How do you empower women who want to change the world but often feel limited by the church?
Last spring, I had the privilege of participating in an event for Synergy, an organization that purposes to “empower women living out of their Christian calling.” At a breakfast meeting on the last day, several women rose and vulnerably shared that they began their leadership journeys with the intent to change the world, but when they accepted Christ and joined a church, they were told what they could not do. I recognized and felt the tension in their stories. It was heartbreaking that when these world-changing women encountered the church, they became more confused, and were struggling to understand their leadership callings.
A few months later during The Global Leadership Summit, when Bill Hybels talked about the role of women in the church and his concern for the future, I felt the same tension: What would he say to women who wanted to change the world but had been stymied by the church? Holding my breath with warm tears sliding down my face, I breathed a sigh of relief that he chose to speak hopeful, healing words into a complicated cultural issue of such grave importance.
Like the women at the Synergy breakfast, my parents raised me to be a world changer. Waiting patiently on my dresser many mornings were carefully chosen Wall Street Journal articles chronicling inspiring people doing significant work. But like the women at the Synergy breakfast, in my early 20s, I kept bumping into people who believed that because I was a Christian woman, there were many things that I should not do. Because I ached to do the “right thing” as well as honor my own desires, the confusion sometimes kept me up at night.
In God’s kindness, I met a lion-hearted man on staff with an interdenominational ministry called Cru who invited me to change the world with him. We married and in 2001 set out to serve in the Middle East. Against the backdrop of our beloved Middle Eastern culture, I began to study the interactions that Jesus had with women. I wrestled with the Pauline Epistles. I devoured literature about leadership and the role of women. I engaged in ongoing conversations with wise leaders and theologians’ worthy of trust and respect representing multiple theological perspectives. I prayed.
My study led me to the conclusion that God was calling me to lead. I’d spent 15 years trying to be more like Mary and less like Martha, when God was inviting me to model the life of Moses. I am a reluctant leader, who often recognizes there are others more qualified. But like Moses, I choose obedience and trust over fear and control. I am grateful that I serve a ministry with godly leaders, who have asked me to put my hand to the plow of rewarding and meaningful work.
The role of women in leadership deserves the careful, biblically studied attention of men and women who will bravely step outside of our safe silos and engage in respectful, healthy dialogue. One of the craftiest plans of the enemy in this generation is to keep the church so focused on outlining what women should not do, that we miss the opportunity to invite women to fulfill the work for which they are called. This is a generation raised in the Digital Age and tasked with fighting human trafficking, solving a global refugee crisis and fulfilling the Great Commission. We need all hands on deck.
My prayer is that my life as a leader will be described as one who holds respectful, sacred space when serving alongside brothers and sisters who possess varying theological beliefs about the role of women in leadership, without losing sight of who I am and what God is asking me to do. Like the WSJ articles left by my sweet father three decades ago, I want to extend invitations to both men and women to live fully into Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Will you join me?
Written by: Kourtney Street