We have a tradition in the West where the groom carries the bride across the house's threshold on their wedding day. Do you know where that tradition comes from? In ancient Greece, women were only considered as having an existence within their family home. The domestic sphere was their life, and they existed only in relation to their father, their brother, and the "gods" of their household. Society did not believe women intrinsically had independent value or humanity. When they left their household to marry their new husband, they would have to be carried from their house to that of their husband's because they ceased to exist in the space between households. When their husbands carried them across the threshold of their new home, they existed once more in their new domestic sphere with their husbands, fathers-in-law, and new household "gods."1
Often, you will hear people talk about Christianity as a misogynistic religion, but do you ever wonder where women in the West would be today if Christianity had not intervened in the Greek and Roman attitudes towards women? What changed the way society viewed women in the West? Well, many things, but inevitably, the most cataclysmic intervention in the story of women was the coming of Jesus Christ and the birth of Christianity.
From the beginning, Women have played a central role in the story of the Gospel and the Early Church's history.
It was weeping women who first told of the resurrection of Jesus Christ when Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to learn from him with the men, while Martha inhabited the domestic sphere, Jesus said, "Mary has chosen the better part" (Luke 10:42). He did not condemn her for her desire to learn. He went out of his way to speak to the Samaritan woman at the well and sent her to become what many theologians see as one of the first Evangelists, as she went to her town and told her neighbors to come and meet the man who "told her everything she had ever done" (John 4). Phoebe carried Paul's letter to the Romans, and as was the tradition of letter carriers at the time, it is very likely she read it to the Church on Paul's behalf. Of the list of early church leaders, in Romans 16, 10 of the 28 leaders listed are women. Imagine a culture where women often did not receive an education and were kept almost entirely in the domestic sphere, where women had no existence outside of relational connection to their male relatives. What would it feel like to hear Paul declare that, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." It can be challenging to grasp how revolutionary these teachings were at that time, and how Christianity was a vital catalyst in the dignifying of women to engage their God-given gifts and be used mightily by the Lord throughout history of the church, across the globe.
Jesus made it possible for women to walk across the threshold; he opened the door and invited them to walk through. Now, we realize that there are many differing views on the roles women should play in the church within the body of Christ. We have hard complementarians, soft complementarians, egalitarians, and of course, those who are on the fence about where they stand. However, for women who are reading this and are already in leadership, we need to be reminded that Jesus opened the door, and we each must humble ourselves and walk through it, laying down our lives in service to him. When it comes to walking through the door of service to Christ, no one can carry us; it is for us to walk through to Christ.
As I went for an evening walk, I was praying and listening to the Lord, and I felt him speak to my heart and say, "It's time to get serious." I know this applies to certain aspects of my own life, but I also believe the Lord spoke about women in ministry in the church. For a long time, women have served in the church, but often, we believe the lie from the enemy that God only uses men for serious work. Often, we have not been taken seriously, and consequently, we have not considered our roles and services as important or worthy enough. Though we may have been content playing secondary, less significant roles in the past, it is time for us to get serious about our service to the Lord. God wants to use women; he has opened the way for women to be an integral part of his mission to save and renew the world.
We have been a part of it from the start, and it is now time for us to walk into our God-given callings with new vigor and anointing from the Lord.
The world has drastically changed in the past year and a half. The global coronavirus pandemic has forced the Church to rethink local church gatherings and Gospel proclamation. And this transitional moment has provided a significant opportunity for women to engage in the needs of the Church. In large part, this article is a call (and an exhortation) to women:
1. Take up your crosses and serve the Lord in whatever ways he might call you to.
2. Be ready to walk across the threshold into the call God has for you.
3. Get serious; devote time to the study of scripture and daily rhythms of devotion to Jesus.
4. Humble your heart, and be ready for service to Christ.
The church has been through a time of crisis, but as Mark Sayers says in his recent book, Reappearing Church, "Crisis precedes renewal." For renewal to occur in the church globally, the remnant of faithful believers need to step up and move into what God has called us to at this moment; this must include women!
It is time for the equipping of women, for the service God is calling them to.
Seeing this great need, Calvary Global Network has started a "Woman in Leadership" task team to build and encourage women in leadership and ministry for the service God has called them to. Women are important to God, and training and guiding women in the service of the Lord is vitally important. I have often observed that women in ministry feel inadequately equipped, isolated, and unsupported in ministry. But if women are to take up their cross and step into their call to serve and lead, they need to be supported and equipped for the task.
"Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21- 20-NLT).
Women who love Jesus, Jesus loves you! Jesus calls you to his service. He sees you; he knows you; he has gifted and anointed you! It's time to get serious. It's time to lay down what has been holding you back. It's time to throw off your concern about what others might think of you and lay your life entirely on the altar of God. It's time to let our lives be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), which is our reasonable service to our King so that we can play our part in seeing the Gospel communicated across the globe and the Kingdom of God come in all its fullness.
"Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21, ESV).
Join the conversation. In our most recent episode of "When She Leads," a podcast for women in ministry, our team discusses "Being a Leader God Can Use." Each month, we gather around the table to consider the complexities and realities of leading as a woman.
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1. Siedenthorp, Larry, Inventing The Individual - The Origins of Western Liberalism (London: Penguin Books, 2014), 12