Pursuing Partnership Series: Men & Women in Ministry
Part 10: A Brother’s Journey
By Dr Rob Dixon, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
These days, my ministry is focused on helping the church affirm and empower women in the context of our Kingdom work. To be specific, I have spent the last several years traveling the country (and now Zooming like crazy!) training and consulting with churches and organizations about how men and women can partner together more effectively in ministry.
But this hasn’t always been my calling. Instead, a set of experiences have informed my journey to get me where I am today. In this brief article, I want to outline five experiences that have fueled my conviction that God intends full partnership between men and women, based on gifting not gender, to be the way of the Kingdom.
To begin, my journey has been marked by models of women serving in God-honoring and Spirit-inspired ways. From my early youth group leader Suzy, to my college ministry leader Úna, to the countless women with whom I regularly interact within my ministry context, this much is clear: God uses women to advance God’s Kingdom purposes. Seeing women use their gifts with undeniable efficacy has inspired my journey.
Next, I have had the opportunity to listen and learn from the stories of women in leadership. Hearing about the joys and struggles of women in the context of our ministries has shaped my understanding of the painful road that women can be forced to walk in our church context. Too often women are relegated to the margins of our life together, prevented from using their gifts. Over time, God has used these stories, along with my own observations, to galvanize me into reflection and then action.
Third, Scripture has always been a central part of my experience. I’ve learned about God’s foundational design for gender equality in Genesis 1, I’ve seen Jesus’ example of empowering women in the Gospels, and I’ve been challenged and inspired by the first church’s theological understanding, expressed so eloquently in Galatians 3:28, and its practice of including women in the Kingdom mission, as evidenced by the leadership of women like Phoebe, Priscilla, and Junia.
Fourth, I’ve pressed into personal reflection, wrestling with the ways in which I am too often complicit in the continued marginalization of women in the church. The truth is that my male gender continues to open doors that remain closed to too many of my sisters. In the spirit of “first do no harm,” I’ve made choices to take up less space in order to free up more space for my sisters. Doing so has been a joyful experience for me, and it has blessed those around me.
Finally, I’ve cried out to the Lord about what part I can play in building a church that better aligns with God’s intention for gender equality. As I’ve engaged the Lord on this topic, both personally and in community, Jesus has nudged me into action. I’ve begun sponsoring women in my context, I’ve guided men through journeys similar to the one I’m describing here, and I exhort communities to pursue gender equality every chance I get. By God’s grace, these action steps have resulted in positive change in me, in those I’m working with, and in our ministry context.
******** More on Rob Dixon’s work can be found at togetherinmission.net