Part 4a: Brother to Brother – Why are We Benching Key Kingdom Players?
By David M.
(David is the founder of the RAP Network, a Latin American ministry focused on informing, equipping and empowering the Latin church to reach the Pashtun people.)
“So I ended up having to write up a statement and having a man read it to the church.”
She spoke so matter-of-factly. In contrast, I was furious inside. This was a skilled and gifted woman, with a clear calling from God to mobilize her church and country towards the Pashtun people, and a valued and respected team member for us that was telling me about her very church not allowing her to share an invitation to one of our missions events in front of the church, simply because she was a woman.
She was willing to jump through these hoops; happily. All so that the message, the gift of vision, she was bringing this church, could be clearly conveyed with no obstacles to the message itself. I’m sure God looked down to his daughter and was beaming with pride at her embodiment of Christ, making herself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant for a greater purpose.
And while I celebrated with her that the message was received this time, I couldn’t help but wonder, how big is the loss of under-valuing women in ministry?
I thought of the message she was bringing: there is a group of 52 million called the Pashtuns in need of the gospel. The harvest among them is plenty, but the workers are few. Then I thought of the invitation she was extending: God is calling more laborers, some among us, and we need to send them, lives are at stake. She was robbed of this opportunity to share a message embedded deep in her heart with the very people who were supposed to nurture her God-given passions; and while the message was shared with the congregation, it wasn’t done through God’s intended messenger.
This made me think of another valued team member. She was a young woman, early 30’s and a calling to live with this unreached people group. She had counted the cost and was willing to go where few were headed. She would live among those who had never heard, and probably would never hear unless someone went to share with them. And then she shared the news with me:
“My pastor says I can’t go as a single woman. Unless I get married, my church won’t send me.”
Empowering women in missions is an issue, one where lives are at stake and we can’t afford not to ask the tough questions of ourselves. I recognize the challenges of sending single women into risky environments, but missions history has shown us the powerful impact such women can have.
Our ministry, the RAP network, focuses on mobilizing the Latin Church towards the Pashtun people. We have been blessed to have most of our core leadership team be comprised of women, and we’re all the better for it.
And yet, out there in the church world, and probably still within our organization and my very own leadership, opportunities are being missed because of our unwillingness to empower those that don’t fit our mold of leadership. Whether the obstacle is youth, singleness, education, nationality or gender, I think we can all do well to remember God’s rebuke to a ministry leader in 1 Samuel 16:7:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
I don’t believe I have all the answers and recognize that believers come to differing conclusions on the role of women in leadership based on Scripture. I hope my frustration doesn’t sound like a condemnation to anyone reading this article, but I long to see more women living out their God-given calling in the Latin context.
I’m getting ready to give my team an opportunity to give me anonymous feedback around the topic of, ‘How well do I personally, and (by extension of my leadership) does our ministry empower and unleash the dynamic power of women in ministry?’ I will share my findings with you all in the next article in this series. But in the meantime, I would exhort you to ponder the same question alongside of me: ‘As I choose, sponsor, elevate and empower other leaders, where am I focused on appearance while the Lord is looking at the heart?’