By Cailey Morgan
A few weeks ago, we looked at 1 Peter, the letter Peter wrote to the scattered church to remind them of God’s right-side-up way of living in an upside-down world. The letter branded gentile Christians as the children of Abraham, stating that in God’s family, there is no barrier between the Jews and any other nationality. Peter then called out the men to disown the cultural patriarchy of the day and treat the women in their home as equals. Paul writes identically in his note to the church in Galatia:
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Some things have changed since the apostles wrote those words, but the brokenness of humanity remains the same. And part of that brokenness is that we idolize the world’s definition of power and strength, and by doing so miss out on the opportunity to being led by those with a different skill set, or those who are seen as not as strong from a worldly perspective. This demographic often includes female leaders.
I’m grateful to be part of an association of churches that has been ordaining women for church leadership since 1959. But do we as the CBWC fully understand our need for women to step into these roles? And are we doing everything we can to help support the female leaders around us in our churches and new church plants?
As God’s kids and ambassadors, one purpose of our ministry of reconciliation—of helping our Father in His work to turn things right-side-right—is to live together as an example of how things should be: a foretaste of Jesus’ Kingdom (Lesslie Newbigin and 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). And until we’ve seen leaders male and female, young and old, new immigrant and aboriginal, raised up and supported in equality to build up the church the way God has equipped and called them (Ephesians 4), I have to say we’re not yet doing our job.
So, here I share an article that calls us to consider the role of women in church leadership—and church planting in particular—and some practical ways we can move forward in enacting the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
We Need More Lydias In Church Planting
This article is shared with permission from author Tiffany Smith of the North American Mission Board. https://www.sendinstitute.org/we-need-more-lydias-in-church-planting/
Our current culture has manifested a heightened awareness of social justice issues which gives the church an opportunity to demonstrate and model clear and sacred responses amid the clashing secular voices. One area where the church’s beauty is displayed is in God’s design for men and women to be partnered in ministry to advance the Gospel and plant new churches. The North American church, currently comprised of slightly more women than men, has an empowered regiment of gifted women to be catalyzed on mission.
The Great Commission mandate is not gender specific; but rather, men and women are co-laborers and synergetic in community and mission. As men and women weave their giftedness together to embrace our collective mission, the church is empowered to exponentially impact the lost world. No matter your ecclesiology or polity today, we can celebrate how women are vital in the flourishing of the church and in church planting. This obviously plays out differently in various denominations; however, the fact that women are strategic players in the mission of God is part of God’s beautiful design.
For every significant male we see throughout the book of Acts, there is a significant female mentioned in the expansion of the Gospel and the church. Paul himself partnered with women in his church planting efforts. Lydia was a businesswoman who became the first European convert; she led others to be baptized and the church in Philippi was planted in her house (Acts 16). Paul says Euodia and Syntyche “labored side by side with [him] in the gospel” (Phil. 4:3) and Phoebe helped Paul along with many others (Rom 16). Women have always been leaders in church planting – from the very beginning.
We are at a significant moment in time where we can seek to catalyze the leadership capacity and power of women throughout the church and within the church planting arena.
Imagine the potential and possibilities of transformational impact by the church if we expanded our concept of church planting beyond the main lead church planter to include all those involved – church planting teams, administrators, mobilizers, and outreach leaders! If everyone in the church is to be involved in Gospel expansion and multiplication, then the church as a whole has a stake in the movement and the impact is exponentially dynamic – the apostolic church unleashed!
There is a significant shift rippling through leadership circles to spur women toward various expressions of their gifts in the church planting arena. Across denominations we see women in key roles as church planting coaches, assessment directors, church planting catalysts, demographic researchers, strategists, city or regional network coordinators, and emerging leader directors – just to name a few.
What if the doors of church planting were swung wide open for a Samaritan woman at the well, a wealthy businesswoman from Philippi, or someone who has been sitting in your church waiting for a new pioneering opportunity?
No matter your theological conviction, there are ways to integrate women into church planting and empower the church to function and flourish in new innovative approaches. So, how can we chart new pathways and widen the pipeline for female leaders? How can we expand our current thinking to incorporate women more strategically in the church planting aspects of the church?
Here are a few points to consider:
- Forge a synergetic culture. Cultivate a culture of modeling how women are strategic in the church planting efforts of the church. Make sure to include single women and not just church planter wives. Be purposeful and repetitious in demonstrating through words and action the value of the women leaders in your church and in various areas of church planting. Highlight the beauty of the body of Christ working together in synergy.
- Be creative. Look for creative ways to incorporate women into the various facets of church planting. The pioneering nature of church planting inherently fosters new opportunities and pathways for women to serve in their giftedness. Women are uniquely positioned in strategic areas of the neighborhood and marketplace to influence others for the cause of Christ. Use their platforms and relational webs for the advancement of the Kingdom.
- Increase visibility. Women should be visible and celebrated on stage in church leadership and in the multiplication of churches – praying, discipling, and serving. Elevate women leaders to thrive in their giftedness; and in doing so, teach and model the unity and diversity of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12) to the church and to the watching world.
- Amplify giftedness. Focus upon giftedness and character without regard to gender whenever possible. Seek out ways to open up new opportunities for women to infuse their gifts and talents throughout the ministries of the church, including church planting.
- Reframe. Reframe the concept of church planting to go beyond the lead planter to include teams and gifted leaders who help develop and grow the church plant; this will naturally open doors for women, but also for other leaders in the church who are not called to be the lead church planter.
- Purposefully Empower. Seek out and empower women to serve in the church planting efforts or on a planting team. This must be strategic and intentional because it has not been common practice. Just as you would seek out and cultivate male leaders in the church, look to do the same with women and purposely consider facets of church planting.
For the sake of advancing the Kingdom of God, how do we work toward normalizing female leadership, not as the exception or rare case, but as part of God’s design for the church to be on mission together? Tony Merida powerfully encourages women by stating, “Missional women have always played a vital role in the advancement of the gospel. The church—as the bride for whom Christ bled, died, and was raised—ought to be a place where women are loved, taught, respected, heard, and deployed for service. They should thrive as Christ’s ambassadors in the world, as they are built up in him.” 
This exhortation can also be applied to the various facets within the church planting arena. We need more Lydias in church planting. Let us boldly move forward together for such a time as this.
- What specific words and actions can I take as a leader in the church to cultivate a healthy and encouraging environment for women to thrive in multiple leadership aspects of the church, including within the church planting arena?
- Are there currently women in the church that I can encourage and equip to serve in various roles in church planting efforts?
- How can I help to swing the door open wide for women and other leaders to be involved in the church planting efforts of the church?
 Pew Research. “Religious Landscape Study: Evangelical Protestants.” 2014. http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-tradition/evangelical-protestant/ Accessed May 6, 2018.