Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This One's for the Girls (who lead in the Church)

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference for churches in the LCMS to come together and share their best practices for doing ministry.  One evening, we went back into the gym to hear a solid team of college students leading a time of worship from the stage.  It only took me a few moments to realize that the two leaders of this band were young women.  Something gripped me about that.  It made me smile, but I also began to just pray for them from my seat. 

When worship was done, I felt so compelled that evening to connect with these girls—it seemed as if we had an automatic bond as worship leading women in the synod.  It’s not a large group.  We chatted for a few moments and I heard about their college paths and plans. My lovely friend, Mia, also a worship leader happen to walk by.  For the next little while, she and I spent time praying over these young ladies.  For their hearts, for their callings, for their protection and humility, for their boldness as women in worship.  I don't remember their names and maybe never even heard them, but since that day, I’ve continued to pray for these girls and others like them.  God has continued to stir in my heart the passion for raising up and releasing women to lead in his Church.  We need to be doing so with men and women alike, but in our church body, must acknowledge that women have a larger hill to climb and are often discouraged by fear or shamed out of even considering what God might do with them.

I want to encourage you today to consider joining me in encouraging the next generation of worship leaders and leaders in ministry, both men and women. This is what we prayed over those girls on that day.  And this is my prayer for all of you women who are out there serving the Church or preparing to do so.

  • Be willing.  Sister, you can lead worship.  You can lead others in their walk with Jesus.  You can proclaim God's promises to the masses and invite them to join in the proclamation.  If God is calling you to do that, do it!  Yes, there are hurdles.  If you’re in my church body, you will be an anomaly.  But you can be a huge blessing.  If God has gifted you and is calling you to lead his people to worship, don’t deny the Church the gift he’s granted you.  It’s time to step into your calling.
  • Be prepared.  People will challenge whether or not you should be in the role you are in as a worship leader or faith leader.  Learn the stories.  Study up.  I get the passages a lot from the letters of Timothy about women not speaking in church.  Don’t forget, though, Philip the evangelist, (Acts 21) had four daughters who were prophetesses.  Prophets spoke and taught the Word of God just as worship leaders now lead the speaking and singing of God’s Word for the Church each time we gather.  I adore the story of the prophetess, Anna.  After she was widowed, she never left the temple, but was there constantly worshiping, praying, and serving; eager to see the face of God, until Jesus arrived.  That’s you, sister.  Keep worshiping, praying, serving, and waiting for God to show up.  Trust that what you are doing is Scriptural and continue to test it.  Test your actions and your intentions.  Invite others into that process with you.  Honor the leadership of the pastor(s) God has placed you under.  Be steeped in the Word so that it flows from you as you lead the Church, but also that you may stand when others condemn you.
  • Be bold.  Sister, sometimes it’s challenging for us who are stepping out of the norm, but it’s time to get bold.  You will often be the sole woman in meetings of men.  You will be outnumbered and sometimes overlooked.  You must remember, if God has given you that position, he wants you to be a good steward of it.  You have been gifted with creativity and a feminine perspective.  Don’t be afraid or ashamed to share it.  You have experiences and insights that are valuable.  Even if you are not feeling honored, know that you were placed in that role for “such a time as this” like some other girl I know named Esther.  One of my favorite Scriptures is from 2 Timothy 1:7.  I speak it to myself often.   “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”  Fear isn’t of Jesus.  It’s the enemy trying to keep you docile.  Possess the power, love, and self-discipline of Christ in you.  Pray for his boldness.
  • Be tough.  In college, I learned quickly that being an outspoken female in theology classes or leader in chapel was going to not only earn me some funny looks, but, at times, some very harsh words.  I spent many tearful times wondering if this whole worship and ministry thing was worth it.  I would cry with friends, wondering why God would gift me to speak and lead when it seemed like it was so taboo.  The truth is people can be brutal.  A high school teachers told me a “smart girl shouldn’t waste her time with such things.”  Other church work students/leaders insisted I needed to “get back in line or find a new church body” as if I had been running amuck outside of God’s commands.  People both inside and outside of the Church will say things to you, about you, even against you.  It will hurt.  Hear people out with gentleness, but only accept Scriptural rebukes and put some Teflon on your armor to let the arrows slide right off.  Just remember, Jesus said that would happen when we follow him.  The enemy wants you to get discouraged and quit.  Offer the ugly up to Jesus in thanksgiving, shake the dust from your sandals, and walk on.
  • Be gentle.  This one has taken me awhile to appreciate.  My college self was a bit more fiery than I am now.  I loved to engage in “discussions” about such topics that were really more about me winning and showing up the jerks on campus.  Let’s face it.  That does nothing.  I was on a crusade for awhile to understand and free women’s roles in our church body as Scripture would describe.  I pushed and got angry.  I became defensive and ultimately lost sight of the cause of Christ for the sake of the role I thought I was entitled to and needed to defend.  Sister, when ministry becomes more about taking a stand as a female leader, then we’ve lost sight of the most important thing: the Gospel.  Don’t be afraid to step into your calling as a woman of God in leadership.   Don’t forget that Godly leadership keeps the Gospel as the thing, not to be overshadowed by any cause other than Christ.
    I eventually came to the realization that the people who thought I was wrong for being a female worship leader and faith leader would not change their minds by my arguments, anger, or witty remarks.
      My venting about them to everyone I know wouldn’t be the magic solution to swaying their opinion.  I came to realize that those people would being serving the Church, and God-willing, growing the Church in a way and to a demographic that I would not.  May we each be a little less distracted with the internal arguments, and instead serve well and reach many lost for Jesus.
  • Be humble.  You are not a rock star.  You are not a diva.  You are just a girl that God gave gifts.  He could take them away if he chose.  This is not about you.  As Christine Caine once said, "If the light shining on you is brighter than the one shining in you, the light on you will destroy you."  Let God ground you and develop you.  Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought.  Be honored to serve.  Be humble.
  • Be awesome.  Yes.  That is what I meant.  Work your butt off.  Earn your right to be there.  Don’t act entitled or play the victim church chica.  Get in there and kick some tail.  There are a lot of great worship leaders in the world and even in the LCMS.  Most all the well-known ones are men.  Ladies, this isn’t about making us famous, but God deserves for us to do the best with what he’s given us.  Don’t coast on your sweet spirit and ability to work it off the fly.  Practice.  Expect excellence.  Make a ministry more quality than when you got there (understanding that it takes time, elbow grease, and a lot of walking and working with people).  Do ministry and life with integrity.  Seek to honor Jesus in how you live and lead.  People will grow to respect and honor your leadership.  Make much of Jesus.  Show people he’s worthy by how you do everything for his glory.  Be awesome.
  • Don’t be bitter.  Look.  Ministry can be rough.  For men and women alike, this life isn’t an easy one.  But sister, you have a bit bigger target on your back.  Don’t make a scene carrying it.  You don’t do this for others or even for yourself.  This is for the Kingdom of God.  Jesus’ bride is so full of brokenness.  You will be pressed, persecuted, and struck down, but there’s treasure in you, Miss Jar of Clay.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that God is sovereign and faithful.  The brokenness of the Church is the very reason it needs you.  Resist the temptation to get ugly at people even when people are ugly.  Pray regularly against a bitter root, especially as women who can tend to take things more personally.  When we’re bitter followers, it gets a bit more difficult to know we’re Christians by our love.  Make peace with the brokenness, seek out and strive for wholeness, and ask God to keep your heart joyful.
  • Be encouraging.  There are gifted women in our churches that God might be preparing to be leaders in his Church.  Encourage them.  Draw them out.  Take special attention to mentor and disciple them.  Pray with and for them.  Give them opportunities to trying things and fail and try again.
    If you want to really encourage women to lead, specifically in worship, get women up front leading so that others might be emboldened and given permission to even entertain the dream of leading.

    One of the most touching moments of my worship leading tenure was a mom of a little blonde girl that came up to me one Sunday.
      She shared with me how I was the first female at their church to ever hold a guitar and lead the band.  Before that, girls had only ever sang backup vocals.  It wasn’t intentional by the leader.  It was just the way things were.  So here I was, leading the band, playing guitar, singing, praying, and leading the gathered in an encounter with Jesus.  This teary-eyed mom thanked me for allowing her musically-gifted, Jesus-loving little girl the opportunity to dream that she could grow up to play a guitar and point people to Jesus.  Sister, as you lead, you give others permission to do the same.  Raise up this next generation of women (and men) in the Church.  Point out their gifts and take the time to teach them what it means to lead others by following Jesus.  After all, it’s not about being rocker chicks or girls ruling the world.  It’s about Jesus, following him and raising up disciples to make disciples, both men and women.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a church worship leader. I'm just a mom and wife and most days, I don't leave our house. But I heard a lot of what you said in ways that applied to the vocation I have been given. It is easy to be discouraged and I am thankful for your words of encouragement, to be secure in the vocations God has placed us into.