Me? You want me to do what?

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? 

Seriously.  Now I had to wait. 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 favorite (safe, low risk, no disappointment, easiest scenario) I kept telling myself
was that Dave was interested in a little perspective for one of his upcoming messages. 

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. We had been making some significant strides in gender equality but one question kept popping up.  “When would a woman teach (I mean preach) during a weekend service?” 

Here's a little rabbit trail for another day: Why is it that the "P" word and the "W" word are seldom included in the same sentence? That's for another post. For now, let's get back to what we were talking about.  

As a young girl, I’d heard of one woman named Lillie McCutcheon who preached and pastored a church in Ohio. Someday I thought, I’ll get to hear her speak.  Even though I came from a denominational background where women were allowed to lead and preach, I had never seen it happen. And in the 20+ years Grace had been doing church, we hadn't either. 

In that meeting, Dave popped the question.  (Not that question.)  No small talk which is fine with me since I am kind of a bottom line person...  He 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 to be asked 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 think I think I want to pray about this and talk to my trusted advisors and friends.  After processing and praying for a few weeks. 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 and honored! 

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.  Not only was it new, it was often hostile territory.
I had seen friends and entire denominations drawing lines and 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 given me a heart for people and specifically our people at Grace. And even though it was the weekend and a bit larger than my other venues. This opportunity was just another place to encourage spiritual growth.  Plus, remember this is the very thing God had planted in me years ago.

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 venues to live this passion out. I had taught rowdy kindergarteners when I was a in middle school, been a leader in our youth group, started leading and teaching in adult sunday school classes and even taught a few times during a Sunday night services at the church we were attending in our late 20s prior to coming to Grace.

No doubt teaching and leading were hardwired into my being.  And even though my path to vocational ministry wasn't so linear, I had been serving and leading all along. Plus this was my church and God had called me and 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.

Adding it all together seemed to be solid evidence that Ephesians 2:10 is actually true.  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us.”  

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 like I had when I was growing up. 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. Fortunately, there were many who didn't even know it was a big deal for a woman to preach.

Maybe it was a historical moment at Grace. But I hope that we all realize that matters most is that God uses all kinds of people -- both women and men to lead 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 preach, or sit on a sofa or at a coffee shop throughout our world.

Beyond this moment, I hope there will be a day when a woman stands on a stage somewhere to preach because she had the chance to see it happen. I doubt she will 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 when she grew up.  

I don't know what God has planted inside you.  But you do.  Or at least I would say you have some inkling.  Look back.  Ask God. Figure it out and when the opportunities arise for you to live it out.  Don't shrink back or step away, instead say YES and do it.  Do it for you and do it for us because It matters. 

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