Image

An open letter from a woman sitting in your service

There’s a road near my house that I call a highway, but considering the expanse of my small town, it’s probably more accurately deemed a road.  I live in a small town with many rivers that both surround and pass through our town. Thus, many destinations can only be traveled to by using one or two roads that go over the river, somewhat limiting the number of paths that can be taken when trying to get around town.

On my path home from work and the college where I minister, I take a road that goes behind the hospital and borders a levy which has recently been raised to prevent flooding with the high rise of the river.  On this very busy road for our small town, road work has created even more traffic, removing an entire lane as they repair some damages. Despite the congestion in this area and the delay, I still find myself taking this route home from work.  Every time I get there and a couple minutes, if not more, are added to my journey home I ask myself why I took this road. Why didn’t I choose to take another way over the river to get home? Why do I keep doing this and keep asking myself why?

But I think I travel taking the same turns and seeing the same sights because I leave work and head for home on autopilot, sometimes not even thinking, driving my car out of habit rather than mindfulness, muscle memory rather than striving to make the best decision.  And I think the Church has responded to women in many of the same ways and I have seen businesses do the same. As the Church, these bodies of people of which I know and love, we have moved forward seeking to glorify God, make disciples, and steward what has been entrusted to us often waking up to face each day in muscle memory rather than mindfulness, charging forward in tradition and familiarity, unfortunately overlooking the important steps to make the best choice.

We have reached a time when more women work outside of the home than ever before, women are more educated than ever before, and women are taking positions of leadership and power in every sphere except in many of our churches.  But we move forward in how we have always operated, forgetting to be sure sermon language accounts for women’s experiences, only using male pronouns in our sermons and prayers, and hosting entire worship experiences, in which, the only time a woman is invited on stage is to sing.

We charge forward in our churches, hosting weekly meetings where important decisions are made and under the table each and every decision maker’s shoes look the same.  No women are invited to the table. One in three homes are fatherless, yet the best answer women are offered in many traditions I am more acquainted with, when pursuing leadership is that their homes are represented by the man in their home who can serve as a deacon or elder.

rawpixel-790896-unsplash

We consistently offer inadequate excuses as to why women are asked to serve in the discipleship of children and youth where they serve so faithfully, yet when an individual reaches 18 or older a woman no longer has the authority to teach or disciple them.  I have been told women are too busy focusing on their families to help teach an adult discipleship group. I have been told “we wouldn’t want to get near the line of women discipling men” in groups of predominantly women that men fluctuate in and out of. I have been told the place for this is in women’s ministry, yet many churches still do not have a women’s ministry or if they do, their leader can only reach the “director” level rather than minister level both in compensation and authority.  Furthermore, I have never experienced commentary on Biblical Manhood or discipleship of men to only be reserved for Men’s ministry.

I sit in your services every Sunday.  I listen to your sermons and read your books.  I am a woman in your seminary classes, pursuing equal education and reading the same textbooks.  I attend the same conferences, taking notes under the same speakers. And on Sunday mornings I almost always wait in line to use the restroom, while at ministry conferences I have almost never waited in line for a women’s restroom.

Even in writing this I am hearing messages I have been told.  I have been literally walked through how to “write an e-mail to a man” changing my complete thoughts into bullet points.  I have been groomed on how to carry myself in meetings with men or simply in entering their offices as I walk an unnecessarily delicate line as a woman walking in obedience to God’s calling in my life.

the-climate-reality-project-349094

So as I have been trained in these things, as I have been asked to teach on Sunday morning and stand to the side of the pulpit as to not take away from its sacredness due to my God-given gender, pastors would you do the work of mindfulness rather than traveling through your ministry on autopilot. Here are some bullet points of recommendations:

  • Be mindful of pronouns.

Consider using phrases like “men and women”, “individuals”, or “people” rather than only masculine pronouns in your message and teaching.

  • Include women in your leadership teams.

Hear their perspective on key decisions.  Women comprise over half of Church population, yet are rarely brought to the conference room table.  Look around at the shoes beneath your table and if they ever all look the same, be very concerned. Be sure that the woman who is best suited to contribute based on the matter at hand is brought to the table, not just someone’s wife to claim a woman was in the conversation.  

  •  If you are going to talk about manhood, talk about womanhood.

I have heard countless messages on Biblical masculinity, yet every message I have heard solely on womanhood has taken place in a context of only women.  And if you do preach on womanhood, be sure you run your exegesis of controversial passages by a woman whose theology you trust. If you do not know a woman whose theology you trust, be very concerned.

  •  Interact with women about your messages.

They may be able to offer insight, metaphors, and ideas you could have never come up with yourself.  Be sure this does not only include married women. People are marrying later in life and if your only examples of women are mothers, again many women in your church context will feel underrepresented in your sermon.  To stick to my guns, I shared this post with 5 men whose theology I trust to hear their feedback and perspective which reshaped key parts of my message.

  • Invite women on stage.

As a discipler of girls, each Sunday when no woman is seen reading the Bible, teaching, praying, sharing her testimony, or meaningfully serving in any way, feels extremely defeating when I am charging them to step up and claim their faith with authority.  Girls and newly believing women along with seasoned women of faith need examples of women walking in their faith and they need to see them serving meaningfully in worship experiences.

  • Meet with women.

I remember the first time I really understood that Jesus talked with women and it absolutely transformed my theology.  I have experienced ministers avoiding eye contact with me and creating countless boundaries with women; yet, Jesus creates a safe place to hear from and honor women.  Do not be afraid to meet with women and minister to them. There is an important difference between protecting women with your boundaries and communicating that their presence threatens your reputation. Communicate value by working together to create a forum for connection which protects both of you.


Despite how many times I take the same convenient road to my house and get caught in the same traffic, this does not make me a bad driver.  In the same way, emulating the examples you were given and obeying the instruction you were offered does not make you a bad pastor and minister.  While there are incredible strides to be made in how the Church stewards women, this is not to negate your incredible commitment and duty to the church you shepherd, often making sacrifices so many will never see or know.

But there are steps of mindfulness and inclusion which as we work together can help us more effectively represent and disciple the entirety of the Kingdom.

So let’s get the conversation started and learn together.  Please share your thoughts below!


women's blogMy name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Women of Valor

This month’s guest blogger is Tonja Smith.  There are so many things I can say about Tonja and it is all too difficult to sum her up in just a few sentences.  Tonja is a mother of 4 and has her own medical transcription company.  She is an activist in her community and leads a group for single moms in my home church.  Furthermore, Tonja was my discipleship leader from when I was 12 years old until 18.  We met each Sunday night and she had to put up with all kinds of crazy from my group.  Tonja has definitely been a spiritual mama for me, she has prayed big and fierce prayers for me, and truly inspires me in her passion for studying Scripture.  I pray you enjoy the wisdom she shares in this post as it is just a glimpse of the wisdom she has shared with me over the past 10 years. tonja


 

God’s ways are higher than our ways, His plans are always the best plans to follow, and they are laid out for us in His Word. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness is described in 50 chapters and is a shadow of the Heavenly sanctuary, which is why Moses was given a specific pattern to follow. Hebrews 8:5 says, “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” It’s a copy of the throne room of God, and the High Priest, Yeshua, is wearing the priestly garments.  In speaking of the Heavenly pattern, women have a specific role to play in building and serving in the Tabernacle.  The women, whose hearts were willing, gave materials used in the Tabernacle to make the coverings, tapestries, curtains, the bronze laver and the priestly garments.  Under the direction of Moses, and the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge given to Bezalel (in the shadow of God) and Oholiav (Father’s tent), everyone who the Lord gave ability to do the work of the Sanctuary worked together.

Exodus 35 gives this description in verses 25-26: “All the women who were skilled at spinning got to work and brought what they had spun, the blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and the fine linen. Likewise the women whose heart stirred them to use the skill, spun the goat’s hair.” The Tent of Meeting consisted of several layers of materials with the Tabernacle being the inner layer made of wood, silver, and gold, and the walls lined with the finely woven linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them. The vail that covered the entrance was also of this same woven material with cherubim woven in. The next layer was a tent over the Tabernacle which is made of curtains of goat’s hair.

Exodus 38:8 says, “He made the basin of bronze with its base of bronze from the mirrors of the women serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” This bronze basin, or laver, was used by the priests to wash their hands and feet before entering the tent of meeting. Exodus 39:1 says, “From the blue, purple and scarlet yarn they made the garments for officiating, for serving in the Holy Place and they made the holy garments for Aaron, as Adonai had ordered Moses.” Exodus 39:27-29 says, “They made the tunics of finely woven linen for Aaron and his sons, the turban of fine linen, the linen shorts, and the sash of finely woven linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, the work of a weaver in colors – as Adonai had ordered Moses.”

The Lord stirred hearts and gifted people to do all the work for the sanctuary, and women were very much a part of this.  You can see echoes of this in Proverbs 31, in the woman of noble character. “She procures a supply of wool and flax and works with willing hands.” (vs 13). “She puts her hands to the staff with the flax; her fingers hold the spinning rod.” (vs 19). “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings of tapestry for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple…She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” (vs. 21-22, 24). This woman is described as an entrepreneur and caretaker of her family and those around her. Strength and honor are her clothing.

Ruth is also described as a “woman of noble character” by Boaz. This term in Hebrew is chayil, which means army, strength, valor, ability, wealth, and is most often translated as army. When Boaz covers her with His garment as her Kinsman-Redeemer, it is a marriage proposal and it is a picture of our Redeemer who covers us with his Robe of Righteousness as spoken of in Isaiah 61, His priestly garment that fills the entire Heavenly Temple as described in Isaiah 6.

1 Peter 2 says those who come to Yeshua the Messiah are being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices. Women are part of this service, part of this Heavenly army. Women of valor working in the Kingdom of God as a warrior bride, weaving the threads of Spirit and Truth into her family and those around her. This is her garment of praise. 

Eve played a role in sin in the garden of Eden, leaving the cherubim guarding the way back in to the Tree of Life.  Women are given the task of contributing to weaving the tapestries on the walls of the Tabernacle, and the curtain of separation containing the cherubim. This is the curtain that was torn as the Messiah gave His life to save ours, granting a way back to God’s presence.  When He was crucified, His garments were divided between the soldiers, and “They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.” They cast lots for this garment and did not tear it. (John 19, Ex 39:22-23?). This was a priestly garment. Perhaps it was Mary who wove this garment for Him. It was a woman who washed the feet of Yeshua with her hair before His sacrifice and entry into the Holy of Holies in Heaven. Women were the last ones at the cross and the first ones at the garden tomb to see the stone had been rolled away by the angel of the Lord.  They were the first witnesses to the resurrected Messiah.  “Adonai gives the command; the women with the good news are a mighty army!” (Psalm 68:11). Indeed this is what it looks like to minister at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and we are invited to come all the way in, beyond the curtain to dwell with the One who came to Tabernacle among us.

We are to have our garments ready, as spoken in Revelation 19:

“A voice went out from the throne, saying,

‘Praise our God, all you His servants,

You who fear Him, small and great!’

Then I heard what sounded like the roar of a huge crowd,

like the sound of rushing waters, like loud peals of thunder, saying,

Halleluyah!

Adonai, God of heaven’s armies, has begun to reign!

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Let us give Him the glory!

For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb,

And his Bride has prepared herself –

Fine linen, bright and clean has been given her to wear.”