We stood outside the room where dinner would be served and we heard it. Chatter. Laughter. Introductions. Conversations. The five of us leading the “She Moves” event on the Friday night of the Fresh Expressions National Gathering were about to pray when smiles found their way across our faces. God was already working in that time, that space, before the start of our official presentations.
“She Moves: An Evening of Encouragement” was a dinner and discussion sponsored by Missio Alliance and Biblical Seminary for women on mission: pastors, pastors’ wives, students, lay leaders, ministry pioneers, and teachers from many different places, denominations, churches, and walks of life. Our goal was to talk about our unique purpose as women in these roles, and how God has designed each of us to be both a woman and a leader.
“Help—I’m a leader stuck in a woman’s body.” Carolyn Custis James recalled the opening story in Nancy Beach’s book, Gifted to Lead, in which these words that had been written on a slip of paper were passed from a male pastor at Willow Creek to Nancy, who was also on staff. She knew that the anonymous woman who had written the note was probably wrestling with a call to ministry but was wondering how to reconcile it with what she had been taught regarding a “woman’s role” in leadership. Carolyn, renowned author and president of the Whitby Forum, spoke about her own questions, background, and struggle regarding being called as a women in ministry. What role does God want women to play in His Church and in the world? Her journey led her to a rediscovery of Genesis, specifically the creation of Eve as an ezer, usually translated as “helpmate,” “companion,” and “helper” in Genesis 1:26-28. But in most other contexts outside this passage, she found that ezer was the name given to warriors, those who helped fight battles, often on another’s behalf.
Women on mission. Warriors on mission.
But these warrior-women are meant to partner, meant to work together with their male counterparts. Teammates, not enemies. The Fall in the Garden broke the relationship between God and human beings and the relationship between male and female human beings, each trying to overcome the other. However, Christ restores those relationships and conquers the “one-up” mentality that constitutes the Battle of the Sexes, bringing unity instead of division among His people.
One of the biggest realizations of the evening came when Carolyn encouraged the women present to think beyond their own challenges. How can we, as women on mission and ambassadors of Christ bring the restoration and hope of Christ to the women around the world who face such atrocities as the sex trade, ownership and abuse by their husbands, and the killing of female babies?
How can we be true ezers on their behalf?
The question impacted each of the listeners, each woman present with her own story, her own struggle, her own calling.
Cyd Holsclaw, co-pastor of Life on the Vine in Long Grove, Illinois, shared part of her story as a woman on mission and the struggle of holding back her words, her gifts, her authority that many women in leadership face. Questions and stories ensued—each unique, yet each sharing the common thread of what it means to live out this calling openly, freely, as intended by our Creator.
What happens when you gather a roomful of women leaders to listen, to discern, to encourage one another, to pray, and to share?
God shows up.
And He did.
There are not too many opportunities for women in the Church to come together and see their role as affirmed, empowered, and placed as a part in a bigger story than themselves and to the benefit of both men and women working together. But the “She Moves” dinner was definitely one of them.
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Kris Beckert is a Mission Strategist/Trainer with Fresh Expressions US. She serves as Pastor of Innovation and Multiplication at Salem Fields Community Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.