – we’re all children of a God who is all powerful and all capable. Therefore, as cliche as it may sound, there is nothing we cannot do with Him, regardless of our age. Urge the young people in your church to lay read, be confirmed, serve communion, help with the children’s message, help lead children’s church or lead Sunday School. Have annual or biannual Youth Sunday’s so that your church’s congregation sees the youth being active and showing the great dedication they have to Christ and His Church. Youth Sunday is such a great way for the youth to gain experience leading in the church (who knows – your church could be led by one of its current youth 20 years from now.) Youth Sunday is also a way to remind the youth that they are loved, cared for, and supported by their church family, enough to let them take the lead and run worship a couple Sunday’s a year. I know that personally, if it weren’t for Youth Sunday, I may have never stepped up and delivered my very first sermon.

Young does not mean incapable and young does not mean immature. Remember that, and show your church’s young people that you know and believe that.

2.) Inter-generational activities & worship services are important to us. 

There is a couple at my church who are 89 and 90 years old; they are my adopted grandparents as they remind me every week, and they are also my inspiration, my supporters, and my role models. Everything they are, both individually and as a couple, is how I can only pray to be someday. I believe every single young person in the Church should have a relationship like that, and relationships like this one, form when your church gives its congregants opportunities to meet people of all ages. It’s a beautiful thing to have people you can look up to, who are wiser, more experienced, and able to teach you new lessons about life every time you talk to them. Relationships such as this are built when the young people are able to interact and have fellowship with those older than them, and when the elderly people in your church are able to interact and have fellowship with those younger than them. It’s important for young people to have mentors, and what better place to seek out those mentors than within the church; I know some of the people who I look up to the most are leaders in the church, and those are the people I know I can always count on for wisdom, spiritual guidance, scripture references, and honest advice. Encourage your pastor and church leaders to host events and activities where these relationships can be founded and built. Have ice cream socials, cook outs, campfires, luncheons, potlucks, hikes, bowling, mini golf etc. Anything that gets all of the different generations together and in fellowship. Whether you know it or not, these relationships are something that we, young people, cherish.

Having a church that only caters to one generation will only last as long as that generation that’s being catered to lasts. It’s so important for churches to have that healthy balance, so that you church is a place where everyone knows they are welcome and loved, and a place where everyone is able to be challenged at times. We all know that being disciples in today’s world is not always easy, and having people, younger and older than us, to help one another along that journey makes a world of a difference.

3.) Change does not mean ‘throw away all things traditional.’

I grew up in a church that, for the longest time, only had traditional worship services – no contemporary and no blended. After I finally learned how to read hymns the correct way so that I wasn’t singing the lyrics out of order, I greatly enjoyed it and would always smile so big when I saw that the choir would be singing a hymn that I knew. I still, to this day, as a college student, absolutely love singing from the hymnal. I appreciate tradition and have never once had a problem with it, even now, as our church has both a contemporary and traditional service. It’s safe to say that times are changing, and some, maybe from older generations, may think that this is because of millennials who want nothing but technology and fun in their worship services. Some think that change means getting rid of tradition, which is not true. Tradition is important, as is your church’s heritage. Most church’s have both contemporary and traditional services, and it is so good to have that balance so that people can choose which service to attend; people connect to God in many different ways, so just remember that.

Change is inevitable, and your church won’t only not attract millennials if it doesn’t make necessary changes, but your church won’t attract people if it avoids change. The “this is how we’ve always done it,” mindset won’t grow your church. It won’t grow the number of disciples inside your church walls or outside your church walls in your community.

Where would the Church be if Jesus refused to be different and change the way things were done?

Change does not mean conform to the patterns of the world – scripture tells us not to do that. Change does not mean abandoning tradition. Change simply means not being afraid to leave your church’s comfort zone. It means stepping out in faith and trying something new. Change isn’t about the young people in your church. Change is about the Holy Spirit working within your church to do something beautiful that you may not even be aware of yet. Take heart, and know that change is not a bad thing. Neither is tradition, and neither is having young people who prefer contemporary over tradition, and vise versa.

4.) We have a voice. Let us use it (please)

When young people speak about something important, such as church matters, politics, or any controversial issues, there’s this misconception that we have no idea what we’re talking about. While that is true in some cases (and none of us know everything) often times we do know what we’re talking about, many people older than us simply won’t give us the chance to prove that.

Encourage there to be at least one young person at a place where their voice can be heard, especially in church meetings. Even if that means having just one youth on the church council; if you don’t make it obvious that your church cares about the voice of young people, your church won’t attract young people. There are very passionate youth and young adults out there who care deeply about their church, love the God they serve, and want to be in ministry with those around them. These passionate young people bring new ideas, visions, dreams, and plans in order to make those ideas, visions, and dreams become reality. So put young people in your church so that they don’t only feel as though they’re leaders, but that they know they are leaders in your church.

In closing, to my fellow young people in the Church – whether you are 10, 15, or 20 something, press on, and remember you have a voice that deserves to be heard. If you’re not convinced of this because your church isn’t listening to you, I urge you to step up and make that issue aware to others within your church, before you decide to up and leave. However, if things don’t change, I urge you to find a church where your voice will be heard, because you deserve that. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I didn’t have my church family behind me, supporting me, and giving me opportunity to minister, but also challenging me in many different ways, even by occasionally slipping in a comment about how young I am – I just take that as a compliment now. I long for my having preached sermons, and my being a lay leader at my church at age 19, to prove that anyone is capable – regardless of their age – anyone is capable of being a leader in the church and outside of the church.

Friends, keep being leaders, and know that you are capable. You’re capable of making a difference and YOU ARE capable of being a leader both inside and outside of the Church.

Remember Jesus never once said you had to be a certain age in order to go and make disciples. He simply told us to “go.”

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. ~1 Timothy 4:12

 

If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.

Being a servant requires humility.

There are over 100 verses in the Bible about humility, and whether or not we like to admit it, this is something we all struggle with.

There are many (easy) ways we can become proud and boast about ourselves, as oppose to being proud of what Jesus did for us and boasting about Him. It’s very easy to allow your accomplishments to get to your head, or take glory when you do something well, or, ‘win.’

The way to becoming a good leader doesn’t lie as much in leading by example, as it does in following the example of Jesus. To know how to lead, you must first be a servant. Wash feet. Give generously. Put yourself second. Put Jesus first. Help those in need. Give God the glory when someone compliments you or something you did.

For the longest time, when people would tell me how ‘well’ I did preaching a sermon, reading the scripture lesson, or leading a prayer, I would simply say ‘thank you’ and let it be, sometimes, allowing that compliment to get to my head. It’s easy for compliments to get in a person’s head, because it is good to be acknowledged for something you did well. It’s human nature to desire that type of recognition. I like to believe humility takes practice. A lot of practice.

I have found that when I do get ‘proud’ and allow a comment or compliment to get to my head, God has a way of knocking me right off of my high horse. I can’t help but laugh thinking of times where this has happened. God has a sense of humor!

Over time, I have done my very best to give God the glory when someone compliments my preaching, writing, etc, simply because if it weren’t for God, I wouldn’t have been up there giving a sermon to begin with, or writing that devotion they liked so much.

While my goal is to be a pastor, which literally means, shepherd, or, leader – if  I am not, first, a servant of Jesus and serving others because of this, how can I successfully lead a church? How can I comfort somebody who is grieving a loss? How can I help assist someone who is so close to death? How can I allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me when preaching a sermon if I’m not serving Him and giving back?

The answer is simple – I can’t.

I am such a people pleaser and while I have certainly gotten better at not caring so much about what other people think, the desire to please people definitely still finds a way to creep into my mind at times. Because of this, I often find myself trying my very best to come across as ‘perfect’ (as if there is such thing…) I would hide my mistakes, my struggles, my weaknesses – or, at least I thought I was hiding them. However, nobody is perfect, so when you try to be, you actually end up making a fool of yourself because of how obvious it is that you, in fact, are not perfect.

You all, remember when I said I wanted to be a pastor?

Hear me out: I have tripped down the stairs at my church before and bruised my wrist. I have served my pastor communion and I made him break his own bread (so, I guess I didn’t really serve him after all…) I have messed up names in the Bible when reading the scripture lesson. I am the clumsiest person you will ever meet. The majority of names in the Bible, I probably cannot pronounce correctly if my life depended on it. I love ministry to death and I love the Word – my life’s work will revolve around it someday (more than it does now) Yet I have made these mistakes and I have learned to laugh at them, simply because I believe that’s what humility is. Humility is acknowledging and admitting that you are flawed and you are okay with it. Humility is putting yourself second to others and being the hands and feet of Jesus, even when it is the last thing you want to do.

Humble yourself before the Lord. James 4:10.

When you’re doing work – when you are living out your passions, you are doing so for Jesus and before Jesus. You’re serving Him, and often times, you do so by serving His children.

So whether this means helping feed the homeless, washing the dishes or mopping the floor after a church pot luck, taking the trash out, folding up chairs, sitting through a two+ hour meeting to help better your church, or volunteering in the nursery with the little Jesus followers – you’re serving, and by that, you are leading.

A servant may be defined as a person who is a devoted and helpful follower or supporter.

That sounds like the role of a Christian, does it not?

We are called to devote our lives to Jesus and be a follower and supporter of Him. Jesus washed feet. He was the Son of God and he washed the feet of so many. He served, he was a servant. If we want to be like Jesus, we must serve. Only then, will we lead.

Today at church, they needed some extra help in children’s church because they were short on volunteers – to be 100% honest, this was not something I was looking to do today, but right there before me was an opportunity, not to lead these kids, but to serve them, by helping them learn about Jesus and peace. It was rewarding – getting to hear how excited those kids get about the smallest things – hearing them talk about heaven and how great of a place it will be… Their imaginations are fascinating and their eagerness to learn more about God is inspiring. I’m so glad I volunteered to help with these young kids, who have the potential to grow up to be servants and leaders themselves…

By serving others, young or old, you are being a leader. By doing so, you are modeling exactly how Jesus modeled – he was a humble, perfect, Servant. While we are not and will never be perfect, we are to be humble and we are called to serve. We are called to serve others as Jesus did, and only then, will be playing a role in helping lead people to Jesus – the Jesus we serve.

So lead by example, yes, but look to Jesus and only Jesus as your example, and constantly be reminding yourself that it is Him you are serving and Him who deserves the glory. Humble yourself and remember that without him, there is nothing you can accomplish. With him, there is nothing you can’t accomplish. This is a very humbling thought in and of itself because it reminds you, when you are complimented, for whatever reason, if it weren’t for God, you couldn’t have done it.

Be a servant. Lead by looking to Jesus as your example – the most perfect Servant.

 

He equips the called.

This week proved two things to me.

The first, is that ministry is definitely something I am being called to pursue. (I think we already knew that)

The second? God is way too good to me.

As Christians, ministry is supposed to be a part of life. It’s something we’re called to do on a daily basis, wherever we are, in whatever setting we’re in.

Some people, however, including myself, are called to pursue ministry as a career, or, full time ministry.

Right now, my major is Christian Leadership and Church Ministry, therefore,  I am working towards a degree for ministry. While I’m not sure if that major will be the same as it is next year, or the year after that, I know ministry is something I am going to pursue, regardless. It’s something God has showed me over and over again- that this is what I am supposed to be doing.

The past couple weeks, He has revealed this to me in a few different ways.

I’ve already written about this, but last month, my pastor asked me if I would like to give the sermon at one of our Christmas Eve services this year. Simply reading that email, both terrified me and filled me with excitement. I’ve given sermons before in front of my church, but all I could think about when I saw that he wanted me to do a Christmas Eve sermon, was, “wow Christmas…that’s Jesus’s birth. That’s so important. I can’t screw this up.”

That’s why it terrified me. I couldn’t help but think about the people who may be at that service who may not even know much about Jesus. However, as I said, I was also super excited, because if there are people there who don’t know Jesus, I get to be the one to tell them about him! That’s so cool! I was excited because I was going to be able to give another sermon, which I have not done in so long! (too long!) I was excited because after facing so much adversity for being a woman in ministry, I was being asked, by someone I admire greatly, if I would be willing to give a sermon in front of a congregation. God has called me to act when incredible opportunities such as this arise, and he has equipped me to do so as well.

There are three more ways in which God has given me reassurance of my call, and all three occurred just within the past week.

Towards the beginning of the week, I was asked if I would lead a small group at a youth retreat nearby, which just so happens to be the youth retreat I attended all four years while I was in high school. I was so excited, because youth ministry has always been close to my heart- being able to open up God’s Word and share my faith with these young people is something I know God has been preparing me to do, and I can’t wait to see the ways in which he is at work and shows himself throughout that weekend.

Yesterday… yesterday was double the excitement.

Next semester, I have to do a practicum in a church setting for 40 hours throughout the semester, as required for all ministry majors.

I got approved by both of the pastors at the church I am hoping to do the practicum at, and now just need to get approval from my professor (so fingers crossed for that!) The reason I’m including this, is because one of my biggest fears as college move in day began to approach, was that I wouldn’t find a church home there. I was and am so close with my church family back home, and I was so involved there, my heart hurt at the thought of not finding a good church to attend during my time here in college. However, the first Sunday I tried a church nearby my school, I fell in love. I fell in love with the building, the incredibly kind and welcoming people, and the fact that they have a male AND female pastor (who are both so sweet and such Godly people) I found a church, that I can already so easily call home, and I am so excited to do my practicum there, and spend many more Sunday’s there during my time here in college! (this past week, one of the pastors brought me a coloring book and crayons because she knew I was having a stressful week… yep, God is great)

Lastly, yesterday, I found out that myself and another wonderful young adult at my church, will both be attending annual conference this summer, as young adult delegates for our district! I had the great privilege of attending annual conference last summer, and it was such an incredible experience. I finally got to meet our bishop (who is SO awesome), we saw a handful of people get ordained, and I got to spend time with the church leaders I know and love dearly, and also me many other lay people and pastors from other churches. I love meeting and talking with anyone and everyone in ministry, because it makes me so excited (I’m a nerd, I know) But really, I am so eager and looking forward to going to annual conference again, and it is such a great way to experience all aspects of ministry.

All of these things that I just talked about are so exciting. It’s ministry. It’s what I love. But along with all of these incredible opportunities and experiences, can come with a bit of anxiety. You can have a passion for something, or love doing something so much, and still, it can overwhelm you at times. Whatever you end up doing in life as an vocation, there will be times where it will get stressful, and overwhelming.

So, you’re probably wondering why I said the second thing proven to me this week was that God is too good to me-

I said that, because I get to be overwhelmed by something I’m doing for God. I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it because God told me to. What an incredible feeling it is to be overwhelmed by something, for someone, who is greater than me.

I know that God has and is continuing to prepare me for ministry. I don’t know what that ministry is going to look like. I don’t know what job I’m going to end up getting after college. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know God has equipped me, because HE has called me.

I don’t even have a career yet. I’m not ordained. I’m not pastoring a church. I’m in college. I’m a freshman, and I can tell you- it will get overwhelming.

I think about this Christmas Eve sermon almost every single day. I try to work on it and critique it whenever I get the chance. I try to practice giving it out loud. I want to make sure it is well done! I’m a perfectionist! And I know many of us (especially writers) can relate to that!

When I looked at the calendar and realized that this youth retreat I’m going to be leading a small group at, is just two weeks away, I freaked out a bit! I haven’t even printed the lesson plans out yet!

Something else I realized while looking at the calendar is that I do not have much time left before I am done with my first semester of college! I’m going to be doing a practicum already, during just my second semester as a college freshman! That’s insane! (insanely awesome/terrifying)

BUT, as I have been fluctuating between this worry and excitement, I have realized that if God has called me to do these things, (as I believe he has), he is also going to equip me to do those things as well! He will not just going to call us to do something without providing us with exactly what we need to pursue that call!

I’m very blessed that God has so graciously placed these opportunities in my life. I can’t think of any other way to describe it, other than it being a blessing, because it certainly is one.

Every time I get asked or I request to do something that has anything to do with ministry, whether it be serving communion, lay reading, giving a sermon, or going to an event such as annual conference, my heart feels so full, and that incredible feeling of knowing this is exactly what God wants me doing right now, makes it all worth it. I’m not a perfect Christian, under any circumstances, nor do I think I am, but I can tell you this- when you pursue something that you know God is calling you to do, because you have a passion and a gift for it, I can bet you anything it puts a big smile on His face.

So, for what it’s worth, my advice to you, is this-

Remember that whatever you’re faced with in this life. Whatever you encounter, whatever task you find yourself having to do, or wanting to do, remember God is going to provide for you. Remember that he is equipping you, every single day, to do what  you have been called, by Him, to do.

Another small piece of advice to you, from me, is to never, under any circumstances, let another person try to talk you out of something you know you are being called to do. Do not let anyone stand in the way of you pursuing your passion. Do not let anyone, including yourself, tell you that you cannot do something, when God clearly knows that you can.

He believes in you, so YOU need to believe in you, and trust Him. And for what it’s worth, I believe in you too :  )

I’m not quitting. I’m just getting started, and I want to say thank you.

I have been wanting to write about this for days, but I resisted and put it off because I definitely did not have the patience, grace, or the calm heart to touch on this topic earlier this week, but I do now.

I have written several posts about this in the past, and I felt inclined to write another, because this week has given me such inspiration to do so.

I met with someone this past week, who I quickly found out, believes women should not be pastors.

For those of you who know me, or who have read my previous posts on this topic, you know I believe the exact opposite… That women can, and, are, pastors.

When this person and I first met, I did not expect to be talking about a woman’s role in ministry, but one thing led to another and we ended up talking about it, and here’s where the inspiration for this post came from:

I was telling this person about my anger and frustration toward this whole concept, and the reason as to why it frustrates me.

Their response was this:

“Do you think this makes you angry because you know the people saying these things about women being pastors are true, and you just don’t want to believe it?”

You can imagine the amount of self control I had to have in order to first breathe, hear and accept what this person had just asked me, and then answer. Gracefully.

I simply, and firmly, replied, absolutely not, and that was about as much as we talked about it.

There are so many reasons as to why this infuriates me, and there are so many things I want to touch on in this post, so stick with me, I’ll try to make it easy to follow.

First of all, before this person asked me this question, they talked about how we all interpret scripture differently…then they proceeded to tell me that women are not to be pastors, and God would not call a woman to pastor a church because it is not within his Word.
(A little contradictory, I’d say)

When they asked me if I knew what these professors were saying about women in ministry was true and just didn’t want to admit it, I could have responded a million different ways, but “no” just seemed so appropriate.

No. I don’t believe God would ever place a calling on someone’s heart, if He didn’t approve of it.

No. I don’t believe it is right for other people to tell me, or anyone else, what God approves and disapproves of.

No. I don’t believe women in ministry are restricted to only children’s or youth ministry, or cleaning up the kitchen.

No. I don’t believe women should be under men or controlled by men in any way.

No. I don’t believe women should keep quiet in church and not preach or teach if they feel called to preach or teach. By all means, they have that right.

No. I don’t believe that in 2015, women should be limited in ministry, and I don’t believe pastoral leadership is something only men can pursue. (I’m also still confused as to how that is not illegal for a school to do??)

And finally, no. Last time I checked, you are not God. I am not God. Nobody here has verbally spoken WITH God, therefore, none of us have the right to determine what God approves or disapproves of. Only God has the authority to do that. It pains me to say this, but men do not have the same authority as God.

Now let me address the scriptures, because I know if you’re reading this and disagree with me, that’s what you want to see.

1 Timothy 2:11, a woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent.

I’ve already written about this scripture before, and therefore, already know that if you back it up and read 1 Tim. 2:9, it says women are also not to wear pearls, braid their hair, or wear expensive clothing, all things that we’re all perfectly okay with doing now, but somehow, it’s still not okay for women to “speak in church.” Also, 1 Tim. 2:15 reads that, “women will be saved through childbearing…” Is that still the only way a woman can be saved? By having a child? Pretty sure no one would agree with that.

In 1 Corinthians 14:34, it says women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the Law says. Then it goes on to say that if a woman wants to say anything in church, she must ask her husband, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

BUT CONTINUE READING.

Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.

If we hear the Good News- if we know our Savior Jesus Christ, we have to share that good news and reach more people. That is the Lord’s command. If we feel God has gifted us, it’s his command for us to use that to reach others and spread the Good News. It would be selfish to know the Word and not preach and teach it just because of your gender.

That is how I interpret that scripture. Therefore, this person I was talking to the other day should be okay with that interpretation, because we all interpret the Bible differently, right? And I can’t leave out the fact that this person also accused me of picking and choosing from the Bible, while continuing to agree with these scriptures oppressing women, but disregarding the scriptures about slavery, wearing jewelry, and also taking the scriptures out of context. AKA, picking and choosing- what you just accused me of doing.

Also, let’s not forget in Mark, Jesus told the WOMEN to go and tell his disciples that he had risen from the grave. Mary Magdalene was the first person Jesus appeared to WHEN he rose from the grave!

So, with that being said, Jesus obviously loved women, he loved everyone.

Some people, especially this person I met with yesterday, who so bluntly ask me questions such as the one above, really make me stop and question a lot of things. Don’t get me wrong- pausing and looking at things in a new way and wondering CAN be a good thing sometimes. However, this was not one of those times.

The comments I have gotten, such as the one comment/question I received from this person this past week, make me doubt, and question a lot of things. Besides questioning why I chose to confide in this person in the first place, and questioning my college choice, (I really do love the school there’s just this one small/huge issue) besides those things, it honestly made me question my faith a little.

Was what I had been taught all my life, correct? Why did I choose a school that believes so strongly the opposite of what I grew up believing? Am I really being called into ministry?

I mean, this person was basically implying to me that if I pursue being a pastor of a church, I’m going against God’s will, and not following his Word. They were bringing it to the point where this person and all of these other people who believe women shouldn’t be pastors, were playing the role of God.

I’m sorry, but you can be the best biblical scholar in the entire world, with hundreds of PHd’s and still, you do not have the authority or power to tell others what God would want, or what he approves of, and you certainly cannot tell someone what their calling is or is not. You don’t know that. You have no right.

So, to the person who told me I can’t be a pastor “because it’s in the Bible,” but offered no scripture to back it up. To the person who told me my calling is not what God wants. To the person who told me the Church I grew up in, that I know and love, is socialist, and that it “picks and chooses what it wants out of the Bible.” To the person who said I cannot be discipled by a man, because I am a woman and that would “basically be committing emotional adultery.” To the person who told me and many other young women that we can’t major in pastoral leadership because it is, “only for me.” TO ALL OF THE PEOPLE who have tried, and succeeded, to discourage me, bring me to tears, make me want to change my major, or change schools, I want to thank you.

Because of you, I am now more certain than I have ever been that THIS is what I am being called to do. Because of you, I have gotten closer to the Lord, and I have dug into the Word and learned way more than I ever thought I could. Because of you, I will not give up. I’m not pursuing my ministry major just to be able to say, “I told you so” when I get through seminary and pastor a church or have my own ministry or church someday. I’m pursuing my ministry degree because I’m not going to let your belittling comments keep me from doing what I love. I’m not going to let your closed-mindedness keep me from majoring in something I truly have a passion for. I’m not going to let you tell me what God approves and disapproves of. Because of you, I am so much stronger. I’m so much stronger in my faith, and I’m stronger mentally as well. I can sit there in a 50 minute class, or in a professors office, and listen to someone completely bash women in ministry, and give me a million different reasons why they think it’s not right. And I can sit there and I can take it. I can handle it. Because I know what I believe, and I know the God I serve.

I am not quitting.

I’m not quitting this major, and I’m not quitting my journey toward ministry.

There is so much I want to do, and I will not quit because a few people here and there disapprove of my calling. My calling, from GOD

With all your respect, I am not here to please you, or have YOU approve of me. I’m here to have the Lord do that. You should remember that next time you try to belittle or talk a young woman out of pursuing ministry- that it’s not up to you.

I am not quitting. I am just getting started.

I have experience in ministry, and I have experience reading scripture and giving messages in front of a church, but I don’t know everything, and I’m not perfect (although, that part will never change). However, I serve a perfect God. God has shown me over and over again what I am being called to do.

I don’t have all the details. I don’t know all of the plans He has for me yet, but he certainly is revealing them to me.

He knows what he’s doing. He knows what he has called each of us to do. Do not let anyone, other than God, tell you that.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~Romans 12:2