Monday, November 10, 2008

i can see things coming together

I mentioned back in January that I had been throwing around ideas for women’s leadership development at New Life. A lot has taken shape since then; mainly there has been a monthly meeting started for the women who make up the core of the church (aka “Dual Core”). We had our first meeting two weeks ago, and I planned to give a talk on the vision for the meeting. I ended up learning some good lessons about how one needs to plan a meeting out in a detailed way, or it will take on a life of its own. Which it did, but it was good.

We did run out of time, though, and I gave a seven-minute summary of what would have been probably a 25-minute talk. I thought I’d post it here, because I worked hard on it, and it is something I am passionate about. I’d like to share it, though I have my doubts that anyone will read the whole thing. No worries.


"Why do we need a meeting like Dual Core?

So a few weeks ago, Kevin and I went down to Columbus to visit the H2O team and check out their Sunday morning service. They have a pretty similar service to ours, and the guy who shared his slice of life described himself as a “womanizer” before meeting Christ. He was a super excited guy, very enthusiastic, and as he was telling the story of the transformation of his life, he ended up saying, “Now, I love women. Women are awesome.” Have you ever been the one person in the crowd to laugh way louder than everyone else and everyone kind of looks at you?—that was me. But I loved it. I was like, “Right on, Aaron. That’s exactly how I feel.” I think women are the best thing ever.

I think you women are incredible people. And I am especially grateful that you’ve taken the time to come tonight, that you take the time to serve the church in many different ways, and that you want to grow. My plan for this time is to share some things I am exploring and discovering as I’ve studied the Bible and as I’ve been growing as a leader.

The truth is, men and women are dramatically different—“in the image of God, he created man; male and female, [God] created them.”—it’s not a mistake that this is so clearly emphasized in Genesis. We are obviously anatomically different, but those physical differences reflect a deeper and very beautiful spiritual and emotional reality.

Dual Core is designed to re-establish a deep admiration for the way God has created us as men and women. You attend Core each week, hopefully because you desire to go deeper in your relationship with God, while growing in ministry skills and doctrine. As leaders and workers in the church, you need training and exhortation in how to follow and serve God, and this will not always look the same for both men and women. Now, I realize that people from all different walks of life really really want to understand God’s will for men and women; they want to interpret Scripture the way He intended. I am going to share a little bit of what I’ve learned, that has seemed to ring true to my experience, simply as a woman, but also as a woman who is leader in the church. I realize that not everybody sees things the way I do, and that’s fine. I would ask that if anything I say particularly turns you off or makes you mad or something, I would love to talk to you about it. Please don’t let any bitter feelings fester.

It can be hard to extract from Scripture God’s will for women, but the work reveals a gold mine. God has a very very deep heart for women, not just because we’re human, but because we're women.

From the beginning, he entrusted us with a vital element of his image. Hebrew scholar Robert Alter is the guy that John Eldredge cites in his books, when discussing the meaning of the word that describes Eve in Genesis 2. He says that the English word “helper” or “helpmate” doesn’t really hit the mark. In Hebrew, it is ezer kenegdo, and should be translated something more along the lines of: “sustainer, life-giver.” While Adam was commissioned by God to care for the garden and name the animals, Eve was created to provide the relationship he needed to thrive as he carried out those tasks. Eve’s role as sustainer in Adam’s life foreshadows the role of women in the world throughout time.

I have gotten a lot out of reading a book called Shepherding a Woman’s Heart, by Beverly Hislop. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is really interested in this topic. She digs into Genesis 3 to talk about how gender distinctions play out in the fall of Adam and Eve and their subsequent curses. As you’ve probably heard many times before, Adam’s curse is focused on his work and accomplishments:

"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.”

Eve’s curse, on the other hand, is entirely about her relationships:

"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."

What stood out to me when reading the book was how much our great role as sustainers/life-bearers can contribute to our deepest difficulties. Our bodies are designed to give life, and most of us experience the hard truth of that every month. I personally am very weakened by that process--hormonally, physically, emotionally. The truth is, it’s not just physical. We are nurturers, whether that means we are carrying a baby around before its birth, or we are caring for a friend or an animal—all of this is profoundly meaningful and rich, and it is also, thanks to the curse, profoundly draining. Again, I point this out, because it is definitely hard to be nurturers and sustainers, but the difficulty is closely linked to the great privilege and favor we have in God’s sight. By the way, if the phrase in 1 Peter 3 really bothers you, which says: “treat [your wives] with respect as the weaker partner”—take into consideration the tremendous love God shows us by instructing husbands to care for their life-giving wives. We are not weak in the sense that we are inferior. We are often left feeling weak, because our efforts in the world are so monumental and affects our whole selves.

In the Gospels, I love how we get a glimpse of Jesus’ female friends. In Luke 8:3 and Matthew 27:55 we learn that Jesus and his very active disciples are being sustained and cared for by women; they are, in fact, the ones who stick as close to Jesus as possible even after he’d been arrested. The Matthew verse says, “They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.” They were close by Jesus during his deepest pain, and even in death, they were there to care for Him. They wanted to be with Him. This is not a flippant by-the-way comment. Matthew knows he is communicating something important by including it in his story. I loved how the women had such prominent roles in The Passion movie—it definitely showed that the women were responding to Jesus at an incredibly deep relational level, and they ministered to Him in His deepest neediness.

Does this paint a small picture for you guys of the immense privilege we have as women to be sustainers and life-givers? We are endowed with incredible relational skills—the things that often come naturally to us, like a well-timed hug or a sustaining word of encouragement, can take guys a long time to learn. We need to lead the charge in this area at New Life, and therefore, we need special training and understanding.

What are the implications of our differences on a practical level when it comes to ministry?

Please hear me: I do not mean to imply that you can’t do anything that a man does. Not at all. In fact, most of the men and women in our church are doing the exact same work—leading lifegroups, following up young believers, discipling, reaching out to unbelievers, playing on a worship team or running a community service project. What I do mean to point out here is that there is a significant difference, generally speaking, between the way a life of ministry affects men and the way it affects women. Also, our influence will look and feel different to the people we reach out to.

I actually ran a very informal survey with the help of some spies and got some feedback from a few guys about what motivates them in ministry and what makes them thrive. It was interesting to hear how powerful it was for them to be involved in “the greatest work there is.” They see the impact, they have a vision, they want to see if they can do it; and one guy said he felt the most like a leader when he had sole ownership of something.

We’re definitely motivated by the impact of the work, but I would like to suggest that we thrive when we are doing the work in relationship. My husband Kevin said: “I’m willing to step out where somebody else isn’t going—I’m not going to wait around until somebody else says, “I’ll do it with you.” And not every guy is like this, but I was like, You know? I don’t think women are generally built that way. I think we are very capable of handling lots of responsibility on our own, but will we enjoy it? Will we thrive? Will it result in burn-out? This has been my experience and I’ve observed that other women have really struggled when they take something upon themselves with very little support from other like-minded women.

The main point of my talk tonight is that I believe it’s biblical for the women of the church to be extremely committed to supporting one another for the sake of the Kingdom. If you lead a small group or if you are actively seeking to build up the women in a small group, you are already doing this. But my fear is that in our passionate efforts to care for those less mature, we ourselves often feel uncared for. I want to go another step further and challenge each of you to make it a priority to support the other women leaders in your sphere—we hope this monthly time can help you do that, among other things.

So the purpose of dual core is relational at its heart. We certainly want to provide opportunities for you to be equipped in ministering to women in specific areas (we’ll be taking a survey at the end to get your suggestions, in fact). But what we love about this meeting is that it’s a chance to get all the women leaders and workers in a room together—to get a chance to look around and say, “I’m not alone; these are like-minded women.” We hope Dual Core will give you a chance to connect with some people you don’t know, to maybe meet some women who are older or younger than you. We want to give you a chance to bounce ideas off each other, encourage one another and make new friendships. We’re excited to cross some of the parameters between staff women, campus women and community women. I think it’s going to be a really valuable time, and there are new ideas popping up left and right.

Will you guys pray with me that God will use Dual Core in our lives? He cherishes womanhood—he created it. He wants us to connect and support and nurture. I’m praying that we will learn valuable and practical skills during this meeting, and that we will also feel a deeper kinship with the rest of the women who attend. God is moving at New Life in this area—I really believe it. I sense His heart for women in my own spirit and I’ve heard it expressed through many of you. I am really excited to see what He has in store for us."


ali said...

thanks so much for sharing this meghan. i love your passion for women and God's love for His women. i'm glad you posted your whole talk!

i would like to understand more how the setup of core/dual core is working... i still feel confused about how it is all set up and the timing of it all but am definitely interested in it... can you enlighten me?!

thanks again for sharing your thoughts... love it and feel loved (more by Him) because of it... thanks!

Rebecca Sunde said...

i second ali's post, thanks for posting the whole speech - felt like i was back in the auditorium listening to you. i needed that on multiple levels. keep me updated on dual core (what a great idea!), i can't wait to get involved next fall

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your talk, Meg -- especially great for those of us who can't come to Dual Core, but who love you and pray for you. Thank you for loving the women and nurturing them, leading the way to a place where there is safety in sharing and learning together. Linn

jh said...

i love it. i'm so proud of you and feel so honored that God put you in my life. seriously. i just realized how deep of a statement that was, but i won't erase it because it's true. i can't wait to see you next weekend and talk more about this. :)