Linda Green: I am Linda Green. I am the Director of Women's Ministry at the Arlington Heights campus of The Orchard, just ten minutes down the road. I am very grateful to be so close to where this conference is held.
I would like to just start, before I pray, by getting a little bit of a feel for who you are. How many of you are currently serving women in your local church? Oh, that's wonderful! How many of you just started that? Excellent! And how many of you have been doing it for a long time? Okay, very good!
Our subject today is "women leading women in the local church." Before we start, I'd like to open in prayer.
O, Father, as women who have been called to lead other women, we greatly feel our dependence upon You. We recognize, Lord, that this is not something we can do in our own strength, but something that we can only do through You. And so we ask, Lord, even now, that You would help us—help us to be equipped for the calling that You have given us, and encourage our hearts even today, Lord, that we may go back and serve the women You've entrusted us with. For the glory of Your name. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Well, the dictionary defines a "calling" as a strong urge toward a particular way of life, career or vocation—or a divine summons, vocation, or invitation. And there is a sense in which we all have a calling from God to serve in a particular way—whether we're a wife, a mother, single, a mentor, an employee, or any other role to which we're called.
For example, I felt called to be a teacher, so I went to college, got a degree, and taught for six years. But then I also felt called to be a mother, and I loved being at home raising my children. But eventually, we may recognize that within our calling we have been set apart for a particular area or focus, such as women's ministry.
When God calls, the question isn't, "Do we feel qualified or confident?" but "Are we willing and ready to obey?" Right now, you might be in a place of preparation, or you may have heard God's call to lead women but you've been resisting it. Or you may have accepted the call to lead—either recently, or as with many of you, for quite some time—and are feeling the weight of that responsibility.
I've been in all three places. God prepared me for leadership through neighborhood Bible studies, a season in PTO—as a PTO president in our schools—the study of God's Word for many years, and finally, He called me to co-lead children's ministry in our church.
But at first I resisted that call. I was happy with life as it was. I really hadn't seen myself in children's ministry. It wasn't my plan, but it was God's plan. If you find yourself in a place of preparation, sometimes God gives us the burden to lead but not the opportunity. God often plants a desire and then asks us to wait and be obedient to where He's called us right now.
Maybe you've been resisting God's will out of fear or because it's not exactly what you expected. Well, in time I did accept God's call and, while I didn't feel equipped, I had seen the power of God's Word in my own life and in others' lives, and so I agreed to do children's ministry on a trial basis, not knowing it would be nine years before He called me out of that to lead women.
There was no women's ministry in our church, and as it happened, my start in women's ministry coincided with a time of shaking up in our church, which required my leaders to be heavily focused on renewing gospel vision and rebuilding confidence among our people.
So this left me largely on my own for setting a vision for women's ministry. I was entrusted with women who held a mix of worldly and biblical beliefs about womanhood, and perhaps more than ever before in my life, I had to lean on God to show me the way.
Maybe you feel burdened for women and you have accepted His call, but you aren't sure where to begin. Or maybe God has placed you in an established ministry but has given you a different vision—especially after being at a conference like this, sharpening your vision.
Whatever your situation, you can trust that God faithfully equips those He calls, even as we heard Paul Tripp share with us. In my case, God provided a seasoned prayer warrior who prays for me to this day, along with a mature woman who came alongside of me to pray and to brainstorm and to seek the Lord for ministry.
We spent many long days in retreat and prayer and identifying resources. Susan Hunt is here. God led me to Susan Hunt, and if you have not read the book by her and Ligon Duncan, Women's Ministry in the Local Church, it's an excellent resource for establishing a biblical apologetic.
And then, of course, books by Nancy, and Mary Kassian, and Carolyn McCully—all those great resources that Revive Our Hearts provides.
Well, during this time God increased my burden for women to understand His unique design for womanhood, and He clarified a vision for ministry that modeled the ministry that Titus gave to the older women in his church—one that would teach and train women how to adorn the gospel in their homes, their church, and their community.
As you know, "women in leadership" is an interesting subject today, but Scripture is pretty clear that God calls men to be pastors and elders of their churches, regardless of gifting. Yet the Word of God opens the door wide for women in countless other areas, and in fact, women who lead other women according to sound doctrine are a tremendous gift to their pastors and elders.
That's because, as any pastor will tell you, while women can be a huge encouragement and asset in the church, sadly they can also be a source of gossip, complaining, and division. So when we model and teach women how to distinctively glorify God, we do a great service to both the church and the Name of Christ.
So in the time we have, I'd like to tackle some questions that you might have—questions I didn't even know enough to ask when I started. And then, hopefully if we have a couple minutes at the end, if you have any questions, I will be happy to let you ask them. I don't know if I'll be able to answer them.
The first question is, "What characterizes the woman God calls to lead other women?" The reason I start with this is because the first thing I remember praying was that God would show me what to do! Isn't that what we want to know? Women were coming up to me and sharing their ideas about what ministry should look like, and others were waiting to see what programs I would start. Do you feel that pressure?
But God did not lay out a detailed five-year plan, or even a one-year plan, for that matter. Rather, He reminded me that He is more interested in who His servants are and who they are becoming than what we can do for Him. Regardless of what I did, God wanted me to continue seeking Him above all else, trusting that He would faithfully direct my steps in ministry, and that's what He wants from all of us.
In other words, God is more concerned about us growing in personal holiness than about the programs we start or the numbers of women that we draw. So even as we are praying over ministry goals, He wants us to keep our gaze on Him, and we've been hearing that this weekend as well.
That's hard for us because by nature we are doers, and as leaders we feel the pressure of people's expectations. So while we do need to set vision and make a plan, we have to be careful not to run ahead of God and get caught up with pleasing men.
So what characterizes a woman's ministry leader called by God? Here are six things—certainly not an exhaustive list.
A) Women's ministry leaders are learners first and leaders second. That means we are always striving to become the true women that God created us to be, even as we are teaching other women about His beautiful design. As servants, we must sit at the feet of Jesus, for His design for our lives, for the church and for women's ministry.
Susan Hunt, in her book, gives a wonderful definition of a true woman. "A true woman is a recipient of redemption. She has been saved by God's sovereign grace. Her purpose in all of life is to glorify God. His Word is the authority for her life. Her mission is serving God and others."
In other words, the life of one who leads should be all about following Christ and reflecting the gospel. Titus 2 calls us to be a model of good works. In other words, we are to show our women by example what gospel-living looks like. And, of course, we will not do that perfectly, but even that helps them to see, as we've been learning, that we are real and that we are learning to do this, just as they are.
B) Women's ministry leaders humbly recognize their own ongoing need for Christ to lead a ministry that glorifies God. We must beware of operating in our own confidence and wisdom. "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build labor in vain."
The reality is that apart from Christ and His Word, even on our best days we won't have enough wisdom, strength, courage, endurance, or love sufficient for this task. Jesus chose uneducated and untrained men—which is always an encouragement to me—but He chose men who were willing to leave everything and follow Him.
And He still chooses leaders who will follow Him with humble obedience. The fact is we can't teach what we don't know, so God often instructs us first, so that we'll have the credibility to teach others.
C) Women's ministry leaders are fully convinced that what women need more than anything else is the gospel. While all Christian women understand their need for the gospel to save them, many fail to understand that they also need the gospel for overcoming sin and living victoriously.
This is where Elyse Fitzpatrick's teaching is so helpful, because she teaches women how to connect gospel truth to their daily lives. As women begin to understand the resources that they have in Christ and that their purpose is to glorify God, their lives will begin to be transformed.
D) Women's ministry leaders have been affirmed by others in their leadership role. If they're married, they have the support of their husbands. God often speaks through others, using them to nudge us in a direction that we might not be inclined to go. So listen to what other godly people that love you are saying to you.
E) Women's ministry leaders pray and seek the prayers of others. As leaders, we need prayer! We need prayer for wisdom, for love for the unlovable, for direction and protection. We need to not only pray for the women who struggle, but we need to pray for mature leaders who can minister alongside of us. Prayer is what empowers ministry.
F) Women's ministry leaders count the cost of leading women to lead gospel-centered lives in their home, church, and community. They understand that their work will require sacrifice. Anyone who works with women knows that their lives are messy. When we get close to them, sometimes their mess spills on us.
Serving will often be draining, frustrating, and even heartbreaking, but our load will be lightened when we remember that it's "not by might, nor by power, but by God's Spirit" that lives are changed.
Above all, God calls us to minister in the ability that He gives, so that He will be glorified in all things.
Okay, the second question is, "What challenges do we face in ministry today?" These are just some of the challenges that I have found as I have served in my church.
Some churches lack mature, older women who are willing to lay aside worldly pursuits to disciple women in the gospel. Many believe that their past failures disqualify them from speaking into women's lives. Some are busy with work or caring for grandchildren, and this often leaves a void in young women's lives, who need older women to help equip and encourage them to live for God's glory.
We have to remember that many women did not grow up in Christian homes, and they don't have moms to look to, so we have to stand in the gap for that.
Then we have younger women who sometimes feel intimidated by older women, believing that they're too busy or that they might judge them if they get too close. This keeps them at a distance from the very women that they yearn to learn from.
Many women get caught up in the busyness of life and neglect spending consistent time in God's Word. We have so many women like that. These women often come to us frustrated and discouraged, and yet they fail to see any connection between their lack of peace and their time with the Lord.
A growing number of young women today look to their peers for advice rather than seeking the wisdom of older, godly women. Many times they lack teachability.
Then we have women who put more hope and confidence in self-help books than in the gospel. There's confusion regarding God's design for women, particularly for those who struggle with the concept of submission. They have bought into the culture's lies, and they're suspect of any teaching about biblical womanhood.
We have women who are so consumed with their circumstances that they're willing to do whatever it takes to get out of them, even if it opposes God's Word. When women become hyper-focused on their pain or the sin that someone has done against them, they will often miss the good work that God wants to do in them.
And then we have women who are prone to grumbling and complaining—and while we need to listen to suggestions and criticism, we have to remember that following the Lord doesn't mean we'll always make everyone happy.
Today's women are weighed down by health issues, rebellious children, passive or abusive husbands, children with special needs, financial pressures, the shame of divorce, single-parenting, family conflict, guilt over commitment, worry, body-image—and we could go on and on all day.
These women often isolate themselves, because they believe that no one really feels like they do. They go into hiding.
And then we have singles who would like to be married, and they struggle to know how to live in the tension of living expectantly while not wasting opportunities that God has given them right now. These women have so much to give if we encourage and equip them to live for God and minister in the church.
Women whose circumstances are beyond our scope of experience and ability. For a long time, I felt terribly inadequate when women would come to me with suffering that was beyond anything I could imagine. And then one of my pastors told me something to encourage me that was so freeing.
He said, "Linda, if all you do is listen to a woman and pray with her, you have given her a great gift." I've learned that while I may wish I could offer relief for their suffering, the hope of the gospel is always what women most need to hear. Listening, praying, and sharing gospel truth not only lightens their burden, but it points them to the only One who can truly meet their deepest needs.
I have found it helpful to identify with women on the basis of sinner, saint, and sufferer. Along with listening to a woman as she shares her pain, we can encourage her by telling her where we see evidence of Christ-likeness at work in her life. We also can serve her by gently guiding her to see where sin might be at work and a repentant heart could lead to God's blessing.
So while we have many ministry challenges, we can be sure that the church that Titus pastored in Crete had many of those same obstacles. No doubt some of those women were married to Cretans, and who were they? "Liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons," and they worried just as we do about their children and their grandchildren.
But apparently the older Titus 2 women were not discouraged, because they knew the power of the gospel to change lives. And how did they know? Because they were recipients themselves of God's mercy and grace.
So today, whether we lead a women's ministry, a small group study, or even our own children, we can be confident that in Christ—regardless of the obstacles we face—God will be faithful. He will be faithful to help us if we are in a church where everyone is on the same page (which is probably not likely), or where there is a mix of philosophies, or if you are the only one who has a vision for biblical womanhood at all.
That brings us to our next question: "How do we influence our pastors, yet still respect and submit to their leadership?" I have to confess that, as a woman with natural leadership abilities, I am prone to strong opinions, decisiveness, and seeing things that can be improved and changed. Anybody else like that here? (laughter)
And for a time, I struggled with how to honor God with these strengths in my marriage and on staff, and even wondered if perhaps God may have made His first divine mistake with me. (laughter) In time, God showed me that while He makes no mistakes, my gifts did need a fair amount of sanctifying, so they could be used for His glory rather than for promoting my own ideas and agendas.
Both in my marriage and ministry, in spite of strong leadership skills, I've had to learn to complement rather than compete with men. God has taught me that leading by influence rather than a loud voice, manipulation, or intimidation, is much more effective if I'm not concerned with who gets the credit.
We know that submission is the stumbling block for women in our culture, but it is often also misunderstood in the church. Many have bought into the thought that only the weak submit, allowing themselves to be stepped on or passed over while their own potential goes untapped.
That is why we need to first understand, and then teach, what biblical submission is and is not. As an aside, it's helped me to realize how men have also been affected by the spirit of feminism at work in our world. Think about it—today, men don't know whether opening a door for woman is going to bless them or offend them. So we have to understand that the way we approach men—it's up to us to take them off the defense.
Submission does not mean that we have no voice or that we never speak up and share our ideas. Submission is an attitude of quiet trust that comes from believing God will work out all things in His time and for His glory. It's Christ's submission to the cross that both informs and motivates our submission. Philippians 2, 1 Peter 2, remind us that Christ Himself submitted to God the Father and to the cross.
Submission also means trusting that God has ordained our leaders and takes seriously His command to us to encourage and pray for them rather than to grumble and complain to them. When we truly are concerned about our leaders' decisions, we can appeal to them without making their jobs burdensome.
Hebrews 13 tells us they have been charged to keep watch over our souls. This means that they will be held accountable for the way they lead the church, but we will be accountable for how we respected their leadership and helped them in God-honoring ways.
Our leaders, probably more than ever before, need our encouragement to courageously teach and guard sound doctrine in our churches. No matter what we know, no matter what we teach, we will have no credibility if we are not practicing biblical submission ourselves.
A couple of great resources on this: John Piper has written an article "The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission," and P.B. Wilson has written a book called Liberated Through Submission. If you haven't checked those out, they're very helpful resources for your women to read.
The bottom line is that when we are living and working for the glory of God, we will have the ears and the attention of our leaders. They will want us on their team, and that is the greatest way that we can influence them.
Okay, question four: "What are the key elements of a women's ministry that strive to help women learn how to distinctively glorify God, as He designed them to?" (I am going to whip through these fairly quickly.)
A) Ministry that helps women learn how to bring gospel truths to bear in their daily lives. As I've said, countless women believe the gospel saves them, but they have no clue what that means in their marriage, in their parenting, at the grocery store, or anywhere else. Many are striving to be holy in their own self-effort rather than relying on the power and the limitless resources of Jesus Christ.
B) A ministry that has vision and cultivates a culture of biblical womanhood. And we will talk a little bit more about how that can look, in a minute.
C) One that offers programs, events, and studies that carry out the vision for gospel-centered womanhood and helps women understand their true purpose and identity.
D) A ministry that cultivates a culture for intergenerational spiritual mothering. Susan Hunt has written a book called Spiritual Mothering, which has been very helpful in our church, for understanding God's command to us.
E) A ministry that equips and empowers mature women to shepherd other women.
F) A ministry that models and teaches women the blessings of biblical submission.
All right, question five: "How do we determine the work God has prepared for us to do as a leader, and what we are to delegate?" Is that the million-dollar question? Most of us are juggling family needs, some of us have different jobs, and we're volunteering as women's ministry leaders. We have a lot on our plate, and if we don't learn to delegate, we are never going to last for the long haul.
So beginning with prayer, I have found it helpful to make a list of all the things that we feel responsible for in ministry. Some examples of that might be creating and casting vision (depending on what your responsibilities are), equipping and encouraging leaders, crisis intervention, planning and running programs and events, mentoring future leaders (we always have to be training those who will follow us), counseling, teaching and training, prayer, writing, staff meetings, leadership meetings, emails, phone calls, and what's on my job description—"other duties as assigned"—which means we can have a lot of other things under that.
After you write all the things you feel responsible for, you have to evaluate how much time you have to do these things, and I used a circle graph at one time. This was at a time when I was feeling very squeezed everywhere. I wrote down, pretty much, what I was spending my time on, so I could get a handle on that.
I realized that I was spending way too much time on counseling women, meeting with women. This really helped me to re-proportion my time. So I suggest that you figure out how much time you have, what you have to do, and where you are spending your time, and then circle the things that if you did not do them yourself, the ministry could suffer.
Then put a star next to the things that you could train other people to do, and then invite your pastor or another leader to help you, to weigh in on this, and help you discern how to more effectively use your time. Then pray and ask God to show you others that you can delegate to. Then implement training and delegating.
This is really important, to train before you delegate or to be confident that the person you're delegating to is equipped to do what you're giving them. Otherwise, what's going to happen—we all know—we'll have to do it over or we'll end up taking it back, and that just makes it harder.
Remember that this is a work in progress. You'll need to go back to this. I've done the circle thing; I've done all different ways of showing myself where I'm using my time. It's a really good thing to evaluate from time to time, just to make sure that we are not spending time in areas where God has not really called us.
God gives us the time to do what He has called us to, and if we are feeling that we don't have enough time, then probably we are doing things we shouldn't.
Next question, "What temptations must we guard against?" It's important to be aware of unique pressure and temptations in ministry so that we can shore up our defenses and protect ourselves first from being blinded by our own sin, but also to protect ourselves from attacks that will come.
So here are about six things that women's ministry leaders should be on guard against.
One is drifting into a ministry that focuses on telling women what to do—which is law-oriented—rather than helping them first discover what Christ has done for them, which both motivates and empowers us to obey. There are many books dedicated to telling us how to be godly women, and of course we need to know what it means to distinctively glorify God—but rules alone will produce either guilt (when we fall short) or self-righteousness (when we think we're doing it pretty well).
Only when women understand the undeserved mercy that God has given them will they be able to bend that mercy and grace toward others.
Second, the temptation is trying to do and be all things for all people. We are to serve "as to the Lord," not men.
Third, be on guard for our own sin nature, which naturally seeks the praise of men. Again, as Paul Tripp reminded us, God alone deserves the praise. Boy, we have got to be careful of our own hearts.
Fourth, investing time in good things that detract from the best things. There is no end to the good things that we could be doing in our ministry, but we have to be careful we're doing the very best things for our women.
Fifth, a ministry that is more woman-centered than Christ-centered. We must never make biblical womanhood the main thing. Christ is the main thing.
And finally, ministry that is consumer-oriented rather than kingdom-oriented. I once had a flyer sent to me from another local church, inviting our church to a conference they were putting on. So I was reading through this brochure, and as I was reading it I thought, This could be from the local park district community class list.
It's not that it was bad—it sounded fun—but it was "how to cook gourmet meals, stamping, how to paint furniture." It's not that those were bad things, but if that's our main menu, we are not nourishing our women's souls. We really need to be careful, because women like those things, so we have to watch for that temptation.
Question seven: "Where do we begin?" The first "p" is pray. Pray and seek God's wisdom. Remember, this is God's church and He knows the needs of our women far better than we do. It's not all up to us, even though sometimes we feel like it is. It's really all up to Him.
The second "p" is prepare and assess. It's been really helpful for me to look and see where God is already working. Sometimes we feel like we need to generate something, but God has already gone ahead of us, so we need to look and see where He's working and join Him in what He's doing.
Who are the mature women of sound doctrine in your church? Who can come alongside of you and pray and hold your arms up? What resources can be the most valuable to you? What is your greatest sphere of influence? Where should you invest your best time? You and I only have limited resources of time and energy, so where is the best investment of our time?
What is needed to gain the support of your leaders?
The third "p" is plan a compelling rationale for ministry. Men love compelling rationales for ministry, so enlist a team of mature women to help you work out a vision for your ministry that aligns with the overall vision of your church, so that you're not some rogue ministry over here.
Then ask what objectives will most likely result in women understanding and working out the gospel according to God's creative design.
Then present your proposal to your leaders and key ministry partners.
The next "p" is called pyro-marketing. Let me explain. When I first started in ministry, somebody gave me a book—it's actually a secular book—called PyroMarketing. It's really of grass-roots ministry. There are four principles. First, find dry timber (the women who are in the Word, where God is working); light a match (share the biblical vision that God has given you—about biblical womanhood and running with the gospel); tell them, fan the flame, get them excited, and ignite a fire—let them spread.
It's a grassroots ministry. You don't have to be doing all of this—you are working at a lower level, and letting the Holy Spirit work. And then, save the embers—look and see who the women are who are getting excited about the vision God has given you and enlist them and bring them in to serve with you.
Interestingly, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ . . . this is exactly how he got the word out about his film. He did not have a huge budget, so what did he do? He found the "dry timber" with the pastors and leaders of the churches, and he invited them in to show them that movie, and they got excited and took it back to their churches, who got excited, and it ended up being a huge financial success.
Sixth is proceed according to God's direction and timing. And seventh, be patient. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint. You and I are carrying the baton for just a short season, and we will then pass that baton to someone else. So we just need to make sure we're running our race well and that we're preparing the next person to take that baton.
All right, "What are some practical programs that support a Titus 2 gospel-centered vision?" I'm just going to share a few things that we are doing in our church that have been very helpful and God has been blessing. The one I am probably the most excited about, we are in our fifth year of doing Titus 2 training, and that is an intergenerational ministry.
Once a month on a Thursday night, we invite about thirty women into my home and another woman's home. The first half of the year, we studied Divine Design: True Woman 101, Nancy Leigh DeMoss' and Mary Kassian's study. I do a little teaching, small group discussion, and it's always intergenerational. Intergenerational is always a value we always put on everything we do.
The second half of the year, we use Susan Hunt's book Spiritual Mothering. It really helped women to understand God's command to us, as older women, to pass the gospel on to the younger women. So we are in our fifth year of that and it's been just a blessing to see women, older and younger, have their eyes opened, and help them to see how much they have actually believed the lies of the culture.
It's made a huge difference in some marriages and in the church. This year, for the first time, we're having a little graduate course—Titus 2 Training 2—and we are doing a similar kind of format, but we're doing a little bit more of "How do we apply the gospel, as women?" and using some of Elyse Fitzpatrick's materials and some other biblical womanhood materials.
All of our events are aimed at teaching women how to practically live out the gospel. So recently, I just did an event, "No More Identity Theft," helping women learn how to guard and protect their identity. What are some of the ways the enemy comes at us and tries to steal our identity?
We've done "Running With the Gospel in Your Marriage, Workplace, Church, and Relationships"—helping women to see practically what that looks like. "Sex, Romance, and the Supremacy of Christ"—you can probably figure out what that's about.
And then we had Stacey Smith come and speak on "Overcoming Our Emotions"—how does the gospel speak to our emotions? So all of these are things women really deal with, but need to know, how does the gospel speak into those?
I don't get to do a lot of teaching in our church, just because of other things that are going on, so I write a monthly publication that is a gospel message that I give to women, and it's been a very effective tool. So just think creatively, how can you speak into the lives of the women in your church?
All of our small groups—we call them "life groups" (some are studies)—we try to use these materials that help women, again, understand how they can glorify God as women. We have Entrusted with a Child's Heart (which has a booth here at Revive '13), a biblical parenting study that is an excellent tool for helping parents learn, "How can I parent according to God's Word?"
We have mother/daughter studies, helping to equip mothers to teach their own daughters. "Coffee talks" are just times when I'm available for women to come in and talk to me, and I can help them get connected with the ministry or sometimes just to share a heavy burden that's on their heart.
And then, you need to have other women who can be your "go-to" women. When a woman comes to you and you can't meet with her long-term, you can direct her to a mature woman that you know you can trust to help her.
We're also working on a Titus 2 Teens program in our church, and trying to bring the teenagers into the overall Titus 2 vision.
So "Where do we go when we want to quit?" (laughter) What happens when the pressures rise, the opposition gets intense, the cost just seems too high, and you just feel like, "Lord, I can't do this anymore"?
Since I was called to lead women in 2006, along with what was going on in my church at the time, I've become a grandmother six times, with one on the way. One grandson has life-threatening allergies, and another one has a severe behavioral disorder that we're trying to get diagnosed and find help with, and this has often placed high demands on my time and energy.
Along with that, I've had my own personal health issues, aging parents with growing needs, and other challenges that have all been reminders that the stresses of life often run parallel with the pressures of ministry—don't they? At times, we all feel like quitting, but by God's grace, through prayer, through His Word, through the encouragement of godly friends, and the prayers of friends, and preaching the gospel to ourselves, we can persevere.
We have to remember that the victory that Christ has already won for us will give us all that we need to battle against fear, despair, and every enemy that threatens us.
A while back, I took my women's ministry team through the book of Nehemiah, the account of God's call to His trusted servant to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. If you remember, Nehemiah faced intense opposition from people in the land, as well as disunity in Jerusalem.
The way he overcame opposition was by taking wise defensive measures, through his own personal example and with great courage. As Nehemiah obeyed what God laid on his heart to do, he found that the joy of the Lord was his strength. In a similar way, the walls of respect and protection for women are crumbling all around us.
Marriages and families have broken down and, if we're honest, we've all had a part in their dismantling—every time we have believed a lie the enemy has whispered to us. Yet in God's mercy, He is calling us to help rebuild a section of broken wall in our homes and in our churches, using His Word, personal example, and with godly courage.
It's time for us to take back the land the enemy has stolen, helping women to find freedom from strongholds that have held them long captive. The joy of the Lord is our strength as well, but we need to know who our enemy is, so that we aren't caught off-guard.
Who is the enemy? Well, there's the enemy of our own sin nature, which engages us in battles against unbelief, pride, idolatry, and other sin. And to fight this enemy will require humility, confession, repentance, perseverance, and submission to God's Word, by the power of His Spirit.
Then there's the enemy at work in the world, which tempts us with worldly pleasures and ambitions that can not only distract us but derail us.
Finally, our enemy Satan who subtly whispers lies or half-truths to our minds. His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. What does he want to steal? Our faith, our hope, and our joy.
What does he want to kill? Our testimony and effectiveness.
What does he want to destroy? Well, if not our lives, then anything that will keep us from pointing others to God's goodness and faithfulness. First Peter 5 reminds us to be sober-minded and watchful, because our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. To that end, he strives to keep women busy, distracted, and satisfied with worldly things.
And when women become distressed and overwhelmed by life, he tempts them to seek relief through mood-altering drugs rather than God's Word. When our work is about helping women experience victory in Christ, we can be sure there will be opposition, but through Christ, God has won the victory and given us this ministry for the glory of His name.
Colossians 4 calls us to continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it, with thanksgiving. Watchful, prayerful, thankful, but not fearful. It goes on to remind us that we are servants of Christ Jesus, always struggling on behalf of our women in our prayers, that they may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God, fulfilling the ministry that we have received in the Lord.
So who are we? We are servants of Christ, with ministry that is from and for the Lord. And what are we to do? Pray steadfastly for the salvation and spiritual maturity of our women. And what is our aim? To fulfill the ministry that we have received, according to God's purposes, through and for the glory of Christ.
God's work in our hands cannot be done apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. He is our wisdom, He is our courage, and He is our strength. As we purify our hearts through the cleansing of His Word, we can step out with God-confidence, knowing that those He calls He also keeps.
Every woman, whether she recognizes it or not, has incredible influence. As we influence women with the gospel and biblical womanhood and they influence those around them, only God knows the impact it will have on future generations. Amen?