A Woman.... Preach(ing?)

We all know the feeling that sneaks up and whispers in your ear.

You want me to do what? I don't think so.

Calendar invite:

From: Dave Rod (aka Senior Pastor Grace Church)
Subject: Preaching at Grace.

Wait. What?

You would have laughed if you would have heard the conversations I was having with myself before the meeting. Believe me I had played out almost every possible and improbable scenario
you could imagine. My favorites were safe, low risk, and included the least possibility for disappointment.   I kept telling myself  that Dave was just interested in a little perspective for one of his upcoming messages.

We had been making some significant strides in gender equality. Sure I thought, Grace had recently made a decision to remove any limitations based on gender and had even elected two women to the Elder Board. But one question kept popping up, “When would a woman preach during a weekend service?”

Here's a little rabbit trail for another day: Why is it that the "P" word (preach) and the "W" word (woman) are seldom included in the same sentence? That's for another post. 

The meeting finally came and as form we skipped the small talk (which is fine with me since I am kind of a bottom line person).  Dave jumped right in and said: It's time for a woman to preach at Grace and we'd like you to be the first. Deep breath! Whew. 

I think I said something like I am honored that you would ask me. And I am so proud of our church and leadership for being willing to stand behind the gender equality decision by taking action. But I need to think and pray about this one.  After a few weeks of processing and praying, I said YES!

As the news began to circulate, questions came my way.

Q. Are you nervous?

Response: Of course I am a bit nervous, but also excited!

Then there it was the next inevitable question-----

Q. How does it feel to be the first woman to preach at Grace?

Response: Honestly, I'm trying not to think of it that way.

Key word: trying.

I had grown up in the church and this was new territory for me and for many others. I had even grown up in a denomination (Church of God/Anderson) were women's gifting was fully embraced. I'd never seen a woman preach.  And in the 20+ years Grace had been doing church, we hadn't either. 

Not only was it new, it was often hostile territory. 

I had seen friends and entire denominations dividing over this very issue. (If you're interested in knowing how we got to this place on women and church leadership - listen to this)

I wanted to right size this request but honestly there were many moments when my my legs felt weak and my heart and mind would begin battling.

Here's the beautiful thing about God (when I'd stop and ask Him what He thought) He would gently remind me that He had called me to this place and for the purpose of encouraging people in their spiritual growth.  He had given me the ability and heart for pastoring, writing and speaking.  This wasn't a new role, I'd been doing it all along.  Just not during a weekend service. 

Let me explain what I mean. Looking back it was in my early teen years that I first knew God had planted a passion in me for helping others grow spiritually. I had even had lots of opportunities to live into this passion. I had taught rowdy kindergartener students when I was a in middle school. I had been a student leader in our youth group. I started leading and teaching in adult sunday school classes and prior to joining staff at Grace, I even taught a few times as a volunteer during Sunday night services at the local church we were attending.

Teaching and leading were hardwired into my being. 

This was my church and God had entrusted me to be one of the pastors at Grace. I had been serving in spiritual formation as the Associate Pastor of the Women of Grace and lots of other broader leadership roles. But this new territory.

Well, the day finally came and I PREACHED (curious? you can watch it if you'd like) a message about about growing up.

I am grateful for the men and women, young and old, who took the time to share how God used this message to positively impact their lives. Some were urged to step toward an estranged family relationship. Others took a step back toward God after a long separation. While others are finding the strength to stop enabling destructive behaviors. So you don't think I am uber spiritual -- I even loved the compliments about my spot on boots!

Seriously though, one of my favorite moments came when a man affirmed me and all the women who get to preach.

He mentioned a couple of things from the message he found helpful before saying this: Today, I realized how much I had been missing without the voice of a female spiritual leader.  What you said really helped me get it. Thanks!

I know some people avoided speaking to me that day and I even heard that a few people decided to skip church because a woman was going to be preaching. Others clapped and called it an historic event. 

There were even some who didn't even realize it was a big deal for a woman to preach. That just assumed it would be a normal thing.

Maybe it was a historical moment at Grace. 

But I hope that we realize what matters most is that God uses all kinds of people -- both women and men to lead and care for His people. 

We all have opportunities to share God’s message. Let's agree to listen and even cheer as women and men stand to share their faith with others.  

I dream of a day when a young woman steps up to preach because she had the chance to see another woman do it. 

I doubt she'll remember my name or even what I talked about -- yet I believe that God will have used Grace Church to water the seed He planted inside her to preach and lead His church. 

I don't know what God has planted inside you. But you do. Or at least I would say you have some inkling.  

Ask God. Figure it out. When opportunities arise for you to live it out, don't shrink back or step away, instead say YES and do it.