Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Portrait of an Effective Servant, Day 3

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Leslie Basham: It's possible to be serving God in church and still have wrong ways of thinking. That's something Leslie Bennett learned.

Leslie Bennett: Even though I truly loved the Lord and I desired to walk in His ways, I was so ignorant. I had allowed the world's way of thinking about womanhood to infiltrate my attitudes and my actions.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of the soon-to-be-released book, Adorned, for Wednesday, February 1, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Over the last couple of days we've listened to a message that I gave to women's ministry leaders at True Woman '14 about serving for the right reasons. It's so easy to think that ministry is all about me. I have to continually go back to the Word of God and be reminded that it's all about Him.

Today we'll hear the story of a woman who was in women's ministry trying to do a lot for the Lord. But she became convicted that she wasn't going about the Lord's work in the Lord's way. Her attempts at women's ministry weren't actually supporting the men in leadership and the church overall.

Now, all of us are in ministry in one way or another. So today's message is for every woman. God has called you to a role whether in a formal ministry or not, in the home or outside the home. But I hope you'll listen and ask yourself, "Am I doing what God has called me to do out of a heart to serve Him? 

Leslie Bennett served as a church women's ministry leader in South Carolina. She's now on the staff at Revive Our Hearts helping develop leaders in churches who will help their women thrive in Christ. Here's Leslie addressing a group of women's ministry leaders at True Woman '14.

Leslie Bennett: Well, it's the matchless name of Jesus that I want to exalt as I share my life journey with you—a story of brokenness and blessedness. I came to know Christ in a saving relationship in my mid-thirties through an in-depth Bible study. All my life, up until that time, I had been playing church totally blinded to the reality that I was not a true believer.

As a new Christ-follower, I developed an insatiable hunger for the Word. That's good. But deep down inside I was proud of my zealous Bible study habits and my prayer life. I was striving to be the best Christian I could be and approached my new-found faith like everything else I had done in my life—to be better than the rest.

When I was first asked to lead a small-group Bible study, I was scared to death. But yet, at the same time, I was ecstatic for the opportunity. My initial thoughts were, Lord, just wait till You see what I'm going to do for You. And I set out to prove to the world what a great Christian I was and what an asset I would be to the Kingdom.

I'd like to turn the calendar to the year 2008. Earlier that summer during a personal prayer time of seeking the Lord, the Spirit led me to reflect upon our women's spring event. By all outward appearance, it was a huge success. It was the largest event our women's ministry had orchestrated, and the women responded visibly at the end to the call and challenge of the speaker.

As a women's ministry director, I was elated. And so in my time with the Lord, I began to review the prayer list for this particular event. I was recounting how God had answered abundantly. And then my eyes rested upon this one prayer request, "Bring revival to the women."

Now, to be truthful, I had no conception of what "revival" meant. But I knew this. It sounded like a good thing—sounded like something that we needed. I imagined revival to be like a multi-media fireworks show on the fourth of July equating women getting fired up about Jesus Christ.

So in my prayer time with the Lord, I'm saying to Him, "Surely that's it, Lord. We prayed to bring revival to the women. Surely that's it, Lord. The women were revived, weren't they?"

These words vibrated in my ears, "There won't be revival in your women, Leslie, until there's heart revival in you." So the Lord was clearly impressing upon my heart that it wasn't someone else who needed reviving. But it was in fact me that needed reviving.

I had a choice to make and that choice was to listen to the truth of what God was speaking or to play deaf. Have you ever done that before? Kind of push that back? I'm not hearing that? Let me get busy with something else. Make that thought go away.

And yet, in that crucial, life-altering moment, I tearfully bowed my head in agreement and just whispered, "Lord, I don't even know what that would look like. Would You show me what to do?"

And right that moment, the Spirit just led me to go over to the bookshelf. I was immediately drawn to a study that I had purchased two years previously. The study? "Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival."

Well, I might not be very smart. But I know a God moment when I see it. And that was an unmistakable word from the Lord. Just days into the study at chapter two on humility, the Lord sent me a crushing blow. He opened my eyes to see His all-majestic, all-consuming holiness recorded in Isaiah 6. And what is the only response to a revelation of God's holiness? "Woe is me."

And like the prophet Isaiah, I cried out, "Woe is me." And I'd read Isaiah 6 countless times. But never before had the words shaken me to the core. I trembled on my face weeping over the dreadful contrast between God's glory in the throne room and my sin as it was projected before me in 3-D.

And you know what? For the first time in my life, I clearly understood the full impact of my sin that sent Jesus to the cross. And in light of His radiant, penetrating purity, my cloaked pride was forced out of its hiding, and its exposure, frankly, was revolting.

And yet, the Lord's hands which crushed me in that moment, they weren't harsh. They weren't mocking. Oh, I was crushed, all right. But the Lord's hands were tender and merciful. They were loving, and they were forgiving.

You see, I'd been broken to be healed. I'd been smashed to be re-shaped by the Master Potter. I moaned in disgust of my independence and my self-reliance. And out of that brokenness, a new desperation to be God-reliant emerged.

That day in 2008 redefined me as a Christian. It's the day I was set free as a child of God. And instantaneously, I experienced the Lord's joy and His love like I never had before. After twelve years as a true believer, God in His mercy, broke me in order to bless me with the resurrected living power and presence and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You know this verse well. Proverbs 16:18. And here's what it sounds like in The Message: "First pride, then the crash. The bigger the ego, the harder the fall." And that verse makes me wonder what horrific public fall I might have taken if God had not rescued me from teetering on the edge of a cliff called "pride."

C.S. Lewis defines it masterfully.

The essential vice, the utmost evil is pride. Unchastity, greed, drunkenness are mere flea bites in comparison. It was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind.

Did you catch that? "It is the complete anti-God state of mind."

Well, it's not surprising that the prophet Isaiah was inspired to pen these words,

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy. "I dwell in the high and holy place, but also with him who is of contrite and lowly spirit to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."

Brokenness is death to self that unleashes the life of Christ. Brokenness births blessedness. Amen.

Brokenness is death to self that unleashes the life of Christ. Brokenness births blessedness.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’ll pick that story back up in just a minute. We’re hearing from Leslie Bennett. She was serving as a women’s ministry leader at her local church. But she was often going about it for wrong reasons—sometimes serving out of a sense of pride. Before we hear the second part of Leslie's talk, I have a request.

Would you pray with us that the Lord would raise up hundreds of new Ministry Partners for Revive Our Hearts? Let me tell you why. Typically we air a message like this one, and some people resonate with that message and respond. Maybe they make a donation or order a book because they have a need for what we’re talking about. But we want to have the freedom day after day to bring you solid, biblical teaching that ministers to the deepest needs of people's hearts—even if they don't necessarily realize that's what they need at that moment. So I want to be able to teach what I believe women need to hear and trust God to meet the financial needs to support that.

That's where the Ministry Partner Team comes in. Our Ministry Partners support Revive Our Hearts financially at least $30 each month. That income from the Partner Team is what helps the ministry stay steady and stable even during the ups and downs of listener response. Those Partners also pray for the ministry—and that is a huge resource—and they share this message with others.

Now, that's how those Ministry Partners help Revive Our Hearts, but this is a partnership that goes two ways. So we are constantly looking for practical ways we can support and encourage our Ministry Partners. When you sign up as a new Ministry Partner this week, we’ll send you my brand new, soon-to-be-released book called, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. That's our way of saying "thank you" for partnering with this ministry. And, by the way, you’ll receive a registration to the Revive '17 conference in September at no charge, if you'd like to attend that.

If you want to get more information about becoming a Ministry Partner, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. Thank you so much for praying with us about this need and considering whether the Lord might want you to become one of our Ministry Partners.

Let’s pick back up with today’s message from Leslie Bennett. She was telling us how she was serving in ministry with a proud heart.

Leslie: Well, during this same time, a friend in ministry rather casually mentioned a national conference called True Woman. Some of you may be here today because a friend casually mentioned something you'd never heard of before. I'm thankful she didn't say, "Leslie, here's a conference you need to go to." She didn't go that far.

But I thought, Hmmm. Let me think about this. Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I've heard she's a good teacher. I really didn't know Nancy that well. Conference with lots of women. Chicago. My church is paying for this. I'm all in. Sign me up right now.

So with not much more than a whim, I attended True Woman '08. And sitting on the back row of the convention hall of 6,000 women, I had no idea what to expect. At that time I could not have possibly imagined the impact those three days would have on my life, and yet God was preparing me for such a time as this.

I'm certain that my jaw dropped to the floor as I learned for the very first time at age fifty that men and women were created and designed by God to display His glory in complementary ways. I was mesmerized as strong women like Nancy and Mary Kassian taught truth that dispelled every misconception I had of gender design. And I became hungry to understand what God says about my womanhood.

But in order to launch onto this new ministry, it required agreeing with the Lord that my life didn't line up to the authority of Scripture. You see, I was a full force, fully charged, get-out-of-my-way, Christian woman.

A male staff member I worked with once told me he had never met anyone . . . Now he didn't say "woman." He just said, "I've never met anyone as intense as you." He did not mean that as a compliment, I'm fairly certain.

My pastor once just casually commented to me that the other men on staff were looking for a nod of approval from me. Another friend told me that when I first joined the staff, I was a pistol. Have you been called a pistol before?

And then even a very sweet lady at my church admitted recently, now this was after I resigned, "I'm leaving. I have a new calling on my life." She said, "You know, I never really did like you in the beginning." Your ladies all love you, I promise.

Are you getting the picture of a high performance, driven woman? Well, if I were to summarize these comments, I'd say that the first seven years of ministry were done more in the flesh for Leslie's glory and not for God's glory. Grievously. I loved success more than I loved people. I cared about orchestrating programs rather than stepping into the messes of people's lives.

It's humbling to stand up here and admit that. But it's true. And God's told me to be honest with you today. Even though I truly loved the Lord and desired to walk in His ways, I was so ignorant. I'd allowed the world's way of thinking about womanhood to infiltrate my attitudes and my actions.

At True Woman '08, Nancy issued this call.

Now is the time for us to seek God for a movement of reformation and revival among Christian women—a Word-driven, Christ-exalting, counter-cultural revolution that will take back the ground that has been given over to the world's way of thinking for so many years.

She didn't promise that it would be be easy. In fact, we were forewarned that it would involve hardship, obstacles, and suffering. But the Lord was already stirring my heart before I left Chicago.

First, this message was meant for me—that I was to begin learning and applying through God's grace, His distinctive design for womanhood.

Second, I was to be a messenger and take the truth back to my church and any other women that I had the opportunity to influence.

And then third, I was to be a prayer warrior, waging battle chiefly from my knees.

The message of the True Woman movement thrust my life onto a whole new orbit. It reshaped the scope, the purpose, and the context of the women's ministry that I led. It was thriving, but it lacked a biblical apologetic.

New life and vitality were infused as we implemented a Titus 2 ministry called "True Woman Discipleship." We hosted a True Woman Columbia conference to launch this new foundation and to begin conversations in the church about gender design.

My working relationships with men improved, and I discovered many opportunities to affirm them, to encourage them in their leadership. I became faithful to pray for them—and not just them but their wives and their families. I gained a greater respect for their contributions to the church. My hardness softened with appreciation instead of resentment for male authority and covering.

As an emerging true woman, there were implications for my marriage. Topping the list was to ask forgiveness from my husband for the subtle ways that I resisted his leadership. Subtle, I said, but no less sinful.

There were layers of lies and faulty belief systems the Lord peeled away as His truth became sharper in focus and more beautiful. Over time I started shedding the armor that I wore daily to battle for my rights and for my rule. I never realized the emotional toll and the physical toll that it commanded to maintain a fighting stance.

Embracing God's role and purpose for my life as a woman feels like to me, slipping in to a cozy, warm bathrobe. It fits me perfectly. I've laid down the weapons. The fight is finished. What joy I have discovered in being a helper and a life-giver and one who willingly, joyfully submits like Jesus.

Don't get the wrong idea, because I have a very long way to go, that's just why we need each other. But oh, what a grand and glorious redemptive story we have to tell, ladies.

Well, it's now 2014. And the Lord is saying to me, "Leslie, it's not enough for just you to be a true woman. There are other women out there who are desperately imprisoned like you were, and they need to hear the truth, too."

And so God is requiring more of me, that I lend my voice with countless others to propel the movement. If we do not sound the trumpet call, who will? If we do not tell our sisters, who will? I must love my sister enough to tell the story of how gender displays the gospel and points to God's magnificent glory.

The statement that I hear most frequently from women is, "Why, why has no one ever taught me this before?"

Let it be our generation who drives a stake in the ground and reverses the course. Let it be our generation who is willing to swim upstream. Let it be our generation that humbly stands for truth and takes back what the enemy has stolen from us. Let it be us.

Let it be our generation that humbly stands for truth and takes back what the enemy has stolen from us.

The task is monumental, isn't it? And it will involve thousands upon thousands of women living out in their day to day lives the beauty and the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It will take thousands and thousands to send out the sound waves that will resonate throughout the future to come.

The time for truth is now. And guess what? It's not too late. We recognize that Revive Our Hearts and True Woman cannot accomplish this alone. So I'm very pleased to announce the birth of the Ambassador Program—a way in which you can get onboard with the mission.

You see, as leaders, you are the catalyst in the grassroots movement. How does good news spread naturally among women? Word of mouth. Elizabeth is going to tell Joyce. Joyce is going to tell Kathy. And Kathy is going to tell Brooke. Whether this happens through social media or face to face or in the carpool line, that is how good news spreads among women.

Consider the ice bucket challenge. Did anybody take that, by the way? You're brave. Three million donors raised over one hundred million in donations for ALS. And this social media phenomenon created a 3500% increase in contributions over the same period in 2013 for ALS.

MDA president and CEO, Steven Derks, is quoted as saying this, "We have been moved beyond words by the power of one family's ability to make such a meaningful difference in the fight against the disease that has taken too many lives."

Well, ladies, one woman can make a difference. And we're not talking about raising money for worthy causes or masterminding a social media marketing campaign. We're talking about changing the direction of one life, one marriage, one single mom, one widow, one family which can potentially change the God-glorifying, Christ-exalting legacy of generations to come.

And so we're praying for a host of women to go on mission with us as ambassadors in their area of the country, guarding and living out the truth in their homes, in their churches, in their neighborhoods, in their workplaces, and in their cities.

And you know what? God may be calling some of you today. But a work of this magnitude demands a cost—faith, courage, perseverance, humility, compassion, and conviction—and it is a God-sized assignment. But for the sake of God's glory and for His great name, it will be worth it.

Nancy: That's my good friend, Leslie Bennett. She's been telling us her story about embracing God's design for her as a woman. And then letting that design affect the way that she went about ministry in her local church.

Leslie gave that talk at one of the True Woman conferences. It's been a joy to know Leslie for several years and to see this amazing picture of God's power to transform the way a woman thinks and lives and ministers. Leslie first came to True Woman '08. She was deeply convicted, and she let the Lord do a deep work in her life, and now here she was back speaking at True Woman.

If you're intrigued by Leslie's story and you want to learn more about what the True Woman Movement is all about, I hope you'll explore the various online resources that we have at ReviveOurHearts.com

Now, tomorrow and Friday we will explore the value of godly friendships. I’ll be sharing why we need each other so much, and I'll be introducing you to some of my friends. (Actually, you may already know some of those friends.) Please be sure to be with us all this week for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is a champion of women serving women, and an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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